Voter Guide: Oakwood School Board

Voter Guide
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Voter Guide

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

The Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News invited local candidates to fill out the following questionnaire to inform readers.

VOTE FOR 3:

Amy Honaker

ajc.com

Education: United States Air Force Academy, B.S. in history; Harvard, M.A. in biology

Current Employment: Homemaker

Community Involvement: Smith PTO, 2017-currently; Oakwood MOMs Group, co-president 2021-2022

Why are you seeking elected office? My four kids. When we moved to Oakwood in 2014, our district was ranked seventh by the Ohio Department of Education. In the latest 2019 ranking, Oakwood’s performance was ranked 12th. Dropping five spots in five years is the wrong direction for our district, for our property values and especially for our kids. I have attended very competitive schools and know we have to be on the forefront to help our kids compete nationally, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). My children are all over the ability spectrum, but I want them (and all our kids) to be challenged wherever they are at so they can flourish and thrive.

Why should voters elect you? A good board member is someone who can: build consensus; cast vision; provide oversight to ensure sound policymaking and use of resources while engaging the community. I am running for school board because I believe I have the experience to help the Oakwood District make improvements that will strengthen our community and help our students excel. My vision is one that centers around our reputation for academic excellence. I want every child in our district to be appropriately challenged to reach their full potential, and feel included and valued. My ability to cast vision and lead was recently on display at Smith Elementary. Many people didn’t think it was possible, but the fundraising team I led was able to raise $40,000 in six weeks to build a new playground. My reputation for leadership is one of the reasons I was asked to be the co-president of the Oakwood MOMs Group this year. As a former Air Force contracting officer, I negotiated and provided financial oversight on government contracts, overseeing projects ranging into the hundreds of millions of dollars in multiple countries. I know how to ask the right questions to get the job done well and balance varying needs and desires of diverse stakeholders. I believe I am known in Oakwood as someone who is willing to listen to all sides of an issue and build bridges between opposing views. I respectfully ask for your support on Nov. 2 for a seat on the Oakwood School Board.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? My top three priorities are: setting high expectations for both our students and all those who serve them; ensuring the community receives a good return on the financial investment we all make in our schools; and better supporting our parents, who really do know the needs of their child best. I have seen too often how people will rise or fall to the expectations that are placed on them. I want the best for all of our children, whether they are on an IEP or in a gifted program, and I believe that begins with setting high expectations for all of them. We actually had to meet with the district for over four hours before they were willing to teach our son with Down syndrome how to write his letters in kindergarten while in the same year, had to discuss at length how to get extra math challenges for our daughter in the 99th percentile. We all pay a high financial cost to live in Oakwood, and I want to ensure that the school board is transparent with the community regarding our tax dollars and that we are getting the best value for what we pay. To support parents, I want to change the district’s current culture of denying services and telling parents “no” to one where the first response to a parent asking for help is “how can we help you?” If elected, I pledge to work collaboratively with my board colleagues and district leaders to address these priorities.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? When my family moved to Oakwood in 2014, our district was ranked seventh by the Ohio Department of Education for overall student performance. In the latest 2019 ranking, Oakwood’s performance was ranked 12th. Dropping five spots in five years is the wrong direction for our district, for our property values, and especially for our kids. I want to ensure that our focus is on academic excellence first and foremost. To that end, I will work with my colleagues to address identified needs, and help our community prioritize among needs and wants. I also plan to push the district to provide student-to-teacher ratios that are below the state average of 18:1 to help ensure that our dedicated teachers have the bandwidth they need to meet students’ varied needs. I plan to hold Q&A sessions with the community where parents are able to ask questions and receive a timely answer from the board and administration — which is not happening now. A school board is accountable to the citizens of the community and needs to respond to their concerns. I will also ensure that the board’s deliberations and actions are well documented in accordance with Ohio’s Sunshine Laws. I also plan to seek input from the community before the district begins rolling out new initiatives that impact what our children. I want our parents to know and understand what school leaders are doing with their tax dollars. We need to provide transparency in the district’s finances and decision-making.

