School construction, COVID key issues in Beavercreek school board race

Beavercreek High School students walk to their next classes on Oct. 8, 2020.

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Beavercreek High School students walk to their next classes on Oct. 8, 2020.

Voters in the Beavercreek school district have five candidates to choose from for three school board seats in the current election — incumbents Krista Hunt and Jo Ann Rigano, along with newcomers Allison Lindsay and Carl Fischer, plus Mark Passage, who is a write-in candidate.

The school board has five members, and they serve four-year terms. The two seats not up for election are held by Gene Taylor and Chris Stein, whose terms end after 2023. One current incumbent, Denny Morrison, is not running for re-election.

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According to the Ohio School Boards Association, local board members are responsible for hiring and evaluating the district’s superintendent and treasurer, engaging parents and community members, plus the long-term work of setting educational goals and policies for the district.

Board members vote on personnel issues, educational decisions and budget items that are presented by the superintendent and treasurer, but they do not manage day-to-day district operations. Board members are paid $125 per meeting, not to exceed $5,000 per year.

New school facilities

Each candidate was asked to name the one or two most important issues facing the district for the coming years. Everyone except Passage mentioned enrollment growth and the possibility of new school construction as one of their key issues.

In 2019, the school board approved a master facilities plan that called for construction of a new high school while keeping existing buildings, to create more space. The plan would require voters to approve a tax issue, and it was put on hold after COVID hit.

Rigano said the trailer classrooms temporarily in use are “not what we want for our students,” but district leaders have to “constantly be monitoring the situation and making adjustments” for now.

Explore2019 story: Beavercreek schools settle on facilities plan

Fischer said the master facilities plan is “not something we can ignore for long,” adding that the plan has to be sustainable for the long term, and clear enough that the community will support it.

Lindsay disagreed that new buildings were an urgent need, suggesting population growth will be less than the district expects. She said redistricting or using upgraded trailers could be better than asking taxpayers for millions of dollars to build a new high school.

Hunt said Beavercreek put a lot of time and effort into the facilities plan and she hopes the district can start moving forward on it again, rather than using temporary “band-aid” approaches.

COVID protocols

Lindsay and Passage both put COVID issues at the top of their lists, as the district currently mandates masks for everyone in K-12. In focusing on “parents rights,” Passage said he would propose a new bylaw preventing the school board from mandating “any medical devices or medicine.”

Lindsay said blanket mask mandates are hurting families, and children are falling behind in school when healthy kids are quarantined. She said families have shared stories with her of their children getting face rashes and getting sick because of masks. She argued the COVID risk is low for most children and there is “an overemphasis on the ability of the mask to actually protect students.”

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Rigano said she believes in masking and will continue to follow medical experts’ recommendations. County and state health officials recommend masks in K-12 schools, and the CDC says masks reduce the spread of virus-laden droplets when people talk, cough and sneeze.

Fischer said the schools’ decision to follow expert guidance is the best course of action and has allowed Beavercreek “to keep schools open and keep kids healthy.”

Hunt said she was resistant to the district’s mask policy but didn’t fight it because mask-wearing is what allows kids to stay in school rather than quarantining, and she said it’s crucial that kids have in-person classes.

Other issues

** Fischer: An electrical engineer and parent of current Beavercreek students, Fischer said improving the schools’ diversity and inclusion efforts is a top priority for him, so every student feels welcomed. “A lot of that really has to do with helping teach our children to respect and understand each other and each other’s differences,” he said.

In other areas, Fischer said the district needs to explain school funding to the public in more understandable ways. He wants schools to be empowered to try new things, like project-based learning, to keep pace with a changing economy. He’d like to see practical skills emphasized, including financial literacy and information literacy. He said through his work, he’s familiar with running large programs, and guiding teams to execute effectively.

ExplorePrevious: Beavercreek had considered major budget cuts

** Hunt: A church ministry assistant, parent of current students and eight-year school board member, Hunt has a focus on character education, having helped launch the Shine Awards given monthly to students of character. “It places a value on being a good citizen and a good friend, being responsible and respectful of others, including those who might be left out,” she said.

Hunt said teachers are doing important work to meet the needs of kids who are behind academically after 18 months of COVID disruptions. She said there are no glaring problems with the budget and cited the recent multimillion-dollar savings from health plan changes.

** Rigano: A retired teacher and eight-year school board member, Rigano said she thinks Beavercreek schools do an “exceptional job” of preparing kids for their adult futures, in large part because of the diverse set of courses for them to take and opportunities to participate in.

She thinks the district’s budget is in good position, and she wouldn’t call for significant changes in what they spend their money on. But she said state funding is always a concern. She said she’s a good candidate because her decades of experience in education have helped her master educational issues from elementary to college level.

** Lindsay: A parent of five (four current Beavercreek students), Lindsay said she thinks Beavercreek schools and teachers do a good job academically and with enrichment programs, especially compared to schools in other states where her husband has been deployed.

Asked whether she could complete a four-year school board term, given her husband’s Army deployment status, Lindsay said he has two-plus years left here, and the exact timing of what the family would do next are not certain.

On “critical race theory:, Lindsay said, “You can call it CRT or justice-centered learning or diversity, equity and inclusion … culturally conscious education, whatever you want, but if it embraces those foundational principles of the academic theory of critical race theory, it does not belong in our K-12 public education.”

** Passage: A civilian US Air Force employee, he listed transparency and accountability as his other top priorities for the district. He said he wants to review all school programs individually “to locate waste.”

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