In little more than a week, the Westerville City School District suffered devastating losses of two prominent educational leaders. Now the Westerville Board of Education and the community are looking for ways to honor their legacies.
On July 12, longtime school board member and community activist Cindy Crowe lost her battle with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, at the age of 50. Eight days later, July 20, former Westerville North High School principal and district administrator Curt Jackowski died after a lengthy battle against a rare form of cancer. He was 48.
"There is so much loss and, as you can tell, I am struggling," board member Tracy Davidson said. "Each and every one will be deeply missed and we will carry on. We are such an amazing school district because of these people."
District leaders and community members are finding ways to honor Crowe and Jackowski.
At the school board meeting on Monday, July 28, members passed a resolution to nominate Crowe for the All-Ohio School Board Award. She is the first and only candidate to be nominated posthumously.
Crowe served on the Westerville Board of Education for more than 14 years and was an outspoken advocate for education in the community. She helped steer the district through the opening of Westerville Central High School and Fouse Elementary School, helped establish anti-bullying campaigns in the schools, and advocated for reasonable student-teacher ratios in the classroom and early intervention in reading and math.
The All-Ohio School Board Award is granted to five members, one per regional district around Ohio. Recently, the Ohio School Boards Association modified its nomination application to allow posthumous nominees.
Though the nomination deadline has passed, the association said that Crowe could still be nominated, Westerville Board of Education President Nancy Nestor-Baker said.
According to the nomination application, nominees are concerned about education and children's welfare, committed time and invested ongoing in-service development, worked as a team with their board, and followed the Ohio School Boards Association's Code of Ethics.
"As we look at those requirements, as I read them, I have no problem at all seeing Cindy Crowe as a recipient of the Ohio School Board (award)," Nestor-Baker said.
Fellow board members agreed and said Crowe easily earned the nomination.
"She was an honorable person, so she deserves it," the Rev. Rick Vilardo said.
Winners will be recognized at the Ohio School Boards Association Capital Conference in November.
With the help of the district's treasurer's office, Jackowski's family members are establishing a Curt Jackowski Memorial Scholarship to honor his dedication to education. The family asked for donations to the scholarship in lieu of flowers for Jackowski at services last week.
Jackowski succumbed to Islet cell carcinoma, a form of pancreatic cancer, after an eight-year battle. He spent 15 years serving the Westerville schools as an assistant principal of Walnut Springs and Heritage middle schools, associate principal then principal at Westerville North, administrative project manager and executive director of human resources and labor relations from 2000 to 2014.
"Curt was a Warrior through and through and he will be greatly missed," Davidson said.
The family's intent is to create a scholarship that will be awarded to one graduate from each of the three high schools. More information on the scholarship will be available on the district's website.
Westerville Deputy Superintendent Mark Hershiser, who worked closely with Jackowski, said his family wants to give back to the students who were important to him.
"His family from the Dayton area truly believed that (Westerville) was his home," Hershiser said. "They would like to pay back to this community."
The Westerville school board will next meet at 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Early Learning Center, 936 Eastwind Drive.