Julee Rodocker

By Josh Thall, The Lansing Star

Editors note: This November, voters in Lansing will elect three School Board member from a ballot of seven candidates; including two members who are looking to be reelected. Among the main issues in this election are enrollment, school district perception and student achievement.

Incumbents Shirley M. Rodgers and Guillermo Z. Lopez are seeking reelection while the third member whose term is up, Charles Ford, will not be running for another term.

The challengers are: Bryan Beverly, S. Joy Gleason, Thomas Patrick Morgan, Julee Rodocker and Randy Watkins.

Each school board member that gets elected will serve a six year term.

Lansing – Julee Rodocker was raised in Lansing, graduating from Everett High School, and now is looking to continue her community involvement by running to be on the Lansing School Board.

Lansing School Board candidate Julee Rodocker.

Lansing School Board candidate Julee Rodocker. Photo courtesy Julee Rodocker.

Rodocker, 45, lives on the Southeast side of Lansing, and currently is an electric materials buyer at Consumers Energy.

Rodocker said that she was motivated to run because she grew up in Lansing, going all the way through the district, and she believes in the public school education system.

“It just saddens me today when I hear parents say that they are not sending their children to our Lansing school system,” Rodocker said.

Rodocker also said she believes in community service, and that she wanted to be a part of the positive strategy moving forward to fix the Lansing schools.

Rodocker said that while she does not have a background in education like most of the other board members and candidates, she does have a lot of experience within the community, which she feels sets her apart.

“My background is in retail and utility, but I do have past board experience, and I have been very active in my community,” Rodocker said. “I was neighborhood watch leader, and recently elected vice president of the Old Everett Neighborhood Association.”

Rodocker said that these experiences have shown her how important it is for the Lansing School District to continue to develop aproductive relationship with the parents of students and community partners.

“You can have all the strategic plans you want, but you have to have the entire Lansing community, whether they have children or not, involved,” Rodocker said.

Rodocker said her main goals if she becomes elected include improving the state of the buildings, bringing kids back to the district, focus on early childhood education and improving the dropout rate.

 

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Guillermo Z. Lopez

By Josh Thall, The Lansing Star

Editors note: This November, voters in Lansing will elect three School Board member from a ballot of seven candidates; including two members who are looking to be reelected. Among the main issues in this election are enrollment, school district perception and student achievement.

Incumbents Shirley M. Rodgers and Guillermo Z. Lopez are seeking reelection while the third member whose term is up, Charles Ford, will not be running for another term.

The challengers are: Bryan Beverly, S. Joy Gleason, Thomas Patrick Morgan, Julee Rodocker and Randy Watkins.

Each school board member that gets elected will serve a six year term.

Lansing – Guillermo Z. Lopez, 64, who is recently retiredafter 30 years working for the City of Lansing, is seeking reelection, which if obtained would be his third term on the Lansing School Board.

Lopez, who now lives on the South side of Lansing, was born in Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Mexico. He moved to Weslaco Texas at the age of 4, until he finally moved to Michigan in 1975, but didn’t move to Lansing until 1984.

Lopez said that he decided to run to be on the school board again because he believes that the board has just begun to really make changes within the district such as adopting a five-year-plan that will aim to evaluate the state of the district, and he wants to continue to be a part of the positive change, and continue to help shape the future.

The five-year-plan that Lopez is speaking of refers to a plan that was put into motion this year by the district staff and administration for a set of five goals to be implemented and evaluated to look for improvement within the school district.

The goals that the five year plan are to look at include student achievement, improving the learning environment of the schools, increasing the school district’s community outreach, building support systems and keeping a balanced budget.

Lopez said that some of the things that set him apart include; experience, knowledge of the system, and having been a part of the changes that have been made recently.

“I have been a part of the restructuring of the district for the last 10-12 years, the last two terms,” Lopez said. “I would like to go forward with the plan that we have adopted, and see that through.”

Lopez said that he has three goals he hopes to accomplish if he is to get reelected.

“The first one is that we need to continue improving student achievement and on time graduation rate; the second one is that we need to continue to work on sound financial health, making sure that our finances are kept in check; and the third, but certainly not the least important one is we need to continue to improve the in school environment, and make sure our schools have a climate that is conducive to learning,” Lopez said.

