SIDNEY — Three candidates are seeking two seats on the Sidney City Schools Board of Education. The two elected will be first-time board members as incumbents Bill Ankney and Paul Heins opted not to seek re-election.
Running for the two seats are Chad Gessler, 43, 1359 E. Hoelscher Road, Sidney; Linda S. Meininger, 74, 1239 Sherwood, Sidney; and Jason Schaffner, 48, 2618 Spearhead, Sidney.
Gessler is the executive director of Clear Creek Farm. He is the chairman of the Shelby County CASA Advisory and Shelby County Family and Children First boards. He and his wife, Brooke Gessler, are the parents of two sons, Nolan Gessler, 14, and Gabriel Gessler, 6.
Meininger is retired from public office. She served for 33 years in the Shelby County Treasurer’s Office and was the county’s treasurer for 14 years. As the treasurer she served on the Budget Commission, Board of Revision, Tri County Mental Health board and several other boards. When she and her husband, Marvin, married, they brought five children to the union. Her daughter and husband are deceased. Her family includes four stepchildren, eight grandchildren and six grandchildren.
Schaffner is a truck driver for Bulk Transit and is currently a Franklin Township Zoning officer. He served on the Hardin-Houston Local Schools Board of Education for four years.He;s been married for six years to Tracey (DeLuke) Schaffner and he has two stepchildren, Alix Grieshop and Jenna Grieshop.
Each candidate was asked a series of questions about why they are seeking office.
What are the primary issues in the school district?
Gessler: “I feel that there are a couple of issues in the district that I would consider primary. Continuous improvement as a district is always a concern and hot topic for all school districts across the state. This is something our district keeps on the front burner and have developed strategies to make improvements. A school levy is another issue that I would consider primary considering the 5 year forecast for the district. I am sure this is something we will see on the ballot within the next couple of years. These are just a couple issues coming from a parent’s point of view that I am aware of.”
Meininger: “In reality there will be financial situations, but we need to be strategic about how we use our resources. It is also a big concern what the state allocations will be. Administrative transparency is very important to the board, out teachers, parents and our community. We need to continue the open dialogue with teachers and parents so they know their concerns are being heard and addressed the best we can. This input will help the Sidney public schools stay on a steady path of progress.”
Schaffner: “Money is always an issue. Also, the current grade card that was handed down by the state. Totally unacceptable. Bullying is also a major concern that should be address with priority.”
Why are you seeking office?
Meininger: “After retiring from the treasurer’s office, I wanted to continue to serve the community and this seemed like a good opportunity. The Ohio School Board is one of the largest groups of elected officials in the state and as such are charged with heavy responsibilities to provide the best education possible for our youth. I like the fact the board is a link between the schools and the public.”
Schaffner: “To do some good for the school and also the community. Kids and parents alike need to be heard. They need someone they can turn to with their thoughts and concerns. I am that person.”
Gessler: “I am seeking office at this time because I have lived in this community most of my life and I believe that a community is only as strong as it schools. I have heard some derogatory comments in regards to Sidney and our school district in recent years and I feel I should do my part to help strengthen our schools and community relationship in whatever capacity I can. I also have spent the last 20 years of my career trying to help young people make better lives for themselves. I believe being a board member would give me another opportunity to look out for the best interest of our children that attend Sidney City Schools.”
What makes you a better candidate?
Schaffner: “I’m really no better than the other two. I think we all want what’s best for the school district. What separates me from the others is my experience of being on another school board.”
Gessler: “I would not necessarily say I am a better candidate than anyone else, as I am not very familiar with the views and beliefs of the opposition. I would however say I am a very qualified candidate that cares about the future of Sidney City Schools. I have spent most my adult life in Sidney trying to do whatever I can to make this community a better place. I plan to spend the rest of my working years doing the same and I am sure it will be in many different capacities. I believe serving as a school board member will allow me to continue this mission. I would love to be a part of the change many are looking for. I care about our kids and want to support the teachers that help mold them every day.”
Meininger: “I am not sure better candidate is how I would describe it. I loved my previous job and I had a passion to help the taxpayers anyway I could. I feel I can bring that same passion and willingness to work as a team on the school board.”
