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The Bruin

Wadsworth High School's Student Newspaper

The Bruin

Meet the 2023 Wadsworth School Board of Education Candidates

Meet the 2023 Wadsworth School Board of Education Candidates

Three candidates, Tim Beck, Melanie Raines, and incumbent Jill Stevens are running for seats on the Wadsworth School Board in this November’s election, with Jill Stevens running for reelection and a seat being open following the retirement of Linda Kramer. Hilary Enders was originally a candidate but she has since withdrawn. Early voting has already begun and Election Day is November 7, with polls open from 6:30 in the morning to 7:30 in the evening on Election Day. 

Question: Why are you running for School Board? What makes you the best candidate?

Beck: “The main reason I’m running is because it is a way for me to give back. I have been able to observe the impact that Wadsworth City Schools has had on my two older children, who are both now in college, I also have a freshman at the high school. I have been involved with a couple of different areas, and committees, like the Mental Health Committee, and the Guidance Counselor Advisory Team, I have worked with the Be Kind Wadsworth Initiative, and I also helped coordinate the baccalaureate. I think that with my involvement in those areas, I looked at a school board position as an opportunity for me to serve the school district in deeper ways. I have been working with teenagers, specifically, for 29 years. My job is that I am a Director of Student Ministries, so basically like a youth pastor at the Methodist church here in town. I have been working with teenagers since I was in college so I feel like I understand their perspective, their wants, and their needs. I feel like that would help me, at least in part, if I were a part of the school board because I think I would understand what the kids need from the school, whether it be educational or emotional, whatever kind of support they need. Also, I come from a family of educators. My grandmother was a teacher, my mom was a teacher, my wife is a teacher, and I have had aunts, uncles, and cousins who are teachers so I just have a lot of educators in my family and I have kind of always been surrounded by education and I have seen the value of it. With my involvement at Wadsworth City Schools, I see how much the teachers and administrators care and I would just like to be a part of making sure that continues. I feel like students need care, the teachers need the proper tools to care for students to help teach them, but then the teachers also need care so that their needs are met. I also think that we need to work together, to build some trust between the schools and families. I feel that my experience, both with the education and my family background, and with students with my profession, and I feel like that is something that I could offer that maybe others couldn’t.”

Stevens: “I’ve appreciated the opportunity to be on the school board the past four years. I bring extensive leadership experience, business experience, and a passion for serving others. The past four years have been a learning experience including the challenges of a 30-month pandemic. When I consider how I’ve added value, it’s collaborative leadership, asking being curious and asking a lot of challenging questions, and being supportive, involved, and advocating for our district and community. That experience combined with my passion for service, education, leadership, and community supported my re-election to the board. I will continue to bring that passion and energy.”

Raines: “I am running for School Board because I believe that together we have the ability to positively impact our students and staff, increase student achievement, and add to the quality of life in our community. My background in administration, involvement as a mother of three in Wadsworth schools, and leadership in the nonprofit sector have equipped me to be a community ambassador and advocate for all. I am approachable, accessible, quick to listen and encourage. I am not afraid to learn from others. I lead with unity and my desire is to inspire others to do the same. I am a strong candidate because I have a working knowledge of what is going on in our District and have diverse relationships with students, staff, and neighbors in the District and surrounding community.”

Question: What changes do you want to make? / What are the main topics that you want to address?

Stevens: “Priority number one is continuing to listen and learn from our staff, our teachers, our students,  our families in our community as well as our  board members to ensure we understand the challenges and opportunities for the district.”

Raines: “The topic of communication needs addressed, specifically, opening up lines of communication with students and staff. Is the Board effectively listening, disseminating information, explaining decisions that have been made? Are there different ways we can engage students in the District? Going in and reading to younger students, education of Board roles and responsibilities, awareness of policy making and even round table discussions with high school students to listen and obtain feedback… Each and every decision impacts our staff, are we communicating well with them? Are we meeting the educational, mental, and emotional health needs of our staff members?”

