With the makeup of the Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education poised to consist of a new majority following the Nov. 5 election, board members and the superintendent are focusing on what's best for students.
In the Nov. 5 election, incumbent Jill Schuler was the top vote-getter with 5,644 votes, followed by Jason Phillips at 4,592 and Matthew Campbell at 4,510.
Beryl Piccolantonio lost her bid for a seat, receiving 4,054 votes, according to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections.
In the school board race 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, the winner was Lew Griffin. He received 4,152 votes, defeating opponent Charles Mike Steele, who received 2,962 votes.
Schuler, current board vice president, thanked voters for their support throughout the campaign.
"When I look ahead as a board member, I realize there are tough issues we must tackle as a district and community," she said. "I want to assure the community that I will approach the decisions and responsibilities with my eyes on what is best for our children and our community. Also, I want to assure the community that dialogue and discussion are important in making these decisions, and I encourage a community-wide discussion."
She said it's an exciting time for the district with the fresh perspectives the new board members bring.
"The diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise provide a great opportunity for GJPS that add to our experience already on the board," she said.
In addition to Schuler, longtime board member Windy McKenna will remain on the panel. Claire Yoder and Scott Mounts didn't seek re-election.
Newcomer Phillips said he's very grateful to the voters of Gahanna and Jefferson Township for giving him the opportunity to serve.
"I believe in this community and hope to uphold the values of this community during my time on the board," he said. "We have a lot of work to do to make sure our great school district continues to grow and achieve even more success.
"The next few years will involve many changes from the state and national government that I hope to help manage in a manner that focuses on our students having the greatest opportunities to become successful in our schools and after they move on from our halls."
Phillips said he would do his best to represent the entire G-J community.
Campbell thanked his supporters, volunteers, friends and family.
"They are an outstanding team, and I'm humbled by their prayers, their sacrifice and their investment in this campaign," he said. "Looking forward, the board that I'll be working with consists of some sharp, creative people. I'm confident we'll be able to do some good things on behalf of Gahanna-Jefferson schools and our stakeholders. I can't wait to get started."
During his election campaign, Griffin said he looked forward to consensus building and implementing changes to improve an already good school system.
Superintendent Francis Scruci said he doesn't get involved in election campaigns.
"My stand is, whoever gets elected you have to work with," he said. "I don't get caught up in it. I don't campaign for anyone. My job is to continue to work hard for the district and move it forward to do what's best for kids."
For any board, Scruci said, he hopes its members come to the table with the philosophy of making decisions on what's best for students.
"I ask people to stay focused on what we're here for," he said. "We want to continue to move the district forward. I'm glad there's interest from people in running for the board. I was in districts where you couldn't get enough candidates to run for seats. We have a community that cares."
He said everyone on the board would bring a different skill set.
"That's always good," Scruci said. "You like to have people with varying opinions. It broadens our perspective. Anytime you bring people together from different approaches, you have the opportunity for growth. Together our goal will be to bring different skill sets together and play to our members' strengths and make it a district we can all be proud of."