SIDNEY — Three candidates are running for two seats on the Fairlawn Local Schools Board of Education on the General Election ballot Tuesday, Nov. 5. Another candidate is uncontested for an unfilled term on the board.
Incumbent Robert Gold, 22100 State Route 47, Maplewood, is facing newcomers Phillip Groves, 18894 McCloskey School Road, Sidney, and Sarah Huelskamp, 5461 Johnston Slagle Road, Sidney for the two seats. Hope Abke, 8525, Johnston Slagle Road, Sidney, is unopposed for an unexpired second seat on the board.
Gold is a graduate of Covington High School and the U.S. Naval Nuclear Poer School. He has been on the Fairlawn BOE for 17 years.
He is an engineering coordinator and safety leader for Honda. He and his wife of 32 years, Margie, are the parents of three daughters,, Jessica (Cody) Henman, Kiersten (Zach) Goins and Hannah Gold. They have three grandchildren, Camden Henman, Harper Henman and Emry Goins.
Groves is a 2005 graduate of Fairlawn Local Schools, where he was valedictorian, and a 2008 graduate of Wright State University where he received a Master’s Degree in Education. He is a grade 7-12 science teacher at Botkins Local School.
He and his wife, Erin, are the parents of five children, Preston, 8, Carleigh, 7, McKinley, 5, Morgan, 2, and Kennedy, 1.
Huelskamp is a procurement program analyst with Emerson. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership degree.
Why are you running for Fairlawn Board of Education?
Gold: I have been blessed to serve the Fairlawn Local Schools for 17 years as a BOE member and I would like to continue to do so. There are many challenges to face in operating the school and I would like to be a part of dealing with those challenges.
Groves: As an alumni of Fairlawn High School, the Fairlawn community has played an important role in who I am today. Running for school board provides an opportunity for me to best serve my community. My wife and I entrust our children to attend Fairlawn, and I want to ensure that the choices we are making as a district benefit all Fairlawn students.
Hueleskamp: I’m running for Fairlawn Board of Education to help make the school better than it is today. I want to do my part to make sure each student and teacher at Fairlawn has the best experience possible.
Why do you feel you’re the best candidate to serve on the board?
Groves: As a current educator in Shelby County, I understand many of the concerns and pressures that local teachers are faced with from varying student needs, to statewide testing. There is no greater perspective of student progress than that of their teachers who work with them on a daily basis. Therefore, when making board decisions that affect our students, I feel that it is imperative that any board of education considers a teacher’s perspective.
Hueleskamp: I will strive to support the school staff and provide a strong education to the students during my service on the board. My main goal is to do what is best for the students and teachers at Fairlawn. My temperament allows me to walk into a meeting, put my own emotions aside, and listen to the concerns of others. When it comes to voting, I will compare the outcomes on either side. I am not quick to make a decision without spending reasonable time weighing the results.
Gold: Simply put, 17 years of experience. Fairlawn Local Schools have faced challenges in the past 17 years and dealing with those challenges has been a tremendous learning experience.
Funding for the district is always concern since state funding changes from year to year. How do you bring new money/funding to the district?
Hueleskamp: We must continue to invest the resources we already have in a fiscally responsible and strategic way. We must also pursue state and federal grants to fill gaps and ensure we maximize available funding by meeting all legal requirements.
Gold: As a school, generating finances is not an easy task or decision. Fairlawn is not exempt from the difficulties that all schools face in dealing with the funding model provided by our state legislature. We must be wise with the finances we have and employ them in the best possible way to provide the Educational Environment that our students deserve.
Groves: Funding comes to districts through one avenue, tax dollars. No one, including myself wants to increase taxes! Therefore, we need to maintain a balanced budget, which will contribute to maintaining an encouraging 5-year forecast. Furthermore, our district should focus on making sound, financially responsible decisions that are data-driven in areas that improve student growth and performance. To spend our allotted money in any other frivolous manner is irresponsible and ultimately unacceptable.
What are the strengths of the district?
Gold: Fairlawn is Resilient. I have seen this district face many tough times and conditions. Time and time again I’ve seen this community rise and stand together to overcome them.
Groves: Our parents and community are supportive of our students, and ultimately we are fortunate to live in this close-knit community with deep agricultural roots. We have strong extra-curricular programs such as FFA, FCCLA, Music, Drama, and Academic Clubs, as well as Athletics, which help mold our students into well-rounded individuals.