 

 

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Shirley M. Rodgers

By Josh Thall, The Lansing Star

Editors note: This November, voters in Lansing will elect three School Board member from a ballot of seven candidates; including two members who are looking to be reelected. Among the main issues in this election are enrollment, school district perception and student achievement.

Incumbents Shirley M. Rodgers and Guillermo Z. Lopez are seeking reelection while the third member whose term is up, Charles Ford, will not be running for another term.

The challengers are: Bryan Beverly, S. Joy Gleason, Thomas Patrick Morgan, Julee Rodocker and Randy Watkins.

Each school board member that gets elected will serve a six year term.

Lansing – Shirley M. Rodgers, has been retired for about 10 years from being a Lansing School District supervisor  and is seeking her second term on the school board.

Rodgers, 65, was born and raised in Saginaw and attended school in the Carrollton School District.

Rodgers said she was motivated to run for a second term because she is part of trying to help revitalize and move the district forward. Rodgers said she wants to continue to be a part of the progress.

“I would like to continue to go forward with the plan that we currently have in place,” Rodgers said. “The board adopted a five-year-plan  going forward that addresses specific areas we want to improve, and I would like to be a part of seeing that through.”

Her experience in education, experience with the district as a former employee, including extensive board experience going all the way back to the 1980s and the motivation to make sure that the kids receive the best possible education are the things that Rodgers believes makes her the best candidate to sit on the Lansing School Board.

“I worked almost 30 years in the district; on the education side I did several months in special education, and I was in clerical positions and administrative assistant positions, with a stint in adult education,” Rodgers said. “I mostly worked on the support side, with my last ten years being in finance, supervising the payroll department.”

Rodgers said that her first goal if re-elected is to make sure that the school district is financially sound, because if the school district does not survive financially it cannot put forth the programs students need.

Rodgers said her second goal is to make sure the district has the best possible image since the school board will be looking to hire a new superintendent in the coming years, and the district needs to be as appealing as possible to qualified candidates.

The third goal is having the more opportunities in the career educational arena.

“No matter what everyone says, every child is not going to go to college,” Rodgers said. “They can however contribute and have a successful life and make a successful living in other areas that might require some additional education beyond high school, but wouldn’t necessarily require a four-year-degree.”

 

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Bryan Beverly

By Josh Thall, The Lansing Star

Editors note: This November, voters in Lansing will elect three School Board member from a ballot of seven candidates; including two members who are looking to be reelected. Among the main issues in this election are enrollment, school district perception and student achievement.

Incumbents Shirley M. Rodgers and Guillermo Z. Lopez are seeking reelection while the third member whose term is up, Charles Ford, will not be running for another term.

The challengers are: Bryan Beverly, S. Joy Gleason, Thomas Patrick Morgan, Julee Rodocker and Randy Watkins.

Each school board member that gets elected will serve a six year term.

 

Bryan

Lansing School Board candidate Bryan Beverly poses for a picture in Erickson hall at Michigan State. Photo Credit Josh Thall.

Lansing – Bryan Beverly was born and raised in Lansing and attended school in the Lansing School District his whole life, culminated by his graduation from Lansing Sexton high school in 1996.

“My classmates and I were afforded fantastic educational opportunities,” Beverly said. “The diverse student body, of both my high school and the district as a whole were a benefit, because when you go to a larger college campus, or the community at large, that is what the world looks like.”

Beverly, 35, lives on Ridgefield Road and is a doctoral student at Michigan State University, in the field of educational policy, and is currently a professor at Olivet College.

Beverly teaches a class at Olivet called self and community, which he said is all about getting first year students out of their bubble, and expand their outreach.

Beverly said that the reasons for his candidacy included his strong connections within the district, having a 4-year-old daughter now enrolled in pre-k at Cumberland and studying educational policy at MSU.

Beverly said that his area of expertise, experience with the school district and the fact that he is a product of the Lansing School District are among the top reasons that he is a better candidate than some of the people running against him.

“Being a doctoral student, studying educational policy here at MSU, has kind of expanded my knowledge of educational policies, and school improvement issues,” Beverly said.

Beverly said that having gone through the Lansing School District allows him to have a different perspective that he could bring to the board.

