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Six in the running for NICE School Board

October 27, 2010
By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau

ISHPEMING - Three seats are opening up on the NICE Community Schools board of education.

The three seats, which are six year terms, are currently held by board Vice President Glenn Wing, Trustee Tonja Acker-Richards and Trustee Bill Stream.

Although Stream has chosen not to run again, Wing and Acker-Richards are both up for re-election.

Joining the incumbents on the ballot are Brett W. French, Eric Luttinen, Wendy S. Pederson and Nathan Smith.

"We are working to continue to ensure improvement and accountability for our academic programs," said Superintendent Michael Haynes of issues that the board will likely face in the coming years.

Other issues include implementation and continuation of new programs like the district's online academy, early college and preschool programs and project based learning; continued focus on athletics and the arts; connecting with the community; maintain levels of participation from parents and community members; and dealing with economic challenges and conditions.

Currently vice president of the school board, Wing, 56, of Diorite, was originally elected to the board in 2006. A former Cliffs Natural Resources employee and a current volunteer with the school district, Wing holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Northern Michigan University.

"Over the last four years we've done a good job of balancing our budget and starting new programs," Wing said.

Wing said if elected he hoped to continue work on the district's new programs such as the online academy and the preschool program.

Currently a four-year member of the NICE board, Acker-Richards, 45, of Ishpeming Township, holds a master's degree in education and has three children currently enrolled in the NICE district.

"I like to think of myself as a guardian of public tax dollars," she said. "To me what's important is looking at the big picture."

In particular, Acker-Richards said she wanted to ensure the district continued using its limited resources the best way possible to help prepare students for adult life.

A father of two children in the NICE district, French, 48, of Ishpeming Township, said his main issues going into the election were accountability and transparency. Manager of customer and external relations for the American Transmission Company, French holds a master's degree in molecular engineering from Central Michigan University and serves on several boards, including Operation Action U.P. and the Marquette County Economic Development Board.

"My big thing is I want to create positive change with the district through much greater transparency and accountability," French said, adding he wanted to see more transparency through publicizing of meeting minutes and budgetary information and accountability through clearly defining expectation for staff and administrators.

French said he would also like to see a continuous improvement program set up for the district, as well as a mid- and year-end satisfaction survey for parents and other district stakeholders.

A former newspaper reporter and current financial adviser, Luttinen, 49, of Ishpeming Township, is a parent of two students in the NICE district. Besides having experience covering school boards as a reporter, Luttinen said he also has served as an officer of the Kiwanis Club and on the Bell Hospital Foundation board.

"Unlike other candidates who perhaps have agendas, my job is to make the NICE Community Schools a good place to learn, work and play," Luttinen said. "I think the administration there has been pretty proactive."

Lutinen said he hoped to help prepare students for entry into the job market.

Another parent of two children in the school district, Pederson, 43, of Ely Township, said she was running for the school board because of ongoing concerns she has about the way the district is being handled.

"I can bring common sense, accountability," Pederson said. "I figure now is the time. It would be nice to see some fresh faces and ideas on the board."

Among her concerns are transparency, athletics, academics and special education.

For Smith, 32, of Ishpeming Township, a father of five children within the district, accountability and transparency are also issues in the election.

"I want (the administration) to be more open, honest," Smith said. "I'd like to see administration be held accountable for things."

A senior at NMU in construction management and a 1996 graduate of Westwood High School, Smith said he would also like to focus on improving athletics in the district.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is



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