Seven seeking office in school board elections Tuesday

By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspapers

 

WYANDOTTE — Seven people are vying for four seats in Tuesday’s election for the Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education.

 

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 

Trustees Kathy Bedikian and Michael Swiecki, along with Vice President Kevin Van Boxell are running for re-election. Board Secretary Michael Peters chose not to run again.

 

Challengers for the seats include Chris Calvin, Daniel Cusson, David Shalda and Patrick Sutka.

 

The board election will be held in conjunction with the city elections, and each of the incumbents hopes to remain on the board to continue to make a difference.

 

Bedikian is a lifelong Wyandotte resident, a graduate of Roosevelt High School and has three children currently in the district, as well as one who has graduated from Roosevelt.

 

She has been a midwife for 15 years, holds a bachelor of science degree in psychology and women’s studies from Michigan State University, as well as a master’s degree in nurse midwifery from Yale University.

 

Bedikian has been on the board for four years and has served on the academic, policy review and dress code committees.

 

“It is very hard to be on the school board,” she said. “I have four kids, a full-time job and a one-hour commute.

 

“But I think it is really, really important.”

 

She also believes it’s important to have intelligent, informed people on the board who are able to convey information between the community and district administrators.

 

“I think I’m the right person for the job because I am involved,” she said. “I am a very busy woman and sometimes a very tired woman, but I am a very passionate woman — and I am committed.”

 

Swiecki, who has served on the board for 15 years, said he enjoys his board service and obviously would like to continue.

 

Born and raised in Wyandotte, he is a graduate of Roosevelt, owns a industrial storage fixtures business and has put two children through the school district.

 

“I’m pretty proud of the results (my children) saw here in Wyandotte,” he said.

 

He added that Wyandotte is the reason he is running for re-election.

 

“I have a lot vested here,” Swiecki said. “I believe in Wyandotte and I believe that the children are our future.

 

“I’m not going to be around forever to do the things that I do now.”

 

Swiecki added that he likes to give back to the community and hopes to maintain the district.

 

Van Boxell, who also has served on the board for 15 years. He grew up in Lincoln Park, graduated from Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School in Wyandotte, joined the Navy, has been married for 32 years and has two daughters who have graduated from Roosevelt.

 

He is a chief in the Navy Reserve and also owns a family trucking company.

 

“I was raised with the obligation to serve,” he said. “That is why I am still in the military.

 

“I always had this feeling that I want to give something back and do something a little bit better.”

 

Van Boxell added that it is an honor to serve on the board of education for the past 15 years, and said he would like to continue his service.

 

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the military or school board or volunteering for the PTO,” he said, “it’s a sense of giving back to the community and wanting to make it better.”

 

The four challengers also believe they can bring significant good to the board.

 

Calvin is a lifelong resident and a Roosevelt graduate. He received his master’s certificate in auto mechanics from Wayne County Community College and has two children who graduated from Roosevelt as well.

 

“Both are products of the Wyandotte school system, and they have gotten very much out of it,” he said about his children. “I want to put something back into the school system so more kids can get as much out of it as they have.”

 

Calvin said the reason he is running is because public opinion has been shut out of board meetings.

 

“A couple years ago was a meeting that started off with not allowing the public to speak,” he said. “I believe the public has a very important part in our school system, and their opinions are valued.”

 

He believes his understanding of the Open Meetings Act and Robert’s Rules of Order will benefit the board if he is elected.

 

“I believe I would be the best candidate to move in with the knowledge that I do have,” Calvin said. “I want to make sure public opinion is being heard and used.

 

“I think I can be a big help to the other members on the board, and I do think the children of the district have done a lot of good things with my assistance.”

 

Cusson is also a lifelong resident of Wyandotte and a graduate of Roosevelt. He served for two and a half years in the U.S. Army, is president of the Roosevelt High School Alumni Football Club and has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 58 in Detroit as a business development coordinator for 15 years.

 

“I wanted to give back to my community,” Cusson said about joining the club. “That is why I am running. I wanted to continue to give back to my community.”

 

He believes the children in the community are the building blocks of what the school board should strive for.

 

“I believe that is why every trustee should be there,” he said, “to make sure the children can get an education and get the chance for that education.

 

He said he always has loved the city, and that it hurts him to see anything negative happening within it.

 

“I’m new, I’m young, I’m not a typical politician,” Cusson said. “I’m here for the right reasons. My heart is in the right place, and I will work diligently to do the best job I possibly can.”

 

Shalda has lived in the city for 30 years, is a Roosevelt graduate and a local sports official and has two children in the district.

 

“I’ve been very active in the community,” he said. “I want a chance to serve my community and to serve the kids of Wyandotte.”

 

Shalda believes he can teach children to be better “citizens in their schools” and hopes to bring better learning into the schools.

 

“There should be a little more willingness in the school board to just help serve and help our community out,” he said. “I would like to put the word ‘trust’ back into trustee.

 

“We’ve had a lot of problems in our district in the last year or two, and I would like to step forward and help out.” 

 

Sutka, who recently reached his term limit on the City Council, is married and has two daughters who attend Washington Elementary School.

 

He, too, is a Roosevelt graduate, has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Michigan State, is a certified public accountant and is a member of the South East Michigan Council of Governments.

 

“(SEMCOG) is a regional planning organization that plans for transportation and education,” he said. “I believe that this is important, because I believe many of the solutions to the issues to the school board will be found through regional issues.

 

“We can learn from others, and we also need to continue to form alliances regionally.”

 

He believes he can make a contribution to the board of education because of his experience in both business and government.

 

“I believe there are many challenges facing this most important organization in the next couple of years,” he said, “and I believe experience and education will help that group collectively.”

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