The four main goals that Beverly hopes to help accomplish if elected include student achievement, fixing declining enrollment and negative perception of the district, community collaboration and maintaining fiscal responsibility.

One way in which Beverly feels that the perception of the school district could be improved is by telling success stories to show there can be and have been great individuals to graduate from Lansing schools.

“Telling the success stories of alumni, not just the Magic Johnsons of the world, but also doctors, lawyers, state department workers and business owners,” Beverly said. “We need to tell those stories.”

 

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Lansing School Board Candidates Expressed Concern About Board Member Hodgin’s Comment

By Derek Nesbitt

The Lansing Star

LANSING – - Lansing School Board candidates expressed concern this week about board member Amy Hodgin’s Sept. 18 comment that the meetings were “a waste of time and money.”

Candidate Joy Gleason said there are enough issues within the school district that could have been addressed.

“If there was nothing else on the agenda, perhaps they could have used that time to find out how they can more effectively work to have legislation move in their favor,” Gleason said.

Gleason said the board could have discussed subjects such as graduation rates, early childhood education, Lansing School Board image issues and a pre-K program that’s currently available to all citizens of Lansing.

“Having an agenda is a communication tool, so if there are parties that may not normally attend board meetings but they see an issue on the agenda that’s attractive to them, then they might show up for that,” Gleason said.

Candidate Bryan Beverly said agendas are important to keep the board meeting focused, keep student achievement, community collaboration and resource allocation at the forefront.

“If there is frustration about not having an agenda, the way you address that is continue to have an agenda that is focused on district priorities,” Beverly said.

In remarks to the comment made by Hodgin, who complained at the Sept. 18 board meeting that not enough was on the agenda to make the meeting worthwhile, Beverly stated that in order to move forward with any meeting and the greater mission of the board, an agenda is necessary.

Hodgin, along with other board members who attended the meeting, could not be reached for comment.

Beverly also stated that the Lansing School Board meetings are an excellent platform for community input and to strengthen community collaboration.

“I think there are members of our community who take it upon themselves to speak to the board during those meetings and voice their concerns as well as their successes regarding the district,” Beverly said.

Lansing School Board candidate Bryan Beverly pose in Erickson Hall on the  campus of Michigan State University

Lansing School Board candidate Bryan Beverly pose in Erickson Hall on the campus of Michigan State University

Lansing resident Asia Jones, 20, a junior at Western Michigan University who has a younger sister attending the Lansing school district, said there aren’t enough citizens and parents involved in the school district and meetings.

“If we could get our community more active and involved in the school district and attending the school board meetings, we could possibly help to avoid certain comments as well as give suggestions about future agendas,” Jones said.

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Getting educated for election day

By Chloe Huard

Lansing Star

LANSING MI — Time is running out to become a registered voter in the city of Lansing.

Anyone who wants to vote in the November election has to register by Oct. 6. Registration can be completed by filling out an online form, registering in person at the Lansing City Clerk’s Office or registering at any Secretary of State Office.

If it is the first time a person is voting after registration, he must appear in person to vote. Andrew Moser, a student reporter at The State News, is a newly registered voter and will have to vote in person.

“I’ll vote wherever I can,” said Moser. “I don’t know the locations yet.”

There are four wards, also known as electoral areas, that the city of Lansing is divided in to. There are a total of 43 different voting locations distributed across the four wards. Where a person lives in Lansing will determine what ward, and what voting location, will be best place to vote.

Election day is on Nov. 4 and there is no shortage of big races on the ballot. In addition to an open seat in the U.S. Senate, Gov. Rick Snyder will be running against former Rep. Mark Schauer for the role as governor. Positions for attorney general, secretary of state and seats in both the state House and Senate will also be on the ballot for this election.

Political and communication scientists have been conducting studies on the upcoming election to determine trends and possible outcomes. Dr. Daniel Bergan, an associate professor in communication at MSU, has been involved in several studies involving elections before.

“A number of political scientists are predicting that Republicans will take the U.S. Senate,” said Bergan. “Their predictions are based on the well-established relationship between elections and the state of the economy, presidential approval and other factors that this year favor Republicans.”

