Dowagiac school board appoints new member

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023

DOWAGIAC — There is a new board member in town, and she is a familiar face in the Dowagiac Union Schools community.

After much deliberation, the school board voted for Randi Taggart to be appointed to the seat vacated by Ruth Ausra, who resigned from her position as board president last month following a 13-year stint on the school board.

Before the interviews took place, the board reorganized roles in light of Ausra’s resignation. The board selected Carrie Freeman as vice president and Christina Carpenter was selected as secretary. Robert Ickes assumed the role of president following Ausra’s resignation and Tracey Hatcher retained the role of treasurer.

The school board hosted the interviews in the middle school cafeteria, while streaming them live on Youtube for the public to view. Candidates were Dominique Charles, Rayann Franco, Wendy Glaser and Christopher Payne.

The board asked each member 12 questions, with the majority of the interviews being 8 to 12 minutes in length. After the interviews were concluded, the board members chose the top two candidates moving onto the final round, before choosing the board member. The entire interview process lasted approximately 1.5 hours.

A Dowagiac resident with children in the district, Taggart was inspired to pursue a board seat following the tragic death of her son, Landen Taggart, who died in a car crash last year. In September, Taggart founded the Landen Taggart Scholarship for Dreamers, a nonprofit dedicated to providing  scholarships for graduating seniors in honor of Landen.

“When my son passed recently, I started deciding that I wanted to look to being more active in the community and having a bigger role in what happens in my children’s futures,” she said.

“She’s got a vested interest in the district with her kids being in the system,” said President Rob Ickes. “She wants to give back to the community and I think she’s gonna do a great job with that.”

Taggart said she believes she would be a team player as a member of the school board.

“I think working as a team ultimately works out better for everybody because then you get a difference of opinions and you get to talk it out and see what other people in the community think versus just your opinions,” she said. “I think having a balanced board of different opinions is good to have.”

Taggart said her vision for education in the community is providing students with lifelong lessons, goals and achievements.

“I think that’s the ultimate goal for all of our children,” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to go off to college and do things like that.  If they do work-based learning, or (vocational and technical education) and learn something on the job, then at least they’re helping the community. That’s what my oldest son was going to do, he was going to be an electrician. I do think college is a good option too, so as long as they’re headed in the right direction, I think that’s the way we need to go.”

With the vacancy filled, Ickes believes the board is in position to lead the district through challenging times.

We’ve got a good group now. Randi’s gonna fit well,” he said. “We got good communication between everybody in the group. Everybody has got different personalities but everybody’s got common goals…Everybody’s positive and I think we’re in a good place. I’m confident that we’re gonna be great.”