Five candidates will vie for four seats on the Oxford Board of Education in the November general election.
No matter what happens, at least three of those seats will be occupied by newcomers as incumbents Mark Stepek, Dr. Joyce Brasington and Jenny Guthrie all decided to not seek re-election.
Only incumbent Korey Bailey, who was appointed to the board in July 2017 following Mike Schweig’s resignation, decided to run.
The other four candidates who filed by the July 24 deadline are Erick Foster, Chad M. Griffith, Mary Hanser and Kallie Roesner.
All five candidates paid the nonrefundable $100 fee to get on the ballot in lieu of gathering signatures and filing a nominating petition.
A sixth person, Brian Tabert, filed nominating petitions, but fell one short of the 40-signature minimum, based on what Oxford Township Clerk Curtis Wright was told by the Oakland County Elections Division.
Tabert, who has six sons in the district, submitted 42 signatures, but two were signed after the circulation date and one was from an unregistered voter, according to Wright.
“Whoever circulates the nominating petition has to date it,” Wright explained. “The two invalid signatures were dated later than the circulator’s date. For example, the two invalid signatures were dated July 25, 2018 and the circulator dated the nominating petition July 24, 2018.”
Tabert was disappointed, but understanding.
“Obviously, I would have loved to have been a part of the board to help our community out, but it wasn’t meant to be,” he said.
All four school board seats carry four-year terms.
Here’s a little bit of biographical information about each candidate and why they’re running.
“I want to bring back the great reputation that Oxford (Schools) once had,” said Bailey, 47. “I know for several years there was a lot of distrust and I want to help (reverse) that.
“I think a lot of that is getting in the way of the (district) being able to provide the best service for the kids (because) they’re constantly trying to re-establish that reputation.”
Bailey has a daughter, Peyton, who is a sophomore at OHS. He wants to make sure that she and others have “the best education available.”
“If me serving on (the school) board helps provide that, that’s what I want to do,” he said.
He wants to help “bring new programs” to the district and add them to successful ones such as Oxford Virtual Academy (OVA) and Oxford Schools Early College (OSEC).
He’s in favor of “anything that’s going to make people look and say, ‘Oxford has the best. That’s where I want to move. I want to put my kids in Oxford (Schools).’”
Bailey contemplated running for school board in November 2016, but instead, he decided to run the committee campaigning for passage of the district’s operating millage on non-homestead properties.
“This effort had failed (in its) last attempt because the (district) could not promote it and we did not have residents to stand up and take the lead,” he said. “I figured it was better to run the millage committee and ensure that the (district) had funding and we were successful.”
Since joining the school board, Bailey has become a member of its policy committee, which is responsible for reviewing and modifying all policies on which the board votes.
Bailey, who works as a director of sales for an automotive supplier, is no stranger to Oxford. He’s lived here for about six years now, but prior to that, he grew up in the community, graduating from the now-defunct Oxford Christian Academy in 1988.
He enjoys giving back and helping others, a trait he inherited from his parents and grandparents.
“It’s something that comes natural to me,” Bailey said.
He spent a number of years with the Auburn Hills Fire Department as a paid-on-call member and officer.
In addition to the school board, Bailey also serves on the Oxford Township Zoning Board of Appeals, a position he’s held for nearly three years.
“I think the school (district) has made a lot of really good advances lately, a lot of improvements,” said Foster, 50.
“There’s some really good momentum going right now and I think I can help keep that momentum going.”
Foster has a son, Henry, who’s about to start his freshman year at OHS and is a member of the marching band.
He likes the fact that the district focuses on producing “well-rounded students.” He likes that Oxford is committed to equally promoting the “three pillars” of education – academics, arts and athletics – as opposed centering everything around test scores like other districts.
Foster, who works as an electrical engineer in the automotive industry, also finds it “pretty impressive” that so many teachers live in the district, which means they “have a vested interest in the health and well-being of the school system because their kids go (here).”
“For me, that’s kind of a win-win,” he said.
He believes he can bring a lot to the table as a school board member.
“I’m a very good problem-solver,” said Foster, who’s lived in Oxford for 20 years. “I’m a very good listener and pretty objective.”
He wished to make it clear that he’s not running so he can get on the board and “shake the trees.”
“I’m not coming in with any hidden agendas or chips on my shoulder,” Foster explained. “I want to do a really good job, be open to what I hear as far as the issues that come up and just try to . . . make great decisions (for the district).”
One of his goals is to “be a voice for people.”
“I’m pretty open,” he said. “If you see me in Meijer, come talk to me, shake my hand, let me know if you have any concerns.”
“In the few years I’ve been here, I’ve seen students’ lives change because of the opportunities and support they get through Oxford Schools and I want that to continue,” said Hanser, 52.
