Readers Forum - Questions To Board of Education Candidates And Their Answers

We asked for questions to be sent in for Board of Education candidates, here are the top 5.

1. LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY:  Lakewood has the shortest elementary school day of any district in Cuyahoga County. Would you be willing to consider lengthening the elementary school day by 30 to 45 minutes? Why or why not?

2. ENROLLMENT:  Declining enrollment could pose a threat to the broad curriculum that is the hallmark of Lakewood City Schools. What ideas do you have for maintaining or increasing enrollment?

3. CURRICULUM:  This year, the amount of time elementary students spend in music and physical education was cut by over 50%. What is your understanding of the role that early music and physical education play in the long term cognitive, social and physical development of a child? Do you favor restoring this time?  

4.) TRANSPARENCY: While the Board of Education/Administration has sent out surveys and put together citizen committees in the past, when difficult decisions have needed to be made like the closing of an active school or curriculum changes, readers felt that those processes had predetermined conclusions and that the opinions of the community were not actually represented or considered. They cited the Phase 3 committee and the recent reduction of music and physical education at the elementary level as examples. How would you bring a more transparent, inclusive process to the way decisions are made and shared with the public?

5.) SAFETY: Lakewood High School was in the news this past year for being chosen for the implementation of safety measures like installing ballistic film on cafeteria windows and upgrading locks on classroom doors. Would you consider adding metal detectors and safety officers at points of entry throughout the District?


Colleen Clark-Sutton

EXPERIENCE: I have more than 25 years of teaching experience at the high school and college level.  I hold certifications in school administration and DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion). I have 2 children that grew up in and graduated from the Lakewood City Schools: I was an active member of the PTA throughout their school years. As a member of all three phases of the 50-year committee, I have a thorough understanding of what goes into our educational facilities and an ability to determine the cost versus value of different proposals.  I am an effective collaborator and communicator as evidenced by the success of three school levies and three school bond issues for which I was part of the campaign leadership and several local political campaigns that I managed. I work hard and persistently for the Lakewood City Schools, with compassion and open-mindedness, to find solutions for the challenges that face us.  

1) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY: Yes, I am willing to have that conversation. I support a thorough review and community conversation about changing the elementary school day for our students. This could include examining resource and staffing allocations for equity across all student ability levels. This could be a multi-month study seeking input from all school district stakeholders. Which subject areas are essential to student development and success? How much time is appropriate for quality teaching and learning? What are the administration’s contractual obligations? What costs are involved? Are there any savings to be realized? Can the community afford any changes to the status quo? Is there a rationale for keeping the elementary schedule as it is? (This requires collection of data via appropriate survey instruments open to multiple stakeholders, focus groups with teachers and other district staff, and community meetings that are widely advertised and offered at different times and days of the week.)

2.) ENROLLMENT:  There is a sweet spot in school district size where we are large enough to offer a broad curriculum and small enough to maintain a sense of connectedness that nurtures individual students. Fortunately, this sweet spot is not a single number, and thus far, the Lakewood City Schools have been able to provide a comprehensive and diverse curriculum. Our school district should develop an engaging and effective communications campaign that showcases the excellent educational opportunities and experiences of our students that encourages families to choose the Lakewood City Schools! Also, it is worth bearing in mind two census facts to consider when setting realistic enrollment goals. People are not having as many children per family. We raised two daughters in our home that once housed a family with seven children. Also, Northeast Ohio in particular, has been losing population for several decades and Lakewood has had a proportionate loss.

3.) CURRICULUM:  There are multiple studies that demonstrate that music, art and physical movement are absolutely essential for the intellectual, emotional, and physical development of children (and they are good for adults too (see Recreation Dept. for opportunities). We have a community responsibility to prioritize subject areas that will best serve all of our students. More art, more music, more physical movement, and/or introducing foreign language learning during the day could be excellent. Maintaining math, reading, science, social studies, and collaborative learning time is essential. As a multi-month project, we, as a community, could review our course offerings and school day schedule to be sure we are meeting the needs of all students and preparing them for the future - without having them in school for 12 hours per day.  I include some details about this in my answer to the first question.  

