In recognition of our Board of Education we asked current Board members why they serve on the Board of Education. We included their responses at the end of this article. 

As citizen leaders, individual school board members face complex and demanding challenges. They are alternately described as having the most important volunteer jobs in the country and facing the toughest challenge in elected American government. Yet school board members are just ordinary citizens with extraordinary dedication to our nation’s public schools. All Michigan citizens should recognize the vital contributions of these men and women and the crucial role they play in the education of our children.

Public education is the backbone of American society, and local school boards are deeply rooted in U.S. tradition. It’s the foundation on which our democracy was built. Today local school boards continue to do the most important work of their communities—that of educating our youth.

Their job is to establish a vision for the education program, design a structure to achieve that vision, ensure schools are accountable to the community and strongly advocate for continuous improvement in student learning. The job of a school board member is tough, the hours long and the thanks few and far between. Too often we’re quick to criticize school board members without really understanding the complex nature of their decisions. Now’s the time to thank them for their untiring efforts.

School board members come from a variety of backgrounds, yet they share a common goal—helping students achieve in school and life. As a state, Michigan has faced many challenges, but the key to a brighter future is a strong public education system.

We often forget about the personal sacrifices school board members make. Board members contribute hundreds and hundreds of hours each year leading their districts. The time spent in board meetings represents just a small fraction of the hours school board members spend leading their districts. Collectively, they spend more than 7,500 hours on professional development to keep abreast of the latest trends in educational leadership, are deeply involved in community activities and spend many hours at extracurricular events. They continually advocate for the children of our state, and in the past year school board members made more than 1,100 passionate pleas to legislators, speaking out against budget cuts and pushing for smart reforms.

The month of January marks the annual observance of School Board Recognition Month. This is a time to show our appreciation and begin to better understand how local trustees work together to prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders. In January, join with others from throughout our district and state to salute the men and women who provide grassroots governance of public schools. 

Thoughts from our current Board of Education members...

Scott Kartes, Trustee 

I chose to run for the school board because I believe in the importance of education in our children’s future.  Whether they are pursuing a career in the trades, arts, sciences, etc., I believe it is the responsibility of our school system to prepare them to the best of our ability.  This means that we need to be able to provide as many educational and extracurricular programs as possible while being wise and responsible fiscally, and making sure we are holding these programs to a high standard.

Being on the school board is not always an easy job; sometimes hard decisions have to be made but, overall, it has been very rewarding and I am honored to be a part of it.  I am very happy with the direction that we are heading as a district.  Serving on the board has given me given me a deeper appreciation for all the hard work the Administrators, Teachers, and Staff dedicate to our children!

Phil Stephens, Board Secretary 

I have enjoyed being on the school board thus far. It has allowed me to be a part of something bigger than myself, while making a difference in the lives of countless students. Seeing first-hand what goes into making the school run on a daily basis has given me a greater understanding, appreciation, and respect for all of our school staff.

To me, education is a vital part of becoming successful in life. I do believe education begins at home. At the same time I am excited to support the many opportunities our district provides its students, ultimately teaching each of them the life skills necessary in a safe and encouraging environment. 

So while my children are going to school I want to be a part of their formal education and be able to give them, and all the children of the district, the best possible school experience. 

Peggy Zettle, Board Trustee 

Peggy was born and raised in West Branch and a graduate of Ogemaw Heights High School. Following graduation from Michigan State University in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science, she began her career working as a herd manager on a local dairy farm.  Over the years she also worked part-time for St. Joseph Catholic School as a Paraprofessional and the Spanish class mentor as well as a substitute teacher for West Branch-Rose City Schools. She previously was the Ogemaw County 4-H Program Coordinator with MSU Extension working with 4-H youth and volunteers. She is currently back at St. Joseph Catholic School as the 3rd and 4th grade teacher. Peggy’s passion is educating youth. Peggy has been on the Ogemaw County Farm Bureau Board since 1997, where she currently is the Promotion & Education Chair promoting agriculture, which is her other passion in life. She is the past chair of the Ogemaw County Child Protection Council and was active in helping to start the Ogemaw T.R.U.S.T and the Coalition of H.O.P.E. organizations. Peggy lives in West Branch with her 2 teenage sons and has a small farm raising beef cattle. Peggy chose to serve on the school board because the education of our youth is vital to our future and she wants to ensure the youth of Ogemaw County have the best education possible to prepare them for whatever direction their future takes them in.