The possible merger of Worthington's two high schools and the need to improve technology and add foreign language instruction were the main topics addressed by Worthington Board of Education candidates at a candidates night Oct. 18.

The possible merger of Worthington’s two high schools and the need to improve technology and add foreign language instruction were the main topics addressed by Worthington Board of Education candidates at a candidates night Oct. 18.

John Hyre, Julie Keegan, Carrie Washburn, and Charlie Wilson had 24 minutes to introduce themselves and answer questions from the audience of approximately 200 at the McConnell Arts Center.

The event was sponsored by the Franklin County Consortium for Good Government.

Two board members are to be elected on Nov. 8.

Hyre was the only candidate to directly address spending, which has been a hot topic during most previous board elections.

During his introduction, he pointed out that Worthington’s per-pupil spending has increased from $10,500 in 2001 to $14,161 in 2010. At the same time, cuts have been made in such areas as art and foreign languages, he said.

“Paying more to get less is unacceptable,” Hyre told the crowd.

Keegan is one of two incumbents in the group. She is seeking her second term.

Unlike in many board races, there has been no effort to paint some candidates as friends of the teachers and others as favoring taxpayers, she said.

As a mother of four who regularly spends time in the classroom, she is the one with the most firsthand knowledge of the schools, Keegan said.

Washburn asked the crowd to choose her because she would be the most active liaison between the community and the board.

She has lived in the district 20 years, has two children, and is a counselor in the Bexley school district.

“I would make decisions based on what is best for the child,” she said.

Wilson has been on the board five years. Two sons graduated from Worthington schools.

“I want to continue to make this a school district of choice,” he said.

Asked what needs to be changed in the district and how they would help with the effort, Keegan said that any student who falls through the cracks is unacceptable.

She pledged to continue to support programs such as credit recovery and mentoring to make sure that does not happen.

Washburn said that technology in the classroom is underdeveloped and there is a great disparity in what is available among schools.

Technology and foreign language need to change and the schools need to move away from one-size-fits all, Wilson said.

“We’ve got to stop educating mono-lingual students,” he said.

Hyre agreed that foreign language instruction needs to be improved, as does English as a Second Language.

More emphasis needs to be placed on critical thinking, he added.

Asked if the district should merge Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne high schools, the candidates all pointed out that the study of middle and high school curricula, and how to best educate all secondary students, is just under way.

If it turns out that the district can offer a broader, deeper curriculum with one school serving grades nine and ten and another 11 and 12, then that is what should be done, Wilson said.

Hyre stressed the need to include the community in the decision, pointing out that the public has been shut out of some important decisions in the past.

Keegan said the rumor mill is rampant at this point, but she has not seen or heard how such a change would work out.

Washburn agreed that all stakeholders should be involved in the decision, and it should be based on what is in the best interest of students.