Bob Clark knows he’s the outsider in the East Lansing Board of Education race. He’s 31, with no children and a native of northern Michigan.
But sometimes, Clark believes, it takes an outsider to bring peace to a community.
“I’ve been watching the Red Cedar/Glencairn issue become divisive and know there is a lot on the line,” said Clark, referring to the closure of Red Cedar Elementary four years ago. “I can come in and bring people together and keep the Board on track.”
Clark first came to the region in 2004 as a student at Lansing Community College. He received his Associate’s Degree in political science in 2009 and is currently working for the Michigan Education Association. He is the Field Assistant for the Livingston County office of MEA, a position he has held for nearly two years.
He first became interested in East Lansing schools after friends – alumni of East Lansing High School – clued him into the controversy surrounding the District’s sex ed program after Eli publisher Alice Dreger live-Tweeted her son’s sex ed class.
“I saw the bit on ‘John Oliver’ and saw how it was getting blown out of proportion,” Clark said. “East Lansing was a national mockery. I could see that happening in (his hometown of) Gaylord but this is East Lansing. We are right next to the Capital and need to be setting the standards.”
As far as the Red Cedar Elementary issue, he believes the currently empty building needs to house some sort of programing – if not educational then at least open to community groups. He believes the District may reach the point of reopening it as a K-5 elementary school but not before 2018.
“In the meantime, let’s make it work if only to cover the management costs,” he said.
He would also like to see the District create a better relationship both with Michigan State University and with the community in general. He would like to see more events being held in the school buildings that would be open to the public, and more interaction between the schools and the students of MSU.
“East Lansing can be an insular community at times but we have an incredible opportunity with MSU being right here,” Clark said. “We should use our buildings almost like community centers so they can remain active at all times.”
He would also like to reduce the bureaucracy of the current school system, which he believes honors rules above the safety and welfare of students.
On the campaign trail, Clark has found the East Lansing voters to be polite and cordial with strong ideas on what is best for the schools. He said his views most closely align with those of current board Trustees Kath Edsall and Erin Graham, both of whom are running for re-election.
“There is a lot of pride and passion in this town and that can be a good thing but it has been directed at individuals instead of toward helping students,” Clark said. “I can do that. I plan on sticking around.”
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