By Rick Rouan
A 27-year-old project analyst and three incumbents offer their vision for the future.
BOARDMAN — With three incumbents seeking re-election to the township school board, the lone challenger is pointing to a need for a new voice as the reason voters should elect him.
“I know what it takes to survive out there in the changing economy,” said John Landers, a 27-year-old project analyst with Case Western Reserve University.
The incumbents running for the board are Kim Poma, 52; Nik Amstutz, 46; and Mark Fulks, 53.
“We work hard to maintain our report-card level,” said Poma, the incumbent board president.
Landers said his degrees in computer science and engineering and experience working in that field uniquely qualify him to evaluate the district’s technology curriculum moving forward.
“I think we need to prepare children to work in this new economy,” Landers said. “Are we preparing [students] for the future?”
The three incumbent candidates would answer “yes,” citing consistently “excellent” report-card levels from the state despite changing demographics in the school.
The district’s special-education and poverty-stricken population is growing, Poma said. That makes obtaining high marks on the state report cards difficult, she said, because parent involvement is less likely in homes with financial problems.
“We deal with all of the factors that are in the equation,” said Amstutz, who suggested smaller class sizes to help the district cope with the changing demographic.
Poma said adding special-education teachers is expensive and that if those students choose to go to a different school, the district loses a large chunk of money.
The district has been dealing with students leaving for charter schools, and Poma said the district has lost about $2 million to charter schools and open enrollment. Board members and administrators have been vocal about their problems with state laws allowing students to transfer to charter schools that have a lower state rating than the public school.
“As a parent, I don’t understand a parent who wants to take their child to a school that doesn’t have the same facilities and opportunities,” Fulks said.
Fulks, in a Vindicator candidate form, cited the “difficult financial situation at the national, state and local level” as a major problem for the district.
The district has tried to raise money through voters, but a $51.5 million bond issue to upgrade all of the district’s school buildings and build a bigger sports complex and football stadium failed three years ago.
“It would not be easy ... to sell an upgrade of our facilities to the community of Boardman,” Amstutz said, adding that the bond issue’s failure was his greatest disappointment during his first term as a board member.
Landers said the board needs to work with the state to increase the percentage it would cover for capital improvements.
The board, Landers said, has been responsible with money, but he wants to bring new ideas and a new voice to the board.
“I do have the life experience and credentials to do this,” he said.