Five candidates for the Washington City Schools Board of Education introduced themselves to the community Monday evening during the “Meet the Candidates” night.
This annual event put on by the Washington Kiwanis Club invited locals to meet and question the candidates for Washington City Council, Washington City Schools Board of Education and Washington Court House Municipal Court Judge for the Nov. 7 general election. It also gave them an opportunity to learn additional information on levies for the upcoming election. The proceedings were divided into two portions in front of the crowd at the Rusty Keg’s Crown Room in Washington C.H., the first being an introductory section allowing those seeking the various public offices to explain their own stance on particular subjects and introduce themselves.
WASHINGTON CITY SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION
This year, two will be elected to the board of education from a group of five: incumbent and current board president Ken Upthegrove, Leah Foster, Donald Branham, Mark Chrisman and John Minyo.
Branham was selected to speak first and said he is originally from Jacksonville, Fla. before moving to Washington Court House about 23 years ago. He has seven children, one who has moved to Cincinnati and joined the U.S. Navy and six who were born and raised in Washington C.H. He said that he is seeking a position on the board because he is ready to make some changes.
“I feel that these kids should have an opinion and should be able to say things too,” Branham said. “One thing about the teachers, they spend a lot of time with these students. They have them almost as much as we do as parents at home. They are with them all day and some of these teachers coach volleyball, football and stuff like that and we don’t respect these teachers like they deserve. There are a lot of kids who come to my house to visit my kids and I hear all the time how they are bored with school. We have to try and make learning fun again.”
Minyo approached the podium next. He said he recently reflected on the decision to run for school board and assured the crowd he has no hidden agenda and is not running because he thinks anything is wrong. He said he is running because he recognizes an opportunity to make the schools great again.
“I was fortunate to be able to sit in the room with the final eight candidates when the school board wanted to have a selection committee to take a look for a new superintendent,” Minyo said. “I got to listen to their platforms, talents, wishes, desires and what their passions were. Not only did I get to listen to the candidates, more importantly for me I got to listen to the 28 other people sitting in that room. As I reflected to that time, I had to say to myself, we got the right guy hired, what can I do to help. That’s when I decided I would run for the city school board of education.”
Foster will not run for another term on the city council this year and is instead running for a seat on the Washington C.H. City Schools Board of Education. The 1987 graduate of Washington City Schools has three children who also graduated from the district and a fourth grader who is working her way through the system. Foster said she has been very fortunate to serve the city through council for the past four years. During this time she said she has worked with many different individuals and groups who helped narrow her focus and vision to match her passion.
“My passion is our kids, our future,” Foster said. “Your first question should be what qualifies you for this position. I currently own and manage a local business, B&B Creative Marketing. We are a regional food brokerage that specializes in pizza and Italian. Now you really think what does that have to do with schools? Our job is to provide business with tools and skills to be successful, because their success becomes my success. Much like our kids, the goal should be to work with each class of students to develop and discover each individual’s skills and special value.”
Chrisman was up next to speak to the crowd and explained that he had already been on the school board a few years ago, but had to give it up because of his family. He said Monday he is returning for the exact same reason, his family. A Washington Senior High graduate, Chrisman was born and raised in Fayette County and said he has worked for his family’s water conditioning business for 42 years.
“I served 30 of those years as a service manager and I have also been married for 30 years,” Chrisman said. “We have four children and nine grandchildren, seven who are already attending Washington Court House. I have previous experience on the board and served two terms that ended two years ago. I still serve the schools on the Great Oaks Board of Education and I am in my sixth year down there. I have seven kids in the district already and two more coming soon, so I have a vested interest in our district.”
Upthegrove was the final candidate to speak for the evening and said he has served on the board for the past 22 years. He said he has been married for almost 20 years and has three sons, two of whom are still in the school district.
“Some things that I am sure of, the board hires two people, the superintendent and the treasurer, and I do believe that we have done a tremendous job doing that and we have two leaders who are going to take us where we need to be in the near future,” Upthegrove said. “The first goal I have is to do what is best for the children of our district and I believe we have done that over the last 22 years. People can read the paper and say the schools aren’t doing that well and in all reality we are doing pretty well. The state keeps raising the bar and it’s making it more and more difficult to keep up. It’s pretty bad when more than 50 percent of the schools are failing on their report card. So the state needs to look at what they are doing.”
Stay with the Record-Herald for more coverage of the “Meet the Candidates Night” later this week.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy