Nov. 5 election
Six candidates vying for three school board seats
The New Albany-Plain Local school board will have at least one new member after the Nov. 5 election.
Incumbents Laura Kohler and Natalie Matt will run for second terms, but Cheri Lehmann, who was elected to her first term with Kohler and Matt in 2009, said in July she declined to run again so she could spend more time with her family.
Kohler, 59, has a bachelor's degree from Duke University and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Dayton.
She is a real-estate agent with New Albany Realty.
Kohler has three adult children and a fourth who is a sophomore in college.
Matt, 53, has a bachelor's degree in English from Williams College and a master's degree in education from George Washington University.
She currently is not employed outside the home.
Matt is married and has two sons who graduated from New Albany High School and three daughters currently enrolled in New Albany schools.
Kohler and Matt will be joined on the ballot by Chris Lopez, John McClelland, Todd Wielinski and Joanne Williams.
Lopez, 49, has a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University and a law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law.
He headed the district's 2006 levy campaign and has worked as an attorney in education and employment fields. He currently is employed by Greif of Delaware.
Lopez is married and has two daughters enrolled in New Albany schools.
McClelland, 38, has a master's degree in business administration from Franklin University and led the district's 2012 levy campaign.
He is the director of communications and public affairs for the Ohio Senate.
McClelland is married and has three children enrolled in New Albany schools.
Wielinski, 42, has a bachelor's degree in environmental science and operations research from the United States Military Academy and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix.
He is self-employed.
Wielinski is married with two children enrolled in New Albany schools.
Williams, 55, has a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University, a master's degree from the University of Chicago and has completed work toward her doctorate.
She has been a substitute teacher, an administrator in the Ohio State University's sociology department and a research and political analyst.
Williams is married and has seven children. Four are New Albany High School graduates and three are enrolled in New Albany schools.
On 'reinventing education'
All six candidates were asked how the district can accomplish its vision of "becoming a leader in reinventing education."
* Kohler said the first step is within the district's mission statement: "To ensure the development of high-achieving, ethical, self-directed and intellectually curious citizens of the world."
"Our goal is for every graduate to leave New Albany with these characteristics, vital to their success and happiness in life," she said.
She said the district benchmarked itself against successful school districts across the nation and set goals to "increase student achievement, strengthen a positive school culture, expand our international focus and support teachers as they grow."
Kohler said reinventing education can be "achieved when teachers deliver high-quality, data-driven instruction with real-world application and meaningful assessments, and by lifting the constructs of time and place, encouraging students to learn as rapidly as they are able in school or in real-world work and research. Every student is empowered to serve, lead and succeed."
* Matt said to become the leader in reinventing education, "New Albany schools need to continue working to individualize education for each student so that every student's potential is realized. We need to continue moving away from the Industrial Age/factory model of education in which 'one size fits all' and where children are grouped primarily based on age."
She said changes in "school structure, programming, delivery systems like technology, access to learning in and outside the school and professional development of our staff, will allow New Albany schools to become increasingly flexible in meeting each student's ongoing and changing needs as they progress from kindergarten through graduation."
Matt said the district needs to focus educational changes on allowing students to move at their own pace, "find and develop passions that foster accelerated and in-depth learning and expose students to learning in a real-world context through apprenticeships and internships at businesses, universities, government and nonprofit agencies."
* Lopez said the board needs to "ensure an education-delivery system that moves beyond basic legal compliance and the status quo, along with the bureaucratic structure that usually follows, to one that focuses specifically on improvement and performance -- not just student performance but overall system performance."
He said the district must recruit talent and develop and retain employees that are committed to the district's mission.
"There must be recognition that the district's employees are not just the largest cost of the district but the largest investment and asset as well. A thorough examination must be undertaken to make certain that the district has the required tools to ensure that it can become a more-active manager of all (student, employee and school district) performance and continuous improvement while providing appropriate fairness and competitive total rewards to employees," he said.
* McClelland said "children deserve the best education we can provide, and that means creating a learning environment that not only establishes the highest-possible academic standards but also cultivates entrepreneurship, innovation and intellectual curiosity."
He said the district has an "opportunity to make New Albany schools the foundation of a lifelong learning experience" with support from residents.
McClelland said New Albany's schools should "reflect the quality of its citizens: driven by excellence, passionate about learning and dedicated to good, old-fashioned hard work."
* Wielinski said a "strong team of leaders is needed to support this grand goal."
He said the district can attain the vision "with appropriate management of revenues, smart spending, a supported staff and great communication.
