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Candidates in their own words: Lakewood School Board

HEBRON – Seven candidates are seeking three four-year terms on the Lakewood Schools Board of Education. We asked candidates to respond to the following three questions.

1. In 175 words or less, please explain whether you support the Lakewood School Board’s decision last fall to build a new football stadium and track before renovating/replacing Hebron Elementary School and why. How would you set spending priorities?

2. The Lakewood community appears to be coming apart: New stadium/track vrs. 104-year old elementary school; teachers’ lack of confidence in the superintendent; and a possible controversial contract extension for the superintendent. In 150 words or less, please explain how you as a board member would try to bring the community back together.

3. In 75 words or less, please explain why you believe voters should support you.

Chelsea Francis:

1. The Lakewood District is a vibrant community of passionate people. The Athletic Boosters are among the most hard-working volunteers known to our community. The stadium that they strived for is a beautiful addition to our district, and is sure to make Lakewood students proud for years to come. That being said, there remains a plethora of conflicting information regarding how it was funded, and why the decision to build it, at this point in time, was made without input from voters. As with most issues, the truth of the matter surely lies somewhere between the opposing stories. While I was not a member of the School Board when the decision was made to build the stadium ahead of the elementary school, our newly-elected School Board members must be prepared to mend the differences created by this decision. Going forward, it will be more important than ever to abide by the improvement priorities list previously created, so that we can restore the trust of our community, and create learning environments worthy of our students.

2. As a Lakewood School Board Member, it will be my duty to fully understand, question, and fix the many issues that are currently dividing our community. Transparency is key, as is willingness to listen to stakeholders. We must reposition our Board as the governing body of the District, in charge of ensuring that policies are followed by the Superintendent and all other staff members. At the same time, we must be willing to listen to the issues raised by teachers, students, and the community because they are the people “in the trenches.” I want to see Board Members in the school buildings, talking with teachers, parents and students. Special Board meetings, held at unreasonable times, must be a thing of the past, so that the public can easily access proceedings. When we understand the realities of our stakeholders, we are better positioned to lead the District in a positive direction.

3. I have been in the field of education for 17 years, including over a decade of classroom experience. I am a graduate of Lakewood, and have three children in the District. I am not afraid to ask the hard questions, and I do not shy away from the difficult decisions. For the sake of our families, I will not stand down when fairness or laws are in question. I appreciate your support on November 7th.

Tara Houdeshell:

1. I do not support our district completing a project of this magnitude BEFORE fully addressing the critical needs we have for a new elementary school. However, I do believe the stadium is an asset to our children and community. I have an incredible sense of pride when I watch our children giving their best in a facility that also demands their best.

If I were to question ten residents today about how they feel the stadium was funded, I likely would receive at least five different narratives. This highlights our community’s lack of trust, the feeling that the district operates without transparency and that there was not a clearly communicated and community-wide collaborative process that led to the building of the stadium. These are issues I vow to work on as a future school board member.

We must acknowledge our missteps managing this process, learn from them, commit to not repeating them and move on in solidarity. It’s time to move on.

Academic excellence should always be the first priority in spending.

2. I believe the most important component of communication is actively listening. Our district needs to learn how to listen to its teachers, staff, administration, families and students. Our Board members need to find common ground, which only they can find by first listening to each other with the goal of understanding.

I feel that transparency and open communication is critical to building trust and continuous improvement. I would work tirelessly with my Board colleagues to do all we can to provide meaningful engagement opportunities for the Lakewood community and all stakeholders to work toward common goals. I feel a series of round table discussions in various school buildings and in our community should begin immediately to facilitate discussion.

Healing begins first with listening and then through taking active measures to address common concerns. I whole-heartedly commit to being part of our community’s healing process.

3. My Lakewood roots run deep and I want to give back to our community. I care deeply about education and children and have spent the majority of my career advocating for both.

I believe that every Lakewood student deserves a great education, our teachers deserve the resources they need to help their learners succeed, and our community deserves transparency and accountability.

A vote for me truly is a vote for our children.

