On October 27, 2015, Bethel Township Historical Society hosted Meet the Candidates in Bethel Local High School Auditorium. Along with the four candidates for the Bethel Board of Education, Dave Fisher, Vice President, explained the state issues township residents will vote on November 3, 2015. In addition, Andy Ehrhart, Township Administrator, provided residents with a review of the local issues that will affect the residents.
The following BOE candidates will complete for two positions. These include Lori Sebastian, and write in candidates Jacob King, Todd Wright and Greg Brueckman.
Lori Sebastian, the only candidate that will appear on the ballot, has lived in the school district for 13 years. She has four children attending Bethel Local schools. Sebastian has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the University of Dayton and has a license to teach math. In addition, she is currently pursuing a State of Ohio School Treasurer's License.
Sebastian has been an active leader in the school and community. For the school, Sebastian has volunteered as the Bethel Athletic Boosters Treasurer, PTO Chair for Student of the Month breakfasts, accompanist for the Bethel Elementary Choir and the Schools Facebook Moderator. As a volunteer in the community, Sebastian chaired the 2014 Bond Issue and 2012 tax levies, both of which successfully passed. In addition, she has volunteered as a BAYSA Soccer Coach, Volunteer Screening Coordinator, Miami County Planning Commission Member and worked with the youth sports organization to improve cash accountability.
She said, "I believe that communication on issues is essential. It would be nice if the board disseminated information before board meetings." She also indicated that she thinks the board should reinstate the open forums before board meetings. She said, "I understand that it is difficult to field questions in an open forum, but the forums allowed parents to share and hear about other classes and sports."
When asked about administrative power, Sebastian indicated that she has learned a lot by attending both formal and informal board meetings concerning what board members are able to do. She said, "The principals work for the administration, who works for the board. Decisions must follow that chain of command and when a principal makes a decision, it is important for the administration to back them up."
When asked why she was running she replied, "All of us are here for our kids, I think I have the skills to make things better for our kids. I am able to maintain communications and I love school finance. I believe my expertise is invaluable."
She ended her presentation saying, "I believe in Bethel. I want to ensure the kids get a quality education, open communications are maintained with parents, and show gratitude to our staff."
Jacob King, who works as the Fire Chief for Wright Patterson Air Force Base and Bethel Township Clark County, initiated his presentation by explaining that he is in a unique position in terms of the BOE. He found shortly after he declared his candidacy for the BOE that he must take a leave of absence from all duties. Because of the leave, he would miss 10 of the 48 meetings our of a four year term. However, he decided to stay on the ballot to serve the community.
According to King, if elected, his primary concerns are dealing with the new building construction, improving communications, and negotiating teachers' labor contracts. He said, "I worked on the project development of the largest military construction project since World War II. From this I developed the skills to serve on the BOE."
When asked what he thought were the biggest challenges for the board, King indicated that he though communications were a primary concern. "There seems to be a lack of responsiveness from the BOE to questions residents have." He also said that he plans to ensure that the BOE is fiscally responsible while reducing student/teacher ratios. He said, "The students are our future. We need to make sure there is the right number of teachers for our students and we pay them correctly."
He supports open forums between the BOE and the community. He said, "Residents stood there and asked questions and wanted feedback, but got no answers."
King also said that safety and security are a big issue at the school. "We need to work with the teachers to come up with a plan for active shooter and tornado situations."
When asked why he was running, King replied, "The kids, I'm in this for the long haul. If I could just make it a little bit better for the next student and parent, I've done my job. As a school board member, I want to try to understand the past, embrace the present and utilize that information to prepare for the future."
In summary, King said, "I risk a lot in coming here because (of the leave of absence). However, I believe I can still do the job through email and other electronic communications."
Gregory Brueckman, who has worked for Hobart Brothers in Troy for the last 20 years, has lived in Bethel Township for 18 years. He holds a BA in Organizational Management, and has had many years of experience meeting financial, quality and production commitments in his job.
In addition, Brueckman has volunteered as a coach and focused his coaching on teaching kids to play with respect and sportsmanship.
Brueckman is married with two children enrolled in Bethel School.
In addition, Brueckman said that 2-way communication is essential to the school district. He indicated that he would like the BOE to address more diversity in the district. He said, "Bethel is changing. We need plans in place to address this issue." He also advocates open forums before BOE meetings. He said, "We need rules put in place, but the open forums are an excellent way to get first hand information."
When asked about safety, Brueckman indicated that this is a serious issue. He said, "We need to look at all of our resources, unique structure and layout and put these resources to use. We need to take seriously what we don't want to happen."
When discussing administrator's power, Brueckman said, "We have to trust our managers and staff to make decisions. An administrator makes a decision; the board supports that administration. However, part of growing is learning from mistakes."
When asked why he was running, Brueckman said that he was an army brat. "We never stayed in one place for more than two or three year. I like what my kids have now."
He also indicated that he had read all of the bylaws governing school boards. He said, "No one person has power which spells out teamwork. You need different viewpoints, educated dissent. There has to be give and take, with a vision of the long term."
He said, "I saw a need and wanted to step up and use my expertise to guide the community so it doesn't lose its roots."
Todd Wright graduated from Milton Union HS in 1990. He has a Bachelor's in Organization Leadership and a Master's Degree in Conflict Analysis and Engagement. He is married with two kids who attend Bethel.
Wright works for MITRE Corporation as a Computer Security Manager with experience in data analysis, corporate compliance and effective communication strategies. He has lived in Bethel since 2005. He said he settled in the area because his wife grew up here.
Wright has volunteered as a BAYSA Coach, Lego Robotics Coach, OHSAA HS Swim Official and YMCA Swim Official. He also was instrumental in organizing the Bethel Varsity High School Swim team and the "Bethel Bee Strong" Annual 5K run.
Wright chose to run for the BOE because he wants to make sure that each child the school serves gets the best education. He said, "I'm good at bringing disparate groups together. I am good at change management, which is what Bethel is now facing. I am committed to see that Bethel provides quality education through that change." He also indicated that one of the biggest difficulties the school is facing is communication. He said, "A lot of people are feeling like their voices are not being heard. I am good at finding those barriers."
When asked about security, Wright said, "There is a driving need for the doors to be locked, and there is a need for them to remain open. We need to determine what is causing the problem and address the root issue."
When asked about administrator's power, Wright replied, "Much of what happens is now effected by social media. First, we need to understand the problem and put rules and regulations in place; we need to communicate, and then review as a group to see if changes need to be made."
In response to a question about why he was running, Wright got choked up when replying. Fighting back tears, he said, "My kids, they are the most important thing. I saw an opening to make their lives better. If I can get in and help them out that is what I want to do."
He said, "The board is one voice with five heads. We need to understand all levels - communications, hearing, listening and understanding to build consensus. When we passed the building levy, the community placed a lot of trust in the BOE. My goals are to incorporate resident growing without changing the community character, improve communications, and ensure the successful completion of the building."
The state issues that Bethel Township Residents vote on November 3, 2015 are Issues 1, 2, and 3.
Issue 1 is an amendment to the state constitution that changes the way Ohio House and Senate districts are drawn to reduce lines that favor one political party. Districts are redrawn every 10 years based on the census. Currently, a board comprising the governor, auditor, secretary of state, one Republican and Ohio Democrat, decides the districts. Issue 1 would change this to a commission, consisting of the governor, auditor, secretary of state, and four members appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the Ohio General Assembly. A bipartisan majority vote of four members would be required to adopt the new district lines.
Issue 2 would prohibit any requester from using the Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for their financial benefit or to establish a preferential tax status. Lawmakers concerned that the Issue 3 would grant a monopoly to marijuana grow facilities added Issue 2 to the ballot.
Issue 3 grants a monopoly for the production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. The amendment would let adults 21 and older buy one ounce of marijuana for medicinal or recreational use. It would also allow a person with a license to grow, use and share up to eight ounces of homegrown marijuana, plus four flowering plants. It authorized 10 growing facilities and establishes a regulatory scheme. The 10 farms will then sell marijuana to more than 1,100 retail outlets, nonprofit medical dispensaries, and manufacturers. The measure charges a regulatory commission with overseeing these businesses. They cannot be within 1,000 feet of a house of worship, public library, school, day care or public playground.
Bethel Township will vote on three local issues, Issue 4, Issue 13, and Issue 14.
Issue 4 is an additional tax for the unincorporated area of Bethel Township for the general construction, reconstruction, resurfacing and repair of streets, roads, and bridges. The tax rate is 2.1 mills, which would cost a property owner with a property valued $200,000, $147 a year. According to Andy Ehrhart, Township administrator, the tax would allow the township to maintain a more regular schedule for the maintenance of township roads. He said, that current funding levels do not allow the township to repave roads regularly. For some road, the times between repaving can be as long as 30 years. It costs $120,000 to repave one mile of roadway and at current levels, the township can only afford to repave a mile of road every two years.
Ehrhart indicated that the township has made every effort to improve the longevity of the roads by using chip seal and crack seal. In addition, the township is fiscally responsible by minimizing staff and maintaining equipment to maximize usefulness. However, the equipment is aging and some will need to be replaced. The funding for the road department comes from the gasoline tax, motor vehicle license tax, and the permission motor vehicle tax; however, these revenues can no longer keep up with the increase cost of road maintenance and vehicle maintenance and replacement; therefore, the township is asking the township to supply local funding for the first time.
Issue 13 is a tax renewal for the Miami County Bridge Tax for the construction, reconstruction, resurfacing and repair of bridges throughout the county. The renewal rate is 0.45 mills for five years.
Issue 14 is a 2.5 mill renewal of the Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Riverside) for five years. Riverside provides community developmental disabilities programs and services to the entire county.