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Position papers: Akron Public Schools Board of Education

10/17/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Bruce Alexander (incumbent) vs. Janice Davis vs. Dave Lombardi vs. Lisa Mansfield (incumbent) vs. Veronica Sims (incumbent) vs. Scott Stetson vs. Debbie Mairé Walsh

Voters living in the Akron Public School District will vote for four candidates for Akron Public Schools Board of Education in the Nov. 5 General Election. The race is nonpartisan. The information provided below was submitted by the candidates, with their responses to our questions printed as submitted.


Bruce Alexander (incumbent)

Why are you running for a seat on the Akron Public Schools Board of Education?

“Being a graduate of Akron Public Schools and having a wonderful educational opportunity and getting an education from top notch teachers who cared about their students has motivated me to give back to the school system.

“I’m a child advocate who cares deeply for kids but more importantly their education. If we can provide the best possible education to our young people, we will be contributing to bettering our community and society. I have spent my entire career working with youth as an Akron Public School Board Member, Akron Public Schools Employee, Summit County Juvenile Court, or mentoring youth.

“As a leader and role model it’s my obligation to contribute in whatever manner possible to help provide our students with the tools needed to face the world. Throughout my life GOD has blessed me to have positive adult role models and mentors who cared enough about me and were major forces in my life. The impact they had on my life as mentors, positive role models, and playing a significant role in my life has inspired me as a person on the Akron Public Schools Board to ensure student get the best possible education the school system can render. Also to allow students to leave the school district having had a positive learning experience which lead them to College, Vocational Career, Workforce, or Military.

“Getting re-elected would give me a chance to continue working to make Akron Public Schools one of the best school districts in the country”

What would be your top three priorities if you were re-elected? Why?

  1. “Ensure our pre-k to third grade students are reading at or above grade level while preparing them to pass the third grade reading test. I do not want to see our students become part of the cradle to prison pipeline and be statistics used to determine the number of prisons to build. We must remember it cost more to incarcerate one youth than it does to educate four to five students.
  2. “Continue being fiscally responsible to help the school district to be a healthy viable school district for years to come
  3. “Work closely with the community and getting them involved in helping the school district to move towards its goals. The community is a major player in educating our students. This means getting parents involved in their child(rens) education process, having positive male role models volunteer in schools to assist principals and teachers, extending the school day via solid after school programs geared towards enriching the minds, body, and soul of students. And, to ensure the Community Learning Centers are used for positive community activities for students and adults”


Janice Davis

Why are you running for a seat on the Akron Public Schools Board of Education?

“The state of public education overall is disturbing, particularly for minorities and African American children. I believe it is my moral obligation to share the knowledge and skills I have acquired throughout the years to help contribute to transforming the system. I also understand the only way to fight crime, death, poverty, etc. is through education. As a result, I have identified that serving as a board member will provide the greatest opportunity to work diligently for all children and give back for the many blessings I have received as a result of public education.”

What would be your top three priorities if you took office? Why?

  1. “Examine the benefits of integrating social, emotional learning (SEL) into classroom curricula based on qualitative and quantitative research.
  2. “Examine Zero Tolerance Policies and correlation to excessive expulsion/suspension rates and correlation with ‘Pipeline-to-Prison,’ phenomenon.
  3. “Examine alternatives to School Resource Officers (SRO) in ensuring school safety.”


Dave Lombardi

Why are you running for a seat on the Akron Public Schools Board of Education?

“I want to insure that the children of the Akron including my own two sons continue to have a top quality education that will enable them grow to be confident, intelligent and productive citizens. We live in a great community that has reasonable housing costs, wonderful metro and national park systems, and central location to many desirable destinations. I love our community, and I wish to see it thrive. A healthy Akron Public School System is one key to our community continuing to be a great place to live. I wish to dedicate myself to seeing the Akron Schools maximize its return on invested time and funding for the education of our children.”

What would be your top three priorities if you took office? Why?

“First, I would revise the teacher evaluation methods that link teacher success to State proficiency tests. Although it should be a factor, the State proficiency test does not take into account many intangibles that make an effective teacher. Input from students, their parents, coupled with peer reviews by teachers, would better measure a teacher’s value. We can all remember teachers that proved so instrumental in our lives, not necessarily as to the subject taught, but as to life lessons they taught such as: respect for others; self confidence, or the desire to excel. These valuable teachers could be lost if evaluations focus only upon regimented State proficiency levels.

“Second, address the drain of Akron students to charter schools. When a student enrolls in a charter school, state funding follows that student. This is compounded by the fact that the APS must still provide transportation for the student to that charter school. Some information indicates that the switch to charter schools may simply be for the bonus of a student receiving free transportation from his/her doorstep. Currently, Akron does not provide transportation to students living within two miles of school. Perhaps it’s time to change that policy.

“Third, I wish to address the delay in the King School rebuilding project. The students who should have been back at King this fall, are still at the temporary school on West Market Street. This prevents the other projects from moving forward, with a bottleneck in the temporary school facility.”


Lisa Mansfield (incumbent)

Why are you running for a seat on the Akron Public Schools Board of Education?

“I’m running for a second term on the Akron Board of Education to continue the strong work that is already in motion. I believe public education makes a difference with Akron’s families, but I’ve also seen misunderstandings prevent success or at least add additional obstacles to those trying to do right.

“For example, I often receive phone calls or emails from those who are struggling to understand choices that the Board has made or whose children are facing specific obstacles. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to provide clarity to a complicated issue or to connect a parent or community member with the right resource to help them to succeed. Callers don’t always agree with every decision the board makes, but often times even the toughest critic appreciates being heard or simply having their call returned. My willingness to have an open dialogue with the public and to provide genuine access to me as a board member has paid off. It not only has made me a better leader for APS, but it’s also given me the broad vision from across the district that I need to make sound decisions to meet the students’ needs.

