Voters in the South-Western City School District will be choosing from among five candidates to fill four open seats on the school board this November.
Incumbents Cathy Johnson, Lee Schreiner and Robert Ragland will face first-time school board candidates Anthony Caldwell and David Donofrio. Board member Karen Dover decided not to run for re-election to her seat.
Although the Franklin County Board of Elections initially ruled that Schreiner and Donofrio did not have a sufficient number of valid signatures on their petitions, both candidates were able to show they did meet the threshold and were certified for the ballot.
Two write-in candidates, Kirk Hamilton and Adam Slane, initially filed after it appeared there would not be enough valid candidates on the ballot to fill the number of seats up for election. Hamilton and Slane both withdrew after the board approved Schreiner and Donofrio for the ballot.
ThisWeek Grove City Record asked each candidate two questions. Ragland did not respond by the deadline given to all candidates.
Why are you running for office?
Caldwell: I am running to give a voice to parents and working families on our board of education. I believe that parents like me deserve a voice on the issues that impact our students, our families and our communities.
Donofrio: I want to bring a new generation of leadership to our school district. While we are turning the corner as a district, there is much more to do, and I bring a unique perspective. On a daily basis, I interact with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, and see what jobs are being created across America -- and what employers expect. Our world is changing, and the expectations of high school and college grads entering the workforce is an ever-rising bar. We must be up for the challenge, and continually exceed our own metrics and expectations -- our students should demand no less.
Johnson: Public education has impacted every facet of my life from learning as a child to becoming a teacher to serving on our local school board. I am eagerly awaiting 2019 when the first class of students who had the opportunity to attend all day, every day kindergarten, take the state reading tests. I have the experience to lead the district in improving academics and completing any additional OFCC building projects on time and under budget. As a retiree, I have the time to dedicate to our children and our schools.
Schreiner: I am retired after 37 years of teaching and coaching in the South-Western City School District. Our school district has been my life, my career. I settled in the SWCS after graduating from college. I met my wife-to-be and married her (just celebrated our 41st anniversary); raised my family here and my two sons attended and graduated from the SWCS District. SWCS is my home. I have dedicated my life to teaching and life-long learning. Education is the key to every other opportunity. I am on a fixed income, so it is very important to me to be a good steward of taxpayer money that is entrusted to our district. I have had the privilege of teaching at every school and representing all areas of our school district during my teaching career. My granddaughter will attend a SWCS elementary school next year. I am an advocate for the South-Western City School District, education and our students. I have gained much experience in many different areas as an educator and a board member. Out of experience comes wisdom. Let me continue to utilize what I have learned.
Identify the top two issues facing the school board in 2018 and explain how you would deal with them.
Caldwell: 1) Invest in good schools and stronger communities. We need to continue to invest in our South-Western City School District so that our students have clean and safe learning environments that our community can be proud of and will encourage economic development and job creation in our neighborhoods. 2) Prepare our students for the real world. We need to make sure we offer the best educational experience to ensure that all students are ready for college or the work force. In an increasingly connected world, we need children who are familiar with the tools that allow them to live and learn in it. That is why we need to have modern technology in our classrooms and more investment for career and technical programs.
Donofrio: 1) With the departure of Karen Dover, we are losing our fiscal operations expert from the board, and I believe I can successfully fill her shoes. With six years of experience on the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors, we oversaw a multi-million-dollar budget of state and local funds, not all that different than a school board. I feel confident that I can continue her meticulous attention to detail in that regard. I'll be a good fiscal steward and partner for our board, particularly as our district grows, without needing to raise taxes on our residents. 2) As our economic forecast continues to improve, I want to explore elimination of "pay to play," which was a heartbreaking decision that unfortunately had to be made years ago when our school levies failed. Many residents may not be aware that this policy does not just affect athletics, but the arts and clubs as well. As a student, extracurricular activities are what kept me in school -- and I think the same is true of many of our students. Our purpose must be to educate the whole child and support them in life, not just the traditional classroom setting.
Johnson: 1) As a teacher, academic achievement will always be my first concern. At the state level, there continues to be an emphasis on state tests and report cards that only show a snapshot of student achievement. The SWCSD will continue to make student achievement the top priority. Since additional funds would help us improve, I will continue to work with the E&A Coalition and others at the state level to achieve equitable and adequate funding. 2) Buildings that meet 21st century learning standards have been supported by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission at the state level. I will work to pass a bond issue that will allow the SWCSD take advantage of the state's matching funds and any retiring bond debt to replace four middle schools and add an addition to the fifth one. This needs to be done in a timely manner before the state decides it can no longer afford to fund the OFCC. I will also continue to work to get the state to allow our current poverty rate to be used in calculating the amount of funding the state will contribute.
Schreiner: 1) All SWCS facilities brought to "state of the art" equitable status with the rest of the district facilities (on par and pace and space: with the last phases of new elementary schools and new high school). The best possible learning environment for students, teachers and staff. I serve as the "Facilities" board member on the school board and have dealt with all three phases of the 14 new schools building projects that are now completed. 3) Improve and increase the literacy and graduation rates across the district while continuing to use "state of the art" programs and implementation in collaboration with our educators. Stay in tune with the "career path needs" of students today and all the obstacles that stand in their way. College, or Career and Life Readiness Skills for good citizens of the future. The Four Cs of 21st century learning are four skills that have been identified by the United States-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills as the most important skills required for 21st century education: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Literacy and communication skills are the foundation for success in a globally aware future.