Thursday, December 2, 2021

School board candidates vie for open seat

November 6, 2011

In the wake of what some felt was a controversial decision on the fate of Red Cedar Elementary School, Tuesday’s election of a new East Lansing School Board member is of utmost importance to many in the community.

Candidates vying for Trustee George Brookover’s soon-to-be vacant seat include East Lansing residents Hillary Henderson, Konrad Hittner and William Weckesser.

The candidate voted to the position during Nov. 8 elections will join current school board members President Rima Addiego, Vice President Kay Biddle, Treasurer Babette Krause, Secretary Donna Rich-Kaplowitz, Trustee Nell Kuhnmuench and Trustee Jay Todd.

The East Lansing School Board voted to close Red Cedar Elementary at its Sept. 26 meeting on the grounds that the schools needed renovation and that data provided from the Census meant the school system could not sustain six elementary schools in the long term.

In the plan, the school board voted to make $62 million renovations and additions to five of the six schools in the district if an extension of a bond proposal that will be put to vote in a February 2012 election. The board also voted to use the Red Cedar building for an alternate purpose, effectively signing off on the eventual closure of the school.

An alternate use for the Red Cedar school building was not decided upon at the meeting.

Although the outlook is controversial among many families in East Lansing, Hittner said the decision was the most rational one, considering the information revealed from the Census data.

“(The school board’s decision) was the reasonable and rational choice — keeping six open at this point is, in the long term, not viable,” Hittner said.

Weckesser said the board didn’t provide enough reasoning for the closure of the school and said if the board is suffering from budgetary problems, other methods should be considered.

“There’s really not been any good (and) solid financial justification for it,” Weckesser said. “My attitude is we have to shake things up a little bit.”

Henderson was unavailable for comment Sunday.

Council candidates also have voiced their disapproval with the school board’s decision to close Red Cedar.

Current Mayor Pro Tem and council candidate Diane Goddeeris is adament about saving all local schools. She said the neighborhoods in East Lansing could suffer greatly from the closure of another school in city limits.

“My philosophy has always been that you work with the community and get a consensus before you put it out there for a vote,” Goddeeris said.

Liesel Carlson, co-president of the Red Cedar School Association, said the election is important considering recent events and she hopes, regardless of the outcome, the elected candidate will support the best interests of all students.

“Whatever school board member is elected, I certainly would hope that they would be concerned with the whole city of East Lansing and all of the neighborhoods,” Carlson said.

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