Candidates in Birmingham School Board race are vying for two open seats

One candidate drops out of the race

And then there were three.  The fourth candidate running for a spot on the Birmingham Board of Education abruptly dropped out of the race September 18.

John "Jack" Connelly is one of four people on the ballot vying for two spots on the Board of Education for Birmingham Public Schools.

Marcia Wilkinson, Director of Community Relations for Birmingham Public Schools, told 7 Action News Connelly withdrew due to an increase in his work obligations.

The school board received an email from him on September 18 th stating, "My decision is due to unforeseen professional obligations…it would make it impossible for me to execute the duties of the job effectively."

This was Connelly's second time to run for a seat on the board.  Last fall, Connelly garnered 28% of the vote, but he lost out to incumbents Robert Lawrence and Chris Conti.

Because he pulled out of the race so late, Connelly's name will still appear on the November 6 ballot.

Connelly did not respond to our efforts to contact him for a comment.

Geri Rinschler – a former food columnist, culinary arts teacher, and cookbook editor – is the longest-serving of the two incumbents hoping to keep a seat on the board.   She's been a school board member since 1996.

The Fashion Institute of Technology graduate is married with two daughters.  Both children graduated from Birmingham Public Schools.

Rinschler told 7 Action News that one of the challenges facing school boards today is to meet the ever increasing educational needs while financial resources continue to decline.

"I am deeply concerned about the forthcoming changes from the state to fund public education," said Rinschler.  "As the legislative representative to our board and as chair of the Oakland County School Board Association, I am well positioned to assist the board and our new superintendent, as we address the district needs through a new strategic plan and implementation of the Common Core Curriculum Standard."

Her community involvement includes work with the Birmingham Education Foundation, Oakland County School Board Association, and Women Officials Network.  She is also a founding member and past president of the Birmingham/Bloomfield Community Coalition which works to prevent substance abuse in teens.

Michael Fenberg is the other incumbent running for re-election.  He was first elected to the school board in 2004.

The Certified Public Accountant is a partner with the regional accounting and consulting firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP in Southfield.  

Fenberg has lived in Birmingham for 18 years.  He is married with three children.  Two of them are grown.  The youngest is a 10 th grader at Seaholm High School.

He thinks the most pressing issue facing Birmingham Public Schools is the inability of the state to provide stable and predictable funding for the school district.

"Over the last 8 years, I have served on the board.  We have dealt with mid-year cuts and uncertain funding," he told 7 Action News.  "Over the long term, the state has funded Birmingham below the cost of living, creating structural deficits.  I will work with the state legislators and the Governor's office to find solutions that meet the needs of all of our students."

The Wayne State University graduate believes his 40 years of experience as a CPA brings financial expertise to the Board.

Mary Blake had not responded to our efforts to reach her for comment at the time this article was published.

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