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New Highland BOE member ready to serve

2/6/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Chris Wolny
GRANGER — Highland High School alumnus Chris Wolny was sworn in and took his seat on the Highland Local School District’s five-member Board of Education (BOE) Jan. 13, after winning in the General Election this past fall.

During that race, incumbents Robert Kelly and Diane Thomas also gained enough votes to retain their seats, while Wolny unseated incumbent Dan Petek, on the board since 2008, by a margin of 86 votes, which was less than 2 percent of those cast.

Combining Medina County Board of Elections totals with a small portion of votes from Summit County, Kelly took the most votes (1,438) to win a fifth term on the board, Thomas, who was appointed to the board in 2010 and won her first full term, was second with 1,291, followed by Wolny with 1,288.

It was Wolny’s first run for public office, he said, triggered in part by his son, Noah, entering kindergarten. An only child, the 6-year-old attends Hinckley Elementary, where his father also went, Wolny said.

Wolny graduated from Highland High School in 1992, and growing up in the district had a profound effect on him, he said.

“The decade it spanned was really special to me, and I wanted to go back and be a part of it again, and since he was going to be starting kindergarten, I also wanted to give back from a policy standpoint,” said the Granger resident.

To desire to serve on its Board of Education, you have to have a love for your district, though that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be an alumnus, he noted.

Wolny, who turns 40 in April, lived in Hinckley from the time he was 3 years old until he got married to wife Michele in 2000. They lived in the city of Medina for 11 years before moving back into the Highland district three years ago, he said.

He continued his education after Highland by earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Baldwin Wallace University and later a master’s in business administration from Walsh University.

Wolny is employed by FirstEnergy in West Akron in information technology. He said his job is on the workforce management technology side, and his responsibilities are as wide-ranging as developing code to providing “geek gadgets” to employees working out in the field, he said.

He also has experience in project management, which may prove useful in his new role on the board, he said. Last year, Wolny served as manager for a project in New Jersey, navigating a large population, a lot of money and many people’s emotions, he said.

Those skills may be put to use again as Highland proceeds with a $7 million to $8 million project to build a new athletic complex, including a stadium, additional parking and a tennis complex, he acknowledged.

In addition, the district has other capital needs, he said.

According to district officials, its three elementary buildings are nearing 90 years old and will need to be addressed in the near future. A state assessment of all of the district’s buildings is coming soon, Wolny added.

As the district proceeds with making plans that may include renovations and new construction, Wolny said for his part he is committed to making sure district residents are aware of the issues and have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas.

“The conversation is open on the floor,” he said. “It’s not something being hidden or in the background.”

Wolny said the district continues to face challenges at the state level in terms of funding and implementing Common Core standards, along with new testing parameters and devices required for students to take tests.

District residents can expect a heavy level of communication from him in his role on the on school board, Wolny reiterated.

“I want to be as open as possible and engage in conversations,” he said. If there is an issue that needs to be clarified or brought to the board’s attention, he hopes people will attend board meetings and bring up their concerns, he added.

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