Jon Lynch:

1. I do not support the Board’s decision to build a new stadium and track before replacing Hebron Elementary, as I feel it was poor judgement to use tax money for a project, that by the board’s own admission, only benefits 35% of students. In addition, I think it was poor timing on the district’s part to give the community an impression that the district had plenty of money, knowing that they had 2 renewals coming up for a vote, and a new bond to the vot- ers for a new elementary school. Further, it deviated significantly from the facilities assessment the district spent thousands on to have completed. The district had to loan 2,800,000 with interest over 10 years as part of the project. They spent additional tax funds over the loan amount to cover the full cost. Perhaps it would have made more sense to complete the stadium in phases. Priorities specific to spending would be set by meeting with key stakeholders to reassess the needs of the district, examine the budget, and acting accordingly.

2. Having attended the 10/11/17 school board meeting, it is obvious to me that our community is not coming apart, but coming together. We are coming together to support our students, our teachers, and our schools. Not only the group that filled the library that night, but also the 150 signatures obtained on a petition in roughly 4 hours. This community wants to come to meetings again, offer suggestions again, and most of all, we want to be heard again. We want a School Board to lead this district again. One that delivers on the mission statement again, one that is truly a “unified partnership with families and communities”. As a board member, I will embrace the community, listen to our teachers and work for our students. I am committed to asking the tough questions, facing the tough problems, and above all else, placing our students and their academic achievements first.

3. In the last 7 years, I have volunteered over 280 hours in our schools. I have done my best to support the needs of our students, teachers, staff, and administration. I would like to think I have a reputation of being honest, fair, approachable, and have asked tough questions when required. I can no longer try to lead the district from the audience of school board meetings and ask for your support on November 7th.

Doyle Pertuset:

1. While I support the decision to build a stadium I do not agree with the vote of borrowing 2 million dollars to build it, while our students and staff make do with buildings that needs to be replaced. Spending money on a football stadium that should’ve went into the upkeep of our buildings, and the construction of a new elementary building. This would take the district to three buildings reducing the overall cost to the tax payers. They should have waited until 2018 to build the stadium. Here is what some understand, spring 2017 they borrow 2 million dollars to build football stadium then the fall 2017 the board ask for over 2 million dollar renewal levy. I understand one has nothing to do with the other, but there are those that does not understand that. Sometimes timing is everything, If they had waited until 2018 the district would have had little problem getting the levy to pass and by the time the levy was up for renewal again the stadium would’ve been history.

2. I would listen and respond to the each person as they come to the board with problems. Not using only my ideas or what I think is best. I would work to let the people of the district know and feel it is their district and I am there on the board as their representative. Making decisions based on the need of the children and the wants of the community. I would stop having so many special meetings. And I would not be afraid to let the people know what is going on inside and out. I’d take advantage of the Lakewood website and let the people know what is going on and get people involved through this site. I’d meet with the LTA, LACE and the leaders of the community for input and advice on major decisions. I’d walk the schools and reach out to the students.

3. I served on school board before. Started Flag Football in Hebron, was a volunteer Fire Fighter / EMT, Veteran of Air Force, rebuilt Canal Ball Fields. Started Evans Park. Sons and granddaughters graduated from Lakewood. Daughter goes to Lakewood. Wife retire Head Cook from Lakewood. Knows to listen to the people, not afraid of a challenge or to work for what is right, believes Together we can build a great future for our children.

Tim Phillips

1. I voted and was in favor of installing new turf. First it would provide a playing surface that many students could use; such as football (of course), band practice, soccer, spring baseball/softball practice, and hosting track events. It’s for the students. Second the Athletic Boosters worked hard in raising a considerable amount of money and I did not want to see their efforts wasted. I voted against the new stadium not because I didn’t want a new stadium but because I believed it cost too much and that our priorities were out of sync. The school improvements should have started first. Spending priorities must always be with a goal of improving student performance and outcomes. There are specific ways of improving student performance and outcomes, which need a further discussion.

