Two seats, each with six-year terms, for Spring Lake’s Board of Education are up for election on the Nov. 6 ballot. Three write-in candidates, Bruce Callen, Matt Isard, and Katie Pigott are running for election.
To help voter get to know the candidates, the Tribune asked them to fill out a questionnaire. Below are their responses, in alphabetical order.
Profession: Civil Engineer. I’m a U.S. Navy veteran, and own and operate Callen Engineering, Inc. (Est. 2004), located in the Village of Spring Lake. We’ve operated locally in Spring Lake since 2006.
Previously elected offices held: I am currently the President of the Crockery Lake Association.
In what ways are you/have you been involved in the district? 12-year resident of Spring Lake. My wife, Nicki, and I moved our family here in 2006 to avail ourselves of the benefits of the Spring Lake school district and the area’s natural resources. I have two sons; John (Class of 2016), and Tommy (Class of 2020).
Other areas of involvement:
• Local small business owner and employer
• As a parent that lives and works locally, I have the opportunity to participate actively in our sons’ school activities; from volunteering as an assistant coach, participating as an IEP advocate, and attending, supporting, and promoting band and sporting events at almost every opportunity.
• Spring Lake Band Backer (2015 – present), Treasurer (2016-present)
• Junior Achievement volunteer
• Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce member
• Crockery Lake Association Director (2013 – present), President (2017 – present)
• Previous member of the Grand Haven Environment and Natural Resources Committee
Why are you running for a seat on the school board? Most importantly, I am running to be an advocate for the public school system. I believe public schools are the hallmark of a democracy, providing students an exposure to varying racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual orientation, forming the ability to empathize, and laying the foundation for critical thinking, which is so necessary in our society. Secondly, I am running to be an advocate for those students who are on the intellectual and behavioral spectrums. As a parent of a child with an IEP, I understand the importance of proper staffing and training of all teachers and support staff in support of students that struggle for various reasons. Lastly, I am running for school board because I am a Laker fan. Nationally ranked Spring Lake Public Schools provides a great education and opportunity for all students. I wish to keep it that way.
What do you see as top challenges facing Spring Lake Public Schools, and how would you address them? The challenges always include money management and finding the best use and efficiency of our funding. As a small business owner, I understand the importance of a balanced budget, long-range planning, and contract negotiations to ensure sustainability of both the business and my employees. Other challenges include understanding how we evolve into this century with technology, cyber schools, social media, and more without sacrificing our identity and quality.
If elected, what you like to accomplish? I don’t come with an agenda other than good stewardship and community service, and doing my best to build on the district’s level of excellence. Before I’d try to enact change in any direction, I would want to learn all facets of our school district, and its interactions with the State of Michigan. As a community member, not currently on that side of public school management, I would do my best to be knowledgeable on as many subjects affecting schools as possible. So, to answer your question about accomplishing anything, I suppose it’s learning and understanding so I can be an effective decision maker for the students.
Occupation: President of Angstrom Technology. Angstrom Technology is a national cleanroom design/build firm based in Grand Rapids.
Previous elected offices held: I was born in the “Thumb” and after graduating from Northwood University, I lived in Reese, Michigan, at 27 years old I was elected to sit on the Planning Commission. When my wife Karianne and I first moved to West Michigan in 2002, I owned a Powersport Dealership in Fremont, Michigan. (Powers Motorsports) There I was elected to sit on an Economic improvement council.
In what ways are you/have you been involved in the district? I have three children in Spring Lake School system — daughter Reese a freshman, son Gage seventh-grade, and son Krew fourth-grade. I see the successes and struggles they and their friends uncover throughout the school year and see some opportunities to fine tune our system to better that experience.
I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to coach football, baseball and currently lacrosse. I’m always amazed at the support we have in our community for sporting events, parents, grandparents and friends always seem to fill the stands and cheer our teams to victory.
My wife has served as president and is currently vice president of Spring Lake School Foundation raising $80-$100,000 year over year to support Spring Lake Schools academics and athletics.