4.) TRANSPARENCY: I was part of the leadership team for Phase 3 of the 50-Year Committee: I remember the crowds of people attending our sessions and school board meetings. Phase 3 included significant updated information since the overhaul of our facilities took longer than expected due to the worst recession since the Great Depression. The Lakewood Observer wrote multiple articles, printed Letters to the Editor and printed writings from the School District.  We were transparent and inclusive. The recent change in the elementary school curriculum was not handled as openly as our community is accustomed to. Hopefully lessons have been learned about using valid survey instruments and taking more time to gather information from multiple sources before making system-wide changes. I support reinstituting topic-specific community meetings to engage all community residents. School Board meetings are usually held on the 1st and 3rd  Mondays of each month, free, and open to the public.

5.) SAFETY:  We live in an anxious time of random acts of violence and mass shootings. The upgrading of locks on classroom doors is occurring in every school building. This is happening because the Lakewood School District does not want to leave our students’ and staff’s lives at risk, and they were able to leverage federal funds to pay for this improved safety measure. I want information about cost, effectiveness, and efficiency of adding metal detectors to our building entry points. While we are advocating for more class time for learning, and trying to not raise taxes, I’m not sure if metal detectors meet a reasonable threshold of usefulness. We have 12 school buildings (including the administration building that houses preK). A police officer outside of each building would be cost prohibitive. We are only 5 square miles for all of Lakewood, so our police response time is quick. 

School Board Member Linda Beebe

EXPERIENCE: I have been a member of the Lakewood Board of Education for 40 years. During that time I’ve proven myself to be committed to the welfare of the district and the community. I’m running again, because I am passionate about public education and about Lakewood City Schools. I am a practicing attorney with J.D. from Cleveland Marshall College of Law. I taught 15 years in secondary and middle schools in the US and in Scotland. My husband taught in Lakewood High School, and my children graduated from Lakewood High Hchool.

1.) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY:  It has been my thought for some time that we need more time in the elementary school day. It would solve many problems, including the one noted in question three below. I’m also a believer in year-round education, given my experience in the Scottish schools.

2.) ENROLLMENT: Declining enrollment is, in part, a consequence of smaller families and the changing demographics of northern Ohio. This state’s funding policies also work against public schools in drawing money and children away into charter schools that are unproven and unsupervised. Although this is not a big issue in Lakewood, we all need to lobby our state legislature about public dollars for seriously underfunded, public schools being drawn from public education to vouchers and for-profit schools. Lastly, we need to make sure everyone in this community knows the quality and breadth of the Lakewood city school district by showcasing the gem that we have here.

3.) CURRICULUM:  I favor restoring that time only if we have additional time in the school day. My children and other children benefited from their music education. However, given the time we have available, I believe that adding physical education to every quarter, increasing art, education, digital literacy, additional library time, and stem was the right decision. Curricular decisions in this district are made by the professionals that we hire to make such decisions. School board members need to walk very carefully about overriding that process.

4.) TRANSPARENCY: We have a citizen’s facility study task force currently looking at the issues of declining enrollment, a new home for the Franklin School of Opportunity, and the best use of our new facilities in light of declining enrollment. The superintendent will be reporting out on the work that the committee has been doing at the November 4 school  board  meeting. Members of the community encouraged to attend that meeting or to watch the meeting on the school board website

5.) SAFETY: This is certainly something that bears watching, and considering. I would hope we didn’t have to do that. We have increased our mental health support for students and families over the last few years, trained our staff in armed intruder responses and provided information to families about gun safety, working with the Lakewood Police we do have security issues in place in all buildings and access to security officers as well.

Trish Hendy

EXPERIENCE: After serving the district for thirty-three years—primarily as manager of our Civic Auditorium—I believe I bring a unique perspective to our board. As the assistant Barnstormer director and co-founder of The Lakewood Project, I helped students design, build, light, and run shows. Working extensively with students, faculty and administrators gave me a clear view as to what is actually happening in our schools. As manager of the Civic, I was responsible for a large budget, worked with vendors, and brought in high profile talent. My job was to safeguard the interests of the school, while satisfying a paying client. Sometimes I had to say no and most of the time I had to get creative with the resources to satisfy everyone's interests. I understand education, have made difficult high-profile decisions to promote safety, have experience with creative problem solving, and I ask questions and expect well thought out logical answers. I do my own research and I listen well.

1.) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY: Yes. Expanding the elementary school day would allow us to have Music, Art, Physical Education, STEM/Digital Literacy for 100 minutes a week, all year, instead of the current schedule of 40 minutes. If we, as a community, believe these areas are important, we need to give our great teachers an adequate amount of time to teach these subjects. Increasing the school day to expand these offerings would also provide classroom teachers with more preparation time. Additionally, most of these courses cut down on screen time.

2.) ENROLLMENT: I propose that we create high-quality programming before and after school. Perhaps we need to rehire retired teachers familiar with our curriculum to run homework labs, guide small group play, lead arts and crafts, provide off-screen reading opportunities, and establish structure and routine so that kids are safe and engaged, giving parents peace of mind. Families can focus on family activities when parents and children reunite at the end of the day. I would also propose that we strengthen what we have that sets us apart from local private schools–our performing and visual arts programs. We could leverage our recreation department to offer more activities, classes, and camps at affordable prices with high-quality instructors.

3.) CURRICULUM: I strongly favor restoring the robust music and physical education opportunities our elementary children once enjoyed. Research establishes beyond a doubt that music and physical education positively impact children’s cognitive development and mental health. Music strengthens the connection between the hemispheres of the brain, especially between the infancy to nine years. Music requires children to interact with the complex language of music—breaking down rhythms, reading notes, and making a number of physical decisions all without stopping, hence showcasing a complex interplay between auditory processing, emotion, and memory centers. Music helps children become emotionally balanced and productive adults (Varadi, 2022). Physical education develops motor skills and releases chemicals in the brain that boost self esteem and help students concentrate. Both facilitate the development of healthy, productive human beings. “Save the Arts” isn’t just a campaign slogan; our innovative curriculum is part of what makes our school district so special.

4.) TRANSPARENCY: I believe that the board’s primary obligation is to represent the community and to advise and monitor the decisions and actions of the superintendent and treasurer. I believe that board members should seek input from as many community members as possible. They should work with the superintendent and administrative team to create solutions that are responsible, well thought-out, and reflect community, teacher, staff and parent input. Once decisions are made, the board member should be able to defend those decisions–not cut and paste canned responses or choose to ignore concerned citizens. Committees formed by the board should not be full of like-minded people. Per the vision of the Lakewood Graduate, we should be embracing collaboration, communication, and growth mindset, remaining open to reversing course as we continue to learn and grow.

5.) SAFETY: After working at Lakewood High School for the past 33 years, I do not believe that we need metal detectors at Lakewood High School. I think that John Crane, Principal Morgan, and Officer Jamison are doing an excellent job at addressing safety issues and respond quickly to any concern. Staff and Teachers as well as students and parents are consulted and respected. We have terrific students at Lakewood High School who are thoughtful, caring, and communicate openly with staff. We should always be prepared, but at this time, with the addition of the new door locks and ballistic film, we are very proactive in this area.

School Board Member Michael Callahan

EXPERIENCE: I am an experienced member of the Lakewood Board of Education and current Board President.  Through my current term on the Board, I have worked collaboratively with leaders and have helped the district navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, pass an operating levy in 2020, hire a new superintendent, and expand the district’s Vision of a Ranger.  I am an advocate for strong public education for all.  My wife Kristyn (LHS class of ’97) and I have three children currently enrolled in the Lakewood City Schools.  I am endorsed by many community leaders and entities.  I also work full time in the public sector as a parks and recreation director for another community and bring that perspective to a Board that is responsible for oversight of Lakewood’s Community Recreation & Education Department.

1.) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY:  I would support any way possible to expand learning opportunities for students. Extending the school day is not a simple process but worthy of exploration. This topic may best be initially explored through the district’s existing communication forum, a long-standing structure through which our administrative team and teachers meet on a regular basis.

2.) ENROLLMENT: It is very important that the district maintains a wide range of curriculum and programs, and that our policies ensure our schools are welcoming to all. Maintaining and expanding programs, from pre-school, to elementary specials, to AP and College Credit Plus options, to career tech, can attract and retain students.  The district has a strong tradition of meeting children where they are and taking them forward through whichever path they require or prefer.  This must continue. Also, we will continue to utilize our unique Community Recreation & Education Department to ensure that families with young children get engaged with the district and have a positive first experience. Those experiences can come in many different forms such as a parent-child program, swim lessons, youth sports, or a wide range of other opportunities. If that first experience with the district is positive, it can build relationships with families and help attract and retain students.  Further, collaboration with city leaders to maximize the supply of affordable housing for families could help enrollment.

3.) CURRICULUM:  Music and physical education have been and will continue to be very important to the district.  They play an important role in childhood development.  I like to focus on everything that has been added through the change in elementary specials and the process through which the changes were made.  A dedicated co-facilitated team of some of the district’s best and brightest teachers and administrators worked collaboratively to add opportunities for children in K-5 to experience a range of curriculum year round including STEM, physical education (K-5 PE did not meet year round prior to this change), art, library and digital literacy, all while keeping music an important part of the curriculum.  That said, the district will evaluate the class schedule, continue to listen to teachers and parents, and will make decisions in the best interests of all learners.

4.) TRANSPARENCY:  One of the great things about this Board of Education and leadership team is that we embody the core competencies of the Vision of a Ranger, one of which being a growth mindset.  We strive to improve communication with our parents and stakeholders wherever possible.  I believe that I am a visible, approachable member of the Board who is responsive to community input.  I will continue to do so.  Our superintendent has engaged the community through the Listen and Learn series, and our district just engaged a large and diverse group of residents concerning facilities, specifically Franklin School of Opportunity, over the past several months. Their input was received and valued.  Moving forward, the district will engage a wide group of residents as we continue dialogue about matters of significance.  

5.) SAFETY:  The district has invested significantly in the safety of staff and students through both personnel and building improvements.  There are currently two full time school resource officers who serve the entire district, a supervisor of security, and six security guards at the high school.  Our buildings are safe and secure with cameras automated exterior doors.  We also have enhanced visitor software to assist in ensuring all who enter the buildings are authorized to do so.  These safety items are in addition to those mentioned in the question. The district will continue to make safety a top priority and evaluate the need for further measures, as recommended by our security team, in coordination with local law enforcement.

 Lisa Dopman

EXPERIENCE: As an educator, who has been active in the union, a current Executive Board Member of the Hayes Parent Teacher Organization, a room parent, a Hayes committee chair, a lifelong Lakewood resident, and three children currently enrolled at Hayes Elementary I have a unique perspective to offer the Lakewood Board of Education.  

1.) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY: I would absolutely consider adding time to the school day. Doing this should allow general education teachers extra planning time while also providing more time to the district’s arts programs. It is also important that students, especially in elementary school, have creative and physical outlets. Currently, they only have Physical Education once a week and recess for 20 minutes at a maximum. The arts programs are only offered two times per week, splitting between art and music. Research has shown, art and music programs to the developing mind are crucial. As the pressures of Ohio State Testing increases for all, it is imperative that we provide other outlets for our students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers.

2.) ENROLLMENT: It is important to provide adequate programs for all students including programs for athletics, arts, and academics. A lot of this will start through the Community Recreation and Education Department. If we improve offerings and communication through this entity, we will develop engagement and relationships early. Increasing diversity in the staff will also help maintain and increase diversity in our population. If diverse families see that we have a diverse teaching staff and a curriculum that provides a diverse range of subjects, they will be more likely to seriously consider Lakewood as a home.

3.) CURRICULUM: Research shows that music, art, and physical education programs have so many benefits for students, including academic benefits.There are instances where students feel inadequate academically but are allowed a place to shine in music or art. Music in particular naturally lends itself to collaborative learning. I am in favor of restoring time to these programs, however, I think that the old schedule was inadequate as well. Physical education should be year round rather than just three quarters. I personally haven’t spoken to anyone that cannot tell a difference in their child when they don’t have PE. Art was only offered for one quarter, which doesn’t allow for enough time for students to explore that form of creativity. By lessening time in any of these areas, it forces parents to find resources outside of schools. We should keep in mind that all families cannot afford these options.

4.) TRANSPARENCY: As a recipient of those surveys, I can say they feel biased. I am often left thinking “What did I just answer?” or “What did I agree to?” If the district is asking for input, the ways of obtaining that should be meaningful and thorough. There are a variety of ways to gain community input and they should all be utilized. These include meaningful surveys, community forums, committees, and inviting community members to school functions. No matter the ways the information is collected, it is important to actually review this input and find a way to make the information available. Administration should always be willing and able to adequately explain decisions to the community, while being prepared to answer questions.

5.) SAFETY: Safety is an absolute. As a teacher I know that the learning environment matters. Having metal detectors, particularly in an elementary building, could negatively impact a child’s mindset for learning. There is a procedure to access the interior of a school, so I don’t know that safety officers are necessary. Having neighborhood officers visit the school and develop positive relationships with students would be extremely beneficial. Having counselors at each building would have more benefits than a safety officer at each door. Addressing mental health issues within our schools could play a huge role in safety.   Colleen Clark-Sutton   EXPERIENCE: I have more than 25 years of teaching experience at the high school and college level.  I hold certifications in school administration and DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion). I have 2 children that grew up in and graduated from the Lakewood City Schools: I was an active member of the PTA throughout their school years. As a member of all three phases of the 50-year committee, I have a thorough understanding of what goes into our educational facilities and an ability to determine the cost versus value of different proposals.  I am an effective collaborator and communicator as evidenced by the success of three school levies and three school bond issues for which I was part of the campaign leadership and several local political campaigns that I managed. I work hard and persistently for the Lakewood City Schools, with compassion and open-mindedness, to find solutions for the challenges that face us.

