TEMPERANCE - Timothy Brakel has spent most of his adult life in front of students, instructing them most recently on the finer points of the fine arts.
But tonight he'll enter an admittedly more combative arena when he is sworn in as the newest member of the Bedford Board of Education.
A native of Indiana, Mr. Brakel works as an assistant professor of music education at the University of Toledo, where he is also co-chairman of the Department of Music. His position at UT originally brought Mr. Brakel and his wife, Lisa, to the area six years ago. Mrs. Brakel works as a librarian and a teacher at Monroe Middle School.
"I think [Bedford Public] Schools are rather solid all the way around. They appear to have some very good academic things going for them overall," Mr. Brakel said after the board voted 5-1 last week to appoint him to the post. "I've been very pleased with the teachers and students that I've come in contact with."
When he's sworn in tonight, Mr. Brakel will replace board member Nancy Pilbeam, who resigned at the end of last month's meeting. Mrs. Pilbeam was finishing her second four-year term in office but stepped down after her husband got a new job in Texas.
There are only seven months remaining in Mrs. Pilbeam's term in office. Mr. Brakel indicated that he was undecided as to whether he would seek a full four-year term during May's school election.
"I'm undecided at this time. I'll have to wait to see how things go," Mr. Brakel said.
In the wake of Mrs. Pilbeam's resignation, Mr. Brakel and seven others applied for the open board seat, including former Bedford Superintendent and state school board member Herb Moyer. However, board members ultimately said they believed Mr. Brakel's educational background - he has a PhD in music and was a former classroom teacher himself - will ultimately help the district succeed.
Still, Mr. Brakel said he realizes that many of the decisions which await him will be monetary.
"I do have a strong interest in music, but when you look at a budget situation, you have to look at it from a broad perspective," the 46-year-old Temperance resident said. "The bottom line is how can we deliver the best product educationally that we can."
The district, like most others in Michigan, remains financially challenged, even after the legislature agreed to raise for the first time in four years the state foundation grant upon which school funding in Michigan is based. Initial estimates tag the district's operating deficit for next year in excess of $1.5 million, and layoffs may be necessary.
In addition, the district must hope that the county-wide technology levy is renewed in May to avoid further pressure on its general fund while board members continue to discuss placing a request for a "sinking fund" before voters to pay for repair projects.