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Position papers: Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education

10/31/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Jan Flasco (incumbent) vs. Tammy Heffernan (incumbent) vs. Marlene Martin vs. Jeff McHugh (incumbent) vs. Linda Ocepek vs. Dale Patterson vs. John Schneider vs. Patrick Shade

Voters living in the Woodridge Local School District will vote for three candidates for Woodridge Local 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.


Jan Flasco (incumbent)

Why are you running for a seat on the Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education?

“My husband and I have lived in the Woodridge School district since 1995. Both of my children attended Woodridge from kindergarten to graduation. The superior education they received in this district has led to their current success. I want to ensure that all Woodridge students have that same quality education and options for learning that my children had.  When I look at the curriculum and programs are available, I am so proud and pleased at what our students can take advantage of at Woodridge. The possibilities and opportunities for our students, coupled with their teacher’s leadership and guidance, is limitless.  However in maintaining our excellent rating from the State we need to make certain that we continue to spend within our means. I am also a taxpayer in the community and want to ensure that we are a district that is fiscally responsible.”

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

  1. “Continued fiscal responsibility. The Board and Administrative Team are constantly investigating options designed to safeguard district funds. We have taken advantage of shared services with other districts and with the Summit County Educational Service Center. We must continue to review all aspects of district operations to ensure that tax dollars are spent efficiently.
  2. “Safety of our students. We recently completed security enhancements at each facility in the district. These improvements ensure controlled access to schools during instructional time. This coupled with the Safe Schools Hotline allows parents to feel more at ease as our children enter our schools each day. The district will continue to work with local law enforcement agencies to strengthen and reinforce the Safety Plans that we have in place.
  3. “Community /parental involvement. I stated when I last ran, that an open line of communication is vital to any school districts success. The Board, Administration, and our entire staff value this community’s input and participation in their child’s education. Our continued promotion of open lines of communication is imperative for a successful learning environment for our students.”


Tammy Heffernan (incumbent)

Why are you running for a seat on the Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education?

“I have been on the Board of Education for 13 years and have a passion for education. The fact that I graduated from WHS and both my sons did also makes this job very personal to me. I want to ensure your children get the same opportunities and great education we did. I believe I have proven to be trustworthy and represent the community and their needs. I am totally committed to this district and have more to give.”

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

  1. “Facilities Study:
    “As a district the time has come for us to complete a comprehensive study of our facilities. We need to develop a long range plan for our existing facilities in an effort to determine whether or not they will meet the academic needs of the future. We have two older facilities serving our youngest learners. Do they provide the best learning environments for our students? The middle and high school facilities are overcrowded and have exceeded their design capacity. In my next term on the Board, this must be a major area of focus as we work together with the community to decide what steps will be necessary to address these very real issues.
  2. “Fiscal Health and Awareness:
    “We must continue to demonstrate financial transparency. We have expanded our district’s Finance Committee, engaging more community members in discussions about and evaluation of district finances. We have posted our monthly and annual financial documents on the district website and have held community forums to engage the community in open dialogue about financial issues.  Moving forward, we have to maintain that focus, expand those opportunities, and remain transparent.
  3. “College/career readiness:
    “Working closely with the community, administration, staff, and current school board, I believe we must continue to strengthen opportunities and options for our students as related to college and career readiness. We must make certain that our students have access to programming and curriculum that prepares them for the future. We must ensure that ALL of our …” [Exceeded stated word limit.]


Marlene Martin

Why are you running for a seat on the Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education?

“I believe I would be a good candidate for the Woodridge Board of Education because I have always had a desire to serve and give back to my community. I have three children in the district, at three different schools, which gives me a unique insight into the issues that our district is facing. The experiences I have gained as a member of the Woodridge District Finance Committee, where I am currently the Chair, has also given me experience with the fiscal responsibilities of our district. I have gained invaluable experience, during my involvement in the district, over the last seven years. I believe this experience can only enhance my abilities to become an effective School Board representative.”

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

“As a newly elected board member, it would be a priority for me to continue to support the areas of excellence such as the outstanding staff, fiscal responsibility and academics that have made the Woodridge School District an exceptional district. One of the top priorities that needs addressed, on a district-wide level, is communication/community engagement. Communication between the district and parents and community members, as a whole, is currently lacking in certain areas. Using communication strategies that will reach both individuals who are involved in the school district and those who simply reside in the district will support the exchange of information as well as facilitate engagement with the school district and the surrounding community.

“Fiscal responsibility would also be a priority for me. As a board member, I will help to ensure that the district spends money appropriately, allowing the district to continue to have total control over how their money is spent. Providing a strong fiscal foundation permits for the maintenance of the long-standing tradition of excellence.

“Finally, having a background in public health gives me further insight into the issues surrounding the ‘health of the school.’ Taking a look at how we make the environment, where students spend most of their day, an environment that promotes healthy behaviors and choices and best prepares the students, regarding school safety.”


Jeff McHugh (incumbent)

Why are you running for a seat on the Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education?

“To maintain Board Membership so I can continue to be part of the great things going on in the Woodridge Local Schools and pay it forward to the next generation.”

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

  1. “Fiscal Responsibility: Being a good steward of our financial resources is vital to the health of the schools and the taxpayers in the community.
  2. “Program Relevance: School Programs need to reach and prepare all our students for whatever path they choose to pursue post graduation.
  3. “Facilities: Safe schools are basic to a good learning environment.”


Linda Ocepek

Why are you running for a seat on the Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education?

