Four running for Morenci school board 4.29.09

Written by David Green.

Four candidates will vie for two Morenci Board of Education seats in the May 5 school election.

Incumbents Jim Place and Scott Merillat seek another term in office and are challenged by Phil McCaskey and Sean Seger.

Sean Seger

Sean Seger moved to Morenci in 2000 after getting engaged to the woman who is now his wife, Cindy.  He is the father of two step-children, Brandon and Amanda Coleman. Brandon is a Morenci graduate  and Amanda is graduating this year.  He and his wife also have a daughter, Aubrey Jo Seger, who is kindergarten student.

Seger has worked in the Information Technology field since 1993 and recently took a position with Palm Plastics in Morenci as their senior IT specialist.

“I’ve seen first-hand the challenges our young people will be facing as they leave school, having been through two layoffs for downsizing, and recently an announced plant closing to move jobs elsewhere in America or overseas.”

Seger hopes to use his skills to help the board make decisions.

“The school board has done well to prepare the district to handle the current economic environment. However, I believe the district will continue to experience these challenges. I would like to apply the troubleshooting and problem-solving skills I’ve developed in my 16 years in IT to help the district overcome these as well as any unforeseen challenges that might arise.”

“Since moving to Morenci I have come to call this place home. One of the most endearing parts of this community is the school district, and I want to do my part to make sure Morenci Schools continues to be a place that we can be proud to send our kids to.”

Jim Place

Jim Place and his wife, Sandy, have lived in the Morenci area their entire lives. The Places are the parents of three children who all went through Morenci schools. They also have four grandchildren, one of whom will be starting school in the fall.

Place was employed for 21 years as a supervisor in a steel foundry. He is currently employed by Northstar Cooperative, a dairy service company.

Place has served as school board member for 12 years until giving up the position in 2006. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board in June 2008.

“Declining enrollment and state funding, with increased costs, are concerns which I would like to help with any way I can.”

Phil McCaskey

Phil McCaskey graduated from Morenci Area High School in 1984. He participated in sports and in many other extra-curricular activities. Upon completion of high school, he served four years in the United States Marine Corps and was honorably discharged as lance corporal.

He is married to Ronda Sutherland and they have two children in Morenci schools: Chanler, who is a junior, and Harley, who is in the third grade.

He is an active member of Local 324 Operating Engineers Union, which he joined 13 years ago. He is employed by Cutler Dickerson in Adrian. He is a member of the Morenci American Legion Post 368, serves as treasurer of the Morenci Athletic Boosters, and coaches a Little League team.

“I am an outgoing community member and have worked with organizations that face the financial economic struggles in today’s world. In the past I served as a union steward which required me to negotiate and decipher contract language for my fellow union members.

“As a job superintendent, I managed up to 12 employees requiring daily dispatching, time sheets, payroll and performance evaluation. During that time I also served as Health and Safety officer.

“I enjoy interacting with the young students in the school district and my past experience has helped me to relate to the ongoing issues within our school system.

McCaskey decided to seek a school board position to become more involved in the district’s decision-making process.

“I would like to be more involved with making decisions that affect the students and parents in our school district. I’d like to see more interaction with the community and the school district. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘all in favor’ votes. I feel each individual should be held accountable for the direction they vote on the issues. Being that each board member is elected by the community they should vote for an outcome with the school’s best interest and I feel I will hold the best interest of the school foremost.”

McCaskey lists several goals for the district.

“I would like to improve technology in the classrooms, insure that we hire qualified educators, improve the overall building and grounds appearance and maintain a strong and healthy budget which will improve student enrollment. If we can improve on those areas, I feel the enrollment would increase, thereby benefiting everyone.”

He sees student enrollment and the lack of state funding as the chief challenges for the board of education.

Scott Merillat

Scott Merillat is a 1987 graduate of Morenci Schools and a 1991 graduate of the University of Michigan. He is married to Raquel Merillat, also a Morenci graduate, and they have three children: Torin, sixth grade, Kiegan, fourth grade, and Daelyn, second grade.

Merillat is a civil engineer and one of the owners of Associated Engineers and Surveyors, a civil engineering and surveying firm located in Adrian. Prior to that he served as the County Engineer for the Lenawee County Road Commission, and as an engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Since moving back to the Morenci area in 1994, he has been involved in various aspects of local government, including the Morenci City Council for two terms from 1997 to 2005; the Morenci Planning Commission from 1995 to present; and the Morenci Board of Education since 2006.

He has also been a member of the Morenci Little League Board for several years and currently serves as president.  He also serves on the City of Adrian Construction Code Board of Appeals.

“My personal background of working for both private and public businesses and the many years serving on various boards has helped to give me a broad perspective when making decisions."

“The challenges facing the district are the same as they have been for several years: With increasing costs and declining revenues, all school districts face the problem of balancing the budget. Although financial issues are not new, the new graduation requirements effective for the class of 2011 will stretch the budget in other ways. We will need to provide all students with the curriculum needed to meet these requirements as we face continually declining revenues.

“For several years our administration, staff, and support staff have been asked to do more with less. Unfortunately, with the current economic conditions, this will need to continue.

“My goal for the school district is to continue to provide an excellent educational opportunity for all our students to succeed in college or the workplace. As a school district we need to continue to promote the positive things done within the school district.”

Merillat’s experience on the board of education over the past three years convinced him that he’s ready to serve another term.

“It has been an honor to serve the Morenci School District the past three years, and I am looking forward to what the future holds for Morenci Schools.”

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