"The real results are found in leaders of character that graduate and enter their early professional lives well-prepared to reach their goals," Wielinski said.
* Williams said the school district is and can continue to be "a strong leader in academics and educating our students."
"I do not believe we need to reinvent education," she said. "Reading, writing, math and science have always been the key components to education. We can build, strengthen and provide a stable educational foundation that will help to launch our students into their future with the knowledge and confidence they will need to be successful."
Williams said the district should use "strong community support and collaboration" to "provide more opportunities and resources that will enhance their love of lifelong learning. This will enable our students to be the most well-rounded and aware citizens capable of handling challenges upon graduation."
Thoughts on the building project
The six candidates also were asked if school district officials made the correct decision to pursue the recent building construction project and if they would have done anything differently.
The district is building a two-story, 150,000-square-foot school facility between the 2-5 elementary building and New Albany Middle School.
It is being funded by a $45.1-million, 2.59-mill bond issue local voters approved in November 2012.
* Kohler said the district has expanded from 780 students 25 years ago to 4,700 students, which surpasses current building capacity by 1,000 students.
She said the new building is needed because of enrollment growth expected in the coming years.
"The design process for this school was a community affair with many residents participating on the official design committee or through a series of public meetings held to gain community input," Kohler said. "The requirements of the academic program drove the design process and the design is deliberately constrained by a data-driven construction budget.
"Each design, construction and materials decision has been fully vetted and absolutely nothing will take precedence over the safety and functionality of the space for student learning. Our students will be well-served by this innovative, flexible learning space and residents will be able to take pride in this building, the capstone of a state-of-the-art community-learning campus."
* Matt said the community of New Albany attracts people, which is why enrollment is increasing and the district has more than 4,700 students.
"Enrollment projections formulated by nationally recognized experts like DeJong-Healy clearly show that enrollment will grow by another 800 students in the next 10 years," Matt said. "In the meantime, the New Albany-Plain Local School District is accommodating these students in a space designed to serve 3,800 students -- with entryways and storage areas converted to classrooms, students relocated to other buildings, the use of trailers and the 1925 'annex' building, classrooms shared by multiple teachers and increasing class sizes.
"Therefore, I fully support the decision to pursue a bond for an additional building as well as a levy for the corresponding increase in operational expenses."
* Lopez said district officials made the right decision to build because the school district "is stretched beyond the capacity of the current physical facilities to properly serve students, parents and the community. District officials correctly and in a transparent fashion engaged the school and larger community in deciding on which construction plans to pursue and have moved forward with a good and responsible plan."
He said to become "a top performer," the district must continue to improve and add facilities.
"This must be a comprehensive approach that includes all aspects of education and the school day, including adequate space for lunch periods and appropriate and adequate athletic facilities," Lopez said. "The current project addresses these issues in large measure but we must be careful in the future that we do not allow students to be eating lunch at unsuitable times or engaging in school activities, including sports practices, at improper times because of a lack of available facilities."
* McClelland said the district is at a critical point with enrollment growth.
He said the district convened a facilities committee that included school board members, district staff, parents and community members "who made an informed, consensus-based recommendation to seek public support for a new facility. "
"(The facilities committee) reviewed enrollment projections, researched the latest in education methods and classroom technologies and conducted site visits at new school facilities," McClelland said. "I had the honor to serve as the chair of the New Albany's Future campaign that is making their work and vision a reality."
McClelland said though the community supported the district's plan, he wished that "every resident of the district had the opportunity to hear directly from the advisory committee so they could understand the vision and the need. Now is the time for accountability. My goal is to hold the board to the high standard of trust our community has given them in this project."
* Wielinski said as the population increases, the district must accommodate the students.
"I believe the new building project could be a mark of excellence and help to set this district apart," Wielinski said. "The truth is, in order to provide education and development for 21st-century students, the facilities and staff must be capable of supporting the student population.
"My desire is to quickly find the most cost-efficient way to maximize the new building's impact on learning. Effective and timely communication from the district, coupled with solid leadership and continued financial accountability, will enable this district to go from good to great."
* Williams said growth "warranted the new building" and "it is a great feeling to be a part of a place that others want to be a part of as well."
She cautioned, however, that the district can always do better.
"I do believe we need to be fiscally responsible, practical and to build safe and functional buildings," Williams said. "It is important to make sure that we work closely with our (New Albany) architectural review board.
"We need to make sure that we have a shared vision of our expectations. I believe we need to listen to the needs of our student body, staff and the administrators who occupy the buildings daily."