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News: New Moves on Board

School board candidates answer questions

By Margo Pierce · November 2nd, 2007 · News
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  Eve Bolton
Joe Lamb

Eve Bolton



The Cincinnati Board of Education -- it's a job few really want. That's how it looks with only four candidates vying for three open positions, two of which are being vacated by incumbents opting not to run for re-election, John Gilligan and Florence Newell.

The challengers -- Eve Bolton of College Hill, Michael Flannery of Westwood and A. Chris Nelms of Avondale -- are promoting themselves as a slate of reform candidates. Their competition is the only incumbent, Rick Williams of Avondale, on the Nov. 6 ballot.

One advantage of such a small field is the opportunity to make a side-by-side comparison. CityBeat asked all four candidates the same three questions, with a slight modification required for the incumbent. Their answers, edited for space, present a range of answers from the startlingly honest -- "I have no qualifications" -- to a genuine concern for education in the Queen City.

Eve Bolton
High school teacher, former Hamilton County Recorder and former Mount Healthy City Council member

In recent years the working relationship between the board of education and the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) administration has been contentious. How would you deal with that?

I would be very intolerant of a lack of cooperation or a lack of communication. The first step is that's not an acceptable way of doing business. Secondly, we probably have to make sure that whomever is on the board has confidence in the new superintendent who will be taking over some time in the summer.

What kind of interaction should a school board member have with the community at large?

School board members should be responsible for speaking on behalf of the board rather than sending a press relations or public relations administrator to do that. You are the community's face, and you should be the face to the community of the board, even the system.

You have no school board experience. Why should you be elected?

School boards are about instructing children, and I've been instructing children for 35 years. I understand where education has been. I understand pretty well where it's going. I understand the demands on educators under these current circumstances. I've formulated budgets for other entities, and I've watched my particular school district budget for years.

I'm very familiar with how schools and districts should work. Right now the Cincinnati School District is not based on a team spirit but rather more of an adversarial relationship among the various components.

Michael Flannery
Yes, that Michael Flannery -- former stand-up comic, television and radio reporter and children's program host

In recent years the working relationship between the board of education and the CPS administration has been contentious. How would you deal with that?

I'm a communicator. I've been doing that all my life, either live or through broadcast, television and radio. You can't make a decision or come to conclusion unless you're talking about stuff.

What kind of interaction should a school board member have with the community at large?

I don't know enough to know what a school board member should. I can tell you that I'm going to be open. I've been in the public since I was 16. I've had people come up and lay their soul out to me about their children to see if I could help or just to talk. That's what I put myself out for.

You have no school board experience. Why should you be elected?

I've been in front of boards and organizations. These people are going, "Why are you running?" And my question is, "Why aren't you?" These people complain about the school board: "They're not being fiscally responsible, and look at all this money." What partner of an accounting firm has stepped up to run for school board? Nobody. They say it's being mismanaged. What executive or CEO has stepped up to run for school board? Zero. So you get a kids' show host. I have no qualifications except I'm a parent. I care about Cincinnati, I care about the kids. I want someone in there who's looking out for the kids. That's what I'm qualified for.

A. Chris Nelms
Former educator and baseball coach (25 years with CPS) and prevention educator with Children's Hospital

In recent years the working relationship between the board of education and the CPS administration has been contentious. How would you deal with that?

(What) we are going to promote as a slate -- that's me, Mike and Eve -- is to be communicative and transparent. One of the ways you deal with that is set the tone from the very beginning. I think once everyone fully understands their roles and stay within the concepts of those rules, that shouldn't be a problem.

What kind of interaction should a school board member have with the community at large?

Once you're elected, then you represent not only the city but the community at large, so your relationship should be very visible, very accessible. You should show up at sporting events and not just special interest events where you're getting your picture taken. You do that, too, because that's part of the job, to hobnob ... but you show up at the community council meetings, sporting events. You show up.

You have no school board experience. Why should you be elected?

I'm more than qualified. I have a master's degree in education. I spent 25 years working in the school system. ... I worked in the school system as a teacher, a varsity baseball coach at three different high schools, a prevention specialist at Western Hills and Roberts Paideia and an athletic director at Hughes Center. I was the first one hired to drive a pilot program for full-time athletic directors. I'm running primarily because I have five grandchildren in the school system.

Rick Williams
First elected to the board of education in 1997, elected president three times, current chair of Partnership/Public Engagement Committee and president of Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati

In recent years the working relationship between the board of education and the CPS administration has been contentious. How would you deal with that?

What we have an opportunity to do now is, with a different board and a different superintendent, is be on common ground. My effort right now is trying all that in the redesign of the district that is steeped in the aspirations and values of the community. I believe if we can have community and board and superintendent aligned, then we don't have to worry about the contentiousness of the relationships.

What kind of interaction should a school board member have with the community at large?

We are elected officials, so that means our job is to represent the community. We can't do that well without access, without contact, without some engagement. Setting policy is what we're directed to do by law, but that policy should be a reflection of the community. That tends not to be one value. ... But without the access, the public nature of meetings, the public nature of decision-making and for the ability to be reaction and communication that we can hear, then we can't even set policy well.

You obviously have some school board experience. Why should you be re-elected?

My tenure as a board of education member has been around change, has been around reform for increasing student achievement, trying to make Cincinnati Public a district of choice and an attraction for families who have a choice. One of the redesign components is understanding what are the opportunities for extended instruction for children. I think that can make a huge difference in their performance. Why are we still accepting the agriculturally-based schedule of children need to be off in the summer so that they can do farming work? ©

 
 
 
 

 

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