MANSFIELD -- Both Mansfield City Schools and Lexington Local Schools have seats up for grabs on their respective boards of education Nov. 2.
School boards are in charge of making school policy and advising the superintendent on community attitudes, according to the Ohio School Board Association.
Board members do not manage the day-to-day operations of a school district. They only perform staff evaluations for the superintendent, business manager and treasurer, but they may be consulted during other hiring processes.
School board members also play a role in defining the long-term goals of a district, from maintaining and constructing new facilities to approving curriculum.
Mansfield City Schools board of education
There are three seats up for re-election on the Mansfield City School board. Three incumbents are running to retain their seat; one is running as write-in candidate. Another write-in candidate is also seeking the public’s vote.
School board members are paid $125 per meeting, which is the maximum amount allowed by the Ohio Revised Code, Treasurer Tacy Courtwright said. Board members are eligible for health insurance; however, they are responsible for premiums. No board members are using district-offered health insurance at this time.
Michael Brown, 31, said he's running for school board because he wants to bring about positive change by meeting families where they are and putting family and student needs first.
Brown graduated from Clear Fork High School. He earned a bachelor's in integrated social studies education from Kent State University. He later earned his law degree and ran his own firm. Brown currently works in the City of Mansfield law director's office.
Brown has coached wrestling at Mansfield City Schools for the last four years. He has also worked as an assistant wrestling coach and the junior high wrestling coach.
"Throughout my time as a coach, I've witnessed first-hand how certain issues affect students and we need to make sure their families are put first," he said.
Brown said the school board should be aware of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in order to assist students. One way to do that is to support the district's ongoing breakfast and free or reduced lunch programs. He also said the district should work with parents to meet students' basic needs and strengthen safety needs through the principles of John Taylor Gatto.
Brown said the district's biggest opportunity is its large alumni base. Its biggest challenge is changing the narrative of how the school is perceived in the community, he said.
"I think both the opportunities and challenges can be addressed by simply bringing the community into the schools," he said. "We bring local businesses into the schools; we create those connection sand then students are more likely to return to the community after their further education. This creates a stronger community."
If elected, Brown said he wants to use his influence to make families' voices heard and only spend district funds when it benefits students.
"If there is a dollar that is not effectuating positive change for the students or potential student outcomes, then it does not need to be spent," he said.
Brown said he supports the district's current COVID-19 policies, including its commitment to contact tracing, social distancing, facilities cleaning and a mask requirement.
"On September 7, 2021 MCS decided to require masks in classrooms," he said. "This shows that the district is willing to be flexible and take the necessary steps to keep in-person attendance for class. In-person attendance has numerous educational benefits. To that end, I find that the district's flexibility highlights their efforts to putting students and their families first."
Brown's name will not appear on the ballot. He is asking voters to write in his name.
Chris Elswick, 57, is running to retain his seat on the Mansfield City School board. He’s been a board member for 12 years. He, his wife and his children are all graduates of Mansfield Senior High School.
“I think equity in education is very important,” Elswick said. “We’ve been Tygers for a long time. I think it's very important that people are willing to step up, be part of the process and try to make things better.”
Elswick earned both his bachelor and master degrees in business administration from Ashland University. He runs Elswick Appliance Repair, the family business he took over 17 years ago. He also works as a teacher for the Ashland University Correctional Education program, which offers college courses inside the prison system.
“I think that I have a lot to offer with my background in education and in the actual business world,” he said. “I'm going to do everything I can to help the kids of Mansfield.”
Elswick said he supports the school district’s current COVID-19 policies, which include a mask requirement for all students and staff.
“I’m not a doctor. I don’t pretend to be, so I leave a lot of those decisions up to people who are experts,” Elswick said. “I feel our current policies are in line with what the CDC and health department calls for.”
Elswick cited upcoming levy renewals and union contracts as important responsibilities for the board, but said the ultimate responsibility is to ensure a quality education for students.
“The biggest thing is that we give our kids the opportunity to compete in the real world when they graduate, whether they go to college or enter the workforce,” he said. “There's no kid left behind, every kid gets serviced and everybody gets the exact same opportunities.”
