Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Four will seek two seats on school board



With Jim Burgess tossing his hat into the ring, four candidates now will vie for two seats up for election this fall on the Westerville school board.

In addition to Burgess, Gerrie Cotter, Greg Lawson and incumbent appointee Richard Bird last week submitted their nominating petitions to the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Burgess, 49, a candidate for the board in 2013, applied for appointment to the vacancy on the school board created when longtime member Cindy Crowe died in 2014.

Bird instead was appointed to that vacancy by the board's four other members and now seeks his first election to a full four-year term.

The other incumbent, board member Carol French, is not seeking re-election.

"We really need board members who will stand up and put the quality of our students' education first," said Burgess, a manager at Ashland.

Burgess is director of the Westerville Tea Party. He criticized the school board's decision to enact all-day kindergarten this fall.

"The structure of it is quite frankly ridiculous. We should have all-day kindergarten but it shouldn't cost that much to parents," he said. "It creates inequalities among our students. They should have kept it as half-day or make all-day kindergarten available to everyone."

The current cost of all-day kindergarten is $300 a month per student.

Burgess finished fourth in a field of six candidates that sought three available seats in 2013. Nancy Nestor-Baker, Tracy Davidson and Rick Vilardo won those three seats.

Burgess, his wife and three children have lived in the district for 11 years. His oldest son is a junior at Westerville North, while his other children do not attend Westerville public schools. He is involved with the band boosters at North, where his son is a member of the marching band.

Lawson said that he cares about similar issues as Burgess but has a different approach and will run a separate campaign.

"I respect what he has done and is planning. I like Jim a lot and think he's a good guy," he said.

Lawson said that he wants to make sure the district gets the most out of every dollar.

"We know that levies will eventually come up and I want to look the taxpayers in the eyes and tell them, 'If we didn't need this then I wouldn't be asking.' If I believe a levy is necessary to keep our standards where they are currently, then we will ask for a levy."

He said he wants to work on motivating students and helping them get excited about learning.

Lawson said he is eager to participate in future candidate forums or debates and said he will be attending North's home football games with his family as well as going door-to-door to reach out to the community.

Bird said his campaign is going well and has many upcoming activities planned.

"I've been working with my campaign manager to do a lot of organizing. We've already got some meet-and-greets planned and we hope to soon have T-shirts at the football games," he said. "I'm pretty pumped up."

Cotter said that her campaign also is going well and she's been hearing a lot of positive feedback from the community.

She attended the Genoa Township National Night Out event Aug. 4 and was able to speak to a lot of residents.

"It was a very positive experience. It was good to hear what people thought of the district as well as what they thought about my campaign," she said.

Cotter said she plans on going to sporting and community events in the district this fall and "getting out as much as possible so I can hear residents' feedback."

Read previous ThisWeek Westerville coverage on the board race at http://tiny.cc/9e6r1x.