Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Six candidates, two camps compete for Lakota board

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP — With a majority of seats on the Lakota Board of Education up for grabs in next month's election, voters in Butler County's largest school district will have six candidates — divided into two distinct camps — to choose among.

        A coalition made up of former longtime Lakota board member Helen Shumaker and first-time candidates Sandy Severson and Kathy Dirr is challenging incumbents Sandy Wheatley, Jeff Jones and Joan Powell, who have a less-structured coalition.

        At stake are three board seats.

        “I think the line is drawn pretty clearly in the sand,” said Mrs. Powell, who is completing her first term on the school board. “Do you want to continue the course the ship is on — academic excellence — or not?

        “We're a proven commodity. Their vision is less on Lakota, more on national issues,” Mrs. Powell said.

        Three issues form the platform of the challengers, Mrs. Dirr said.

Alternate agenda

        The coalition is in favor of returning some taxpayer dollars to property owners and working toward less control of curriculum by the state and more by local boards of education. It promises to begin an employee incentive program to compensate those with cost-saving ideas.

        Incumbents say the district is not in a financial position to roll back taxes and that if re-elected, they would continue a forward-thinking leadership style to improve education for children while addressing growth issues.

        “This election boils down to style of leadership and relationships among the board, teachers, parents and students,” said Mrs. Wheatley, who is finishing her second, four-year term on the school board. “If the majority on the board changes, I think you would see an exodus (of teachers and administrators). It would take this district 10 years to recover.”

        Not so, opponents say. Electing new faces to the school board would bring diverse points of view and prompt more discussion between teachers, parents, administrators and the board, Mrs. Dirr said.

"More accessibility'

        “We would challenge the status quo and ask tough questions,” Mrs. Dirr said. “I would like more accessibility and accountability to the public.”

        Added Mrs. Severson: “We are all about strong academics and having our voice heard at the state level so we get local control.

        “What we have now is a board of five who think exactly alike. We would provide a balance,” she said.


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