PETOSKEY -- Voters in the Petoskey school district will decide on a candidate to fill the remainder of an unexpired school board term in the Tuesday, Nov. 6, election.
Ralph Tramontini, who taught foreign language and coached tennis in the district prior to retirement, is the sole candidate listed on the ballot for this board seat, which expires in 2013. Kathy Reed -- an attorney appointed last year by other board members to fill the position until it could be put up for election -- seeks the opportunity to fill the remainder of the term as a write-in candidate.
One question that Tramontini sees facing the district is the question of how to continue providing top-quality educational and extracurricular opportunities while faced with shrinking economic resources.
"The answer lies in a hard-nosed look at all aspects of our district's finances, a commitment to shared sacrifice, and the realization that, ultimately, our kids' educational welfare should come first in any decision-making process," he said.
Tramontini also believes the district needs to consider how it can integrate new technology into its schools without losing sight of "old school" practices that are still effective.
"The power of computers is unquestioned, as is the need for our students to embrace and master these ever-evolving new means of communication," he said. "However, there is still a need for group interaction in the classroom, for reading aloud from a text, for experiences that unite us. In schools, the use of computers -- hand-held or at library carrels -- seems to fragment groups rather than unite them. Which is fine -- reading a book separates us also, or doing math homework, or practicing scales on the trumpet. I'm concerned, however, that we keep a balance of group activities in view of this technological onslaught."
Another question Tramontini sees facing the district is how to better facilitate for and encourage extracurricular participation for students, after ensuring that the curriculum basics (including art and music) are being done well.
"Sports teams and clubs of various kinds are essential for giving them hands-on, real-life activities, meaningful interactions with teammates and coaches, and, maybe best, a sense of purpose and belonging," he said. "This is how to fight boredom among the young."
Tramontini said he enjoyed the feeling of "giving to the community" during his career as a coach and educator, and believes school-board service would allow him to continue giving back and to work for continued excellence in local schools.
"In addition, as a retiree, I would have plenty of time and energy to devote to the job, one that I know will require a good deal of study and thought, as well as time," he said.
Tramontini, whose late wife was from Costa Rica, also has seen Petoskey High School's Spanish Club take numerous trips there, and he still has close ties to family and friends in that country. He'd like to see Petoskey High School pair up with a "sister school" in Costa Rica to allow exchange opportunities for students and teachers.
Having taught at a public school (Petoskey High School for 25 years) and earlier a private one (Brebeuf Jesuit in Indianapolis for 15 years), Tramontini noted that he was able to exercise leadership skills during his career, including a stint as a department chairman. His coaching experience includes two state championship teams, at Petoskey in 2002 and Brebeuf Jesuit in 1973. He also ran a summer tennis business for 15 years, involving a pro shop, on-court assistants, billing and payroll.
"I believe that I can be a solid voice for maintaining our Petoskey traditions of excellence -- in the classrooms and on the playing fields, from kindergarten to graduation. We do have a tremendous legacy to build on," Tramontini said. "But I also realize that there are problem areas that need to be looked at. I think that I have a good feel for how to find common ground with others, and I would like to be part of a school board team that deals with these problems in a creative and informed way."
Tramontini said his running for school board "is in no way a criticism of the job that my opponent has done after she volunteered to fill in for Tom Rellinger, who resigned (in 2011) to take a job downstate."
Noting the recent transitions in Michigan's election calendar, Reed said she missed the deadline to file for a spot on November's ballot by two days.
"I'm still very committed to (pursuing the remainder of the school board term), so that's why I'm running as a write-in," she said.
Reed said education and the well-being of children are two important issues for her personally.
"I have devoted a significant amount of my time and energy in the past to serving children, promoting education and fostering awareness of these issues as priorities in our community," she said. "The opportunity to serve on the school board presents a chance to improve both education and the well-being of children simultaneously, and to encourage our community to do the same."
When asked what issues she sees facing the district, Reed said, "an obvious issue facing our schools is the need to develop and use our resources wisely. By resources I mean not just the dollars received from the state for operations, but also our existing facilities, equipment and personnel, as well as our community resources. Another significant challenge is meeting the educational needs of every single student in our district, regardless of ability, circumstances or background. Finally, I think everyone in public education must strive to stay focused on what is educationally best for our students, and not be distracted by political, economic and personal agendas."
If elected for the remainder of the term, Reed said she'll draw on the experience she gained on the board in the past year and a half.
"As a member of the school board, I will draw on the experience I gained serving on the board over the past year and a half," she said. "Based on that experience, I know I will also draw on my professional legal training to evaluate school policies, proposed transactions and contracts that come before the board.
"These professional skills are, I believe, a useful complement to the strengths and skills of other board members. Additionally, my hands-on experience volunteering in the Petoskey Schools at every level, elementary through high school, has given me a useful perspective on how our schools function."
Name: Ralph Tramontini
Education: Bachelor's degree in Spanish from Stanford University, master's in education from Indiana University
Previous political/governmental experience: None
Occupation: Retired foreign language teacher and tennis coach
Family: Widowed, has three adult married children
Name: Kathy Reed
Education: Bachelor's degree from St. Mary's College, Notre Dame; law degree from University of Michigan
Previous political/governmental experience: Has served on Petoskey school board since July 2011
Occupation: Registered nurse and attorney; has practiced law with the Dykema Gossett firm since 1989 with a focus on health care law
Family: Married to Paul, has four sons ranging in age from 14 to 21
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