Transparency a key issue in Springboro school board race

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story previously appeared omitting the profile for candidate Shauna Acquavita.

SPRINGBORO — Voters in the Springboro school district have a wide selection of candidates to decide from to fill three board seats in the Nov. 2 election.

The three incumbents, Charles Anderson, Daniel Gudz and Dave Stuckey, have five candidates, Shauna Acquavita, Olga Verbitsky, Frank Catrine, Brian Retterer, Jeff Paschke-Johannes, who are challenging them to new four-year terms.

Here is a short profile of each candidate:

Shauna Acquavita said she is running for school board because of her concerns regarding issues related to its leadership.

“Furthermore, I am invested in this position because I have two school-aged children attending Springboro schools,” she said. “Thus, I am committed to ensuring quality education not just for them, but for every student attending Springboro schools.”



Acquavita, 48, is an associate professor of social work at University of Cincinnati and is a licensed clinical social worker. She and her husband have lived in the district for six years and are the parents of two children.

Acquavita said the two most important issues facing the school district are the need for transparency and the lack of mental health issues being addressed.

“We have a strong need for transparency among representatives of the school board regarding their relationships with each other as well as corporations associated with providing school services,” she said. “With the most recent developments in relation to prior leadership, the school board needs to ensure they are good stewards of the funding they receive. Our taxpayers should be confident that the decisions made by the board are unbiased and fiscally responsible.”

Acquavita said COVID-19 has worsened some students’ mental health because of social distancing, business closures, illness, and loss of friends and loved ones. She said it has negatively impacted classroom learning and peer relationships and believes implementing services to address these needs, students can achieve academic and personal success.

“It is my sincere hope that we can ‘Spring the Boro Forward’ by creating an inclusive atmosphere of accomplishment and pride within our school district via accountability, perseverance and unity,” Acquavita said.

Charles W. Anderson said he’s running for re-election “to insure that Springboro continues to do what is best for students. We have a very good and well sought out school system by parents looking for the best place to live and educate their children.”

Anderson, 71, has lived in Springboro for 38 years. He is a business owner and has been a funeral director for the past 47 years. He has two grown children and three grandchildren. He is seeking a fourth term on the school board.

“I have a career in business that spans 47 years and I believe is an asset to the board regarding business decisions made on behalf of a $60+ million budget,” he said. “Also as a grandpa of two children in the schools.”

Anderson said the board’s immediate concern is the safety and well being of the students in the midst of a pandemic. He said keeping their quality education on track during COVID-19 has been a challenge for teachers and administrators.

“Long term we need to continue to make sure our students have all the tools and resources available to them in order to graduate from Springboro Schools prepared for success in college or entering the work place,” Anderson said.

He said a successful school district has test scores improving every year; positive student experience in attending and graduating from Springboro; the number of scholarships awarded annually; and students being well-prepared for the next chapter of their lives. Anderson said, “We have been successful if each student can feel like they were in an environment of caring concern.”

Frank Catrine said he has numerous reasons why he’s running for the school board this fall.

“The deciding factor was the push by the current board to allow CRT (Critical Race Theory) principles into the school, and hiring a pro CRT consultant to advise,” he said. “The formation of a Special Superintendent committee to avoid sunshine laws for this is also a reason.”

Catrine said he’s lived in the school district for the past 28 years. He does work in computer/cloud systems. He and his wife have three grown children. Catrine has also served as a volunteer on several committees over the years.

He said the top two issues facing the school district is CRT and transparency.

“Obviously the indoctrination of CRT to the students of Springboro is very concerning,” he said. “This will divide students and families along racial and other physical characteristics. It is just wrong. The current school board is behind this effort and has had several opportunities over the past year to stop it. I believe in education – not indoctrination. I have spoken with many teachers and they tend to agree – teachers just want to teach.”

Secondly there are a lot of other issues – but the overwhelming umbrella would be transparency. Catrine said there should be no special superintendent’s committees and the district needs to be open on finances, curriculum, drug issues, etc.

Daniel Gudz is seeking re-election to second four-year term on the school board because he said he believes it’s important for adults to contribute and give back to a community through service.

“I believe that my service on the BOE will help sustain and improve upon the excellent performance and reputation of our school district,” Gudz said. “My professional background and training is in finance, so I tend to focus much of my time and energy working with our treasurer, Terrah Stacey, to ensure our district continues to be able to provide excellent educational services in a safe and modern learning environment.”

Gudz, 42, has lived in the school district for 15 years. He and his wife have two children and said one of the reasons they moved to the community was the excellent school district. Gudz is also the chief financial officer of health plan services for Molina Healthcare.

Gudz said one of the top issues facing the school district include ensuring that all students get back on pace with their educations following the significant disruptions due to COVID-19; and continuing to modernize facilities through renovation or replacement.

“All districts are currently behind in terms of where students should be relative to educational benchmarks” he said. “It’s up to our district to accelerate student development and learning so that all students can get back on track as soon as possible. We have a plan in place and the right staff to accomplish that goal.”

