Three incumbents are among the five candidates seeking election to three seats on the Groveport Madison Board of Education Nov. 7.
The incumbents are Nancy S. Gillespie, Libby Gray and Bryan Shoemaker. They face challenges from Patrick M. Niemann and Diana Fortner-Orum.
The candidates responded to the following questions from ThisWeek:
Why are you running for office?
Fortner-Orum: I feel it is important to be involved in your community and give back. I am a graduate of Groveport Madison and I want to see that today's kids get the education I received. I have been a board member previously in 1990-1997. Most recently, I was a member of the board of directors and served as president of Cruiser Academy. This is an educational program that provided a way with work and dedication for these students to graduate.
Gillespie: To continue to support the critical work being done by our teachers and administrators as they drive student achievement to higher levels and to be the voice of GM at the state level when decisions are being made that affect public education in Ohio. I am inspired by community members that have become the grassroots effort to ensure equity and opportunity for all neighborhoods.
Gray: I am running for school board because I am proud to be called a Cruiser and feel that since I was elected four years ago, the district has made great strides in improving the overall spirit and pride of the district. I would like to continue to be on the board and work with my fellow board members to prepare for the future of the district educationally, financially and continue the work on a new facilities plan.
Niemann: I want to bring accountability and leadership to Groveport Madison Local Schools.
Shoemaker: I have served two terms leading up to this election. During my first term, things were rather bleak in the district, but we began to turn things around leading into my second term. My second term began with the district in a more manageable state. We are now showing growth in our report card, not to be overshadowed by a new high school to be complete by the beginning of the school year 2018. This was made possible by the good graces of the community passing the levy/bond.
Identify the top two issues facing the school district in 2018 and explain how you would deal with them.
Fortner-Orum: Groveport Madison is a diverse student body and it is necessary to use different teaching methods to reach all students. That is why I am particularly excited and support the new pathways program at the high school. This will give our kids access to classes that will prepare them with skills they can use soon after graduation to begin their careers. Education is the avenue for success by either attending college or learning a skill that can be used to support themselves, their families, their community, country or world. I want the kids to be proud of themselves and their community.
Gillespie: Smooth transition into the new GMHS in May: We need to continue to verify that our project is on time to meet the tight summer timeline for demolition. The board will need to provide training for new equipment, support for the high school administration to design schedules/duties etc. in a building that is two times bigger, and make the facility available for the community to visit.
Academic achievement: Early results from the Ohio report card for GM are positive. We are going to see the fruits of the labor of our school improvement department this year and the board will expect that this trajectory will continue into 2018. I will continue to support professional development that fits the needs of the grade-level teacher and to provide the learning opportunities outside the school day that will help individual students get to the next level. Because academic achievement is frequently the benefit when a student is able to participate in extracurriculars, the board should keep focused on 2019 and the need to ask for a common-sense renewal of our operating levy.
Gray: The two major issues facing our district are the overcrowding of our schools and the state report card. The district has started the process of dealing with the overcrowding with the construction project in process for a new high school, but we must now start to consider the needs of our pre-K-8 students. Our current facilities are outdated, too small and cost the district millions of dollars in repairs. The district should seek community input on the needs and the configurations of new buildings to house pre-K-8.
The district is always striving to improve the ever-changing state report card and we must continue to work in this area. I believe that we need to evaluate each score and determine what a realistic score is for Groveport Madison and communicate this to the community.
Niemann: One issue facing GMLS is the need for new buildings across the district. It is very important that the community sees that the GMLSD administration and school board are honest and fiscally responsible. This will help get the community behind the district when a levy goes on the ballot.
I also believe we need the right people in place in order for our community to reach its full potential. I feel there is a void of leadership that has the community's best interest at risk due to some of our key decision-makers' selfish reasoning.Too often, I feel the administrative leaders look for reasons why things cannot be done as opposed to ways to get things done. We need to identify daily issues from top to bottom and find productive and definitive ways to fix them. I do not want to see shortcut attempts to deal with issues, but rather long-term solutions that will take time and effort that result in long-term progress and success.
Shoemaker: Our curriculum in the classrooms has made great strides within the last two years. Programs that we have established are beginning to show fruit. However, our curriculum has room for improvement, which will require a constant path of oversight and added programs.
The buildings in the district have been a topic -- good, bad or indifferent -- for many years, a topic that unfortunately, in my opinion, will not go away. Hard decisions are needed on how we continue to repair or replace these buildings. We have worked very hard to maintain our existing buildings in recent years, but the effects of age are truly showing through. It is time to bring the community back together to introduce new conversations about how to handle the next phase.