Elswick’s name will not appear on the ballot due to a paperwork error, so he is asking voters to enter his name as a write-in candidate.
Gary Feagin, 65, is running to retain his seat on the Mansfield City School board. Feagin was first appointed to the board in June 2016.
"As a school board member I will use my influence to make sure we are educating our kids, giving them our best so they can in turn give us theirs," Feagin said. "We just need to provide the opportunities for our kids and I believe that the majority will take advantage of it. This will not only make Mansfield City Schools better it will also make Mansfield better."
Feagin is a graduate of Mansfield City Schools and St. Joseph College. He has been self-employed as a State Farm insurance agent for over 36 years.
Feagin said his biggest priority is education, but also making sure teachers and students have the resources they need to learn and teach. Looking at district facilities to make sure taxpayers are getting the best value is another priority.
Feagin said it's important to him to educate Mansfield's children within the district's budget.
"I will continue to review expenditures as I do now to see if we have the money in the budget now or in future, and is the expenditure worth the tax payers money," he said. "I would like to provide the best possible facilities for our kids to learn but to do this all within our budget."
He added that he'd like to see more collaboration between the City of Mansfield and the school district.
Feagin said one challenge facing the district is raising test scores, though things are already heading in the right direction.
"Even though it is a challenge I also see it as an opportunity to get better," he said. "With our current administration we are headed for better days, we want to make the city of Mansfield proud of our graduates and want to go to Mansfield City Schools."
Feagin said the diversity of the student body is one of the district's greatest opportunities.
"Our kids learn life lessons that are not in books, how to get along with one another from different backgrounds," he said. "I believe we should embrace that and not run from it. I have lifelong friends of different races due to me going to the Mansfield City schools. I loved it then and love it today."
Feagin said he supports the district's current COVID-19 policies.
"We want to keep every student safe," he said. "I’m not afraid to say I believe in masks in schools to help lower the spread of Covid-19."
Linda Golden, 61, is running to retain her seat on the Mansfield City School board. Golden ran two years ago to fill an open two-year vacancy.
“I feel there is much more work in the district that I can contribute to,” she said. “I believe in the Mansfield City Schools. I taught and retired from there. My husband has been employed there for 16 years. We are a part of this school and this community.”
Golden studied career technical education and culinary arts at Columbus State Community College and the University of Toledo. She is the owner of Aah Teas, a food concession trailer. She spent 17 years as a high school culinary arts instructor, including four years at Tri-Rivers Career Center and 13 at Mansfield Senior High School.
As a board member, Golden said she draws on her experience as a teacher but also tries to listen to the needs of the community.
“I try to use my voice as a former educator to assist in making our programs and classroom experiences for our children successful,” she added. “As a board member, you must listen to the children, parents, staff and community to really hear what their concerns are and how we as a board, with our superintendent and team, can address these.”
Golden said the biggest challenge facing the district is engaging the community and recruiting more students to take advantage of all the opportunities the district has to offer. Her priorities as a board member include top quality education, financial transparency and working to create a diverse staff.
“I serve on the school board finance committee, insurance and benefits committee and I will vote to do everything I can to keep the district solvent,” she said.
Golden said she is supportive of the district’s current COVID-19 policies, including the implementation of masks.
“It is very important to the school board that we keep our children, staff and community as safe as possible from COVID-19,” she said.
Lexington Local Schools board of education
There are three seats available and four candidates for Lexington Local Schools. Three board members are running to retain their seats, alongside one challenger.
Lexington school board members get paid $125 per meeting, according to Treasurer Jason Whitesel. Board members are eligible for the district's insurance, but must pay the full premium. At this time, none of the board members are on the district's insurance plan.
Danielle Bussell, 36, said she is running for the Lexington Local Schools board of education because she has a vested interest in the success of the district.
She has four children two are currently enrolled in the district and one is a 2021 Lexington High School graduate.
"I believe I can bring a new point of view to the board and help move the district forward while continuing the traditions of excellence that currently help make Lexington schools so outstanding," she said.
Bussell has an associate's degree in applied science. She works as the project manager for DRM Productions. Bussell has also spent several years on the Lexington PTO board and served as the Central Elementary representative.
