• James Townsend

School Board Candidates answer questions from Beacon Staff and Readers


Seven candidates are running for three seats on the Portland Public School Board of Education. The top three vote getters will serve a six-year term.

The Beacon reached out to our readers for questions they wanted to ask the candidates. We posed these reader submitted questions, along with a few from Beacon contributors, to all seven candidates. A courtesy photo of each candidate, along with their responses, are provided below. The question is listed in bold, followed by the candidates response in plain text.

The election date is November 3rd, but absentee and mail in ballots are already arriving in mailboxes.


Jonathan Bair



1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board?

Since moving to Portland in 2013 I’ve been passionate about the people and the area and tried to be involved as much as I can. I was a volunteer with the Portland Main Street program on the Promotions and Marketing committee, planning and working events such as the Portland Block Party, Wine the Walk, and Holiday Fest. The past few years I’ve been involved with the Portland Community Theater and the Portland Civic Players and have loved the opportunity to interact closely with the community. Utilizing my experiences while serving on the Portland Public School Board will allow me to act as a voice for the people of Portland and ensure our schools continue to provide quality educational experiences for our children.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

My wife and I have a current Senior, Freshman, and Kindergartener in Portland Schools, and a 3 year old who can’t wait to start! As you can see, the future of Portland Schools is going to be important to us for years to come!

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

None of my direct family or close relatives are employed by PPS.

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

The most important responsibility of the board is to act as a representative for the community. A board member has a bilateral responsibility to inform the public of issues affecting the schools and be the public’s voice in shaping the future direction of the district. Beyond this, the board is responsible for ensuring the district is acting in an appropriate educational and administrative manner and utilizing taxpayer funds to the fullest.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

In the immediate short-term, the COVID pandemic should rightly be at the forefront of board discussions. Retaining a quality educational experience while protecting our community will likely be the focus of board meetings for many months. However, as the pandemic wanes and the board phases into a more traditional role, I’d like to see an improvement to the overall performance of PPS. While we are above the state average, we lag behind schools with similar characteristics in several key areas, such as our graduation rate, attendance, and advanced coursework. I believe utilizing and improving some of the framework being created for virtual enrollment will be able to help address these key issues.

6. Do you have any particular issue you especially care about?

Portland has had many accomplishments the community is proud of, and overall I am passionate regarding what the school district offers our community. Beyond support for our students, I have a strong background in the arts, and if possible would love to support PPS in this area to the best of my ability.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

As I indicated above, Portland has lagged behind schools with similar characteristics in several key areas (attendance, graduation rate, advanced coursework). Numerous new tools are now at our disposal (implemented as a response to COVID) to address these concerns. Once the immediate threat of the pandemic has passed, I would like to see Portland continue to improve upon our virtual abilities to better assist disenfranchised students and to offer additional support and experiences for advanced coursework.

8. What’s one thing PPS could do differently to improve its outcomes?

I’d like to see Portland develop virtual instruction pertaining to real-world application. Specifically, in our district we have many highly respected and successful business owners/CEO’s and trades members. The requirements of traditional in-person schooling have made it difficult in the past for teachers to provide direct real-world experience and education from such individuals in a manner to which students could relate. The ability to utilize virtual platforms allows us to capture this experience/instruction from anyone, in any location, at any time, in a multitude of digital formats. This real-world educational information can then be packaged and distributed to students in a manner students can relate to and learn from in a profound and impactful way. Gone are the days of rolling a TV into a room and playing a video – students can now virtually walk through a work day at a career they’re interested in and experience learning on a completely different level.

9. Where are you employed? Or what is your occupation?

I have worked for the past 13 years at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The majority of that time was spent serving Ionia County residents directly with a focus on helping families gain self-sufficiency. I now work for Medicaid Provider Outreach and Education, ensuring Medicaid Providers have the necessary resources and training to ensure a smooth billing experience for beneficiaries.

10. What specific skills do you bring to the Board?

While in the camping industry, I was part of a team which developed and taught an accredited outdoor experiential education program, with courses heavily geared toward earth sciences and biology. I’m currently involved on a daily basis with in-person (prior to COVID) and virtual training of Medicaid Providers pertaining to State and Federal initiatives and billing requirements. In the short-term, my experience with State medical requirements pertaining to the COVID pandemic will be beneficial in implementing and revising PPS’ medical and social distancing guidelines. On an ongoing basis, the district will benefit from my technical and communications expertise pertaining to planning and developing training materials.

11. What is your educational background?

I studied Youth Ministry through Indiana Wesleyan University in the late 90’s and subsequently worked full-time for several years in the Christian camping industry. After changing the direction of my career, I enrolled in 2013 via Cornerstone’s adult education program while working full-time to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Outside of a traditional school I subscribe to the concept of Continuous Learning, striving to gain in-depth knowledge of a broad variety of subjects.

12. Have you served on the board of any other companies or organizations? If so, what were those companies/organizations?

I served on the board of the Michigan Council of Social Service Workers (MCSSW) from 2010-2012; originally as a voting delegate for Ionia County, then as the 2nd Vice President of the MCSSW Executive Board and the Medicaid and State Funded Programs Chair. MCSSW advocates on behalf of at-risk families and individuals in Michigan through multi-sector policy change, coalition building, collaborative program demonstrations and community-wide dissemination of information about local and statewide needs of at-risk families and individuals.

13. Have you ever held an elected public position before? If so, what was that?

I have not previously held an elected public position.

14. How many PPS school board meetings did you attend in-person or virtually in 2019?

I did not attend a school board meeting in 2019, however I have stayed regularly updated on the board’s actions through the meeting minutes posted online.

15. What are the priority issues facing the School Board during this pandemic and how would you address them if elected?

The biggest concern for the entire community during this pandemic is how to ensure our students are getting a quality educational experience, while at the same time keeping the students, teachers, support staff, and community safe. The district has done a superb job so far dealing with additional cleaning requirements, social distancing requirements, and developing a virtual learning environment from scratch. There are always lessons that can be learned from what has already been implemented; the district should now begin to build on the virtual education foundation to ensure Portland isn’t just responding to this crisis as issues occur but is developing a useful and effective virtual environment that can be utilized in the future. In the same manner, the school should use this experience to solidify a seamless disaster recovery plan so our students don’t bear an unintentional educational gap when unexpected events occur.

16. How would you respond to community members with their concerns and questions about the district's response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The school board should act as the community’s voice to the schools; as such it’s important to ensure board members are actively listening to and relaying these concerns. At the same time, the board should ensure it is acting in an educated (and not knee-jerk) manner when the community has concerns. Board members should always be prepared to lay out the reasoning for why the district is taking a certain action, and also always be prepared to change that action if necessary based on reliable information and the community’s preference for the district.

17. What are your thoughts on how Portland Public School is doing with its programming for Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College? Would you recommend any changes to the current programming?

PPS offers well-rounded opportunities for students with special needs. As technology advances, I believe we can utilize it to enhance and continue to support all students’ education and understanding in this area.

The district comprises many students who could benefit from alternative education; this is one area the district could focus on to increase the graduation rate. The educational opportunities offered should be expanded on, and the online footprint increased to ensure those in our community who can best benefit from alternative education can easily access the information they need to enroll.

Given the issues surrounding COVID-19, the district benefits from a strong home school partnership. Unfortunately, the only available information regarding this partnership can only be obtained currently by contacting the district directly. The PPS web page discussing the partnership currently states the page has been disabled and is outdated, and the single social media site advocating it has only 23 followers and no information regarding the partnership (aside from directing to the PPS web page, which again is disabled). As with alternative education, this is an area that should be revised to make information more easily available to the public.

Portland’s Early College options are fantastic opportunities for students. The district should continue to build on current collegiate partnerships to the best of their ability.

18. What is one goal you hope to achieve as a PPS school Board Member?

As mentioned in earlier answers, I’d hope to be able to research and implement programs and/or practices to help increase the graduation rate and decrease the absentee rate. With my passion for the arts, I’d love to be able to support Portland arts programs in any way possible. I’d also fight to maintain or improve on the ways the district already shines; we have a fantastic district, while I believe there is room for improvement in some areas I see the entire school developing into a leader in many areas over the next decade.

19. Why should voters choose you as a Board Member?

Beyond the passion and experience I bring to the table, I want to be the person who you can go to and have your voice heard. Voters can choose three board members in the upcoming election, and I’d be honored to be one of your choices. Everyone should have a “friend on the school board I can ask about this.” I’d love to be that friend for you!

20. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If you’d like to know more, get updates on school activities/information, or ask me a question, check out my page on facebook! www.facebook.com/JonathanBairForPortland


Anthony W. Edwards


1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board?

I decided to run because I believe it’s important to give back to my community. I want to be able to share by experience to improve the future of our students and teachers.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

I currently have one son in fourth grade. I also have a three-year-old who will be entering Little Raiders soon.

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

I currently do not have any relatives employed by PPS.

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

The board’s responsibility to establish policies for the best interest of our students and teachers’ future for which our superintended to uphold. We as a group need to be vigilant in how these policies are impacting everyone involved.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

Currently we need to focus on battling Covid-19. We need to keep all our students and teachers safe while ensuring top-notch education. We also need to do more for our special-needs students. We need to upgrade our curriculum, in order to give these students that best chance to achieve after graduation. I also believe we need to focus on our students and teachers’ mental health. I will expand on that with the next question.

6. Do you have any issue you especially care about?

I truly believe our students and teachers’ mental health should be addressed. Before Covid-19, the country was dealing with mass shootings. I believe we need to strengthen our ability to have therapists easily accessible for all our students and teachers. I am a firm believe that in order to correctly protect our students and teachers, we need to give them a safe place to deal with their own personal issues.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

I believe PPS has been an amazing school for my son. I do not have any major complaints but do see where we can improve. I have never believed in the phrase “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. I believe it’s our responsibility to always be future forward thinking. We need to listen to the voices that are sometimes ignored, our students and teachers. The only way we can ensure we are doing everything possible, is to listen to the individuals whom our policies affect.

8. What’s one thing PPS could do differently to improve its outcomes?

Listen. We need to listen to our students and teachers. We as a board should have an open-door policy when it comes to new ideas. If elected, I will encourage individuals to approach me to share their ideas. I will not be working only a few hours a month. I will have a mindset that this will be a full-time job to improve PPS.

9. Where are you employed? Or what is your occupation?

I currently work as an Investment Accountant for the State of Michigan. I am also a Board of Director for Astera Credit Union as their Treasurer.

10. What specific skills do you bring to the Board?

I have numerous years of financial experience, ranging from reading a financial statement to budgeting. I am an extremely driven individual who will fight for what is best for PPS. I am always thinking about what we can do better. I am future minded and will always try to move PPS forward.

11. What is your educational background?

I graduated Olivet College, Cum Laude, in 2014. I was the President of the Accounting Students Organization my senior year. While at Olivet College I’ve earned the following awards: Outstanding Senior Award, Pete Schmidt Memorial Scholar-Athlete Award (2nd to every win this award at Olivet College), Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and Capital-One Academic All-District Award.

12. Have you served on the board of any other companies or organizations? If so, what were those companies/organizations?

I sat on the Board for Association of Government Accounts for four years (I’ve won three awards). I currently sit on the Board for Astera Credit Union as their Treasurer.

13. Have you ever held an elected public position before? If so, what was that?

I have never held an elected public position, but I am excited for the opportunity to do so.

14. How many PPS school board meetings did you attend in-person or virtually in 2019?

I was unable to attend any board meetings last year due to scheduling. I do have years of experience sitting in board meetings and have no concerns with smoothly transitioning into a school board meeting.

15. What are the priority issues facing the School Board during this pandemic and how would you address them if elected?

The biggest issue is keeping our students and teachers safe and in class. I do believe that the current board has done a wonderful job maneuvering around very difficult situation. We need to have the parents diligent in screening their children before sending them into our schools. Our teachers need to continue to encourage students to social distance and wear their masks. We need a solid plan to transition students back to virtual learning if an outbreak occurs. This is a very difficult time we are living through and the biggest thing we can ask is for patience. We are all trying our best and we all want the same thing.

16. How would you respond to community members with their concerns and questions about the district's response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The best thing to do is to keep the politics out of it. We need to strictly deal with the science of the pandemic. We are all trying to keep everyone healthy. We want each student and teacher to be able to go home safely each day. We don’t want to be the reason an individual needs hospitalization. We understand everyone’s concerns and at the end of the day, we all want the same thing.