Anything else? As the only bi-racial candidate running for the Oakwood School Board, I have personally experienced race-based discrimination and bigotry at various points in my life. It was unacceptable when it happened to me, and it is unacceptable when it happens to students today. There are many ways to support and improve diversity, equity and inclusion — just as there are many ways to define these terms. Calibrating the right fit for our community — without overstepping — is a discussion our community needs to have respectfully and honestly among friends, neighbors and our elected public servants, who have not led with clarity in this area. With my background and lived experience, I believe I am uniquely poised to help guide our community through these issues to reach consensus where we can agree. In the classroom, this is only possible when we provide a respectful, supportive and neutral environment where students are free to voice their opinions, challenge each other and learn how to engage graciously with people of differing views. I believe we need to continually strive to provide the resources needed for each child to thrive. Doing so will require careful analysis of our budgetary resources and the tradeoffs associated with different choices — skills honed in my professional career. I am committed to working hard for all of Oakwood to make our schools the envy of the nation and where everyone wants to come so their child can have the best education possible. Let’s grow our next generation of leaders!

Lauren Kawai

ajc.com

Education: Oakwood High School (2001); B.A. in elementary education, DePauw University (2005); Master’s degree in education, University of Dayton (2008)

Current Employment: stay at home parent

Community Involvement: MOMs of Oakwood -member since 2010, co-president (2015-2016); Smith PTO - Teacher Appreciation Committee co-chair (2018-2020); board member - Oakwood Farmers’ Market (2018-present); committee member - Citizens for a Better Oakwood (since 2020); and Oakwood Inclusion Coalition (since 2021)

Why are you seeking elected office? I have always enjoyed working with children, even before having children of my own. This is what led me to becoming an elementary school teacher. I have always felt passionately about both serving and educating children. I also have a great love for my community and want to ensure that everyone feels welcome to live here and feels included in our schools. I have two children at the elementary school (3rd and 6th grade) and a 4 year old who will go to kindergarten next year. As a parent and community member, I want to ensure the best educational experience possible, not only for my own children, but all the children in our district. I chose to run for school board because I believe it is one way I can make a difference in the lives of children in our schools and community. If elected to the school board, I will put my knowledge about and passion for children to good use.

Why should voters elect you? As someone with teaching experience and a Master’s degree in education, I understand the nuances of the classroom and am invested in implementing the current best practices in education. As a longtime Oakwood resident, product of the Oakwood School system, and parent to current Oakwood students, I care greatly about our schools and community. I am also a good listener, a good communicator and a hard worker. I will listen to the concerns of the community, help improve communication between the schools and the community, and work hard to make a difference for our students and teachers.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? If elected, one of my top priorities will be promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in our schools. I want all students to feel included, affirmed and a sense of belonging. Equity, diversity and inclusion in our schools also helps students improve their cognitive and critical thinking skills. It allows them to consider perspectives and opinions different from their own, and to examine their own beliefs and view of the world in fresh ways. Additionally, it prepares students to be good citizens and promotes creativity. Another one of my top priorities is to help each student reach their highest potential. I am committed to making sure that Oakwood provides an inclusive, accessible learning environment for students with a diverse range of abilities. I will advocate for our students to receive the services and accommodations they need to be successful and reach their potential. Finally, it is important to me that we follow the current best practices in education. As a board member and educator, I will advocate for incorporating more hands-on, project based learning, critical thinking and STEM programming in our schools, as well as promoting social and emotional education. I believe the goal of schools is for students to learn how to become successful and productive citizens of the very diverse world and workforce they will enter after graduation, and therefore, I believe we must equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to accomplish this.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? I believe all of the priorities I mentioned above can be addressed through relevant training for faculty and staff. Specifically, teachers can model fairness and inclusivity in their own behavior, show support for and learn from people who have been the target of bias, be prepared to respond appropriately when encountering discriminatory behavior, and foster a strong sense of belonging for all members of the school community to name a few. I also hope to intentionally grow and support diverse faculty, staff, and students to our schools. Some specific ways I hope to make our special education services the best they can be is through improving our methods for identification and providing structured support for students with a range of learning differences (intellectual and neurological), hiring more support staff and, if possible, making the position of special education director its own full-time role. I also believe we should implement the current best practices in education, such as the universal design for learning, use flexible thinking and differentiated instruction, and work to preserve the historic character of our buildings while also ensuring that they are accessible for all our students.

