Whitehall voters Nov. 7 will select from among five candidates to fill three seats on the Whitehall school board.

The field includes incumbents Leo Knoblauch and Blythe Wood, along with challengers Tiffanie Charles, Darryl Hammock Jr. and Mone't Smith.

Incumbent board member Walter Armes is not seeking re-election after a quarter-century of service to the board.

Tiffanie Charles, 37, is seeking her first elected office but is a current member of Whitehall's Parks and Recreation Commission, an appointed position.

Charles said she chose to campaign for school board for many reasons, but mainly, she wants to be "a voice for all members of our community (and throw) a lifeline when (people) feel like there is no other."

If elected, Charles said she "will work toward a stronger relationship between the district and the public it serves" and implement a "message to our families about positive interaction at different levels in our children's education process."

Charles, a stay-at-home mother, said while she believes the community is pleased with the school board's work, she wants the opportunity "to explain more policies and procedures to parents ... as I see a gray area when community members hear of situations within the buildings."

Charles and her husband, Christopher, have three children.

A graduate of a Michigan high school, Charles has an associate degree from Kaplan University in interdisciplinary studies.

Darryl Hammock Jr., 45, has served two prior stints on the Whitehall school board, both by appointment.

He lost an election bid following an appointment in 2004 but opted not to seek election after a second appointment in 2010.

Hammock said he chose to seek election after several past and present board members and district staff members encouraged him to do so.

He said if elected, he would work to further improve the quality of education in Whitehall schools, including its performance on state report cards.

"I'm saddened at the number of students in Whitehall that attend private (or charter) schools ... and our dollars follow those students out of the district," Hammock said.

He acknowledged the transient nature of the district hampers effective, long-term progress, but said the city's efforts to increase the number of owner-occupied residences, coupled with the district's efforts to get students "excited to learn," will lead to all students being fully prepared for college or vocations.

Hammock has a master's degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is pastor at the City of Refuge Baptist Church in Whitehall.

He and his wife, Wendy, have two sons and a daughter, all of whom are graduates of Whitehall schools.

Leo Knoblauch, 58, is a 1977 graduate of Whitehall-Yearling High School and a data analyst for Nationwide Insurance.

He is completing his first term on the school board after serving two four-year terms on Whitehall City Council.

"I feel like we are doing a good job on the school board and I would like to continue serving on the board and moving us in a positive direction while continuing to do things even better," he said.

Knoblauch said he looks forward to seeing the results of the district's new Early Literacy Campus at Kae Avenue Elementary School and the adjacent C. Ray Williams Early Education Center.

This year, all kindergarten and first-grade students attend the campus, while students in grades 2-5 attend the district's other two elementary schools.

"I think it is already making a difference but we don't have the data yet to prove it," Knoblauch said.

He said he wants to "continue helping our kids so when they graduate they are ready for college or a job."

Knoblauch has a master's degree in business administration from Franklin University, as well as bachelor's degrees in forensic accounting from Franklin University and management and leadership from Otterbein University.

Mone't Smith, 37, is seeking her first elected office.

A graduate of Northland High School, Smith is a substitute teacher for Whitehall City Schools.

"I chose to run for school board to connect with the needs of the children and their families," Smith said.

Smith said if elected, she can bring "an outside voice to the inside."

As a substitute teacher in Whitehall, Smith said she has a keen awareness of what works well in the school buildings -- such as classroom instruction and test preparedness -- and where improvements can be made.

"I think we can offer more opportunity to learn trade skills, especially at the high school," she said.

Smith also identified a "disconnect" at the administrative level and said the district needs to increase support staff -- specifically, to make nurses available at each of the elementary schools at all times, she said.

Smith and her husband, Christian Morrow, have two children who are current students in the district.

Blythe Wood, 49, is seeking her third full term on the school board.

She was appointed to the unexpired term of Darlene Jessup in 2005 and elected in 2007. She was re-elected in 2009 and 2013.

"I want to continue to be an advocate for our students. Education is a passion for me," said Wood, a 26-year educator who has taught in the South-Western, Reynoldsburg and Pickerington school districts.

She currently teaches at Pickerington.

Wood said she has no specific goals if re-elected but to "continue to offer the variety of programs that meets the diverse needs of our students.

"I will make sure our students continue to have the resources they need," she said.

Concerning state report cards, Wood said the district "is moving in the right direction" and continued professional development of staff members will continue the trend.

"There is always room for improvement (and) I think with community engagement, we will continue to make improvements," she said.

Wood has a bachelor's degree in special education from Ohio State University and a master's degree in guidance counseling from the University of Dayton, as well as a master's degree from Mount Saint Joseph University in the science of reading.

She and her husband, Billy, have a son who is a Whitehall graduate; Wood's stepdaughter also graduated from Whitehall.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo