Two incumbents and two challengers are seeking election Nov. 7 to three available seats on the Reynoldsburg Board of Education.
The incumbents are current board President Joe Begeny and Vice President Rob Truex. Incumbent Elaine Tornero is not seeking re-election.
The challengers are Robert M. Barga and Jeni Quesenberry.
All answered questions posed by ThisWeek Reynoldsburg News.
Why are you running for office?
Barga: I am running to ensure that each and every student has a full and complete education and that all students can succeed, no matter what their circumstances are. I want to ensure that our academies are expanded to their full potential and that we incorporate real-world, skilled-trade options alongside our other offerings. I want an end to the bad publicity and the waste of taxpayer money from our board, and to institute rational discussions to explore all possible solutions to any board issue. I want to help make Reynoldsburg a premier destination and district.
Begeny: Our district and our community have come so far over the last four years and I am honored to have served on the board. As a parent with children in the district and as a two-time teacher of the year, I am familiar with the educational challenges in today's schools. We have included our community in the decisions our district faces and are moving our district forward. I know we have a bright future and with voters' support, we will make Reynoldsburg the district we know it can be.
Quesenberry: If elected, I will ensure that every student is given the opportunity to achieve success in his or her education. This can be achieved by providing high-quality, affordable preschool for students, easier transitions into school with full-day kindergarten programs, and mentorship programs for middle and high school students.
Truex: I am currently the vice president of the Reynoldsburg Board of Education. We've set tasks in motion that I need to help finish. Our schools go hand in hand with the successful growth and long-term stability of our community. With good schools comes good community! If we continue to invest in our children by educating the whole child and upholding traditional education values, we will provide them with the tools -- i.e. "options" -- they will need to be productive members of society, whether that be college, the workforce, the military or otherwise. We owe it to our kids to educate them so they are more than just a test score. More than just a number in a book. More than just a way for the "business" of education to get more funding from someone.
We need to teach them to be bold learners -- education doesn't stop in the classroom -- but it's a great place to start!
Identify the top two issues facing the school district in 2018 and explain how you would deal with them,
Barga: As the recent report card showed, our students have struggled in various tested areas. This has a direct correlation with their future careers, ability to enter college and lifetime earning power. While the state's formula is fluid, and these indicators have little value, I believe that we can use them to help guide our students toward a path that offers them the best opportunity to overcome those struggles.
For students who struggled in English or math, we need to increase the number of tutors and teachers who can catch them up. For students who had difficulties taking a test, we need to increase the number of practice tests and strategy classes to help them overcome that difficulty. By using the indicators to show where our students are struggling, we can find individual solutions to give each and every Reynoldsburg student the same chance as the other students in our state.
I believe the board is not properly preparing our students for the world beyond high school and that this needs to be addressed before more students graduate without the skills they need to succeed. We need to work hand-in-hand with local universities and colleges and base our preparatory classes, based on what feedback we receive. We must expand our mentoring and guidance counselor options, with each student being given a roadmap to their end goal. By adding AP offerings for all subjects offered, we can allow graduates to spend less time in college, greatly reducing their debt. Likewise, we must work with local businesses to expand our trade offerings, giving our graduates the option to earn a certificate and enter the workforce at a good salary immediately.
Begeny: While the state legislature continues to underfund all public schools, respectful use of the taxpayers' money is a major concern in Reynoldsburg. This respect has allowed our board to keep its promise to stay off the ballot since 2010. Our board has made it a focus to develop a relationship with our administration, staff and community so we can work together to find the most effective use of our funds while maximizing student learning opportunities.
This year, Reynoldsburg has welcomed over 300 new students to our district. While this shows that Reynoldsburg is a great district for young families, we must make sure we are giving all students the best education we can. There will always be work to be done, but it should be done with the best interest of the students, staff and community members in mind.
Student achievement, which can look different for all students, is also an issue that concerns me. Every student deserves the best opportunity to learn, and Reynoldsburg has always been on the cutting edge in instructional practices. From our STEM programs to problem-based learning, our kids deserve a quality education. A focus on educating the whole child will allow for the development of the communication and critical-thinking skills that future employers or colleges will want. Providing college classes to students in high school and partnerships with career-based education can give all students a chance to succeed, no matter where life takes them.
Quesenberry: I believe the top two issues facing the school board are closing the gaps and ensuring that we are meeting the needs of our students with special needs.
To close gaps, we need to first make certain that we are looking at equity versus equality. For equality, all students are given the same advantage, but with equity, we are giving students the tools they need to ensure they have the same advantages as their peers.
To address the special needs of students, we first have to ensure that every step toward an IEP, 504 plan or behavior improvement plan is being taken. I would also like to see our district utilize a parent mentor to assist our families through this difficult and sometimes lengthy process.
Truex: Our top two issues are student enrollment and building maintenance.
Enrollment has continuously grown over the last few years and while we've been able to be creative about student placement, at some point we will face the inevitable -- expanding a school.
I would like to take a look at all of our campuses to see if we can create additional classrooms.
We also have a facility at Graham Road that is not currently able to be used for students.
I'd like to see us revitalize that campus and help bring back "neighborhood schools" to Reynoldsburg.
The second issue -- building maintenance -- has already begun. Our new business manager, superintendent and the buildings and grounds committee will be meeting to discuss the completion of our five- and 10-year plans to get all our issues addressed and funding allocated.