Future of Warren schools depends on good leaders

When the voters in the Warren City School District go to the polls on Nov. 8 to decide on who should fill the two board of education seats up for election, they may want to do so in the context of this question: Which of the nine candidates best reflect the academic values that must be embraced by the system to improve its state proficiency test scores? The district is under academic watch.
After interviewing six of the nine hopefuls -- the three who did not show do not warrant mention -- members of The Vindicator editorial board had little trouble deciding on the first: incumbent Robert L. Faulkner, who is completing 14 years on the board. But when we came to the second, we found ourselves comparing the r & eacute;sum & eacute;s of three qualified, highly motivated and caring individuals -- Shari Harrell, Patricia Limperos and Tamara Candella. And so it came down to which one impressed us as being most willing to hold Superintendent Dr. Kathryn Hellweg responsible if the district does not improve its academic standing.
We, thus, endorse Harrell to succeed 16-year board member Lynn Gibson, who is leaving. Harrell, who has a bachelor's degree in social work and a master's in business administration, made it clear that she believes the superintendent should be given a year from the time of her hiring this fall to show improvement in the district's test scores. We applaud this stance, given that the school board hired Hellweg specifically because of her record in turning around academically challenged systems.
Indeed, as Faulkner noted, she is being given all the tools she needs and requests to develop programs to ensure that a greater number of Warren students are in a position to pass the tests. If bricks and mortar aid in the learning process, then the $170 million construction project should work wonders.
While some might argue about whether or not such teaching provides the type of well-rounded education Americans need to compete in the global economy, the reality is that the state is not about to abandon proficiency tests as a way of measuring how school districts are performing.
No Child Left Behind
Indeed, with the federal No Child Left Behind initiative in full swing, the pressure is on. Thus, the superintendent becomes the lightning rod of the district -- as she should be.
Faulkner, whose service on Gov. Bob Taft's Commission for Student Success has given him special insight into the proficiency test system, is an invaluable member of the Warren school board. And it's not just because of his long tenure. His role as a black leader in the Valley provides a perspective of the black community that the urban school system must have in order to progress.
In interviewing the incumbent and Harrell, we were impressed with their understanding of what it will take to not only bring the district's scores up, but to ensure that all students, even those from single-parent families, are given the opportunity to succeed.
As we noted, Harrell is one of three contenders for the vacant seat who would be a positive addition to the school board. Limperos, a homemaker active in committees and parent support groups in the district, and Candella, a Realtor who also has been active in the district, would bring a fresh approach to public education.
The other two candidates in the race who took the time to meet with The Vindicator are Wayne Westover and Franklin John Bostardi.
Because Limperos and Candella are running as a team, their victories would mean that Warren schools would lose the experience and insight incumbent Faulkner brings to the table.
We believe the academic goals established by the school board will be accomplished with Faulkner being re-elected and Harrell succeeding Gibson.

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