Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017
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SCHOOL BOARD RACES

Legal issues big in TPS, Washington Local school board races

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    Campaign signs for the Washington Local school board race along Alexis Road near Whitmer High School on Sept. 28.

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    Kiser

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    Varwig

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    Taylor-Gerken

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The Toledo Public Schools Board of Education could remain unchanged after the November election, as all three incumbents are running for re-election with only one challenger on the ballot.

Ruth Leonard, an educator and social justice advocate, is the lone challenger to Chris Varwig, Polly Taylor-Gerken, and Bob Vasquez.

She is running on a platform that calls for supporting and assisting the high number of homeless as well as housing insecure students, partnering with Toledo’s small businesses, and creating a culturally relevant curriculum.

She said she aims to “figure out what exactly needs to change so that students are more engaged in what they’re learning, whether that’s diverse text books and divers curriculum, so that students can see themselves in their learning.”

She is currently working as a substitute teacher for TPS, though she would have to give up that position if she wins a seat on the board.

Ms. Leonard, 31, was charged with disorderly conduct by Toledo police after an incident in September in which a passenger in her car allegedly yelled an obscenity to police out the window. She is accused in the police report of hitting her brakes quickly and nearly causing an accident.

She pleaded not guilty, and a pretrial was set for Oct. 24 in Toledo Municipal Court.

She retains her endorsement from the Lucas County Democratic Party, though party leaders said there was a chance she could lose it after the incident. The party also endorsed Mr. Vasquez and Ms. Taylor-Gerken.

All three incumbents said they don’t believe their work for the district is over.

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Campaign signs for the Washington Local school board race along Alexis Road near Whitmer High School on Sept. 28.

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Ms. Varwig, 49, said she wants to continue to focus on improving the district’s performance on the report card issued annually by the Ohio Department of Education. This year’s grades, released in September, gave TPS an F in the achievement category. Ms. Varwig also said she’d like to increase preschool opportunities and add to the district’s career-tech offerings.

“There are so many opportunities for our kids, and I want to change the perspective of Toledo Public Schools,” she said. “I think the community, I think they’re starting to realize we’re moving in the right direction.”

Ms. Taylor-Gerken, 56, said she is running to ensure the district stays “laser focused” on its strategic plan.

A retired TPS school psychologist, she wants to see the district provide more behavioral health support for all children.

“Looking at social-emotional learning is just as important as learning to read and write,” she said.

Mr. Vasquez, 65, is director of external affairs for the Toledo Zoo and previously worked in child welfare. He has been on the board since 2008 and said he is proud of helping TPS become financially stable.

“Now that we have the foundation to stand on, we have to do two things: raise the graduation rate, and improve our grade card,” he said. “These students need support. We have to find a way to engage students and families who are not engaged.”

Washington Local

Across town a controversial race is under way for three open seats on the Washington Local Schools board, and voters have a packed ballot to choose from.

Patrick Hickey, 54, who resigned as superintendent from the district in 2015 after two internal investigations into his conduct, is banned from district property but is running for a seat on the board.

He’s running against incumbent Patricia Carmean, 64, who this spring filed for a civil protection order against him on accusations he harassed and threatened her.

A magistrate denied her request but told the two not to have further contact.

Board member Erik Kiser, 36, joins Ms. Carmean in running for reelection, and Cindy Perry, 58, Brad McDonald, 50, and Mark Hughes, 42, are back in the mix after failed bids in 2015.

Former board member Thomas Ilstrup, 55, is also running, as are two parents new to politics, Melanie Garcia, 51, and Irshad Bannister, 34.

Sylvania Schools

Five candidates are running for three open seats on the Sylvania school board.

Newcomers Shannon Szyperski, 41, Greg Feller, 41, and Gregory LaManna, 34, are challenging incumbents Julie Hoffman, 49, and Stephen Rothschild, 54. Current board member Dave Spiess' seat is also up, although he did not file for re-election.

Maumee Schools

In Maumee, Stephanie Piechowiak, 61, and Janet Wolff, 66, are running for reelection on the school board. They’re challenged by Jennifer Campos, 39, recent Maumee High School graduate David Thomas, age unknown, and father-daughter duo Jeremy and Julia Demagall, ages 44 and 19.

The third incumbent, Jane Durham, did not file to run for re-election.

Perrysburg Schools

In Perrysburg, three seats are up for grabs in the election. All three incumbents, Gretchen Downs, Sue Larimer, and Eric Benington, are running for their seats.

Dora Lopez is the only challenger who will appear on the ballot, while Kelly Ewbank is running as a write-in candidate.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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