School board split on vote to appoint new member

Published 12:06 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2024

NILES — It will be up to the Berrien RESA Board of Education to pick a new board member for the Brandywine School Board after board members failed to reach a consensus Monday on who to appoint from four candidates interviewed.

Whoever ends up being selected by the Berrien RESA board will serve until the November election when the remaining two years of Angela Seastrom’s unexpired term will be on the ballot. Seastrom resigned from the board in mid-June as she is moving from the district.

Monday, Brandywine school board members interviewed four people: Ryan Candler, Jeremy Colby, Shannon Daniels and John Jarpe. Each had filled out a questionnaire prepared by the board prior to the meeting. During the meeting, each was interviewed separately, saying why they wanted to serve and answering a few questions.

Each was asked if he or she would run for the board in November for either the partial term or the three four-year terms as well as what three words they would use to describe Brandywine. All four said they would run in the fall and gave varying answers to the “three words” question.

Candler is a mechanic who works in Elkhart and said he wants to be more involved with his children’s education. He said he did not support the recent $22 million bond because he said people’s taxes are too high. His three words were “making great memories.”

Colby is a local businessman who also works as a substitute teacher in the district. He said he has an interest in getting resources to kids with special needs as he has a learning disability himself. He was the only candidate to mention taxpayers as one of the key district stakeholders. His three words were “close-knit community.”

Daniels is a behavioral specialist in the South Bend area. She said her family chose to live in the Brandywine district because of the “family feel”. She thinks board members, teachers, administrators and parents should collaborate on improving student education. Her three words were “dynamic, compassionate and close-knit.”    

The recent failed recall effort against three board members was a big part of Jarpe’s interview. Jarpe is a longtime educator and retired as the Brandywine superintendent a few years ago.

He commented not only about the recall but also about serving on the school board as a former superintendent. He said that while he doesn’t think it’s a great idea to have a former superintendent on the board, he thinks he could “do good for the board” in the areas of collaboration and finding common ground.

     With the recall, he said his goal was to have the three to be up for election again this year after some people told him they had not understood in 2022 what the members were planning to do if elected. His three words were “community, pride and improvement.”

Only one of the four, Jeremy Colby, had his name put up for a board vote and that vote ended in a 3-3 tie. Board President Elaine McKee, Vice-President Thomas Payne and Trustee Michelanne McCombs voted to appoint him while Secretary Holly Pomranka, Treasurer Brian Burge and Trustee Jessica Crouch voted no.

McKee said the appointment will now be left up to the RESA board. She said the four candidates interviewed by the Brandywine board will be able to apply again as well as anyone else interested in serving. The RESA board will likely set a deadline for people to apply and then interview candidates before making a decision.