“I will always take the time to listen, to explain the board’s rational as best as I can, and to let the public know that I’m accountable as their representative to our city schools.”

What would be your top three priorities if you were re-elected? Why?

“My top priorities would be to continue as co-chair of the Instructional Policy and Student Achievement Committee to improve APS results on standardized testing, stop or slow declining enrollment to Charter Schools, and continue addressing the district’s discipline needs.

“APS recently accepted the challenge of finding ways to cut achievement gaps in half by the next state report card and to be among the country’s highest-ranked urban districts within the next five years. Much of the groundwork to meet these goals has been laid through the effective use of ‘Race to the Top’ dollars. Already, we are seeing tremendous progress in schools taking part in the turnaround impact network, and I want to help support these programs to continue to bear fruit.

“Charter schools remain a continuing challenge. Many residents are under the false impression that APS has control over local charter schools, but that’s not the case. APS offers local families strong education programs and great customer service that under-performing charter schools can’t match. The more taxpayers seek accountability of these alternative schools, the more they’ll see the great value and opportunities that Akron’s children have with APS.

“When it comes to discipline, the good news for APS is that 80-90 percent of students will never be formally punished. Still, we have students who must be forced to follow the rules. As a board member, I’ll continue to work with parents, community partners, teachers and administrators to find effective ways to reach those who need special help and support.”


Veronica Sims (incumbent)

Why are you running for a seat on the Akron Public Schools Board of Education?

“I am a product of Akron Public Schools. I am passionate about the education of our children and ensuring that each has an equal opportunity for a solid educational foundation that leads them in the direction of a bright future. As an experienced Public Administrator I believe I posses the skills necessary to help build a world class district where graduation rates are at optimum levels and every graduate is college and/or career ready. A district where every third grader is proficient in reading and every school is touted as a safe and inspiring learning environment for Akron’s 22,000 + students. 

“I have spent a significant amount of time in my professional career working to improve the lives of children and families living in poverty, i.e., equipping and empowering individuals and families to advocate for their  interest and that of their community, teaching the importance of citizenship participation, exposing families, to viable ways to maximize physical health  and extend limited financial resources through the growing and preparing of their own nutritionally good food, and meeting emergent needs steaming from the lack of food, shelter and clothing. Despite these valiant and important efforts, it appears that what really impedes the ability of families to rise from this place of destitution is the lack of sufficient education. I know that we can break the cycle of poverty through education and the best place to start is with our children. I cherish the opportunity to be a part of the life transforming work.”

What would be your top three priorities if you were re-elected? Why?

“Work to ensure that schools remain safe learning environments where children can grow and be inspired. A safe learning environment is not limited to being free from negative confrontation it also includes a supportive environments that affirm children even when they don’t get things quite right. Children need to be assured that their best effort is far more important than getting things perfectly right all the time. I am convinced that when children feel physically and emotionally safe, they will accomplish amazing things.

“Work to ensure that all graduates are prepared for College and/or Career. I know from my own personal experience how a quality educational foundation served to set me on course for the successful life I am privileged to live today. When our graduates are equipped they are able to make solid confident decisions about their future, whether they pursue college, career, and/or technical training, they know they are foundationally ready to meet the challenges of the next chapter of their lives.

“Work to ensure that every 3rd grader reads at grade level. Third grade is a pivotal time in the education of a child. Once a child moves beyond the third grade comprehension becomes the name of the game. If a child is not reading at level by the time they reach fourth grade, comprehension can become a paralyzing challenge for a child academically which may result in a significant level of frustration, acting out and/ or worse yet disengagement from the learning process.”


Scott Stetson

Why are you running for a seat on the Akron Public Schools Board of Education?

“I have three kids attending Akron Public and as such I want to be more involved in the District. I have a background in college teaching and I believe I can have a positive impact on the District.”

What would be your top three priorities if you took office? Why?

  1. “Continuous improvement of academic standards for students through programs such as Common Core.
  2. “Finding a collaborative solution with the City of Akron to ensure completion of phase five of the new school construction project.
  3. “Utilizing the Community Learning Centers for more community based programs such as adult learning. Education is a continuum, it doesn’t end with graduation.”


Debbie Mairé Walsh

Why are you running for a seat on the Akron Public Schools Board of Education?

“I am proud to be a product of the public school system and desire to see the Akron Public School District provide the same opportunities for success to the current as well as future generations of student’s that I enjoyed in my youth. I understand the relationship between strong schools and vibrant communities and I will work tirelessly towards a goal of increasing the preparedness of all of our students resulting in increased achievement scores, graduation rates and a stronger Akron.”

What would be your top three priorities if you took office? Why?

  1. “Preparedness: Every child should be prepared to succeed in school from pre-school students being prepared to enter kindergarten, third graders able to meet the new 3rd grade reading standards, students prepared to meet or exceed required standards during their classroom years, prepared to enter high school and prepared to graduate and succeed in college and/or the workforce.
  2. “Improved graduation rate: Fewer than 1300 youths graduated from the 8 Akron Public Schools High Schools in 2013. While not every student needs or desires to advance to college, a high school diploma is both a mark of personal achievement for the individual student and a passport to the workforce. A diploma indicates to employers that the student has the ability to see a task through to the end.
  3. “Communication: Ensure that the lines of communication remain open between the Akron Public School Board and School Administration and the numerous education stakeholders in the community, including parents, students, businesses, civic leaders and taxpayers. As an example, in an era where funding is always going to be an issue, collaborations and partnerships can be used to encourage creative and innovative solutions to budget concerns and ensure our students receive the best outcome possible.”
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