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Board of Education candidates Q&A

 

Six candidates are running for three Board of Education seats in the Tuesday, Nov. 2 election.

Jonathan Baker:

Photo provided by candidate.

Board of Education candidate Dr. Jonathan Baker is a 15 year resident of Bexley and a graduate of Northwestern University and The Ohio State University. Baker is a husband and father of three kids. He has done research in the field of statistics, education, and distance learning. He has been involved in Bexley for years and formed the Bexley Minority Parent Alliance.

What is your motivation for running for the Board of Education?

In recent years, there seemed to be a need for stable executive leadership. Teachers taught with innovation and flexibility during the pandemic. Yet, their efforts could have been supported in greater measure. The adherence to our own guidelines for safety seemed inconsistent.

I have been a mathematics instructor and administrator at Columbus State and OSU for over 25 years. I felt it was time for me to put my expertise to use for the greater good to advocate for teachers and safety measures.

Also for almost half of my 15 years in Bexley, I have worked collaboratively with district administrators in my role on the Bexley Minority Parents’ Executive Board. By collaborating with BHS administrators on some of our initiatives, I knew I could provide some stability and reassurance.

How do you plan on improving student lives in and out of the classroom as a member of the Board of Education?

One core principle of my campaign is for students to have “safer & more effective learning environments.”

Inside the (physical) classroom: This includes attention to masking policies and safety guidelines. At Ohio State, even with 75+% of people vaccinated, we still wear masks to minimize spread. I would love to see Bexley City Schools bring back on-site vaccination opportunities.

Outside the (physical) classroom: This includes social-emotional safety. I support further development of an allies program. There would be no need for anti-bullying campaigns if members of the group with more power were allies, instead of (cyber) bullies. I have other ideas, but those are more directly aligned with my platform.

What are your short term and long term goals for the Bexley School District?

Short Term: Adhere to safety protocols enough to where we can stop receiving the emails and phone calls about another set of multiple Covid cases amongst our students–even if contraction occurred outside of school. This requires a deeper conviction about our own safety habits. Also, let’s make sure BMS/BHS students have a semblance of discrete two-year plans. Plans for sixth/seventhth-grade, the eighthth /ninthth-grade transition, 10th/11th grades, and 12th/1st year beyond BHS.

Long Term: I want the district to be a place where students from marginalized groups feel like this is their home, too. This again is relevant to “safer and more effective learning environments.” As students feel safer, this minimizes anxiety and can improve effectiveness of learning. This can all be done as we continue to achieve at high levels and help students find their plans post BHS.

Where do you see the district at the end of your term?

I see students under 12 being vaccinated. I see us coming out of the pandemic. I believe all of you will be on to the next chapters in your lives. I see the district as being stronger. I believe Dr. Fine will become the “Ol’ G” (as some students might say) amongst his fellow superintendents–and he’ll still be here at Bexley. Either way, I see myself thinking again for how to better serve the district for the next four years, as I will still be a proud Bexley resident–who by the end of the year would have had all three children complete their K-12 education right here, at Bexley City Schools.

Larry Ellyson:

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Board of Education candidate Larry Ellyson is a six year resident of Bexley, a husband and a father to his son Dante. Ellyson is also the co-founder of Bexley Pride with Brian. Ellyson has a BA and MBA with a focus in project management. Additionally, he has been a business professional for almost 30 years working with deadlines, budget, teamwork and collaboration.

What is your motivation for running for the Board of Education?

I want to make sure that our education system works for ALL students. Not every student learns the same way, and I believe we are capable of offering the tools and resources to meet each student’s learning needs that will make them successful, recognizing that success may look different for everyone. In order to make that happen, I need to bring my 20+ years of business and project management experience with me to work collaboratively with the four other Board members, the administration, that student body, the teachers, and the community. Having a son in eighth grade has made me especially motivated to ensure that all students get what they need!

Additionally, my life experiences as a gay man and a father to a Black son have helped me to understand what it feels like to be marginalized. When I think of our Board of Education, I believe it should represent multiple perspectives, and I believe that I have a unique lens that others do not have.

How do you plan on improving student lives in and out of the classroom as a member of the Board of Education?

As a Board member, I would work to enact policies that are student-centered, focused on both academics and extracurricular activities. I would really like to focus on analyzing the data around students’ sense of belonging and ensure that at the end of my four year term that we have made improvements in this area. I would also like to see that our sports programs are run as best-in-class, so no matter if you are an athlete, parent, coach, or visitor from an opposing school that your experience is exceptional. Similarly, I would like our students to continue to have access to our amazing visual and performing arts programs because I believe in the positive impact these programs have on students. Finally, as I previously mentioned, I bring a unique perspective to the board based on my life experiences. I want to improve the lives of ALL students who attend Bexley schools, but I want to say to our students of color and our students who identify as LGBTQIA+ that I will actively work to ensure you are heard, valued, represented, and unquestionably accepted.

What are your short term and long term goals for the Bexley School District?

Short-term: It is most important to continue to ensure that we are doing everything possible to keep students in-class learning. We have learned the hard way that remote learning due to COVID was not effective. Therefore, I will be focused on understanding the latest science and advice from the medical experts, as well as the COVID Task Force, and making sure that we are doing everything to make sure we are safe enough to remain in school. Additionally, I’d like to find creative ways to improve communication from both the Board and administration to students and parents. This is especially important for parents who struggle to find the time away from working or caring for their family to keep on top of school emails or parents who prefer other forms of communication. Part of communication is also actively seeking out input from students, staff, and community members. One of my first actions as a Board member will be to establish open office hours where any Bexley resident (including students) can meet with me virtually or in-person to express concerns or share ideas. I am truly running so that I can represent the community and be a voice for residents.

Long-term: As I said, I want to work on improving student sense of belonging data, so that all students feel like they belong within the Bexley school system. This means creating a culture of inclusivity where every student feels heard, seen, and valued. I would also like to establish a strong five year financial plan that ensures our facilities are maintained, improved, and expanded where possible. Additionally, part of this five-year plan would include an upgrade to technology, providing students and teachers with first-class resources that make instruction and learning more effective. And above all, I’d work to ensure that the excellent reputation and ranking that Bexley already has in the state is maintained.

Where do you see the district at the end of your term?

Above all, I would like to see that sense of belonging data has significantly improved at the end of my term. Measurably progressing in this area will be a key indicator that as a board and school administration we have made a direct impact on students and the culture in Bexley. I would also work to ensure that the school has a solid financial plan that will hopefully be at some stage of implementation by the end of my term. This plan would work to maintain and improve our facilities to ensure they are safe and meet the needs of our students in the areas of academics and extracurricular activities and put first-class technology in the hands of our students and teachers.

Marguerethe Jaede:

Photo provided by candidate.

Board of Education candidate Marguerethe Jaede graduated with a degree in education from The Ohio State University, her bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, and her master’s degree from the University of Minnesota. Jaede has experience in teaching and coaching and is a director for equity for Franklin County youth.

What is your motivation for running for the Board of Education?

My motivation for running for the Board of Education really came in two phases. The first phase included learning about House Bills 322 & 327, efforts at Columbus Academy and Columbus School for Girls to forward a distorted view of equitable practices, and the significant increases in district spending that focused on the Central Office. Those three things combined motivated me to submit a petition to the Board of Elections. What finalized my decision to actually run is a bit more complicated. With everything that is happening in Afghanistan, the assault on abortion rights, and the continued impact of COVID-19, I felt a strong need to act and to be of service. I have over 30 years of experience as an educator and hold a Ph.D. in Multicultural and Equity Studies in Education. I am also the co-founder and President of the Developmental Assets Resource Network (DARN) a local non-profit. In a time when there is so much going on in the world, the Bexley School Board felt like a place where I hold some expertise and could be of service and have a positive influence in the community where I live.

How do you plan on improving student lives in and out of the classroom as a member of the Board of Education?

First and foremost, I want to make sure that all Bexley students feel welcome, valued, and positioned to thrive. This means all students. To accomplish that means making extra efforts to reach out to students who have historically felt marginalized and intentionally seeking ways to strengthen their sense of belonging. This is not something that will happen to or for students, but instead by working alongside students, I will focus on centering their voices, perspectives, and lived experiences. The other thing I plan to do is protect Bexley teachers from forces that seek to undermine their professionalism and freedom to teach. Research is clear that classroom teachers have the greatest impact on student learning. For students to thrive, teachers must also thrive. In addition to serving as an advocate for teachers and students, my plan includes prioritizing meaningful educator professional development that supports ongoing learning that provides opportunities to create engaging, equitable, and student-centered classroom experiences.

What are your short term and long term goals for the Bexley School District?

In the short-term, I want to gather information directly from Bexley students and educators to better understand their collective concerns and priorities. Board decisions and policies should reflect the daily lived experiences of those most impacted.

