There will be at least one new face on the Medina Board of Education.
Board member Tom Cahalan is not running for re-election when his term expires Dec. 31. His decision means there will be three seats to fill in the Nov. 7 election.
Incumbents Rob Skidmore and Rebecca Parkhurst are running for re-election, along with newcomers Matthew Collins, Valerie Pavlik and Melissa Malone. Collins, a teacher in Parma, is the youngest candidate at 29.
Malone, owner of The Book Store just off Public Square, is a former teacher at the Medina County Career Center. Pavlik, a stay-at-home mom, has been quite active in the Parent Teacher Organization and was a small business owner.
Cahalan spent almost five years on the board. He said he wanted to give someone else the opportunity to serve on the board.
Each candidate was asked two questions.
Question: What makes you the best candidate for the position?
Collins: "My dedication to the field of education is honestly the first and foremost answer. Education is my life and as someone who enjoys learning and values learning, I want to ensure that all students receive a quality education. I believe strongly in education and have seen what good schools look like and understand the direction the field as a whole is moving toward. Reading through the five-year (strategic) plan shows that our new superintendent has some of this understanding, too, and it is my hope to continue the push on growth. The district has dealt with our financial difficulties and it was an asset having individuals with business mindsets on our board, but now it is time for us to move toward growth.
"I have experience managing businesses and understand the importance of fiscal responsibility, but also know what programs and assets in school districts bring results and thus financial value, and which do not. I recognize waste and assets and want to ensure that we are not putting any of our finances into programs that do not bring us results. I have an investment in the district. My daughter will be attending Heritage Elementary soon and I have another child on the way. Strong schools not only help students, but they bring value to local economies. They keep the value of our homes high and bring opportunity for our students, which in turn brings growth to the region.
"I believe in transparency and accountability. I am upfront and honest. My campaign's Facebook page will take any question and I will give a video response. I want our community to know that I am approachable and responsive."
Malone: "I fight for what is right. I am not afraid to ask tough questions. I want to ensure the district my four daughters are growing up in remains a leader in our communities, stays accountable to our students, parents and taxpayers, and provides the necessary resources for our students to thrive in the real world."
Parkhurst: "I have served on the Medina Board of Education for 2 ï¾½ years, currently in the position of vice president of the board. I am an accountant with experience in public accounting and not-for-profit accounting, which has been beneficial for serving on the district's finance and insurance committees. I am also a member of the policy committee and serve as the curriculum board liaison.
"The current Board of Education is very strong with diverse backgrounds, experience and perspectives. I am proud to be a member of this board that has kept the district fiscally responsible and has successfully negotiated contracts with our local unions and the treasurer. The board also hired a new superintendent, who with community consensus and support, will be implementing a five-year strategic plan. I am excited for the upcoming year and to moving our district forward in conjunction with our plan. It is important to have various perspectives on the board. My children are students in the district, so I am able to offer a viewpoint as a parent. I see the results of curriculum implementation, policy changes and communication. I am in the buildings and observe the building culture and interactions. Lastly, my passion is with the students and their education. It is important to me to always remember the purpose of the board and the district: to make the best decisions for the benefit of our students."
Pavlik: "I am starting my 10th year in the district as a parent. I have been involved in the PTO from the very beginning, starting with Fenn Elementary. We have had many wonderful experiences and opportunities throughout our son's school years and I want to help ensure all children, wherever they may fall on the education spectrum, gets those same chances.
"As a former owner of a medical billing service, I have the experience of balancing a budget, hiring qualified applicants and meeting payroll requirements weekly."
Skidmore: "The Medina School board has 5 members and ideally each can bring unique qualities to a board. My business background in running a title agency and partner in a law practice makes me uniquely situated in assisting the board in reading contracts and being a sounding board for legal matters. I also would consider myself an entrepreneur in successfully running a small business that employs over 13 people. I am a person who works to be sure that we have attention to detail and I work hard to ensure that we are looking at all angles in situations and sometimes am willing to be that lone voice, if needed. I want to be certain that the students of Medina City Schools are our first priority.
