Improvements on agenda of school board candidates

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2003

It was a chance for Ironton voters to see and compare their six choices for three available seats on the city school board.

Approximately 100 people attended a "Meet the Candidates" forum Thursday night at Ohio University Southern's Bowman Auditorium, sponsored by the Ironton Cooperative Club.

Newcomers Jim Colegrove, Tim Johnson, Kathy Kratzenberg and Paul Kuehne joined incumbents Gary Neal and Robert Pleasant Jr. in answering questions submitted by people in the audience prior to the start of the forum. The balance between academics and athletics and improving the district's test scores were two of the main topics open for discussion.

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One audience member asked "What programs or changes would you (the candidate) support to improve the school system?"

Johnson said he would like to see a focus on Math, Science and English. "These are the most important things," Johnson said. "Kids who are well trained in these areas will do better in college."

Kratzenberg said she was pleased the district had already instituted the Saxon Math program in its schools, and said she would like to see more focus on technology.

Colegrove said he would try to do the best he could. Kuehne said he would support anything that would benefit students. Neal said he would do everything possible to help children; Pleasant said the district has already made some changes that have resulted in substantial improvements, such as curriculum mapping and alignment and he would like to continue with these changes.

One questions asked was "Given the history of academics in the city school system, how would you balance the two factions of academics and athletics?"

Johnson said he was proud of the district's athletic program, and would like to see the same enthusiasm given to classroom success. "Enthusiasm can move mountain; apathy can move nothing," Johnson said.

"If I had the answer to that question, I would put it in a bottle and make a million dollars," Kratzenberg said.

She said she would like to see more emphasis put on academics but did not want to take away from athletics.

Kuehne said athletics is great but academics is the most important thing. Neal said athletics gives kids something to do, and he stressed that those who participate in sports must get passing grades in order to be eligible to play on any sports teams.

Pleasant said the most important thing is academic excellence and that few people actually will ever have a career in sports. He said he would like to see the elimination of the perception that there are two factions within the city, sports and academics. Colegrove said he though there was room for improvement in both areas.

All of the candidates disagreed with one audience member who asked what could be done to help average and above-average students who are often overlooked.

"I'm not sure they are overlooked," Kratzenberg said. "In high school we have weighted classes and in the junior and senior years they can take the college option at OUS."

On the subject of attracting quality teachers, Neal said new superintendent Dean Nance has hired very qualified teachers since he took that position in June. Pleasant said he would like to see teachers have a greater voice in what goes on in the system, and said he would like to see an improvement in communications between the staff and the administration, something Johnson, Kratzenberg and Kuehne seconded. Colegrove praised the district's teachers as "the best in the state".

The purpose of the forum was to help better prepare voters to choose the most qualified candidates. William McCormick said he was glad he attended. "I think a lot of key issues were discussed," McCormick said. " I think it will help a lot of people decide who to vote for."

The size of the audience pleased Co-Op Club President Diana Leith. "You always worry about that (people attending)," Leith said. "I'm encouraged to see the people of Ironton using their democratic rights. It's very encouraging."