The Nov. 8 election is drawing closer every day, but what do you know about those names on the ballot?
Patch will interview candidates for the , the board and the during the ramp-up to the election, bringing you the stories behind the names and the issues they think are important for Birmingham.
For the Birmingham Board of Education, three candidates are running for two open spots: challenger and incumbents Robert Lawrence and . The Board of Education oversees and sets school policy, hires and works in partnership with the district superintendent and oversees the district's budget. Board members are elected to four-year terms.
The Oakland County League of Women Voters will hold a at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Birmingham Public Schools Administrative Offices for those running for the Birmingham Board of Education.
Family: Lawrence has been married to his wife, Julie Fream, for 16 years and has two children — Jillian, 13, and Ryan, 12, both students at .
Education: Lawrence earned his undergraduate degree in pre-law and economics, as well as his MBA, at Michigan State University.
Occupation: Lawrence owns Lawrence Co., a real estate development consulting business, and also serves as the chief financial officer for Michigan Security Network, a Homeland Defense startup business.
Previous elected experience/experience with the schools: If re-elected, this would be Lawrence's third term on the Birmingham school board. Previously, he served for six years on the board of the , sat on the committee that helped shape the district's strategic plan and is an active volunteer and unofficial photographer for his children's swim team.
Why are you running? Two terms into his time on the school board, Lawrence said the reasons he ran initially are vastly different from why he's looking for a third term. When he first ran, Lawrence said, he was recruited by a current board member for his financial expertise. Now, Lawrence said he's looking to continue the work he's begun in several key areas: encouraging student achievement, moving the district's strategic plan forward and keeping Birmingham's budget on track.
What would you bring to the school board? Lawrence said he brings expertise in complex financial issues to the school board — particularly crucial in budget discussions and when dealing with state finances.
"I'm a numbers guy," he said.
In addition, Lawrence said that after eight years on the board, he works well with the current board — though he notes he's not afraid to stop discussions and ask questions if needed.
What issues are important to you? Speaking of that strategic plan, Lawrence said that though it's not often talked about, the strategic plan is one of the district's biggest projects moving forward.
"We have to continue to find ways to adapt and move the strategic plan forward," he said, noting that the plan adopted five years ago has been a framework for many of the board's major decisions, including decisions that foster student achievement and affect the district's budget.
"Continuing that forward momentum is difficult considering the financial strain," Lawrence said. "But we're always coming back to this plan."
As for the district's financial position, Lawrence said Birmingham Schools are doing OK, noting the administration and school board have been preparing for the financial bottom to fall out for several years. As for the board's decision last spring to dip into its fund equity to make up for a $6.6 million budget deficit, Lawrence said it was the right decision.
"Our fund equity is our rainy-day fund – and it's raining," he said. The current school board has been nothing but proactive in addressing financial difficulties, Lawrence said, adding he is looking forward to continue serving with them.
"It's a great board to be on," he said.
Check out profiles for all three candidates running for the school board: