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Austintown school race is crowded and calm

Published: Fri, October 16, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

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.


1AtownParent(565 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

The Vindicator is as out of touch with Austintown residents as the BOE is. There are MANY parents who feel unwelcome at the meetings and the rest feel like our voices and are opinions are being ignored. We are fed up and want changes. You have endorsed a status quo, not at all what the residents want.

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2KLee(18 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

So therefore, residents should vote between Klein,Stellers, Wickham and Zeigler! A vote for the endorsed candidates is obviously a vote for the current board dynamics, with a devastating loss of common sense in replacing Traci Morse with Dave Scnurrenberger (who sounds like Lou Chine's long-lost kin). Kathy Mock is evidently a somewhat younger version of Joyce Pogany.

I guess PTA involvement means nothing to the Vindy. I know both Nancy Wickham and Chris Zeigler are heavily involved in the district as officers in the PTA. I think that kind of service speaks volumes as far as character goes. Volunteering steadily in the schools shows true altruism. You are paid only in the smiles of the children (so worth it). Plenty of negative stuff that goes along with it, to boot.

Sounds to me like they were disappointed that there were no candidates who responded to their baiting. It sells more papers when someone stirs the poo, I guess.

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3commyliberal(94 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

SO in order to get an endorsement from the Vindicator, you need to go in and trash the other candidates & current BoE?

How can you NOT endorse Dr. Tom Stellars! Oh is it because he is OVERQUALIFIED! hello!

KLee hit the nail on the head, vindy endorsement = status quo!

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4TabSinger2(4 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Hopefully, the general voting public will do their homework and find that the PTA advocates have more experience then what they are given credit for.
One has proir board experience and is familiar with government funding issues. There's also leadership experience and years of making decisions that have effteced large numbers of children.
You can't always believe what the Viindy writes, they leave out critical information.
That is why several groups hold candidate's forums. Every candidate attended the Growth Foundation's candidate night, plenty of time to ask and answer questions in a one-on-one setting.
I'm glad that the PTA advocates were not endorsed by this obviously out of touch and biased source of information.
Maybe they would endorse people who make unnecessary comments that are based on hearsay and are not factual. Seems right up their alley!
As for the candidate's bashing the current board or their running mates. I can tell you that it's obvious that the interviews were not set up equally. Knowing the time that was spent on several candidate's, the grilling lasted only 30 minutes and there was little opportunity to promote self or bash others.
I believe the article is not as truthful as it could be, they simply left out important details that would make the decision for endorsement look more questionable.

I will never base who I vote for on what I read in a newspaper article.

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5KLee(18 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

According to FalconFighter,"As for the PTA advocates, I'm sorry, but volunteering in the schools and making popcorn on fridays does not qualify you to make intelligent decisions about the education and curriculum for the current and future pupils in our community. There may be an opening at the bus garage to drive a soccer van to Canton."

Ummm... FalconFighter, you may want to have a gander at Mr. Schnurrenberger's candidate's profile on this website. He cites being a PTA volunteer as one of his qualifications. So, in your opinion, he is merely qualified to drive that soccer van, no?

"Schnurrenberger has long been a household name in the township, with quite a legacy. Having three children go through the austintown schools successfully in academics and athletics, this man has done a fine job. He is very familiar with the past, present, and future of this community and school district. I cannot say enough about him."

You perplex me, FalconFighter. You denigrate PTA advocates, yet praise someone for merely siring 3 children. Many people have produced children who have attended ALSD, graduated and gone on to live fruitful lives. How does this uniquely qualify David Schnurrenberger for a position on the BOE over other candidates whose spawn have attended ALSD? If being married to a teacher and siring a teacher qualify you, then by golly my father-in-law should have a seat waiting for him, too.

I am not personally attacking the man, but I fail to see what makes him stand out over anyone else. You have several candidates with children who are or have been students of ALSD. Several who have volunteered in church, school and athletics. He reminds me of Lou Chine in the respect that he has family employed by the district. How will this effect his decisions during negotiations? Will he recuse himself?

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6commyliberal(94 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

I am not comfortable with having 2 BoE members who have spouses who are district employees. Lou Chine is currently serving the second year in his four year term and his wife is an employee in the AMS kitchen.