Voters in the community have expressed concern about other issues that will be on the ballot as well. Lindsay Hahn, a graduate teaching assistant at MSU, said she will be reading up on infrastructure and transportation issues before she votes, in particular the state of Michigan’s roads.

Lindsay Hahn researches different parts of the November ballot. Photo by Chloe Huard.

Lindsay Hahn researches different parts of the November ballot. Photo by Chloe Huard.

“The billboards that are all over I-96 on potholes and things like that are kind of big,” said Hahn.

Students at MSU have also been researching the upcoming election. Moser has taken a particular interest in the ballot.

“It has some important implications,” said Moser. “I know the candidates for state senator and I’m concerned about issues regarding me as a student such as tuition and health care.”

The election this November will begin at 7 a.m. and conclude at 8 p.m. Voters will only be allowed to vote after 8 p.m. if they were in line beforehand. In order to cast a ballot, voters must bring a photo identification with them, preferably their Michigan driver’s license.

Absentee ballots are available for those who will not be able to be present on election day. They can be picked up at the City Clerk’s Office from now until the Saturday before the election and they must be dropped off by 8 p.m. on election day. If a voter wishes to cast their ballot at the City Clerk’s Office, he has until 4 p.m. on the day before the election.

As the election draws closer, voters will continue to seek information and get informed about their ballot. Hahn encouraged people to get involved.

“It’s really hard to have an opinion and to make an informed argument against the current state of governmental affairs if you do not vote,” said Hahn. “So you should always vote.”

 

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City of Lansing and Schostak Brothers and Company Agree to Buy and Sell Agreement of Waverly Golf Course

By Matthew Argillander
argilla1@msu.edu

Schostak Vice President and Director of Development and Construction David Johns during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting.

Schostak Vice President and Director of Development and Construction David Johns during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting.

The Lansing City Council unanimously agreed on Sept. 22 to sell the Waverly Golf Course to developer Schostak Brothers and Co. for $5.795 million.

“That is a property that we’re (Schostak Brothers and Company) very interested in pursuing for mixed use development” Schostak Vice President and Director of Development and Construction David Johns said during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting.

The offer was described in the meeting as an agreement that includes retail and residential development plans, with no current plans cemented. The 121 acres are now in a six-month due diligence period, as the Schostak Brothers are being given six months to analyze the offer they’ve made and do their homework on their potential property.

One of the main concerns of the public was the potential loss of a sledding hill included in the property. This concern resulted in Councilmember At-Large Derrick Quinney making an amendment to the agreement. The amendment was made by Quinney but officially worded by City Clerk Chris Swope.

Swope essentially gave official wording to a plan that would include a proposal to develop a new sledding hill, the plan must be developed within six months of the closing and said hill must be constructed within Lansing no later 18 months after closing.

“At the end of the day when you go by this piece of property, it’s the only piece of property that is very nice to have on the west side of Lansing,” concerned citizen Harold Leeman said during the meeting. “We have something there now, green space…people appreciate green space.”

However, the sledding hill was not the only concern, as 1st Ward Councilmember Jody Washington was concerned about the distribution of the funds that would be received.

“I have more of a concern of what will happen to the money after we sell it,” Washington said. “I believe it was conveyed that any money we got from the sale of parks would go into the Parks Department…we would get rid of these parks but we’ll make the parks that we have really good parks.”

“It was assessed at 2.8 million so we’ll put the 2.8 million into the Parks Department and we’ll put the rest of it into the rainy day fund…I would want assurances that the 2.8 million will supplement the parks budget and not supplant money that should be in there.” Washington said.

Mayor Virgil Bernero’s executive assistant Randy Hannan assured Washington that a discussion about the allocation of the funds would happen, but it isn’t necessary at this time because of the due diligence period, with the sale being unofficial until the completion of said period.

“We may have to at some point explain to our constituents to say here’s why we’ve made the decisions that we have in terms of how much we’re allocating to parks, how much we’re putting in reserves and that’s a discussion that we’re perfectly willing to have, but we don’t need to have it right now,” Hannan said.

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Lansing School District sees bump in enrollment

 

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The Lansing School District Administration building located at 519 W. Kalamazoo St. Lansing, MI., 48933 Photo by Josh Thall

By Josh Thall

LANSING – The Lansing School District has been dealing with declining enrollment numbers since 1994, but preliminary enrollment counts for the 2014-15 school year have given administrators reason to be excited.

