The Dayton Daily News is partnering with two Dayton organizations with a special interest in education are hosting an election forum for Dayton school board candidates tonight.
The UpDayton young professionals group and the YWCA Dayton will explore the school board race from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16 at the main library downtown, 215 E. Third St.
VOTERS GUIDE: Compare all the candidates on the issues
Four of the seven school board seats are up for grabs Nov. 7, with eight candidates in the running — Bill Harris Jr., Joe Lacey, Jocelyn Rhynard, Karen Wick-Gagnet, Jo’el Jones, Paul Bradley, Ann Marie (Mario) Gallin and Mohamed Al-Hamdani.
Organizers said the candidates will be split into two groups of four — one group at 6 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. — with a moderator encouraging interaction and conversation among the candidates, rather than a traditional “down the row” question-and-answer process.
David Young, chair of UpDayton’s advocacy committee, said the school board race is important to his group, especially given their goal of retaining young talent in the city. There is a history of young people leaving Dayton for the suburbs once they have school-age children.
“We’re trying to engage voters – families and young professionals — to see what’s going on with the school board and how they can get more involved and help make a change,” Young said. “Votes on the local level impact their day-to-day lives a lot more than people realize.”
Briana Snyder, chair of the YWCA’s advocacy committee, said education issues are important to the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. She said schools are an intersection of race and gender issues, from educating disadvantaged children, to disparities in school discipline, to salaries for a largely female teaching staff.
The event is free and open to the public, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m., and the program beginning at 6 p.m. People can submit questions for the candidates now at http://updayton.socialqa.com.
The school board candidates have already participated in a handful of public forums. Last week, at an event hosted by the Dayton Unit NAACP, they gave opinions on student achievement, athletic eligibility and creating better classroom learning environments.
Rhynard said DPS must rebuild trust by tracking whether its slew of new programs are effective. Jones called for DPS to be flexible enough to make annual changes rather than trying a 5- or 10-year plan.
Bradley said the board should set a more professional tone and be more student-focused in its decisions. Wick-Gagnet pushed for a layered response involving social services in schools and a focus on early-grade reading. Al-Hamdani said DPS needs to rebuild pride in the district, starting with leadership at the top.
Lacey, the lone incumbent in the race, focused on classroom teaching, saying he would support a tax levy if it helped pay to retain good teachers. Gallin talked about better teacher training and support, to change how teachers connect with students. Harris was not present at the event.
Most of the candidates were against DPS’ new policy allowing students to be eligible for sports with a GPA as low as 1.0. Gallin said she was offended, Bradley called it “totally wrong” and Wick-Gagnet said district leaders “failed.”
The discussion was almost entirely about the “message” the policy sent, with little comment on the functional impact — whether the mandatory tutoring and study tables would help low-performing student-athletes or not.
Jones and Rhynard were more in the middle on the issue. Jones asked people to think of students without parents at home to push them, who might be impacted by positive mentors. Rhynard called it a “safety net” for the few students who needed it.
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