In the long-term, I want to create communication feedback loops with students, educators, and community members that systematically embeds an inclusive range of perspectives into the district decision-making process. My intention is to develop a continuous improvement process that is fiscally transparent, honest, and centers clear communication with all constituents. The long-term goal is to create a district that is adaptive and responsive to the dynamic circumstances of the 21st century. In addition, we should see an upward trajectory of social-emotional learning data trends in all areas related to belonging and overall growth in all social, emotional, and academic outcomes alongside a decrease in the persistent gaps that have plagued the district for decades.

Where do you see the district at the end of your term?

At the end of my term, my hope is that students, educators, and community members will feel they have had an influential voice in the district’s strategic planning and future direction. I see a future where every district stakeholder will trust that the Board’s decisions were made based on credible research and implemented with cultural humility and equity-centered best practices. When we agree, and especially when we do not, my hope is that every stakeholder will feel they have had access and opportunity to both be heard and influential in the decision-making process. In addition, by the end of my term, I plan to have structures in place that ensure all graduating seniors have had access to individualized experiences that position them for post-high school success along with an actionable plan that is aligned to their interests and goals.

Patrick King:

Photo provided by candidate.

Board of Education candidate Patrick King is a Bexley resident, husband and father of two kids named Wells and August. King has his Master of Public Administration degree from the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Dayton. King has experience working in the field of school public finance and their needs in districts all over Ohio.

What is your motivation for running for the Board of Education?

I got motivated to run for School Board after working on the committee for the 2019 operating levy that passed with 68% positive vote. After that experience, I was eager to combine my 20 years of professional experience working with Ohio school districts, more than 25 years of public board service and my experience locally working on the levy and as a member of the district’s Financial Advisory Committee to play an integral part of making Bexley Schools the best possible school district.

How do you plan on improving student lives in and out of the classroom as a member of the Board of Education?

As a parent of a first and third grader in Bexley Schools, I see the importance of social emotional wellness initiatives for students. Given the challenges of the pandemic over the past year and a half, I think making sure students are supported both as students and as humans is increasingly important. The Board of Education should champion policies that make sure the school environment is safe, welcoming, allows students to be their authentic selves and provides all the tools to be academically successful.

What are your short term and long term goals for the Bexley School District?

My short-term goal for Bexley Schools is to do whatever it takes to keep students in school for the entire year. My primary long-term goal is to make sure Bexley Schools offers the highest possible academic offerings and related support services within the existing financial constraints.

Where do you see the district at the end of your term?

I see Bexley Schools at the end of my term remaining among the top school districts in Ohio and nationally, with expanded offerings and tracks for students of all types.

Joanne Pickrell:

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Board of Education candidate Joanne Pickrell is a 15 year resident of Bexley, a wife and mother of two daughters. Pickrell received her bachelor’s degree in political science from George Washington University and has experience in education, health care, economic development and energy and environmental issues.

What is your motivation for running for the Board of Education?

For 15 years, my family has called Bexley home. My husband Aaron and I have two daughters, Lilly and Amelia, who are second graders at Maryland Elementary School. We feel fortunate to live in a district with high-quality schools preparing them for their future.

When it comes to improving education and ensuring Bexley schools have the resources to be one of the best districts in the state, I take a hands-on approach. That is why I volunteered for the Committee for Bexley Excellence, which passed the 2019 Bexley Schools’ operating levy. In that role, I went door-to-door securing votes, talking with voters about the importance of passing the levy.

Last spring, I participated in the Community/Parent Bexley Diversity Equity and Inclusion English and Language Arts Secondary Curriculum Audit Working Group. I also participated in the community-based interview process to select our new superintendent.

During the levy campaign and over the last several months, I have listened to residents and heard their recommendations for improving educational experiences and the culture of our schools. I will honor the community’s high expectations and vision for our schools, capitalize on the district’s successes, and support policies so each student thrives academically, socially and emotionally.

How do you plan on improving student lives in and out of the classroom as a member of the Board of Education?

I have two amazing children who have different learning styles and who learn at very different paces. I would make sure that a student’s learning experience is as customizable as possible to meet their unique educational needs and give them the social and emotional skills to meet the moment they find themselves as a society. This includes:

Increasing access to innovative instruction and learning so that students have tools to achieve their full potential.

Improve college and career readiness because children need to be shown a wider range of post-high school education options, including colleges and universities, vocational schools, and technical schools, in order to empower students to choose their post-graduation paths.

Ensure special education programming meets students’ needs because we should be doing better to support students needing intervention services.

Immerse our students in a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion and create a dialogue on how we can address inequity in our community.

Increase access to emotional and behavioral health resources to address lasting impacts of the pandemic through increased proactive partnership and emotional and behavioral wellness programming to help children and their families through the coming years.

What are your short term and long term goals for the Bexley School District?

