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October 13, 2011

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ANDREW TOBIAS

Staff Writer

Debbie Crecelius’ decision not to seek another term has left at least one seat on the Buckeye Valley Board of Education up for grabs.

Four people are vying this November to sit on the school board; the top two vote-getters will earn the honors. The candidates are incumbent Tom Kaelber, and newcomers Dave Godsil, Denise Harrel and Joe “J.R.” Roden.

Dave Godsil

In a school district where people often measure time in decades, not years, Dave Godsil is a Buckeye Valley newcomer. Godsil, 45 moved to Ostrander in 2006. That was shortly after he stepped down from Delaware City Council, where he had served since 1999.

Godsil is a regional sales manager for McQuay International, a heating/cooling system manufacturing firm, and said he would bring both political and professional experience to the Buckeye Valley School Board. Like all four candidates for the office, he told the Gazette people asked him to run.

“I’ve done my time over there,” Godsil said, gesturing toward Delaware City Hall, visible through a coffee shop window, “and this is mainly my attempt to help the community, if they want my help,” Godsil said.

Godsil has experience overseeing multi-million dollar budgets and said he is not afraid to make tough decisions. Sometimes, the current school board suffers from “paralysis by analysis,” Godsil said.

Godsil is the president BV Foundation, a non-profit founded by local parents that raised $140,000 in private donations to build a new athletic center at the Buckeye Valley High School campus. He is a volunteer defensive line coach for the high school football team. His son, a freshman plays on the football team, and his daughter, a senior, plays on the volleyball team.

If elected, Godsil said he will turn to teachers and administrators to help develop a long-term plan to keep Buckeye Valley’s finances stable in the face of diminishing tax revenues.

“If we’re going to hold these teachers accountable for results under merit pay, we need to give them ownership of their classrooms,” Godsil said.

Godsil also supports keeping elementary schools in Radnor, Ostrander and Ashley when the time comes to replace the existing schools, and wants to work more closely with county economic development officials to try to bring growth to Buckeye Valley to help widen the school district’s tax base.

Godsil has mixed feelings on the 1/2 percent income tax increase that will also be on the Nov. 8 ballot. He thinks school officials could do a better job of communicating a plan to district residents to convince them it is necessary.

“I’m not a big fan of this one. I’m not sure if we sold it enough, built the case,” Godsil said.

Denise Harrel

This is her first time running for elected office, but the Buckeye Valley School Board runs in Denise Harrel’s blood. Her father, Robert Piatt, served on the school board in the late 1970s-early 1980s.

Harrel, 44, is a lifelong Buckeye Valley resident and the mother of four BV alumni. Her oldest son graduated last June. So when people asked her to consider running, she thought she would give it a shot.

“I’ve never really strongly thought about it (running for office) before, but now that my children are out of school, I have the time to do it,” she said.

Harrel works as a pediatrician’s assistant at Delaware Pediatrics. She has worked to help the school at every level: She is a former high school JV/freshman volleyball coach, a School Age Child Care worker at North Elementary and has worked in the cafeteria at the middle school.

“I’ve been involved. I’ve been an employee. I’m compassionate, and I’ve got a listening ear,” Harrel said. “I want to be a voice for parents,” she said.

Harrel has not developed a platform of issues she wants to tackle, and she is not running to fix any specific problem. Rather, she said that if she is elected, she will familiarize herself more closely with details at that time and get to work.

“I would like to find a way to lower our expenses while at the same time finding a way to increase the quality and level of our education,” she said.

Tom Kaelber

Stressed by behind-the-scenes school board politics, Tom Kaelber almost didn’t run for re-election. But he said members of the community convinced him to run for a third term.

Because of the current request for an income tax hike, and because of the general climate of public education, Kaelber thinks the public is casting more scrutiny on BV schools, and he said he wants to be their voice.

“Basically, I was urged by so many people in the community to run again this year. Their compliment to me was that ‘you are listening to us. You are truly representing our views at the table,’” Kaelber said.

Kaelber, 61, retired in 2003 after spending just over 30 years as a teacher with the Buckeye Valley school system. He is a lifelong Buckeye Valley resident, and has served on the school board since shortly after he retired.

Kaelber is particularly active with music, and is a founding member of the Buckeye Valley Alumni Band. He helps with the high school ski club and serves as Buckeye Valley’s representative on the Delaware Area Career Center school board.

One of Kaelber’s main talking points is the idea that cuts instituted by the school board over the past two years have disproportionately spared school administrators at the expense of teachers and support staff.

One area he would like to target: the school district’s 10 percent contribution toward school administrators’ retirements. As it stands, BV administrators do not pay anything toward their pensions. By cutting two school administrative positions and the school’s pension contributions, Kaelber said the district can save between $400,000 and $500,000 a year.

“They don’t pay their fair share. Governor (John) Kasich has asked us all to make sacrifices, and so far, the sacrifices have been made by students and families, and not on the administrative level,” Kaelber said.

Kaelber also said he is concerned with how the renovations at the high school have played out. Even though the fact that the project came in around $2 million under budget is a good thing, and he approved the plans himself, he said he is afraid that it skimped in certain areas, particularly in the district’s music room.

He said the community may want to see how the high school renovations end up before deciding how they will vote on the 1/2 percent income tax hike request. He is on the fence about the request — he voted to place it on the ballot, but said “I’m skeptical if this is the right time when other things can be cut.”

Joe Roden

By running for the school board, Joe “J.R.” Roden said he hopes to add another component to his involvement with the BV community.

Roden, 49, is currently a member of the Buckeye Valley finance committee, president of the BV Music Boosters and volunteers as a concessions worker at athletic events. He is a former longtime rec league soccer and baseball coach and is a past science fair judge.

Roden works for Verizon as a complex networks solution manager, which essentially means he helps companies implement their computer systems. He is also a member of St. Mary’s church council and finance committee. He moved to the Buckeye Valley district in 1988.

He said friends drafted him to run for office to try to make the school board more receptive to public feedback, which Buckeye Valley residents are not shy about offering.

“Awhile back, my friend said ‘You should run for school board.’ And I said ‘You’re crazy,’” he said. But then 20 more people approached him. “The main thing I’ve heard from people is that they’ve lost touch with the school board, that they’re not listening anymore,” he said.

He said the number one issue the school district facing the school district is managing finances. That means that while new elementary schools remain a concern for the district, classrooms comes first.

“Yes, our buildings are old, but we can see that hasn’t affected the quality of our education,” Roden said.

Echoing concerns raised by Kaelber, Roden pointed to the 10 percent contribution the school district pays for administrators’ retirements.

“I’m not sure how that can be best for our students,” Roden said. He also mentioned the new high school music room, which he said is smaller than people expected.

If elected, Roden said he intends to open lines of communication between the public and the school board. Even if people don’t agree, he hopes to be successful at explaining his decisions.

He said he supports the income tax increase, but he’s not sure that the community does.

“I’m going to support anything BV. But the challenge is with administrative costs increasing, it’s hard to ask people for more money right now,” he said.