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The GIGO Guide to School Board Elections: Brighton Edition

County school board races are an aspect of election season that is all too frequently overshadowed by larger state or federal campaigns. And yet, public schools remain the heart of many communities– Livingston County included. 

Six candidates are vying for three seats on the Brighton Area Schools Board of Education. Of these, Angela Krebs and Lyndsay Wing opted to respond to a seven-question survey sent out by GIGO News. 

Angela Krebs has served on the Brighton Area Schools Board of Education since 2018, having held the role of treasurer and secretary.

Krebs, who says she is proudly endorsed by the Michigan Education Association, noted that during her first campaign, she offered a unique perspective due to her roles as a parent, a teacher, and an educator. Now, she adds, in addition to these credentials, she also has the experience provided by serving four years on the Board. 

One quality that makes Krebs unique among the candidates is her extensive background in education.

“I have over 25 years of experience working with future and practicing teachers in my classroom and in professional development sites,” Krebs shared with GIGO News. “I received my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in mathematics education from MSU. I am currently a tenured faculty member at the University of Michigan – Dearborn where I teach mathematics education to future and current teachers. As a faculty member, I have developed and revised curriculum, and taught teachers how to evaluate and enact curriculum.”

In addition to being well-versed in curriculum,  Krebs is also heavily involved in the district’s financial structure. Over her tenure, Krebs has been proactive in understanding the complexities of school finance, and, on several occasions, she’s met individually with the BAS Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance to address specific questions.

Krebs’ term on the Board was a tumultuous one. In addition to dealing with the new reality of a global pandemic, the district was also faced with the task of hiring a new superintendent and negotiating a challenging contract. Indeed, Krebs’ plan of action presented in contract negotiations paved the way for language that all parties could agree on.

Krebs added that she was “proud of the way the district and staff made it through these times in a way that supported the students and our employees.”

There are two parties that influence Lyndsay Wing’s campaign philosophy: her daughters, who serve as her inspiration, and her parents, to whom she attributes her values. 

In a GIGO News exclusive, Wing notes that her parents taught her the values of “commitment, perseverance, and follow through, all while instilling a deep drive to do the right thing.” These traits, she continues, provide a platform for making sound decisions as a board member. When paired with her extensive educational background and experience, it ensures that sound decisions will be made.

As a third-generation educator, Ms. Wing is no stranger to the internal mechanisms of the public education system. After earning a Bachelor’s in Social Relations and Policy and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Teaching at Michigan State University, Wing worked for nine years as a K-12 teacher in Chicago. Since her return to Michigan, she works with faculty at the University of Michigan to design online curriculum.

When asked what she felt were the most pressing issues facing the public education system,  Wing told GIGO News that chief among her concerns was the creation of “safe and welcoming schools and schools that proactively support mental health.”

“Children need to first meet these basic needs of safety and mental health to be prepared to learn and process new academic concepts,” she added. “Developing critical thinking skills is vital to creating an informed and educated community, and therefore is deserving as a top priority.”

Ms. Wing has been endorsed by the MEA and is a recommended candidate by the Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools. She’s also the only Livingston County school board candidate with the distinction of being a 2022 Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate. 

Current Vice President of the Brighton Board Ken Stahl has been relatively quiet in his bid for reelection. Stahl’s involvement with the BAS Board began with his appointment as chairman of the “Yes for BAS” committee in 2012.  His efforts with the committee ultimately resulted in the passage of an $88.5 million bond in 2012 and his election to the board in 2014.  The BAS Board website lists him as a representative for the Livingston County Association of School Boards. Stahl has also been endorsed by the Michigan Education Association.

Throughout the County, 17 school board candidates have been endorsed by the Livingston County Republican Party. The vast majority have been suspiciously private in their campaigns: between GIGO News’ candidate survey and questionnaires from The Livingston Post and the League of Women Voters, a total of four GOP-endorsed candidates have provided insight into their campaigns, beliefs, and values. 

While she declined to complete the GIGO News survey, Jennifer Marks of Brighton did complete the questionnaires for the League of Women Voters and the Livingston Post. 

Marks’ primary experience in education comes from her work on various PTO boards. She was also selected to facilitate the development of a district-wide five-year strategic plan as a parent participant, though she declines to elaborate on this experience and any insight she may have garnered from it. Marks also points out that she was a “parent representative for district curriculum and assessment initiatives” in Illinois and Ohio. 

When asked to identify her top three areas of concern for the public education system, Marks cited political divisiveness and lowered standards for students in the ‘post-pandemic’ years as critical issues, and added that the district needed increased parental involvement in education.

Republican-endorsed Andy Storm is making another bid at a seat on the Brighton Board of Education following his unsuccessful campaign in 2018. While Storm has not made his views publicly known in this election, his last campaign relied heavily on his goal of implementing and advancing STEM curriculum in the district. Storm’s platform was also characterized by his opposition to the inclusion of books with LGBTQ+ themes or references in schools. His website and Facebook page from his previous campaign have been taken down and have not been replaced with an updated version for the 2022 election season.

The only trace of a campaign trail can be found in the occasional Andy Storm sign across the city of Brighton. However, Storm was recently referred to the Michigan Department of State Campaign Finance for a failure to include campaign identifiers on signage. According to the Department, all candidates are required to “print a complete and accurate identification statement on all campaign materials, consisting of the phrase ‘paid for by’ followed by the full name and address of [their] committee.” 

The dispute has been marked as resolved by the state of Michigan, despite the fact that Storm has only updated a fraction of his signage. Larger signs have been updated to include the necessary modifications, but the smaller yard signs around the city remain unedited. The large banners also have an updated set of campaign values: while the smaller signs allude to Storm’s dedication to “Robotics, Autonomous Vehicles, and 3D Printing”, the newer signage advocates a platform based on “Family, Freedom/No Masks, and Skilled Trades.” 

Whether Storm’s failure to address concerns regarding signage is a result of negligence or an act of deliberate defiance remains to be seen.

Kelli Uphaus recently shared her campaign in a podcast interview with James Gray of the Michigan Institute of Athletics– a Brighton-based gym and martial arts training center known to be affiliated with right-wing philosophies. Here, Uphaus outlined her platform as being characterized by “transparency, education, and skilled trades.”

“If you send me an email with a question, I will answer it,” Uphaus vowed. “And if I don’t know the answer, I will find out, because that’s what you elected me to do.”

Despite this apparent dedication to transparency, Uphaus has not responded to the inquiries of GIGO News. Nor, it would appear, has she responded to the questions of the Livingston Post or the League of Women Voters. 

Uphaus professed to be pro-teacher but also expounds the belief that teachers and counselors are indoctrinating children. As a result, she was quick to turn the discussion to the supposed integration of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into curriculum. 

“Every kid has a future,” Uphaus continued, “and we need to be able to give them a bright future, without trying to change or tweak them into social justice warriors or whatever society is trying to do right now.”

This rhetoric has been increasingly visible throughout Livingston County and throughout the nation, frequently promoted by the Republican Party. Uphaus has been endorsed by the Livingston County GOP and Right to Life of Michigan. 

Herein lies another instance of inconsistency in Uphaus’ campaign: in this same interview, she criticized schools for aligning themselves with “groups and organizations that really shouldn’t have anything to do with our public schools, or shouldn’t even have any say in the demographics of our schools or teaching,” solely for monetary gain. Uphaus’ condemnation of perceived outsiders interfering with internal matters of the public school system directly contradicts her acceptance of an endorsement from political agencies. The election of school board members is specifically designated as being nonpartisan.

For more information on upcoming elections, including candidate lists and polling locations, visit the Livingston County Clerk Elections Division.

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