Not quite dozen take first steps toward Chesapeake school board seats

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 26, 2011

CHESAPEAKE — Right now it’s a full field as 11 have stepped forward as possible contenders for four seats on the Chesapeake Board of Education.

But with none filing yet, it’s uncertain how many new faces may join Jerry Osborne, who holds the one school board seat not on the ballot.

There are three incumbents up for re-election in November with a separate race for the unexpired term of Bill Pratt, who resigned from the school board in April after his appointment to county commission.

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When Pratt’s seat was up, eight Chesapeake residents came forward saying they wanted that post. Now three of those — Doug Marcum, Alex Martin and Jerry Frye — have picked up petitions for the expired terms that could mean contested races for incumbents, Dr. Kim Oxley, Dr. Mike Dyer and David Bennett.

The school board was unable to choose Pratt’s successor, deadlocking between Martin and Frye. That stalemate sent the decision to Probate Judge David Payne. Payne chose Ironton attorney Curtis Anderson, who has stated he does not intend to run in the fall.

Also possible contenders for the expired races are Carl Lilly, Scott Combs and Clinton Miller.

A fourth race on the ballot is for the unexpired term of Pratt, whose seat is up in two years along with Osborne’s. Kenny Wolfe, who wanted the job in April, has picked up a petition for that race. He may face Jeanne Harmon in the fall.

Martin, an audiologist at King’s Daughters Medical Center, said he sees a need for more openness as the board conducts school business.

“What I have seen so far is a lack of transparency,” Martin said. “There seems to be a lot of mistrust. Openness and transparency as to what we do on a daily basis would help, like putting the minutes (of meetings) on the Internet to see how the board is voting.

“I just feel like I bring a wealth of experience,” he said. “I feel like I bring a lot of commonsense and good judgment on a lot of issues we have coming up over the next four years on national and state levels.”

Although Scott Combs, a Fairland preschool teacher, picked up a petition, he is still undecided about whether he will run.

“They have so many issues I feel like I can add a perspective they currently don’t have,” said Combs, who has two children in the Chesapeake district. “I think they need people who are open-minded and willing to listen and don’t have their mind set. I am that way.”

Clinton Miller is a contractor who graduated from Chesapeake High last year. He would like to see students have more participation in the workings of the board.

“I feel there is an empty space between the school board and the teachers and the students,” Miller said. “I would like to see student council more involved with the school board. How can you face a problem if you can’t see the whole sides of the story. I would like for each member of the school board to get to know the teachers a little bit better … the school board has taken the students out of focus.”

Carl Lilly is trying for his third term on the Chesapeake board. Lilly, a retired Baptist minister with a doctorate in Christian counseling, served from 1996-2004. Lilly would like to see new leaders for the school.

“I believe the current superintendent and the majority of the board members have been financially irresponsible,” Lilly wrote in an email. “The fact that Chesapeake no longer has track facilities that meet state standards on which its athletes may train is embarrassing and inexcusable. Also our current superintendent has failed to keep key administrators in long-term positions. Playing ‘musical chairs’ with these key roles is not conducive for a proper learning environment for our students.”

All three incumbents whose seats are up will be seeking a second term on the board, if they decide to run.

Dr. Kim Oxley, an Ironton pediatrician, supports what she calls the educational vision of superintendent Dr. Scott Howard.

“I want to be part of a vision to continue to provide the kids in our community the means to obtain the best education possible by providing them with the same opportunities kids across the nation have in terms of a varied education,” Oxley wrote in an email. “In order to achieve this I believe we need to continue to recognize that not all children learn in the same manner and we need to make classroom changes to accommodate them.

“I also would like to continue with the plan Dr. Howard has implemented that will upgrade our athletic facilities to a new standard which would allow our athletes to train and compete on a new level. … I believe we have to be fiscally responsible and creative in ways that we acquire programs for our district. The administrative staff has been quite successful in applying for and receiving grants that provide opportunities for our children and staff. I want us to continue to seek those opportunities.”

David Bennett, a Chesapeake businessman, says he is running for office for the children of the district.

“I just think we are behind a little bit,” Bennett said. “I want to improve our education. We are working on a new sports complex. I would like to see us get that completed. I just want to see our whole school district unite. It seems like we are not together. I would like to see the whole community unite.”

The third incumbent, Dr. Mike Dyer, a Lawrence County veterinarian, intends to pick up petitions to run again.

“There is a lot of good things that can be done and promote education,” Dyer said. “That is what I stand for with the kids. We have a lot of talented staff. If we can give them the right tools and the right circumstances, they can do a lot for the kids in Chesapeake.”

Other Chesapeake residents who have picked up petitions to run but were unavailable for an interview by press time are Marcum, Frye, Wolfe and Harmon.