Rare split vote may mark rift on Lakota’s school board

Lakota School Board member Julie Shaffer speaks to a group of youth organization leaders during a special meeting held at the Edge Teen Center in Liberty Twp. Wednesday, May 31, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

caption arrowCaption
Lakota School Board member Julie Shaffer speaks to a group of youth organization leaders during a special meeting held at the Edge Teen Center in Liberty Twp. Wednesday, May 31, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Lakota Schools’ governing board may be showing signs of a rift among its members.

Last week’s vote in picking a Lakota Board of Education president saw the five-members split into three votes for incumbent Julie Shaffer with one “no” vote and another member abstaining rather than backing Shaffer.

Veteran board member Lynda O’Connor voted against Shaffer while member Todd Parnell abstained.

Traditionally, school boards often go to great lengths to assure the annual votes for their presidents are unanimous with general thinking being it’s advantageous to start the new year with a publicly unified front.

“As I said in the (Monday) meeting, I’ve discussed my concerns directly with Mrs. Shaffer,” said O’Connor, who did not provide more details.

“The board doesn’t vote 5-0 on all issues – a split vote isn’t new or unusual,” she said, adding “the district has built up great momentum over the past several years – our focus remains on keeping the district headed in the right direction for our students and our taxpayers.”

ExploreVIDEO & STORY: Lakota provides free laptops to high school students

But Parnell, who was unanimously voted into the board’s vice president’s position, said “I think the board is a bit divided politically. The school board is supposed to remain a non-partisan body.”

“But we all work toward the same goals of student opportunities and fiscal responsibility,” he said. “I think we have good balance in the board leadership roles and I look forward to working with Julie Shaffer to continue the momentum we have started.”

Shaffer, who will now serve her second consecutive, one-year term leading the school board of Ohio’s eighth-largest school system, said “I am hopeful that everyone on the board will set aside their individual political differences and work together to support what’s in the best interest of our students, staff and community.”

As to the possibility of a divide, Shaffer said “I am one person of five, so I can’t speak to whether we will be a divided board.”

Taking independent positions is nothing new to O’Conner, who was first elected to the school board in 2008 and has also previously served as board president.

Most recently in October, she was the lone vote against approving a five-year, district budget projection what showed Lakota having a deficient in 2023.

ExploreMORE: Lakota faces budget shortfall in 2023

O’Connor also called on fellow members to have a budget reduction plan in place by spring 2019 to eliminate the projected deficit.

About the Author