13 in the running for 6 seats on the Onaway School Board | News, Sports, Jobs

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ONAWAY – Thirteen candidates are vying for six school board seats in Onaway area schools.

Four candidates are competing for two six-year terms: Erin Chaskey, Mike Hart, Sharon Lyon and Kanisha Perkins. Four are in the running for two partial terms ending December 31, 2026: Michael Benson, Jessica Chandler, John Palmer and Lisa Pochmara. And five are competing for two partial terms ending December 31, 2024: John Burtch, Lorrie Kowalski, Annette Porter, James Rieger and Joshua VanHuysen.


Perkins, 43, is running because she wants to see the community come together with the school board to ensure students get the best education possible.

“I think we need to work to make sure our policies are followed and enforced no matter who you are within the school,” she said, adding that there are fewer problems with the Onaway District than people think. .

She said the board needs to “make sure we are consistent across the board with the good policies we already have”.

She would like to see progress towards programs for gifted and talented students, “so that everyone receives a stimulating education that they can be excited about and look forward to.”

Perkins is a business process analyst. She is from Onaway and moved back here six and a half years ago.

Hart, 55, served 12 years on the Onaway School Board. He is currently president.

“We had some administrative changes, and I wanted to be there to help them settle in,” he said, explaining why he is seeking re-election.

He added that he wanted to continue the work done by the board to bring it to fruition.

“I felt my experience would come in handy,” Hart said.

He works in maintenance at the United Auto Workers Education Center in Black Lake.

Hart graduated in 1986 from Onaway High School, and his two sons are also graduates.

Hart said communication between the school board and the public needs to improve.

“We could do better at that,” he said, adding that they needed to “communicate what we’re doing and the good things we’ve done… We’re doing great things. We get awards all the time.

He said people downstate have contacted him to ask how they do what they do.

“We have an incredibly high graduation rate, we have very high reading scores…and a lot of people don’t know that.”

He said keeping the fund balance out of the red has been and will continue to be a high priority.

The phone number provided to Erin Chaskey was disconnected and she did not respond to an email from The News. Chaskey filed a federal lawsuit in June against the school district and several school and county officials, alleging they harmed him by denying him access to school grounds after he taped a conversation between school officials.

Lyon did not return phone calls from The News.


Benson, 44, currently serves on the school board. He was appointed about a year and a half ago, he said. He is running because he feels it is his civic duty and he has three students in the school district.

“I think it’s always good to help out,” Benson said. “I have experience working with boards and commissions and things like that.

He was a member of the board of directors when the new superintendent was hired.

“I’m also on the curriculum and policy committee — I’m the chair of that,” Benson said. “We have done a lot.”

He said the school district is doing very well and wants to continue adding programs to help students succeed.

Benson is an electrician.

“I go to meetings and pay attention to what people say, and I take all of that into consideration,” Benson said. “I am here to serve the school and the children.”

Palmer, 59, has two children in the neighborhood. He is a heavy equipment operator for Cheboygan County.

“I watched and listened, and decided to report to the school board because I fear policies and regulations are not being followed the way I think they should be followed,” said Palmer. “I am concerned about what is happening at this school.”

He said he needs accurate information to make a judgment, so he wants to be on the board to find out what’s really going on.

“Until I know the facts, I won’t say anything,” Palmer said. “Until I can get there and take a look at what’s going on, actually and factually. And, from there, it is much easier to make decisions. Because, at the moment, it’s all just hearsay.

He explained why people should vote for him.

“People should vote for me because I’m close to old-fashioned values,” Palmer said. “I’m a big believer in reading, writing and arithmetic, and I think we’ve drifted away from that.”

Pochmara, 53, is a retired teacher from Onaway Schools, where he has taught for 30 years.

“Students were my number one priority at the time, and I thought it would be a good way to continue that,” Pochmara said. “Even though I am no longer actively teaching, I can still watch over the students.”

She has lived in the neighborhood all her life.

“I think we need to strengthen our bond between our council and our school and our community,” Pochmara said. “Right now we have a big division that needs to be rebuilt. It’s hard to put students first if we’re all divisive.

She said people should vote for her because she has experience in the school and would put students first.

“I keep myself informed of issues,” she said. “I am currently on some advice. I know how council meetings work…I hope to have a good relationship with a lot of parents and community members after teaching there for 30 years…I don’t have an agenda except to be there for the students and the school.

Chandler said she was on the ballot, but, after filing, she learned she couldn’t take the job because it was a conflict of interest with her job.


Burtch, 72, is currently serving an appointed term on the school board. He is running for office for several reasons. He is a lawyer, but he now works part-time, towards retirement.

“When I was appointed they ask you if you will show up later, and I think the reason they asked me that is because they want to have a level of experience and continuity there. , which makes sense, because there’s always a learning curve,” Burtch said.

He added that he wanted to be part of “building the leaders of tomorrow”.

He said he was raised to be involved and give back to the community, so it was second nature to throw his hat in the ring for the school board.

Burtch said people should vote for him because he is competent and confident.

“I can go through a lot of information in a relatively short period of time,” he said. “I am a good listener. I’m pretty good at taking things apart. I have a good understanding of the value of consistency and flexibility, of working together… I consider all the different perspectives on things.

Kowalski, 59, is running to “try to get things back on track”.

She said the school must follow the policies properly. She has been a substitute at the school since 1985.

“If schools followed the policy that is already in place, I think a lot of things would already be taken care of,” Kowalski said.

She said people should vote for her because she would definitely do her best to implement and enforce these policies.

“Rules are put in place for protection,” she said. “If the policies are enforced, it protects everyone.”

Porter, 55, is running for school board in part because she and her husband have 15 children together.

“I’ve got four in the school system now, and I’ve had 11 that have come through the school system,” Porter said. “It’s kind of my way of giving back.”

She explained her priorities, if elected.

“I want a safe environment for students, and I see it as a stepping stone for their future,” Porter said.

She is a full-time probation officer.

“I see the end results if they don’t get the guidance they need,” she said.

Rieger, 49, is running because he would like to see more transparency and “change a few things”.

“There is very little transparency for parents,” he said. “You can’t get any information from the school board.”

He said people should vote for him because he is a fourth-generation Almost Isle County native and went to Onaway Schools. He added that he is a conservative.

VanHuysen, 39, served six years on the board several years ago. He has two boys in the district – one in high school and one in college. He was born and raised in Onaway. He sells auto parts as a profession.

“There are issues that parents have, and I think I’m a good fit to listen and help with those issues,” he said of why he’s running again.

“I think right now we have a really big public perception problem,” VanHuysen said. “How they perceive things being done. And I would like to help clear that up.

He said people should vote for him because he is accessible and listens to concerns.

“I’m visible in the community,” VanHuysen said. “I always do things, outside, at sporting events, so I feel accessible.”

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