If Mr. Schnurrenberger, who also has a spouse working for the district, is elected I believe the contractual employees will have too much clout on the BoE.

It is a question of ethics and as Mr. Chine has not recluse himself on contractual voting matters I do not have any hope that if elected Mr. Schnurrenberger would do so.

I am not sure how the VIndicator managed to split hairs and chose their endorsements. I am wondering if those chosen had drawn the long straws?

If candidates do not attack the current BoE or opponents then there are no issues with the current BoE? We have a bond levy on the ballot and the details of how the money would be spent are shaky at best.

The community was given 2 options during the public statement phase of the project.
1. Using a campus model, construct a K-3 central elementary and refurbish Frank Ohl intermediate. Translation 1600 kids in one building.
2. Using a campus model, build 2 new schools, K-2 and 3-5 each having a population of 1200 children..

The community was never asked if they were in favor of the campus model. So when this bond levy fails, will we be turning down a bad idea (campus model) or blamed for not supporting our schools?

Also, in the language of the bond levy it states that all extra money or savings will be redirected to repairing Fitch. Now the last bond levy passed int his community also had a significant amount of money go towards items like
1. new BoE offices
2. repairs & upgrades to the stadium including a new field surface.
3 an ew bus garage.

What in Gods name would these people do with a slush fund of $26M. Look what they were able to divert with the last bond levy.

I say do your homework before you vote.

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7AtownPTAmom(1 comment)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

I actually laughed out loud at the comment Falcon Fighter made about the PTA parents making popcorn!

Do you have any idea how much time we actually spend in these buildings, surrounded by our children and the people who educate them?! The first hand knowledge we have about what goes on in our schools...the positive AND the negative?

The PTA-involved parents and guardians want what is best for our CHILDREN...not what is "politically correct" for the district. They have my vote!

If the Vindy prefers bashing, I'm sure there are plenty of us who would be willing to share exactly what we think of the current administration and how things have been run. How our concerns are brushed aside or blatantly ignored. How we are given the run-around when we want answers. How we are pawned off when we want accountability. How our children suffer due to their negligence. How their test scores are more important than their well-being. Need I continue?

It's those people who recognize these issues that I want to see on the board....which means that anyone who's already there needs to GO!

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8commyliberal(94 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Falcon Fighter,

Your derogatory comments towards the PTA just highlight your overall ignorance in general. Please continue with your foot in mouth maneuvering since your own "logic" serves as a better reBUTTal to your arguments than any I care to make.

Really, can you still be that bitter about not being chosen as a room parent?

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9KLee(18 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

PTA Votes.

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10AtownParent(565 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Lets be honest here, you endorse Mock but doesn't she "pop popcorn on Friday nights" as well. You are probably one of those people in the schools that think it takes butt kissing to get ahead. In fact, it seems to be that you hold a personal grudge of some sort against the two candidates you are actually in the schools. Is that what makes you lash out at the PTA parents, or is it that they just don't include you in their reindeer games. Your attacks are childish at best. The only thing you have managed to do is make people think that Stellers, Mock and Schnurrenwhatever have the same ideals as you, and trust me, that is not a good thing.

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11commyliberal(94 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Dear Falcomfighter.

apt. blog name...fighter. However we aren't boxing we are debating the merits of the various candidates and you come up short. You denigrate two candidates for PTA experience while singing the praises of a person who has no more qualifications that the candidates you dislike.

How is Schnnurenberger more qualified than either Wickham or Zeigler? All have community service experience. I don't believe the average voter harbors your anti-PTA opinion. Your "do as I say" rhetoric is misplaced and unfortunate. It is not persuasive and it comes across as nasty and rude.

Except for attacking the PTA and my chosen blog name, you have not addressed my stated concerns for Schnurrenberger and his merits vs. the ethics of his family members working for the district . So who does Mr. Schnurrenberger represent, students & residents or union employees for the district?

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12AtownParent(565 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

So bashing two parents (and their children) is the way to get what is best for the community? I don't understand your reasoning and frankly, I would love to know if the candidates you endorse feel the same way about the PTA as you do.

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