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Seven vie for Warren BOE seats

Three seats up for grabs and candidates have many ideas for schools

October 30, 2009
By Kate York,

The possibility of new schools is seen as the biggest issue facing the Warren Local district by the candidates competing for three open seats on the Board of Education in Tuesday's election.

Seven people, including two incumbents, are running for the three seats. Board member Dan Johnson, whose term is also expiring, did not file to run again.

The challengers

Two of the five contenders for the board seats have held positions in the district before in recent years.

Bob Crum, 61, of Belpre, was a two-term board member in the 1990s, while Sid Brackenridge, 62, of Little Hocking, retired as the district's treasurer in 2008.

"I think my learning curve in regard to the finances will be a lot less than anyone else's," said Brackenridge. "But I think it's my experience as a treasurer, as someone who's lived in the area my whole life, who's had children in the area and graduated in the area - because of all of that I know the needs of our children. And I want to help shape a good learning environment for them."

Fact Box

The candidates

Bob Allen, 52, of 25 Hillcrest Ave., Little Hocking.

Sidney Brackenridge, 62, of 205 Baker Road, Little Hocking.

Robert Crum, 61, of 173 Saint Andrews Blvd., Belpre.

Garry Marks, of 100 Lake Road, Belpre.

Dan McDermott, 48, of 1951 Graham Road, Cutler.

Douglas Reeder, 57, of 375 Lewis Pointe Drive, Vincent.

Phil Zeller, 43, of 200 White Oak St., Vincent.

Brackenridge said he would rely on voters to determine if the district should partner with the state to build new schools but does think the current buildings aren't benefiting the children.

"When kids are in the buildings and for the last hour-and-a-half of the day it's so hot that they're sleepy and lethargic, that doesn't work," he said. "They can't concentrate."

Crum, in the insurance business after 24 years in the U.S. Air Force, said he would like the board to explore how to have the entire community benefit from new buildings, should they be constructed.

"I think if the community does this, there should be more benefit for them," he said. "I'd like to see the schools opened up more, maybe to senior citizens as a place to go in the evenings for coffee and bingo. Someone might want to hold a family reunion in the cafeteria. When people ask what's the benefit for them for the increase in taxes, we should have an answer."

Crum, whose wife is a teacher at Barlow-Vincent Elementary, said he's also concerned about employee relations in the district, and employee benefits in particular.

"That's something I'd like to look at," he said. "And I think I'd be a good fit for the board because I communicate well and I have patience."

The new faces

Candidates Doug Reeder, 57, of Vincent, and Phil Zeller, 43, of Vincent, have never run for public office before, but both say they have a passion for education and a desire to serve.

"I just wanted to be able to help out," said Zeller, an engineer at DuPont. "There are the continuing struggles with reduced funding and the upcoming facilities issue.... I think we're at a point where we need to make some serious decisions and move forward."

Zeller said he wants to see more data on possible school construction but does thinks the current schools need updated.

"Getting the buildings replaced seems to be a good choice, but there may be some other good ideas out there that I would like to hear," he said.

Another goal he has is to work to get all of Warren's schools to achieve the state's highest ranking, Zeller said.

"I have a lot of energy for the school system, especially in a community like ours," he said. "The schools are the heart of the region and it's important to take care of them and make sure the future members of the community get an education."

Reeder, also an engineer at DuPont, said it's a sense of service that is driving him to run for the board. He supports building new schools right now, but said he is open to what the public wants.

"They're the final authority on that," he said. "But I think it's got to be done at some point, and this seems to be an opportune time because of the funds (about 55 percent) the state is willing to pay. Looking out several years from now, with the financial situation the state is in, they may start to back off of those offerings."

Reeder said he would prefer to keep schools in various areas of the district, rather than in one central location.

"Warren Local is a huge district," he said. "I think local schools are important."

Reeder said if elected he would also like to focus on community outreach, using the district's Web site and e-mail as communication tools.

Candidate Garry Marks, of Belpre, could not be reached for comment.

The incumbents

Current board members Dan McDermott, 48, of Cutler and Bob Allen, 52, of Little Hocking, say they'd like to remain on the board to finish projects and goals they've started.

"We have a lot of upcoming issues to get through," said McDermott. "Right now this board has a good working relationship, and that's definitely important."

McDermott, a construction superintendent, said he wants to remain as the district considers a major building/renovation project.

"I'm going to leave it up to voters which way we go, but I do have over 25 years of experience in construction," he said. "As a superintendent, I run work sites and understand what it takes to build buildings, keep them up and renovate them."

McDermott said he wants to make sure there is plenty of communication with the public as the board proceeds toward a possible bond issue.

"Right now I would probably give us a 'C' on communication," he said. "There's always room for improvement, and I think we need to make some changes. We'll be setting up some community meetings soon and really getting out there."

Allen, a board member appointed in March to fill a vacated seat, said he also thinks the current board is working very well together.

"We have a range of experience from all the people on the board, from someone like (McDermott) with construction experience to me with my budget and finance experience," said Allen, a senior project coordinator with Triad Engineering. "We all bring something to the table, and we work well with the administration."

He's waiting to hear the final financial analysis of repairing current buildings versus replacing them, he said, but thinks replacing the buildings will probably be the most cost-effective move for the district and could have academic benefits.

"If we were able to have a middle school, I would hope we could start to offer foreign language earlier," he said.

Allen said he also has plans for making better use of the district's Web site to educate parents and community members and recognize student achievement.

"I think we could be a lot more active with that as a whole," he said. "Eventually I'd like to have a class where students could post things about sporting events, academic honors, recognition of the band, FFA and all those organizations, and it would all be linked to our Web site."



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