One incumbent and two challengers are seeking election Nov. 5 to two seats on the Worthington Board of Education.

Clarification: Worthington school board candidates were not informed of ThisWeek's 200-word limit per answer. In the print and earlier online version of this Q&A, a portion of Amy Lloyd's answer to one question was omitted.

One incumbent and two challengers are seeking election Nov. 5 to two seats on the Worthington Board of Education.

Amy Lloyd and Kelly Needleman are running against incumbent Charlie Wilson.

Julie Keegan, who has served on the school board for 12 years, did not run for reelection.

Lloyd, 41, of Markwood Street in Worthington, is the owner of sym-home, a residential design firm.

Needleman, 51, of Sefton Park Drive in Columbus, is a registered nurse who now is a stay-at-home mother.

Wilson, 67, of Baumock Burn Drive in Columbus, is a law professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

ThisWeek Worthington News posed three questions related to district issues to each candidate.

The district is balancing enrollment through feeder-pattern changes and upgrading facilities. Are any other measures needed to address higher enrollments in the lower grade levels in the district?

Lloyd: A very big concern I have is how we make sure we have room for all the students that are early elementary or not yet school age. Once sixth grade moves to the middle schools, it will free up space at some of our elementary buildings. In some buildings, like Evening Street, for example, we will still have too many students for that building, as sixth grade was moved to Kilbourne Middle School a couple years ago. I don't like modulars because they cost money and take away from the money that we need to address our aging facilities, but they have become necessary because of our reactionary approach to our increasing enrollment. We need to identify which elementary buildings we are going to address first, once more money becomes available, and explore other funding opportunities to address our elementary buildings sooner. This is a very real, time-sensitive challenge we have and we need facilities experience and creativity from both our board and administration to address it. I can bring that facilities experience to the table as I have been a part of over $450 million in school construction as a former employee of the Ohio School Facilities Commission. My background in architecture, construction and my work with K-12 school districts in the state of Ohio is what sets me apart. We do not have anyone on the current board who has background in overseeing the implementation of a master facilities plan and I believe having someone on the board with my professional experience will be critical for planning for the future and making sure tax dollars are spent in a way that is most effective.

Needleman: The current facilities master plan that was developed over two years by a community-driven task force will address the higher enrollments of the lower grade levels of our district. The approach of this plan is strong moving forward and will address the needs of each building individually. Implementing the phases of the facilities master plan while scrutinizing costs and adhering to the timeline as closely as possible, will address the needs of higher enrollments in our elementary schools.

Wilson: In the short term, we will probably have to add more temporary modular classrooms to our elementary schools until our middle schools are expanded and completed so that we can move our sixth-graders to the middle schools. After we finish expanding and renovating our elementary schools, we should have enough capacity without using temporary modules. Depending on actual enrollments after we have finished our elementary schools, there is a possibility that we may need to do some minor redistricting. If we have to do some redistricting, it is important that we keep neighborhoods together and that we have committees consisting of parents and residents to study all redistricting plans and make recommendations to the school board. Before I would vote for any redistricting plan, it would have to keep neighborhoods together, be recommended by a committee of parents and residents and be subject to extensive discussion and input from the entire community. I would want the redistricting committee to give ample time for study, comments and input by all residents before I could vote for any redistricting plan. This would be consistent with what the district did the last time we did redistricting in the 1990s. I served on several of those committees as a young parent, and the school board made sure that we gave ample time and opportunity for the community to provide comments and suggestions before we made our final recommendations to the school board.

Other than an increasing enrollment, what is another big challenge the district faces and how would you work to address it?

Lloyd: As our district continues to grow, it will continue to change in terms of our demographics. Worthington Schools is far more diverse from both a racial and socioeconomic perspective than it was 20 years ago. We have gone from a 4% free and reduced-price lunch rate to almost 30% today. We have students in our community with great needs, such as food, clothing and housing. We need to make sure we have teachers and staff who children of all backgrounds feel they can relate to. In addition, we need to make sure that training is being provided to our students, teachers, staff and community on topics such as diversity, inclusion, behavioral challenges, non-physical disabilities and implicit bias, for example. I would like to see Worthington adopt an educational series of programs much like Dublin's Parent University in which a variety of topics are offered to help educate not only parents, but our community as a whole. Some of the topics that could be presented could be those mentioned previously in addition to topics such as mental health, dyslexia education, college prep, career center options, health and wellness, etc. While we do have educational sessions occurring around our district now, I would like to see all of them as a coordinated offering. (Exceeded word limit)

Needleman: The mental health and the well-being of our students is a challenge for our district. The number of middle school and high school students struggling with anxiety and depression is on the rise. Our schools need to have programs and resources available to help students deal with anxiety and depression. We need to continue to add mental health professionals in our schools to identify kids that need help, and to aid them in finding resources for help.

Wilson: Our greatest challenge is making sure that we are educating lifelong learners who are life-ready so that all our students can realize their full potential, regardless of their ability level.

We must engage and challenge all our students regardless of their abilities. As an officer of the National School Boards Association, president of the Ohio School Boards Association and a member of several international education study groups, I have had the opportunity to visit and to study high-performing schools all over the country and the world. We must adapt for our students the evidence-based best practices that the best schools in the world are using to engage and challenge their students.

All our students are capable of learning and becoming lifelong learners. It is our obligation to implement best practices that create students who are engaged, challenged and eager to learn.

What is an area in which the district could improve and what do you envision as a solution?

Lloyd: 

I want to work to create stronger community partnerships and embrace the changing needs of our students, parents, teachers, staff and community. I believe that the key is to create stronger partnerships within Worthington Schools with the City of Worthington, City of Columbus, Perry Township, Sharon Township, Worthington Libraries, Worthington Youth Boosters, and SwimInc. to better plan for the future of the entire Worthington community. All of these groups have their own unique challenges, but all of us are part of a great community with the school district being the common bond.

What makes me uniquely qualified is that I’ve been involved with the City of Worthington, for over a decade. I’ve been involved with our school district having served as a Co-Chair of the Community Led Facilities Task Force. I have a child who participates in swimming for Worthington Swim Club and understand the challenges that our SwimInc. pool faces and the role that our school district has with the pool. While I do not have all the answers, I am very well aware of the challenges and the organizations that need to come together to make our ONE Worthington stronger.

Needleman: Unfunded state mandates are problematic for our school district and for our students. Beginning with the third-grade guarantee, students are given a single assessment with the results potentially causing a child to be held back. Graduation requirements in Ohio are also concerning. The graduation requirements have changed several times in the last few years and it is difficult to keep up with what is necessary for graduation.

We need to work with our state lawmakers to come to a solution regarding unfunded state mandates.

Wilson: While we have improved considerably in recent years, there is still room to improve our communications and engagement with the community. It is important that we seek recommendations and input from our residents before we make any major decisions, not afterward.

My solution would be to create a broad-based committee of residents to study and to make recommendations before the board makes a major decision. I believe that the administration could provide committees with researched, alternative solutions laying out the costs and benefits of each alternative before the committee makes its recommendation to the board.

Before any recommendation is voted on, however, it is critical that the entire community have the opportunity to study and provide feedback before a final vote. Our other needed improvement in the area of communications is our district websites. Some school websites are outdated. Others are difficult to navigate. Finally, we need a districtwide calendar so that residents only need to go to one website to find every public event that is occurring in our district on a particular day.

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