“You need good schools to have a strong community.”
A resident of the Village of Leonard since November 2014, Hanser has two children attending OHS – a son named Athan, who’s a senior, and a daughter named Angeline, a junior.
“I’m excited they have the opportunities that they have, like the arts program, like the robotics (team), like OVA,” she said.
Hanser is already involved with the school district as a volunteer. She’s a sponsorship mentor and treasurer for TORC 2137, the OHS robotics team. She’s also a sponsorship coordinator of the band program.
“I love Oxford Schools,” said Hanser, who works as the director of operations for Renaissance Unity, a spiritual community in Warren. “Our kids have so many opportunities and get so much support.”
Now, she wants to return the favor and give back as a member of the board of education.
“I love what is happening now (in the school district) and I want that to continue . . . (and) grow (in order) to help all of our students succeed in the global society that we talk about,” she said.
Hanser’s goals are to “support our teachers and our administrators,” ensure “our kids feel safe coming to school” and help the district “remain fiscally responsible.”
“I’m excited about the opportunity to serve the community,” she said. “That’s what I love doing.”
As the “new kid on the block,” she’s also looking forward to meeting more people outside of the band program and robotics team.
Because of her position with Renaissance Unity, Hanser is a member of the Macomb County InterAgency Council, which works to fulfill unmet human service needs in Macomb County.
Chad M. Griffith
“I’m happy with the direction that the district has been going,” said Griffith, 45.
A resident of Oxford for 18 years, he has two children in the district – Cailin, a senior at OHS, and Megan, a sophomore.
Griffith, who manages a team of software engineers, has a “passion for education.”
He spent seven years volunteering with the PTO for Daniel Axford and Oxford elementary schools. He served as PTO president for the 2009-10 school year.
Griffith views serving on the board of education as a way to “continue that involvement” and keep “giving back to the community.”
“I want to make sure that we continue to offer a wide variety of programs for the kids,” he said.
He wants to ensure Oxford students are “getting a taste for the world” and “understand exactly where they fit,” so “they’re better equipped” to face life after graduation.
Given his experiences with the PTO, Griffith said he would be an “advocate” for teachers if elected to the school board.
“I understand some of the challenges that they’re up against,” he said.
Griffith noted he’s “very big on honesty and transparency” and if elected, “will hold the board to the same standard.”
He’s no stranger to serving on a board.
Griffith spent seven years as a member of the Lake Orion United Methodist Church’s administrative board, which oversees the church and makes decisions affecting its operations and policies. “That’s the highest governing body of the local church,” he explained.
He helped guide Lake Orion UMC through the troubled waters of the recession.
“There were quite a few hard decisions that had to be made during that time,” Griffith said.
Griffith believes his time on the church board, coupled with the vendor management and contract management his job requires, will help make him a good school board member.
Roesner, 53, said she’s running because she wants to create an atmosphere where the school board and the public “work together” and officials listen to, respond to and act on what residents have to say.
She feels citizens are currently “not encouraged to participate.”
“There’s more knowledge out in that public than on that board and if we collect that knowledge, we might make better decisions,” she said.
Roesner currently doesn’t have any school-age children in the district, but she does have two sons who graduated from OHS.
This is the second time Roesner has run for the board of education. In November 2016, she was one of nine candidates who competed for three seats. Roesner received 1,597 votes and finished 8th out of nine candidates.
Roesner has extensive experience in the world of local government.
She currently serves as an appointed member of both the planning commission and zoning board of appeals (ZBA) in Oxford Township. She’s been on the ZBA since 1995 and was first appointed to the planning commission in 1999.
She previously served on the township’s water and sewer committee as well.
Roesner was also a member of the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit from December 2013 until May 2016.
Looking at the current state of the school district, Roesner believes “there’s a big lack of transparency” and ” a lack of forward-planning.”
She sees a district that created “a lot of initiatives” that turned out to be “failures,” but won’t admit what went “wrong” and what the cost was to the community.
“I really want to see them address those issues,” Roesner said.
If elected, Roesner said she would focus on building “a strong community school” with a “friendly atmosphere” and “great teachers.”
She also wants to create an atmosphere “where if somebody has a problem with the district, they can go to the (school board) meeting and know they’re going to be heard, know they’re going to be responded to and get the information they want.”
“The first thing I would like to do (as a school board member) is make the agendas and the meeting packets available to the public prior to the meeting,” she said.
Roesner explained she’s requested the district send her agendas and packets before meetings and “I get it sent to me the day after.”
“That’s the level of cooperation I’m getting,” she said. “It’s really hard to be a part of your community when they’re not even giving you the information you need to give them feedback.”