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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2002

School district contests heat up in Monroe County

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - There promises to be plenty of turnover on school boards across Monroe County as voters head to the polls June 10 to cast their ballots in the annual school election.

Seven of the nine school districts in Monroe County will have contested races for what some view as the one of the hardest and most thankless jobs anywhere in politics - a seat on the local school board.

And while only Whiteford and Summerfield will return board members to their seats for another four-year term without a challenge, three districts will lose incumbents who decided not to seek another term.

Among those stepping down is Bedford School Board President Rollie Abel, who is leaving after a single term on that seven-member school board. Mr. Abel said he had enjoyed his time in office and “learned a lot.” But he also said he recognizes the great challenges facing public education and wants to take his life in another direction.

Bedford has been in the news not only for opening an elementary school and a large addition at its high school, but for the district's inability to reach a labor agreement with the teachers union - the Bedford Education Association.

But Mr. Abel won't be the only school board president in the county stepping down. At Jefferson, incumbent president Bonnie Reaume and board vice president James Ramey have both chosen not to seek another term. Voters in Jefferson defeated a tax issue in the fall and the district is facing cuts.

Mrs. Reaume said she had every intention of running for another term, but decided against it after a large number of people also took out petitions for the two open seats.

“At the time, there were eight different people that had taken out petitions. I just thought that was a lot of hassle,” Mrs. Reaume said. “I really enjoyed being on the board, and I think there's a good possibility that I'll run again. But not now.”

Like Mrs. Reaume, Mr. Ramey has served 16 years on the Jefferson board, a job he agrees is largely “thankless” and nearly always mired in controversy. He said an effort to reduce stress in his life is part of the reason he's decided to step down.

“I've put a little time in, and I think it's time to move on to other things. I just hope that whoever is elected to take my spot realizes the responsibility they are stepping into,” Mr. Ramey said. “I really feel sorry for the other board members sitting there. It's a very difficult time, and we have a lot of things going on at Jefferson.”

At Mason, incumbent board vice-president Donovan Tarry announced he was resigning from the board shortly after he was the only one who voted against offering a contract to new district superintendent Marlene Mills, who started this week.

But shortly after being urged to at least finish out his term, Mr. Tarry has opted instead to seek to return to the Mason Board of Education. Now, the only incumbent leaving Mason's board will be Lewis Johnson.

The candidates for each school board seat are:

Airport Community: Gary Baker (I), Bart Stasa (I), Steven Jedinak. Two seats available.

Bedford Public: Nancy Pilbeam (I), Shawna Smith, John Brenning, and Debbie Szajna. Two seats available. Incumbent board president Rollie Abel chose not to seek re-election.

Dundee Community: Tod O'Lone (I), Patrick Funk (I), and Brenda Rath. Two seats available.

Ida Public: Philip Halsey, Mark Mathis (I), James Schmidt (I). Two seats available.

Jefferson: Jeffrey Andring, William Croley, Robert Polk, and Michael Wuebben. Two seats available. Incumbent board president Bonnie Reaume and incumbent vice president James Ramey chose not to seek re-election.

Mason Consolidated: Donavon Tarry (I), Brian Thompson, Joann Flory, and Daphne Williams. Two seats available. Incumbent Lewis Johnson chose not to seek another term.

Monroe Public: Donald Thurber (I), June Knabusch Taylor (I), Ryan Philbeck. Two seats available.

Summerfield: Renee Larzelere (I). One seat available.

Whiteford Agricultural: Ken Dressel (I), Cheryl Strahan (I). Two seats available.



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