Wednesday, April 28, 1999

At least three want empty school board seat

Griffin laments none from west side

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Barely a day after longtime Cincinnati Board of Education member Virginia Griffin surprised her colleagues by resigning, potential replacements began emerging.

        They include:

        • John Kruse, who ran unsuccessfully for city council in 1993 and 1995 and won a lawsuit last year challenging the city's campaign financing limits law.

        • Rick Williams, who works for Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. of East Walnut Hills.

        • Craig S. Bland, who got 47 of about 214,000 votes when he filed as a write-in candidate in the 1995 school board race.

        Board President Lynwood Battle Jr. confirmed that these three had expressed interest in serving on the board and would be considered, along with anyone else who stepped forward.

        The board will appoint a replacement at its May 10 meeting. Mrs. Griffin's term expires Dec. 31.

        Besides Mrs. Griffin's seat, two other school board seats will be up for election this fall. Mr. Battle doesn't plan to seek re-election; board member Arthur Hull does.

        Mr. Kruse attributed his interest in school politics to his upbringing.

        “I really have a passion to get involved in our community, and there's no more needy area to get involved than our public school system,” said Mr. Kruse, 30, of Hyde Park.

        Mr. Williams and Mr. Bland couldn't be reached.

        Mrs. Griffin, who served eight four-year terms on the board, said she hoped her replacement would rise from the west side. The lifelong Westwood resident was the only west-sider on the board.

        But none of the community leaders she approached to fill her seat expressed any interest, she said.

        “It's disgraceful that some of the local leaders in Western Hills have not stepped forward to be on the school board,” Mrs. Griffin said. “If you're interested in the community, what better place to start than in the city schools?”

        Mrs. Griffin, a Republican, said she considered resigning her board seat for a long time but always delayed a decision until she could complete “important board business.” The problem was, the important business never ended, she said.

        “I really just want to spend more time with my family,” said Mrs. Griffin, 76, who has four grown children.

        Mrs. Griffin, a former art gallery owner and 1941 Western Hills High School graduate, helped lead the district through a contentious desegregation lawsuit, countless curriculum changes and levy campaigns, and a two-decade achievement decline and recent upward swing.

        She resigned Monday night just minutes after her board colleagues agreed to deliver the district's $1 million Museum Collection to the Art Club of Mount Adams.

        She is proud she proposed the district's first alternative school — the German-language academy.

        She regrets the district's frequent redistricting, she said. That kind of enrollment juggling may have discouraged parental involvement and prevented the district from encouraging community through neighborhoods, she added.

        She also admitted intense frustration about parental apathy.

        “We've tried everything from visiting them to bringing them in for free hot-dog dinners,” she said. “But the parents are not interested in their kids to the degree that they are willing to stay with them physically and mentally and help them grow into fine human beings.”

        Mr. Battle applauded Mrs. Griffin as a “children's champion.”

        “She has so much compassion and empathy for the children of this district,” he said. “No one could stay around for 32 years and not enjoy thoroughly what they were doing.”


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