“As a former teacher, principal, and curriculum specialist, I believe that I can provide useful insight into keeping the Woodridge Schools excellent. I believe that we can have quality programs and still be respectful of our taxpayers’ dollars. We will do this by being more inclusive and by opening up channels of communication with our parents, staff, and communities. I would also like to see the district seek alternative sources of funding. While I worked for the district as the Middle School principal, I also wrote grants that brought in over $150,000 to the district for special programs. I have already spoken to Superintendent Davis about becoming involved again in the district’s grant writing efforts.

“On a personal note, I loved being principal of Woodridge Middle School. The staff, the parents, and the kids were all top of the line. After leaving in 2010, I went through some tough health issues and the loss of my 26 year old nephew to a motorcycle accident. I came away with a new perspective on life. For some reason I am still here, and I still have work to do.

“So I am moving on by following my heart and returning to a place that was very good to me — the communities and people associated with the Woodridge Local Schools. It is time for me to give back and to offer my services to help others. Since I know the needs of children, being a member of a board of education seemed like …” [Exceeded stated word limit.]

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

“My top three priorities would be to

  1. “Provide more transparent communication with our staff, parents, and the communities that we serve. The importance of this priority cannot be overstated. When people are unclear about where the district is headed or why it is headed there and are not involved in decision-making discussions, then they will not buy into the plans being considered. Including all stakeholders and adopting a policy of ‘no surprises’ will reduce misunderstandings. Everything that a board of education does should be an open book and citizens and staff should be able to ask questions and provide feedback. 
  2. “Engage staff, parents, and the communities in an on-going dialogue about the direction of the district into the future. This might include forums, questions and answers on the website, or other opportunities for citizens to offer feedback to the administration and the board of education. Community members are the district’s clients and their wishes need to be carefully considered.
  3. “Seek out alternative funding opportunities which may include grants, donations, matching funds, or establishing a school/community/business partnership which will allow us to network with members of the community as we look for support for our district. This is an absolute necessity, because of the uncertainty of funding from the state of Ohio.”


Dale Patterson

Why are you running for a seat on the Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education?

“I have over 30 years of experience in accounting and finance. Part of my job requires me to adhere to government regulations along with accounting policies. Our daughters have either recently graduated from Woodridge High School or are currently attending. This helps keep me aware of the needs and positive qualities of our school district. As our daughters were growing up and playing in the recreational sports, I was involved with coaching their teams. As a parent, I feel it is important to be involved in the activities of your children. Now that our daughters have outgrown what I can do as a coach for them, I want to continue to be involved by being a part of the Board of Education. I currently volunteer for various positions within our church, some of which allows me to interact with the youth. Our community is full of great youth, and I want to do everything I can to help make sure our school is one that will help them succeed in reaching their dreams. That is why I am running for election to the Board of Education, and I feel my qualifications make me a good candidate.

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

  1. “Woodridge has a lot of excellent teachers and administrators, as we have experienced through our daughters. As parents, we entrust our children to the school system for 7+ hours per day. We should provide our teachers the resources necessary for them to be able to teach.
  2. “I want to help us work toward a financial position in our school district where we are solid and not get into positions where we have to resort to letting teachers or other school employees go because we do not have the finances to pay them.
  3. “Going back to entrusting our children to the school system, we want good teachers who also can be role models and who represent our school well. We have that now, and I feel it is important to maintain this.”


John Schneider

Why are you running for a seat on the Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education?

“Because I was always taught that if you feel that things aren’t run right or you have a problem with it then you try to get involved to fix it.”

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

“I’m not sure I can tell you what the top three problems are till I am put into office and find out exactly what we have going on. When you’re at a meeting you don’t get the whole picture of what is going on.”


Patrick Shade

Why are you running for a seat on the Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education?

“I am running for a seat on the Board of Education because of my experience with the school district and I want to maintain the high standard of education that was taught to me for future generations. I have attended 42 of the last 44 regular meetings of the school board, as well as several special meetings, becoming a source to tell faculty, students, and parents what happened at the meetings when they asked. I was also on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and the Woodridge Levy Committee, doing everything from helping with community discussions to walking around hanging door signs for the levy. Since pay-to-participate was implemented, I have led 2 campaigns, which have raised almost $1,300, enough to pay for 10 high school athletes to do what they love.

“My education from Woodridge was also a big reason why I am running. Over the last 11 years, I have received a second-to-none education from top-notch teachers, which cannot be duplicated in bigger school districts. Families are moving to the Woodridge district because of the outstanding education we give our kids. I want the education that myself and my classmates were given to be in place when our children and grandchildren are attending Woodridge, while adding new things to the curriculum that our students, teachers, and community want to see added. Of course, we must be within the financial limits set on our district and the community.”

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

  1. “Remaining finiancially solvent. Last year, during tough times, the community stepped up and approved a levy to help the district remain solvent and avoid deep cuts that would devastate the district. We must remember the financial limits that have been placed on our community and our district. One way we do this is actively seek grants and donations for our school district, like the Woodridge Foundation’s $150,000 gift for the Biomedical Engineering Academy.
  2. “Developing a plan for our buildings. Right now, our High School is 51 years old. Our Intermediate School is 82 years old. Woodridge Primary School is over 85 years old. With technology rapidly changing, our buildings may not be able to handle the changes that lie ahead. Discussion will need to take place whether or not to renovate or expand our buildings, or if the time is right to put on a bond issue on the ballot to build from the ground up.
  3. “Increasing and improving communication. I believe that the district can do a better job at communicating what is going on to the community. We can do this by recording and putting up special events on the internet, changing how we get our news out to the community, or encouraging more teachers to sign up for Twitter or use their page on the district’s website more often. Even though the district is working on this, I believe that we are missing out on a lot of potential.”
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