CAMDEN — The Preble Shawnee PTO invited the public to attend a “Meet the Candidates Night” on Thursday, Oct. 19, for those running for the three open PS Board of Education seats.
All eight candidates attended and answered seven questions regarding their stances on policies and the highly debated levy issue.
The candidates running for the Preble Shawnee School Board include: Julie Singleton, Charles Biggs, Nicholas Duskey, Michael Hawkins, William Crawford, Deron Pugh, Polly Heinkel, and Calvin Davis.
First, the candidates were given a minute to introduce themselves to the many in attendance.
Julie Singleton has lived in the school district for 15 years, although she grew up in Oxford. Her husband grew up in Camden and she moved to the village when they got together. Together they have a son who attends Preble Shawnee High School and a son who attends the Camden Elementary school.
She received her degree from Miami University and chose a career in insurance. She now works in the IT department at Cincinnati Financial.
Michael Hawkins graduated from Preble Shawnee in 1989. His wife also attended and graduated from Preble Shawnee. Now, they have three kids who attend the school district. He has worked at AK Steel for 18 years, 10 of which have been in an administrative position. He will be working towards a Bachelors Degree in Business in the future.
Polly Heinkel is also an alumni from Preble Shawnee. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Miami University. She has a post graduate diploma from the University of Birmingham. She also holds an M.F.A in theater directing. She stated she owes her successes in life to the education she received at Preble Shawnee. She was also a producer in London and has started her own theater company.
Nicholas Duskey is a graduate from Preble Shawnee and has three girls in the district. He said both he and his wife have long commutes to work, but they wanted their children to go to school at Preble Shawnee. He works at smartLINK in Cincinnati and has a degree in Business Management.
Deron Pugh has lived in Preble County for his entire life. He actually went to West Elkton, Gratis, and then was part of the first class to spend all four years of high school in the current building. He has three sons — two of which have already graduated from Preble Shawnee. The last is in sixth grade. He has been coaching soccer, basketball, football, and baseball for the last 15 years. He stated that the kids are “number one” to him.
William Crawford is the current mayor of West Elkton. He began serving the public at 18 in the Army National Guard. He served 10 years. He returned to Preble County after a brief stint at Ohio University. He made a home with his family in West Elkton. He comes from a large family of Preble Shawnee graduates.
Calvin Davis moved to Preble County after he graduated from high school, 47 years ago. He has several family members and friends who graduated from Preble Shawnee. He retired in 2012 and for the last few years he has attended three different technical schools. He stated that while he did not graduate from Preble Shawnee, he has a passion for the school.
Charles Biggs is currently sitting on the PS Board of Education. This seat he is currently in, he has been in for a little over seven years. He stated he finds it “exciting” to be on the board and to serve the public. He graduated from Preble Shawnee in 1965. He has been married for over 50 years and their daughters — all three of them — are graduates from Preble Shawnee. He also has eight grandchildren.
The first question was asked by Preble Shawnee Local Education Association (PSLEA) president Kim Willoughby, who decided to play a game of “Name that Acronym” with the potential board members. She wanted to test the candidates’ knowledge of education, since any board member elected will be representing the teachers.
She asked the candidates what OTES (Ohio Teacher Evaluation System) means and none of the candidates knew. She then asked what PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention System), which none of the candidates knew. Several knew what IEP (Individualized Education Program) meant and — of course — PSLEA (Preble Shawnee Local Education Association).
This question gave Willoughby a chance to explain to the board — and the public — what some of the terms mean and to stress their importance in representing the teachers and their needs.
After that question, student moderators took over to ask the rest.
The first student-asked question was, “What sparked your interest in running for Preble Shawnee School Board?”
“Coming from an outside town to Preble Shawnee, it was important for me to come to an area that I wanted to raise my kids in. When my husband and I first came and moved here, there was just a sense of pride at Preble Shawnee that I was so attracted to,” Singleton said.
“We have been active in the community. I think it is not only important to be active during election time, but to consistently be active and show your interest in the community. I feel like I have done that. What really drew my interest is when I started to attend board meetings and saw what this was all about. I help lead the Arrows United Levy Passage, I know we’re not going to speak about that much, but that is really what started my interest in running for the board of education.”
Hawkins answered, “The reason that I am running for school board is that I think a lot of us realize that we are at a crossroads here. Just like [Singleton], my family and I have a lot of pride in the school. I’ve seen some of that slip away and it hurts me. Yes, our kids are number one and I am a big advocate for our school.
“I also think our school is a lot like a business — they’re in business to educate our kids. We need to make sure that they have the resources and the means to do that and that someone is holding them accountable for that. They have a job to do and we need to make sure that job is getting done.”
Next, Heinkel answered the question.
“I think unlike many of my fellow candidates, I actually do not have any children who are in the school system. I contribute a lot of who I am today to the opportunities I was given here at Preble Shawnee. I would like to serve these students, get them a better curriculum, give them a better understanding of what is out there for them after school, as well as help build them in the school with extra-curriculars and opportunities,” she said.
“My sister is a teacher at this school and that is what sparked my interest in running for school board.”
Duskey responded, “I grew up around education. My mother was a teacher at Camden Elementary and I remember being a small child and walking and crawling around there. The schools here are part of my every day life — I take my kids there, I pick them up, and I walk them there. I have a deep love and passion for our community and for everything that entails.