Martha Woerner

EXPERIENCE: I’m the parent of two young kids - future members of the Lakewood classes of 2039 and 2041. I bring the perspective of parents who are navigating preschool and enrolling our kids for the first time. And the decisions that the board makes now affect my kids’ education, even though we’re not yet attending school.With nearly 15 years of experience working with and within K-12 education systems supporting them to make school work for all students, I’ve built an understanding of the opportunities and challenges that districts face. I‘ve worked in research, policy, strategic planning, human resources, finance, and community engagement. This experience will help the board develop and evaluate policy; make decisions informed by research, data, expertise, and community input; and support our district in hiring, developing, supporting, and retaining our talented educators and staff.

1.) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY: Yes - whenever I think about a policy decision like this, I think about two key factors. First, what does research, data, and education best practice tell us? And then what does our community tell us about their aspirations and needs? In this case, the answers to both questions point us toward lengthening the school day. The relationship between time in school and student learning is clear and well established. And I’ve heard over and over from parents (and feel it myself) the desire for a longer school day, whether because it would add more time for the specials like art, music, or STEM or because it would solve a before-school childcare gap. A primary barrier to lengthening the day has been financial, so we would need to understand where funding might come from, what tradeoffs that would entail, and whether the community is willing to support those tradeoffs.

2.) ENROLLMENT:  The district needs to deeply understand (1) how families make choices about where they send their kids when they enroll in kindergarten and (2) when families leave the district where they go and why. Once we have that understanding, we can build more active plans to attract and retain families. I think we overly rely on anecdotal stories and families defaulting into their neighborhood school, rather than making an active pitch (which is what competitor schools are doing). As the parent of kids who will be enrolling in kindergarten in the next few years, I have proximity to families who are in that first category. As someone who has worked in human resources for nearly ten years, I have experience in designing and implementing plans to attract and retain staff, which will translate into similar strategies for attracting and retaining students and families.

3.) CURRICULUM:  All children deserve access to a robust, well-rounded curriculum that includes music and physical education, but also includes visual art, STEM, etc., and I have heard many community members articulate this shared value. Deciding the right balance among these subjects is a choice among many good things, and finding the balance of many good things in the face of constraints is challenging. In those circumstances, I think it is important to carefully weigh both the expertise and experience of professional educators and community perspective. I am interested in seeing the district revisit this decision because I have frequently heard from parents that they did not feel heard or that their preferences were not sought or considered during the decision-making process - which is particularly important when there is no clear “right” choice. This would also give us the opportunity to learn from this year of implementation and explore alternative options.

4.) TRANSPARENCY:  Educating our kids is a partnership between professional educators and students, parents, and community members. Each brings important experience, perspective, and expertise to the partnership, which requires active stewardship especially when facing difficult decisions. When I’ve facilitated decisions across large, diverse groups, I always follow several steps. First, I involve the community in the process early and more than once, and I make sure everyone is clear about what the decision is, who will make it, and what criteria are used. I gather community perspectives in a variety of ways, make sure that all groups are involved, and share themes of what I’ve heard with the community. Once a decision has been made, I also make sure to share why that option was chosen over others, including how community input influenced the decision. While we may not all agree with the decision, I’ve found these steps build trust and transparency.

5.) SAFETY:  The safety of our kids is so important - a shooting at school is easily one of the most terrifying things you can think of as a parent. In deciding how we increase safety, I’d use a similar process to what I outlined above: understand what research and data tell us about promoting safety (often it’s things like making sure students have strong relationships with their peers and adults at school) and understand community perspectives about what makes them feel safe at school (different communities may experience solutions differently). I believe school boards and board members also have a unique opportunity to advocate at the state level about what policies would help keep schools safe.

Rachael Mathes

EXPERIENCE: With 3 children in the Lakewood School District, I have a personal interest in ensuring they receive the best education. With 15 years’ experience in Finance, I bring a unique perspective towards fiscal responsibility while focusing on equity and inclusion. My approach is founded on transparency, open communication, and collaboration. I will engage with parents, teachers, and the community to understand concerns and aspirations, fostering a sense of shared purpose. I have served a Member of the Lakewood Economic Development Committee, Bird-town Beautification Project, Senior Pen Pal Program, Taste of Lakewood Committee, and past Treasurer of the Roosevelt PTA. I am passionate about leading by example and showing my children the importance of community involvement and civic responsibility. If elected, I will continue to support Excellence in Academics, Parental Rights, Communication and Transparency, Fiscal Responsibility, and an equitable Learning Environment which embraces diversity, respect, tolerance, and acceptance for us all.

1.) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY: Yes. Increasing the school day will provide students and teachers additional learning opportunities that will enhance their personal development and improved academic performance. This will also help parents who utilize before and after school care and may decrease homework allowing for more school and personal life balance for all. This implementation will require negotiations with the LTA, parents and staff and also additional funding, but the benefits of doing so enhances our student’s quality of education.

2.) ENROLLMENT: Declining enrollment is usually the result of parents choosing homeschooling or other school systems to send their children. When parents see they have not been heard and that solutions are limited, they make the decision to remove their kids from the public school system. We need to understand what led to this decision by assessing the needs of our local population and adjust accordingly. Honest, open conversation and active listening to parents, teachers and students is essential to build trust, retain current students while attracting new ones and having some return. Also, enhancing our marketing efforts to showcase the unique strengths of our schools by engaging local outlets, businesses, and alumni to promote our schools will also aid in increasing enrollment.

3.) CURRICULUM: This has been a very controversial decision, on the part of the current school board to reduce the time children spent on the arts without proper engagement of the community and those affected most.  By increasing the length of the school day, we can also reintroduce the reduced time taken from the arts and PE programs. Studies support that music and arts improves our children’s cognitive ability, focus and retention. These subjects nurture creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence and self-expression. PE is vital as it promotes physical fitness and helps students develop a healthy and active lifestyle. It promotes teamwork, cooperation and sportsmanship. These subjects provide a release for students and a break from academic pressures, an outlet to reduce stress and overall enriches the lives of our young children.

4.) TRANSPARENCY: Transparency is key within the decision-making process. We can seek community input through surveys, public forums, town halls and school board meetings. Encouraging and actively engaging with our community members, parents, teachers, and students on their input and how the school boards decisions affect them. If after a decision is made and the overwhelming response is negative, we can review past decisions that lacked community involvement and explore opportunities for course correction. The Board of Education are elected officials, and cannot act unilaterally, this only inhibits the commitment to deliver quality outcomes that work for everyone.

5.) SAFETY: The safety and well-being of the children, teachers and staff while they are in school is non-negotiable. With the increase of senseless acts of violence and schools being the target, I support any and all measures to ensure safety. Implementing controlled entry points with metal detectors and safety officers can help prevent unauthorized access or situations that pose a threat. As a parent of 3 young children in our schools, I would feel better knowing there are also upgraded locks on classroom doors. This is a very serious concern and ongoing discussions on mental health, emergency response plans, risk assessments and how we can utilize technology as a preventive measure are all important and will require action to support a safe, and nurturing environment.

Ravi Kulasekere

EXPERIENCE: My education includes a PhD in physics from the University of Missouri. I’m also an ANWPB board-certified holistic health practitioner at Do No Pharm Naturopathy LLC, in Lakewood, Ohio. Prior to becoming a naturopath, I was an ABR board-certified medical physicist, and worked in the field of cancer care, at various hospital systems in Michigan and Ohio for 13 years. My decades long academic career included teaching and tutoring high school and college students and medical residents, covering subjects such as mathematics, physics and radiation oncology physics. I have published several peer-reviewed articles completed during two decades of corporate and hospital-based research programs. I have served as a board member for several non-profit organizations over the years. If elected, I would utilize my extensive skill set to bring academic excellence, fiscal responsibility, and a safe an equitable learning environment through effective communication and parental involvement to the Lakewood City Schools.

1.) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY:  Yes. This type of change will involve negotiations with the LTA, parents and staff and it will also require additional funding to implement. However, the benefits to a slightly longer school day can be easily justified as the amount of information that is added on to our curriculum increase continuously. A longer school day will not only help the teachers teach and students learn but also can be helpful in managing parent work schedules by requiring less before and after school care.

