Future of Butler County school districts at stake in now-set upcoming elections

The election stakes are high for upcoming area school board races.

Some five-member boards have a majority of three seats open in this fall’s election. Other boards in the county’s 10 public school systems have two seats open for the Nov. 5 election, according to candidate filings certified by the Butler County Board of Elections this week.

Even a two-member change can substantially alter a school district’s governing board, which controls millions of dollars of taxpayer money and makes decisions affecting the education of thousands of kindergarten through 12th grade students.

In Ohio, school board terms are four years, and two to three board seats are open for election every two years.

But some school board races, barring unforeseen developments, have already been decided because the number of candidates now certified for the ballot are equal to the number of open seats.

That’s the case in Hamilton, where only two candidates are running for two seats. If nothing changes, a Hamilton minister, the Rev. Shaquila Mathews, is now assured to win one of the two elected seats on the school board. Incumbent Hamilton board member Tom Alf is the only other candidate.

“I’m blessed and humbled by this opportunity,” Mathews said. “And pretty excited.”

And there’s little or no mystery in Middletown, as three incumbents - Chris Urso, Michelle Novak and Anita Scheibert - are the only ones on the Nov. 5 ballot seeking three open seats.

In Fairfield, Carrie O’Neal and Balena Shorter are running unopposed for two open seats on the school board. There is a contested race for the unexpired term of Dan Hare between Jerrilynn Gundrum, who was appointed to fill the seat after Hare’s resignation, and Mike Miller.

Two Butler County school systems – Talawanda and Madison - are seeing a relatively high number of candidates.

Talawanda officials said they welcome a crowded ballot of seven candidates seeking to fill three seats.

“To see that so many parents and citizens are interested in serving our students as a member of the board of education is a wonderful blessing,” said Holli Morrish, spokeswoman for the Oxford-area school system.

“We live in a time when public education has been under fire, has been a big political topic and there are concerns about the ever changing mandates from the state of Ohio and the impact of that on students,” said Morrish.

“We are pleased to see the number of people from our community that are interested in our students, Talawanda and public education,” she said.

For more information on area school board races go to the Butler County Board of Elections website at elections.bcohio.us.

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