Dayton’s school board will have three open seats up for grabs this fall because none of the three incumbents whose terms are ending plans to run for re-election.
Robert Walker, Sheila Taylor and John McManus confirmed this week that they will step down from the board at the end of the year.
That means by January, all seven school board seats will have turned over in the past two years. Any candidates for the three open seats must submit petitions with at least 300 valid voter signatures to the Montgomery County Board of Elections by Aug. 7 to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.
2015 STORY: Bios of departing board of education members
The past 18 months in Dayton Public Schools have seen the hiring of a new superintendent, changing 20 of 25 building principals, complete overhaul of the human resources and special education departments, dramatic changes to teacher pay and training, plus the closure of two schools and plans to move district headquarters.
Those changes began after a new four-member majority of Dayton’s school board was elected in November 2017 – William Harris, Jocelyn Rhynard, Mohamed Al-Hamdani and Karen Wick-Gagnet.
McManus, who is in his fourth year on the school board, has criticized the new majority this year, saying they make decisions without involving the more veteran board members in the process.
2017 STORY: Four new faces elected to Dayton school board
“My first two years on the board were the most rewarding years of my life,” McManus said. “It was a different board then with different members. We trusted each other, listened to each other, and made decisions as a family. Each one of us was making a difference, and we were bound together in service to this community. The last two years have been a very different experience.”
No candidates have been certified to the ballot yet for the Nov. 5 school board election, but five people have shown interest by picking up petitions from the Board of Elections. Those five are Claudia Hunter, Jamie Rippey, William Smith, Gabriella Pickett-Mosier and former school board member Joe Lacey.
Taylor is the longest-serving DPS school board member, at 12 consecutive years. She said she’s retiring from both the school board and her full-time job with Dayton Municipal Court in the next year. She said it has been disappointing to see Dayton’s report card grades lag, citing issues of poverty as a key factor.
“It’s real important that labor and administration are communicating and working well together, and I felt that I played an instrumental part in that,” Taylor said when asked for a highlight of her board service. “We set up the operations department to run very smoothly and to be safe, now having safe buses.”
Walker has been on the school board for eight years and served multiple terms as board president, always with a focus on getting board members to work together collegially. He called being elected twice “a gift that the community gave to me,” but said after years of demanding work, he hopes to revisit the retirement plans he had eight years ago.
Walker said a highlight of his board service was the progress the district made in 2015-16 after the Ohio Department of Education warned of possible takeover.
“I think I’ve seen a resurgence of that same kind of energy and spirit (now) to get public education right in the city,” Walker said. “It’s not a perfect process, but I think the spirit is such that we want to have the Dayton Public Schools be the best for our children, to be our leaders for the future.”
McManus, 35, said he’s considering the possibility of running for a city office in 2021 when mayor, two commission seats and Clerk of Courts will be on the ballot. He called being elected in 2015 “the honor of my life,” and said he was most proud of fighting for DPS children with disabilities.
“Financial responsibility, transportation, and career technical education are other areas in which I think I had a significant impact,” McManus said. “Today, students in buildings across the district can earn career certifications. Our transportation system is vastly improved, and we’re in the best financial health that we’ve been in for a very long time.”
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