Bussell said she believes the school board's biggest responsibilities are continuing to provide superb education, supporting educators and the safety and health of students, faculty and staff.
Bussell said she is in support of the district's current COVID-19 policies.
"I feel that the current COVID policy is the best way to protect our district’s students and their loved ones," she said. "I will continue to support the recommendations of the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics."
If elected to the school board, Bussell hopes to add technology based classes for the junior high and high school and provide reusable STEM carts and activities for the elementary schools. She also hopes to provide a supportive work environment for teachers and staff and help create an inclusivity plan for the district.
Martin J. Gottschling
Martin Gottschling, 60, is running to retain his seat on the board of education.
"My family and I have long-term Lex ties," he said. "I felt prepared for the transition to higher learning after graduation and desire the same for our current and future students. I want them to become good citizens and develop into their best."
Gottschling is a Lexington graduate who went on to earn undergraduate degrees from OSU Mansfield and the State University of New York Albany. He holds a graduate degree from in chiropractics from Life University in Atlanta. He has been a chiropractor and owner of Gottschling Chiropractic for 30 years.
Five of his six children are Lexington graduates.
"My goals are to help maintain or improve the high academic and personal development standards the district has held over the years," he said. "I am pleased to be a small part of the process that will replace and transition all our old buildings to state-of-the-art facilities."
"I try to always ask myself, 'How will this policy/decision affect learning (positively or negatively), and would I want that for my kids?'" he added.
Gottschling was one of two school board members to vote against the district's current mask requirement, which passed 3-2 at a Sept. 15 board meeting. He seconded a motion to end the requirement at a meeting on Oct. 13. The motion did not pass.
"I believe our policies are adequate to ensure a safe learning environment, as we prioritize keeping the kids in class," he said. "That being said, the COVID situation is fluid and needs regular evaluation. There is a tightrope we have to walk between safety while not encroaching on parental and student freedoms."
Dave Roberts, 72, is a retired educator and administrator. He worked for 41 years in public education as a special education teacher, Occupational Work Experience teacher, coach and athletic director. He worked a total of 33 years at Lexington Local Schools -- 31 of them were in administration.
Roberts has a bachelor’s degree in education and history and a master’s degree in administration. He has been on the Lexington Local Schools board of education for four years.
“Our biggest responsibility as a Board is being better able to meet all students' needs educationally, socially, and emotionally as well as technologically for whatever is next for them in their lives,” Roberts said. “We need to continue to hire personnel, whether it is certified or non-certified, who have a genuine interest in the success of our students. We are very fortunate to have great students and supportive parents that ensure our future is in good hands.”
If re-elected, Roberts said his priorities will be to continually monitor the schools’ COVID policies, curriculum and technology to make sure they are meeting the community’s needs.
“Currently, I am fine with our COVID policies and voted most recently to require masks for all students and staff,” he said. “I will always be open to change when changes will result in a better environment for all students and staff keeping them in school without remote learning.”
Overseeing the district’s new facilities projects is another top priority. Roberts said he strives to ensure the community’s dollars and interests are at the forefront.
“I seek through prayer, to a loving and gracious God, His guidance and direction in all matters where our students' and community interests are involved before rendering a decision affecting them,” he said. “We receive our Board of Education agendas days prior to our meetings, so I get to review agenda items and then through prayer am able to seek His wise counsel.”
Robert Whitney, 86, is running to retain his seat on the Lexington school board. Whitney has served on the board since April 1964, when he was appointed to finish the term of another member who resigned. Since then, he has spent approximately 40 years as president of the school board.
Whitney graduated from Lexington High School in 1953 and was drafted into the Army. After completing his military service, Whitney worked in commercial construction and attended night classes at Ashland University (then College). He earned a bachelor's in social studies from Ohio Northern University. He then attended the university's law school and received his Juris Doctorate in 1962.
In 1972, Whitney and two other area lawyers co-founded the law firm Inscore, Rinehardt, Whitney & Enderle. He continues practicing law to this day, with a focus on criminal law.
Whitney was not available for comment at the time of publication.