Betsy Shank, top left, Daniel Minera, Marcia Futel, Martha Good, Melanie Bates, Elisa Hoffman, Ericka Copeland-Dansby, Sally O'Callaghan, and Victoria Straughn.  
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Cincinnati Public Schools board candidates make their cases for election in a crowded but open field

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CINCINNATI – This year’s race for the Cincinnati Public Schools board is unusually wide open, with nine candidates with long resumes running for four seats. Just one incumbent, Melanie Bates, is in the field.

Fixing the lowest performing schools, expanding preschool offerings and expanding and improving the district’s Community Learning Centers have emerged as top issues.

WCPO posed the same six questions to each candidates. What follows are their responses.

Elisa Hoffman

 

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Biography: I have dedicated my entire professional career, 17 years, to education. I taught for seven years in high-poverty schools and have worked on staff at Teach For America for 10 years, specifically in recruitment and hiring. My work in education is dedicated to eliminating educational inequity and ensuring that all children have access to a transformative education. My husband and I are raising fifth-generation Cincinnatians. Our twin four-year-olds are in their last year of preschool, so we will have two CPS kids next year.

Why are you running for the school board?

We must improve academic achievement throughout CPS so that all children reach their potential. As a parent and former teacher, I understand how important a great education is to each of our children, and that excellent schools are vital for Cincinnati to be a growing, vibrant city that keeps young families in its neighborhoods. But last year, only 66 percent of CPS students graduated on time. We must do better – for my kids, your kids, and kids across the city.

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

I’ve worked in education for my entire career. As a former teacher, I know how difficult the job is but also that all children can succeed when we properly support teachers, families, and students. For the last decade, I’ve worked in recruitment and hiring of outstanding educators and can help CPS develop a better system to hire and support top teaching talent. Finally, as a parent, I am deeply invested in making decisions that focus on what is best for children.

What are your top priorities for the district?

My top priority is to improve academic achievement for all of our students. As a school board member, I'll work urgently to make sure we have great schools in every neighborhood by focusing on parents, preschool, and people. I'll listen to parents and community members and respond to your questions, ideas, and concerns; increase the number of high-quality preschool seats in CPS so that our children enter kindergarten on track; and hire and support great teachers and principals.

What is the single biggest shortcoming of the school district and what would you do to fix it?

With hundreds of teachers retiring every year, we must improve our hiring system to replace them with the best new talent, and then provide support to develop and retain our teachers. Research shows that teachers are the most important in-school factor contributing to student success, so must invest in our teachers. I’ve spent the last decade working in recruitment, hiring, and staff support, and will bring this experience to help solve this critical issue for CPS.

All the candidates want to eliminate campouts at the top magnet schools by making every school excellent. While working toward that goal, should the first-come, first-serve enrollment option remain at Fairview Clifton Language School and others? Why or why not?

No parent should have to camp out to keep their child from attending a failing school. But camping out is especially a problem in CPS where most of our students are economically disadvantaged. Even the most dedicated parents can’t camp out if they have jobs without vacation time and are docked pay, or don’t have networks to care for their kids during a camp out. To find a more equitable system for accessing magnet schools, we should restart a conversation with a diverse group of families and educators.

Is the school district adequately funded or should additional revenue be raised?

Before asking for additional funding, we must first examine where and how we are currently spending our money, and then ensure we are investing it in the areas that research shows provide the highest impact on student achievement. Only after we have a clear answer to how we are spending our money and a transparent system for ongoing communication of this information with the public, should we consider asking for additional revenue.

 

Daniel Minera

 

 

Biography: Director of Hispanic Outreach, City Gospel Mission; Pastor of Outreach and Missions, Amigo Ministries; Pre-Med, University of Cincinnati; Emergency Medical Technician, University of Cincinnati. Member of Local School Decision Making Committee, Roberts Academy; tutor and mentor to students and families in Price Hill; father of four children attending public school; recipient of Anthony Muñoz Foundation’s "JIM SEMON IMPACT AWARD" 2013

Why are you running for the school board?

