Thursday, October 31st, 2013
By Amy Kronenberger
Crowded field of candidates compete for three St. Marys BOE seats
Election November 2013
ST. MARYS - St. Marys City Schools Board of Education will include at least two new people as six candidates compete for three open seats.
Incumbent Ralph Wiley will face newcomers Karl Dammeyer, Travis Kuenning, Brandon Meyer, Bob Valentine and Janet Dicke. Incumbents Lisa Tobin and Aaron Braun are not seeking re-election.
Dammeyer, 50, 2645 Dowty Road, said he is running to help restore the community's school pride and "make sound decisions that will be best for the students and for the taxpayers."
This is Dammeyer's first time seeking public office. He noted that he and his wife, Denise, his parents and his children all graduated or still attend Memorial High School. He has three children - 18- and 21-year-old sons in college, and a 17-year-old daughter who is a senior at the high school.
The St. Marys native received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University and has worked as a hydraulic systems engineer the last 26 years at Crown Equipment Corp., New Bremen. He also farms 800 acres of corn and soybeans with his family.
"My training as an engineer has taught me how to be a structured thinker," he said, adding he can take available data and create a good solution to a problem.
He also said his experience on the family farm has taught him how to budget, forecast income and spend within his means.
Dammeyer said the biggest challenge the board faces is improving communication with the public.
"We need to determine what the best or combination of media is best to get information out to the public," he said.
Tied into improving communication is gaining the public's trust of the board, he said. He also believes school finances are a big challenge. The board will need to be as frugal as possible as the state shifts funding toward the local tax base, he said.
Kuenning, 43, 10157 state Route 364, said he is running to help bridge the disconnect between the board and the community.
"I want to help restore the trust that's been lost," he said.
Restoring that trust will be one of the board's biggest challenges during the coming term, Kuenning said. He also listed fiscal responsibility and maintaining high educational standards as major challenges.
"We need to maintain and improve the level of education with the highest grades on the state report card," he said. "Teachers have already set the bar high, and I commend them and look forward to working with them on that."
Kuenning and his wife, Chris, have been actively involved with the school for many years. He has served as a coach and substitute teacher for years and his wife is a teacher at the middle school, he said. Their children, ages 14 and 15, attend St. Marys schools.
Kuenning received his bachelor's degree in airport management and has been employed at Crown Equipment Corp. for the last 18 years. This is his first time running for public office.
Meyer, 33, 621 E. Spring St., is running for the position because he wants to get more young people involved in the school.
"I figured I'd have a good shot getting to younger people in the district," he said. "One big issue is getting the levy to pass. I can get word out to the younger crowd; that's the biggest thing I want to do, get the word out to the younger crowd."
Meyer said he also is seeking the job because he doesn't mind expressing his opinion and he wants to make a difference.
The biggest challenges Meyer expects in the coming term are handling Common Core and what to do with Skip Baughman stadium. Meyer said he is opposed to the Common Core curriculum being implemented at the school and would fight it.
He's OK with either moving the football facilities to the new complex at the middle and high school campus or refurbishing Skip Baughman stadium, he said.
"I'm not opposed to it either way," he said. "I would look at what's best in the long run."
Meyer is not married but has three kids and one on the way. He is a graduate of Memorial High School and attended Wright State University-Lake Campus for two years. He currently works at the St. Marys Fraternal Order of Eagles. It is Meyer's first time seeking public office.
Valentine, 69, 107 N. Wayne St., would like to become a board member to bring transparency.
"I believe that we can improve our school tremendously with a new board and a new attitude towards the community," he said. "We should open the board completely to the community and include the community with decisions."
The biggest challenges Valentine believes he would face in his first term are improving student performance, watching the district's finances while spending carefully and wisely, focusing more on academics than sports and fighting Common Core.
"I am personally opposed to Common Core," he said. "I've been studying it, and I see less and less of an advantage. There's no advantage over the old standards and many people who helped create the Common Core now say it's substandard."
The New Bremen High School graduate has degrees in corporate, commercial and portrait photography. He operated his own photography business for 32 years and is now retired. He and his wife, Linda, have no children.
It is Valentine's second attempt for a seat on the school board; he unsuccessfully ran in 2011. He has never sought or held any public office.
Valentine feels he is the most qualified because he has been an active participant at board meetings and other school activities for more than 10 years.
"I've followed all public things the board has done," he said. "I have a good knowledge of the board and a deep interest in the education of children. I believe that's the most important job in this nation."
Wiley, 46, 123 Augustus St., is seeking re-election because he wants to see completion of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project that includes the construction of the new middle-high school and replacement of the split-faced block with brick. The full project likely won't be closed out by the state for several years.
He also wants to continue his fight to provide funding for the best possible education.
"My experience on the board as one of the longest serving members and my business management experience make me the most qualified for the board," he said. "I'm a community-minded individual ... and I'm rerunning so I can continue to serve the community."
Wiley said the biggest challenge the board will face is funding and getting a levy passed.
"Our number one priority will be to come up with effective ways of communication with those who don't have kids and rebuild that communication," he said.
Wiley is in his eighth year on the school board; he has never run for another public office. He is a Memorial High School graduate and has completed some post-secondary school work.
Wiley and his wife, Karen, have three children - 28- and 23-year-old daughters and a 22-year-old son.
Dicke, 149 Waterbury Court, was not available for comment due to health issues. However, she has not withdrawn her candidacy from the race.