Beck: “I definitely feel like communication is important and that it needs to be a key component to our collective success. So that students can succeed, so that they can thrive, both inside and outside the classroom, both during their time at Wadsworth and after they graduate, and also for teachers to be able to succeed in educating our students at Wadsworth we need to have strong lines of communication. We need to be able to communicate with parents what the expectations are and with students what the expectations are. It goes both ways, the teachers need buy-in from parents and families, that we are working towards the same goal. But then those goals need to be communicated well to each other. That is one thing I want to be mindful of if I were to serve on the School Board, is how we can improve our communication. And secondly, I think I would go back to trust. I think sometimes trust is often perceived to be a missing piece in the educational process. Every parent wants their kid to succeed, students need the appropriate support in the classroom, whether it be academic, emotional, or mental health support. On the flip side, helping teachers build trust with parents and parents build trust with teachers. I would like to work with the others on the school board and with the educators in the administration to help build trust because I think that can help us all succeed.”

Question: What is your message to voters?

Raines: “Educate yourself before you vote: research every position, candidate, and issue! Discuss with your peers and listen to those who have differing opinions. There is lot to learn from one another. Each and every vote is personal and powerful!”

Beck: “I value education and the impact that it has on all of us. I think it is awesome that Wadsworth is a community that supports its schools. I know that it takes all of us to work together in order to accomplish the goals that we want for our children. Students deserve to have safe places where they can learn and grow. I think that our community needs to understand the values that are being taught to our kids. Like I mentioned earlier, I am a fervent supporter of teachers but we have to acknowledge that things are changing and that classroom needs are changing, so we need to be forward-thinking. I want the community to know that I am going to be a forward-thinking candidate who can approach our problems with practical solutions, working with others to solve whatever problems that may come our way. I am going to advocate for teachers and I am going to advocate for students as well. I don’t want it to feel like it is an either/or, if we want students to do well then we have to give teachers the proper tools so that they can teach our students so that they can do well. It is more of a both/and. The School Board needs to champion both teachers and students and I am hopeful that my background will give me a unique perspective that can benefit both.”

Stevens: “We are fortunate to have a highly collaborative board and administration. We will continue to be fiscally responsible including the new intermediate school.  Our board has had multiple meetings to review the design choices to ensure the design aligns with our needs and commitment to our community and voters.”

Question:  How do you plan on handling the issue of the new intermediate school being over budget? Where should funding for the new intermediate school come from? Do you think other things should be cut to allow for more money to be put into the funding of the new intermediate school?

Beck: “I understand that a very important part of what a School Board does is operating budget and working within what we have. I have heard rumblings that it was over budget, which may mean that we need to be creative with how we are going to figure out a way to get out of that. Of course, I am not on the School Board which means that I don’t have access to that inside information, but sometimes we have to work together creatively to find the right solution to some of these problems. It is hard to speak specifically about that since I do not have access to the areas in which it might be over budget, but I think everybody in our society is aware that costs are going up. I think the starting point would be, are there areas from within the original plan for this new building, are there certain things that maybe aren’t as necessary as once thought? I would maybe start there to cut those things first and if we were to eventually get to a point where we have a surplus, then we could go back and maybe add those pieces back to any given classroom. That would be the first place I would start because once we start going outside of that it gets trickier, it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have to do that, but I wouldn’t want it to have to be a situation where we have to sacrifice at the elementary schools or at the high school or middle school just so CIS could get on budget. I think at first we should start with that school itself and try to make those cuts first.”

Stevens: “We have approved a path to fund the new school that aligns with district goals. At no time have we discussed asking the community for more money, reducing square footage, or reducing people or programs.  We worked through design with the project team in a highly collaborative approach, looked at other revenue streams, and adjusted the timing for other expenditures.”

Raines: “These are wonderful questions and I plan on digging deep into this topic upon being elected. This is a very personal one for me as our youngest is expected to be a part of the first fifth-grade class to enter the new CIS. Also, we are committed taxpayers and active community members! There are a lot of questions that need to be asked for both the existing and newly constructed Central Intermediate buildings. Perhaps the Board should lay out all the details of the project, provide a financial status report, and welcome community discourse. This was attempted over the summer, however, I believe only two of us were in attendance. Could there be a better way to disseminate the information and receive constructive criticism and feedback?”

