Austintown school race is crowded and calm

Austintown school race is crowded and calm

There are seven candidates running for three seats in the race for the Austintown Board of Education, a number that sometimes hints at widespread community discontent with the status quo. That is not the case in Austintown, where it appears that the community is simply blessed with a lot of people who want to serve on what they perceive as an effective board.

There’s only one incumbent in the race, Richard Zimmermann, 47, a metals plant manager, who is seeking his second term. A long-time board member, Joyce Pogany, and a member finishing her first term, Traci Morse, are not seeking re-election.

The other six candidates are:

- Bill Klein, 19, a graduate of Austintown schools ,now a student at YSU’s Dana School of Music

- Kathy Mock, 56; retired teacher, now instructor at YSU and a supervisor of student teaching.

- Dave Schnurrenberger, 61; senior systems analyst, Delphi Automotive.

- Tom Stellers, 69, Ph.D. in educational administration, part-time instructor and supervisor of student teachers at YSU.

- Nancy Wickham, 38, has three school age children and has been an active volunteer with Head Start, including teaching American Sign Language in Head Start classes.

- Chris Zeigler, 38, claims representative.

All but Klein met with Vindicator editors for an endorsement interview, a requirement to be considered for endorsement.

None of the challengers raised the specter of substantial nonperformance by the board. There was some suggestion that the board should be more open or could do a better job of publicizing its monthly meetings, and any board should be concerned if even a few residents think they are not welcome. But even the issue that we suspected would be a hot topic, the appearance of a 2.9- mill bond issue on the November ballot, raised no sparks. All but one candidate said they are supporting the issue. The remaining candidate is still on the fence.

A job made easier

It is the obligation of challengers to candidly discusses areas in which a sitting board and its members have failed the public. When a race so crowded with challengers raises so few objections to how things are going, it makes our job that much easier. We can easily endorse the re-election of the lone incumbent, Zimmermann.

It’s not just that he didn’t come under attack from his competition. He discussed his past performance and his intentions if re-elected in detail.

Over the summer, the board hired a new superintendent, Vincent Colaluca, from within the district. Zimmermann noted that the board was under pressure because the untimely resignation of Doug Heuer, that Colaluca was familiar with the system, qualified and gave the board an opportunity to hire a younger superintendent at a lower salary than his more experienced predecessor. The district, Zimmermann says, is in good shape and the board is confident Colaluca will take the district forward. Regarding the bond issue, Zimmermann said Austintown has an opportunity to tap into state funds for almost half the cost of building two new schools.

He also said that he has an eye on academics in the district, taking credit for pushing for the addition of German 3 and 4 and for Robotics and electronics classes.

Zimmermann obviously has not lost his enthusiasm for the job and has earned a second term.

Of the five remaining candidates we considered for endorsement, three stood out: Mock, Schnurrenberger and Stellers. Forced to choose only two, we’re endorsing Mock and Schnurrenberger.

Mock brings her experience as an educator and an active mother of former Austintown students. She’s enthusiastic about the school district, its future in general and its building program in particular. She is less enthusiastic about open enrollment, because, she says, it pits one school district against another.

Schnurrenberger says the proposed new schools will provide increased value to the community, but notes that the board is going to have to be involved in assuring that the plans meet the community’s expectations. He’s met with Colaluca and was impressed with his enthusiasm, though he acknowledged surprise that the board didn’t hire an educator with more experience.

Stellers said that he would have looked “for a dying breed, education statesmen who already had stature in the community,” but said Colaluca has been very professional. Wickham and Zeigler are both obviously committed to what is best for Austintown students, but did not make as strong a case for their election as their competition. Zeigler was the only candidate who said he still hasn’t made a decision on whether the bond issue deserves his support.

For the three seats on the Austintown Board of Education, The Vindicator endorses Zimmermann for re-election and Mock and Schnurrenberger for their first terms.

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