No new faces on Lakota’s school board as voters return incumbents

Voters in Butler County’s largest school system returned two incumbents Tuesday to the district’s governing board.

Unofficial vote tallies from the county board of elections showed voters chose to return Lynda O’Connor and Julie Shaffer to fill the two open Lakota Board of Education seats for the 16,500-student district.

With 98 percent of the votes counted late Tuesday evening, both O’Connor and Shaffer had garnered about 29 percent of the vote.

Coming in third was businessman James Hahn who won about 23 percent of votes cast.

Former school board member Ray Murray, who lost a re-election bid in 2017, earned about 20 percent of votes cast.

Shaffer, the school board president who won her third term, credited her electoral win to “getting out to our schools and events in the community gives me a great perspective regarding the needs of all stakeholders.”

“I have shown in the past that I will evaluate decisions from a fiscally responsible standpoint, while taking into account those needs. I believe these are the reasons our voters made the choice to re-elect me to another term,” Shaffer said.

O’Connor, who won her fourth consecutive term on the board, said, “I want to thank our voters for returning me for a fourth term I appreciate their vote of confidence.”

The board controls Lakota’s central office administrator and makes many decisions concerning the district’s $177 million annual operating budget for the school system, which includes Liberty and West Chester townships.

The five-member Lakota school board, which oversees Ohio’s eighth-largest school district, now faces a high-profile decision later this month as the board considers restoring some or all of high school busing, which was eliminated by budget cuts in 2011.

The board is scheduled to vote on the bus restoration issue at its Nov. 18 meeting.

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Key issues during the campaign saw candidates divided on whether trained personnel in the district’s 22 schools should be armed to enhance security against violent attacks.

Other issues in campaign included O’Connor and Hahn positioning themselves as fiscal conservatives with a focus on maintaining Lakota’s financial resources.

While O’Connor advocated for some form of a program of arming, volunteer and properly trained school personnel, Shaffer said she opposed such a change in the district’s security strategy.

O’Connor and Shaffer next four-year terms will begin Jan. 1 and they will be sworn in during the board’s first 2020 organizational meeting shortly after that date.

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