There apparently will be a contested race for the South-Western City School District Board of Education.
R. Kirk Hamilton and Adam Slane filed Aug. 28 as write-in candidates for the race after the Franklin County Board of Elections announced Aug. 21 that candidate petitions for incumbent board member Lee Schreiner and challenger David Donofrio were not going to be certified.
Pending board of elections certification, Hamilton and Slane would be added to the slate of candidates that includes incumbents Cathy Johnson and Robert Ragland and first-time candidate Anthony Caldwell. Write-in petitions are expected to be certified by Sept. 11, according to Aaron Sellers, a spokesman for the board of elections.
After Schreiner and Donofrio's candidacies were disqualified and before the write-in candidates filed, only three candidates were on the November ballot for four open seats. The full terms for Johnson, Schreiner and Karen Dover all expire at the end of this year. Dover has decided not to run for re-election.
Ragland, who was appointed in August 2016 by the board to fill the seat left vacant when Randy Reisling resigned, is running for election in his own right to complete Reisling's unexpired term. The term runs through the end of 2019.
Without certification of the other candidates and no write-in candidate, the South-Western school board would have had to appoint a person to fill the remaining seat in January.
The filing deadline for write-in candidates was Aug. 28.
Hamilton, 61, served as South-Western's superintendent from Jan. 1, 1998, to Dec. 31, 2007. He has served since 2009 as executive director for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators. He lives in Grove City.
Hamilton said he decided to run for a seat on the board after learning about the shortage of candidates because he wants to help South-Western continue on its positive trajectory.
"The district has made so much progress and done such good work over the past several years," he said. "I still live in the community and devoted 10 years of my life serving as superintendent. If I can help continue the progress we’re making, I felt it would be a worthwhile thing to do.
"South-Western is my school district. I live in Grove City and my children all graduated from the district. It's an extremely well-run district and we need to continue working to prepare our students for the challenges they face as they enter adulthood."
The Buckeye Association of School Administrators is a private, nonprofit organization serving school superintendents and other administrators in Ohio.
"This is my 36th year in the education business," Hamilton said. "I deal in the educational policy arena each day as part of my job, working and meeting with administrators, the Ohio School Boards Association, the Ohio PTA, businesses and the Ohio Department of Education. My experience and perspective is something I can bring to the board.”
Hamilton and his wife, Sue, have three adult children.
Slane, 29, previously ran for the school board in 2009, a year in which nine candidates, including one write-in candidate, were on the ballot.
"I wasn't planning to run this year," Slane said. "Lee (Schreiner) is a good friend of mine and I was planning to support his candidacy.
"But after the hullabaloo about the signatures on his petition, I thought about it over the weekend and decided to run," he said.
"I just thought the voters should be given a choice, and it shouldn't be left up to the school board to decide who serves on the board," Slane said.
"I want to help make sure the district continues to handle taxpayers' money responsibly and provides the best possible education for our students," he said.
A 2006 graduate of Westland High School, Slane is a senior caseworker for U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Upper Arlington).
A Columbus resident, Slane also serves as a trustee for the South-Western City School District Educational Foundation and is chairman of the foundation's grant and scholarship committee and for its annual honors concert.
Still trying to run
Schreiner and Donofrio have requested to be placed on the board of election's Sept. 11 agenda to state their case for being included on the ballot, Sellers said.
The board of elections ruled Aug. 21 that Schreiner and Donofrio's petitions did not include a sufficient number of valid signatures.
Schreiner and Donofrio each turned in petitions with fewer than the 300 valid signatures of qualified electors required for candidates in school districts with a population of 100,000 or more.
Schreiner turned in 408 signatures, 290 of which were ruled to be valid, and Donofrio turned in 370 signatures, 293 of which were found to be valid, Sellers said.
The Ohio Revised Code prohibits a disqualified candidate for an office to run as a write-in candidate for the same office, he said.
The board of elections declared nine candidates in various races throughout the county as not certified for the fall election, Sellers said.
"Sometimes a signature is not valid because the person is not a registered voter. Sometimes it's because they are not registered to vote in Franklin County," he said.
The board of elections checks its database looking for the name and address of every person who signs a candidate's petition, Sellers said.
"Sometimes, the name or address doesn't match what we have on listed in our system," he said.
There is no formal procedure for a candidate to appeal the board of elections' decision, Sellers said.
"If someone falls below the number of valid signatures they need for their race, and they believe there are enough qualified signatures to put them over the top, they can bring it to the attention of the board," he said. "But there's no actual process in place to do that."
Donofrio said he had been in contact with officials from the board of elections and was reviewing his petition line by line to check the signatures he had collected.
"The board of elections gave me a line by line printout and I'm going over every single signature, name and address," he said. "I believe I can get through the list and find an additional seven valid signatures."
Schreiner said he remains optimistic that he will still be able to get on the ballot.
"It's not over yet," he said. "I'm still trying to verify signatures with the board of elections. I'm a positive person. I truly want to be on the ballot. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."
One issue that arose with some of the signatures he collected was handwriting that may have been illegible to board of elections officials, Schreiner said.
"We're more familiar with our community than they are, of course, and a name they can't read we recognize because we know who wrote the signature," he said.
"It may be a situation in some cases where people have moved," Schreiner said. "I think we can get it all sorted out with the board."
Caldwell, 36, said he is running "because I want to be a voice for parents, students and my community."
"I'm the only candidate with a child currently in the school district and I want to make sure parents have someone on the board of education who is fighting for them," Caldwell said.
Caldwell and his wife, Amelia, have a daughter who attends Westland High School, where she is a cheerleader, plays in the orchestra and sings in the choir.
Caldwell has worked the past decade for the Service Employees International Union District 1199 and currently serves as the union's director of public affairs.
Johnson, 66, is seeking election to her fifth term on the board. She serves as board president.
"I'm very excited about the new building project that is coming up," she said. "Our first phase went so well with the new elementary schools and Franklin Heights High School. I can't wait to see the new middle schools. I want to continue on the board and help see the next phase through.
"We've been able to accomplish a lot over the last few years," Johnson said, including the development of an accelerated learning center and an all-day, every day kindergarten program.
Johnson and her husband, Doug, have two children who attended South-Western schools.
Ragland, who will turn 52 in September, is running for election to the board to fulfill his commitment after being appointed.
"I felt it was an obligation if I was applying for the seat (after Reisling's resignation) and if the board would choose me that I'd commit to running when the (election to complete the unexpired term came up) at the end of 2017," he said.
"I'm a child advocate for all kids at all grade levels and all economic levels," Ragland said. "As a district, I think we've done a good job making sure that all students have access to a quality education, whether they live in a $1 million house or in subsidized housing."
Ragland served on the district's levy committee in 2005 and on the Community Advisory Group, which was formed in 2009 after the failure of a school levy.
He is a financial accounting technician with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Whitehall.