BETHEL TWP. — This November, voters in Bethel Township must choose between eight candidates for three open seats on the Bethel Local Schools board of education.
All three incumbent board members, Scott Hawthorn, Brian Moore and Joe Solch, are seeking reelection. The five challengers include a retired Bethel teacher and a recent Bethel High School graduate, as well as others from various backgrounds.
The following is a list of answered questionnaires submitted by the candidates to the Troy Daily News. Responses have been edited for length.
• DANNY ELAM
Family: Wife of 35 years, Tammy; sons, Danny III, Mitchell, David; four grandsons and one granddaughter.
Occupation: Retired public school teacher.
Previous political experience: None.
Qualifications: I have been a township resident since 1969 and a Bethel graduate. I was a teacher at Bethel High School for 29 years. I have handled large sums of money in my position as band/choir director and know how to stay within a budget.
Reason for seeking office: Having experienced the tension between staff and administration before I retired, I hope to improve overall staff/administration relations. I also will work for better communication with the community and for better use of district funds.
Goals for office if elected: To establish equity in salary of veteran teachers and new hires. Balance within the general fund between buildings and maintenance and staff costs.
What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed: I believe the greatest need is the re-establishment of trust between the board and the community.
• JENNIFER EVANS
Family: Husband, Garrett, and children, Jacob, Jared and Emma.
Occupation: Elementary education teacher at Tecumseh Local Schools.
Previous political experience: None.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s in elementary education from Wright State University, master’s in educational leadership from The University of Dayton. Those studies included: Educational leadership, supervision and professional development, instructional leadership, curriculum, school law, community relations, leadership in diverse communities and school finance.
Reason for seeking office: I decided to run for Bethel Local School Board because I felt like there needed to be change at Bethel. As a parent and community member, I have heard about too many issues occurring at the school. There needs to be better communication between the board and the community. There needs to be improved administration/teacher relationships. The board needs to set fiscal restraints on spending. I feel like I could make positive changes in the system.
Goals for office if elected: As a board member, I would look at the item analysis on spending to see if cuts could be made without limiting necessary materials for teacher and students. I would closely monitor spending to restore/repair the old buildings by making sure several bids are considered. I would explore all options to maintain and increase fiscal money entering the district. I would like to create a liaison committee between the administration and the teachers. The administration and teachers could work together to solve some of the issues and concerns occurring in the buildings. As a member of the school board, I would like to survey the staff yearly in regards to school board members, principals and superintendent.
What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed: I think the greatest need to be addressed first is the administration/teacher relationship. In order for a school to run efficiently, the staff needs to work together in a safe, comfortable and respectable environment. Tension within the buildings, does not present the best working environment for teachers. The success of our school depends on the teachers. They are the heart and soul of the buildings and district.
• SCOTT HAWTHORN
Family: Winfield, a 2014 graduate of Bethel, Evan, a 2016 graduate of Bethel, and Alaina, a senior at Bethel.
Occupation: Physicist/Business Owner of Lightstorm Research
Previous political experience: Member of the Bethel Board of Education for the last eight years.
Qualifications: Eight years of experience as a Board member in this district, business owner, numerous volunteer positions with the school including levy campaigns, science fair judge, youth coach, technology advancement committee, Bethel alumni wife, three kids each Bethel students for 13 years.
Reason for seeking office: Bethel is the fastest growing school district in Ohio right now, and is therefore facing many challenges. With this rate of rapid change, experience is needed in the leadership of the school. There is not time for the steep learning curve that is required of a new board member. I have learned a lot in the past eight years as a board member and in the levy campaigns I participated even before becoming a board member. I believe the kids deserve the strong, experienced leadership and stability in this time of rapid change, that I am able to offer.
Goals for office if elected: My goal if elected is to provide experience and stability through this time of drastic change in enrollment and associated financial strain. We need to continue to manage the growth and see if/when we will need to build additional space. This requires us to watch our finances very closely, especially during the ongoing teacher negotiations since salaries/benefits account for 70 percent of our operating budget. I believe the growth in school salaries needs to be in sync with the community salary growth. It is the duty of public organizations to maintain a balanced budget that represents the available support of the community. I intend to continue to support Superintendent Virginia Potter and her staff in their mission to develop newer advanced curriculum for the 21 st century and streamline our operations.
What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed: The teacher negotiations need to be resolved as soon as possible. This unresolved contract has created a divide in the community, as well as a divide amongst the teachers, which is not healthy for the atmosphere in our school. I am in favor of holding open negotiations. In Minnesota, contract negotiations for government and public employees’ unions are open to the public, since the public is paying for the salaries of both sides of the negotiation table. I think this is especially important when the best interest of our students is at stake.
• CHASE HECK
Family: My parents are Bill and Marsha Heck. My sister is Connor Heck.
