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Campbell school board faces test of openness



Published: Wed, November 21, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The resignation of Ted Cougras from the Campbell Board of Education presents the remaining four members with the opportunity to demonstrate, once and for all, that they are committed to conducting the people's business in the open.

Board members Father Daniel Rohan, Dr. Walter Rusnak, Michael Tsikouris and Carmel Gerlick should not only seek applications for Cougras' position through newspaper advertisements, they should interview the candidates in a public forum.

Such an open process will do two important things: first, it will reassure residents of the school district that the rumors about a backroom deal having already been made are just that, rumors; second, the process will give board members a wide selection of applicants from which to choose Cougras' successor.

And in keeping with the openness theme, Rohan, Rusnak, Tsikouris and Gerlick should seek the opinions of the three new board members who will be taking office in January, Karen Repasky, Diana Petruska and Bob Dolan. The three will be replacing Gerlick, who chose not to seek re-election this year, and Rusnak and Tsikouris, who were rejected by the voters in the Nov. 6 general election.

Petruska and Dolan are newcomers, while Repasky had served on the board from 1992 through 1999, when she lost her re-election bid.

Message: As we suggested in an editorial following this month's election, the voters of the Campbell School District delivered a clear message when they turned their backs on the two incumbents, Rusnak and Tsikouris: We're tired of the games that have been played.

The outcome of the election prompts our call for an open process for filling the vacancy created by Cougras' resignation. The board member and his family are moving to Salem, where he holds the position of director of finance and business with the Salem Public Schools.

Our insistence on openness also stems from last year's debacle involving the employment status of school district Treasurer Joseph Sebest. By refusing to attend a community forum and explain how they could have reached any conclusions about Sebest's performance since no formal evaluation of the treasurer had been conducted, Rusnak, Tsikouris, Rohan and Cougras played into the hands of those citizens who believed that the good-old-boy network was alive and well in Campbell.

While the whole episode was of concern to us, we were especially troubled by a letter sent to the organizers of the community forum that was signed by Rusnak, Tsikouris, Rohan and Cougras. The four stated that they had decided not to attend the forum because they believe personnel matters should be discussed only with the individual involved.

Since board member Gerlick, who did participate in the community forum, was not notified of any board meeting at which the letter was discussed -- she was also not asked to sign it -- we believe that the four members violated Ohio's open meetings law.

We have been steadfast in our criticism of those public bodies that violate Ohio's Sunshine and public records. The laws are designed to ensure that the public's business is conducted in public.




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