Fairfield Schools’ governing board appointed a new member Thursday evening to fill the vacancy created by a recent, unexpected death.
The Fairfield Board of Education unanimously approved the appointment of Carrie O’Neal to fill one of the five seats on the Butler County board vacated by the death of Jerome Kearns last month.
Under Ohio law, O’Neal - who is a long-time school volunteer and local business owner - will serve in Kearns place until Dec. 31, 2017. If she chooses to stay on the board she will have to win re-election during the fall school board campaign.
O’Neal, who is owner and art director of O’Neal Designs and has helped lead a past Fairfield Schools levy campaign, was one of eight board applicants seeking the appointment.
School board President Dan Hare said the interviews and evaluations of all the candidates “was one of the most important decisions we have as board members (and) we were very thorough.”
“We were fortunate to have several outstanding candidates. What resounded with us was (O’Neal’s) character and integrity and she has an impressive resume of volunteering in our schools,” said Hare.
A Fairfield school parent, O’Neal said in a statement her priorities include “opening the new schools next year and ensuring a smooth transition with redistricting and addressing school start times are among the issues that need the school board’s immediate attention.”
“She added that the district must continue to promote and grow the Fairfield School Based Health Center. “We are fortunate to be able to offer these services to our students, allowing us to care for the whole student – mind and body,” she said.
A third area of focus should be promoting the “great things that are happening in Fairfield. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m immensely proud of the education my children have received at Fairfield,” said O’Neal. “The staff and teachers who have crossed their paths have made them the children they are today.”
In her application letter, O’Neal said this year “will be one of the most historic times for our school district” citing Fairfield’s scheduled opening of three new schools, now under construction, in August.
Kearns died Dec. 20. The father of three was a veteran school board member and also was assistant director of Butler County Job and Family Services.
In other board action, members voted unanimously to return Hare to the president’s position.
Members also voted to make member Michael Berding vice president, a position held by Kearns before his death.