On Nov. 2, voters will select three Delaware City Schools Board of Education members from a pool of five candidates.
The race for the three seats is between two incumbents, Jayna McDaniel and Michael Wiener, and three newcomers, Janine Baker, Deborah Guebert and Melissa Harris. Current Board President Frances O’Flaherty is not seeking reelection.
Baker said she grew up in central Ohio and has lived here most of her life.
“I’m a country girl, but I loved Delaware so much, that I decided to move here,” she said.
Baker has a Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degree in education, and she has held various volunteer positions.
“I have had the privilege of volunteering in several capacities, including but not limited to helping out on local and state candidates’ campaigns, volunteering at various law enforcement agencies, and volunteering to counsel women at different stages of their life. A few years back I had the privilege of substitute teaching within the school district and other local districts in the area.”
Baker said she decided to run for school board to get more involved.
“As a taxpaying member of the community, I believe it is my duty to be involved in local politics,” Baker said. “As a former educator, I am becoming increasingly aware of the importance of ensuring that the children in our district receive a proper education and that we, as current leaders, ensure that they develop critical thinking skills so that they can effectively lead our country and compete in the global economy in the future.”
Baker said the biggest issue facing the district is transparency between the school board and parents.
“Parents deserve to be heard and involved in decisions concerning their child’s education,” Baker said. “After all, they are the ultimate authority over their child. Respecting parental opinion is critical. I will be open and honest in everything the board does, realizing that we are servants of the people and not their masters. We need better oversight of textbook content and student safety while minimizing the out-of-control administrative costs. Children must be safe at school and free from being bullied or threatened. For the overburdened taxpayers, I will demand that tax dollars are spent wisely.”
Guebert said she and her husband moved to Delaware about 11 years ago, and she has spent time helping students as a tutor.
“I have tutored math, mostly Algebra through Calculus, although as a volunteer tutor for WS2, I helped Willis students with fifth and sixth grade work,” Guebert said. “Concerned about the lack of clarity and logic in the ‘progressive’ approach, I spent many hours researching the background and philosophy behind it. Eventually, I became involved in testifying at the (Ohio) Statehouse, and, at one point, was appointed to the 2015-2016 Ohio Common Core Math Review Committee.
“The closed-door committees that gave us the original Common Core State Standards were an early indication that their goals might not align with those of most parents or community members,” Guebert added. “The realization that these fuzzy curriculum changes were not necessarily in the best interests of students sparked a desire to work for a more grounded approach. Running for school board is an extension of this desire to seek the best possible learning opportunity for all students.”
Guebert said the most important issue facing Delaware City Schools is “the devaluing of objective facts and knowledge.”
“Emotion and groupthink often substitute for logic and independent thinking in the ‘progressive’ universe,” she said. “Instead of rational seekers after truth, our system too often produces emotive activists, who believe it is their job to ‘fundamentally change’ America. These youthful idealists have little idea about what they are going to lose, however, not being taught to understand or appreciate our founding principles and true history, nor those of other countries, which could serve as cautionary examples.”
Harris said she is a graduate of Delaware City Schools, along with multiple generations of her family, and she is involved in the community professionally and through volunteer work.
“I work for United Way of Delaware County and commitment to community was embedded in me from birth,” she said. “I’ve volunteered in the schools as a classroom parent and volunteer coach, and in the community with People in Need, Alpha Group Duck Derby, Do Good Date Nights, Supplies for Scholars, Unity Community Center, and Family Promise. I am currently a member of the Delaware African American Heritage Council and Ohio Living Sarah Moore Service Board.”
Harris said she was motivated to run for school board because of her “youngest daughter’s experiences with bullying and racism that went unaddressed by faculty and staff members.
“When I spoke to the board about these issues I noticed there seems to also be a disconnect between the board and what was happening in the schools,” Harris said. “They were ‘unaware and shocked’ by my daughter’s story of her years of harassment. At that point I knew I had to be the person to close that gap of lack of communication so other students could feel acknowledged, safe, and know that they belonged.”
Harris said the biggest issue facing the district is unaddressed bullying.
“Bullying is happening across social economic classes, dependent upon what elementary school you went to, what your family make up is, if you have different abilities, and based on your ethnicity,” Harris said. “I’m looking forward to partnering with resources in our community to address the impact bullying has on the mental health of our students and to create and implement anti-bullying disciplinary measures that help support faculty and staff members address this issue in the hallways and their classrooms.”
McDaniel said she was born and raised in central Ohio, and she and her husband have lived in Delaware for 18 years. McDaniel received her bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College and worked for the Gannett Company for 15 years in Ohio and New York.
She said she stepped away from working full-time after their second child was born. Since then, she’s been focused on raising her children and supporting her family. She chaired the district’s 2013 Levy Committee and was elected to the DCS Board of Education that same year.
“I was, and am, an active and engaged parent, and I volunteered regularly in classrooms at Woodward Elementary and with the PTO for various events,” McDaniel said. “Working with our incredible administration, staff members and board, and seeing firsthand their commitment to our students and community left an indelible impression. Outside of my work on the board, I remain involved in our schools through volunteering with athletics, theater, music, and boosters. I also serve on two statewide Ohio School Board Association committees.”
McDaniel said she’s running for reelection out of her desire to “continue to support our DCS family.”
“While there have been strong feelings throughout this pandemic, I do believe that most of us share a common goal, and that is to have all of our kids in school with their friends and teachers, which is the best way for them to learn and grow,” McDaniel said. “I think it’s important that our school leaders continue to listen to medical and public health experts, as well as educational experts, in order to support our students and staff.”
McDaniel said state funding continues to be the biggest issue facing the district.
“Fair school funding is essential to addressing the continued growth of our city, which is why I’ve long been a vocal proponent,” McDaniel said. “While we did receive some additional funds in the most recent budget, we will have to proactively advocate to our state legislature to address these continued funding inequities.”
Wiener said he and his family have lived in Delaware for almost 20 years, and he’s “proud to call this city our home.” Wiener, who has two children currently attending Delaware City Schools, said he has worked as a prosecutor dealing primarily with juvenile and education law for 19 years.
Elected to the board in 2017, Wiener is currently serving as the board’s vice president. He has served in a variety of volunteer roles within district and community, including on DCS Levy committees and with the Schultz Elementary PTO.
“My family raised me with a strong sense of community service,” Wiener said. “This sense of civic responsibility led me to a career of service as a prosecutor, specializing primarily in juvenile and educational law with a close connection to the schools within the county I work. As our own children started school, I took an active interest in how I could serve Delaware City Schools. I began volunteering for our district and decided to contribute further by running for the DCS Board of Education. I see the position as the perfect opportunity to serve my community and use my professional background to contribute to the success of all of our students.”
Wiener said the biggest issue facing the district is the city’s continued growth and state funding.
“Delaware has witnessed tremendous development in all areas of our city,” Wiener said. “While it is important to welcome our new neighbors, we must plan responsibly for this strain on our school system and on our taxpayers. Planning for this growth includes working closely with Delaware City Council to discuss the impact of the city’s development plans in order to responsibly and strategically plan for the future. We also must continue the push for sustained and fairer funding models from the State of Ohio. By doing so, we can prepare for this growth while ensuring the success of every child within our district.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.