State school board candidates tackle testing and guns

Candidate forum held on Sunday


BG Independent News


State school board candidates were quizzed Sunday about their feelings on state grade cards, teachers being armed with guns, and collaborating with people they disagree with.

Six of the seven candidates running for the one open seat in the 2nd District showed up for the forum hosted by the League of Women Voters from Bowling Green and Perrysburg. They are:

  • Jeanine P. Donaldson has been the director of the YWCA in Elyria for 30 years, was an elementary teacher, and a member of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
  • Charles Froehlich currently serves on the state school board. He is a retired manufacturing executive with 44 years in manufacturing employee education.
  • W. Roger Knight has more than 40 years of experience in teaching and school administration.
  • Sue Larimer, who has a degree in education, serves on the Perrysburg Board of Education.
  • Vicki Donovan Lyle, who is a member of the Sylvania Board of Education, has a small business advising people on health insurance.
  • Annette Dudek Shine, who has degrees from Washington University, Case Western and MIT, is a university professor and researcher.

State school board and county auditor candidates at forum

The first question posed to the candidates was about state report cards.

Larimer said the report cards are “terribly flawed.” Perrysburg schools scored 119 out of 120 on criteria for gifted students, but yet failed to meet the state’s indicator in that category.

However, Larimer said she would not like to see the state tests discarded, since Perrysburg’s high scores help with real estate sales in the community.

Lyle said previous state testing was more meaningful, but the current system treats districts unfairly.

“It’s not good for attracting business to Ohio,” she said.

The system gives districts unexplainable grades. “I think it’s unfair,” Lyle said.

Shine agreed the system is flawed. “Clearly it’s not good for attracting business to the state of Ohio.”

The testing is stacked against poor districts and results are based on statistically unreliable data, she said.

Donaldson said a decade ago Ohio schools were ranked fifth in the nation, but have now slipped to 23rd. The current administration is focused on more career-based education.

“It pits communities against each other,” she said about the testing. But it will take Ohio voters to stop the state testing system.

Froehlich said the state testing has “evolved into a monster over the years.”

“What’s going on in the schools is not reflected in the state report cards,” he said.

But change won’t come quickly, Froehlich said. “It’s going to take time to make those changes.”

Knight said the system cannot be fixed.

“It’s flawed from the beginning,” he said. “It’s highly discriminating.”

Under the current system, the focus is constantly put on passing the next test – rather than on what is really important like classwork, character, GPA and attendance, Knight said.

“We’re destroying our public schools,” he said.

The second question asked the candidates to explain their thoughts about arming teachers in schools.

Lyle said that while school safety is very important, arming teachers is not the answer.

“I don’t think teachers and staffs should be armed in schools,” she said.

“Nobody wants to wake up to the news of another shooting in a school,” Lyle said. And improving security in schools is important.

“I don’t believe the solution is to put guns in our teachers’ hands,” she said.

Shine was even stronger in her response.

“I think it’s the most stupid idea I’ve ever heard of,” she said. In Parkland, even a trained resource officer did not respond properly.

The value of “amateur Rambos” in classrooms is just not based on facts, Shine said.

Donaldson agreed.

“In a heightened situation, even the best trained people don’t know what to do,” she said.

Donaldson suggested that instead of arming teachers, money should be put toward dealing with bullying and mental health issues in schools.

Froehlich is also opposed to arming teachers, and agreed that funding should be directed to working with emotional issues.

Knight suggested that schools secure their buildings with resource officers.

“As an educator, I certainly never signed up to be a police officer,” he said.

Knight also said he wouldn’t allow his children to attend a school with armed teachers.

Larimer was the only candidate to support arming teachers with guns. She has a concealed carry permit and referred to herself as a “gun-packing mama.”

“I like the knowledge of having protection there for me,” she said, adding that it should be up to individual schools to decide the issue.

The final question asked each candidate to describe their efforts to collaborate with people they disagree with. When wrapping up the forum, each candidate presented final statements.

Shine talked about her concerns about the eight-year decline in public education in Ohio. The state has piled on burdens with unmatched resources, she said.

State cutbacks have led to demoralized educators, and better oversight of the Ohio Department of Education should have caught cheating by the ECOT system earlier, Shine said.

Lyle said she would take an active role in oversight of education. “You have to have people willing to take action,” she said.

Larimer said more money needs to be dedicated to education. “It’s time to make the budget for education primary.” She was also critical of the continued unconstitutional funding of education in Ohio.

“No more kicking that can down the road,” Larimer said.

Knight said the state needs to stop moving the goalposts for state testing. Educators in Ohio deserve respect and trust, he said. And he added that no education should be for-profit.

Froehlich said his background in manufacturing will make him a good board member. “I know what it takes to get jobs in Ohio,” he said.

Donaldson said she would work to make sure schools are adequately funded, from pre-kindergarten through senior years. She agreed Ohio should not tolerate corrupt for-profit schools. And she committed to being an accessible board member.