Anything else? I would like to clear up some confusion about my decision to run as part of a slate. Fellow candidates Laura Middleton, John Wilson, and I have chosen to support one another in our runs for school board. While we each bring a unique set of skills and background experiences to the table, we share many similar values and visions for Oakwood Schools. We also all have experience working with children. I have worked with children in the primary grades, Laura works with children daily in her practice as a child psychologist, and John teaches high school students. The decision to run as a slate has allowed us to support one another as we go through the campaign process, as well as share our resources. To learn more about me, please visit Kawai for Oakwood School Board on Facebook. You can also visit our website at www.kawaimiddletonwilson.com.

Dr. Gwyn King

ajc.com

Credit: TAI X 2021

Education: Board Certification: American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology 2011, Recertification 2020; Dermatology Residency at St. Barnabas Hospital, Bronx, New York, 2011; Internship at Grandview Medical Center, Dayton, 2008; Doctor of Osteopathy, Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, 2007; Bachelor’s of science, biology, Ohio State University, 2000; Honors diploma, Midview High School, 1996

Current Employment: Board-certified dermatologist, Dayton Skin, 2011-present

Community Involvement: Treasurer, Ohio Dermatological Association 2019-present; trustee, Ohio Dermatological Association 2016-2019; fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology; fellow of the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology; Ohio Dermatological Association, member, 2011-present; resident liaison, American Osteopathic College of Dermatology 2009-2010; class president, Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine 2003-2007; Sigma Sigma Phi, National Honor Society, inducted 2004

Why are you seeking elected office? I am motivated by the need to uphold academic excellence, provide financial transparency and increase communication between the district, families and educators. I first decided to seek a board seat during the pandemic, when we experienced incomplete and infrequent communication from the board regarding the district’s plans to return our children to school for safe learning. While engaging with other frustrated parents, I quickly saw the need for earlier, more complete, consistent communication between the district and its families. My true inspiration for running for the board of education is our son’s story. Early on, he showed signs of dyslexia; however the school met my concerns with “he’s fine” and “he’s a boy,” and ultimately refused to test him. In March 2020, I saw my sweet boy come home during quarantine, place his discouraged head on the table and call himself dumb. This bright boy was, and is, anything but dumb. My heart shattered. I looked to my friends and neighbors for advice, as the school closed the door on us. Ultimately I found a specialist and pursued testing - sure enough, he is dyslexic. We paid for private tutoring, and he has gained his confidence back. Through this process, I found dozens of families who have had similar struggles. I’m saddened for the families who cannot afford private testing or tutoring when the school refuses to provide the resources required to address specific learning disabilities. The schools’ lack of support robs these children of their unique potential.