Why are you running for a seat on the school board? I view the school board position as an opportunity to give back to our amazing community and push our board members to be constantly striving for continuous improvement. Yes, we are currently a nationally ranked system and top 20 in the state, but we didn’t get there by being stagnant but by demanding the best from our superintendent, staff and faculty. I believe we must constantly challenge our system to achieve results.
Some of the areas I see for improvement with our system: I’ve been asked by multiple Spring Lake residents if I have an agenda or a list of areas I would like to see change. I don’t believe approaching the position with an agenda before understanding the reasoning behind our current policies and procedures is the right approach. I do see some opportunity for change but would like to better understand the current situations first. I do believe there are certain concerns that need to be constantly monitored and scrutinized for example: budget and expense design and control, student discipline to include bullying and school violence, safety measures, to prevent potential school violence, student transportation concerns, i.e. sporting events, involvement from community on ways to support and better our system, and overcrowding of classrooms.
What do you see as top challenges facing Spring Lake Public Schools, and how would you address the challenges? Challenges are a moving target in any business and/or school system. Continuous improvement, constantly arming our teachers and faculty with better tools to educate our students and prepare them for the next step. Help create a welcoming environment for incoming students and yet controlling the existing, to make all students feel comfortable in class and out.
As I mentioned before, budget and expense control is always top concern for any school system. Working with our state system to get the funding we need to develop and progress our system.
If elected, what would you like to accomplish? I would like to see more technical classes offered within the system. Safety, I’m definitely concerned about the safety of our students and would like a better understanding how that is being approached. Direct lines of communication from School Board to our community, keeping our community abreast of all issues and concerns.
Katie (Katherine) Pigott
Occupation: Educator and single mom
Previous elected offices held: None.
In what ways are you/have you been involved in the district? When my family relocated to Michigan 11 years ago, we chose Spring Lake so my kids could attend public school in this excellent district. I have two great children, Grace (13) and Jackson (11), who have attended SLPS their whole lives. Most of my involvement with the district has been through volunteering in the classroom (reading, math, and special events), and helping with field trips and fundraisers. Outside of the classroom setting, I have coached our students through TCYSO and Special Olympics, and at the high school level.
Why are you running for a seat on the school board? I am cognizant that budget choices can be challenging. I care deeply about our budget priorities, and strongly believe an educator voice can add tremendous value to the conversation. I am a lifelong advocate for children. As an educator, I have worked with students in a wide variety of settings, from the traditional classroom, to residential outdoor education, to wilderness trip leading for teenagers, to managing an after school academic enrichment program, to deliberating on a curriculum council for a school district serving 28,000 students. Working on the school board will allow me to advocate for students on a whole new level, bringing with me the firsthand knowledge of how kids learn best in all types of environments.
My approach to the school board will be child-centered, embedded in the belief that students learn best when their physical and social-emotional needs are met. Facing difficult budget choices, I will advocate for investment in school counselors, teachers, and programs encouraging artistic expression and movement.
What do you see as top challenges facing Spring Lake Public Schools, and how would you address the challenges? If the regional enhancement millage passes, the district is faced with spending decisions. Our primary focus should be the social-emotional well-being of our students. As parents and educators, we see a sometimes shocking increase in student anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Our response should be multi-tiered: hiring more counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals; keeping class sizes down; committing ourselves to increasing physical movement and time outside for our children of all ages; implementing programs that address equity and diversity issues; developing welcome programs for new families as they join the district; and adequately managing the effect of technology on our students' lives through deliberate problem-solving measures.
School districts today face the challenge of appropriately implementing technology use in schools. I am committed to the purposeful use of technology in the classroom, seeking balance between keeping pace in the 21st century educational landscape, and protecting kids from the social-emotional damage of too much tech, too early.
If elected, what would you like to accomplish? I do and will keep abreast of best practices in education. I will work to ensure that the district's policies align with current research. I will strive to effectively implement policies that promote equity and benefit all students. I will give voice to the celebration of diversity, proactively addressing related issues. I will advocate for more variety in academic options that keep our students competitive and engaged; the arts; and movement in our students' daily lives.