On the Bexley Board of Education, I will work to bring residents, School Board and other district leaders together to share ideas, build consensus, and forge a path forward to ensure each student has access to personalized learning experience.

In the short term, I would work with the Board, superintendent and administration to ensure that we are helping students, teachers and staff rebound from the pandemic and safely remain an in-person learning environment.

As we continue to navigate the pandemic, the district may not only need to close any achievement gaps related to COVID, but may also have to address any social and emotional needs of the students and teachers. The district needs to have enough counselors, who are doing amazing work, to help students when they struggle and ensure students are safe. As a district we have to consider how we are helping students with mental health challenges. The district can assess the current support services and see if there is a need to expand the high school’s Hope Squad and counselors and therapists.

Also in the short term, the district needs to continue to meet a child’s IEP or 504 accommodation by assessing where the staffing levels are appropriate for our special education program, the tools children in the special education program have access to, and by making up any personalized instruction time lost due to COVID. If a student’s unique educational needs are not being met, then the district needs to identify ways and take measurable steps to correct it.

Lastly, the district will be faced with a decision to generate revenue to operate our schools. We need to come together as a community to talk about our next levy and how we communicate with residents about the importance of the levy. The latter is something that I have already successfully done.

Some of our students do not feel like they belong in our schools. DEI challenges will take time to address because we need to look at the ways to address it in the near term but also why they exist. In the short term, the district and teachers can continue to introduce more diverse instructional materials, to host professional development for culturally responsive practices and to hire a more diverse teaching staff. There also need to be measurable actions over the next several years to ensure each student is connected to their school, peers, teachers and curriculum.

In the long term, we need to ensure that each student has access to tools to learn 21st-century skills in a 21st-century environment. We need to assess our digital tools to identify any gaps and find a way to fund the purchase of instructional materials. Also, we need to consider a facilities plan to match our growth in student population, our desire for students and teachers to have a 21st-century learning environment and financial abilities to make changes to the facilities.

Where do you see the district at the end of your term?

Based on enrollment trends, we will be a larger school district at the end of my first term. At the end of my first term, I would like to see the district improve each student’s learning experiences and provide a student centered learning environment. As a board member, I would work with the board, administration, teachers and students to take a hard look at ways to make sure each student feels safe, seen, heard and validated at school and to ensure teachers are supported to provide students with a customizable learning experience.

Erick Zanner:

Photo provided by candidate.

Board of Education candidate Erick Zanner has been a Bexley resident for 39 years and has three children who graduated from Bexley High School. Zanner is a professor at Capital University and has his bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Capital University. Zanner also has his master’s degree in economics from Wright State University.

What is your motivation for running for the Board of Education?

I love living in Bexley. Consequently, the health of the school district matters greatly. All three of my children experienced a Bexley education; my late wife taught there and later served on the Board of Education. As an Executive Professor at Capital University and with over 30 years in the finance industry, I believe my experience will allow me to be an effective Board member. The skills I have developed serving as an arbitrator for the Financial Industry National Regulatory Association will serve me well in developing consensus among all parties involved in school issues.

How do you plan on improving student lives in and out of the classroom as a member of the Board of Education?

We have a student rep on the board, Quinn Hall–I plan to listen to him. I plan to attend school events and make myself available to the students. I was one of the founding parents that started the men’s and women’s lacrosse programs. I can tell you this effort was not well received by the administration at the time–but we got it through. I am always open to enhancing the student experience at Bexley.

What are your short term and long term goals for the Bexley School District?

I feel students learn best in an environment where their teachers and mentors are reflective of the large diverse community we live in. I would like to increase diversity in our teaching staff. Furthermore, I will push for initiatives that promote inclusivity and tolerance for all our students. Realizing the need for expenditures in the district’s future, I want to maintain fiscal responsibility and explore avenues for academic initiatives and facility improvements–this is where I think my background in finance will be very useful.

Where do you see the district at the end of your term?

I want to see the Facilities Study restarted. Our student population has increased, and our facilities have not kept up. For example: the cafeteria at Maryland is the same one all three of my children have used–almost 30 years ago in Margot’s case. I want to have a plan for how we bring our facilities up to date and how we will pay for it. We need to communicate this with the citizenry of Bexley, of whom over 60% do not have children attending school. I want to see more teachers and coaches living in the district–I want them interacting with the community on a daily basis, whether it is getting ice cream or pizza.

Leah Baumann
Leah Baumann is a junior at Bexley High School and is a staff reporter for The Torch. This year is Leah's first year on the Torch staff, and she is a tennis player for Bexley. She also participates in Environmental Club and Key Club.