The Westerville Board of Education closed its application process for the vacant board seat and will begin reviewing candidates next Thursday.
The application deadline for the vacant seat was 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 21. The board is to review the applications and select finalists at a special meeting next Thursday, May 29.
Longtime board member Cindy Crowe announced her resignation at the school board meeting May 5. More than a year ago, Crowe was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and its progression affected her ability to continue serving through her elected term. Her last official day as a board member was Monday, May 19.
The new board member will finish the unexpired remainder of Crowe's term, through Dec. 31, 2015, unless re-elected in November 2015.
The board asked interested candidates to send resumes and answer a questionnaire as part of the application. The questionnaire asked candidates why they are interested in becoming a board member, how their education and experience can help the board, about any involvement in the district, and their understanding of a school board's role.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, board President Nancy Nestor-Baker said she had received six applications.
Residents Richard Bird, Jim Burgess, Michael Burns, Al Hammond, Michael Howard and Preston Stapleton applied for the vacant seat. Burgess and Hammond have run for a seat on the school board in past elections.
Residents came forward at the board meeting May 19 to advise current members how to evaluate possible candidates.
Resident Dave Fitzpatrick asked board members to consider how long a candidate has been a resident of Westerville, his or her involvement in the community, if he or she has children enrolled in the district and a candidate's business background.
"The longer you are here in the city, the more you understand the fabric of the community that makes us the town it is, and I think that's important," Fitzpatrick said.
More residents echoed Fitzpatrick's suggestions. Resident Eric Zwilling complimented the board and Superintendent John Kellogg for their achievements, but said the board could use more diversity.
"We need some diversity on the board to help continue doing these great things," Zwilling said. "In five months, you got the community healing. We need that to continue to move forward."
Other residents were more direct and pushed the board to choose Burgess, who ran for school board in 2013 as part of a team with Luke Davis and John Sodt.
Burgess runs his own IT firm and is a father of three Westerville students. He is also director of the Westerville TEA Party and an involved PTA member.
Longtime resident Rod Clay was one who encouraged the board to support Burgess.
"Jim gets involved because he sees the need the schools and the community have and is willing to devote himself to meeting that need, whatever the expense and time and money and effort he has to pay," Clay said.
Each board member thanked the residents who spoke at the meeting and said they would consider their suggestions as they make the decision.
The final round of interviews is scheduled for June 4 and 5. The board will swear in its new member June 9.