Ohio school boards see rise in number of candidates ahead of election


COLUMBUS, Ind. (WANE) – It’s a position you see on the ballot every two years, but this year more than ever people toss their hats in the ring for a special seat this election – the school board.

“We’ve seen 18-year-olds go into an octogenarian and sit on the school board,” said Rick Lewis, executive director and CEO of the Ohio School Board Association. “It’s really a cross-section of Ohio on age, education levels, and workplaces.”

The Ohio School Board Association (OSBA) is a nonprofit organization that represents 711 school boards in the state by providing resources and support. Every two years, residents vote for members of their local Ohio school board.

According to the association, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking a seat on the school board. In 2017, Ohio had 1,749 applicants. This year the number has grown to 2,678, a 50% increase from the number of candidates who ran four years ago. During the same period, 1,300 were new candidates.

“This increase in the number of applicants is impressive,” said Lewis. “I think this is due to two reasons. Over the past four years, the OSBA has launched a public service campaign to generate public interest in becoming members of the school board. Beyond that, I think we need to recognize that the issues of the day, be it masks, vaccinations, critical race theory or transgender athletics, have taken center stage in many districts. school.

One of those candidates is Melanie Forrer, writing candidate for Wayne Trace School Board. Forrer is one of four candidates vying for three seats and says running was an easy decision.

“I just feel like it’s my turn to give back to the community,” Forrer said. “They have given me so much support over my years as a student, group member, athlete and even coach when I coached at Wayne Trace and I want to help in any way I can.”

Forrer says his main focus is on the mental health of students and staff. With the recent suicides in the community, she hopes that as a member of the school board, the district can recruit a mental health professional to visit all the schools.

“It’s more prevalent than we ever thought,” Forrer said. “One thing I love about the community is when someone who hurts the community comes together. That’s why I want to give back.

In recent years, some school boards in Ohio and the United States have seen meetings end in brawls with anger and local law enforcement called in. Lewis says there have been cases where school board members have been threatened and meetings have turned violent, each school district meeting is different.

“We are seeing eight candidates running for two spots,” Lewis said. “We are seeing some school districts where candidates are running unopposed while others will have open seats and no one will run. It varies by school district.

Not only are there more candidates in Ohio school boards, they are also spending more on their campaigns. It’s hard to know exactly how much more, but much of it relates to political parties, which Lewis is sad to see.

“We are seeing more candidates this year than ever running using party affiliation as a reason to vote for them,” Lewis said. “These are non-partisan elections. Really, I don’t believe there is room for politics in education. It’s too important. The stakes are too high. ”

The vote for the Ohio School Board takes place on November 2 between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.


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