As Director of Hispanic Outreach, I develop relationships with churches, nonprofits, businesses and schools. I help develop life-changing experiences that have a direct impact on the way individuals live their lives. It’s at the crossroads of walking hand-in-hand with families and at the same time working with organizations helping our communities.  I am convinced that schools are a key factor in the development of our communities and in the growth of our families.

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

I am a public school parent, an emergency health care provider and a faith leader. Those roles have prepared me to understand the cross currents and multiple pressures in our community. I have the knowledge and experience that might expand and deepen the partnerships on which our schools are increasingly depending. Finally, I, more than most, am fully aware of Cincinnati's increasingly international flavor and diversity and appreciate how it is reflected at CPS.

What are your top priorities for the district?

Community Learning Centers; early childhood education; resources for non-English-speaking families; leadership at all levels; and promoting success in all CPS Schools

What is the single biggest shortcoming of the school district and what would you do to fix it?

Our special needs students remain members of the one sub-group that has not met the state testing threshold. As a line item it continues to be a very costly and an ever-escalating expense both district wide and at each school site. I would propose smaller general education classes, reviewing our identification process, having a mandatory re-identification plan for grades 9-10, increasing identification of 504 students (disabled students protected by federal law), and encouraging participation of special needs students in extracurricular/co-curricular activities.

All the candidates want to eliminate campouts at the top magnet schools by making every school excellent. While working toward that goal, should the first-come, first-serve enrollment option remain at Fairview Clifton Language School and others? Why or why not?

It is an unfortunate process that we are dealing with, and please understand that it is a hard call to make from the outside looking in. However, as uncomfortable as it makes us to think that this is the best option at the moment, we need to continue to look for ways to improve the system.


Is the school district adequately funded or should additional revenue be raised?

For the last six years, CPS has had a balanced General Fund Budget. The district has been right sizing for a decade as a result of the Facilities Master Plan. It is now that the district can make final adjustments to equalize and maximize building usage. The levy renewal needs to pass, and the only reasons to consider new monies are preschool and technology. I do not believe we need new monies for operations.


Melanie Bates

 

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Biography: Melanie has been a member of the CPS Board for 12 years and the State Board of Education for seven years.  She is employed by LifeCenter Organ Donor Network and has also served as an adjunct professor at Northern Kentucky University in the MPA program.  Melanie has earned her MPA from NKU, and a BS from Xavier University.  Her three children are CPS graduates.  In her spare time Melanie trains for marathons as a competitive race walker.

Why are you running for the school board?

As the only incumbent running on the current ballot, I want to ensure that the school district has a board with experience and proven leadership.  I also am able and ready to provide support for the development of the newly elected board members so the new board can hit the ground running in January.  It is extremely important that the board continues to facilitate the upward trend in academics in CPS without interruption.

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

During my tenure on the board, academics and community engagement have improved significantly, and the board has overseen the renovation and/or rebuilding of every school in the district.  Finances have been stable.  Community Learning Centers are operating at 36 schools and counting. Being the only incumbent on the ticket, I will provide experienced leadership to continue the upward trend and the institutional knowledge to keep the forward momentum and not duplicate historical efforts.

What are your top priorities for the district?
• Promote student success by implementing world-class academics.
• Work for a stable financial foundation for public education.
• Support Community Learning Centers and community engagement.

What is the single biggest shortcoming of the school district and what would you do to fix it?

(The absence of) a systemic and deliberate way to develop a succession program for school principals is among the biggest shortcomings of the district.   A school cannot be high performing without a high performing leader who attracts and develops great teachers.   I would propose to the board incorporating Principal Development as a strategy for improvement in our plan for the superintendent and treasurer and address it as an initiative in the Student Achievement Committee. 


All the candidates want to eliminate campouts at the top magnet schools by making every school excellent. While working toward that goal, should the first-come, first-serve enrollment option remain at Fairview Clifton Language School and others? Why or why not?

The currently adopted process is to have a hybrid enrollment system that includes a lottery for 30 percent of the kindergarten openings after sibling enrollment, and the remainder of the seats enrolled as first come, first serve.  This was adopted by the board from the recommendation of an ad hoc district committee composed primarily of parents and community stakeholders.  I favored a pure lottery, but the board majority voted for the hybrid system.  


Is the school district adequately funded or should additional revenue be raised?

