By christine keeling
Two school-board candidates say communication is key to Canfield’s success.
Longtime residents Lee Fry and Philip Bova are running uncontested for two Canfield Local School Board positions. The seats will be vacated in January, after Renee Gessner and Anthony Peluso finish their four-year terms.
“I’m here to do what’s best for the district,” said Fry. “I am passionate about empowering the people you’re working for.”
Fry moved to the district in 1974 with his wife, Laura, and taught psychology at the high school. He has been head coach of the school’s soccer and baseball teams and assistant coach for basketball, softball and football. He was on the city’s council from 1990 to 1999 and Canfield’s mayor from 1999 to 2007. His three children graduated from the school system.
“I decided to run because I know the workings of the system, because I’ve experienced them,” he said.
In 1969, Bova and his wife, Rita, built their home in Canfield because of the school system, the safe community and the retention of home values. Their two children are district graduates.
He began teaching chemistry in the high school in 1972, coached baseball and later became assistant principal of the building.
He attends St. Michael Church, has been a member of the Canfield Lions for more than 25 years and was inducted into Canfield’s hall of fame. The high school’s baseball field is named after him.
“My wife showed me a copy of a newspaper poll; the response from Canfield was very negative because they didn’t think anything was going to improve,” said Bova. “It almost made me cry.”
He said he never aspired to take a seat on the board but just felt someone had to do it.
“I’ve talked to a lot of parents,” he said. “The first main issue is lack of communication.”
He wants everything out in the open.
“I think there’s a tremendous gap between the community and board,” said Bova. “I’m not putting blame; it’s just there.”
Members of the Canfield school district have been plagued by tough issues.
A 6.8-mill operating levy failed twice, in November 2010 and May. High-school busing was discontinued, clustered stops were implemented for kindergarten- through eighth-grade students, and pay-to- participate fees were enacted for students involved in sports and academic activities.
The academic fees for this year were rescinded Sept. 21, after the district received a $51,600 grant from the state for its “Excellent” rating.
The changes and $1.9 million in concessions over three years made by unions allowed the district to lower November’s levy to 4.9 mills, but the future is uncertain, and not all services will be restored.
If it passes, transportation for high-school students and free sports play would not be re-established, but bus-stop locations for lower-grade students would be changed, and five bus drivers would return to their jobs.
If it fails, 12 teaching positions will be cut.
The candidates agree the district needs new money to remain full-service but believe, in any case, they can bring new ideas to the table.
Fry expressed safety concerns for children in the community, who will walk down narrow streets without sidewalks to reach their bus stop in the winter.
“I think we have the funds to fix the busing,” he said. “Safety has to be first.”
Individualized high-school busing probably is not necessary, Bova and Fry agreed, because most students in the age group drive. But they believe a financially responsible compromise could be made for those students who rely on the service.
Their suggestion is that high-school riders could share a route with middle- school students.
The potential board members also are concerned athletes won’t be able to participate because of finances, and Fry worries the levy outcome may hinge on the cuts made.
The current fee to play sports is $100 per sport at the middle school and $200 at the high school.
“We are affecting the people who we are counting on to support the levy,” said Fry. “I’m not saying the current position is wrong; just not the way I see it.”