The school district currently has a preliminary count of 12,078 students enrolled for this school year, which is approximately 78 more students than the district anticipated when budgeting for this year, according to Spadafore.

The issues with declining enrollment were in part due to the School of Choice law, which was introduced in 1994. The School of Choice law allows parents to choose which school district they would like to send their children to. Before this law, parents would have to obtain permission from the district they lived in to send their kids elsewhere.

According to news reports, enrollment in the Lansing School District has gone from 20,336 students in 1995 to a preliminary number of only 12,078 students this year.

“I think the largest factor is choice, and people believing that other districts were safer than Lansing was,” Lansing Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul said. “I just think the community lost faith in the district, the community didn’t believe the district leadership was a leadership that they could trust.”

According to  Lansing School Board President Peter Spadafore, there are about 3,000 to 3,700 students living in the district who choose to go to school somewhere else.

Susan Eisenhauer said she made the decision several years ago to send her kids to Holt Public Schools because the Lansing School District did not offer programs for her son, who required special attention.

Eisenhauer said that her friend also pulled her kids out of Lansing schools because of overcrowding in the classroom from combining schools.

“My friend pulled her kids out of the district because the school they attended was a K-6 school, and both the school and classrooms were overcrowded,” Eisenhauer said. “As a result she didn’t feel her child could get a quality education”

However, in the early stages of this school year, it appears that people may be trusting the school district more than in those recent years.

According to Caamal Canul, the count of 12,078 is up approximately 128 students from the spring count held in February. The number of enrolled students will not be made official, however, until the count day which is going to be held on Oct. 1 of this year.

Caamal Canul said the school district typically loses 350-400 kids between the fall and spring semesters, but two years ago they only lost about 80 students and only about 25 last year.

“Historically, decline has been a subject we have been talking about since around 1994, when School of Choice was opened,” Spadafore said. “School of Choice has been a contributing factor to the decline, and it looks like we finally started to slow that decline, dare I say reverse it.”

Caamal Canul said that she believes that the community is regaining its belief in the school district.

“I think the number one contributing factor is that the community has faith again in the Lansing School District,” Caamal Canul said. “Because they can choose to go anywhere, with School of Choice, I believe that the community believes in the Lansing School District again as a good option for their kids.”

According to Caamal Canul, the district also has six new magnet schools, which Eisenhauer said could be a contributing factor to the increase in enrollment.

“The magnet schools that the district offers can offer a more specialized education for students. As a result people might choose to send their kid there if they feel that it is a good educational opportunity, and a good way to prepare their kid for college,” Eisenhauer said.

 

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Old Town brings Lansing community together through art

By Ryan Squanda

Lansing – It’s a Sunday afternoon on Turner Street in Lansing, Michigan – Old Town as the area is more commonly referred to – and about a half dozen people are sweeping the streets and packing up.

“It’s cleanup time,” says Terry Terry, referring to the fact that just 15 hours earlier the streets were flooded with thousands of people and musicians for Blues Fest – just one of the area’s many festivals.

Artists and musicians flock to Old Town for a number of reasons, including this one, seen playing at the 2012 Blues Fest. (Photo by Ryan Squanda)

Artists and musicians flock to Old Town for a number of reasons, including this one, seen playing at the 2012 Blues Fest. (Photo by Ryan Squanda)

Terry’s been around Old Town for over 30 years. As president of two organizations in the area: MessageMakers, an event planning and PR company and the Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art (MICA) — Terry has been a catalyst in morphing Old Town into what it is today, where many of the unique restaurants, shops and art draw people in from all over Lansing’s metropolitan area.

But 30 years ago? Not so much.

“It was a ghost town when I moved in,” Terry said, explaining how he and a bunch of fellow artists got together to open art galleries in addition to getting a plethora of music and art festivals off the ground – many of which still run today, including Oktoberfest, Jazz Festival and Blues Fest.

“It wasn’t even called Old Town when I moved in,” Terry went on to say. “We came up with the name and it caught on and now there’s a half of dozen or more (businesses) with Old Town in their name. It’s transformed from just boarded up buildings to a vibrant, dynamic area that’s pretty hip. People come here for all kinds of things and it’s helped revitalize Lansing so it’s great to be part of that.”

And with the formation of MICA, which Terry co-founded in 1984, Old Town has grown into a sort of Mecca of Michigan for those with a fascination for the arts, but has also increased overall involvement from those in the community.

Take Bob Titus, who got involved by volunteering at an event three years ago when his daughter was up and coming on the art scene. Titus has never looked back, becoming a regular in the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on some of Old Town’s events.

“I started doing the setting up and taking down and the building so that kind of fit what I know what to do,” said Titus, a construction worker by trade. “It’s satisfying to be able to build something and see it work and see it happen and everybody is having a good time and when you get done and take it down… it’s back to a city street again.”

As the cleanup process continues, it’s clear there’s never a dull moment in creativity in Old Town.

In walks Larry Ackerman, president of the Lansing Poetry Club, which is set to meet in the MICA building in about an hour.

“I got a poem for you, Terry. It’s about blues!” Ackerman says, still feeding off the excitement from the weekend’s Blues Fest.

Work brought Ackerman to Lansing nearly 15 years ago, and after a short time living near the campus of Michigan State University, Ackerman made his way to Old Town.

“I moved to Lansing and decided this is the place for my wife and I to be,” Ackerman said, a lover of the arts who prides himself in the fact he’s written well over 3,000 haikus. “This is the place to be to interact with creative people.”

Certainly something the artists who flocked to Old Town 30 years ago would like to hear.

“Basically our mission is to improve the community,” Terry said. “All of our events are designed for people to meet old friends and make new friends and have conversations about how we can make it better here. The events get people to move around and meet and also to explore and see what’s going on in Old Town.”

“All the dancing, smiling faces, people having a good time…You get 5,000 people out in the street partying. It’s pretty cool.”

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Lansing school board member questions value of meetings

By Derek Nesbitt

LANSING – - Lansing School Board member Amy Hodgin expressed frustration about the lack of items on the board’s agenda at the Sept. 18 meeting, calling the meetings “a waste of time and money.”

Hodgin asked board President Peter Spadafore to not schedule any more meetings until there were topics and issues to cover.

This question came as Spadafore began wrapping up the 30-minute meeting and called for public remarks.

This question has also concerned a few individuals in the Lansing community who may be affected by decisions made within the Lansing school district.

“I feel as if the comment should not have been made. It made me feel as if the children of this community aren’t a priority to the Lansing School Board of Education and with children, there is always a topic,” said Dekendra Fuller, 23, a 2014 Michigan State University graduate with a 3-year-old daughter who will be attending school in the Lansing school district next year.

Fuller said in an interview she will reconsider having her child attend Lansing schools after hearing about the Hodgin’s comments.

After Hodgin made the comment, Spadafore dismissed the issue without giving a decision as to whether or not there will be future board meetings with nothing on the agenda.

Neither Hodgin or Spadafore could be reached for comment on the issue.

Several citizens did raise issues with the board during the public comment session. Among the concerns raised were a lack of school teachers, longer school days, neglect of Hispanics, and the need for School Board members to spend more time in the schools.

Other citizens  such as 20-year-old Robin Cross, junior at MSU who has a younger sister attending the Lansing school district, felt as if there were multiple different topics that the board could have addressed.

“There are many topics to be addressed at school board meetings such as tutoring programs, more after school activities, better teachers, more books and school supplies, and many more. We are to work towards the success of our children and not the failure,” said Cross.

Lansing Schools Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul included a few different ways to continue working towards the success of their students.

“I would love to be able to give students 21st century learning environments with brand new buildings and access to total open space access internet,” Canul said in an interview.

Canul has been superintendent of the Lansing School District since 2012. She said she sends out a memorandum every Monday to each faculty member that she also posts on  every website connected to the Lansing School District.

Canul also said there should be ways to get parents more involved with the school district any way possible so they become 100 percent active and not just when a problem occur.

“Parents have a tendency to become involved when there is a problem, but when there is good news, I don’t see too many people,” said Canul.

The next Lansing school district Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday October 2, 2014, at 519 W. Kalamazoo St. Lansing, MI 48933 6:30 p.m. in room 106.

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