2. I take exception to the statement that teachers lack confidence in the Superintendent. The one survey was completely bogus. I’ve talked with many teachers and they do support her. We should do an independent survey. As previously stated I was in favor of the new stadium but thought there were issues with cost and timing. I’m in favor of building a new school. As I stated in the Board meeting people need to attend at least some of the Board meetings on a regular basis. A discussion must begin on the items that were stated; bullying, professional development, children with learning disabilities, etc. The community must get involved in discussing solutions.

3. Vote for me because of the experience I have; 35 years in technology at Columbus City Schools, my years of experience as a technology consultant with schools in Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio and 6 1/2 years as a School Board member. I have a passion for education and research and reading about how to improve student performance and outcomes. I put many hours in every week in keeping current with the latest ideas.

Bill Pollard:

1. The kids of Lakewood deserve a nice football stadium. While the stadium is certainly a landmark in the community, it represents a conflict between needs and wants. The new elementary school was prioritized as the number 1 need and the stadium number 92. A better approach for the stadium involves a well thought out strategy involving multiple phases completed over time. Replacing the turf should have been phase 1 since that money was already raised. When I drive by the stadium it represents an inefficient use of funds. Only one contractor submitted a bid which included a 7% contingency. In my professional experience the lack of competition, driven by the extremely condensed time provided by the district to complete the stadium means that a risk premium which can run as high as 20% of the project was implied in the bid and then another 7% contingency was allowed in the fixed bid. The risk premium, 7% contingency and the dollars loaned by the district could have all been reallocated towards a new elementary school.

2.The school district is taking on many significant investments and there is clearly not alignment. If I was serving on the school board, I would start by working collaboratively with the students, teachers, board members, community and administration on a documented multi-year strategy and roadmap. You can’t possibly create alignment if people don’t understand where you ultimately want to end up. I believe that many of the current issues could be resolved with better communications and having a documented communication strategy and roadmap. Using tools like social and printed media and other means to make it convenient for the community to understand the progress and make it easy for them to be involved. The answer should not be “do you come to board meetings”. Be inclusive not exclusive, not everyone in the community can be available at 6:30 pm on a weeknight.

3. Having 2 children who were part of the Lakewood School district until graduation in 2017 has allowed me to see the opportunities. I can now be part of the solution, without concerns that decisions will negatively impact my children. I have a lot of experience with efficiently committing funds. I want to make every dollar, particularly bottom line dollars saved available for investment in academic success of students.

Judy White:

1. I support the stadium renovation. In Nov. 2013 the Athletic Boosters approached the BOE with their plan to resurface the field through fund-raising and donations. As their project developed it only made sense to support the booster project and complete the whole stadium with internal financing (like buying a car)not on a bond levy. In 2015 The community endorsed by the BOE developed the Facility Assessment citing hundreds of issues to tackle. The bleachers were #3. New vestibules, science labs, roofing, coping, MS renovation have also occurred as we respond to the assessment and continue to make improvements to meet our basic needs for a warm, safe, and dry environment. Our students have a contemporary, competitive platform to perform on—-now! It enhances property values…..The next project priority which is in community planning stage is to replace Hebron elementary. To do this we must first pass the 5-year Emergency Levy Renewal on Nov. 7…..and then look forward to asking for a bond levy in the spring. I am future-focused and forward-thinking.

2. It is true. There is division, discord, and mistrust. It is sad, very sad. The solution starts with my forgiveness of indiscretions, slights, miscommunication of others, and others to stop the negative hateful, calculated rhetoric. Keep an open dialogue. What a dynamic energy our district community would have if all the negativity was flipped into positive energy. We could become a model community….a warm inviting place in which to live, worship, shop and raise our families. We have great teachers at Lakewood, a vision for education, and sound leadership. I will continue to promote public education and our community in positive ways through my involvement in local and state organizations…ie, Buckeye Lake 2030 Trustee, the Ohio School Boards Association Trustee and others.

3. I have 12 years continuous service on this Board of Education. No one running has as much experience with the governance of Lakewood schools as I. My goal has been to prepare our students for college and/or careers. My daughter is a social studies teacher in her 17th year of teaching in another district. I support teachers, school administration, and my community. My involvement with the schools is extensive having served in many areas. Thank you for your support.

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