Gudz said, “Our facilities across our district are in need of evaluation and a long-term replacement strategy needs to be finalized. Springboro is once again experiencing significant grown in new housing which means more students is in our future. We also need to modernize certain facilities either through renovation or replacement. Clearcreek (PK - 1) and Springboro Intermediate (6 grade) are the two buildings that need to be addressed first.”

Jeff Paschke-Johannes is running for one of the open school board seats for two reasons: his concern that all students in Springboro feel safe and welcome in school hallways and classrooms; and the poor judgement and lack of transparency demonstrated by some of the incumbent school board members.

Paschke-Johannes, 44, has lived in the school district for the past six years. He is a college English associate professor. He is married and has two children.

He has been active in the community with the organization called PEACOC -- Parents Empowering All Children of Color -- formed by families in Springboro.

“As soon as our families gathered, it became very clear that there was one issue that had touched all of our lives: racist bullying and threats made against our kids in Springboro schools,” Paschke-Johannes said. “Listening to our community members, we recognized that our schools could feel unsafe and unwelcoming not only to our own kids but also to any child who is easily marginalized due to race, disability, economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or faith.”

In response to PEACOC’s efforts, the school board formed a Diversity and Inclusion committee last year to address these issues. Shortly after, the group noticed individuals running for school board that sought to dismantle the diversity and inclusion committee, he said.

Paschke-Johannes also said following the indictment of former superintendent Dan Schroer, two incumbents were found lending money to Schroer. He said money should never exchange hands between our elected school board members and the hired staff in our schools who the board hires and reviews.

He said that lack of transparency in the district’s leadership has led to an exacerbation of challenges faced in the district, turning them into crises and bringing negative attention to the district as a whole.

Brian Retterer said he is running for a school board seat for the students.

“We, as parents, readily express our opinions about the schools, but has anyone listened to what our kids are saying?” he said. “I am the dad of two very smart and opinionated teenagers. Their thoughts matter. The students are in the thick of it daily and they are affected by the decisions of the board. I want to see more student involvement through the implementation of student representatives to the board of education.”

Credit: Heather Powell

Credit: Heather Powell

Retterer is a software engineer and is active in the community and with the schools as a volunteer. He said his “only agenda is to do what is best for the students, teachers, and staff. Being an elected board member is not a status for me. I know that every child is different. That every student comes from a different background, has their own struggles, and needs their own individualized support to succeed.”

He said wants to make sure the school system is doing what they can do to make sure no child falls through the cracks. He said he understands the importance of technology and being current, but in order to do that, the district needs to become more fiscally responsible. Retterer said he will follow the numbers and prioritize spending in the correct places while cutting costs in others to maintain the best educational environment possible. “I am not afraid to question things that don’t make sense which means I will not just be a rubber stamp on the board,” he said.

He said he will also focus on inclusivity, technology, and growth. Retterer said some of the main goals of our school board are to provide a safe, positive, productive, and nurturing educational environment but there are still many reports of bullying and discrimination in our schools.

“We need to work as a district to make sure that every child’s needs are met. In order to do this, we need to look at where we are at now while still preparing to be ready for the growth of the community and our school buildings. Springboro has seen massive growth in the last 20 years and new subdivisions are still being built.”

David Stuckey said he’s is seeking a third term on the Springboro school board because he wants to ensure the staff has what they need and that the administration is supported and allowed to do their jobs.

“I want the children in the district to have the best education possible,” he said.

Stuckey, 66, has been a resident of Springboro for more than 42 years. He is a retired teacher and a former varsity head football coach. He currently serves as volunteer freshman head football coach. Stuckey and his wife have two grown children and two grandsons.

He said the two two most important issues facing the school district are pupil expenditures and teacher/staff salaries.

Stuckey said the last two levies that passed should ensure that we have financial stability for a while. He said the levies will ensure that the students have resources they need to learn and that teachers have support and resources they need to educate and teach.

He said the district has the seventh lowest per pupil spending in the state out of 612 school districts.

“Although we can celebrate being extremely fiscally responsible with the tax dollars we are provided, we cannot continue to celebrate that we spend less than nearly every district in the State on our children,” Stuckey said. “We owe it to our children to provide them the best opportunities possible for them to succeed.”

Olga Verbitsky said she is running for the school board after learning the public school system has been putting more resources and effort into areas outside of a quality education that would prepare our kids for the future.

After many discussions with parents, I want to be part of the solution and I want our children to have every opportunity to be successful now and in the future,” she said.

Verbitsky, 48, and her husband are the parents of two children and have lived in the school district for 13 years.

She is a certified divorce mediator and an abuse, neglect and dependency mediator and is currently employed as a regional business manager.

As a parent, Verbitsky has been involved with the district since her children were in grade school in various activities in addition to her other volunteer involvement in the community.

Verbitsky said, “There is really only one objective: to provide students the best opportunity for success after graduation. Springboro schools need to be the district that families want to move to and that children love to learn in.”

Verbitsky said Springboro kids should be “able to excel in the basics of education- specifically reading, writing and mathematics that will enable them to thrive in any avenue they choose, so that they might achieve whatever they define as ‘success.’”

About the Author