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Candidates respond to questions — Warren Board of Education

October 29, 2009
Marietta Times
Warren Board of Education (three seats)
1. What do you or would you bring to the table as a member of the board of education?
2. As the district considers a building project in the next year, do you favor further consolidation or trying to keep the current number of schools?
3. Do you agree with the board’s decision to spend $189,000 to replace a heavily leaking roof, which inspectors said could not be patched, even though the district may be getting new buildings in a couple of years? Why or why not?
4. What steps does the district need to take to make the best use of its money?
5. Beyond repairs and/or new buildings, what are the greatest needs of the school district?
Bob Allen
Occupation: Senior project coordinator, Triad Engineering.
Family: Wife, Carole; children, Spenser Allen, a senior at Warren High School, Meagan Allen Powers, of Williamsburg,  Ohio , and Chris Smith, of Parkersburg.
Previous offices held/sought: Appointed to the Warren Local School District Board of Education in March, served on various committees for the district over the past 15 years.

1. I bring the following skills and experience to the WLSD Board of Education:
Extensive experience in dealing with budgets,

Ability to listen attentively to large amounts of information and analyze the information to make a prudent decision,

Experience facilitating public meetings and interaction with members of communities from a wide range of backgrounds. This experience aids me in understanding comments of WLSD residents, students, staff and administrators,
Training received from the Ohio School Board Association,

Lengthy service to the Warren Local Schools in various capacities,

A good working relationship with the WLSD administration.

2. I am in favor of keeping three elementary schools and the high school. If residents support new facilities by passing a bond issue, I see the need for a middle school, with the grade range of the middle school to be determined by educators and residents. Community schools are one of the traits I most like about WLSD. Having community schools minimizes lengthy bus rides for young students. Our schools’ purpose is the education of our students. Our schools also serve as hubs for our communities. As a rural school district we need schools to be open for community activities.

3. I voted for replacing the roof. I did not want to waste taxpayers’ money, but also did not want to jeopardize the safety of students and staff. The board evaluated input from architects, roofing experts and others. There was no method of making a less costly repair to the roof. State code required the roof of the building to be removed, due to the number of layers of roofing on the building. It came down to protecting the safety and health of our children and staff from leaks which may have resulted in falls and respiratory problems or saving funds.

4. Evaluate all aspects of the Warren Local School District to ensure funds spent result in continual improvement in the education of students in our district. At the same time, the district must allocate funds to ensure it meets state and federal education guidelines. The district is in the process of developing a plan that inventories district assets, identifies useful life of assets, the expected cost to replace the assets and impact the loss of the asset has on the education of our students. This plan will aid in guiding the district’s spending toward continual improvement of our students’ education.

5. Our district needs to increase the use of technology in educating our students and in communicating with parents and district residents. Our students compete with others from across the state and nation for scholarships, education and later careers. This requires our schools to constantly evolve and improve. WLSD’s curriculum must evolve to prepare our students for post-secondary education, trade schools and other career opportunities. This continual improvement in education should be supported by more after-school assistance to aid students. We should also prepare for the proposed state mandate of extending the school year.
Sidney Brackenridge
Age: 62.
Occupation: Retired school treasurer and business accountant.
Family: Wife, Lois; two adult children; four grandchildren.
Previous offices held/sought: None; served as the treasurer and clerk for the Warren Local Board of Education for nine-plus years.

1. I would bring to the table the nine years of direct experience of the State of Ohio educational system: both the financial side of the system and the educational environmental relationship of the facilities, the students, the teachers and the learning tools necessary for an effective educational district. I would bring over 30 years of business-related financial experience. And I would bring over 60 years of familiarity with the Warren Local District. It is the district from which I and my wife graduated, as well as my two adult children, and where I have served with several community organizations.

2. I believe that Warren Local School District is already a consolidated school district. The configuration of the buildings as the potential building project is being considered needs to be done in a manner that equally serves all 2,600 students’ modern-day educational needs.

3. Generally speaking, I would prefer replacing a heavily damaged leaking roof and not just patching. However the discussion of the board was in regard as to how much to spend to make the roof provide a dry environment till a decision on the building was reached. The board reached a split decision with the majority in favor of replacing the roof. Once that decision has been reached, I would support the majority.

4. The district needs to review the students’ educational needs, which prepares its students for their future. Our district is a residential/agricultural community, with five identifiable villages and no central governing body for any of those communities. Our students must understand their residential/agricultural roots and be prepared for a society that leans toward large communities, large corporations and a globalization of opportunities.

