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Published: Wednesday, 6/16/2004

Education awaits pair joining Bedford board

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

LAMBERTVILLE - They're only two votes on a seven-member school board. But after winning seats Monday on what has been one of the more divisive governmental bodies in the area, two Lambertville men have much to do.

Roger Zahm, 46, and Dale Barton, 40, will take office July 1, replacing Bedford Board of Education stalwarts Steve Lennex - who finished third in the three-way race - and William Henning, who did not seek re-election. Mr. Lennex pulled out of the race too late to take his name off the ballot.

"I'm the new guy, so I've got a lot of learning to do to see how things work," Mr. Barton said yesterday. "My main thing first off will be to get to know the other board members and get to know the issues more in depth."

An electrician with Ford Motor Co., Mr. Barton moved to Bedford from Toledo about five years ago, drawn, he said, by promises of lower taxes and better schools.

Mr. Zahm, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, has lived in Bedford Township for nearly 20 years and works as an air traffic control supervisor at Toledo Express Airport.

Mr. Zahm has said he intends to make the district's budgetary crisis a priority and believes his experience as a small-business owner can help Bedford "do more with less." Both men have children in district schools.

The two political neophytes have their work cut out for them. The board is facing a bare-bones budget, a state funding system threatening even less money, a superintendent search, and contract talks with the district's eight unions.

Board member Laura Senters, who has clashed with Mr. Lennex and to a lesser extent with Mr. Henning, said she hoped the election would prove to be a turning point in the board's recent contentious past.

"I just hope we can put all of this behind us now and move on," she said. "There are a dozen reasons why the public doesn't trust us. We understand that, and we've been working hard to improve that. I think now maybe we can start to turn that around. Change is good."

Though a budget for the new school year will have been completed and an interim superintendent hired by the time Mr. Zahm and Mr. Barton take office, the men will be tested early if Michigan's finances don't improve soon, Mrs. Senters said.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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