Three of the four candidates elected to the Akron Board of Education on Tuesday are incumbents. The results promise a degree of maturity and continuity in guiding the 21,000-student district. The stability and increased experience will be crucial assets as the school system aims to reinvent itself as a district where parents send their children by choice rather than default.
The district is at a crossroad: Computer technologies are changing the nature of schools and education, from teaching techniques to testing and building use. Alternatives to traditional public schools have increased competition for students, the city school system increasingly on the losing end. The district also is under pressure to raise its game to meet national and international standards. And beyond all these, there remains the now-high, now-low roller coaster of school finances.
Enrollment declines are a major concern in the Akron Public Schools with the swift expansion of charter schools and voucher options in Ohio. Also, the district’s successes with special programs (for example, its STEM, early college and visual and performing arts schools) have not yet permeated academic performance across the board. The most recent state report card was a letdown.
Until the next election round in 2015, it is the responsibility of this board to set and oversee the policies to guide the district through the many challenges. As tenures go, the board seated in January will be young, all but one of its seven members, the Rev. Dr. Curtis T. Walker, Sr., having served four years or less. As candidates, the board members acknowledged candidly there is a great deal yet to learn about steering the large urban district.
That said, they also bring doses of new energy, fresh eyes and new ideas. As a board, they will be effective to the extent that they can set clear policies and hold themselves and the superintendent and his team to account.