Jeff Carson is almost at the end of his first term as president of the Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education. He was named president last January.

Jeff Carson is almost at the end of his first term as president of the Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education. He was named president last January.

This January, Carson will deploy to Afghanistan to serve as a member of an embedded training team. It will be his second trip to the Middle East.

On Dec. 13, 2007, the board welcomed Carson back from a tour of duty in Iraq. An intelligence officer in the Ohio National Guard, Carson began his first term on the board in January 2006, but was called up for active duty that July.

Amember of the 174th ADA (air defense artillery) battalion out of Columbus,Carson said he will be part ofa unitthat will train soldiers in Afghanistan. He will first deploy to host nation Hungary, where he will train with fellow intelligence officers.

His unit has been training for months, he said. He receives weekly intelligence briefings and updates on the progress of the war.

Fighting can be scary, Carson said. In fact, "No soldier fighting in combat is not scared," he said. "We are called up to do a duty, do our job."

Carson reflected on the school district's milestones in 2008. Foremost is the redevelopment of the former Kroger site on Hamilton Road. The school board voted unanimously in August to purchase 6.8 acres at 83 N. Hamilton Road from Stonehenge Co. for $5.6-million. On Sept. 15, the district closed on the property.

The High School Learning Center, which will be located on part of the Kroger site, makes the district a special place, Carson said.

District officials are looking forward to signing leases and the demolition of the building in early 2009, he said. A portion of the project will be financed through tax revenue generated from the mixed-use development. The district will develop 50,000 square feet, leaving 100,000 feet for retail and office use.

Also in 2008, the school district opened the alternative community-conversion school for at-risk students. The school has 26 students enrolled this year, and it's an initiative Carson is proud of.

"The community school is a bright light in the district that is not spoken about," he said.

Carson said he recently ran into a family of one of the community school's students who expressed their appreciation of what the program has done for their son.

In 2008, the school district made bowling, previously a club-level sport, a varsity sport. Carson said that action allows more students an opportunity to be involved in the athletics program.

The environmental readiness committee was also a Carson initiative. The committee is a grassroots effort led by students.

For 2009, the committee hopes to receive grant money for several environmental initiatives. One idea is to offer preferred parking to students who carpool, Carson said.

The economy will be a challenge in the next year, he said. The state of Ohio is cutting its budget by 25 percent. District officials said they have no idea how those cuts will affect schools.

Carson is expected to gone at least a year. He is up for re-election in November and plans to run.

"It is not an ideal campaign situation," he said, adding that he plans to correspond with his campaign committee by phone and e-mail.

Being a citizen-soldier is a difficult job, Carson said, but fortunately the school district and his employer, Ohio State University, have not penalized him for his efforts.

"I appreciate the support I have to do both jobs," he said. "Being a citizen-soldier in today's world is one of the most challenging things I have done as a professional."