Occupation: Wright State University Mechanical Engineering student.
Previous political experience: No professional political experience. However, I ran a successful campaign for class president in high school.
Qualifications: I have multiple qualifications for the board of education, but the qualification which makes me unique and stand out from the other candidates is my youth. I am 19 years old, and I graduated from Bethel in 2016 as the valedictorian of my class. I can relate with student and teacher concerns on a whole different level than the other board candidates because I have actually experienced what Bethel Schools is currently like. (My) degree heavily employs the use of mathematics and data analysis. I am currently running for public office, playing music for two bands with rigorous practice schedules, and also maintaining a 4.0 GPA in college while taking 19 credit hours worth of classes. I will bring this same level of order and structure to the board of education if I am elected.
Reason for seeking office: I am running for the board of education because I want to give back to my community. I want to ensure every student who attends Bethel Schools will have the same amazing memories and experiences I had.
Goals for office if elected: Restore the relationship between the administration and the staff/community. Have more public input during meetings of the board, answer community questions more directly, and to better inform the public of decisions, agenda changes, and time changes for meetings. Ensure the financial stability of the district for the years to come. I would propose creating a council made up of one or two board members, teachers from various grade levels, and maybe even a few community members. This council can meet to address concerns and resolve disputes before they turn into bigger problems. I would suggest looking into an automated text system to update the public with updated meeting times and agendas/minutes. The school board has stated that an additional levy will need to be placed on the ballot by as early as 2018 to fund the school. I do not wish to be the one to say it, but another levy may be necessary to keep the school operational. However, I would start with cutting as many non-essential expenditures as possible. If something is not broken, it can be fixed at a later time when there is more money in the budget. Fiscal responsibility needs to be combined with practically in order to ensure the monetary stability of the school district.
What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed: If I am elected, the greatest need (besides the teacher’s contract) to be addressed would be to help restore administration-staff/community relations. Our teachers and staff cannot work under constant fear and retribution from the administration. This dispute between the administration and the staff gets indirectly taken out on the students, and we as a community cannot allow this to happen anymore. I felt the tension between the two groups while I was in high school, and it was very troublesome. This is why it would be my top priority if I am elected.
• JACOB KING
Family: Wife, Heather, son Cody King (22), and daughters Ciara (Bethel alumni, 21) Kiana (Bethel junior), Kory (Bethel freshman), and Maleah and Mariah (Bethel Kindergarten, twins).
Occupation: Fire Chief at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Bethel Township (Clark County) Volunteer Fire Department.
Previous political experience: None.
Qualifications: I have a deeply rooted sense of community service, established by my parents service to the community I grew up in. I have served in the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserves, numerous volunteer fire departments, Boy Scouts and helped with Girl Scouts. I currently provide community service … as president of Montgomery County Fire Chiefs and president of Clark County Fire and Emergency Services Organization. In both departments, I serve with over 150 personnel, with full time union employees, part-time and volunteers. Organizing and operating multi-million dollar budget, to effectively serve our communities. Effectively negotiated union contracts that have involved several hundred people, located all over the United States, and several local union contracts.
Reason for seeking office: I have felt the current school board has not handled the growth, new building project or daily business of district effectively. I feel they have no transparency to spending, decision being made and violate the Ohio Sunshine Law at most meetings. They have made policies that do not reflect our community needs.
Goals for office if elected: Increase transparency, raise morale and establish a partnership with Bethel Education Association and the Leadership of the School.
What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed: Finding resolutions that are amendable for both sides to complete contract negations. Ensure the discussions are handled with dignity and respect for the teachers. I would have an open mind coming into these discussions, while also understanding the pay inequalities amongst teachers. Managing the growth of the district currently and predicted future growth. Accommodating the teachers with appropriate classroom sizes, looking at open enrollment, efficiently doing the most for the greater need, maximizing available space for classrooms. Establishing fiscal responsibility, with an anticipated deficit currently projected in the projected budget starting in 2019. Increase transparency to the community on spending, to ensure all members have access to see what their tax dollars are paying for. Stop unneeded spending, by not purchasing luxury or items that are used for aesthetics and not for the learning environment.
• BRIAN MOORE
Family: Wife of 20 years, Dawn, and children, Zachary, Bethel graduate; Brandon, Bethel junior; Karley, Bethel seventh grader; and Savannah, Bethelfirst grader.
Previous political experience: Bethel Local Schools Board of Education member 2014-2017, and board vice president 2016 – 2017.
Qualifications: My professional experience combined with the working knowledge of being a board member for the last four years makes me the top candidate. The scope of our decision making responsibilities in the last four years included the need to hire a superintendent, treasurer, meeting with financial advisors to develop our building bond issue, designing a new Bethel high school, negotiations with the teachers’ contract, implementing a Bethel middle school, communicating to the public, and being on budget for the $22 million high school building project. This does not even include the hundreds of routine decision impacting NEOLA and other state changes that had to be made to the school operating policies. I am confident my experience can help lead the School Board moving into the future. Being an elected representative for four years, I understand my responsibility and take it very seriously.
