Six candidates are seeking three seats on the Olentangy Board of Education in the Nov. 3 election.
Two of the candidates are incumbents. One incumbent, Adam White, is not seeking re-election. The incumbents’ terms expire at the end of the year.
Roger M. Bartz was appointed to the board in 2014, and is also a member of the Delaware County Republican Central Committee. He’s past president of the Orange Athletic Boosters and Little League, with a degree from Capital University. Bartz, of Lewis Center, is market director for TRC Environmental Corp., and is married with a son currently enrolled in the district and a son who graduated from the district.
“I want to serve because I am keenly aware of what it means to give back and actively support our kids,” Bartz said. “The experience I have gained since appointment to the board in 2014 has been invaluable as I have learned how our district works, and for Olentangy, experience matters. I have contributed professionally by voting responsibly and gaining a great understanding around some very tough issues. I was an active participant in the selection process of our new superintendent and continue to translate my business experience into meaningful support of the district.
“I also sit on the facilities committee and provided guidance on the options for our growth. Olentangy has faced some very public, very tough issues. I have been an active participant in those issues and outcomes. I truly care about our community and have no agenda other than to serve in the best way I can.”
Bartz said he sees growth as the biggest issue facing the district.
“Olentangy continues to be a destination for families who want to be a part of a strong educational system,” Bartz said. “I support adding a potential fourth high school. This investment is a long-term investment meant to address projected steady growth over the next 30 years.”
Bartz said he also wants to improve how the district serves gifted children and children with special needs.
“We will need to demonstrate continuous improvement and find more resources to support gifted kids,” he said. “For our children with special needs, OLSD is providing good services for kids and their families, so much so that families are moving to Olentangy for those services. However, I believe we can get better and can do more.”
Andrew Forgrave is a member of the district’s Attendance Boundaries Committee who has lived in Lewis Center for 33 years. He and his wife have four children, three of whom are attending school in the district, with the youngest not in school yet. The chief actuary at Jacob, Haxton & Boord LLC, Forgrave is a graduate of Olentangy High School and Brigham Young University.
“This district has provided me with many opportunities because of the high quality education that it provides,” Forgrave said. “The district faces many challenges as the population increases. My professional skills as an actuary, and my passion as a longtime resident to see the district continue to provide high-quality education and an excellent experience are why I want to serve this community.”
Forgrave said he wants students to get a high-quality education so they can “excel anywhere in the world and be competitive. … At the same time, I want the students to have a positive school experience so that they will have the option to stay in this community as adults and raise their families.”
Forgrave continued: “The increase in district population and revenue from taxes are issues that constantly need addressing. My goal is to provide leadership on setting priorities for the district to help each family so students can have a high-quality education and the best possible experience. I will reach out for community input and do my best to be transparent and open about board proceedings.”
Martin Johnson is a member of Olentangy’s Project 2020; Business Advisory Council; Cost Savings and Efficiency, and School Advocacy committees. A resident of Delaware in Berlin Township for eight years, Johnson is married and has two children attending school in the district. A senior services manager at Siemens, he has degrees from the Indiana Institute of Technology and Indiana University and is a member of the county Republican Central Committee.
Johnson said his involvement with the district groups have brought about tangible improvements, and he felt that he had skills and experience the current board does not have.
“I see many opportunities that are simply being missed or ignored,” Johnson said. “With two decades of experience in defining and leading such strategic initiatives with some of the largest and most successful companies around the globe, my experience is directly aligned with our district’s greatest needs.”
The biggest issue facing the district was complacency, Johnson said.
“The current board leadership seems very comfortable in the status quo and resigned to business-as-usual,” he said. “I believe they have crossed the fine line of being in a groove versus being in a rut.”
Johnson said his priorities as a board members would include focusing “on proactive strategic planning and not reactive response; generate open, professional and respectful debate and deliberation on issues; define more organized decision analysis methods driving board actions and decisions; improve communication and collaboration between the district and the community; design plans that responsibly use technology innovation and process improvement to grow district performance; and fight for more responsible and commensurate school funding legislation from our state officials.”
