GLPS School Board Candidates Gear Up for Election: Devenbaugh, Laforet, Oneil


Ashley Oneil, Kim Laforet, Jason Devenbaugh

Madeline Gooley, Editor-in-Chief

Three candidates, Jason Devenbaugh, Kim Laforet, and Ashley Oneil, have chosen to run together in this election. 100% of their views about the district align.

“Because the three of us aligned on the same principles, we chose to run as a slate so that we can have better awareness… and focus on the issues,” Laforet said. “Instead of focusing on an individual campaign because it’s not about me, it’s about changing what’s going on and making Grand Ledge better.”

For them, the issues are parental involvement, raising test scores, and “getting back to the basics.”

“The general consensus between the three of us was just that we wanted to see that there was more parental involvement, there was more transparency, and we just wanted to see Grand Ledge be the district that it’s always been and we wanted to see it
excel,” Oneil said.

“[Grand Ledge] used to [have a standard of excellence],” Devenbaugh said. “I would say that it has fallen off a little bit… They have kind of stepped back a little bit and the fact that test scores have fallen [show that loss].”

The candidates are concerned about the low test scores and are looking for ways to work with students to bring them back up.

“[Test scores] are just above state average… that is good, but not good enough,” Devenbaugh said. “When you have certain demographics that are actually below proficient compared to others that are above proficient, we are not giving all of our students the same education that they need or the same help that they need to actually excel.. Especially when it comes to special needs students.”

Jason Devenbaugh’s children are students with special needs, so he focuses on that issue a lot on his platform.

“Looking back, we know about the detriment that masking did for the student’s ability to learn, keeping them out of schools for as long as we did,” Laforet said. “Seeing not only the loss of academic skills but social skills. We’ve heard from so many parents that are just heartbroken because their children have just regressed.”

One of the candidates’ largest supporters is Matt Wilk. Wilk is the director of a committee called Get Kids Back to School PAC, which works with school board candidates.

“We’re a PAC organized around school board elections,” Wilk said. “We’ve recruited candidates, we tried to train and educate those candidates about school boards and school issues.”

Wilk served on the Northville school board for 2 terms, but in July 2020 he was voted to be removed by the school board members 6 to 1 because of his controversial social media posts about COVID-19.

Get Kids Back to School PAC does not provide funding for the three Grand Ledge candidates, but his organization endorses them.

“We are supportive generally of candidates who put parental involvement in schools first.” Wilk said.

This aligns with the main values of Devenbaugh, Laforet, and O’Neil.

“A couple of the things that we definitely want to look into as options is ‘where exactlv are the students struggling?” O’Neil said. “Starting from there, we want to make sure that the teachers have the necessary resources… to give those students. Not just what they need to do here forward, but also to pick up what they have lost.”

Another point that is important to the candidates when it comes to getting the test scores up is returning to “core values.”

“I think we need to get back to the basics, reading, writing, and arithmetic,” Devenbaugh  stated. “Obviously science and social studies, but I think we’ve kind of fallen off a little bit on that.”
“A problem I have with the way some of the controversial issues are being addressed right now is the teacher’s opinion is promulgating the conversation,” Laforet said. “Indoctrination versus education.”

Classes like the LGBT Literacy class and African American studies class that are taught at GLHS have been somewhat controversial in the community and do not align with the candidates’ “core values.”

“As far as high school goes, I know there are certain classes you have to take that are mandatory in order to graduate… but I think with some of these other classes that they have thrown into the mix of things are not really preparing anyone for the real world,” Devenbaugh states.

“As of right now there is only one [class] that I’m aware of and that would be that English class that is the LGBTQ literacy class. Not saying that it’s not necessary, but I don’t believe it… is needed in that aspect for an English credit.”

The candiates have stated their opinion on this topic in other interviews.

“If we’re going to get into English class, let’s hone into English class,” Devenbaugh said.” As far as an African American history class… black American history is important, but… maybe it’s something that we put into a US history class we talk about for a week or two weeks.”

These candidates will be indiviually on the ballot, but thier views align and hope to “restore excellence” to the district, according to their websites.