This page is dedicated to answering questions that have been asked of candidates for the upcoming election for School Board Members of Marlington Local Schools. The information on this reflect the opinion of the four candidates supported by Marlington Forward.
How many positions are up for election on the Board?
There are four seats on the election ballot for Marlington this Fall: THREE on the normal seat rotation (4 Year term) which Karen Humphries, Cathy Krupko, and Mark Ryan are running, and ONE for the unexpired term seat (2 Year term) that was vacated by Danielle Stevens. Jonathan Swift is running for that seat.
What would you say are the foremost problems that the Board is facing?
There are two problems the board is facing right now: 1.) The spending of operating revenue on capital projects (buildings) has placed an EXTREME financial hardship on the district 2.) A crisis of leadership has caused this financial problem because there is no long term vision and explanation how these capital projects ($6.0 million +) contribute to the long term financial health and education of our students.
What specific attributes do you believe that you will bring to the Board?
We can bring accountability to the board. That is done by allowing the superintendent and treasurer do their job in the professional capacity that they were hired. They must explain how spending taxpayers dollars provides for a quality education to our students while maintaining fiscal responsibility. If they can’t do that, then the board must find individuals in those roles that can.
In the past, board members approved policies, programs, spending, and hiring as recommended by the superintendent and treasurer. We have very little, if any of that now. In fact, the reverse is occurring. The board majority since 2020 that dictated and recommended all of their own policies, programs, spending, and hiring without the proper vetting by the superintendent and treasurer. This caused ill-thought policies, ineffective and inefficient school programs, runaway spending, a high number of staff exodus. We believe that board members hire the best people – superintendent and treasurer – and let them do their jobs with proper advice and evaluations.
What are the most divisive issues that plague the current Board and who are on the opposing sides?
Currently, we have board members ( Carolyn Gabric and Josh Hagan) believing that the superintendent and treasurer should NOT run the school district according to their roles and that the board should micromanage their day to day activities. The other board members (Karen Humphries, Scott Mason and Matt Misch) believe that they should permit the superintendent and treasurer to do their job without micromanaging. We see this divisiveness manifest itself with the hiring of an outside attorney (Markling) and the spending of operating revenue and loan procurement on capital projects (elementary school repairs).
Is the declining student population outside your purview to change? If not, what do you believe you will be able to do to reverse this trend?
The declining enrollment at Marlington is a microcosm of what the other sixteen Stark County school districts (except Lake and Jackson), and as well as surrounding counties, are experiencing. We can possibly slow that rate of decline, but as you say, it is outside of our purview to impact greatly. Marlington has consistently provided a quality education with strong community values. We still have the values, but we are losing the education portion. If we can get back to education as the primary consideration for making decisions, I believe we can slow the trend. We have done it in the past.
What do you believe that you can personally do to address working conditions and staff departure?
Morale and productive working conditions start at the top: the Superintendent. With proper directives and the absence of micromanagement, the Superintendent sets the tone. We have witnessed this with two very good superintendents: Jim Nicodemo and Joe Knoll. They both understood their role because those boards they served allowed them to do their jobs. Marlington ranks at the bottom of the pay scale for staff in Stark County but we have always benefitted from dedicated and productive teachers, administrators, bus drivers, cooks, custodians, etc. As a board member, you hire the best two persons for the top two administrators at the district – superintendent and treasurer – and then you let them do their job. That’s my philosophy.
Isn’t it an illusion to believe that the Board can do “more with less”? How do you perceive that this can happen?
Marlington was doing this for a time and still is to some extent. Combining administrative roles for instance; our athletic director, Steve Miller, also serves as the career tech administrator. Consolidation proved that at the elementary level. Gym teachers and custodians were streamlined because of one less building, as an example. More of that can be done down the road if consolidation becomes a reality again.
As a result of prior fiscal decisions, isn’t it inevitable that millage increases will be a necessity? How would you promote that action?
That is correct, millage increases will be a necessity . Otherwise, draconian cuts or major consolidation or both are coming. The superintendent talked about placing a levy on the ballot in May of next year to increase operating revenues. I want to see if the public will support increased taxes. While it sickens us that the district has been brought to this point, we would promote a new tax levy by asking the public to consider that three elementary buildings have been remodeled/repaired using operating funds and we need to except the fact that this cannot be undone. We are stuck with our current situation for the near future.
What would be your solutions to bring back educational excellence to the District?
* Freeze all capital spending until a viable vision and plan put into place
* Evaluate current financial matters with all board members, superintendent, and treasurer
* Evaluate Superintendent and Treasurer job performance and advise
* Demand that Superintendent and Treasurer formulate a FIVE YEAR STRATEGIC PLAN
* Make all policy and fiscal decisions based on educational impact* Promote the hiring of staff based on not salary alone, but also on working conditions and morale