Question: What are the biggest challenges facing your school district and how would you address them?
Collins: "I honestly think our biggest difficulty is finding ways to navigate financial responsibility while ensuring that there is equity and growth. When we look at all of the schools in our district, we do not see equitable outcomes. As a district we should be asking ourselves what we can do to support all of our students in an equitable manner so that all students, no matter their birth circumstances, see success. It is to our benefit as a community to see all our students succeed. It will drive up property values, bring young families into our city and help drive growth in our local economy.
"Now the question of how to do so is a bit more tricky. The five-year improvement plan does mention changes in curriculum, which would be my first step as an educator, too. I also think looking at resources available to students is another step we should be taking. The importance here of financial responsibility is unique in that we should be looking at reallocation of funds over creating new spending needs. I think as someone who knows this field very well I can offer input into such tasks, though I recognize that school boards are really not in existence in micromanage. I've seen firsthand the downfalls of school boards that do so. I think what's important in order to accomplish this goal is to bring all stakeholders to the table. Teachers, parents, administrators and students need to be given opportunities to come together and have their voices heard."
Malone: "The announcement of the possible levy in the spring has raised some concerns, and I agree (with them). While I will do everything to fight to ensure we have the most up-to-date resources, the most qualified staff and a safe environment for our children to learn in, until I get a handle on the current budget and ensure we are being held accountable to what we are already receiving, I cannot 100 percent support an increase in taxes. We see a lot of school districts ask for new increases, however, I feel where we fail the taxpayers is we never talk about the follow up or the follow through. I am always curious, where did my money go when the last levy was approved? I would like this information to be more obvious to our taxpayers so we can truthfully say whether or not the money is needed, or rather something needs to be reallocated or restructured. This is something I would want to work on immediately, if elected."
Parkhurst: "The biggest challenge facing our school district right now will be the passing of our levy in May 2018. It is important that the board and the district communicate the need for the levy. I worked on the last levy campaign that was passed in 2013 and found that it was essential to communicate why the schools needed the levy. The state and federal budgets are continually changing school funding levels. As such, it becomes a local responsibility to fund our district. The current emergency levy will expire in December 2018. The district will have a substitute emergency levy on the ballot in May, which will essentially replace the current levy. Because the district has been fiscally responsible, we are not seeking additional tax dollars. It will be the same amount of revenue collection that is currently in place. By continuing with the same amount of tax revenue, the district will be able to maintain the current level of programming as well as implement the goals of the strategic plan."
Pavlik: "One of the strategic planning goals set by the district in June 2017 stated, 'To prepare students for college and careers.' If a student is not going to college, he or she needs to be 'work force ready.' They need to possess the soft skills required to succeed in any job. Soft skills include reporting to work on time, knowing how to dress for the workplace, having the interpersonal skills to interact with people face-to-face. Overall, community health is directly impacted by employment. Having graduates who possess the academic requirements as well as the soft skills to become gainfully employed after high school contributes directly to the overall prosperity of the community. I believe we need to integrate career training with academic curriculum earlier. Not every child is wired to go on to college. Exploring different career options first-hand early on, as young as the elementary grades, would help. It's also important to continue to provide opportunities for our students to get actively involved in our community - to focus on giving back. A school district and its community is a relationship, and any successful relationship involves equal amounts of give and take and good communication."
Skidmore: "The biggest challenge in the short term will be passing a permanent levy next year. I am anticipating that it will be a 5.9-mill levy that will virtually replace the emergency levy. Our other biggest challenges will be continuing to maintain the infrastructure of the district with the current funding. We are fortunate to have the sales tax funds that help with those costs. However, the amount of repairs we have exceed our yearly intake of funds so we must continue to balance needs and sometimes use additional funds from the operation of the district to maintain our capital. Also, the district went through quite a bit of hardship during a period of revelations about contract issues for a prior superintendent.
"I want to continue to be as transparent as possible and we have made quite a bit of headway over the last several years in this area. I will continue to be opposed to bonuses for the public sector employees."