Westerville News & Public Opinion

November election

Two enter board race; two incumbents out

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The race is on for November's election for the Westerville Board of Education.

Local pastor the Rev. Rick Vilardo announced last week that he will seek one of the three open seats on the board, and incumbent board member Kevin Hoffman said he will run to keep his seat.

Meanwhile, incumbents Kristi Robbins and Denise Pope said they will not seek re-election.

Vilardo, lead pastor of NewSong Community Church, has lived in Westerville with his wife, Cynthia, for the past 24 years. They have two elementary school-aged children.

Vilardo is a member of the district's Community Engagement Committee, through which he has traveled around the district talking to staff members in each building.

He volunteers regularly in district schools, was active in the March 2012 levy bid and is a member of the Westerville Rotary.

Vilardo said he feels his long-time involvement in the community has prepared him for a position on the school board.

"I have invested 24 years in the Westerville community through my life as the pastor of a church. I know the ins and outs," Vilardo said. "I know this community. I know the good stuff, the hard stuff."

If elected, Vilardo said he wants to focus on addressing Westerville's ever-diversifying community and finances, but also on engaging more residents in the school system.

"I believe every kid has a deep, innate potential and deserves a vibrant education, the best we can provide, and that means strong teachers, fiscal accountability -- because we can't spend what we don't have -- and that means getting the community more involved and invested in the schools, not just at talking-point times, not just at levy times," Vilardo said. "The more people get involved in the schools, the more passionate they will be about education."

Hoffman is serving his third term on the Westerville Board of Education. He's a graduate of Westerville North High School and lives in the district with his wife and two children.

Hoffman said his experience on the board, which includes stints as president and vice president, makes him an asset to the district.

"I really value the opportunity to give back to the Westerville City Schools community that has given me so much, and hope that the people of our community will allow me to serve another term," Hoffman said. "I believe that my experience on the school board and my familiarity with school finance will be valuable to the continued success of the Westerville schools."

Hoffman said in his time on the board, the district has earned the state's highest rating, "excellent with distinction," on the Ohio Department of Education district report card, while saving money by instituting an energy-savings program, refinancing debt and moving the district to self-insured status.

Robbins will leave the board after her second term.

After eight years on the board, Robbins said she feels it is time to move on. She said she plans to continue to serve the community in other capacities, such as through her work as executive director of Leadership Westerville and as chief of staff to Otterbein University President Kathy Krendl.

"It's been an honor for me to serve the school district and the community as a member of the board of education," Robbins said. "Two terms is eight years, and my belief is that it's good to have other perspectives come forward."

Pope was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy in January 2009 and was elected to keep the seat in November of that year.

Pope's youngest child graduated from the district last year, and as a new "empty-nester," Pope said she feels it's time for her to explore other opportunities.

"I'm trying to figure out what does my next phase of life look like," Pope said. "I'll still be involved (with the district); I just won't be involved as a board member."

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