Mixed messages delivered in election for school boards

Come January, the most troubled — academically and financially — school district in the Mahoning Valley will be without the services of a dedicated and know- ledgeable member of the board of education, Lock P. Beachum Sr. That’s because Beachum failed in his bid for a fifth, four-year term in Tuesday’s general election. The former high school principal in the city school system had attempted to beat the odds by conducting a write-in campaign after changing his mind about not running.

Beachum told The Vindicator editorial board that he decided to get in the race at the last minute after he looked over the field of candidates for the three open seats this year — members Rachel Hanni and Andrea Mahone did not seek re-election — and became concerned about the agenda of some of them.

The one candidate he singled out as someone who would be a positive addition to the board was Jackie Adair, one of the winners Tuesday.

A write-in candidacy is a challenge under any circumstance. It takes a lot of money to get across the message to voters that they must write the name of the candidate on the ballot. Beachum obviously did not have the kind of money or organization necessary to launch a successful campaign.

His loss will certainly be felt by the Youngs-town school system, which is struggling to reverse its academic failings. Under the old state report-card grading system, the district was in academic watch, after languishing in academic emergency. The latest report card shows limited progress being made.

Serving on the school board requires a level of commitment and understanding of public education that not many people have.

In addition to Adair, the two other candidates who won election Tuesday were Jerome Williams and Ronald Shadd. The Vindicator endorsed Adair and Williams, in addition to Beachum.

But it only wasn’t in Youngstown where the voters seemed to send a mixed message. In the highly contentious school board race in Austintown, incumbent Kathy Mock won re-election, but the other incumbent, David G. Schnurrenberger lost. The third seat up for election Tuesday was open because member Tom Sellers did not run for another term.

Joining Mock in the victory circle were Ken Jakubec and Louis Chine Jr., both former members of the Austintown school board. The Vindicator endorsed the two incumbents and Jukubec, but said Chine would be a positive addition to the board.

Mystery of the election

However, the willingness of the voters to give one incumbent another term but not the other incumbent is a mystery of the election in Austintown. Mock and Schnurrenberger ran on virtually the same platform and took similar positions on such controversial issues as busing, open enrollment and the new campus for the elementary and intermediate schools.

What is ironic is that Austintown has an excellent-with-distinction rating in state report cards, yet voters rejected one of the two board members seeking re-election.

A similar head-scratcher occurred in Boardman, where incumbents Kimberly Poma and John Landers won, but 16-year incumbent Mark Fulks lost to Vickie Davis.

Again, the three incumbents in separate interviews with the newspaper laid out an agenda that is designed to keep the district performing at an excellent level.

Indeed, Poma, Landers and Fulks made it clear that their priority is to maintain the high standard of education Boardman students are now getting.

Two of the incumbents were rewarded for this success; the third was not.

In Poland, voters did acknowledge the work of the school board by granting the two members on the ballot, Dr. Larry Dinopoulos and Richard Beau Weaver, another four-year term. The district boasts an excellent-with-distinction rating.

In Warren, long-time board member, Robert Faulkner Jr. and Regina Patterson, seeking a second four-year term, won voter support.

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