School board leaders retain officer positions

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Following their tremendous success last year with the passage of the pair of school bonds, the Dowagiac Union Schools Board of Education looks to carry the momentum forward into the new year.

The board hosted its first meeting of 2016 Monday night inside the cafeteria of Dowagiac Middle School, with the first order of business being the election of its slate of officers. Familiar faces are once again filling these positions on the seven-member board, with Larry Schmidt reelected as president, Ruth Ausra as vice president, Claudia Zebell as secretary and Doug Kolmodin as treasurer.

The reelections come several months removed from the district’s successful campaign to have voters approve a pair bonds, worth a combined $37 million, for improvements to five of the district’s six educational facilities.

Last year was the first time this particular board was assembled, with Kolmodin, Ronald Jones and Phyllis Sarabyn elected in 2014 over former incumbents Michelle Helmuth-Charles, Beth Davis and Julia Smith.

“We’ve all been together as a board for a year now, and I really do believe we work well together in conjunction with the community, administration and everyone else involved,” Schmidt said. “We’ve made some great strides. We passed the bond issues. There’s a lot more hard work to come but we can look forward to some really, really fine school buildings, places where our kids can go and excel, be safe, be warm and cool.”

Superintendent Paul Hartsig also recognized the efforts of the board Monday evening, presenting them with certificates in honor of Michigan Association of School Board’s School Board Recognition Month, which takes place this year in January.

“It’s an exciting and challenging time for public education, and the school board members of Dowagiac Union Schools develop policies and make tough decisions that help shape the future of our education system,” Hartsig said in statement he read to the board and public at the meeting. “They are citizens whose decisions affect our children and build our communities.

“Our board of education and the hundreds like it across the state preserve the core of our democracy — public education.

“They ensure that decisions on school programming are made by people we’ve elected to represent our community values, culture and circumstances. Showing appreciation to the important work of school boards should be a year round process, but too often we neglect to recognize the dedication and hard work of the men and women who represent us. So thank you all who dedicate countless personal hours to ensure the needs of our community are met by our public schools…we applaud them for their vision and voice in preparing today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders.”