Ken O’Brien is a retired two-term Delaware County commissioner and a retired teacher for Worthington Public Schools. A graduate of Olentangy High School, O’Brien has degrees from Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky universities. Among his accomplishments is receiving the Governor’s Educational Leadership Award, and serving as trustee and fiscal officer for Berlin Township. O’Brien and his wife have three children who have or are attending school in the district. A lifelong resident of Berlin Township, he is not related to board president Kevin O’Brien.
“I believe I have the best qualifications to serve on the board,” O’Brien said. “I am the only candidate with an educational background BS and MA in education. I have experience running, with two other commissioners, a large governmental body with a yearly budget in excess of $100 million. I have been an active participant with collective bargaining. I am an active volunteer with Olentangy Music Booster Association (and Keynotes). The students and residents deserve an excellent school board to continue improving our excellent school district.”
O’Brien said he sees growth as the district’s biggest issue.
“We need to listen to our facilities committee regarding school buildings,” he said. “But we must also be proactive in dealing with revenue. As a school board member, I will work with the other members to advocate before our state legislature a fair funding for our schools. We also need to work with the townships, cities and village — now that Sunbury is partially in Olentangy — to limit tax abatements that take from our students’ educational funding.”
School board president Kevin G. O’Brien was appointed in 2010 and elected in 2011. A 17-year resident of Lewis Center, he and his wife have four daughters currently attending schools in the district. O’Brien is a vice president and chief financial officer at Nationwide Retirement Plans. Educated at Westfield State University, O’Brien was elected to the Board of Selectmen in Southwick, Massachusetts.
“With five years experience on the board and more than 24 years experience in the financial services industry, I have the appropriate school board and professional experience to continue to make a meaningful contribution to the board as we face the challenge of balancing growth, maintaining academic excellence, and being fiscally responsible,” O’Brien said. “I care deeply about Olentangy Schools and want to do my part to contribute to the continued success of the district. I have thoroughly enjoyed working for the students and taxpayers of the district and want to earn the right to continue to work hard for Olentangy. I believe that the residents of this district want and deserve a high performing schools system that is fiscally responsible and transparent.”
O’Brien said giving students opportunities was the district’s biggest issue.
“Ensuring that our students have the opportunity to develop the right mix of skills — academic, social and technological — to keep up with both the learning and workforce demands of the 21st century pose the greatest challenge to the students of Olentangy Schools,” he said. “We have been and continue to be one of the fastest growing and top performing school districts in the state of Ohio. We have effectively deployed strategies over the past several years that use class schedules, staffing levels and building configuration/utilization to carefully absorb growth without over building, adversely affecting academic performance, or over-burdening our taxpayers. However, as our district continues to grow, we will need to consider and implement additional strategies, including building a fourth high school. I believe it is core to the responsibility of the board and a goal of mine to implement financially responsible strategies to ensure that the appropriate resources and facilities are available for our students to support their growth and continued academic success.”
Mindy Patrick is a member of Olentangy’s Cost Efficiency Committee and a founding member of the Olentangy Dyslexia Network. A resident of Powell since 2008, Patrick and her husband have two children who attend school in the district. An accounts manager for CAMS Inc., Patrick has a degree from Oakland University.
“In Olentangy, excellence matters in everything we do whether it is fiscal, operational or academic,” Patrick said. “I want to ensure that we continue with that excellence going forward. I believe that the best of our schools is yet to come.”
Patrick said overcrowding is the biggest issue, but “we need to make sure that we continue lobbying on behalf of our residents for state legislation that will give Olentangy our fair share of state funding. … In addition, we must entice new businesses into our community and keep the community informed on the issues facing our district. We are a great district, but I feel we have yet to meet our full potential. We do a great job for most students, but we can do a better job for those at the top and bottom ends of our achievement. We need to make sure that all students are challenged and supported and that all Olentangy students are achieving to their potential.”
In response to a question about a board member’s responsibilities, all six candidates said they felt it was important to attend board meetings and participate on district committees. Many said such participation will help in making knowledgeable decisions. However, a candidates’ forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters was canceled last month when four of the six candidates said they were unable to attend.