2.) ENROLLMENT:  Declining enrollment does not happen overnight. It’s usually the end result of systemic issues faced by parents over a period of time. When parents recognize that they are not being heard and see no solutions being offered, they make the decision to remove their kids from the public school system. Therefore, the first and foremost action should be to know what caused them to make that decision. Honest, open conversation and active listening to parents, teachers and students is essential. Perhaps even inviting parents who decide to take their kids out to an exit interview to find out the reasons might be helpful to identify trends and offer solutions. Also using available local outlets to promote the school brand to both new and old residents can make the difference in enrollment.

3.) CURRICULUM: Absolutely. In fact, I am in favor of increasing the length of the school day to possibly use it to reintroduce the reduced time from the arts and PE programs. Every study done has shown the elementary age participation in art, music and drama improves the cognitive ability, focus and retention capability of a young child. In addition, the arts motivate children, improve on their social skills and emotional intelligence, provide avenues for improving on critical thinking skills, allow for stress reduction pathways and overall enrich the lives of young children. It was an absolutely short-sighted move on the part of the current school board to reduce the time children spent on the arts. The value of PE needs no additional emphasis at a time when most kids are seriously lacking the needed time outdoors being active. If we want healthy and well-rounded kids these programs need to be reintroduced.

4.) TRANSPARENCY:  The process currently being used is fine but in the above examples the execution of the process is what was flawed. The solution is simple: be honest in all communications with parents, staff and students. Difficult decisions have to be made sometimes and people understand that. Everyone appreciates it as long as the communications have been honest and genuine efforts have been made to explain the process with clarity. The Board of Education is elected and cannot operate in a silo, ignore the input of the community or have preconceived notions of how things should be, and then expect to deliver quality outcomes that work for everyone.

5.) SAFETY:  The safety and well-being of the children, teachers and staff while they are in school is paramount. We live in unpredictable times where schools have been targets of senseless violence around the country. I would support any and all measures including the addition of metal detectors and stationing armed safety officers at points of entry throughout the school district, among other relevant and necessary measures.

Ahmie Yeung

EXPERIENCE: The unique blend of my lived experiences as a disabled Sociologist mother makes me exceptionally qualified to serve as a Lakewood Board of Education member. I have been having to figure out creative workarounds for barriers life presents due to my disabilities since my childhood, and this has resulted in my being very adept at resource management/reallocation. My training as a Sociologist would benefit the district as we collaborate to make the best decisions for the entire community with transparency and engagement. My experiences as a mother with four children currently enrolled in grades 2, 5, 8, and 11, a 2022 LHS graduate, and three children who have taken advantage of College Credit Plus provide me with additional insights that serve the community. All of these aspects of me are not represented by anyone else currently on the board or ballot.

1.) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY:  Before the school board considers lengthening the school day, it is vital to get the pulse of all directly impacted community members and ensure that any lengthening of the school day happens in ways that do not negatively impact our families. Some families may welcome starting the elementary school day earlier to more closely align with the middle and high school start times, while extending it later may work better for other families who need to give teens time to reach the elementary school. Teachers also need to be consulted on how an extended day would flow with the excellent work they’ve already been doing and their own human work/life balance needs. I am definitely in favor if it brings more music and PE back into the elementary day routine.

2.) ENROLLMENT:  I believe we have a major opportunity to increase district enrollment of homeschooling and charter schooling families by enriching and expanding the virtual and alternative education options available through Franklin School of Opportunity, where my own children have been thriving as asynchronous virtual middle school students since before the pandemic. Offering the flexibility of the virtual curriculum in more ways, even to children who are enrolled in our physical schools, would also help students who are out of sync with their peers find their own pace for progressing through the curriculum with the compassionate support of our teachers and other school staff there to guide them. As more of our high school students are in the news having earned degrees with College Credit Plus, more ambitious families will want their highly capable students in our schools to tap into the support that makes that possible.

3.) CURRICULUM:  Based upon my deep dives into the subjects of human development, socialization processes, and social neuroscience, early life exposure to music instruction and supervised, coordinated physical movement are foundationally crucial to healthy human development and setting up our children to thrive as they grow. If there is a responsible financial way to increase the amount of time those subjects are offered in our elementary schools, then I support not only restoring the time but expanding it. The research I have reviewed shows that those two subjects lay foundations that improve comprehension in all other academic subject matters, as well as various forms of neurological/physiological function that have benefits beyond academics. Both of these subjects develop goal-setting and “practice makes progress” growth mindsets that set children up to do well in other life contexts.

