johnstown, johnstownindependent, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Candidates want to boost success, restore magnets

Friday October 16, 2015 5:16 PM

Westerville City School District voters will have four candidates to choose from when filling two seats on the Board of Education next month.

Incumbent appointee Richard Bird is facing challengers Jim Burgess, Gerrie Cotter and Greg Lawson on the Nov. 3 ballot. Incumbent Carol French is not seeking re-election.

Absentee voting began Oct. 6.

The top two finishers will win four-year board terms.

Richard Bird

Incumbent Richard Bird, 48, is seeking his first full term in office. He was appointed to the board in June 2014 to complete the unexpired term of Cindy Crowe, who died after a lengthy public battle with ALS.

Bird said in an email he couldn’t be happier with the course of the campaign thus far.

“I’ve received a huge amount of support, ranging from parents groups, other local elected leaders and our teachers and the Westerville Education Association,” he said.

He is the board liaison for the district’s facilities and operations.

Bird’s campaign slogan, “Bird is the Word,” is featured on T-shirts and signs.

“I can’t get a cup of coffee or pick up groceries without hearing someone say, ‘Bird Is The Word,’ ” he said. “I think this is a confirmation that a large part of the community knows that I am their voice on the Westeville school board.”

Bird has lived in the district for 14 years and is the global head of information security at Mettler-Toledo International.

Bird has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio State University and completed advanced studies in project management at George Washington University.

He described the biggest issue facing the school board as continuing the momentum they have built as a team over the past two years.

“As we’ve restored key programs and are now in the process of expanding our capabilities and focus on efforts as diverse as all-day kindergarten, significant building projects, transportation route improvements and pay-to-play scaling, teamwork is vital to the success of this board,” he said.

He stressed the importance of building upon the leadership and successes the district has achieved already.

Bird is the father of four, with his youngest son and daughter attending Westerville Central High School. He is a longtime member of Heritage Christian Church.

Jim Burgess

Jim Burgess, 49, unsuccessfully ran for the school board in 2013 and applied for Crowe’s seat last year.

He, his wife and three children have lived in the district for 11 years. His oldest son is a junior at North, but his other children do not attend Westerville public schools.

Asked what one thing he wanted to do to improve the district if elected, he said he wanted to bring back and expand the magnet program.

“The current school board cut the magnet program by 40 percent and that’s terrible. It was one of the best things the district offered and was a top-rated phenomenal program,” he said. “If elected, I would work to restore the magnet program to what it once was and expand it.”

Burgess said thus far his campaign is “going fine” and “people seem to appreciate” his message.

He said he lives in the south end of the district and so could offer a fresh perspective on issues.

“Currently, none of the board members live south of Uptown and there hasn’t been a voice for the south side for decades,” he said. “You want a board that represents all the segments of the community — whether geographic or household makeup.”

At the Meet the Candidates forum Sept. 24, he said he wanted to focus on reducing the amount of time students spend taking standardized tests and look into removing Common Core standards.

He said he wanted to focus the district’s attention on work being done inside the classroom instead of focusing on things that were not necessarily education related.

Burgess praised other districts where athletics directors pay for their departments through advertising.

He graduated from Washington State University, where he studied broadcast communications and management.

He is a manager at Ashland Inc. and is involved with the band boosters at Westerville North, where his son is a member of the marching band.

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