Why should voters elect you? I am well-educated. I am bold and decisive. I am committed to impartial decision making based on data and facts rather than emotion. I am hard-working. I have excellent leadership skills and continue to build upon these independently and through coursework. I have experience serving on boards. I am committed to service, as demonstrated by previous volunteer work nationally and internationally. Perhaps most importantly, I am committed to focusing on our students above all else.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? Academic excellence: ensuring every student has the resources necessary to reach their highest potential. I will build an inclusive environment where all students feel welcomed. Communication: creating partnerships with district families, engaging parents in the decision-making process. I will listen to caregivers and take their input into account before making decisions. Financial Accountability: promoting financial responsibility and transparency. I will increase the visibility of Oakwood schools’ checkbook so parents can easily access where and how the district is spending our hard-earned dollars. I will demand that the district be responsible with both federal funds and local tax dollars to provide the best possible education for our children.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? I will fight for early testing to catch and diagnose learning disabilities early, providing the best chance at success for intervention and remediation. I will fight for training so that intervention specialists are equipped to meet every child where they are and address specific learning differences like dyslexia. I will create forums for parents and caregivers to openly discuss concerns, challenges and worries. I will work with the district to provide timely feedback. I will personally remain open to communication and work to encourage parents to engage with myself and the board. I will engage with educators to ensure we are hearing their concerns, addressing issues at the source. I will work to create visibility of our expenditures as done by many other districts on public resources and join the 169 other school districts in Ohio on Ohio Open Checkbook online. I will work to ensure our dollars are spent responsibly, creating value without compromising quality.

Anything else? I vow to lead with integrity, always focusing on our students when making decisions and creating policy, and always putting students over politics.

Laura Middleton

ajc.com

Education: Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas; M.A. in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas; B.A. in English from Drake University; B.S. in psychology from Drake University. Post-graduate education: postdoctoral fellowship – University of Washington, Seattle, WA; postdoctoral fellowship – Madigan Army Medical Center

Current Employment: I am a licensed clinical child and pediatric psychologist. I work at Dayton Children’s, where I treat children with a variety of presenting problems. As part of my job at Children’s, I have supervised students, provided teaching seminars and engaged in community outreach. I also own a private practice, located in Oakwood. I treat general mental health difficulties, as well as promote well-being and resilience in children.

Community Involvement: National Register of Health Service Psychologists; precinct captain in Oakwood; served on the board of Christ Church Preschool and Daycare; served on the ADAMHS board; Girl Scout troop leader

Why are you seeking elected office? I am running for the board of education because I feel that with my knowledge, experience, and talent, I can make a meaningful contribution to our school district. As a parent and community member, I am strongly invested in our school district, and I would like to serve on the board of education and offer my talent and expertise to make our school district even stronger.

Why should voters elect you? My wealth of experience, talent and commitment to our schools and community would make me an excellent school board member. As a clinical child psychologist, I have devoted my career to helping children achieve their potential. I believe my training and expertise in child development and mental health could be invaluable to the school district. I have a tremendous amount of experience working with children and adolescents. I co-authored and implemented a school-based resiliency program for students K-12. I have also served as a consultant to schools. In addition to my professional background, my personal qualities would also make me an excellent school board member. I have a strong work ethic. I’m efficient and effective in accomplishing tasks and reaching goals. I am also a relational person; I work hard to understand others’ points of view, and I enjoy working cohesively with others. It is a challenging time to sit on a school board, and our school board needs members to fearlessly face obstacles with grace and grit. I believe I possess the qualities to accomplish this while fostering unity in our schools and community. Furthermore, as a parent of two children in the Oakwood school district, I am strongly invested in the success and well-being of our schools. I am committed to maintaining excellence in our schools, fostering innovation and making improvements so that all students can thrive.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? My top 3 platforms are: 1. To maintain and advance a high level of academic excellence in our schools. As part of this, I would advance our special education services. 2. To foster and encourage equity, diversity and inclusion in our school district. This means creating a welcoming, diverse and inclusive environment where all students (and staff) feel that they belong in our school community, and that they are valued, accepted and celebrated for all of who they are. 3. To support working families. Single working and dual working families have unique challenges when it comes to school and child care, and these challenges need to be considered more in our school district.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? I would promote programs that maintain and advance academic excellence. This includes supporting what our schools do well, and encouraging innovative programs, teaching methods, materials and equipment, enrichment activities and community partnerships. I would advance special education services. I would make the special education services director a full-time position. I would gather information to identify problems. I would find out if we have enough staff to conduct assessments and implement interventions, and I would ensure that staff have the range of specializations needed so that students receive services in our district. To foster equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), I would support training in EDI for staff. Training can help staff become aware of, and recognize, unconscious biases, understand nuances and complexities of situations, and think of ways to act in situations with flexibility, sensitivity and openness. I would support student programs that give students a sense of belonging and community, teach the value of celebrating differences, and provide tools to respond to situations that are difficult. I would also intentionally grow and maintain a diverse staff. To support working families, I would take into consideration the needs of single and dual working families when making decisions. Our district can improve in this area, as decisions have been made that are difficult for working families. Moreover, child care is essential for many working families. South Connection, our district’s child care program, has limited capacity and transportation challenges. I would find solutions so that all families are able to access child care.

