MASON, Ohio — One of the region’s most racially diverse school systems recently swore in its first African American school board member.
Warren County’s largest school district — Mason City Schools — has led other area districts for its level of student racial diversity, primarily due to having southwest Ohio’s largest percentage of Asian Americans students.
But November’s election of long-time Mason resident Ian Orr — and his joining Mason’s governing school board earlier this month — was a first for one of the oldest local school districts, which can trace its roots back into the early half of the last century.
Orr said he is aware of the historical significance but stressed his first political office is — and will be — more than a historical footnote.
“I hope to add a diversity of thought and perspective,” Orr said. who has lived in Mason for 15 years and graduated from Xavier University.
Orr said his background - which included attending both public and private schools - and the full range of his experiences brings a needed lens to the district.
Mason’s enrollment is composed of 54% white students while Asian-Americans are 30% of the student body with African Americans comprising 5%, Hispanics more than 5% and multi-racial students more than 5%.
Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for Mason Schools, said Orr’s historical election is the latest chapter in the district’s growing tradition of diversity.
“Sometimes people in southwest Ohio don’t realize just how much (the district's student) diversity has grown," Carson said. "We are a destination district for families seeking high-quality schools and culturally diverse neighbors,” Carson said.
“While race is just one dimension of someone’s identity, we know that representation matters. Many students and voters are excited to now have a person of color serving on the school board - particularly someone who, along with his family, has been giving back to our community in many ways for many years,” she said.
Orr, who is an insurance industry professional, is also a Mason school parent and one of his daughters is a teacher in the district.
At the top of his personal list of school board priorities is a lot listening.
“Listen and learn,” he said.
Adding he wants to make sure the traditionally, high academic performing district “has the resources it needs to continue to impact the learning of each student.”