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Candidates vie for Chesy board spots

CHESAPEAKE – Improved communication with parents and the need for better school security topped the list of items discussed at the Chesapeake Local Teacher’s Association’s Meet the Candidates Night at the high school Monday.

Tuesday, October 26, 1999

CHESAPEAKE – Improved communication with parents and the need for better school security topped the list of items discussed at the Chesapeake Local Teacher’s Association’s Meet the Candidates Night at the high school Monday.

Only two of the six candidates running for the three open seats on the Chesapeake Board of Education attended the debate – Carl Lilly, a current board member, and Steve Wyant.

Pastor of the Sunshine Free Will Baptist Church with a bachelor’s degree in religious education and a master’s degree in ministry in Christian education, Lilly said he would like to continue serving the Chesapeake community as a board member.

"I’ve been on the board for the past four years and I’ve enjoyed working with you," Lilly said. "If elected, in the next four years I would like to see the completion of the new school and the renovation of the high school and elementary school. I also would like to see proficiency scores brought up, but I don’t want to make it such a priority that teachers think that’s all they are allowed to do. I want to teach the whole child."

To improve the educational environment, however, children and teachers need to feel secure, Lilly said.

"I would want to implement a good security plan for all three schools," he said. "I think we have been very fortunate, but we cannot become complacent. We live in a day where children have many problems, and we need a better system."

Chesapeake has had its own share of troubled youths over the years, Lilly added.

"The schools have had some threats and we need to take every one of them seriously," he said. "I think we can improve security by the use of cameras in every school and by having a security guard on school grounds."

Security is important, but measures should have been implemented years ago, Wyant countered.

And they would have been if there had been better communication between school officials and the community, he added.

Wyant, a Chesapeake resident, has no experience as a school board member, or in any other political office. But, if elected, he said he will do his best to limit executive sessions and to increase the district’s communication with the community.

"There are some situations in Chesapeake where the communication factor is at zero," Wyant said. "And if you have an attitude where you can’t communicate, you will get students who don’t care. The students are the No. 1 priority and you can’t teach them if you treat them like a bunch of robots. They need to be able to give a little input."

The board of education is known for its executive sessions during which members discuss the taxpayers’ money behind closed doors, Wyant said.

"How can you talk when all they do is go into executive session," he said. "You need communication. And that involves everybody starting at the top with the board to the administrators, teachers, students, parents and the community."

Executive sessions are an integral part of a board of education’s work, Lilly said. Without them, situations involving the disciplinary actions of personnel would be made public, and communication would cease for fear of exposing embarrassing personal information.

Arthur Suiter, board president who is also running for reelection, agrees with the board’s need to meet behind closed doors on occasion.

"These claims of secret meetings are totally unfounded," Suiter said. "Anything the board votes on in a meeting becomes public information at the next board meeting after the minutes have been approved. And each year, the board is audited and no funds have been used improperly. All of this information is public and can be accessed if someone would want to research it."

Suiter said he was proud of how the Chesapeake Board of Education was operated, and he was even prouder of the students the school system produces.

"The most rewarding thing is to see these young men and women receive an education from our system and become productive citizens in the communities," Suiter said.

Always an active member in the community, Suiter served on the Lawrence County Fair Board for 12 years, and this is his eighth year as board member.

"I had a child in the school when I first started," Suiter said. "And, of course, I’ve always lived here. I just like community involvement."

If re-elected, Suiter hopes to continue stressing the importance of technology in the schools.

"I think we also need to keep our standards high for our teachers and administration," he said. "I think we have the best staff in southern Ohio right now."

Carl Johnson wants to take his commitment to the Chesapeake area children one step forward.

A past president of the youth football league, Johnson said his main focus if elected will be decreasing bus overcrowding.

"I’ve never taken any classes on being a board member," Johnson said. "But I think my 14 years as a restaurant manager will help me – I know how to run things. And I want to be involved. I have three kids in school, and I’ve always been involved in activities at the school. This is one way to stay involved."

A lifelong Chesapeake resident, Rusty Marcum has a vested interest in the school system – he has three children who attend the area schools.

"I’ve always been very involved in the school system," Marcum said. "I’ve lived here all my life, and I would just like to see our school system be the best in Ohio."

Chesapeake already is well on its way to reaching that goal with the construction of a new middle school, Marcum said. And he will make sure the construction and renovation of schools goes according to plan if elected, he said.

"I don’t have any issues concerning the school system," he said. "The first thing I would like to see done is the new schools and the moves."

Once that is accomplished, Marcum said he hopes his experience as a business manager and owner will allow him to better serve the community.

"I’m just a very hard working person," he said. "I do a lot of things around the community. I’m very involved with buddy basketball and I’ve worked with the Chesapeake Area Citizen’s Coalition. I think I would give it a real hard effort if elected."

Suiter, Johnson and Marcum all cite previous commitments as their reason for not attending the open forum Monday.

Paul Leffingwell could not be contacted for comment before press time.