On November 3, voters in the Wayne-Westland school district will choose three people to represent them on the board of education.
School board members oversee the district and is the body Superintendent John Dignan reports to. Members serve six-year terms and are paid $50 per meeting attendance, given a monthly $30 stipend for travel and can make $250 annually for reaching level one of the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) Certification Program.
Hometown Life sent each candidate a questionnaire regarding their candidacy and the district itself. Answers had a 75-word limit, and responses exceeding that limit were cut short.
Meet the candidates
John Albrecht, 70, is a retired educator. His educational background includes a master’s degree in teaching and education from Marygrove College along with a bachelor’s degree in math from Eastern Michigan University.
Sheree Conn, 45, is an owner and operator with Spectrum Business Associates. Her education includes a master’s and bachelor’s degree in business administration.
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Timothy Gilbert, 45, owns a private investigation agency. Gilbert is a veteran of the United States Marines and has trained with a police academy.
Melandie Hines, 41, is the race’s only incumbent. Hines works as a personal banker at 5/3 Bank and holds a duel master’s degree in business management and human resources management from Phoenix University as well as a bachelor’s degree in behavior arts and science with a specialization in criminal justice from Saginaw Valley State University.
Angela Jackson-Irvine, who did not share any personal information.
Kimberly May, 47, is an educator. Her education includes a master’s of education leadership and a bachelor’s of elementary education. She received both degrees from Wayne State University.
Gayle Nicholson, 65, works in marketing, graphic design and event promotion. She holds a bachelor’s of secondary education with specialization in science and environmental studies from Western Michigan University.
Candidates Daniel Beier, Eric Cleereman and Susan Lachhman did not submit responses by the given deadline.
Why are you running for office?
Albrecht: I am a retired educator and as such still have a passion for public education. I can bring classroom and administrative experience to the board of education. I also want to help implement the 21st century teaching and learning component of the District’s strategic plan.
Conn: I am running to be a voice for the WWCSD stakeholders. I firmly believe our children should be our primary focus and, every teacher should have the resources & support they need to succeed. I am running to continue the fight for social, educational, and economic equity by representing WWCSD on the school board. I believe the school board is an important institution for community-based decision-making.
Gilbert: I am focused to serve as a representative and advocate for the community, prioritizing for the interest and assistance of the students and the Wayne-Westland Community Schools. My commitment is to advocate for the students and build for the educators within our district. I believe in the future of the Wayne-Westland Community Schools and look forward to serving. I advocated as a board member of the Westland Chamber of Commerce to work with…
Hines: I am running for office because I think that children should have a fair and equitable education. COVID-19 has exposed some inequities in the Wayne-Westland Community School District. We have to make sure that our children do not succumb to the digital divide. We must make sure as a district that our children have one-to-one technology and are able to compete against other school districts to be competitive in this environment.
Jackson-Irvine: My main reason for running for the Wayne-Westland School Board is my passion for education and continuing desire to see improvements made to the system. I believe that the district is full of great leaders and I find the people who are invested in our children’s education to be kind, caring individuals. I am a mom, educator and involved member of the community and I want to help the district rise up again.
May: I am running for office to be a part of the solution to enhance Wayne-Westland Community Schools. As a parent, educator, and advocate for children; I believe I have a responsibility to give back to the community in which I reside. My 24 years of experience in education, serving in multiple roles, afford me the knowledge and experience to be an excellent candidate for the school board.
Nicholson: The call to service has always been strong with me, so in this time when schools are struggling so much, between the problems of education in the time of COVID-19 and the constant struggle with finances. I have been a teacher, a teacher of teachers, and a parent, but I also have been working in the business community. This combination makes me ideal for school board.
What attributes or skills do you bring to the school board that will help move the school district and education forward into the future?
Conn: My commitment to high-quality public education for ALL students. My ability to focus and putting out children first. If elected, I’ll ensure every deliberation and every last decision reflects the best interests of ALL of our young learners. Service is another attribute I possess; and if elected, I’ll represent the entire community rather than one constituency. This means being approachable, open-minded, empathetic and flexible making sure to listen to both carefully, and respectfully.
Gilbert: I have Integrity (from being a United States Marine), unselfishness (from being a father) and the communication skills (from being a business owner) to listen to OUR students and make the changes accordingly. I am part of OUR community.
