Seven candidates are running to fill four seats on the Akron Board of Education. The winners will guide a district whose challenges are not growing any simpler. Difficult decisions are pending on issues ranging from low achievement and competition from private and charter schools to the district’s size and financing of its operations.
We recommend the election of Lisa Mansfield, Bruce D. Alexander, Veronica Sims and Dave Lombardi on Nov. 5.
Mansfield, the patron services manager at Weathervane Playhouse and a former substitute teacher in the district, is seeking a second term on the board. Currently the board vice president, she made it a point early to get to know in detail how the district functions. She is especially concerned about raising academic achievement, visiting classes and teachers and participating in conferences to better understand instructional challenges and best practices. On the board, she has worked to revise policies in ways that enhance educational goals, for example, tweaking the policy on uniforms and exploring ways to integrate cell phones and other devices as safety and education aids. Retaining Mansfield will ensure continuity for a relatively young board.
Bruce Alexander also is seeking a second four-year term. A community probation officer in the Summit County Juvenile Court, he brings broad experience in promoting supportive relationships between schools and families, a critical factor in reducing tensions and averting discipline problems. He rightly is proud of leading a project involving parents who for several weeks explored ways to provide feedback to the school leaders. Among his goals, he hopes to create a core group of parents in each cluster to keep open the lines of communication.
Veronica Sims was appointed to the board in March to fill a vacated seat. She has proved a quick study and promises to be a sturdy member of the board. An administrator of special projects and government affairs for Akron Summit Community Action Inc., she is keenly aware that the performance and other problems facing the urban district largely reflect conditions in the larger society, including the inability of many parents to be effective advocates in their children’s education. She brings to the board not only an infectious energy and enthusiasm, especially for early childhood education, but also extensive experience in working with parent and community groups. The district needs the active engagement of the community, which plays to the strength of Sims.
Dave Lombardi, an Akron attorney, is making his first run for the school board. Appealing about his candidacy is not only his vested interest as a parent with children in the district but also the analytic skills and legal perspective he could bring to bear on the board’s deliberations.
The field of candidates, which includes Janice O. Davis, Scott Stetson and Debbie Maire Walsh, offers a breadth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for the city schools. Yet four stand out as better equipped for the tough challenges ahead.
Correction: As originally published, this editorial erred in describing Bruce D. Alexander. He is a community probation officer at the Summit County Juvenile Court. The above editorial has been corrected.