Anything else? I have devoted my career to helping children reach their potential. I am honored to be running for the Oakwood Board of Education where I hope to put my knowledge and experience to work for our school district so that every student can thrive. I am committed to maintaining excellence in our schools and fostering progress and innovation. Furthermore, as a parent of two children in the Oakwood school district, I am strongly invested in the success and well-being of our schools.

John Wilson

ajc.com

Education: Master’s in special education, Wright State University; social studies teacher, Kent State University

Current Employment: High School social studies teacher

Community Involvement: Dayton Art Institute Associate Board; Circles USA (anti-poverty community); Thrive - FairHaven Church (anti-poverty community)

Why are you seeking elected office? I am honored to be an Oakwood School Board member. In the past four years, I have served on the school board with transparency, an open-minded approach to all points of view, and with an emphasis on listening to students’ and parents’ needs. I am seeking to continue to serve for another four years.

Why should voters elect you? I am the parent of two Oakwood graduates and a current senior. I can attest to the high quality education and school experience provided by our teachers, staff and administration. Additionally, I am a teacher of almost 25 years experience. I bring a practical, hands-on classroom perspective of how school policies and procedures impact students, staff and the community. Part of my experience is as a former program specialist for adults with exceptional cognitive, mental health and behavioral challenges, which helped sharpen my convictions for equity in education for all students, something which I continue to advocate for today.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? Actively supporting diversity and inclusion education in the school system isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s a practical boost for students. Students who feel secure and accepted perform better in their studies and activities. Their lives are stronger, and the life of the school is stronger as a result. As a member of the school board, I don’t want to just maintain our academic excellence — I want to improve it. We can do this over the next four years by strengthening our approaches to inclusion and awareness. I am interested in working to improve the nutrition and lunch options for our students in order to help develop a lifetime of healthy habits. This will involve seeking creative solutions to the issues created by our limited facilities as well as partnering with the community and with families to explore food and nutrition solutions for students throughout their school years. In addition, I look forward to working with the board of education to complete phase 2 of the facilities plan so that our buildings and facilities are maintained to the highest possible standard that will allow another 100 years of Oakwood education.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? I am a voice on the school board calling for a strengthening of our equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) plan. This year the district created an EDI task force including teachers and staff from every building and focusing on district culture. This is an important first step. Moving forward the task force needs to look at best practices of EDI, see first hand how it is implemented at other districts and dive deeper into the research. We also need to measure outcomes and adjust accordingly. As for nutrition, I am eager to connect with people in the community who are also interested in creative approaches in our district. Others are already doing this. A great place to start is examining best practices around the country while finding creative ways to maximize or enhance our limited facilities. We have $100 million worth of facilities in the district that require almost $70 million worth of necessary upgrades and renovations over the next 25 years. We are near completion of phase 1 with the $18 million approved by voters during my first term on the board. The Oakwood Schools Foundation and their FLOURISH campaign is raising an additional $8.8 million in private donations to add new band, choir and orchestra space and to update additional existing art space in the building. I look forward to helping to guide the district toward Phase 2 in our master facilities plan, setting priorities, and communicating the impact it will have on our students and community.

Anything else? I consider myself to be a leader who listens. I am a member of the board with practical classroom experience and ask the tough questions about how policies and procedures truly affect our students and staff. I have dedicated my entire professional life to students and my fellow teachers to give them the resources and skills they need to be successful.