Our budget will adequately and responsibly fund the operational needs of the district, provided renewal levies are approved.  However, decreases in state funding are reducing the state’s contribution, which puts the burden of picking up the difference on local taxpayers.   If the state continues to impose expensive mandates while reducing funding, CPS will be forced to go to the local voters for additional funds or face Fiscal Emergency and the potential for a state takeover.

 

Marcia Futel

 

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Biography: I have over 20 years of team leadership in diverse organizations. I enjoyed a 23-year career in information technology. I work with my husband in our financial services agency and am licensed in life insurance and securities. I am a member of the board of Parents for Public Schools of Greater Cincinnati (president for three years), State Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council, CPS Family and Civic Engagement Team and Budget Commission. I was educated in the Chicago Public School System, earning a degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois. Married for 33 years to Chuck Futel, we have three Cincinnati Public School graduates, all holding four-year college degrees. I love studying and teaching principle-centered leadership. I am an avid reader and enjoy playing cards.

Why are you running for the school board?

As my husband and I made our education decisions for our children, our goal was to ensure that they would be prepared for successful adulthood,  no matter what path they took. I believe that every parent in our city’s schools wants the same for their children. After over 25 years of service as an involved parent and community representative, I believe that I can make a greater impact as a member of the school board.

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

As a business owner, financial services professional, trainer, education advocate, and former IT professional and project manager, I bring a broad perspective to the board. I am a coach and problem-solver. I bring process, logic, and a results-oriented focus. I also understand the challenges of families. I have served at the district and state level, giving me visibility into the issues facing our district. I believe I am uniquely qualified to serve on the Board.

What are your top priorities for the district?

I would focus on insuring strong district, building, and classroom leadership, effective stewardship of our revenue, volunteer, and community resources, and increased parental and community engagement by making our schools more welcoming and collaborative. As we work on these things in concert to close the achievement gap among our students, our enrollment will increase, our resources will grow, and our students will be prepared for successful adulthood.

What is the single biggest shortcoming of the school district and what would you do to fix it?

We have too many students not performing at their grade level due to several “root causes” that vary from school to school. I want leaders at the school level to use the governance and tools already in place to set and work towards achievement goals. Accountability for success should be first at the local level based on these goals. All stakeholders must contribute, and the district leadership and board should support with proper resources.

All the candidates want to eliminate campouts at the top magnet schools by making every school excellent. While working toward that goal, should the first-come, first-serve enrollment option remain at Fairview Clifton Language School and others? Why or why not?

The current magnet school enrollment process allows for some of the seats to be filled via lottery. This solution is tolerable but not ideal. I think that as we improve and market the success of all CPS schools, people will choose the magnet programs as they match the needs and interests of the children.

Is the school district adequately funded or should additional revenue be raised?

To properly determine this, the district needs to align its revenue forecasting to its long-term priorities. This would give a better picture of projected financial needs and potential gaps. We could then explore a combination of optional solutions such as community and corporate partnerships, sharing of services, the necessity of a levy, etc.

 

Betsy Shank

 

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Biography: Sept. 4-Nov. 6, Ohio Federation of Teachers’ release staff for Campaign to Reelect President Obama
November 1978 to June 2010, CPS Teacher at Dater Junior High, Lyon Junior High and, for the last 20 years, Walnut Hills High School, teaching English, speech and theater. February 1977-November 1978: receptionist, bookkeeper and office manager for David A. Bowman, M.D. May 1974-February 1977: private personnel recruiting counselor, International Business Associates. A member of Know Theatre board of directors, a Cincinnati Civic Orchestra member; a docent at the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education; a knitter of chemo caps for the Barrett Cancer Center; and a Cincinnati Art Museum Shop volunteer

Why are you running for the school board?

As an educator, I understand what the needs are for the Cincinnati Public Schools District.  To ensure that we have quality schools, I want to serve on the Cincinnati School Board because I can use my career experience to benefit all CPS students.

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

Being a 31-year veteran teacher in Cincinnati Public Schools, I know what is effective, ineffective, costly and rewarding about this school system.  When developing policy for the school system, I will have a good idea how this theory will translate into action in the classroom. I understand how this large school system works.

What are your top priorities for the district?

The top priorities for the district are to create more Community Learning Centers and expand the wrap-around services of the Community Learning Centers already in existence.  This model helps to build and sustain the different communities in the city and school communities in the district.  Community Learning Centers bridge the gap for students who don’t have the resources at home, solving the problems that hinder students from getting a quality education.

What is the single biggest shortcoming of the school district and what would you do to fix it?

The single biggest shortcoming of the school district is the graduation rate.  One long-term solution is requiring pre-school education.  The demise of Head Start makes requiring pre-school education a must.  Being more effective in solving the needs of transient students, sometimes identified as “homeless,” will also have an impact on students staying in school as opposed to dropping out before graduation.  Insisting on more effective ways of tracking and reporting students leaving CPS for whatever reason will give us a clearer idea of how many students are not being reached at present.

All the candidates want to eliminate campouts at the top magnet schools by making every school excellent. While working toward that goal, should the first-come, first-serve enrollment option remain at Fairview Clifton Language School and others? Why or why not?

Camp-outs will not be eliminated until a new system is developed that supersedes the need to camp out. First-come, first-served alone is not viable.  For now the best is a combination of first-come, first-served and a lottery with many opportunities to explain the system and how to engage it months prior to sign-up.

Is the school district adequately funded or should additional revenue be raised?

Additional revenue needs to be raised to implement pre-school education. Many students come to kindergarten unprepared for learning and the discipline of being in a school setting.  One year of kindergarten is not enough to prepare students for the requirements of elementary school.  Pre-school education for 3- and 4- year-olds makes the most sense, especially since the Head Start program is phasing out of existence and the gains for students are seen through high school graduation.

 

Sally O’Callaghan

 

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Biography: Sally O’Callaghan is a mother of four children, each of whom attends a CPS school. O’Callaghan graduated cum laude from Ohio University in 1994 with a degree in Elementary Education. She taught for one year in an inner city Cleveland Public School before moving to Cincinnati, where she taught for 10 years in Cincinnati Public Schools. During that time, Sally’s students earned the highest Ohio Achievement Test scores in both Math and Science. Since 2004, she has been raising her children and volunteering in their schools while supporting her husband’s entrepreneurial efforts in small business ownership. She is in her fourth year serving as the Ways and Means chair for the Parent Board at Fairview Clifton German Language School.  In 2012, she joined the board of Visionaries and Voices, an organization which supports artists with disabilities. O’Callaghan is also a board member of P-squared (Parents and Professionals for Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio) which raises funds for Planned Parenthood’s educational outreach programs.

Why are you running for the school board?

I believe every child deserves an excellent education.  The disparity between the education received in our top performing schools and the rest of the district is unacceptable.  Until I would be willing to send my kids to any of our district’s schools, we aren’t doing as well as we can and should be doing for the children in CPS.  We need an excellent school in every neighborhood.  I will work to make this happen.

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

I spent 10 years teaching in Cincinnati Public Schools and all four of my children attend CPS.  As a parent and former teacher, I have a unique perspective.  This allows me to view the district from both angles in order to arrive at the best solutions for children, teachers and parents.

What are your top priorities for the district?

Bringing excellence to every building is my top priority.  I will do this by elevating expectations for teachers and students, bringing quality preschool to all of our kids, addressing the issue of mobility by offering transitional classrooms in our neighborhood primary schools for students entering schools after the start of the school year, and increasing community involvement.

What is the single biggest shortcoming of the school district and what would you do to fix it?

The single biggest shortcoming of the district is the disparity between our top performing schools and the rest of the district.  As stated above, I would work to bring universal quality preschool, which would improve kindergarten readiness, narrow the gap between our upper and lower socio-economic children, improve third grade reading readiness, and increase high school graduation rates. 

All the candidates want to eliminate campouts at the top magnet schools by making every school excellent. While working toward that goal, should the first-come, first-serve enrollment option remain at Fairview Clifton Language School and others? Why or why not?

Currently, our magnet enrollment process has three steps.  First is sibling priority.  Once all siblings have enrolled, 30 percent of the remaining spots are open to lottery.  After those are filled, the rest are available at a first-come, first-served basis.  While not a perfect arrangement, this process attempts to provide for a variety of different needs.  I believe that as schools across the district continue to improve, the need for camping out will diminish.

Is the school district adequately funded or should additional revenue be raised?

It is difficult to know if the district is adequately funded because the budget isn’t fully transparent and available for the public to view.  I would welcome an external review of the CPS budget, after which, we would be better able to know if the district is adequately funded.  I would make sure this review would be made public and future spending would be transparent to the public.

 

Victoria Straughn

 

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Biography: I am a graduate of Cincinnati Public Schools and currently work as a Clinical Research Assistant at UC College of Medicine. I’ve volunteered in the Cincinnati community since 1989, earning several awards of recognition such as Citybeat’s 2001 Person of the Year, and University Hospital’s M.L. King Scholarship, which allowed me to visit the King Center and study non-violent strategies for social change. I’m currently mentoring with the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and volunteered during lunch breaks to tutor reading and spelling at CPS. I served on several boards including, but not limited to, Antonelli College advisory committee for the Medical Assistant program; Caracole Inc.; United Way; Cincinnati National Action Network; and Cincinnati Interfaith Worker Center, which helps immigrants and low wage worker.

Why are you running for the school board?
I became an official candidate for the Cincinnati Public School board because I believe that schools are our first defense against crime, poverty and deteriorating communities. We must design programs that address the issues that the children of today are facing from early childhood programs to graduation and beyond.
What distinguishes you from the other candidates? I have over 20 years of experience in community organizing which includes serving on several boards and volunteer service.  I am a product of Cincinnati Public Schools and I know the everyday challenges our children are facing. I've participated in a number of Stop-the-violence campaigns and take pride in mentoring. I understand additional factors that hinder the learning process. I have a track record on community involvement and I believe that I am the candidate that can successfully bridge the communication gap that exists between the school board and community.

What are your top priorities for the district?

We must budget to the needs of the children; abolish programs that do not produce the intended outcomes; pull on resources; and increase vocational programs that mirror those at the Great Oaks schools. We must increase our communications with City Hall, 3CDC, the Port Authority and other entities throughout the city that bring resources and much needed finances to get this done.

What is the single biggest shortcoming of the school district and what would you do to fix it?

The School board serves as a link between the schools and the public, establishes budgets, engages parents and ensure the best educational opportunities possible for the youth in the district. The recent state-issued report card revealed CPS scored an “F” in nearly every category. We don’t need any more excuses. We need someone who will fight for a better outcome. All the candidates want to eliminate campouts at the top magnet schools by making every school excellent. While working toward that goal, should the first-come, first-serve enrollment option remain at Fairview Clifton Language School and others? Why or why not? I think the campouts can eventually be abolished by using social media or better use of the lottery system.

Is the school district adequately funded or should additional revenue be raised?

Cincinnati Public schools are not adequately funded and we should seek the partnership of more the business community, City Hall, 3CDC, Port Authority, Asset Forfeiture money and non-profits. By doing this we could produce the right kinds of financial partnerships and resources that Cincinnati Public Schools need.


Martha Good

 

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Biography: In the 28 years since graduating first in my class from University of Cincinnati College of Law, I have clerked for a federal judge, served as a Circuit Mediator, and represented hundreds of clients in state courts.  I have also been an educator, teaching as an adjunct professor at University of Cincinnati’s College of Education.  At Miami University I taught Constitutional Law, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Women and the Law and American Government.  Previously I was a professor at Dayton School of Law, where I was named Professor of the Year by my first-year Property students.  I have also taught at St. Xavier High School, Cincinnati Public Schools, and University of New Mexico. After graduating from Skidmore College with Honors in Government, I earned a Ph.D. from Brown University specializing in Comparative, European and American politics. My two sons, Jacob and Peter Adams, were born while I was in law school. I continue to sit occasionally as an Arbitrator for the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.  In private practice as a contract public defender and now as a Volunteer Attorney at Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, I represent clients in Hamilton County Courts and Immigration Court. I was an active CPS parent for 20 years while my children were in school.  I served a decade on the PTA Board and as PTA President. I was a soccer coach, science fair judge, room mother, and tutor. Although I grew up in Akron and am a graduate of Akron Public Schools, my great-grandfather,  Jakob Gut immigrated to Cincinnati in 1869 so I feel that I have strong roots here.  I love Over the Rhine and local history. I also love to travel and have lived in Rome and Bologna Italy as well as Germany.  An aspiring author and book-lover, I hope to complete a book about Walnut Hills High School in 2014.  In addition, I have worked or volunteered for Friends of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor, Pro-Kids, Dress for Success Cincinnati, Women Helping Women, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra, and Cincinnati History Museum.  After living in Mt. Lookout for more than 25 years, I now reside in downtown Cincinnati.