What ideas/plans would you have to increase the district’s report card score?
Gessler: “I believe in order to increase the districts report card scores we have to listen to administrators and teachers and support their initiatives to increase these scores. I know Sidney has well educated people working on ways to improve this issue, and they need support from the school board to execute strategies to do so.”
Meininger: “The required state testing is an area for open discussion. Not being personally involved, but having two children who teach, I feel we have far too many days of testing during the school year. As a school board member, I think it would be difficult to gauge improvement/success over a long period of time. From articles I have read, we have made positive progress and will continue to because the child is our most important priority.”
Schaffner: “Start at the top and work my way down. Find out if the superintendent is doing their job as far as support and information that is needed for teachers, parents and students. If that is not happening, then that’s the first thing that needs fixed. Second, make sure we are teaching what the state wants us to teach. Is the information there for the parents of the student. Communication is the key in a successful story, to bring these grades at least to passing.”
What role do you feel parents should play in classroom activities and as a volunteer in the district?
Meininger: “Over the years I have heard a lot of negativity surrounding the schools in general. I belong to the women’s initiative called POWER. We are involved in tutoring kindergartners for readiness in first grade. At the present we have volunteers at Longfellow and Northwood and are hoping to be in all the schools eventually. This is possible with parents and volunteers.”
Schaffner: “A big role. The parents are the back bone of any school. And they should be involved in any way they can. It gives them a better perspective on how the system works. Anyway to improve the school district is the role we should all play.”
Gessler: “It is my opinion that if a parent has time to volunteer and help classroom teachers with our children that is fantastic and I would encourage them to do so. Unfortunately many homes are two working parents and this is not possible for them. I don’t know that it is necessarily needed for parent’s to regularly participate in class room activities as we have wonderful teachers that have a handle on their classrooms. I do feel that it is a parent’s role to support our teachers from home and help their children with academics activities that are sent home the best they can.”
What kind of relationship would you develop as a board member with the parents in the community?
Schaffner: “A very tight relationship. With over twenty plus years in the customer service field. I know how to listen to people’s needs and wants. I am very accessible. My cell and home phone number is always available. The district needs someone to listen to them. Whether it’s something little or big. They need to be heard. Seven days a week if necessary.”
Gessler: “I have worked with children and their families for more than twenty years now and have found that more listening and less talking is very effective communication. I believe in listening to peoples concerns and understanding their position on whatever it may be so they at least feel respected that their opinions are heard, regardless of the outcome. I would use this same philosophy as a board member in order to develop relationships with parents in the Sidney community in order to strengthen bonds with the school district.”
Meininger: “I am always willing to talk to anyone, anytime. I have done that in my previous job and it is important to improve communication anyway we can. It is better to offer assistance or a solution before it might be headed to court.”
Salaries of teachers and other staff members are always a concern. What do you think the district needs to do to keep the staff members from leaving for better paying jobs?
Gessler: “What do you think the district needs to do to keep staff members from leaving for better paying jobs. I would first find out what strategies the district is currently using to deter this situation if it is in fact an issue for Sidney City Schools. If exit interviews are not currently being done district wide in order to get good data as to why teachers and staff may be leaving for other jobs then I think that would be a good place to start. If in fact salary is a major contributor in teachers leaving for better pay, then this is something the board should definitely look in to and have serious discussions about for our schools future.”
Meininger: “ Everyone, regardless of their career choices want to know they are assured a competitive salary. This is vital to attract and maintain competent people. I am a Sidney High School graduate and since I went to school the education is improving all the time. Qualified teachers, diversified curriculum and programs such as Workforce Partnership of Shelby County help expose students to new careers. Going forward an open dialogue between board and parents and community will help regain the trust of all those involved.
Schaffner: “That’s a tough question. School staff salaries are always looked at. Raises are given when the money is there. With the state cutting the funding, more and more schools have a hard time with this issue. You really can’t stop someone from leaving for more pay. Most staff members in any district stay not cause of wages, but where the school is. If a teacher is treated with respect, not only from the students and staff, but also the community. That staff member tends to stay and build on that relationship. That should be the goal of the community to make these staff members feel like family.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.