Hines: I have been on the board of education for six years and received my board of education certification from the State of Michigan. I have a strong business, financial services, human resources and law enforcement background. I received my bachelor degree in behavioral arts and science from Saginaw Valley State University. I also received my double master’s degree in business management/human resources management from the University of Phoenix and graduated with honors.
Jackson-Irvine: I believe that my care and concern for people in our community is one of my best attributes. I have been a teacher for the past 25 years and I believe I will be able to help see things from many different angles. I was a student in the district and I chose to raise my family in Wayne-Westland. I sit back, listen, research and always try to make the best informed decisions.
May: I have served as a classroom teacher, building administrator, and currently, as a central office administrator. Each of these roles have afforded me the opportunity to become well versed in both building and district operations. I also have experience with state and federal grants as well as building and district level budgeting. I will use my wealth of knowledge and experience to ensure the district is fiscally responsible. I am approachable and focused on children.
Nicholson: Since I have worked in both education and in business I bring a unique perspective to the role of school board member. I am also on the local library board, which allows me to bring an additional perspective.
Albrecht: Deep experience with our state school code, school and district budgeting, educational leadership, strategic planning development, and knowledge of our communities prepare me for this role.
What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Gilbert: I believe we need to carry our students into the new age of technology, and I feel some of our board members are holding us back from doing. In addition, we lack the ability to just listen to our students. I will break the barrier of communication within our current board and make the necessary changes our students and our school district deserves.
Hines: The most pressing issue in the Wayne-Westland Community School District is the issue to make sure that our children has access to chrome books and internet to be able to attend their virtual classes. I also have to make sure that he children in our community have access to food, breakfast and lunch because 100% of our children qualify for free lunch. The Board of Education just voted for over one million of funds…
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Jackson-Irvine: Finances are always a concern, I will do my best to see that areas such as class sizes, up-to-date technology and adequate staffing are a top priority. Equitable education for all of the students is a must. Many families are facing economic difficulties, ethnic biases, or other social/emotional needs. Although I may not be able to fix the problem I can help provide necessary resources to improve things they may be dealing with.
May: The pressing issue facing my district as well most public schools is educating students in a pandemic. As a board member I will work with the superintendent and his team by being supportive and ensuring that ALL students and teachers have what they need to have a successful school year. It is imperative to work as a team of 8, board members plus the superintendent to meet the needs of ALL families within our district.
Nicholson: Like most districts right now, we will be struggling with the problems of education in the time of COVID-19, as well as how to acquire and allocate finances for the district. School boards are going to need to be diligent about gathering the facts regarding what is currently going on so that we can choose the best and safest path to success for our students. It’s going to be quite the challenge.
Albrecht: Challenges to integration of technology in teaching and learning has risen as a result of COVID-19 is a primary concern. I will motivate the superintendent and my colleagues to make this a budget and professional development priority.
Conn: There is a lack of equity in education that remote learning and the COVID crisis has brought to the forefront. Fundamentally, public schools provide a standard for education with equal funding for EVERY student. Yet under the current plan, MANY families are being left behind because many of them do not have the internet. I will work with district administration to ensure the shift and focus is where it needs to be: on our stakeholders.
What do you consider the school district’s strongest attributes?
Hines: One of the Wayne-Westland Community School District’s strongest attributes is to come together as a community. When I was going door to door informing the constituents of how important it was to pass the $158 million bond and how we were able to save them money on the bond it passed unanimous in every precinct. The business in the community allowed us to put I believe in Wayne-Westland signs outside of their business.
Jackson-Irvine: Staff work well together for the betterment of students and collaborate to offer equal opportunities across the district to our students. Wayne-Westland offers support to those less fortunate in the district and I am proud of those staff members who go out of the way to be sure that kids have meals, clothes, coat and gloves and much more when things are difficult for the family. Students always come first!
May: I consider the community of students, teachers, parents and staff as the strongest attributes of my district. All are committed to student success. During the 2018-2019 school year, my district had a 91% attendance rate. While that is not perfect, it demonstrates our students are attending school which in turn demonstrates their commitment to learning, the parents commitment to getting them to school, and the teachers and staff commitment to provide engaging instruction.
Nicholson: Absolutely it is the students, the teachers, and the parents. I’m out and about in the community and the people are the best.
Albrecht: Our classroom staff are exceptional. We can be very proud of the teachers and support personnel who work with and develop relationships with our children and grandchildren.
