Fresh faces join Norton school board
Rob Knight and Jason Sams were elected in the Nov. 5 General Election along with incumbent Cindy Webel. The two newcomers ran for seats previously held by Diane Farmer and Jim Bennett, who did not file for re-election.
Knight, 43, is a Norton native who lives in New Franklin (the school district includes the northwest portion of the city of New Franklin) and owns and operates Stop Time Studio in Norton.
“Being a lifelong Norton guy, a lot of people asked me to [run for the board] in the past,” Knight said. “I thought it was the right time to do it. I’d like to try to do good for the community and schools.”
He said while campaigning he was pleasantly surprised to see that residents were mostly in favor of plans to build a new high school. Norton voters approved Issue No. 42, a 3.89-mill bond issue to construct a new building, with 61 percent in favor in the General Election. The district plans to build a new high school and move Grill and Cornerstone elementary schools.
“The people in Norton are excited about it,” Knight said. “We have the opportunity to really reinvent Norton. Nothing like this has happened since I’ve been here. I think the town needs it.”
Sams, 35, has been a member of the Norton Police Department since 2000 and also director of Security Operations for the Fred W. Albrecht Grocery Co. (Acme Fresh Market stores). He’s also been the officer for the Safety Town program for Norton kindergarten students.
He said he decided to run because of his unique skill set in safety and security.
“I thought I could add an additional element to the board by having that experience in the law enforcement fields,” he said, adding that the district does not have a school resource officer.
He added that his father served on the school board in his hometown of Doylestown, so being part of the board was something he’s had an interest in for some time. Sams said he’s lived in Norton for eight years.
During his campaign, Sams said he heard from residents that they wanted board members who could carefully oversee the financial and physical aspects of the school building project.
“They wanted to make sure we have a good financial outlook and spend the money wisely and not over-build the district,” he said.
Like Knight, Sams said he’s happy to be part of the building project.
“I think this is the most exciting time in 100 years [in Norton],” he said. “I’m looking forward to being part of that.”
Both men said they have already been preparing for their new roles by meeting with district officials and attending meetings. They will both attend a class for new board members given by the Ohio School Boards Association before being sworn in to office Jan. 13.
Sams said he expects to be a cautious new board member as he settles into the job.
“I really want to take a look at all aspects [of the issues] and sit cautiously,” he said.
Knight said he wants to hit the ground running.
“I’ll be learning as I’m going, but I’m wanting to throw 100 percent behind this,” he said. “I don’t want to step on people’s toes, but I want to look at things and do what has to be done.”
Both new board members said they recognize the significance of the task at hand in the new building project.
“I think the schools and the city really have to work on building this new school together because it’s going to bring a lot of construction jobs to our city,” Sams said. “It will bring a lot of people to visit for lunch and to purchase things, and will set a good foundation to building close to the center of town. It’s exciting not only for students and staff, but for the community because it will show positive growth.”
“We have a lot on our plate with the new building,” Knight said. “We have to get everything in order, because a year from spring we’ll be ready to break ground. … We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
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