Sullivan seeks school board

Published 6:40 pm Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ronda Sullivan

Ronda Sullivan graduated from Union High School in 1994, attended Southwestern Michigan College and runs the local store as part of her 17-year career with McDonald’s.

That includes winning a Ray Kroc award given to an elite 1 percent of managers.

She graduated in 1999 from Hamburger University.

Active in PTO at Patrick Hamilton, as a volunteer she helped construct the new playground.

First runner-up to Miss Dowagiac Stacy Dean, the former Ronda Lucas, 35, has a twin sister, Danielle, who works in financial aid for SMC at the Milton Township campus and lives in Niles.

Despite their geographic distance, they have been known to show up at church wearing outfits in the same colors without consulting each other.

Growing up, the girls were the babies and “Daddy’s little girls” in a blended family where her mother, a Cosey, had three children before the twins and her father had six.

Sullivan has two sons. Deyonte, a Dowagiac Middle School seventh grader, April 26 won the band award as a percussionist. Donovan attends fourth grade at Patrick Hamilton. They’re both excellent students. With the advent of letter grades, Donovan was proud to earn straight A’s.

Her husband, Jamie, works for Premier in Berrien Springs since ICG closed.

They didn’t know each other from high school, as he graduated in 1990 when she was a freshman, though Ronda knew his sister a year ahead of her.

“We really didn’t communicate until after I graduated,” Sullivan said Sunday. “He was a friend of my nephew’s. He was in plays and things like that. I also have a stepdaughter who goes to Cassopolis and a stepson in Arkadelphia, Ark., who graduates this year.”

Sullivan and Claudia Zebell seek four-year seats on the Dowagiac Board of Education in Tuesday’s election to fill vacancies created by incumbents Randy Cuthbert and Sherry File not seeking re-election.

Sullivan and Zebell are acquainted through band.

Through other activities Ronda knows school board members Stacy Leversen and Michelle Helmuth.

Retired superintendent Peg Stowers was Ronda’s principal when she attended Patrick Hamilton.
“I was sixth grade president and she always called me ‘Madame President.’ I like working with kids and I’ve been PTO president since 2009,” Sullivan said, “since McKinley closed and switched to Patrick Hamilton.

“I like being involved and I think when you put yourself in a position where you have to be involved, going to school board meetings is going to be a priority. Even with PTO, a lot of people in my community ask me questions. Hopefully, I can help educate people and get them more involved.

“With my children in this school system, it’s good to know what’s going on,” the first-time candidate for elective office said. “I don’t have a particular issue or concern” propelling her candidacy.
“The budget is a priority, of course. If it’s not tackled, it will just get worse, and I still have years to go with my children being in the system and needing to be informed. This is an opportunity to be involved in a higher level than PTO.”

In high school Sullivan participated in track, student government and was a cheerleader all four years.

“Right after high school, I started at SMC” for business she said. “I went two semesters and I was offered a job managing a portrait studio for five or six months. I started at McDonald’s on weekends when I was 16, and that’s when I left. I do plan on going back and attaining my associate degree. That’s a personal goal.”

“I had a very good relationship with my owner-operator,” Mike and Sue Knytych of South Haven.

“When they sold the stores around here, they bought Benton Harbor, New Buffalo and Coloma,” Sullivan related. “Mike was the accountant and Sue did the community. I stayed for the summer after I graduated. When they built Cassopolis and Bangor, Mike had lunch with me and asked me to come back” to the Golden Arches, where she is responsible for overseeing an average of 60 to 65 employees. They interviewed 68 prospects in conjunction with National Hiring Day.

Dowagiac’s McDonald’s switched to corporate operation for five years beginning in 2002 before reverting to a Chicago-area owner-operator in 2007.

The chain’s structure is hard for outsiders to understand because Dowagiac is considered part of the Indiana market, while Decatur is lumped in with Kalamazoo, Mich., meaning they don’t always have the same promotions at the same time.

“I’m ‘people person’ for five stores,” she said.