The Groveport Madison Board of Education election will see a slate of four candidates vying for two open seats Nov. 5.
Longtime board member Mary Tedrow is not seeking reelection so the race will feature only one incumbent, Chris Snyder, 41, a U.S. Army veteran now employed by Veeam Software Corp. as IT manager for the Americas. Snyder currently serves as school board president.
Challenger Seth Bower, 34, is the regional aquatics director for the YMCA of Central Ohio
Wayne Bryan, 53, is a former maintenance and construction worker.
Snyder, Bryan and Bower answered questions posed by ThisWeek Canal Winchester Times. The fourth candidate, Kathleen Walsh, did not respond to requests for comment.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the district, and how would you approach them, if elected?
Bower: The Groveport Madison school district has seen significant growth over the past three years, with over 200 new students enrolled last year alone. Due to this significant overcrowding, students are now using detached trailer classrooms, class size has increased, and outdated buildings are seeing additional strain being put on them, which includes leaking roofs, failed plumbing and safety concerns due to outdated security systems. In addition, services such as the gifted program are housed out of one school, which leads to inefficient busing, additional overcrowding and congested pick-up/drop-off locations.
If elected, I would work with administrative officials to come up with both a short-term and long-term plan on how to address the issues of overcrowding, outdated buildings and safety concerns. I believe that we can streamline some of the district's current procedures to alleviate some of these concerns temporarily. I would also help navigate a five-year plan to address these issues long term, so that the district isn't faced with larger issues down the road. This plan would include a projected road map of anticipated enrollment growth and what resources will be needed to address this growth.
Bryan: The two biggest challenges I can see are school funding and earning back the trust of the taxpayers we serve. I feel we need to cut wasteful spending, make sure we are giving the taxpayers the best they can get for their hard-earned money. And showing them where and how their money is being spent.
Snyder: The largest challenge facing the district is in keeping our schools moving forward. We have steadily improved as a district over the past few years, and that is due to the great staff and their dedication to our students. We have focused on helping our staff grow in order to help the students grow. We have implemented new programs to teach new skills (and bring old skills back) so that our graduates have the tools they need to succeed. Our staff and students have dug in and produced results, but it's one thing to take a step forward, and it's a whole other thing to keep that momentum going. Our board needs to continue to focus on helping staff so that they are empowered to help the students.
Since Issue 5 failed in May, the district hasn't launched a follow-up plan to construct the new school buildings it needs. How would you address this?
Bower: While Issue 5 failed this past May, I believe that we learned some valuable lessons from it. If elected to the school board, I would ensure that we devise a strategy for community input and guidance well in advance of creating another bond issue. This would be part of the five-year plan that I mentioned in the previous question. This plan will need to be a strategic design with growth in mind, and driven by the community. I think what we learned from the failure of Issue 5 is that the community needs to be more involved in this project and given more time for input regarding the strategy of building these new schools.
Bryan: First, we have to take an honest look at needs versus wants. Then make sure we have a complete plan of action in place, including tours of all of the buildings for the taxpayers and, most importantly, do not try to mislead anyone. It is critical that the taxpayers/public regain trust in the board of education. I feel once that has been achieved, things will go so much smoother.
Snyder: The bond issue is a tricky subject. As a board, we believed that our recent momentum was enough to get the community to pass the Issue in May. We have learned a lot in the past few months and we are already approaching the issue by taking a step back and handling one thing at a time. We talked to people in the community and are taking what they say seriously.
The community wants the bond and levy issues separated, so we decided to split them into different elections. We are currently focused on the levy and will return to the bond once we have our operating funds in place.
The district will attempt to have a renewal levy approved in the November election, and it would bring in $5.6 million annually. If this fails, how would you go about securing the operational funding Groveport Madison schools rely on?
Bower: Unfortunately, if the renewal levy fails, the school district will need to find ways to cover the $5.6 million annual gap in funding. The school board will need to identify key areas of cuts that would make the least amount of impact on our kids and community. If elected to the school board, I would want to take a look at all areas of the annual budget to find those areas that provide the least amount of impact. Unfortunately, one of the biggest areas to cut would be busing and extracurricular activities like what we saw back in 2013. Our community, teachers and children deserve the best. As a parent of a third-grader who attends Madison Elementary, I would work my best to find alternative funding sources to help offset the negative impact of losing funding if the revised levy fails.
Bryan: If elected, I would be honest with every taxpayer and tell them I will work to keep them informed of how their money is being spent and I will do everything in my power as a board member to make decisions that are based on what's best for the kids, the district and the community. And I would make sure they never tried to force an operating levy and a bond issue together again.
Snyder: As addressed above, the community had a couple of issues with the combined Issue. We have listened and decided to split the two issues into different elections. We have also listened to those who said they didn't want a permanent levy, but another five-year one, instead. In November, we get to see how our community responds to a board that listens to its constituents and wants to work together to keep our district moving forward. If, for some reason, the levy fails, we will be in a tough position. There are other elections, and the district will have to find out what caused the failure this time and put the issue back on the ballot next year. Since the 2014 funding will disappear in January, the November issue is the most important thing on the ballot for Groveport schools. If it fails, the district will have to cut items out of our budget. It's not something any of us want to do, but losing millions of dollars a year is not something that the district will be able to shrug off. The funding is the most important thing for our district, our students and our community as a whole.