Six candidates for the Bexley City School District school board will vie for three seats up for grabs in the Nov. 7 general election.
The candidates include incumbents John Barno, Alissha Mitchell and Marlee Snowdon and newcomers Michelle Mineo, Tracey Parsons and April M. Walsh.
Barno, 48, an attorney, was elected to a four-year term in 2013. He holds a bachelor's degree in communications and political science from Heidelberg University and a law degree from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. He and his wife have four daughters.
Mineo, 48 is a speech therapist and yoga teacher. She holds a master's degree in speech pathology from Miami University. She and her husband have three children.
Mitchell, 41, who works in property management, has served on the board since February 2015, when the board unanimously appointed her to fill the unexpired term of former board member Carol Fey. Mitchell was elected by voters in November 2015 to serve the final two years of Fey's term. She holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Ohio Dominican University. She and her husband have five children.
Parsons, 47, works in marketing communications. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University. She and her husband have one son.
Snowdon, 49, an attorney, was reelected in 2013 for a second term on the board. She served as president for two years. She holds a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Southern California and a law degree from the Pepperdine University College of Law. She and her husband have three children.
Walsh, 33, is a transition coordinator at Eastmoor Academy. She holds a bachelor's degree in special education and master's degree in education in curriculum instruction with a technology focus from Ohio Dominican University. She and her husband have four children.
Barno, Mitchell, Mineo and Snowdon participated in an Oct. 19 candidates forum at Bexley City Hall sponsored by the Franklin County Consortium for Good Government. Each candidate answered a question about their qualifications to serve on the board. Parsons and Walsh answered the question in a phone interview. The following are the candidates' responses.
Why do you think you are uniquely qualified to be on the school board?
Barno: One of the things that qualifies me, that sets me apart, is I'm a practicing attorney. I'm a practicing attorney in an administrative setting, which involves a lot of state regulations, rules that we review as a school board. I also own my own business and I've owned my own business for 10 years. That includes budgeting, personnel issues, state regulations, all kinds of things. Also having a wife who is a graduate from here, I know the traditions. She has told me a lot about the district, but also having my three kids who are graduates. We've learned a lot going through the entire public school system, so I think all of those things uniquely qualify me.
Mineo: I am the person who has direct service with special-education learners. I worked for the county board of disabilities for 18 years. I have been through levy campaigns, I have fundraised for levies. I am the person who has done the job that our teachers have done. I have worked in these kind of environments. I know what it's like to work with students, with special-education learners. That's the perspective I come from. I'm also a registered yoga teacher. People come to me and they share with me their concerns. They trust me. I'm approachable and accessible, and that's an important piece of this, too.
Mitchell: I think that I'm uniquely qualified, one, because I'm doing the job. When I was initially appointed, I sought to open lines of dialogue and communication with parts of our community that were not always represented. That was a welcome and necessary step on our board as we build a more diverse and inclusive space for Bexley students. I bring 22 years of experience from facilities and operations, finance, budget implementation on large projects. These are all questions we are facing as a district as we're moving forward for our community and I'm bringing that experience and that lens every day to the table.
Parsons: Every day I'm engaged with the Fortune 100 and in many cases, the Fortune 500 (companies), to talk about the future of work. When I look at the education my son is receiving, it's world class. But I wonder what we could be doing differently to prepare my son and his cohorts for the world of work. In the 10 years that I've lived in Bexley, there's no community like it. I grew up in Akron and I've lived in Chicago and Seattle, and never before have I seen anything remotely close to what I see in Bexley. There's so many teachers with master's degrees and they're always looking for ways to solve problems. We are an amazing school district, but I think about, "How can we be better than yesterday?" I'm a bridge builder and I'm a connector. I love connecting people, and I want to bring that connection to the school board. I'm also a big believer in differentiated education. There's a lot of research out there about how we can create more opportunities for differentiated learning opportunities. It's understanding how people learn and absorb information. I'd like to bring my passion for differentiated learning to the school board to make that impact and put more tools people in the hands of teachers.
Snowdon: What makes me unique among the candidates is I have the most experience of anybody on the board. I've had eight years, I've served with several different board members and several different administrators. I think that experience has given me a different insight into what really makes our board work and what is right for our community, especially in a time where we have new leadership (in the form of new Bexley City Schools Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller and Treasurer Kyle Smith). They deserve to have some guided leadership behind them.
Walsh: I have over 10 years of experience in public education. I started out as a special education and now I'm a transition coordinator and I've been doing that for five years. I have a passion for public education, and I'd really like to use that passion to help the Bexley City Schools improve. I think there are areas that have room for improvement. One of those areas is special education. I work a lot with different community members who have struggled with special education. It's something I really want to see improve both professionally and personally. Another reason I wanted to run is we're really seeing a lot of change in our district. I think it's a really important time to have people on the board who understand education and educational policy. I always say policy on paper and policy in action are two different things. Ideally, we'd have an educator on every board of education.