Wyandotte Board of Education candidates Robert Kirby (left) and Kelly Kohlstrand listen Wednesday as candidate Dana Browning answers a question during a forum at a meeting of the Wyandotte Democratic Club.
Wyandotte Board of Education candidate David Shalda (right) speaks during a forum at a meeting of the Wyandotte Democratic Club Wednesday while fellow candidate Stephanie Miello looks on.
By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — Difficult times call for difficult decisions.
That was one thought shared Wednesday by all five candidates vying for three seats on the Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education during a question-and-answer session before the Wyandotte Democratic Club at the Copeland Center.
But in the wake of budget cuts that led to a decision this week by the current board to issue 60-day notices of layoffs to 25 teachers, the candidates had differing opinions on what those difficult decisions should include.
Dana Browning, a current board member seeking re-election May 3, said one choice she is not willing to make is privatizing cleaning and food services.
“I don’t want strangers in the buildings with my child or anyone else’s child,” Browning said. “If it’s not good enough for my child, it’s not good enough for everyone else’s.”
Browning said the community needs to work together to find a way to avoid teacher layoffs, cut class sizes and keep extracurricular activities. She has been vocal about requesting a budget meeting with the board to try to avoid such cuts.
Browning, a lifelong district resident, is married to City Councilman Todd Browning and the couple have a 10-year-old daughter. She has worked for the city for 25 years in the Assessor’s Office and is currently the school district’s chairwoman for the Blessings in a Backpack program, which provides weekend meals to low-income students.
Stephanie Miello, a first-time board candidate, disagreed, saying she will take all options into account.
“When it comes to kids, I will put children first and do everything possible to put the quality of education for children first,” Miello said. “So everything, everything, is on the table.”
Miello has worked in marketing and sales for Ford Motor Co. for more than 18 years in Michigan, New York, and Central America. She has lived in Wyandotte for 11 years with her husband, Tony, and they have 9-year-old son. She is fluent in English and Spanish.
David Shalda, who is running for a second time after an unsuccessful 2009 candidacy, said he is against privatization of those services and he will do what it takes to fight for the children and make the best decisions for them.
“Win or lose, we’re in this for the kids,” Shalda said. “Our kids are our future … how are we going to have a good future if we don’t stand up now and fight for these kids?”
Shalda and his wife, Satana, have two daughters, ages 7 and 14. He has lived in Wyandotte for 32 years. He officiates high school football, basketball and baseball and has been active in fundraising for Jefferson Elementary School’s Market Day program.
Kelly Kohlstrand, a first-time candidate, said it will take creative and innovative solutions to keep educational standards high with a declining budget. He said the answer lies in working with existing staff and personnel to find solutions.
“I think we have to define what it is we need versus what it is we want, set goals and objectives and define a plan collectively to achieve those goals,” Kohlstrand said, “and I believe we have the horsepower in this community to do it.”
Kohlstrand also is employed with Ford, where he has worked as an engineer and in business planning and strategy.
Current board Treasurer Robert Kirby said the board has made cuts in the past and saved money by using the same food service team as Southgate Community School District. He said the board found last year that it could not find a cheaper price for the services than they already have. He said maintenance companies also have made concessions in the past and have gone the extra mile to provide first-class services to the district.
“The bottom line isn’t the only line,” he said.
Kirby has served on the school board continuously since 2001 and has been its president and vice president. He has coached basketball and tee ball for the city’s Recreation Department.
Kirby is a divorced father of two elementary-aged children and a preschool-aged son, who has autism. He has worked for the city for nearly 20 years in its Public Works and Municipal Services departments.