Four running for Ironton school board

Published 10:41 am Thursday, October 22, 2009

IRONTON — Four candidates, all with a variety of talents and ideas, have one distinct thing in common in vying for two open seats on the Ironton Board of Education.

That shared trait, carried by school board hopefuls Jerry Brownstead, Daniel Hartwig, A. Burton Payne and Jay Zornes, is the willingness to give back to a community that has been so good to them for so long.

Each of the four, all graduates of Ironton High School, say they believe in using their life-learned experiences in assisting the children of the district to reach what ever goals they set.

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The two open seats are being vacated by current board members Jerry Rowe and Bob Vaughn who decided not to seek re-election. Each seat carries a four-year term.

Earlier this week, The Tribune talked to each candidate about their goals and ideas for the district, their thoughts on the responsibilities of the board, their motivation for running and other items pertinent to the district.

Candidates are listed alphabetically.

Jerry Brownstead

Age: 71

Occupation: Retired/Church Volunteer

Education: Ironton High School, 1957; Jones Business College

Family: Married, wife Sally; two children, three step children.

Previous Elected Experience: None

Returning back to Ironton after employment took him North Carolina and Florida, Jerry Brownstead said he is eager to get involved again in his hometown and thinks the Ironton Board of Education would make an excellent fit for him.

“I was motivated to run as I wanted to get involved in my hometown and channel my efforts back into our children as they are our future,” Brownstead said, when explaining his goal of pointing students towards the job markets in need of educated students.

Brownstead said he believes the district should be giving its teachers the best tools and its students the best opportunity for success in what he calls “giving our children a 21st century education.”

He also spoke about how important good schools and education are when companies both large and small are looking to start or relocate to an area.

When asked about if school boards are necessary, Brownstead said he felt they absolutely were.

“I personally feel schools need a governing body for its accountability to each other and the community,” he explained.

Brownstead said he felt current superintendent Dean Nance had been doing a “terrific job” as “he has brought us through some hard times and was vital in the construction of the news schools.”

However, Brownstead was vocal in his displeasure of any type of nepotism within the district and said, following some research, he would support any type of anti-nepotism clause should it be brought before the district.

“We should not be hiring family in the Ironton City School District,” Brownstead said.

Asked if elected, would he support any type of operation levy should it be brought before the board, Brownstead was quick to say what would have to be done before it ever got to that point.

“Before any type of levy would be suggested, I would need to thoroughly go over each and every line item in the budget. I know there are areas that we currently need to trim the fat.”

Daniel Hartwig

Age: 54

Occupation: Retired Educator

Education: Ironton High School, 1973; Ohio University, B.F.A., M.F.A.

Family: Married, wife Margaret

Previous Elected Experience: None

While many people look at the past and present, Daniel Hartwig says he looks at the future. What he forecasts for the future of Ironton City Schools is a financial picture that is cloudy and shaky.

Hartwig said he was motivated to run for the Ironton Board of Education after taking a closer look at the district’s finances and seeing a variety of warning signs that he thinks need to be addressed.

As for the role of the board when it comes to the district, Hartwig believes having positive surroundings for students and parents are the key to the district.

“Basically a school board should try to maintain a good educational environment and a good community environment while attempting to get as many people as possible involved in school activities,” Hartwig explained.

If elected, Hartwig said he would like to see the board rely less on the executive sessions it partakes in and vastly improve its communications with both parents and the press.

He also thinks criticism is needed in order to determine if the Ironton School Board is doing the job they were elected to do.

“A board is judged by the amount of feedback they receive from the community. A board should know that they are not doing a good job if most of the feedback is negative.” Hartwig also thinks school boards are necessary as they “dictate what the community wants to see in education.”

He also felt that without school boards, problems would not get solved as quickly as they currently do with boards in place.

When asked about nepotism within school districts, Hartwig said the practice of hiring family members and relatives can be looked at from a few different sides.

“Someone with a proper degree and credentials should be considered for any position, however nepotism can lead to problems and it can erode the checks and balances of a school board,” Hartwig said. “While I respect a person’s qualifications, nepotism should be avoided at all costs.”

Dr. A. Burton Payne

Age: 79

Occupation: Retired

Education: Ironton High School, 1948; B.A., M.A, Ph.D., The Ohio State University

Family: Married, wife Leona; five children

Previous Elected Experience: Lawrence County Commissioner 1965-1973; Lawrence County Coroner 1989-2008, Former chairman Lawrence County Republican Party

Burton Payne is not in any need of name recognition during his campaign for the Ironton Board of Education.

A central figure in Lawrence County Republican politics for more than 40 years, Payne said construction of the two new schools motivated him to jump back into public service.

“I was involved with the levy campaigns to construct the new buildings and after seeing how things were coming along, I got excited as to what was going to happen next,” Payne said.

A strong believer of a school board’s role in setting policy and goals, Payne said school boards are necessary if for no other reason than accountability.

“You’ve got to have a school board because you have to have your superintendent and treasurer accountable. You have to have a chain of accountability from the teachers to the administration to the board to the community.”

Another aspect of accountability Payne mentioned was using evaluations set forth by the Ohio School Board Association. The OSBA is a not-for-profit statewide organization of public school boards whose purpose is to advance and encourage public education through local citizen responsibility.

Payne said he would support placing an operation’s levy on the ballot should the need arise during his four-year term, but said he “couldn’t imagine they would need one or would have too.”

As for nepotism within the district, Payne said if the situation arose he “would stay out of the loop,” but felt it should never hamper someone from applying for a position should they be qualified for it.

A strong believer in the technology available to Ironton City School students, Payne said if elected he would push to motivate the district’s teaching staff to incorporate as much technology as they could to growing the student’s education.

Jay Zornes

Age: 43

Occupation: Co-Owner of Creative Financial Solutions

Education: Ironton High School, 1985; Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Family: Married, Bekki, one daughter Lilly.

Previous Elected Experience: None

If a person looked in the dictionary for the definition of community involvement and volunteerism, they just might find a photo of Jay Zornes beside it.

A member of many civic and community groups throughout the Tri-State area including president of the Ironton Tiger Clan and the Ironton College Access Program, Zornes said he was motivated to run for the Ironton Board of Education two years ago but thought he would be better prepared this year.

“I’m a hands-on guy and felt I needed to run to make sure our kids got what I got when I was in school,” explained Zornes when talking about the impression a trio of teachers made on him while a student at Ironton High School.

Like the three other challengers, Zornes is a believer in a school board’s role of setting policy and making sure that policy is followed.

He also mentioned the importance of a school board being a team and if he would end up on the dissenting side of a vote, still have the class to support the decision fully.

One idea Zornes suggested to improve the board’s relationship with the community and parents at school board meetings, is having the superintendent notify the public and press ahead of time if they think the meeting’s executive session could be lengthy. He felt that might encourage more parents and community members to attend.

A big believer in goal setting, Zornes said if elected, he would also push for annual planning sessions where the board could examine its goals for the previous year and assess goals for the upcoming year. He also said he was going to “be a stickler” for strong financial planning within the district.

As for the current state of the district, Zornes said he think superintendent Dean Nance has done a good job.

“It appears to me that he has done a good job. In looking at it from the outside, I feel we are a better school district now than we were before he took over.”

Zornes said he believes the best candidates should be hired when asked about nepotism within the district. He added however that he was not sure how a district “could make itself better by hiring someone on who they are or are related to.”

“I would like to avoid anything like that, but would hire someone if they were the best.”

The two winners would join current board members Tim Johnson, Robert Pleasant, Jr. and John Wolfe on the Ironton School Board. Their terms expire in 2011.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.