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After an extensive review, The Michigan Daily’s editorial board is endorsing Susan Baskett, Susan Schmidt, Rima Mohammad and Jeremy Lapham for Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education. This diverse group of candidates brings the experience and drive necessary to tackle the unique set of challenges facing AAPS today.

Susan Baskett 

Susan Baskett is the only incumbent in the race for the four open board seats. No matter the result this election season, at least three members of the Ann Arbor School Board will be new members without institutional knowledge of the board. Having a member with extensive experience is critical in ensuring continued student success. 

Baskett is an AAPS and University of Michigan alumna, and received her M.B.A. from Duke University before returning to Michigan to work for General Motors. Baskett is one of four candidates endorsed by the Washtenaw County Democratic Party.

While on the board, Baskett has served in a number of roles, including vice president. During her 19 years as a board member, Ann Arbor Public Schools has prospered; the district is consistently ranked as one of the best in the state, with 66% of students proficient for their age group in math and 70% proficient for their age group in reading.

Baskett has presided over a successful AAPS, and has detailed plans for its future in the areas of fiscal health, labor shortages and DEI-related issues. This combination of concrete priorities and a track record of tangible success leave her a natural choice for a voter interested in long-term prosperity for AAPS.

Susan Schmidt

Susan Schmidt is both a parent and a former educator who previously resided in East Lansing, where she served as the president of the East Lansing School Board. She has lived in Ann Arbor for the past nine years, where she has engaged meaningfully with the community. Outside of her K-12 teaching experience, she has experience as a tutor at the Washtenaw County Jail and with mentoring teachers in literacy instruction methods and classroom management. 

Schmidt’s platform is centered around the growing problem of low childhood literacy rates in Michigan school systems. As a strong proponent of removing barriers to literacy, she has championed addressing dyslexia among Michigan school children. Schmidt has spearheaded various campaigns in support of literacy legislation, and her efforts largely contributed to the passage of multiple Michigan Senate bills in support of early childhood screenings for reading disabilities.

While a majority of her efforts have focused specifically on strengthening literacy rates, Schmidt’s platform tackles a broad array of issues, consolidated into three areas: guaranteeing a safe and equitable learning environment, achieving academic excellence and ensuring fiscal responsibility. Throughout her platform, she emphasizes data-driven leadership and the importance of listening to all AAPS stakeholders. Her relevant knowledge leaves her well positioned to be adaptable to changing conditions while bringing decades of personal, professional and institutional experience.

Rima Mohammad 

Rima Mohammad is also running for the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education. While Ann Arbor is rather diverse compared to the rest of Michigan, Mohammad believes that far more can be done to address gaps in equity and communication with underserved communities in the district. She has campaigned on offering more opportunities besides just school board meetings and surveys to give members of the district a voice in their public schools. Mohammad’s campaign for collaborative decision making in education stands to offer a profound impact on AAPS.

Mohammad is campaigning on making diversity, equity, inclusivity and antiracism core values of public education in Ann Arbor, and her background strongly supports these intentions. Along with being a resident of the Ann Arbor Public School District and a mother of four school-aged children, Mohammad comes from a family of Muslim refugees from Palestine. Considering Ann Arbor has a significant refugee population, with many people in this population being Muslim, this aspect of her identity — as well as the knowledge and perspective that come with it — would make her a strong asset to a board with diverse constituents. Professionally, she is currently a faculty member in the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. This robust research background and ability to empathize with the needs of many of AAPS’ most vulnerable students make Mohammad a qualified and valuable candidate for the school board.

Jeremy Lapham

Jeremy Lapham’s campaign rests on five basic tenets — equity, evidence-based improvement, preparing for the future, teacher autonomy and community. He has campaigned on  a comprehensive DEI platform and on “preparing AAPS students for a modern global workforce.” To this end, his platform includes a section on increasing funding for before and after-school programming, with the goal of improving early childhood education and supporting working parents. 

Lapham’s background in nursing lends itself strongly to his campaign. Working as a school-based nurse practitioner in adolescent health, he is the only candidate who interacts with children in a school setting. As a single father of two children, he understands the challenges presented to single-parent families. He is a first-generation college student with degrees from Washtenaw Community College, Wayne State University and two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan School of Nursing and Rackham Graduate School. Having lived in Ann Arbor for 23 years, Lapham’s relevant background and education are supplemented by his firsthand knowledge of the community.

In accordance with his emphasis on DEI, he recognizes that each student’s ability to learn is a product of many factors outside the classroom, such as mental illness and poverty. To support this mission, he advocates for teachers, students, administrators and paraprofessionals to be educated on different mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression and ADHD. In addition to his mental health advocacy, he has been vocal about the vital role unlearning racism and ableism play in increasing DEI. He also plans on having schools serve as community centers, which would provide a breadth of resources to students. Lapham’s professional experience along with his emphasis on the whole student, inside and outside of the classroom, lead us to believe that he could do valuable work for the children and families of AAPS.

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