BELLBROOK — Two residents in the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local School District are seeking to fill an unexpired term on the board of education.
Current board member Kevin Price, and Sarah Williamson are on the November ballot to win the term that expires Dec. 31, 2023.
Price, who was appointed to the board two years into a full term,said he feels like he “served the community really well” and wants to continue.
There are several issues the board must address, including school funding, community engagement and transparency, COVID-19, and the restoration of previous cuts, according to Price.
“I advocated passionately and effectively for passage of the recent emergency seven-year levy after previous levy attempts had failed three times,” he said. “Recognizing that the current funding model of a new permanent levy every few years was not the answer, I pushed for an emergency limited-period levy so the school system could get through a very dire financial situation that had resulted in severe cuts affecting the educational quality for our children.”
The limited levy also forces the district and community to find an alternative to “near exclusive and heavy reliance on property tax funding for our schools.”
Price wants more communication with the community.
“The current practice of only hearing in public from community members through time-limited, one-way communication during the open communication period of school board meetings must change,” Price said. “I have asked and will continue to push for community meetings by which board members can hear directly from community members and interact with them in a productive way outside of a time and agenda constrained normal school board meeting. The upcoming Community Chats are a start.”
He also wants to see minutes and voting records posted.
Price said he supports masking for K-6 but has not favored the masking of grades 7-12. Both of those positions are subject to change based on available guidance and recommendations.
“I will also strongly consider parental concerns, school administrator, teacher, staff inputs, and local realities,” he said. “Accusations that funding influenced my position on masking or that COVID funding received by the district was contingent upon masking are patently false.”
Price also wants to restore all of the budgetary cuts that were made, especially busing for kids who don’t have a safe pathway to their school.
Williamson is running to give voters a choice.
“Ideally, a school board will be representative of the community it serves,” she said. “As a result of unforeseen circumstances, the Bellbrook Sugarcreek district currently has three appointed incumbents. These individuals were not elected by the community but rather were appointed by the board. According to inquiries about who might run, only one person or nobody appeared to be interested in running for the unexpired two-year term. Rather than allowing someone to run unopposed or having another seat appointed, I wanted to give the community a choice.”
COVID, funding, and transparency are the major issues the board faces, according to Williamson.
Williamson, who has lived in the district since 2016, said “hopefully” coronavirus safety protocol will not be as important in January (when new board members take office).
She said the district needs to work on funding solutions now, even though a levy just passed.
“We struggled to pass a levy for a few years,” she said. “Our most recent levy is not a permanent one.”
Williamson also thinks the board should establish “actual work sessions” rather than just extra meetings, to help with transparency.
“Work sessions on major issues or projects are an alternative to duplicating regular meeting agendas,” she said. “Examples include goal-setting, budget reviews, and major development proposals. When every issue is on both the work and regular session agendas, it may become repetitive. By having topic-specific work sessions, we can avoid incredibly long meetings. The current incumbents say they want these items but they are not doing them. I would like us to establish more transparent finances. Our peer districts use a system like www.OhioCheckbook.com.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.