Karen Bell
TheNewsOutlet.org

Name: Kathleen A. McGervey.

District 2: Elected in 2010 to her first term, expires Dec. 31, 2014. Covers Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Erie, Huron, Lorain and part of Fulton counties.

School board committees: Legislative and Budget; Capacity; Operating Standards.

Age: 45.

Residence: Avon.

Political affiliation: Republican.

Occupation: Licensed professional engineer and professional surveyor. Resident engineer, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Education: Public schools; bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

Family: Not married, no children.

Other boards and affiliations: Former board member, Cleveland Catholic Forum and Greater Cleveland Right to Life; involved in Youth Adult Ministry at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Cleveland and St. Ladislas Parish in Westlake.

Kathleen A. McGervey is an engineer for the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, strong advocate for school choice — in particular state support of private schools — and active in the Roman Catholic Church and Ohio Republican Party.

She ran initially for the state board but lost in 2006 in a four-way race. At that time, she supported a proposal before the state school board that would have required public schools to include “critical analysis” of the theory of evolution, an idea backed by those who believed in creationism, or intelligent design.

She ran again in 2010 and won in a three-way race representing a district that extends from Avon in Lorain County, where she lives, to the Toledo metro area. All but $235 of the $2,235 donated to her campaign came from her own pocket.

McGervey is a graduate of Avon High School and Cleveland State University. In addition to her job with the transit authority, her disclosure statement filed with the Ohio Ethics Commission also lists income from engineering services to Kaczmar Architects, and Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority and Parma Public Housing.

She was a first-time delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention when it was learned that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s unmarried, 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant.

“It’s unfortunate that this has to be in the limelight, but it proves the family is pro-life and that they put their money where their mouth is,” McGervey, a former member of the Cleveland Right to Life organization, told the Plain Dealer at the time. “I think anybody trying to make an issue of that would just look like an animal.”

She also was a fierce ally to state school board president Debe Terhar earlier this year.

There was a call for Terhar’s resignation after she posted on her personal Facebook account a photo of Adolf Hitler with words suggesting that tyrants who want to control a country first take away guns. At the time, President Barack Obama was urging gun restrictions after the killing of 26 at a Connecticut elementary school.

“I think those people calling for Debe to step down are hypocrites,” McGervey said at the time. “Debe is a gracious, gracious woman, a woman of class and dignity, and she should not step down.”

McGervey was one of 10 on the 16-member board to vote to keep Terhar as president.

And like Terhar, she is cautious on some policies.

The Common Core standards have become an issue for tea party advocates who view it as a federal intrusion into local control. She said that “legitimate concerns have been raised” about the standards, and added: “Any shift to nationalize education policy is not healthy for students and it diminishes parental control.”

She said she is troubled by student readiness and is critical of traditional public education.

“I first became interested in education when I was a math tutor in college. The students I tutored were graduates of Cleveland Public Schools. They were not prepared for college,” she said.

“[There is] a growing acknowledgement that many of our students are not properly served with the status quo,” she said.

“I believe the most important ingredient for school success is leadership,” she said. “Educators must be willing to innovate and to do what it takes to educate the student populations they serve.”

McGervey said her goals upon election would be to “fight for a broad range of educational opportunities to ensure student success, an increase in career technical education opportunities, improving the graduation rate and increased use of educational technology.”

“Educational opportunities” means publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools.

“The voucher programs are a great way to enhance school choice for parents who do not have the means to send their children to private schools,” she said.

Some of the innovations she cites as good examples are the third-grade reading guarantee and “the new report card system that is easy to understand and gives parents more information about their children’s schools.”

Officials in two of the larger school districts she represents — Huron and Sandusky — said they have had no conversations with her.

Faith Denslow, president of the Sandusky Board of Education, said no members of the Ohio Board of Education have talked to local school officials in years. “I think it is up to the state board of education to fight on behalf of public education,” Denslow said.

McGervey, however, said her territory is wide and diverse.

“My district includes urban, rural and suburban districts. One of my districts has an academic distress commission. If there is an issue faced by schools, it is faced by schools in my district.”

She has no children, but says she has 46 nieces and nephews.

“I have strong analytical skills and, as most of the board members do, a true concern for the boys and girls in Ohio,” McGervey said. Her primary reason for wanting to be on the board is to help “prepare students for the next stage in life.”

Q: Regarding science, what are your thoughts on the teaching of climate change and the role of humans in that process?

A: Climate change is a complex issue. When this issue is discussed, it should be presented in all of its complexity. Where there are controversies, both sides should be presented.

Q: What about Ohio’s system of education is not changing for the better?

A. Legitimate concerns have been raised by the citizens about our shift to Common Core state standards. The state board should do a more thorough review of the standards. Any shift to nationalize education policy is not healthy for students and it diminishes parental control.

Q: In schools funded with public dollars, what should be taught about religion?

A. This question includes private schools, which are constitutionally protected.

Q: Is there a context in which you believe a discussion of human sexuality is appropriate in publicly funded schools?

A. Schools should be careful how they approach the subject of sexuality. The rights of parents should be respected. The best way to protect families is with local control of the health curriculum.

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, the University of Akron and professional media outlets including WYSU-FM radio and the Vindicator in Youngstown, the Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio in Akron.