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Davis brings science flair to Coventry school board

1/16/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Chris Davis
COVENTRY — Plant biologist Chris Davis has lived all over the United States, but five years ago, he moved back to his home state, and around two-and-a-half years ago, he settled back in his native Coventry Township.

Today, the newest member of the Coventry Local Schools Board of Education lives with his wife of eight years and two young children half a mile from the home where he grew up.

A 1983 graduate of Coventry High School, Davis went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology from Occidental College in Los Angeles and a master’s in the same subject from San Diego State University.

He’s been in his current position with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) for about five years, having previously worked at national parks in Washington, Massachusetts and Colorado, he said.

Of his two children, the older is a 7-year-old attending Turkeyfoot Elementary School, while the younger, a 5-year-old, is not yet enrolled.

Davis defeated three other challengers for one of three open seats in the General Election this past fall. He received around 18 percent of votes, just two votes less than incumbent Robert Wohlgamuth, who has served 20 years on the board. In that election, incumbent David Andrews was the top vote-getter with approximately 21 percent of votes. Tom Thompson lost his seat when he came in fourth to retain the position he was appointed to when board member Tina Gable resigned to take a job in the superintendent’s office last spring.

Davis, 49, who has no previous experience in politics, said his primary goal while serving on the board is to do whatever he can to help Coventry students learn more and gain the skills they need to grow into successful adults. He said his science background plays a part in how he sees himself contributing as a board member.

In his job as plant biologist at the CVNP, he works to rid the area of invasive plants and restore native ones. Another part of his position is monitoring deer and their effect on vegetation, he said.

Davis said he works with around 2,500 volunteers in his job, a vast majority of which are students, including some from Coventry Local Schools, he said. He’s hoping to bridge that gap for more students in the district, he added.

Davis also said he would like to see an expansion of outdoor education and service learning opportunities for Coventry students, noting that being situated near the Portage Lakes creates prime opportunities for students and teachers in those areas.

He added he has a special interest in promoting and encouraging the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, which currently only includes kindergarten through second grade.

Davis said he became interested in running for the position motivated by a concern for his own children’s schooling while attending levy committee meetings. He made the decision to run when he learned last spring Gable was resigning.

Davis said he is glad voters approved a 5.99-mill levy and bond issue, which passed during its third appearance on the ballot this past May, and he looks forward to being involved with the construction of Coventry’s new high school and renovation of the other schools as a result of the bond issue’s passage. He also plans to advocate for all district students to attend schools in optimal learning environments, not just those in high school, he added.

Passage of the May ballot issue will allow the district to receive $11 million from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for a $39.3 million construction and renovation project to update aging school facilities, according to district officials. The plan is for elementary students to move into the current high school, which has limited potential for a playground and a lack of classroom windows, Davis said.

“It didn’t seem like as much attention was being paid to where our youngest kids are going and their learning environment,” he said. “Everyone starts at the elementary school.”

Another of Davis’ priorities while on the board is pursuing external funding for the district.

“I have a pretty good track record of going after funding sources,” he said, adding the district has the potential to access much more private funding.

While pursuing outside funding, Davis said he hopes to mend some fences with district residents broken during levy battles, he said. He also is interested in teaming up with any teachers, administrators or residents who want to work with him on grant writing for district projects, he added.

“I have a lot to learn but look forward to the challenges and opportunities that will come my way as a board member,” he said.

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