Middletown school board applicant too ‘radical’ for interview, member says

A candidate seeking appointment to the Middletown school board is being criticized by a current board member before selection interviews began Monday evening as unworthy for consideration.

Middletown Board of Education member Todd Moore said University of Dayton Associate Professor Thomas Falk, who is seeking appointment to fill a board vacant seat, objects to some of Falk’s published works as “radical,” saying he should not be interviewed.

But the college instructor, who resides in Middletown, told the Journal-News Monday he is being treated unfairly with such criticism before interviewing with the board.

And School Board President Chris Urso also countered Moore, saying Falk should be allowed to interview to fill the empty seat.

The governing board of the 6,300-student school system is seeking to appoint a replacement after last month’s resignation by member Michelle Novak.

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Moore told the Journal-News: “After careful review of Mr. Falk’s writings, I object to his interview and consideration for an appointment to Middletown City Schools.”

“While Mr. Falk’s academic record runs for nearly 10 years, I am concerned about his Marxist views, publication in Critical Whiteness Studies, advocacy for drug use, and views towards education policy,” he said. “It is important for the community to know his views and why he is wrong for Middletown City Schools.”

“Mr. Falk argues: ‘American schools…belong largely to our ruling class, functioning as State institutions to inspire child-like reverence for the ‘free market’ and to instill obedient loyalty to the State, no differently than the churches of a previous age.”

“And he states (students are) ‘taught in school to equate entheogens with narcotics and conditioned by consumer culture to relate to ‘drugs’ — whether in the form of pills, alcohol, junk food, or entertainment — as ‘kicks’ or escapes from a reality of increasingly ominous crises, many are doubtful to regard psychedelics with the sacramental care that has traditionally surrounded them,” said Moore.

“These positions are radical and not representative of Middletown City Schools or the community and should not be supported by the Board of Education,” said Moore.

Falk, a Middletown school parent, said Moore is not being fair to him.

“I don’t think he really understands what I’m doing,” said the UD instructor, who previously worked as an adjunct professor for UD, Columbus State Community College and Ohio State University.

“We haven’t really had a chance to talk. I feel like if we could have a conversation, we could come to some understanding. Whether or not he supported me or objected to me being on the school board, we could at least understand each other a little bit better,” said Falk.

“Some of the characterizations he made of me are false and misleading.”

Under Ohio law, publicly elected school boards can determine which applicants can be interviewed according to their own criteria. Some local boards in past years have chosen to initially reduce the candidate pool prior to starting interviews, while some others have met with all candidates who apply.

Urso said he wants the board to interview each of the 10 candidates.

“I feel my responsibility as a school board member (is to) choose the right person and the best person … and to allow them to speak and allow them the opportunity to articulate a case,” he said.

“The board of education is a non-partisan board. With that in mind, we are looking for people who are passionate about Middletown Schools, about our children and who want to contribute to the greater good.”

“To eliminate people from the very beginning (of the appointment process) … and in speaking with my (board) colleagues, we wanted to have a chance to have people interview,” said Urso.

“Mr. Moore is trying to do the best for Middletown and I understand that. So is Mr. Falk and I think the rest of the board members are just trying our best to get this right.”

The board will meet in private, executive session Monday evening, as allowed under law, to conduct some of the applicant interviews, with more scheduled later this week.

The board has no set date yet as to when it will vote to fill its empty seat. In the case of a 2-2 tie in voting, the decision on appointment will then fall to a local judge.

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