Rocky Fork Enterprise

Gahanna-Jefferson

Seven candidates look to fill four school board seats

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Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools residents will have plenty of choices when they go to the ballot in November.

The makeup of the five-member board will change by at least two and as many as four.

The General Election is Nov. 5, but early and absentee voting begins Oct. 1.

Twelve-year board member Claire Yoder, who's serving as board president, decided not to seek re-election as did board member Scott Mounts.

"There comes a point when it's time to move on," Yoder told ThisWeek. "We can serve elsewhere, use skill sets elsewhere and be effective. I'll still be involved in the district."

The retired teacher said she has loved every minute of serving on the board.

"I believe my ability to think outside the box has been advantageous to the schools, and I hope to be able to do that as a township trustee."

Yoder is seeking a seat on the board of trustees for Jefferson Township (See related story).

Board members seeking re-election are Jill Schuler and Dewitt Harrell.

Harrell was appointed Jan. 10 to fill the seat that was vacated by Heather Bishoff, who resigned Dec. 30, 2012, after winning her bid to the Ohio House of Representatives' 20th District seat.

Harrell said he's seeking a four-year term on the board instead of the unexpired term of Bishoff.

"I'm running for a full term," he said. "It makes sense because my daughter is going into the ninth grade."

The chief financial officer of the Columbus Metropolitan Library said his reasons for seeking office are the same as when he originally applied for the seat.

"It's for fiscal stewardship, low-cost and high-quality education," Harrell said. "It gives me the ability to give back to folks for my own education. My neighbors, parents and grandparents all helped me receive an education. That's my motivation."

Schuler, who's currently the board vice president, said she's seeking re-election because she believes she could positively contribute to the board.

The 49-year-old is a stay-at-home mom.

"As a mother of four Gahanna schoolchildren, my goal for the district is to achieve and maintain excellence in all Gahanna schools," Schuler said. "As a taxpayer, I am committed to fiscal responsibility, and as a citizen, I am committed to engaging in a transparent and participatory process."

The two candidates who are vying to fill Bishoff's unexpired seat are Lew Griffin and Charles Steele.

Griffin, 67, is president of Lew Griffin Insurance Group in Gahanna.

"I have had a passion for our children and for our schools for years," he said. "My purpose for running is to assist in improving the way our school does business for the benefit of our community and its most important asset, our children."

Griffin has four children who graduated from Gahanna schools.

Steele, 59, has been a Columbus schools teacher for more than 20 year. He's also retired from the U.S. Air Force, where he served 33 years.

"I believe that my experience in education, along with my leadership skills, will be an asset with the difficult issues facing education," he said.

Steele said he decided to seek the seat of the unexpired term because it would increase his chances of winning.

The unexpired term ends Dec. 31, 2015.

Other candidates seeking a seat on the Gahanna-Jefferson school board are Matthew Campbell, Jason Phillips and Beryl Piccolantonio.

Campbell, 38, is employed by JPMorgan Chase.

"As a father of three children in the Gahanna school system and a fourth child entering next year, I am fully vested in the district's success, and I am ready to help the district improve to the next level," he said. "I am passionate about academic achievement and developing ways that the community can connect with the students and teachers to make each school year as rewarding as possible."

With a background in accounting and finance, Campbell said, he will be a strong team player to advance policies, work with others to take bold measures to improve the financial future and blaze new paths to build long-lasting bridges with people and groups within the community.

Phillips, 33, is an educator at Licking Heights High School.

"I want to bring balance to the board by being financially responsible while working to make sure that the schools are making decisions that positively influence what is going on in the classrooms," he said. "As an educator, I know firsthand how many of the decisions made about education impact the classroom. I can bring that unique perspective forward and help the board make better decisions for the future of Gahanna."

He said he and his wife chose Gahanna because of the schools and the community.

"I want this to be a city that my daughter grows up in and calls her hometown, as well as gets an education that gives her opportunities to be successful," Phillips said. "I want this for everyone that lives here in Gahanna."

Piccolantonio, 36, is a hearing officer for the Ohio Industrial Commission.

"I am running to serve on the Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education because I want our school district to continue to strive toward excellence," she said. "As a parent, I expect that my children will be provided an education that will allow them to reach their full potential. As an elected school board member, I will make that same demand for all of our children."

Piccolantonio said she's committed to conserving and managing tax dollars responsibly.

"I will continuously search for innovative ways to bring resources to our schools, partnering with our business community, seeking funding from alternative sources and, importantly, finding ways to save money," she said.

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