Conn: The diversity of the student body. We also have passionate parents & hardworking staff.
Gilbert: We have survived a very difficult time over the past few years and that shows that we have a STRONG team within our district and is ready to do what is right for our district. Our teachers and staff have stood up and stayed strong.
What should your school district do to better prepare students as citizens?
Jackson-Irvine: Education is the foundation to becoming a well rounded citizen. Teachers display compassion, consideration, respect and thoughtfulness, making them great role models of citizenship. Opportunities for social emotional learning will help establish positive relationships and students should be given a chance to work with others and learn to make responsible decisions. It is our job to inspire kids to be involved in what is happening in the community and show them that they are valued.
May: My district should continue the work to increase the graduation rate. One way this could be accomplished is to enhance the programs being offered at William D. Ford and encourage students to pursue a trade program, in addition too. Children should be exposed to a variety of learning paths and avenues for success. Experiencing both allows for multiple exposure to a variety of career paths which will lead to productive citizenship.
Nicholson: We need to look at the students as individuals, not as statistics. Each child is different. Their background is different, they learn differently, they have different life experiences and different goals. There are no “one size fits all” answers. As a science teacher, I want to help promote STEM topics.
Albrecht: My answer is the same today as it was 26 years ago: We have to keep working toward helping our students become critical thinkers. This entails the ability to internally and openly challenge any and all ideas. To do this appropriately today as compared to 50 years ago, we need to incorporate the vast information available at our fingertips. Finite printed sources simply cannot meet the learning needs of today’s children. They need to be…
Conn: Involve students at the civic level. Offer mentorships by partnering with community businesses & local organizations and, our local government offices (internships, etc.). Amplify available career pathways. Encourage civic empowerment. I believe we should offer more civic education and do so in the same manner as other coursework such as Math, English & Science, encouraging our students to be actively involved in order to become masterful citizens.
Gilbert: We need to increase more learning to help vocational students become certified and ready to enter the field of their choice. Attempt to bring a Law Enforcement training to our facility. In addition, for our college bound students we need to give them more opportunity to complete certified college course while in high school.
Hines: We need to make sure that our children are career ready, college ready and life ready. We must ensure that are children have a strong mind, be a strategic thinker, have self-confidence, are self-directed to achieve their desired goals. Students must have real world skills with academic experience, work experience, transferable skills and competencies. Students must have a plan for the future and be able to identify challenges and be able to implement a plan.
Anything else to share?
May: I am a committed, child centered, compassionate candidate. I began my career as an educator in 1996 and worked diligently to improve my craft because I am committed to provide the best educational environment for children. I am a lifelong learner. Every decision I make is based upon how the outcome will impact children. I will always advocate for ALL children including those who are often misunderstood. These attributes make me an ideal candidate!
Albrecht: I have been a resident for over 40 years. All of our children received a quality education from Wayne-Westland Schools. Our family is diverse, and we are understanding of the needs of our diverse community.
Conn: As a product of public schools, I understand how crucial it is that schools are safe spaces for our children, spaces where young people should want to be, spaces that nurture and promote student growth and development, and prepare them for the demands of adult life-no matter what path they choose. I am running to continue the fight for social, educational, and economic equity by representing WWCSD on the school board.
Gilbert: We need to hold ourselves accountable as we have neglected in the past. This goes without saying, as I have already identified over $18,000.00 of school funds that were misappropriated. I just recently in the past two weeks turned it over to law enforcement. I will obtain these funds and put them back into our school system. Endorsements received: State Representatives Kevin Coleman and Jewell Jones, Westland City Councilman Peter Herzberg and Mike McDermott, Wayne…
Hines: I have been a lifelong resident of the Wayne-Westland Community Schools. I graduated from Wayne Memorial High School and my son is a Junior at John Glenn High School. I am very active in the community. I am a member of the Michigan Association of School Boards, Westland Chamber of Commerce, mentor for the Champions of Wayne Program, Top Ladies of Distinction, Top Teens Advisor, 13th Congressional District, member of New Hope Baptist Church.
Jackson-Irvine: I believe it is a responsibility of the board to check in and find out what is going on in the schools. We need to be informed and be present wherever possible. We need to work for continuous improvement with communication and keeping the families involved in what is happening in their children’s schools. The public should be aware of our successes and challenges.