Four of the seven seats on the Cincinnati Board of Education are up for re-election. One incumbent, Elisa Hoffman, chose not to run again. The race has drawn a large field of candidates – three incumbents and 10 challengers.
Jacqueline Amos: Non-incumbent from College Hill
Background: Cincinnati Public School teacher, auxiliary services at several non-public schools. Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of Cincinnati, Master of Education, reading specialist, Xavier University.
On the issues: Her agenda: (1) Strengthen the Vision 2020 and My Tomorrow plans; (2) Reduce/eliminate bullying and increase respect for all; (3) Strengthen and improve Community Learning Centers; and (4) Encourage transparency for improved financial accountability.
Melanie Bates: Incumbent, East Walnut Hills
Background: 16 years on the Cincinnati Board of Education. Serves on the Cincinnati Recreation Commission. Previously a member of the Ohio Board of Education. Bachelor of Science in Communication Arts from Xavier University, Masters in public administration and a certificate in non-profit management from Northern Kentucky University.
On the issues: Supporter of the Vision 2020 plan, which would bring neighborhood schools up to the level of the district's magnet schools. Also supports My Tomorrow, which prepares all students to actively pursue career paths by seventh grade through graduation.
David Brenner: Non-incumbent, East Walnut Hills
Background: Graduate of Walnut Hills High School, studied computer science at the University of Cincinnati. He and his wife, Gina have four children attending Cincinnati Public Schools.
On the issues: Brenner says that unlike the current members, he has experience in the business world. He says he would bring his business sense to the board. The district, according to Brenner has done a poor job of communicating information to parents. "When you can find out more about what's going on in the schools on the sidelines of your kid's soccer game than you can from the school district, there's a problem,'' Brenner says.
Ericka Copeland-Dansby: Incumbent, Roselawn.
Background: Education: Studied psychology and education at Wilberforce University and Xavier University. Executive director of Wesley Community Services, former teacher.
On the issues: She said she will focus on best practices in early childhood education, implement policies centered on accountability and measurable results, support "bottom-up" solutions that include the voices of parents and the community and ensure "fiscal transparency."
Gary Favors: Non-incumbent, North Avondale
Background: Bachelor's degree in communications from Carson-Newman College, MA in teaching from Northern Kentucky University, MEd in administration from Xavier University. 22 years as a teacher in Cincinnati Public Schools. He is a special education teacher. U.S. Army veteran.
On the issues: The future of Cincinnati's children, no matter where they live in the district, "is directly connected to their education experience,'' Favors said. "The children of today will be our employees of tomorrow. If you want to change the work ethic and skill level of the future work force, it must start with their educational upbringing."
Favors said that the district has "a critical shortage" of qualified teacher and administrators of diverse backgrounds.
Christine Fisher: Non-incumbent, Mount Lookout
Background: Education: A graduate of Queens University, where she was student body president. 12 years of experience at Procter & Gamble, where she has managed forecasting and long-term strategy for brands such as Charmin, Bounty and Tide. She and her husband Jason have two sons, ages two and four.
On the issues: Fisher, who comes from a business background, believes that a school district where 50 percent of its income comes from local property taxes needs to do a better job communicating its financial situation to the public at large. Preschool Promise needs to get some quick wins, Fisher said. "Things like tuition credits should take priority over overhead costs."
Marcia A. Futel: Non-incumbent, East Walnut Hills
Background: Bachelor of Science in computer science from the University of Illinois, masters certificate in project management from George Washington University. Currently serves on the Cincinnati Public Schools District Budget commission and Community Engagement committee. She and her husband Chuck now operate a financial services business.
On the issues: Futel said she believes the Vision 2020 plan, which would bring neighborhood schools up to the quality of the district's magnet school, is "a good starting point."
"The neighborhood schools that are under-resourced must be brought up to standards,'' Futel said.
Renee Hevia: Non-incumbent, Hyde Park
Background: The first in her family to earn an undergraduate and master's degree, she studied education at the University of Cincinnati. She taught Spanish at the Cincinnati Bilingual Academy/Academy of World Languages, where she established an exchange program with Mexico and Spain. After 15 years in the Cincinnati Public Schools, she went to Sycamore High School, where she taught for nine years.
On the issues: Hevia said she would like to see a "working task force" be created to allow the school board and administration to work with city officials and community councils on the needs of the district. The working task force, which would include community council leaders and parents, would work on issues such as poverty, affordable housing, transportation, and student achievement.
Ryan Messer: Non-incumbent, North Avondale
Background: After graduating from public schools in Rising Sun, Ind., he attended Purdue University. For the past 20 years he has worked for Johnson & Johnson, working in sales, marketing and professional education. He and his husband, Jimmy, have three young children, whom they say will be future public school students.
On the issues: Many people misunderstand the role of the board of education, Messer said. "Curriculum is the job of the superintendent, not the board,'' Messer said. "The board's job is finding a sound fiscal basis for the district and setting policy." He supports Vision 2020, a plan to bring neighborhood schools up to the standards of the district's magnet schools.
Daniel Minera: Incumbent, College Hill
Background: A native of Guatemala, he was raised in Miami., Fla., and educated in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He is currently a first-term school board member and is the director of Hispanic Outreach at the at City Gospel Mission. He is also pastor of Outreach and Missions for Amigo Ministries.
On the issues: Minera, the first Latino elected to the board of education, wrote in a candidate guide for the NAACP candidates forum that his background in non-profit organizations has helped him be a better school board member. "I have contributed to the success of the district by ways of my experiences in non-profit organizations, health care, faith-based communities, immigrant communities and being a product of public education myself,'' Minera said.
Kareem Moffett: Non-incumbent, Avondale
Background: She graduated from the University of Cincinnati and holds degrees in chemical engineering technology and natural sciences, a master of arts focusing on remedial education, and a PhD in education. Her PhD dissertation was on "Educating African American Students." She has taught math and science at John P. Parker School, South Avondale School and Withrow High School. She has also taught 10th grade geophysics at Withrow.
On the issues: Moffett said the Cincinnati Board of Education – as well as the entire school system – needs to work harder at getting in touch with the community. "I would very much like to see us improving community engagement,'' Moffett said. "Honestly, as school board members, we are elected officials and we need to be reporting back to the people who elected us in clear, understandable terms."
Mike Moroski: Non-incumbent, Downtown
Background: Education: BA and MA in English, Xavier University. Master of Non-profit Administration, University of Notre Dame. Presently the director of UpSpring, a non-profit which serves the needs of homeless children. Former director of engagement and development at Community Matters. Former dean of student life and assistant principal, Purcell Marian High School. Former English teacher at Moeller High School.
On the issues: Moroski believes Cincinnati Public School must do more to recruit and retain minority teachers, particularly African-Americans. But the likelihood of present African-American students in the schools wanting to become teachers is remote, he said. "Until these young blacks kids feel comfortable in their own schools, they sure as hell aren't going to come back to that environment as teachers."
Kathy Young: Non-incumbent, North Avondale
Background: A Bachelor's Degree in Education and a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. She spent 35 years as a teacher in the Cincinnati Public Schools. During her career, she taught children with disabilities in grades K-12. She also served as a discipline coach, working with teachers on helping students with behavioral problems.
On the issues: Young believes the school district needs to do more to create a "positive school environment." That, she said, would breed success for students and the district. Character development should an important part of the learning experience, she said. "Our children are facing real life problems that are much greater than before,'' she wrote on her campaign website.