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Eight seek three spots on Fairland school board

PROCTORVILLE — Dealing with a financial crunch hitting the Fairland School District and getting the excellence rating back for the schools are issues candidates running for the Board of Education are addressing as eight vie for three openings.

This will be the first time for Janice Singer to seek public office. The retired Owens-Illinois employee said she wants change on the school board.

“We seem to be having a lot of financial problems and so forth. I just think I can help,” Singer said. “I think we need to work on raising our grade point average. The budget has been cut one percent by the state and they have had to raise the fees for lunches and cut bus routes. That affects the children.”

Singer has lived in the district since 1975 and currently volunteers at St. Mary’s Medical Center.

“I would work with the community in order to make our schools better and would work for more transparency and accountability,” she said. “I feel our community has the right to know about what the school district does and why they do it. We never seem to get a woman on the board. To my knowledge we have only had one since I have lived in the district.”

Veteran board member Lester Brumfield Jr., is one of two incumbents seeking to regain his seat as he finishes up his 10th year on the school board.

“I just believe about the youth being equal to everybody and understanding what is going on,” Brumfield said. “I feel I can do a pretty good job for the community and school district.”

If re-elected, Brumfield, a truck driver, wants to maintain the buildings in the district, restore the district’s excellent rating from the Ohio Department of Education that it lost this fall and work with the school staff. He sees the budget issue as a challenge facing the district.

The other incumbent is Gary Sowards, who is going for his second term. Sowards is a self-employed bail bondsman and real estate agent. He has three sons in the Fairland district and his wife, Trena Sowards, is a teacher at Fairland East.

“I like the direction our schools are heading. We now are getting our graduation point from the state for the first time,” Sowards said. “Fairland did have the highest dropout rate in the county and now we no longer have the highest dropout rate. I don’t see any major changes that need to be done. I am concerned about the finances that the state has placed on us by cutting our budget.”

The district recently laid off four clerical workers, which, Sowards says, will bring a savings of $80,000.

“We can only spend what the state gives us,” he said. “We have had to make some adjustments with our staff to try to compensate for that.”

This is also the first time seeking office for Matt Ward, an BB&T investment counselor with a son in the first grade at Fairland East. He looks at the district’s budget as the No. 1 priority and says his experience with finances make him a good candidate for the job.

“My priorities would be to make sure students’ education is not hurt any way by budget cuts or find some alternative or solutions for those budget cuts,” Ward said. “To me that is the top concern. I think they should have at least one person who is experienced and has the education as regards the budget.”

This will be the third time for one-time college professor Martin Appleton to run for the Fairland school board having lost in 2005 and 2007.

“Over the years I got more interested and wanted to get more involved and influence things to the positive. That is my primary objective,” Appleton said. “I’d like to maintain our tradition of academic excellence and influence good management choices … The biggest issue is our budget because the state has cut our funding. I am an educator interested in supporting education in our community. Our community is very supportive of the schools … We need to make the best choices for the community as we can.”

This will be the second time for Brian Morgan, a Marshall University IT professor, to run for the school board.

“I ran six or eight years ago and finished dead last. I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “(This time) I seem to have a great deal of support from teachers and from the community.”

Morgan’s answer to the budget situation would be to seek more grants for the district.

“We need to look where all the money is being spent. We need to look for grants. I have written grants. I know there are millions of dollars available for K-12,” he said. “Second is personnel. The district has a great curriculum in place. I want to work with the community to bring the community needs to the board and work with faculty and staff to see they have the right resources.”

Also running for the three openings on the board are Greg Crabtree and Timothy Fisher. Attempts to contact both men by The Tribune were unsuccessful.

Also on the Fairland district ballot is Jason Gorby who is running unopposed for the unexpired term once held by David Judd. Gorby, a master plumber, was appointed to the board in September 2008.

He also cites the budget as the district’s main priority.

“Getting some more money is one my bigger goal,” he said. “I think we have a great school. I want to keep it that way.”