CENTERBURG — The Centerburg school family had the chance to learn more about its school board candidates during a Meet the Candidates event held Monday in the high school theater.
Leroy Bumpus, Shawn Christy, Roger Clark, Terrie Lewis, Nicole McVicker and Jason Rogers told a sparse audience their reasons for running for school board, and briefly outlined their qualifications. Dave Humphrey of the Centerburg Area Business Association asked the contenders two questions, which were developed with the assistance of the high school journalism class.
He first asked, “What do you aim to accomplish in the next term, if elected?”
Incumbent Bumpus said stabilizing the district’s finances would be one of his priorities.
“Funding in our district is 60 percent dependent on state funding,” he said, “with only 40 percent raised locally. Last year we had a $5 million carryover. We have not asked for new money since 1998 and the last operating levy was in 1989. We have challenges on our hands and it will be a challenge to manage our finances.”
He also talked about the Ohio Legislature working for 20 years to come up with better plan to fund schools other than local property taxes. Current education funds, he said, are tied up with video lottery terminals at the racetracks and that could take quite a while before it’s resolved, if ever.
Christy said there are two things he would like to see accomplished. The first is financial issues. As the Mount Vernon fire chief, he said, he oversees all of the budget issues for the department and feels this has prepared him to help make those same budget decisions for the district.
“We need long-term planning to help the district as a whole,” he said.
The second thing was better communication. Christy would like to see round table discussions or more face-to-face opportunities between the public and school board members to get a better feel for what the people have to say and their concerns.
Incumbent Clark would work with parents, teachers, students and administrators to find ways to help students increase their scores on the ACT and other tests. He said it is very important for parents to be involved in their children’s education and to foster expectations of achievement.
Lewis, McVicker and Rogers would like to see the 4 p.m. time of the monthly school board meetings changed. They said a later time would encourage more community attendance and parental participation.
Lewis also said it is time to “put pride back in the schools,” to have a more open-door policy and increase respect on all sides. She would encourage the district to look for grants and other funding resources.
Teamwork is McVicker’s main priority. She said the whole school community needs to come together for the good of the students, to generate fresh ideas and generally increase enthusiasm.
Rogers believes it is necessary to get creative with regard to the district’s finances. He would go to the people who know the school situation best, teachers and administrators for example, and get their input as to what spending cuts could be made. He said it is important to look at and consider “cutting a dollar here and a dollar there” because every little bit helps the bottom line.
Humphrey’s second question was, “What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing the district?”
“Education is always a challenge,” Bumpus said.
Speaking of Centerburg being blessed with an outstanding student body and dedicated teaching staff, Bumpus said there is a need to continue to search for ways to broaden their educational base and continue to utilize alternative ways, such as advanced placement classes, to add to the curriculum. He would continue to work to meet the challenge of helping students leave high school qualified for life and/or higher education opportunities.
Lewis listed three challenges. The first is finding ways to fund up-to-date software and hardware. She suggested looking outside the community for donations of the actual equipment and/or money with which it could be purchased. The second challenge is increasing test scores and making sure the students are ready for the tests.
“We have a great staff,” Lewis said. “Another challenge is to make sure they are all in the right spot.”
She would also support increased professional development opportunities to maintain a quality faculty.
Christy, Clark, McVicker and Rogers all said the district’s finances are the major challenge. Christy said he would look at ways to be creative and involve teachers, staff members and even parents in looking at where expenditures could be reduced.
“We need to search for solutions together,” he said.
Christy said it is also important to increase communication with parents, students, staff and all community members and to continue to provide technology programs and strengthen bonds with the career center.
Clark added he feels a continuing challenge is how to best “prepare students for life beyond these four walls.”
“We want to offer everything we can from sports to fine arts to advanced classes, but sometimes the money just isn’t there,” said McVicker, again speaking of the importance of teamwork and the need for everyone to pull together.
“I want 100 percent from everybody,” she said. “Teachers, administrators students and parents themselves.”
Rogers said another challenge is how to increase tests scores.