Reason for seeking office: In 2013, the school needed to address the significant student population growth. I wanted to be on the solution side of the problem. We were going to need to address the growth quickly. I was elected in November 2013 then started my term in January 2014. The reason I am running for another term is because we just moved into the new high school that we as a community voted to build and then worked so hard to design and construct. I am proud of what we designed and want to be an active member of the board for the next four years to continue to our commitment to having a 21st century school for the children.
Goals for office if elected: I prioritize that the students come first. It is about their academics, athletics and the arts. my job as a board member is to make the policies for the administration to enforce. In the last four years, we designed our new high school as a STEAM facility which is Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. This will prepare students for a 21st century learning experience. While working with the administration to provide policies for a safe and secure campus for the students.
What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed: Bethel Local Schools has the fastest rate of student growth in the state of Ohio. Based on the classification of being a capped district in 2017, we must address our existing financial challenges within the resources of our community. We must maintain the old building keeping it fully operational with property improvement expenses for the repairs.
• JULIE REESE
Family: I am married to Bruce Durst, a Bethel ‘71 graduate. He has two children who both attended Bethel. My Brother, Jim, and his family also live in the community.
Occupation: Retired from the IBM Corporation, currently enjoying life farming and raising cattle.
Previous political experience:None
Qualifications: I have a strong business background and 30-plus years of experience at IBM as a team leader, project manager, educator, and conference/trade show organizer. My project manager duties included planning, budgeting, scheduling, communicating, negotiating, problem solving, and prioritizing — all skills needed to be a good board member. Since leaving the corporate world, I have embarked on a second life with my husband farming and raising cattle, where I also plan and handle all financial aspects of our business. I will bring common sense back to the policies that govern our school.
Reason for seeking office: Based on my personal experiences with the board, I believe sweeping change is needed. I am very troubled by the lack of open communication and the absence of a true partnership between the BOE and the community. I would like more fiscal transparency. I do not believe we are spending our funds as wisely as we could to provide maximum benefit to our children. I am concerned by the absence of detailed short- and long-term plans in order to anticipate and meet the challenges of our growth explosion. There is a rift between the BOE/Administration and the teachers that needs to be healed.
Goals for office if elected: To implement responsible, transparent spending. I will prioritize our necessary projects and repairs above our “wish list” items. I propose that Bethel Schools use the Ohio Checkbook so all spending is transparent to the public. To open up communication between the BOE and the community. I will invite and value community input, and encourage open debate on all board agenda items. To develop detailed short- and long-term plans to allow us to pro-actively tackle our current and future challenges. To ensure all our children are offered the best educational experience possible in a secure and safe environment.
What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed: According to the current BOE, we are deficit spending – our expenditures exceed our incoming revenue. Financial stability is key to providing our children everything they need to become highly-educated, well-rounded, successful adults.
• JOE SOLCH
Family: Wife, Martha, and children Kristina M. Laughman, DVM, and Michael J. Solch.
Occupation: Analytical chemist, 40 years at Wright State University.
Previous political experience: 12 years on Bethel Local Schools Board of Education
Qualifications: Not only have I been a board member for 12 years, but I have participated in every school levy during the past 14 years. I also spent the last three years as a member of the Bethel High School building design and construction team. I am the only current or prospective board member teaching science at the college level where I interact with college students from many school districts. This provides me with a unique perspective on the current challenges of science education in schools.
Reason for seeking office: As a 36 year resident of Bethel Township, my children attended the Bethel School system their entire lives. They received a good education that was a direct result of the efforts made by many previous Board of Education members. I want to continue to participate in the process of helping improve our schools. If re-elected, I will work to see that the school provides the best education possible.
Goals for office if elected: Making the correct decisions for the best future of our children is my most important goal. Continued efforts are required to address issues associated with the approximately 100 new students per year in district growth that is occurring. All schools are facing challenges in adapting to technological changes in education. The continually changing state of Ohio graduation requirements will require altering instruction to improve proficiency scores. Adequate resources must be dedicated for teachers to obtain training and support in order to be able to help students perform well on the constantly changing evaluations.
What do you see as the greatest need to be addressed: If the contract dispute with district teachers has not been settled, then solving the contract issues will be the immediate short-term need. Otherwise the greatest need will be to resume planning for renovations to existing space that will be required for the 100-plus additional students projected during each of the next four years. Like any school, Bethel needs three to four more classrooms and qualified teachers for every 100 additional students. This is a huge problem to solve in terms of planning and resources.
Reach Cecilia at cfox@AIMmediamidwest.com.