4.) TRANSPARENCY:  As a Sociologist, I am dissatisfied with the surveys from the district. They were poorly constructed, asked leading questions with ill-fitting multiple choice answers, and I know from experience that the resulting data is not analyzable in professional ways. Future surveys should be designed and analyzed by actual social scientists, preferably embedded in our community - perhaps with our Sociology students at LHS and their teacher involved as a learning opportunity. For transparency, data sets should be available for public review. As for the committees, I have questions about how people are being recruited to them currently. From what I have seen, we need to increase engagement with our school families and neighbors via community events, while advertising the need for participants in these committees at those events. This would diversify the perspectives included in these critical teams by broadening the participation pipeline and helping people find the onramps to involvement.

5.) SAFETY:  The idea of adding metal detectors and (presumably armed and uniformed) safety officers at points of entry throughout the district does not sit well with me. These highly visible measures cultivate a mindset of fear that is counterproductive to learning, and make schools seem more like jails instead of learning communities. With one of our core visions in Lakewood being the development of empathy, I recommend further dialogue with marginalized communities about how these changes would impact their perceptions of welcome and inclusion in our schools. I suggest a friendly, plain-clothed community member greeting everyone as they enter the building, trained in de-escalation techniques, as an alternative to what I envision when I read the phrase “safety officer.” As a wheelchair user, I have seen behind the curtain with so many metal detectors, and it is statistically unnecessary if a wise human is there keeping watch.

William Cline

EXPERIENCE: Following my honorable discharge from the U.S. Airforce I moved to Lakewood with my wife and have lived here for over 50 years. Our children were educated in the Lakewood City Schools and they had an excellent experience within the rich traditions of the district. My post-service work career of over 30 years, included positions in financial, manufacturing and non-profit sectors. As a professional manufacturing manager, I acquired excellent decision making, organizational resource allocation, efficiency improvement, and cost-reduction skills. Transitioning from the manufacturing sector to the non-profit sector, I was a professional career coach where I was able to offer career guidance and skills development training to a diverse population. I believe that my broad skill set will be helpful to provide the school district with insight on how to effectively collaborate with everyone involved and provide a results-driven educational system which consistently achieves positive end results.

1.) LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY:  I would be in favor of extending the elementary school day by 30 to 45 minutes. Topics presented in elementary school provide the foundation for future learning and equip students with the critical skills necessary for mastering the increasingly difficult topics they will encounter as their educational journey continues. Evidenced by recent declining test scores, and studies that indicate students have fallen behind in mastering basic critical skills, support the necessity of extending the current school day. This increase would be beneficial in allowing additional time to be allocated to regaining lost ground that was sustained during Covid and would align our school district with the remaining districts in Cuyahoga County.

2.) ENROLLMENT: Parental trust and confidence in our educational system is vital in maintaining and increasing student enrollment. Declining enrollment numbers indicate that this trust and confidence is lacking. Establishing and maintaining a non-confrontational collaborative alliance between board members and parents focused on involving parents in all aspects of their children’s education, especially in the area of curriculum development, is vital in maintaining and increasing student enrollment.

3.) CURRICULUM: I strongly favor restoring and even increasing time spent in these areas of instruction. Studies indicate the positive impact that exposure to music, the arts, and physical education have in the cognitive, social and physical development of our children. Additionally, the negative response from a large number of parents, regarding this action, indicate their dissatisfaction with the decision of the board to reduce class time in these areas.
4.) TRANSPARENCY: Any lack of transparency by the Board or Administration, whether actual or perceived, leads to reduced trust and confidence regarding the decision-making process. The public, especially parents, need to be assured that they are afforded the opportunity of being active participants, not merely an afterthought, in this process, and that their voices and opinions are always heard. As a Board Member I would be an advocate for full transparency based on open dialog, consideration of differing opinions and views, and parental involvement throughout the decision-making process.

5.) SAFETY: I would not only consider, but recommend adding metal detectors and safety officers at points of entry throughout the district. The safety of our students and staff must be our top priority. Unfortunately, we are living in a period heightened anxiety and lack of civility. Facing even the remote possibility of experiencing an act of senseless violence in our schools, requires us to be proactive not reactive in protecting our schools and providing a safe learning space for all students and staff. Any future action that we can take regarding implementation of safety measures must be considered.

Jim O'Bryan

Publisher, Lakewood Observer, Inc.

Read More on Schools
Volume 19, Issue 21, Posted 10:29 AM, 10.18.2023