austintown Race for school board heats up

Austintown voters have 10 options for board of education

There are 10 candidates, including two incumbents and two former board members, running for three board of education seats.

By kalea hall


Challengers for the Austintown Board of Education find several reasons a change needs to be made in a school district with an excellent-with-distinction rating from the state, two brand new schools and a campus of approximately 5,400 students.

Some of the issues are open enrollment, safety of students, communication among the board members, the superintendent and parents and transportation.

There are 10 candidates, including two incumbents and two former board members. Eight of the candidates are Louis Chine, 61, a former board member; Kenneth Jakubec, 66, another former board member; Fred Marcum, 35; Robert Kornack, 26; Dennis Hileman, 22; Jim Sobien, 44; and Domenic Delmonte and Janet Hartman, neither of whom submitted candidate surveys to The Vindicator. The incumbents are Kathy Mock, 60, and David Schnurrenberger, 65.

“I am glad to see so much interest in Austintown schools,” Mock said.

Mock and Schnurrenberger were elected to the board in 2009. Since they have been in office, the district has increased open-enrollment numbers, passed a bond issue in May 2010, knocked down multiple schools and built two new schools with $23 million from the state and the local share of $27 million received from the bond issue. Also, the district was rated excellent with distinction in 2012.

Mock’s goal is to continue to ensure safety and security of the students. The four schools in the district are on a centralized campus. In addition, a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer teaches at the schools, and the Austintown Police Department recently received a $250,000 grant to fund two resource officers for the district.

Mock believes there are a lot of pluses in choosing to merge into one campus including the security and technology of the new schools.

“The kids love it,” Mock said.

Additionally, Mock would like to make sure the district maintains a quality learning environment.

Schnurrenberger also would like to continue the district’s focus on curriculum, and he would like to improve district communication.

An issue some of the candidates brought up is transportation safety. The district operates 48 buses and provides busing to approximately 3,000 students. Some believe there used to be door-to-door pick-up within the district, but it was eliminated and now, students are at risk. The incumbents and the administration, however, say that is not the case.

“[We] never had pick-up at the driveway,” Mock said.

The incumbents were not on the board of education when open enrollment was implemented, but they both see the significance of having it, although some of the other candidates have issues with it. The district has approximately 700 students in open enrollment, and each student brings in $5,742. Some of the candidates contend open enrollment has overcrowded classrooms, increased problems in the classroom and negatively affected the education students receive. However, the incumbents say there are no major issues with open enrollment.

“I think the board wanted to maintain an excellent education and not reduce staff,” Mock said. “We would definitely have to cut resources [without it].”

Chine, who was on the board from 2008 until 2011 and voted in favor of open enrollment, but he said that doesn’t mean he is “pro open enrollment.”

“I am pro pay your bills,” Chine said.

If elected again, Chine would like to focus his efforts on the education the children receive. He said he loves the creation of the campus.

“I have always been a person who thinks if you get those kids together from first grade, they will have better friendships and a better learning environment,” Chine said.

Sobien, on the other hand, believed in having neighborhood schools.

“It’s harder for teachers and students to know where they belong,” Sobien said.

Sobien also doesn’t see any positives in having open enrollment, and he doesn’t see how it actually brings in additional revenue to the district. He also is against the superintendent, who he finds arrogant and unresponsive to concerns of residents. If elected, Sobien would like to see changes made to board policies, work on communication in the district with the community, transportation and safety issues.

Jakubec also recognizes a disconnect with the board members, superintendent and the community.

“My goal is to bridge the gap between the community and the school,” Jakubec said.

Jakubec was a board member from 1987 until 2003, but left to let others have a chance at the position. He said if elected again, he will be approachable. He hopes to ensure transportation-safety in the district, ensure quality education, re-evaluate open enrollment and its effects.

“You are there to represent the taxpayers,” Jakubec said. “I just have to get the trust back into the district.”

Kornack also is running because of communication problems with the current school board, as well as safety issues. He said he is not in favor of open enrollment and would like to consider different options.

“We have to come up with a plan for projections of every graduating class,” Kornack said.

Marcum, an Austintown firefighter, is all about the safety of the students. He also would like to re-evaluate open enrollment and make sure the district is transparent with residents.

“I don’t feel a community of our size needs open enrollment,” Marcum said. “[We should] get kids in there younger. We want our community to grow as a whole.”

Hileman also would like the community voice heard as a candidate for the board. He cites issues with open enrollment and safety as his main concerns. He also believes the superintendent is too controlling, and if there isn’t a change made on the school board, then a new levy to build a high school will never pass.

“I feel I would do a great job in getting the community voice heard,” Hileman said.

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