Holland school board appoints Bree Austin-Roberts to fill vacant seat

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HOLLAND — A new trustee has been appointed to the Holland Public Schools Board of Education. 

The board held an interview with Bree Austin-Roberts Tuesday, June 14, and appointed her to a seat on the board that runs through the November election. Her appointment will take effect in July.

Austin-Roberts will fill a seat being vacated by Mike McKay, who is moving out of the district in the coming weeks. McKay had been elected to a six-year term in November 2018. 

Austin-Roberts is the founder and owner of Lakeshore Credit Repair and Management Services in Holland. She is a mental health professional, previously working as a social worker for Allegan County Community Mental Health. 

“I’m very passionate about social services, social justice and mental health,” Austin-Roberts said during the interview. “I’ve learned that a lot of students have a lot of emotional and mental health issues that go unaddressed and untreated. That has a lot to do with the lack of ability to perform and achieve in school.

“If you don’t have a balanced and safe home life and you don’t feel safe, it’s hard for you to reach any goals. I feel like that’s an important aspect.”

Austin-Roberts said she has “a genuine love for seeing our youth thrive” and that making sure basic needs are met for all people in the schools and community so they can thrive is something that’s important to her. 

She listed addressing the achievement gap between students, getting proper staffing and providing staff with resources they need to be effective with students as challenges facing the district. 

When asked what skills students need when graduating from Holland, Austin-Roberts focused on financial literacy, saying it’s something that was lacking from her high school experience.

“I think a lot of students need to be prepared for life after high school in the fact that being financially responsible is a big part of being an adult,” she said. “It’s very important that students learn the responsibility of not getting into debt, what credit means, how to look at a check stub, understand what federal, state and local taxes look like and that kind of stuff.”

Board members said they were impressed with Austin-Roberts during the interview.

“I think she’d be a good fit,” trustee Phil Meyer said. “The breadth of interests and experiences that she has can be very helpful for us.”

Superintendent Nick Cassidy shared that he feels Austin-Roberts’ experiences will be a benefit to the board as well.

“Her background in social services, emotional supports, housing, when you look at some of the needs we’re looking at with different families coming in, to be able to have a background on that and understanding as we make decisions on how to best support our community, I think that’s huge,” he said.

The final two years of McKay’s term will be on the Nov. 8 ballot as a partial term. Austin-Roberts said during her interview that she has “every intention” to run for election in November.

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