Farmington Voice is profiling the four candidates running on November 6 for two open Farmington Public Schools Board of Education seats: Pam Green, Jeff Grynaviski, Mark Przeslawski, and Zach Rich.
Zach Rich’s first political experience came at the tender of 6, when he handed out election materials and urged people to vote for the school bond, and “don’t vote for the vultures.”
“I meant vouchers, but I was six years old with a speech impediment,” said Rich, 24, who is one of four candidates seeking two Farmington Public Schools Board of Education seats on November 6.
Rich now holds a Bachelor’s degree in public affairs and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Wayne State University. The Farmington Public Schools graduate says his experience as a student in the district gives him “a different perspective than anyone else.”
“Education has always been important to me,” he said. “You can see with the work I’ve done and with my mom as well. Education is the key that unlocks so much later in life.”
(His mother, Theresa Rich, serves on the Oakland Schools intermediate district board of trustees and is a Farmington Hills city council member.)
Rich pointed out that Oakland Schools offers a certification program that gives students “a leg up” as they pursue careers in the trades. He’s also like to see an upward expansion of STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math) in Farmington Schools.
“STEAM is fantastic K-8, but what’s the next step?” he said. “Children are instinctively builders. We need to be able, as a district, to foster that, so there’s a path if this is something a child loves.”
The Farmington Schools minority achievement gap is one of Rich’s top concerns, along with a “perceived difference” in the quality of education based on where people live.
“No matter what school you attend, what language you speak, or your tax bracket, you should have access to the same high quality education,” he said.
Rich has spoken at recent school board meetings about restoring media specialist positions in each school; currently, a single media specialist serves the district.
“Their job is to help students determine fact from fiction,” he said. “They teach you how to back up your argument, help you think better and learn better. I can’t say enough about the impact they have on a child’s ability to succeed in life.”
The board members elected in November will help select a new superintendent, as Dr. George Heitsch is expected to retire, perhaps as soon as next spring. Rich said the Board of Trustees first has to decide on a vision for the district, and from there, find a leader who can make that happen.
Rich said he has endorsements from three current school board members – Angie Smith, Terry Johnson, and Jim Stark. “They come from very different backgrounds. They know we won’t agree on a lot of things, but at the end of the day, we’re civil with each other. I’m very proud that I can work with people no matter where they stand on the issues.”
He also has had supportive conversations with former teachers and knows they could end up on opposite sides as the district negotiates employment contracts.
“What I hear from them is ‘you’re going to do a fantastic job’,” Rich said. “We will sometimes come down on opposite sides, but I’d be voted in by the community, and that’s my first obligation.”
Correction: Zach Rich’s first name was misspelled in the headline on the original version of this post.