Six competing for three seats on Brandywine board

Published 4:26 pm Wednesday, June 9, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- When Brandywine voters go to the polls on Monday, they will choose from six candidates, who are competing for three seats on the Brandywine Public Schools Board of Education.
Current board vice president Michael Shelton and trustee Cynthia Benson will be competing for four-year terms against challengers Josef Martinu and Elsa Hemphill.
Current board trustee Rick Zache, who was appointed to fill the board vacancy earlier this year, is running against Sandra West for a two-year term that will finish the term left by the departure of former board member Gregory Harrison.
Four-year term candidates
Benson, who has lived in the Brandywine community since 1983, is divorced and has had two sons graduate from Brandywine High School.
She received a bachelor's degree in instrumental music education from Central Michigan University and is currently the elementary music teacher for Cassopolis Public Schools, where she has been for the past 28 years.
Benson's interest in being part of the school board stems from her love of education and her desire to provide Brandywine students with the best education possible in a safe and happy environment.
As a member of the board, she brings a perspective with 28 years of experience in the education field and an ability to listen.
Benson is concerned that the facility upgrades be executed exactly as the public asked for and is also very concerned with Brandywine's curriculum.
With progress being made with facility improvements and a new superintendent in place, Benson likes the direction the district is currently headed.
She does not agree with the current board's claims that the district is moving in a positive direction.
Hemphill is currently a licensed day care provider who owns and operates Lads and Lassies Daycare in the Brandywine community. She has also spent time in the nursing profession and obtained a nursing degree from Lake Michigan College.
She is currently divorced and has had three children pass through the Brandywine district.
She said she will bring honesty, openness and fresh new perspective if elected to the board.
He and his wife Ruth have been part of the Brandywine community for 15 years. They have no children.
Martinu is originally from Czechoslovakia and moved to the United States in 1975. He retired as a technical director of the Pennsylvania-based Johnstown Corporation in November, from which he commuted back and forth to Niles every weekend for five years. He has also worked for the Bendix Corporation in St. Joseph and Dodge-Reliance Electric in Mishawaka, Ind.
He went to college in Europe where he received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from CYUT Prague and then went on to specialize in metallurgy and material science at VUT Brno.
While financial responsibility is a central concern for Martinu, his main concern is providing a quality education to all of Brandywine's students.
As a member of the community, Martinu would like to see more openness between the board and the public and explanations for each decision that the board reaches.
Shelton, a president and partner owner of Shelton's Farm Market, is a Brandywine High School graduate, who has been a part of this community for most of his life.
He and his wife Kathleen have seen three sons graduate from Brandywine High School and have twins that will be going into fourth grade next year. Shelton also has two daughters from a previous marriage.
He is concerned with getting the district's curriculum aligned with all of the state standards and benchmarks, proper professional development and the challenges that all school districts are facing with tight budgets.
He wants Brandywine to provide the programs and environment that will make the district the school of choice.
Two-year term candidates
West would like to see more "financial checks" on how the board is currently spending and does not like the recent implementation of block scheduling.
In her 21 years with the district, she spent time as a courier, custodian, bus driver and as a member of the food service department before retiring in December.
West, who is divorced, has had two children and two grandchildren graduate from Brandywine and currently has a grandchild attending school in the district.
She has been a member of the Brandywine community since 1976 and is a graduate of Niles High School.
Her number one priority is providing a quality education for all students.
Being an employee of the district, West thinks her knowledge of the inner working of the district will be a benefit to the board.
With the facility bond project now under way, the recent hiring of a superintendent and the current growth taking place in the area, Zache sees this as a vital time for the district
Zache received a bachelor's degree in business administration from Central Michigan University and an executive master's degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame.
Since 1997, he has been employed as a manufacturing superintendent at Coca-Cola North America.
After spending some time in the state of Washington, he and his family moved back to the Brandywine area in 1994. Zache and his wife Debra have four children, two of which are currently in Brandywine schools.
Zache likes the size, safe environment and family atmosphere provided by Brandywine Public Schools.
And with some major decisions now in place, Zache is excited about the district's future.
His number one priority as a member of the board is to provide students with a great education and a wealth of opportunities when they graduate. It is a goal of his that each student leave school as well rounded individuals prepared for college or whatever else their futures may hold.