5. The greatest needs are to establish a stable and experienced administrative staff, and a teaching and support staff with exceptional professional development. With an experienced and stable administrative staff, you can achieve a stable professional development, which then can be used in a consistent manner to provide the educational environment that our students need for their future.
Robert Crum
(answers not submitted)
Garry Marks
(could not be reached)
Dan McDermott
Age: 48.
Occupation: Construction superintendent.
Family: Wife, Kim; sons, Kyle, Scott and Mark.
Previous offices held: Warren Board of Education member for one term.
Editor’s note: Instead of answers to the questions submitted, McDermott provided this statement.

I have over 25 years experience in construction, which the board will need someone with those qualifications in the upcoming years as we will need to build new schools or repair the existing ones.

After one term on the board, I have a good understanding how our district functions and believe I can continue to help make good decisions for the taxpayers of our district.

I am running again because our district has a lot of challenging decisions to make in the upcoming years, and I am willing to spend the time and the effort to help our district make responsible decisions.
R. Douglas Reeder
Age: 57.
Occupation: Control systems engineer, DuPont.
Family: Wife, Kathy; adult children, Erik and Mark.
Previous offices held/sought: None.

1. I would bring a high level of enthusiasm and problem-solving abilities. Through my life, whether at work, church or some other organization, I have learned to be a team player, express myself effectively and know how to reach consensus. I am a problem-solver and used to dealing with large volumes of information in my work.
There are two principles I have tried to use when working with people... be able to put myself “in the shoes of another person” to understand their point of view and why they act and think they way they do and don’t let how others (exceeded limit).

2. Two schools in the Warren Local district were closed last year. I would think the number of schools (four) we now have in this large geographical district would be necessary to maintain a sense of community in the schools and minimize student commute time.

3. I don’t want to second-guess what others who are responsible for determining the needs for this particular roof have done. I don’t have the information they are privy to in coming to this decision.

There are some circumstances that I can envision that would have an effect on this decision. They are:

a. If the district had an authorized bond measure (which there isn’t) to build new schools, that might have affected the decision.

b. Is the leaking roof causing or can it potentially cause a safety or health hazard?

c. Do we have several expert opinions on the ability (exceeded limit)

4. Prioritize expenditures so the most important items are funded. Also, look for less expensive ways to fund line items in the budget and eliminate wastes.
The community helps fund the schools. The people need to see the benefit of their taxes going to fund day-to-day student education and perhaps new or updated facilities. Effective communication is the key. If the public doesn’t catch the vision of the need and the benefits versus the costs, they will not vote for operating and bond levies.

5. Other issues of priority are overall financial outlook for the district, especially given cutbacks from state funding and communications between administration and teachers.

Students should be provided with an outstanding education that prepares them for productive employment and further education. Teachers should be valued, committed, motivated, and equipped for the challenge of educating their students.
Phillip (Phil) Zeller
Age: 43.
Occupation: Senior engineer with DuPont.
Family: Wife, Laura; two daughters, both 16, attending Warren High School, and a son, 10, attending Barlow-Vincent Elementary.
Previous offices held/sought: None.

1. My own education in Indiana occurred in a system similar in size and demographics to Warren’s. In addition, my three children have all grown up in this system. This combination of experiences provides me with an understanding of some of the challenges this school district faces. I bring a very strong value for each child receiving a well-rounded education. A well-performing school system, which provides a wide variety of opportunities, is the centerpiece to a healthy, prosperous community. I also bring many years of experience working successfully with various organizations and committees within DuPont and the community.

2. Many of the classes in all the schools are crowded with student-to-teacher ratios not where we would like them to be. The school district faces, and will continue to face, restricted funding from both property tax revenues and state funding. The primary focus must always be how best to serve the educational needs of the students and staff given these continuing financial constraints. I personally do not envision the need to close another school in the near future. However, this will mean being even more creative in managing the tightening school system budget.

3. A school building program will take several years to complete, assuming the community supports a project in the first place. The roof issue is an immediate one, requiring immediate response. Current student and staff should be able to work and study in a building whose roof does not create the distractions and potential health concerns caused by severe roof leakage. The school board has attempted to gain financial remediation from the original contractor who rebuilt the roof. However, with that contractor in bankruptcy, that was not going to be possible. Spending the money on roof repair was the best option.

4. The board and administration should continue to encourage and support every employee to search for ways to do more with less. This approach is important for managing the school system on a strict budget. The board and administration must also look for creative ways to generate the additional funds needed to maintain top-notch educational programs throughout the system. Finally, the board and administration must continually review all activities with an eye toward improving efficiency and challenging the need and benefit of each activity.

5. The goal for the Warren Local system should be to deliver top-notch educational basics for all children. Additionally, the system should provide a variety of educational opportunities to fit the broad range of children who attend classes so that each student leaves the system as well-rounded and well-prepared as possible. The district will continue to face tight budgets for the foreseeable future. It will be important that the district continue to look for creative ways to not only maintain, but continually improve overall student education while operating within these ever-tightening financial restrictions.


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