SIDNEY — Four candidates, which includes two incumbents and two newcomers, are seeking election to the three seats on the Fairlawn Local Schools District’s Board of Education. Voters will go to the polls Nov. 2 to decide who will serve on the board for the next four years.
Seeking seats are incumbents Hope Abke and Andrew Brautigam and newcomers Michael Henman and Natalie Sturm.
The Sidney Daily News sent questions to each candidate. Each of the candidates’ responses are compiled in this story.
Hope Abke, of Sidney, is a customer service manager with Hobart Parts. She is an Anna High School graduate. She recieved a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics, and a Juris Doctor degree from The Ohio State University.
Abke is a current member of the Fairlawn Board of Education, from 2018-present.
She and her husband Chris have two children: daughter, Jessie; and son, Maddox.
Sidney resident Andrew Brautigam, a conservative, works as a controller for a living. He graduated from Fairlawn High School in 1991, and from Ohio Northern with a degree in accounting, management and finance.
He and his wife Angela have two sons, Drew and Aaron; and one daughter, Aiden Belle.
Michael Henman, of Sidney, is a previous a member of the Fairlawn School Board; he served for one four year term. He is a sales engineer. Henman received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
He and his wife Julie Henman have two children, Jordan and Alex.
Natalie Sturm, of Sidney, is a senior quality engineer at Edgewell Personal Care in Sidney. She is a 2005 graduate of Fairlawn High School, and received a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University in 2009, and a master’s degree from Miami University in 2011.
Sturm is married with four children. She has no previous political history.
Why are you running for Fairlawn Board of Education?
• Abke: “We moved back to the area when the kids were little because we wanted our kids to grow up in a rural community surrounded by family and an incredible support system. But we also want them to have opportunities that larger school districts offer. It is important that our parents feel confident that their children are safe and leave school equipped with the skills and education necessary for post graduate success – whatever the child’s path may be.”
• Brautigam: ”I have been on the Board for the past 20 years and in that time, we have built a new school, become fiscally stable, and built a very good group of staff members and supporting staff.”
• Henman: “I am running for the school board because I want to give back to our community and keep Fairlawn heading in the right direction.”
• Sturm : “I would like to do everything I can to help Fairlawn be the best and rise to meet its full potential. I feel that getting involved on the board to support the school in policy and decision making is important. I want Fairlawn to be a place everyone feels supported and student want to go to school and can be proud of their school.”
Why do you feel you’re the best candidate to serve on the board?
• Henman: “I feel I am the best candidate to serve on the school board because I am fully vested in our community, bring over 30 years of a business background, and 4 years of experience on our school board.”
• Sturm: “I will bring a strong background in problem solving and collaboration from my professional training paired with a desired to improve student outcomes and school overall performance. I will respect others views and be open and dedicated to meeting the needs of current students, staff, and the overall community. If elected, I will fill an opening on the board from my grandmother who has been a great role model and dedicated Fairlawn supporter. My children are currently in third grade, first grade, pre-K and a little one not yet in school. I am very invested in the future at Fairlawn.”
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?
• Brautigam: “Fairlawn does not have a town and businesses to tax. We have local people paying the bulk of the tax burden. We must push to keep expenses in check while keeping student learning at a high level.”
• Abke: “As a parent, I love that Fairlawn offers a small-rural school setting for our kids. This does offer challenges financially as new homes and businesses do not offer a source of revenue growth. No one wants to ask for a levy, therefore it is important as a board, that a school remain fiscally conservative with the funds we have while continuing to pursue the highest standards in educational and operational performance.”
• Henman: “Our school district is a small farming community, we have limited funds coming in between the state and taxes. We just need to be very conscious of where we spend our funds and look for grants where available to ease any financial burdens.”
• Sturm: “Balancing a budget is very important and ensuring funds are being spent appropriately and not wasted. Obtaining grants and keeping up to date on state funding and uncertain Covid related funding would be key.”
What are the strengths of the district?
• Sturm: “Being a Fairlawn graduate, I experienced first-hand how teachers and community support students and truly care about their educations. Growing up in an agricultural and manufacturing region, it is important for students to understand that college is not required for everyone and to continue to support both paths for technical/ trade school and higher education.”
• Henman: “One of the strengths of our district is that we are a small knit community that always pulls together for our children and each other. Another strength of our school district is the wonderful teachers and staff that are the building blocks of our education system.”
• Abke: “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?
• Abke: “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.”
• Sturm: “Being a small rural school district has some advantages, however it also poses many challenges. Covid related school closings were especially challenging for a school district that many students do not have reliable internet. Understanding student/parent and educator challenges and problem solving would be one way I plan to improve the district.”
• Henman: “How do you improve the weaknesses? While being a small community is a strength of our district it is also a bit of a weakness because it means limited funds available to us. To improve this weakness it goes back to funding for the school, we can be conscious of where we spend our funds and look for grants where available to ease the financial burdens.”
How can you improve communication with school district residents?
• Henman: “We can improve communication with our school district residents by using social media such as Facebook. We could encourage more people to attend the board meetings by live streaming them, posting the minutes after the meetings, and posting dates/reminders of upcoming events of the school district so that the residents would receive reminders.”
• Sturm: “We can build on current communication with the newsletter that is mailed to the community along with having open communication to address community and parent concerns. It is also important to make sure individuals can voice concerns and be proactive before an issue become a major problem.”