Two vacancies on the Lansing Board of Education will be filled tonight. The board lost two members in recent weeks. Peter Spadafore resigned following his election to the Lansing city council, and Shirley Rodgers passed away.
The school board took applications for the openings and interviewed candidates on January 25th. The two new board members will be sworn in tonight.
Dr. Farhan Bhatti is CEO of Care Free Medical, which he describes as a “safety net clinic” second only in size in Ingham County to the county health department. He says he’s had an interest in education for a long time. "As a family physician, I take care of children," he explains. "I see kids from day one of life, all the way through end of life, and I have a front row seat to some of the challenges our kids are facing. What really motivates me is that most of the young people that I care for attend the Lansing School District. I want to be an advocate for those kids."
As an education researcher at MSU, Dr. Nathan Burroughs has studied Lansing schools and calls himself “a reasonably informed observer” of the district. He says he’s been involved in public life for many years. "Like a lot of people, after the 2016 election, I was looking for new ways to get involved," states Burroughs, "and I spent much of 2017 trying to find the right way to do that. When I read that there were two vacancies on the school board, I had a flash of insight that this was something that I really needed to do."
The focus of Burroughs’ research has been educational inequality and curricular inequality. One of the challenges he’s observed in Lansing is the downward trend of enrollment in the district. He continues, "attracting and holding students in the district has been a very serious challenge that's affected Lansing, like other districts like Flint or Detroit."
Bhatti has been involved in politics for some time, including work on then-Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2010. He says politics, and public service, are in his blood. Bhatti is encouraged by new Mayor Andy Schor’s interest in working with the school district, an interest signaled by Schor’s choice of the Pattengill Academy for his first State of the City address this week. "I think Mayor Schor has a strong commitment to education," he says. "Both of his kids attend Lansing schools. I'm proud of the fact that Mayor Schor has prioritized having a good relationship with the school district."
Speaking of having kids in Lansing schools, neither Bhatti nor Burroughs has any children.
The Lansing Board of Education will swear in Farhan Bhatti and Nathan Burroughs at an information study session in the Partington Administration Center on West Kalamazoo Street, starting at 6:30 p.m.