Two Incumbents, Two Newcomers Elected To Cincinnati School Board

Nov 8, 2017

Two incumbents and two newcomers were elected to the Cincinnati Board of Education Tuesday night.

Ryan Messer, a former Over-the-Rhine activist, was the top vote-getter in a field of 13 candidates, followed by the current board president, Ericka Copeland-Dansby, newcomer Mike Moroski and incumbent Melanie Bates.  Bates won the fourth seat in the unofficial vote count by only 100 votes over challenger Renee Hevia. If the difference between them remains under one-half of a percentage point after the provisional ballots are counted, there will be an automatic recount. Hevia could end up as the eventual winner in a few weeks.

The candidates were vying for four seats on the seven-member school board. An incumbent, Daniel Minera, finished dead last.

Messer is new to elective office, but not to politics.

He and his husband Jimmy and their three children live in North Avondale, but when he was active in the Over-the-Rhine Community Council, he was an ardent supporter of building the streetcar and often butted heads with streetcar opponents such as Mayor John Cranley.

For the past twenty years, he has worked for Johnson & Johnson, working in sales, marketing and professional education.

During the campaign, he promised to make clear that the board and the superintendent have different jobs.

"Curriculum is the job of the superintendent, not the board," Messer told WVXU. "The board's job is finding a sound fiscal basis for the district and setting policy."

Moroski is the former dean of student life and assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School who was dismissed in 2013 for expressing his support for same-sex marriage. Presently, he is the director of UpSpring, a non-profit which serves the needs of homeless children.

During the campaign, Moroski told WVXU that Cincinnati Public Schools must do more to recruit and retain minority teachers. But, he said, the likelihood of African-American students in Cincinnati schools wanting to become teachers is remote.

"Until these young black kids feel comfortable in their own schools, they sure as hell aren't going to come back to that environment to teach,'' Moroski said.

Copeland-Dansby is currently the board president. She is the executive director of Wesley Community Services and a former teacher.

She told WVXU during the campaign that she will focus on "best practices" in early childhood education, and implement policies centered on accountability and measurable results.

Bates has been on the school board for 16 years. She previously served on the Ohio Board of Education.

She told WVXU she is a supporter of the school system's Vision 2020 plan, which would bring neighborhood schools up to the level of the district's magnet schools.