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Continuing the Family Tradition

Public Service Goes Back Generations

For Pat Nugent, public service is a good fit both personally and professionally.

A lifelong Lowell-area resident and graduate of Lowell High School, Nugent was first elected to the Board of Education in 1998. As the senior school board member he has now served under three superintendents. A math and history teacher at West Catholic High since 1993, Nugent called the board “a natural place where I can put my skills to use in the community.”

Pat Nugent was that student
He was the Lowell High School valedictorian. “I’ve always enjoyed school and did very well in school,” said longtime Board of Education member Pat Nugent. In high school he served on the debate team, in forensics, and participated in Close Up where he visited Washington D.C. with classmates.

Not in it for the money
Board of Education members in Lowell receive a $300 yearly stipend to attend two meetings a month, read articles and opinions related to Michigan public education, attend community functions and do background research on upcoming decisions. “Every year when we approve the salary I make the joke that in all the years I’ve served this is the only salary that hasn’t gone up,” Nugent said.

His advice to today’s students
“Have a broad education, learn a lot of different things. That whole idea of the liberal arts education that gives you a broad base of knowledge across the board can only benefit you.”

“There is something to someone in the room having a store of knowledge and context that they can bring to the table. I can provide that,” Nugent said. “I have a desire to serve my community and as long as the community wants me, I think it’s a good fit.”

Serving in public office goes back at least a couple generations for Nugent. Both his grandfather and grandmother were involved in Grattan Township business, and an uncle was a township trustee. Another grandfather was a school board member in Orleans.

He also serves as secretary of the Grattan Township Historical Society, and with his father maintains cemetery functions and records. “When people die, we figure out where to put them,” Nugent said. He spends his free time — mostly in summers — researching and documenting township history. His most recent project has been area Civil War soldiers, which he suspects will become a book.

Nugent said the biggest challenge to board members is lack of local control, especially when it comes to finances.

“Our district is very conservative in our spending and relatively very stable in enrollment, yet we are constantly facing the threat from the state that we could have less money in future years,” Nugent said. “Whereas if we could control things on our own we would be a little more stable.

“That’s academics also,” he added. “There’s great benefit of working with other districts in terms of curriculum and assessment. But sometimes we’re not always sure that the state knows what’s best for Lowell Area Schools.”

Related Articles:

Wendy Falb, Grand Rapids Public Schools

Allen Young, Kentwood Public Schools

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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