YOUNGSTOWN SCHOOLS Board candidates campaign at forum

School board hopefuls kicked off the political season.
YOUNGSTOWN -- School buildings, academics and truancy dominated discussion at the first of what is sure to be one of dozens of city school board candidate forums leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
Ten of the 13 candidates running for four positions on the seven-member board showed up at the 90-minute forum Thursday at Jackson Elementary School sponsored by the Seventh Ward Citizens Coalition.
The board hopefuls distributed brochures, shook hands and introduced themselves to the nearly 100 people in attendance. And, with the candidate field so large, they introduced themselves to each other as well.
"This is a passion for me -- trying to help children," candidate Michael Clarett said, echoing a theme that most candidates expressed -- children first.
Marilyn Gonzales, an incumbent, said she thinks the school board's greatest challenge has been to restore public confidence in the school system. "I think we've done that," she said.
Topics: The school district's upcoming $163.5 million building project was a major topic, particularly commitments the school board has made to set aside a certain amount of the work for minorities and city residents.
"We have people right here in our community who can do the job, and we should allow them to do that," the Rev. Jeffrey Smith said.
Robert Korchnak wasn't familiar with the set-aside issue. "As long as the bids are fair, it doesn't matter if the owner of the company is a minority or not," he said.
Clarence Boles said the board's biggest job is going to be making sure "that contractors do what they say they will do."
Incumbent Lock Beachum said getting the school system out of academic emergency is the district's top challenge.
Also attending were incumbents John Maluso, Neil Buzzacco, Jacqueline Taylor and Michael K. Write. Candidates Don L. Hanni Jr., Joseph Rafidi and Oliver Weaver did not attend.

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