Why are you running for the school board?

I’m running for Cincinnati School Board for two reasons. First, I want every child to have the same excellent education my own children had.  My kids got an education in CPS that prepared them for success at Oberlin, Yale and Harvard.  I want all kids in our community to have the same opportunity to succeed in life that my kids had. Second, I am running because I think it is the most important way I can contribute to the future of Cincinnati.  While it takes a village to raise a child, it takes Good Schools to make Cincinnati a Great City.  Whether you have children in school or not, we all benefit when everyone has an equal opportunity to learn, succeed, and contribute to society as adults.

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

I am the only candidate for Cincinnati School Board who has been both a CPS parent and teacher and who now is a senior citizen with no children in school. I am the oldest candidate for CPS Board and consequently I have the widest range of life and work experience including work as a mediator, college and law school professor, public defender, and volunteer attorney for the poor.  I am also one of only two candidates who is truly independent and is not receiving campaign contributions from business or labor. Finally, my children are all grown so I do not have family responsibilities like many of the other candidates, and I am retired from full-time work so I have the time needed to devote to working as a CPS Board member. 

What are your top priorities for the district? 

My biggest priorities are to:

1) Eliminate the disparities between the neighborhood and magnet schools
2) Increase all graduation rates and to eliminate racial and economic disparities in those rates,
3) Offer a “private” school education in public school so we can attract more CPS district students to our schools – from charter, parochial and private schools,
4) Put students first, offering a curriculum rich not only in math, science and English, but also to offer art and music in every school
5) Empower parents and engage community
6) Ensure safe and secure schools, free of violence from the outside world and free of bullying and other forms of intimidation within each school

What is the single biggest shortcoming of the school district and what would you do to fix it? 

Our biggest challenge is poverty and overcoming it effects.  We can begin to meet that need by developing each school as a Community Learning Center where we offer a wide range of services to children and the community, including health care, recreation and adult education.

All the candidates want to eliminate campouts at the top magnet schools by making every school excellent. While working toward that goal, should the first-come, first-serve enrollment option remain at Fairview Clifton Language School and others? Why or why not?  

When a business has a product that sells and for which there is strong demand, the company needs to increase production of the product that is in demand.  For that reason, I advocate replicating and expanding all of the most successful programs in CPS, including the German Bi-lingual program.  We have a College Hill Fundamental school that is doing great – why not a Bond Hill fundamental?  We also need to be sure that every neighborhood school has a robust curriculum worth camping out for.

Is the school district adequately funded or should additional revenue be raised?  

Right now I believe we have the funds we need to make CPS the best school district in Ohio. We need to be sure that those funds are spent on the programs that are most successful and try to reduce central administration in favor of more site-based decision-making and administration.

Ericka Copeland-Dansby

 

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Biography

I have served the community for 25 year in various leadership roles in the non-profit sector.  I currently serve as the director of desource development for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, where I am responsible for fundraising, marketing and the advancement of youth development programs, community relations and expansion of partnerships to further the mission of the organization. During the past decade, I served as executive director of one of the largest non-profit organizations in the tri-state.  There I was responsible for providing vital services to the underserved throughout Greater Cincinnati – with an emphasis on the residents of Greater Cincinnati’s most disadvantaged communities.  I have championed successful youth development initiatives designed to assist vulnerable children kindergarten through 12th grade, find temporary housing units for homeless families and children, develop employment readiness/skill training for adults, develop community health programs and parental and community involvement programs. I am a proud parent of a 10th-grade CPS Student, a CPS graduate, and a native of Cincinnati.  I have had a life-long commitment to improving educational opportunities for students as demonstrated by my personal civic activities and my 25-year professional career.  My husband and our son live, work, and play in the Cincinnati Public School District. We enjoy sports, family time, holidays, vacations, and music.

