Getting to know school board candidates: 13 hopefuls vie for 4 open seats in Tuesday election

At least one spot will be filled by newcomer
Getting to know school board candidates: 13 hopefuls vie for 4 open seats in Tuesday election
Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-06 15:44:46-05

CINCINNATI -- Change seems to be constant these days within Cincinnati Public Schools. The Nov. 7 election could well bring even more.

There are 13 candidates vying for four open board seats Tuesday, with three incumbents among them, meaning there will be at least one newcomer elected to a four-year term.

Lannis Timmons’ “newcomer” label is just beginning to wear off. He was named to the board not long after the death of Chris Nelms, who died of cancer in September.

Add to those events the newly minted $48 million Cincinnati Preschool Promise being implemented, the board’s request for a $51.5 million levy renewal also up for a vote Tuesday and the 6-month-old tenure of Superintendent Laura Mitchell. That’s a lot going on, even for a 36,000-strong district.

Timmons, a former longtime Tri-State basketball coach, said serving on the board has been a great experience so far. 

He said he takes the hard court background with him by “having the kids as the focus, building character within them, instead of worrying about winning (and) trying to keep the coach’s name in the lights.”

He said the biggest hurdle for new board members will be getting to know each other and their philosophies on issues, cautioning that they “don't use this as a way up to get involved in the political arena.”

Mary Welsh Schlueter, who heads Partnership for Innovation in Education, essentially a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) advocacy organization based in Cincinnati, is a CPS parent and believes the large field of candidates is cyclical. She ran for a board seat in a field of 12 in 2009.

“In the end, whatever anyone answers to the question of, ‘Why are you running?,’ it should always be about elevating students to reach their highest potential,” she said.

The board field, in alphabetical order:

Jacqueline Amos
Residence: College Hill

Relevant experience/background: Grew up in West End; a product of Cincinnati Public Schools; attended Hays-Porter and graduated from Robert A. Taft High School; CPS teacher; NAACP member; AMOS Project interfaith advocacy.

Mission statement/guiding principle: “To help make the Cincinnati Public Schools better than its current state, by strengthening the Vision 2020: My Tomorrow plan, increase respect for all, improve community learning centers and transparency.”

Melanie Bates 
Residence: East Walnut Hills

Relevant experience/background: Four-term school board incumbent; seven-year elected member of the State Board of Education; current vice president of the board and chair of the Finance Committee; three children graduated from CPS and grandson is a CPS student.

Mission statement/guiding principle: “'Cincinnati Public Schools will be a community that ensures equitable access to a world-class education, unleashing the potential of every student.’ – CPS mission statement; I couldn’t say it better myself.”

David Brenner
Residence: Walnut Hills

Relevant experience/background: Thirty years of professional experience in a number of large companies doing business in Cincinnati, last 10-plus years focused on strategic planning to achieve business goals; 10 years of experience as a parent in the district.

Mission statement/guiding: “Improve communication, collaboration and transparency in decision making in order to strengthen all of our schools to serve all of our students.”

Ericka Copeland-Dansby
Residence: Roselawn

Relevant experience/background: Current CPS board president; graduate of Walnut Hills High School; executive director of Wesley Community Services; taught and led early education programs, implemented community infrastructure and health programming to the disadvantaged.

Mission statement/guiding principle: “To serve CPS in its efforts to provide quality education to all students. My priorities are focused on meeting the needs of students and increasing the academic achievement of all.”

Gary Favors 
Residence: Avondale

Relevant experience/background: Currently intervention specialist and special education teacher with Cincinnati Public Schools for 21 years; founder and director of Hearts and Minds Inc., a mentoring program to foster interest in the medical profession; Gulf War veteran

Mission statement/guiding principle: “‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ Luke 12:48.”

Christine Fisher
Residence: Mount Lookout

Relevant experience/background: Procter & Gamble for 12 years in finance managing forecasts, innovation and long-term strategy for brands including Charmin, Bounty and Tide; finance leader for P&G's global facilities and real estate team helping manage sites around the world. 

Mission statement/guiding principle: “I want to improve accountability, collaboration and transparency to ensure that Cincinnati Public Schools are serving the needs of our entire community and the community continues to support our schools.”

Marcia A. Futel
Residence: East Walnut Hills

Relevant experience/background: Over 20 years as a computer technology professional, project manager and business manager; small-business owner in financial services with licenses in insurance and investments; parent to three CPS graduates and grandparent to CPS first-grader.

Mission statement/guiding principle: “I believe that a high-quality, relevant public education that is accessible for all students is the ‘Great Equalizer’ that gives them great options in life.”

Renee Hevia
Residence: East Hyde Park

Relevant experience/background: Public school teacher for 24 years, achieving National Board Certification in 2003, and taught Spanish and American history; former assistant principal at Sycamore High School; experience with urban and suburban communities. 

Mission statement/guiding principle: “Build trusting relationships with students and adults and keep students at the center of my decision making ... build comprehensive strategies to close the achievement gap by addressing institutional barriers.”

Ryan Messer 
Residence: North Avondale

Relevant experience/background: Twenty-year career with business leadership experience at Johnson & Johnson; father of three current and future public school students; National Underground Railroad Freedom Center board of directors; Cincinnati Opera board of directors.

Mission statement/guiding principle: “I believe in public education and the critical role it plays in success ... I want to help impact the reality of the 'tale of two cities' that exists here.”

Daniel Minera
Residence: College Hill 

Relevant experience/background: Current CPS board member; director of Hispanic Outreach at City Gospel Mission; alumni of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce "Leadership Cincinnati"; facilitator of racial reconciliation conversations in UNDIVIDED through Crossroads Church.

Mission statement/guiding principle: “My vast personal and professional experiences with Cincinnati's nonprofit organizations, medical providers and faith-based networks have provided me the ground-level networks and tools to serve the ‘whole child.’”

Kareem Moffett
Residence: Avondale

Relevant experience/background: Ph.D. in education; math teacher at Cincinnati State and taught previously at CPS schools; current chairperson of the Withrow Local School Decision Making Committee; member of leadership committee of the Withrow PTSA.

Mission statement/guiding principle: “I want to bring the school board into communities so that residents know what is going on in our district ... I desire to support workforce/vocational programming and policies.”

Mike Moroski
Residence: Downtown

Relevant experience/background: Former teacher and assistant principal; current executive director of UpSpring, educational nonprofit for homeless children; reading mentor at Oyler School; trustee on the Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board.

Mission statement/guiding principle: “I am running for the board of education because kids have been at the center of my decision-making processes my entire professional career. I will govern in this same manner.”

Kathy Young 
Residence: North Avondale

Relevant experience/background: Taught children with disabilities within CPS for 22 years; discipline coach, using strategies and interventions to help children with behavioral concerns; Direct Instruction, assisting and supervising teachers who teach reading.

Mission statement/guiding principle: "My top three priorities are to invest in character education, expand career and vocational opportunities and placements and deepen the commitment to our nationally renowned community learning centers."