Eight candidates are running for three seats on the Buckeye Valley Board of Education in the Nov. 2 election.
The candidates include three incumbent board members — Justin Osborn, Jamie Ottery and Randy Turner — and five newcomers: Tom Ailabouni, Donald Dicke, Tammy Lilly, Jeni Reely and April Scowden.
Ailabouni, a father of four, said he’s a “very concerned husband” who has lived in the Buckeye Valley Local School District for 15 years. He earned a Bachelor of Science from Ohio Dominican University and works as an IT security architect.
Ailabouni said he is running for school board after having sat through board meetings over the past few years.
“I was disgusted with what I observed (at board meetings),” Ailabouni said. “Low test scores being discounted as ‘good enough.’ Every vote was 5-0 and very few educated questions were being asked by the school board. School board members would ignore emails. They would let people talk, but they would roll their eyes or snicker at parents who took time to take a more active role in their district and their children’s education.”
Ailabouni said the biggest issue at the district is a “lack of responsible leadership.”
“Our district is a mess,” he said. “We have a board who has no clue about what the community wants. They don’t listen, they are condescending, and they are no longer effective. CRT is creeping into our schools. Politics (reign) in our schools. Community values are being eroded. Money is being spent improperly. We have a shortage of space at West Elementary, but we are spending millions on a new field before fixing this issue.”
Dicke is the father of three Buckeye Valley students: a first and third grader at Buckeye Valley East Elementary and a sixth grader at Buckeye Valley Middle School. He owns and operates a heating and cooling business.
Dicke said he decided to run for school board to help bridge the gap between the board and the Buckeye Valley community.
“I decided to run for school board because I see a lack of connection between the school board and the community as a whole,” he said. “The east side of the district has been underrepresented on the board for years. I also believe that parents should be making decisions for their children’s health, not the school board or department of health.”
Dicke said the biggest issue facing the district is a “lack of planning.”
“I see the lack of planning, which has resulted in overcrowding, as the largest issues facing the district,” Dicke said. “I love the new football field that was installed, but when we don’t have classrooms at the elementary schools for our children, was it wise to spend the money there and not on expanding our elementary schools? Our children’s education needs to come first.”
Lilly said she has lived in the district for almost eight years, and five of her grandchildren attend schools in the district.
She previously worked as a school bus driver for Columbus City Schools and has worked for two nonprofits, while also serving in various roles at her church.
Lilly said she’s running for school board after seeing how instruction was being done in the district last year.
“I believe the role of the education system is to teach our children how to read, how to write, how to do arithmetic, and to supply them with the skills necessary to survive this ever-changing, ever-growing, technologically advanced world,” Lilly said. “We must prepare our children for the world they are growing up in by supplying them with the skills necessary to succeed, like how to balance a checkbook.”
Lilly said she’s against mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and opposes “the issue of Critical Race Theory being taught in our schools.”
“Buckeye Valley is a growing, diverse district, and I would be honored to be a part of it,” Lilly said.
Osborn said he moved to the district in 2008 so that his children could get a “good quality, rural education.” He was first elected to the board in 2013 and is currently the board’s president.
Osborn, a mechanical engineer by trade, said his goals for his next term are “to increase student opportunity and continue to improve facilities while keeping the tax burden low.”
The biggest challenge facing Buckeye Valley, he added, is the “continued transition of the population from less rural to more suburban.”
“Many people are entering the district to escape the suburban blight in the Olentangy and Dublin districts,” Osborn said. “This will create additional pressure on the district’s limited tax base, as well as challenge the historically conservative values of our district. The ability to manage the district’s growth both financially and socially will be important over the next decade of growth. I look forward to standing with the district to continue to create the best learning environment possible while fostering traditional values, innovative education, and a socially tolerant space for our children to thrive as leaders of the future.”
Ottery said she and her family have lived in the Buckeye Valley school district for 16 years. She volunteers in BV classrooms, coaches youth althetic teams, and serves on the Buckeye Valley Youth Basketball Association Board. Ottery, who works as a senior energy consultant, has been a member of the Buckeye Valley Board of Education since June of this year when she was appointed to serve the rest of former board member Mark Tingley’s term.
Ottery said she is running for the position to “continue to serve our district, ensuring Buckeye Valley students, including my two sons, are prepared for their future beyond BV.”
“I’m level-headed and considerate of varying opinions,” Ottery said. “I’m running because our district needs members like me to serve our large, diverse district. I’m running because my combination of professional experience in finance, planning, and strategy and history of community involvement, makes me uniquely qualified to successfully implement and execute our BVLSD 2020 and Beyond Strategic Plan. I’m running for the school board, not against it.”
Ottery said the district is facing several issues, including staffing and growth.
“First, we need to recruit and hire an innovative and inspirational leader as our next superintendent,” she said. “Second, we must address growth within our district: one elementary school is at maximum capacity. The school board, along with the community, should explore and discuss (short-term) and long-term solutions for high quality learning spaces while being responsible stewards of taxpayers’ dollars. Finally, we are facing significant division within our community. Over our 206 square miles and four counties, we need to better unite people who are divided by geography and opinions.”
Reely is a write-in candidate on the Nov. 2 ballot and has lived in the district since 1999. Reely said she has three children in the district, one who graduated in 2020, one in high school, and one at East Elementary. She taught agricultural education for 16 years and currently works as a project manager in the insurance industry. Reely is currently the fiscal officer for Marlboro Township, the treasurer for the BV Athletic Boosters, and president of the High School Friends of Football.
Reely said she’s running for school board because she believes “there needs to be a change in the district.”
“For many years, I have sat back and watched the community go unheard,” Reely said. “Their voice gets muffled by the agenda of those who think that they know what the community wants. This needs to change. We need to start treating everyone equal no matter what where you live, what your last name is, what your education status is, how much money you make, or what your involved in. What is fair for one is fair for all, and that time is now.”
Reely said the biggest issue facing Buckeye Valley is that the district “lacks vision.”
“I believe that we have truly lost sight of what is important, our students,” Reely said. “… Let’s get back to the education of our students and focus on them. We are entrenched in a status quo mindset that what is working should not be changed, and that is not the case. We have cut corners, made mistakes, made promises, and made decisions that have ultimately hurt the students based on the agenda of a few. This is not what Buckeye Valley was built on, and this is what I would like to see changed for the future of all our students.”
Scowden said she has lived in the district for 47 years and is “happily married to a BV grad of 24 years.” Scowden said she has a daughter who graduated from the district in 2018 and a son who is currently a senior at Buckeye Valley High School. A licensed real estate agent, Scowden is involved in the PTO, coaching, Boosters, and “numerous other BV community strategic functions and fundraisers.” Scowden and her husband are also the commissioners of the Buckeye Valley Youth Basketball Association.
Scowden said she’s running for school board because she believes the district needs to refocus on education.
“I’ve been a student, resident, volunteer, colleague, coach, wife, mother, and mentor for BV and the community for many years,” Scowden said. “We need to get back to what matters, and that’s education. The focus needs to be on how BV can strive to improve education/techniques for all students. Now that our son is graduating, I feel it’s the right time and opportunity to help Buckeye Valley grow in many ways, while still keeping the main focus on education and continuing to be one of the best schools in central Ohio.”
Scowden said growth is the district’s largest challenge.
“Growth will be the biggest issue in the near future,” Scowden said. “I’m a very involved active, full-time real estate agent and know what’s coming. I will be able to provide some insight on how the growth could impact some of the schools’ future and current decisions.”
Turner said he moved to Delaware County in 1989 when he began working as a math teacher at Hayes High School. Turner has raised three children in the county, and he moved to Buckeye Valley in 2013 and retired from Hayes in 2015. He has been a member of the Buckeye Valley Board of Education since 2017.
Turner said he is running for reelection because he feels he has a lot to offer as a member of the Buckeye Valley Board of Education.
“I have negotiated contract agreements, understand school finance in Ohio, had leadership positions at the local, district and state teacher associations, taught in the classroom for 33 years, and now have four years of experience as a Buckeye Valley School board member,” Turner said. “This is a particularly contentious year and many school board members have decided not to run for reelection, but it is the very reason I think level-headed leadership, knowledge, and experience are needed more than ever.”
Turner said the growth in the district is a concern.
“The biggest issue I see is finding a solution to the growth in the southwestern part of our district,” he said. “West Elementary is a fairly new school and already at capacity. The board is considering several short-term solutions but a long-term solution must be found. An additional issue for the school board is the declining health of our superintendent and eventually hiring a new superintendent in the next year or two.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.