Why are you running for the school board?

I have had a life-long commitment to improving educational opportunities for students.  I have worked with families and children for many years and have a strong desire to bring equity in education for all children. As a student at Walnut Hills High School, our son is getting a great education. But too many schools are missing the mark – and it's our children who suffer.  That's why Every Child. Every School is my campaign theme.  As a parent, I believe every child should get the same opportunities our son does.  My Four Point Plan will help us get there (plan shown below).

What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

I am a parent of a student who entered CPS as a kindergarten student and is now a 10th-grade student.  I am the only candidate who has a student enrolled in the high school level within CPS. I am also the only candidate that is a CPS graduate and a native of our great city. I am a proven big picture-focused performer who embodies professional integrity.  I am skilled in using strategic, long-term solutions to create viable community resources to delivery quality youth development initiatives and other support services to diverse populations.  I have successfully demonstrated financial acumen as executive director of an organization with a $3.5 million budget and am currently responsible for a $4 million budget.  I bring tremendous insight to financial transparency and oversight.

What are your top priorities for the district?

In an effort to get the district moving in the direction of an improved rating, I offer the following Four-Point Plan:

• Equity in Education: We need a culture of excellence to overcome disparities in education. All employees, from teachers to administrators to support staff, needs to make it their personal responsibility to provide the best education for our children.
• Excellence in the Classroom: We need to better prepare teachers and school leaders for the challenges they face every day. Professional development that matches to specific school and classroom needs will improve school outcomes.
• Prepare Students for a 21st Century Workforce: We need to better integrate technology and character development into curriculum so students graduate ready to be leaders in today's economy.
• Empower Parents and the Community: The schools can't do it alone. An increased partnership with communities and businesses is a sure way to improve student achievement.

What is the single biggest shortcoming of the school district and what would you do to fix it?

Communities and schools are intrinsically linked. Schools serve as centers of neighborhood life. Parental and community involvement is key to improved student achievement and school outcomes.  Cincinnati Public Schools’ Board of Education’s work to build and maintain relationships with diverse groups of stakeholders is imperative to the success of the District.  This includes shared opportunities between parents, educators, civic, business, and religious leaders, non-profit entities, and other elected officials – including city and county officials and the city’s mayor. I will engage regularly with all entities in an effort assure collaboration.  I will use my expertise as a community leader, non-profit professional, and advocate for children and families to implement innovative solutions to improving effective communication, ensuring fiscal transparency and the proper utilization of tools and resources, and will serve as a change-agent for collaboration to improve the District’s parental/community engagement and involvement. Further, being a parent of a present CPS tenth-grade student while being a School Board Member will allow me to stay abreast of relevant issues in our schools.

I support Cincinnati Public Schools’ Community Learning Centers. Programs provide an array of supportive services that are necessary to keep children and families engaged.

All the candidates want to eliminate campouts at the top magnet schools by making every school excellent. While working toward that goal, should the first-come, first-serve enrollment option remain at Fairview Clifton Language School and others? Why or why not?

The District now uses a limited Kindergarten Lottery within its magnet application process. Parents of students who are not eligible for this lottery may apply to magnet schools using the District’s First-Come Method.

The lottery — with students selected randomly by computer for admission — is designed to allow more equitable access to kindergarten seats in the district's most popular magnet schools. This is an improved process over the past policy where everyone had to camp out.

When every school is equitable for every child, in every neighborhood, families will have choices and options in education and no one would have to camp out or enter into a lottery.

Is the school district adequately funded or should additional revenue be raised?

I support funding public education from various avenues including public and private entities.

The current fiscal environment has presented the CPS Board with unprecedented challenges, from the reduction of state funds that go towards public education, to the disparities that presently exist amongst our neighborhood and magnet schools. Several important criteria should be focused on when considering increased revenue:
1) How additional revenue will effect the student population
2) How the community of Cincinnati positively benefits fiscally and holistically
3) If the city administration, as well as the state government, is intentional about soliciting advice from the educational communities' relevant partners and collaborators.
 

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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