4 up for LaVille school seats

LAKEVILLE — Four people are running for two spots on the Union-North United School Board. They are: Michael Berger and Patricia Blount for the North Township seat and Dennis Graf and Larry Ort for the Union Township (St. Joseph County) seat. Ort is the only incumbent.
Dennis Graf
Graf is up for election in the race for Union-North United School Corporation board. Graf is running for the Union Township seat from St. Joseph County. This is the first time that he has run for school board.
Graf, a 1983 graduate of LaVille Jr.-Sr. High School, said, “I’m running because I want to help strengthen the education standards at LaVille. I grew up in Lakeville and know the community.”
For many years, Graf managed and built golf courses. For the past seven to eight years, he has been the owner of Regional Turf.
Graf said, “I began thinking about running when I took a strong stance against building a new middle school building.”
Larry Ort
Ort hopes to keep a spot on the board of the Union-North United Schools. He has been on the board for the past 12 and one-half years and has served as president for five years.
Ort, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, grew up in Lakeville.
Ort said, “I want to maintain the continuity that we have going.” He said, “My goal is for LaVille Schools to be Five-Star schools.”
Ort’s involvement with the community includes the Lions Club, Masonic Lodge, and 12 years on the St. Joseph Extension Advisory Board.
He is also proud of his work with the Big Blue Athletic Boosters since 1985.
Ort is married to his wife Carolyn who is a sixth grade teacher at LaVille Elementary. They have three grown children.
Referring to the staff of the LaVille Schools, Ort said, “We have an excellent team in place.”
Mike Berger
Berger, a 1987 LaVille Jr.-Sr. High School graduate, has three top priorities that he would like to see implemented as a school board member.
“My priorities are to continue to upgrade and renovate our elementary school and our Jr.-Sr. High school in needed improvements, improve our vocational and science departments in the high school,” he said, “and reinstate all-day kindergarten.”
Berger and wife Michele have two children in the LaVille schools.
Berger said, “I want to give our students the best possible opportunities to achieve their goals-not only in high school, but in their future plans of higher education.”
He has been self-employed with Berger Auctioneering, Inc. for 23 years.
“I look forward to working with our Superintendent, Dr. Terry Barker who, in my opinion, has done an excellent job in getting our school system back on track and headed in the right direction,” he said.
Patricia Blount
Blount had been on the Union-North United School Board representing North Township for a total of nine and one-half years. She served from 1992-1996, 1999-20000, and 2000-2004.
“I left the board because I thought it was time to give somebody else a term,” she said; however, now she is running again. “We just have to work very hard to get education back to the level that it was.”
She said she understands that there are financial issues with the corporation, but believes the superintendent will bring financial stability back.
Blount said, “I’m interested in education right now, not bricks. This position is a Board of Education.”
Blount has five children from a blended family, 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
She said she is very interested in the kindergarten classes since her great granddaughter will be starting kindergarten next year.
“I hope it goes back to full-time,” she said.
She has been with Blount’s Auto Salvage for 30 years and was a school bus driver for the corporation for 34 years. She also serves as a CASA volunteer.