“We couldn’t be at a more critical juncture over the school system. Serving on the school board would be a very exciting opportunity for me.”
“What sparked my interest in running for the school board is my coaching,” Pugh answered. “The kids I’ve coached have never disappointed me. One thing that coaches are very adamant about is Arrow pride. We had Arrow pride back in the day and I don’t want to see that diminished.
“I don’t like going to other schools and hear kids talk about Preble Shawnee like its a bad thing.We can’t live in the past. I went to school at West Elkton, I understand the history of that building and Gratis. We can’t live in the past — we have to look forward to the future. A lot of things have changed in 35 years. I can remember telephones that were hanging on the phone with the long cord.
“We have to give these kids the ability to move on in their college years and be ready for that.”
Crawford said, “When I think about what sparked my interest in running for school board, I think about my childhood. When I was five or six years old I started kindergarten at West Elkton Elementary. I loved that school. That school was attached to the community.
“Then I went to Junior High and I was excited to be a part of a new community in Gratis. We enjoyed every minute of our time in Gratis. Then we went to Camden and it was another new experience. Not once did I think about the lack of air conditioning. I never thought about needing a new building. I learned from the teachers, I did not learn one ounce from brick and mortar.
“That is what I want to invest in and that is what sparked my interest in running for school board.”
Next, Davis answered the question.
“I wanted to run for school board, because I got interested in the way our community works. I wanted to be more involved in what is going on in our communities. Things have changed a lot in the last 60 years in the school district, but we were taught discipline and basics of what you need to know,” he said.
“A lot of things have changed. I still say that, as a board member, we need to exploit every opportunity that we have to work for the parents, teachers, and students to make our education system better. We need to look at our own situation and see what we can afford and what is best. We need to make a decision based off of good information, not false or misleading information.”
The last to answer the question was Biggs, who kept it short and sweet.
“The main reason that I am interested in being on the board of education is that it is a way for me to continue my public service,” he said. “Those of you that know me know that I served in the U.S. Military for 30 years. I had a great career there then I got employment with the County as an Emergency Management Agency Director. Again, that was public service. Being a member of the board of education allows me to represent the students, teachers, and tax payers.”
Many questions were asked throughout the night — from the levy issue to school curriculum, but many of the answers had the candidates repeating their previously stated stance.
For the last question, the moderators asked, “If elected, what would your plan be for extending elective opportunities?”
This time, the moderators started with Crawford.
“I would look into utilizing the space that we have, because our enrollment has declined and we have space in the high school and in West Elkton,” he said. “We should focus on technology and offer special courses on technology. Not only technology, but the trades. I think the trades are important to focus on.
“I’m in the trades and am out in the world and see that being important in the future. We should encourage our kids to seek those opportunities, beyond college prep. There are opportunities in college prep, but not every kid is cut out for college. We should focus on creating elective for kids who are interested in trade and technology.”
Davis answered, “I believe that we should utilize all our resources. Everything is not about building and everything is not about technology. We need to focus on what we have to make the students the best they can be. Our students should have the best opportunities — whether it is in technology, building skills, or whatever else. We have a lot of opportunities that we are not taking advantage of.”
“We pay the superintendent and our administrators a lot of money to make those decisions,” Biggs said. “The board doesn’t do that. We act on the suggestions of the administration and superintendent. If it is presented to us, and if we can afford it, then I will support it. In the past I have supported just about everything that we can afford.”
“I have to agree with Mr. Biggs where these are important decisions for our teachers and superintendent. We have to rely on them to let us know what elective our students find important. As a board, we can then make a decision based on what they suggest to us,” Singleton said.
“Resources are important in regards to electives. For a lot of the electives I don’t know if we could do it with our current resources.”
Hawkins also agreed with Biggs.
“It goes back to resources again. I’m not sure what sort of electives you would want, but a lot of it is going to be difficult if we don’t have resources to support it. It is imperative that we do as a board all that we can to get that for you, but we also need teachers who want to come here to teach electives,” he added.
Heinkel agreed, but argued that she would take a bigger role in championing electives for the district.
“I think I would get involved. I do theater and I would love to get involved. I would love to bring theater electricians, so they could teach some of those vocations, because it is an applicable skill. Looking to our community, this goes to building pride in our community, we need to look for individuals who would be willing to give time to our students,” she said.
“Myself, I would take the initiative to look for some grants and look for things that we can offer. We also need to sit down with you guys and open a conversation to see what you want to see. What are your wants and what are your needs? As a board member I would want to service those for you guys.”
Duskey talked about being passionate about getting electives for students and further preparing them for the future.
“Arts are critical to children’s education. I am a firm believer in the importance that plays in children’s lives. They need to think creatively. It is critical as they grow up. I think we have great teachers in those areas and I would love to see those programs expanded,” he said
“Not all of our students are going to go to college, but our economy is changing. Not all of these students are going to stay in this area. College degrees or some sort of post secondary school is increasingly imperative for success. Having a catalogue of college prep courses is imperative.”
Pugh wasn’t sure that the board has much of a say in electives.
“I know the importance of skilled trades. I know we have a good relationship with MVCTC. However, there are a lot of things we can do here to build that part up. I would love to teach the kids skills like how to balance a checkbook,” he said.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH