Wednesday October 21, 2015 9:48 AM
Regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 3 election, the Westerville Board of Education will have some new members next year.
Of the four candidates for two seats, only one — Richard Bird — is an incumbent. He was appointed in June 2014 to complete the term of longtime board member Cindy Crowe, who died after a lengthy struggle with ALS.
The other three candidates are Jim Burgess, Gerrie Cotter and Greg Lawson.
Bird and Burgess were profiled in the Oct. 15 edition of ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion.
Cotter, 45, has lived in the district for 12 years. She has a 13-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son who attend Westerville City Schools.
Cotter said she has had a lot of positive feedback and support with her campaign.
“So many residents have offered keen insights into the community and ideas that they have on ways to continue to improve the school district,” she said in an email. “I’ve enjoyed meeting people at community and school events as well as going door to door.”
She is employed as a project manager for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. She previously served as a Genoa Township trustee.
At a candidates forum on Sept. 24, Cotter said the changing academic standards and testing required by the state is one of the most pressing issues facing the district.
“We need to maintain as much local control as possible on these issues,” she said. “As a board member, I would seek teacher and community input as we consider new curriculum to implement the state-required academic standards and testing changes.”
Her vision is to continue to improve the quality of education available in Westerville. She said she plans to look for ways to increase the district’s current momentum by identifying ways to restore and improve programming options in a fiscally responsible way.
Cotter earned a bachelor’s degree in French and international studies at West Virginia University.
She has volunteered at Fouse Elementary School and Blendon Middle School, the Business Advisory Council, Our Community Our Schools, Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Greg Lawson, 37, is a Statehouse liaison and policy analyst with the Buckeye Institute and serves as a researcher with the global consulting firm Wikistrat.
He said the district must work on shaping curriculum that gives students knowledge and a flexible mindset. He also wants to focus on keeping money in the Westerville district.
“I’m looking out for the taxpayers. I think all spending should be prioritized into the classroom and we should be looking at using private vendors for some non-classroom services,” he said.
Lawson previously served on the board for a charter school; he said the background would enable him to bring some of those ideas to Westerville.
“My vision for Westerville is to bring new ideas on getting students excited to learn,” he said in an email. “I think bringing in a little of ‘sports attitude’ to academics can get students to perform well, but in a fun way that keeps them engaged.
Lawson likes the idea of starting “academic pep rallies” in order to get students excited about taking standardized tests and as a way to give them an incentive to learn.
Lawson’s wife attended Westerville North High School and the couple’s three children will start school in the district soon. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the Ohio State University.
Lawson said the community does not know when the next recession might hit so a budget-stabilization fund is important.
“I want to assure that the district remains on a fiscally solid footing, even through any potential economic downturns,” he said. “This includes bolstering our ‘rainy-day fund’ so that we can confront any economic downturns without big cuts to programs or tax hikes on taxpayers.”