Question: Book bannings have grown increasingly fast and spread across the United States. Hypothetically, if a parent were to be upset about a book that their student is reading, and the book has already been approved to be part of the curriculum, what should the response be? Should the book be banned from Wadsworth schools or should it remain part of the curriculum? Are there books that you believe should be banned at Wadsworth? 

Stevens:There is a board policy in place for individual requests around curriculum.”

Raines: “My husband and I have signed parent consent forms many times, provided by individual teachers, giving our student(s) access to specific books and curriculum requests over the years. I feel there are open lines of communication, existing transparency as to the purpose of the book from teachers, and adequate policies are in place for this issue. Perhaps there needs to be more communication to those without school-age children; one cannot make assumptions merely based on what they have seen or heard on social media. For those who may be upset about a topic or issue within the curriculum: Reach out, ask your question, voice your concern, and be willing to listen to the Administrators and Educators.”

Beck:Overall, I would want us to caution before we start banning books left and right. It doesn’t mean that there might be some points that aren’t appropriate for any given school, but I think that there are things that we can learn from literature that can help us become more well-rounded students. We should be mindful of that first, that we don’t just make rash decisions when it comes to banning books. Having said that, if there is a concern, then we should take a deeper look into why there is a concern. I would think that if a parent came with a concern, my first question would be: Have they read the book? And if they have, what were the specific things that they found objectionable and let’s talk about it. I want to be a listener for this community so if someone does have concerns I would like to have a conversation about it and then go from there. But, if someone is saying ‘Let’s just ban a book because I saw something on Facebook or I heard about it from somebody three states away’, I think it would be fair that we would then have to read the book first, and then let’s talk about it, and what makes it appropriate or not appropriate. But let’s not make an overall decision unless we have actually done our homework.”

Question: As Wadsworth High School journalists, we are prior-reviewed. Our stories must be looked over by one of our administrators before being published. At any time they have the power to remove content from or censor our paper. Do you believe that this policy is just? Or do you believe that students should have free speech in high school media classes?

Raines: “Here is what we tell our own children: Just because you can do or say something does not mean you should. We also explain that the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until closer to 25 years old. This is what allows us to make responsible decisions and fully understand the consequences of decisions. (My husband is a physician, so discussions can be a bit nerdy in our household.) This is why Academic Advisors are so important for school newspapers. Their advisory role is to encourage student journalists to have thought-provoking discussions, ask hard questions, and be willing to discuss what no one else is willing to discuss. It should all be done in a way that has purpose and integrity. Our words matter-they can be educational, introspective or inspiring – they can also be damaging and divisive.”

Beck: “I’m sure a principal’s job is very difficult so I don’t want to oversimplify what any principal does or any administrator. I know it’s not easy for them because they have to deal with a lot of things that maybe I am not aware of. When it comes to censorship, no, I am not in favor of censorship. I do have to come at it from an understanding that there might be things that I am not aware of, so if a principal has concerns there might be things that I am not aware of. What I think would be fair would be a conversation to discuss both perspectives, but overall, censorship is a very challenging area. I feel like students have a right to say what they are reporting and students have a right to their opinions as well. From what I understand, it’s a student-run newspaper, so there should be an understanding from the get-go of whose perspective it is coming from. Having said that, it could be a learning opportunity for students to learn if they are not able to report something a certain way, how can they creativity get this information to whoever they need to get it too. Rethinking even something they write can even make them a better writer. That doesn’t mean that they need to sacrifice the message that they are trying to share.” 

Stevens: “I do support a review process and a final approval by the principal as a school newspaper is a learning environment. I fully support that this is a student-led newspaper and our students are choosing the topics and writing the content for the articles.  I’ve appreciated the increase of social media to promote articles and awareness for WHS.”

Beck can be reached at [email protected], Raines can be contacted at [email protected], and Stevens can be reached at [email protected]

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Alex Banks
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