Back to the scene of the crime
Four candidates are seeking an Olentangy School Board seat on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Incumbents Stacy Dunbar and Kevin O’Brien are running for re-election with newcomers Martin Johnson and Adam White stepping up for a seat as well. Sitting board member Scott Galloway did not file for re-election, and instead is seeking a trustee seat with Orange Township.
Listed in alphabetical order, the candidates are as follows:
Moving from California 10 years ago, Stacy Dunbar heard great things about the Olentangy district, then started getting very involved with the schools by volunteering and attending meetings.
Dunbar, 48, helped start the communications committee for the district and was the inaugural chairwoman and also worked on the levy campaign all before being appointed to the board in August 2010 to fill the remainder of former board member Jennifer Smith’s seat.
“I really think we’ve accomplished a lot in the last year,” Dunbar said. “The district has worked really hard on transparency and cost efficiency. It’s an interesting time right now with the cuts from the state, but with changes to the budget, we’ve built a sustainable model. I want to continue that work.”
Dunbar said her experience sets her apart from her running mates. She is also big on collaboration and communication, she said.
“I’ve been a great conduit to open communication to the community,” Dunbar said. “It takes a team atmosphere to get things done. I work with other board members, administration, parents and students. It’s what I do for a living, working through changes. All we have is changes.”
The district faces cost-cutting challenges that have been ongoing work with board members, all while maintaining the quality of the students’ education, Dunbar said.
“We have to make sure that’s not sacrificed,” Dunbar said. “We are working to keep the district at an Excellent (state report card rating). We’ve had eight years of Excellent or better. I want to see nine to 20 years.”
As an Olentangy parent, Dunbar said that she is confident in the education that her children are receiving. Her son who just started college at Vanderbilt University was well-prepared, walking into college with 24 advanced placement credits, she said.
“This was based on the quality and excellent education he received at Olentangy,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar works as a change leader by training and coaching executives at Ashland Inc. She serves as a trustee with the Powell Animal Welfare Society and is a founding member of Friends of COSI. Dunbar also enjoys watching Friday night football from the concession stand as a worker with the Liberty Music Boosters.
Dunbar earned a bachelor’s degree in business and communications from Point Loma University and a master’s degree in education from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Dunbar is married to Vince, and they have a son in college and a daughter who is a junior at Olentangy Liberty High School.
Martin Johnson was inspired by the amount of commitment and involvement to the Olentangy schools and became involved himself.
Johnson, 41, has served on the Olentangy district’s cost savings and efficiency and school funding action committees, even before deciding to run for an open seat on the board. He was also appointed as project leader for Olentangy 2020.
“I wanted to reach out as much as I could to connect and support the community,” Johnson said. “I can help, and I want to help.”
Johnson works as a senior services manager for Siemens managing a set of global accounts and implementing strategic planning. His work brings a different perspective to the school board, he said.
“A big part of my professional experience is being able to bring new ways of thinking and working to a large and diverse set of groups within an organization,” Johnson said. “Change is hard enough to deal with, especially with a large group of people. Olentangy is very large now and continuing to grow very quickly.”
Johnson said dealing with the district’s continuing growth is one of his priorities if elected.
“Olentangy has had a new building every year for the last two decades,” Johnson said. “That strategy is not a good one for the district.”
Johnson also said that ensuring an efficient operation is also important while ensuring academic excellence.
His experience serving on the Olentangy committees allows him to “hit the ground running,” Johnson said.
Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indiana Institute of Technology and master’s degree in business administration from Indiana University.
Johnson is married to Tanya, and they have two children, Erin, 8, and Nathan, 5. His campaign website is Vote4Martin.com.
Kevin O’Brien will soon have four children in the Olentangy district and has taken a vested interest in the district since moving here in 1998.
O’Brien, 43, has been serving on the board for a year since he was appointed to fill the balance of former board member Dimon McFerson’s term.
A chief financial officer for Nationwide in the retirement plans division, O’Brien said his background in business and finance meshes well with the current board members. Other board members come from communications, human resources and architectural backgrounds, he said.
“I think that the balance of background experience makes me a good, strong member of the team,” O’Brien said.
That same background in finance and business sets O’Brien apart from his running mates, he said.
If elected to a full term, O’Brien will continue his work on the health insurance task force looking for the best rates to offer the employee base, which in turn helps the salaries and benefits line article in the budget.
“We’re in the cycle of asking for a levy every three years,” O’Brien said. “We’d like to push that out to four or five years.”
Already, $260,000 a year has been saved by changing insurance brokers, a change with research and recommendation from the task force, O’Brien said.
O’Brien earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from Westfield State College. He is a member of the COSI audit and finance committee and a coach for the Olentangy Youth Athletic Association. O’Brien is also an inactive certified public accountant.
O’Brien has been married to his wife, Linda, for 17 years, and they have four daughters Kailee, Madigan, Mairin and Nora.
Adam White is passionate about his children’s education, which is why he’s seeking a seat on the school board.
White, 33, said the district’s “excessive spending” has handicapped his own ability to provide financially for his own family. He works in accounts receivable for Atrium Centers LLC. In stepping up to run for the position, White said he will fulfill his civic duty.
“It’s not a political career, nor is it meant to be,” White said.
If elected, White plans on cutting taxes, curbing spending and constructing a better curriculum. The students should be better prepared and be taught a good foundation of history at a young age, he said.
“You can’t expect to send students into a world of global problems if they don’t know where they came from,” White said.
His plans include rolling back tax levies and paying off outstanding debt through spending cuts in salaries and benefits. White is also interested in eliminating step increases and putting teacher evaluations in place and eliminating the retire/rehire in the district.
“We need to get enthusiastic young teachers in the district,” White said.
White earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in business finance in 2001 from Ohio Wesleyan University and a master’s degree in business administration from Capital University in 2003.
White is married and has two children.
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