A recent editorial by the Akron Beacon Journal:
Concerned citizens in recent months have turned out at school board meetings to air their dissatisfaction with pandemic-related decisions, as well as suspicions about anti-racism lessons.
The government meetings that once attracted little notice have at times made national headlines, as when Hudson’s mayor asked all five school board members to resign. He claimed, falsely, that a book of writing prompts available to a high school class was child pornography.
Some residents tired of the status quo are doing more than speaking out — they’ve put their names on local ballots as candidates for school board.
While it may sound appealing to have “new blood” on a school board, we urge voters to spend time researching their candidates thoroughly. More candidates these days seem to have a narrow focus on hot-button issues. Any changes they help institute once on the board could have far-reaching effects.
Decisions on issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, have major consequences. Not enough caution, and students and staff can become seriously ill with the disease or spread it throughout the community.
Disease prevention and containment have weighed heavily on the elected officials making up our school boards. No decision can please everyone, but until vaccination rates go much higher (Ohio stands at only 51.4% fully vaccinated), vigilance is in order.
While resources such as the Beacon Journal’s Voter Guide are a great place to learn about races, residents may want to do more homework to find out about their candidates. What are they saying at public meetings and on social media? What’s their history in your community?
A candidate for the Cuyahoga Falls board, Betty Sprague, says in the Voter Guide that she plans to fight for parents’ rights. That sounds great. But an Oct. 15 Beacon Journal report notes that on “social media, (Sprague) refers to masks as ‘muzzles’ and the vaccine as the ‘Fouchy Ouchy.’”
A look through Facebook takes us to the Stow Conservative Coalition, which touts the candidacy of Gary Paskey for Stow-Munroe Falls school board. The coalition says Paskey will fight to keep schools free of critical race theory (an obscure academic term repurposed by Trump followers to tar and feather re-examiners of America’s history).
A look at Paskey’s own Facebook page finds that he is against mask and vaccine mandates in schools. A woman replying to one of his posts said she is disappointed in his priorities as “there are real issues the kids in our district face.”
Her feeling is echoed in the Nordonia Hills race, where five people are running for three seats.
In answering a question about “the most significant issues facing the Board,” Nordonia candidate Tim Ellis says in the Voter Guide, “Judging by social media posts one would think masking of students and staff is the most significant issue. However, while discussing issues with many members of the community over the past few months the number one topic they are concerned about is school finances, ever-increasing taxes and a lack of accountability/ transparency from the district….”
This likely is true just about everywhere.
Decisions on whether to repair or replace buildings can cost tens of millions of dollars. Thousands of students are affected by decisions on budgets and staffing.
How are teachers and other staff being equipped to help each student become as successful as possible in academics and athletics? Schools must be ready to prepare the next generation of doctors, entrepreneurs, community leaders and good parents.
School board members — even those with degrees in education and experience in the classroom — must remember they are not the experts. The experts are the trained professionals who interact daily with children from many different cultures and backgrounds who have a range of talents and needs.
Hiring the district superintendent and treasurer, establishing district policies and ratifying decisions on the budget and staff are the board’s job. And when the board performs competently, it undoubtedly helps at levy time and could help avoid painful spending cuts and staff layoffs.
Communities, after all, want to have pride in their athletic teams, school buildings, school employees and graduates. School board members should be committed to those values — not to conspiracy theories and fear.
— Akron Beacon Journal, Oct. 24