Lakota school board divided on selection of new member as vote nears

A divide between some Lakota school board members recently widened after the president said another member is “choosing to take us down this path of destruction of this district.”

Lakota Board of Education President Brad Lovell made the statement in response to criticism of him from member Lynda O’Connor on Friday during a board meeting discussing how to appoint a new member to fill an open seat.

At the virtual meeting, O’Connor asked members to take more time in soliciting and reviewing candidates. The person chosen will fill the seat vacated by recently resigned member Todd Parnell.

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The board has seen a record 52 candidates seeking the fifth seat on the board governing southwest Ohio’s largest suburban school system.

Board members are scheduled to vote on appointing a new member at their 6:30 p.m. meeting today.

Parnell resigned on Aug. 27 after he responded to an email from Lakota West High School’s principal about two student arrests in the parking lost and wrote that police “should have shot them.” He has said the comment was an inappropriate attempt at a joke.

Soon after Parnell’s resignation, O’Connor began lobbying board members to take the full 30 days allowed by state law to appoint a new member.

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O’Connor also pushed for interviewing all candidates who applied for the position but found no backing from Lovell or fellow board members Julie Shaffer and Kelly Casper. She proposed a Sept. 25 vote on a new member, but her motion was not seconded by other members.

Friday’s meeting also saw O’Connor accuse Lovell of meeting with a candidate prior to the start of the interview process, which happened in executive sessions on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s unfair to the other candidates and it demonstrates a lack of professionalism and puts bias into the process,” she said to Lovell. “My concern is the lack of transparency is completely inappropriate.”

Lovell said board members have many opportunities to meet with the public as residents of the community. He said the board made ample announcements and allowed 10 days for applications.

“I’m sad you are choosing to take us down this path of destruction of this district,” Lovell said to O’Connor. “I think it (O’Connor’s criticism) is just a way to erode the trust in the community with this board.”

The board adjourned into executive session to further discuss its whittling down of the candidate pool, which they said would include reviewing a recent district survey of school parents about what they want in a new board member.

Lovell declined Saturday to comment further.

O’Connor told the Journal-News, “I’m just doing my job. By pushing for transparency, an open process, and fair consideration of all candidates that apply, I’ve been inclusive, not destructive.”

“It is, however, destructive to not allow for open discussion and transparency. It’s destructive to circumvent the process as the board president by interviewing candidates on your own,” she said.

Due to social-distancing requirements, 20 seats are available to the public for the board’s meeting today at Plains Junior School, 5500 Princeton Rd. in Liberty Twp.

The meeting will be broadcast via Zoom, and viewers will have a virtual option to participate.

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