New Middletown school board member a familiar face in helping local students

The newest member of the Middletown school board isn’t new to the city.

Recently appointed Middletown Board of Education member Verlena Stewart is a Middletown High School graduate, has grown children who are also life-long Middies and she now has grandchildren in the city schools.

And Stewart has been active and influential in the community and its 6,300-student public school system for years prior to being picked by the board to fill a vacant seat and help to govern the district.

ExploreMiddletown Schools appoint new board of education member

Stewart, who has never pursued nor held public office before, told the Journal-News this week she intends to run in the fall election to try and win voter approval to fill out a full, four-year term on board that would begin on Jan. 1, 2024.

Monday will be the first school board meeting of 2023 and Stewart said she is eager to apply more of her experience, which includes working as assistant executive director of the Community Building Institute that oversees the RISE after school program, to her new public role.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Her focus is a simple but passionate one, she said.

“I have no agenda other than hoping to help serve my community.”

“If I have a goal at all now, it is to learn as much as I can about the school district, the system and how it works and what I can do to advance our work,” said Stewart, who has a business management degree from Miami University.

The students who lack family support, whether it be financial, emotional or the provision of daily needs, will be a priority among her board duties, she said.

Schools, she said, have to address “under-resourced kids.”

“We have kids who don’t get good rest at home and are waking up and not having breakfast and are then shuttled off to school and we are expecting them to sit at a desk and be happy and eager to learn. And that is ridiculous.”

“I believe in quality education for all. There is no reason that if you are in the public school system you shouldn’t be getting the highest quality of education possible.”

Middletown School Board President Chris Urso said Stewart’s background made her obvious as a strong candidate to fill the vacancy on the five-member board.

“Verlena is a thoughtful and reasoned thinker that brings years of community service to the Middletown Board of Education,” said Urso.

“Her student and family centered approach to leadership will allow her to be a great conduit between the Middletown community and its schools. We, the board, are excited to have her join the team.”

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