17. What are your thoughts on how Portland Public School is doing with its programming for Special Education, Alternative and Adult Education, Home School Partnership, and Early College? Would you recommend any changes to the current programming?

My son is in some special education classes at Westwood and his best friend is also in those classes. I am a strong believer that we need to have a strong focus on our special education program. I truly believe we need to reevaluate how we are teaching these programs. Like everything else, we want to stay ahead of the curb and be forward thinking. I believe it’s a good idea to make sure we are giving our best when it comes to the education we are teaching.

18. What is one goal you hope to achieve as a PPS school Board Member?

My main goal is ensuring the future is bright for our students and teachers. I want each of our students to pursue their post-graduation goals with a high level of education and confidence. I want our teachers to enjoy coming to work each day be able to give their students the best education possible. Portland should be a place everyone is proud to call home.

19. Why should voters choose you as a Board Member?

I am educated, driven, and passionate about everything I’ve discussed above and more. I give 100% on everything I do, and I do not give up. I will continue to fight for what students and teachers are asking for. I encourage every student, teacher, parent, or community member to share your voice, because I promise I will always listen. I promise to give you honest and heartful answers to all question and concerns.

20. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am truly excited for this opportunity. I have volunteered for so many amazing causes and I can’t wait to share my experience with PPS. I promise to be a strong presence on the School Board for all our community. I promise to be there when times get tough. I promise to be honest and respectful. I promise to be the best decision you’ve ever made. Thank you!


Beth Goodman




1. Why are you running for the Portland Public School Board

As I wrap up my first term on the school board as the Board Vice President, I feel consistency and experience are important especially while we are facing COVID challenges and completing bond work. There has been so much information on COVID and the changes it has brought to our schools. I’ve worked with a great team on the board to help navigate and implement the COVID challenges and the numerous state regulations. I believe my experience and knowledge are essential in continuing to provide safe and robust schools for our children and community.

2. Do you have children in the Portland school system? If so, what grade(s)?

My youngest daughter Alayna is senior. My other daughters Bryn & Cally graduated from PHS in 2016 and 2019 respectively and are both in college.

3. Do you have any family members or relatives employed by PPS?

I have a cousin who teaches outside of our district whose husband is a teacher at Portland.

4. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?

Board members are charged with creating vision, creating structure, developing accountability and advocating for children. It’s my responsibility as a member of the board to have a shared vision, to hire and evaluate the superintendent, and be involved in planning, goal setting and evaluating progress. I’m responsible for a strong financial budget that positively impacts our students and our community. Much of the work of the board is done inside vision and policy, but an important distinction is that the board does not run the school or carry out policy but ensures that the school is run well with the policies that are set. The vision and policies are also where we are able to make the school a reflection of the community and include priorities and values of our community.

5. What do you think are the most important issues facing Portland Public Schools?

The most important issues facing our school today include how to best educate our children with their safety and academic, social and emotional needs at the forefront. We also face technology challenges with ensuring all children have access to reliable internet. Through our current bond work and with other budget dollars we have been fortunate to be able to provide devices for all students who need them during this academic school year. We also purchased a learning management system which will allow us to manage virtual education for all students when necessary. Learning how to effectively teach and support virtually is new to much of our district and we are working hard to figure out how to best do that. We will continue supporting staff and training student and families how to best face the challenges and opportunities with virtual learning and to succeed in this new environment. Finally, successfully completing the bond work that was approved by voters continues to be important.

6. Do you have any particular issue you especially care about?

How to best safely educate and meet all the needs of our students, ensuring access to technology and completing the approved bond work are all important current issues. It has been necessary to re-prioritize due to the pandemic to figure out how to most effectively educate our children. And while priorities will change again in the future many issues are important and we should be working daily to get better and be better on all issues.

7. What do you think the PPS should be doing differently?

PPS should continue to have a vision to be a leading district and seek innovative ways and new ideas to educate all our children and prepare them for bright futures. We are currently learning how to effectively educate and support virtually when throughout our history most of what we have done has been in-person instruction. Fortunately, we have offered online courses for a while and have staff with experience so we will use their knowledge and experience to improve outcomes now that virtual education is more prevalent. While we are a successful district we should continue to develop ways to better serve and prepare all students including curriculum alignment which is ongoing and innovative p