Four candidates are seeking three seats on the Nov. 7 ballot for the Hilliard Board of Education.

At least one new member will join the five-member board Jan. 1 as incumbent board President Andy Teater is in the midst of a campaign for Hilliard City Council.

Teater is among the four Republicans and two Democrats seeking four council seats.

The four-candidate school-board field includes two incumbents, one challenger and one write-in candidate.

The candidates answered questions from ThisWeek about redistricting, state report cards and critical issues facing the district.

Their responses have been distilled into the following capsules in alphabetical order. Complete and unedited responses are available at ThisWeekNEWS.com/Hilliard.

Mark Abate

Abate, 40, is a talent-management specialist for Northwoods Consulting Partners.

He and his wife, Nikole, have two daughters.

Concerning redistricting, Abate said the opening of Memorial Middle School next fall, coupled with additional space at the McVey Innovative Learning Center, indicates "the number of classrooms at or beyond capacity will be reduced at the secondary level."

However, growth at the elementary-school level might require a look.

"In the near term, I believe the immediate growth can be addressed by 'spot' reassignment, in which new students coming from new development that may be near multiple elementary schools may be routed to the most logical school based on enrollment as opposed to proximity," Abate said.

Regarding state report cards, Abate said they "should not define the district."

In step with the administration's view, Abate said, "These tests and report cards are snapshots of performance at any given time and are moving targets."

"In my opinion, the true measure of the quality of a school district is the growth that is experienced ... by each student in their own journey."

Significant issues facing the district, Abate said, are student population and state funding, each out of the district's direct control.

"I believe with the vision and leadership of the school board and administration, (we) can overcome these challenges in the coming years."

Abate has a master's degree in business administration from Franklin University and a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Dayton.

Paul Lambert

Lambert, 63, is a retired executive and current school board member.

He and his wife, Terry, have two adult children.

Concerning redistricting, Lambert said he wishes the possibility of redistricting did not cause strife as all buildings provide the same excellent level of education.

"Nonetheless, several strategies have been employed to help avoid moving students from one track to another," Lambert said.

They include the use of the McVey Innovative Learning Center as a kind of fourth high-school campus, "providing a place to serve hundreds of our students while taking some of the pressure off Bradley, Darby and Davidson."

Additionally, the ILC will expand after Memorial Middle School opens, Lambert said.

Concerning state report cards, Lambert said it is "not a particularly effective tool" to assess students' learning and the efficient use of tax revenue.

"This is why Hilliard schools also publishes our Quality Profile, to assure (our) parents and taxpayers that our primary mission is not to score well on tests of debatable value but rather to prepare our children to succeed in a rapidly evolving future," Lambert said.

An endorsement of the district's quality, Lambert said, is the demand for housing in the school district.

"That doesn't mean we ignore the state report cards," he said. "Continuous improvement is one of (our) core values. ... (Report cards) provide one set of data, but only one."

Significant issues facing the district include reducing residential growth while increasing commercial growth to reduce the tax burden for residents, Lambert said.

Lambert has a bachelor's degree in management from Capital University.

Lisa Whiting

Whiting, 55, is a registered nurse and performance improvement coordinator for Nationwide Children's Hospital.

She is a member of the school board.

Whiting has one child.

Regarding redistricting, Whiting said the district does not need to consider it.

"Our community supported the building of a new (Memorial) middle school (that) will create additional seats ... as well as space in two of our existing buildings," Whiting said.

"We have been intentional in our design of the new buildings as well as the redesign of existing buildings to create flexible learning spaces that can grow and accommodate as needed."

Concerning state report cards, Whiting said they are "one method used to measure student growth."

"While we won't be satisfied with our scores until we are No. 1, I believe the Ohio Department of Education continues to strive to develop an adequate tool that efficiently measures student growth."

Meanwhile, the district will continue to provide input necessary for the ODE to create a "meaningful tool" to communicate the successes and weaknesses of school districts.

"We measure student growth and success in many ways and we are committed to preparing our students for the future."

That, Whiting said, also is one of the critical issues facing the district, which Whiting quantified as "remaining current, relevant and intentional about preparing our children for an ever-changing future."

Whiting has a bachelor's degree in nursing from Ohio State University.

D.J. Williams

Williams, 42, is a 1993 graduate of Hilliard High School.

He is employed as a client services specialist at Express Scripps.

A write-in candidate, Williams said it is time for the district to consider boundary realignments.

"As difficult as it may be for me to say and for parents to hear, I believe it is time to begin discussing attendance boundaries across the board," Williams said.

To that end, Williams said public input is critical and that a committee of educators and parents should convene to discuss options.

Regarding state report cards, Williams said he agrees with other board members and administrators that state report cards are "only a snapshot of some aspects of the district."

"(It) doesn't fairly provide the whole picture."

Concerning critical issues the school district faces in the near future, Williams identified overcrowding and funding.

"We need to address the district boundaries (and) work more with city leaders in discussing residential developments."

Williams said, if elected, he brings the perspective of being a graduate of the school district and also would be an advocate for the arts in the school district.

"We have a great and diverse district that I want to be a part of continuing to build upon as we go into the future together," Williams said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

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