Okemos School Board of Education welcomes two new members

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Following the midterm election, Okemos residents will welcome two new faces to its Board of Education.

Voters elected newcomers Mary Gebara and Katie Cavanaugh, while also re-electing Dean Bolton and Vincent Lyon-Gallo.

The Board of Education discussing at a meeting on Nov 12, 2018. Photo by Julian Mitchell

Both newcomers said they are excited to join the board and serve their respective terms. Gebara beat out candidates Adam Candeub and Michael Kieliszewski for one of the three, four-year term positions. According to WILX, the NBC affiliate in Lansing, Gebara received the most votes in the race with 4,419 or 30 percent of all votes.

“I’m very excited (to join the board), I worked hard, so I’m really happy that I won and I’m anxious to get started,” said Gebara.

Coming into the position, she brings a background in child development and business. Gebara said, she is a teacher best practice consultant and is currently in school pursuing her doctorate in education. She also has a family connection to Okemos.

“I have four daughters and one graduated from Okemos, three more coming up so their education is personal to me and I want to make sure I can be apart of it,” said Gebara.

In her four-year term, Gebara said she hopes to get a lot done particularly with special needs students.

“I have a really big heart for the special needs community and establishing equity not just based on race or religion or sexual orientation, but also for people who are disabled and the students who may have equality, but not equity. I think that that’s a totally different focus that a lot of people don’t have or don’t see, don’t even really understand maybe,” said Gebara.

Cavanaugh ran for the only partial term on the board meaning she will only serve for two years. She was elected over Don Romain by a large margin, capturing 77 percent of the total vote.

Cavanaugh, while not a member of the board prior to the election, has been a very vocal member of the community and has worked to foster change in the school system.

“I got involved last spring on pushing for greater security or increasing security, and so I was here at all the meetings anyway and I thought well I might as well be able to participate and became more involved that way and just kind of seeing what does happen at the meetings and what’s going on in our district,” said Cavanaugh.

According to Cavanaugh’s bio on the Okemos board website, she founded Secure Our Schools, which is an organization that worked to promote discussion between Okemos parents about advocating for security improvements. The movement led to the newly installed buzzer systems at all entrances.

In the race for the three full-term positions, Vincent Lyon-Gallo and president Dean Bolton were both re-elected, they received 17 and 24 percent of the vote respectively.

Bolton said he is happy to be re-elected and is looking forward to working with Gebara and Cavanaugh.

“I’m very excited to have both of them join the board, it’s always good to have new perspectives on the board, and I know both of them will bring valuable perspective to the board table and to our decision making. It’s really great that we had, well we had five people running in one race and two people in another race, so a total of seven people wanting to step up and be part of the board and I think that’s speaks really strongly of the district and how our community values our public school system,” said Bolton.

Bolton and Lyon-Gallo will continue serving the board, while Gebara and Cavanaugh will begin their terms on Jan. 1.



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