Hueleskamp: Fairlawn has great teachers, students, staff and community support. When faced with a challenge, everyone rises and helps each other to overcome the obstacles. It has been evident in my experience that Fairlawn teachers want the very best for their students.
What are the weaknesses of the district? How do you improve the weaknesses?
Groves: Accountability and communication! I firmly believe we need to be accountable at all levels, and that begins at the top with our administration. Everyone must continue to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and hold others, as well as themselves accountable for their actions and efforts. At the same time, individuals should also be praised and commended for their successes, while being coached and supported to fix any short-comings. If we continue to set the bar higher, hold each other accountable, and effectively communicate our expectations, we will continue to cultivate a culture in which we will accept nothing short of the best for our students.
Hueleskamp: Currently there is a lot of concern about the number of teachers and staff that have resigned over the last year. With these resignations we lost a lot of good people. Some of these resignations may have been preventable.
In order to improve, we need to find the root cause as to why the number of resignations were so high and what can be done to prevent this in the future.
Gold: We are not located within a city, town, or village so we lack some of the advantages provided by that kind of setting. (To improve the weaknesses) The school becomes the “gathering place” or focal point for the wide spread community.
How can you improve communication with school district residents?
Hueleskamp: At this time, school district information is relayed through the school website, Twitter, the Fairlawn Flyer, and One Call system. Occasionally there are newspaper articles detailing board meetings or other events that have happened at the school. Beyond the current methods, I think it is important to make sure the district residents feel like they have a voice in school board decisions. Often the best form of communication is taking the time to listen and acknowledge questions, concerns, and praise from the community.
Gold: By remembering that communication requires being able to stop and listen every bit as much , if not more so, than being able to speak.
Groves: Communication is vital in everything we do as a school board and as a district. I will always be open and willing to discuss issues and concerns, as well as answer questions from anyone in our district. I feel as a board member it is my duty to be accessible and willing to communicate with district residents. I am not afraid to have tough discussions or listen to other viewpoints even if they do not necessarily mirror my own thoughts at that time. After all, it is important to consider multiple viewpoints when coming to a decision that is best for all of our students.
In conclusion: (optional for candidates)
Gold: As I stated before, I feel tremendously Blessed to have been given the opportunity to serve Fairlawn for the past 17 years. It is where my wife and our daughters graduated from. It is where my grandchildren are starting their educational journey as well. I would be immeasurably grateful for the opportunity to remain a part of the BOE that faces the coming challenges for our school.
Groves: No matter the outcome, to me this election is not about us as individuals, but rather about electing someone who is vested in the future of the Fairlawn school system. As a parent and an alumni, I want to ensure that we are promoting a school and a support system that is stable, secure, encouraging, challenging, and accountable in shaping our youth. No matter whether entering the work force, armed services, learning a trade, or attending college, I want to help make decisions that will ensure that when our students graduate they are equipped to be successful. Thank you for the consideration of your vote!
Abke also had the opportunity to answer the same questions.
She was appointed to the Fairlawn Board of Education in 2018. She is a graduate of Anna High School and holds a Bachelor of Science in
Agricultural Economics and JD from The Ohio State University. She is a customer service manager, Hobart Parts.
She and her husband, Chris, have two children, daughter Jessie and son Maddox.
Why are you running for Fairlawn Board of Education? I am running for the school board because of my passion for education and the Fairlawn community. It is important that our students are equipped with the skills and education necessary for post graduate success. With two children in the school district, I have a vested interest in ensuring that we keep our district financially strong and provide a quality education for our Fairlawn students.
Funding for the district is always concern since state funding changes from year to year. How do you bring new money/funding to the district? We need to remain fiscally conservative with the funds we have while continuing to pursue the highest standards in educational and operational performance.
What are the strengths of the district? Fairlawn is fortunate to have administration, teachers and staff that are committed to our students and dedicated to improving student achievement. We also have strong community support for our school and pride in helping our students find success.
What are the weaknesses of the district? How do you improve the weaknesses? Our district has the opportunity to improve how we raise and spend funds so that we do not over-burden taxpayers. We must also continue to increase channels of communication between the board and the community so that everyone understands decisions that are being made and feels empowered to participate in board meetings.
How can you improve communication with school district residents? Communication in a school district between residents, administration and the board is important. I want parents, community members and staff to feel comfortable to voice concerns or ask questions of any board member.