Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District residents will elect a new board majority when they go to the polls Nov. 5.
The makeup of the five-member board will change by at least three and as many as four. Veteran board member Windy McKenna is the only member who will remain on the panel for sure.
Twelve-year board member Claire Yoder, who's currently board president, decided not to seek re-election; neither did Scott Mounts. Yoder is seeking a seat on the board of trustees for Jefferson Township.
Board member Dewitt Harrell was appointed Jan. 10 to fill the seat left vacant by Heather Bishoff, who resigned Dec. 30, 2012, after winning her bid to the Ohio House of Representatives' 20th District seat. Harrell was seeking a four-year term on the board, but he wasn't certified as a candidate because of filing errors.
The two candidates seeking to fill Bishoff's unexpired term are Lew Griffin and Charles Steele.
Griffin is president of Lew Griffin Insurance Group in Gahanna.
"I currently have a successful insurance business in Gahanna, where I have displayed some creative ideas in my industry to gain success, and have been an active part of the Gahanna community," he said. "I believe a combination of my experiences allows me to bring people in Gahanna and Jefferson Township together to discuss ideas, come to a consensus and implement changes that will improve our already good system."
Griffin said community includes every person in the school district, along with school staff members, the teachers union, the administration, city government and churches.
Through conversations and community discussion groups, he said, he envisions changing the attitude of the community to support change in the schools and the community social-services program, Gahanna Residents In Need.
"A vote for me will assure that these conversations will begin throughout our community and through a consensus of community, real change will occur in both schools and community," Griffin added.
Steele has been a Columbus City Schools teacher for more than 20 years. He's also retired from the U.S. Air Force, where he served 33 years.
He said he's an excellent candidate for the board because of his experience as a teacher, 33 years of military service and his knowledge of educational matters.
Steele said residents should vote for him because of his background in education and strong leadership skills that will be needed in making difficult decisions.
The unexpired term ends Dec. 31, 2015.
The only incumbent seeking re-election to the G-J board is Jill Schuler, who's currently board vice president.
She has a decade of experience in working in state government at the executive and legislative level. Most importantly, Schuler said, she's the mother of four children who attend Gahanna-Jefferson schools.
"I have a vested interest and am committed to the future success of our district," she said.
Schuler said she's seeking re-election because she wants a quality education that is second to none for her children and all Gahanna-Jefferson students.
"As a taxpayer, I am committed to fiscal responsibility, and as a citizen, I am committed to engaging in a transparent and participatory process," she said.
Other candidates are Matthew Campbell, Jason Phillips and Beryl Piccolantonio.
Campbell, who works at JP Morgan Chase, is the father of three children who attend Gahanna schools and a fourth who will enter the district 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 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."
Phillips said he's the candidate with the most knowledge and experience in education.
"I know what is currently going on in education at the local, state and national level," he said. "As well, I have a full understanding of the direction of education for tomorrow."
Phillips said he would use that knowledge to make proactive decisions for the schools and community that provide the best education and opportunities for the students, as well as meet the expectations and needs of the entire community.
Piccolantonio is a hearing officer for the Ohio Industrial Commission.
"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. She said the district continually must seek innovative ways to bring resources by partnering with the business community, seeking funding from alternative sources and finding ways to save money.
"I want to ensure that Gahanna-Jefferson continues to strive toward excellence for each of our children and for all of the families in our community," Piccolantonio said. "I have the experience, skills and perspective needed to contribute toward that goal. I also firmly believe in public participation and transparency in public education. I promise to be accessible and responsive to all who will share input and ask questions."