Editors note: This is the third of three stories giving a more in-depth look at the candidates up for election in the race for Buckeye Local Board of Education seats.
This is the third and final installment in a series of articles to provide a more detailed picture of the candidates making up what was originally a 12-person race for three open seats on the Buckeye Local School District Board of Education for the term beginning in January 2014.
This piece details candidates candidates Shawnna Merrill of Rayland, Dirk Pielech of Yorkville, Mike Pyciak of Harrisville and Korrene Prince of Tiltonsville.
Merrill is from Rayland. When asked why she is interested in serving as an elected member of the local board of education she said, "I am all about community service and I believe this is a great fit for me, to give back and serve. I would also like to be a part of re-establishing the relationship with community that has been fractured and even severed. I am only one person with one vote and as a board member it is my responsibility to hold him (the superintendent) accountable for conducting day to day operations and accomplishing goals set," offered Merrill. "I believe a superintendent should be given a fair evaluation of his performance at end of his contract to keep his position or whether board should consider someone else for position. The superintendent is the chief advisor responsible for conducting day to day operations as well as holding the structure in place under him accountable so that each student has equal opportunity to receive the best quality education according to their personal needs," said Merrill. "As a board member I would be responsible for holding the superintendent and treasurer accountable in conducting day to day operations including being wise stewards with resources given and accomplishing their goals for the district," she said. "I will keep students, the school district and community as FOCUS in all decisions. I will always stand up for what's right as well as voicing my perspective or opinion on a matter and speaking what really needs to be spoken rather than just saying what people wanna hear," she said "I am a concerned citizen and taxpayer that has decided to step up and give back by serving the community. Security and safety issues should be top priorities. I support the decision already made and in place which includes S.T.A.R.T. I feel their plan and purpose in educating and training students, staff and administration will prepare them for any issue that may arise," said Merrill.
Pielech of Yorkville plans to work to "improve and change the present format and the agenda pattern that is being used to conduct Buckeye Local school board meetings. The current way of conducting these meetings has only been suggested by the state. It can be improved," he said.
"Presently, the board spends hours in closed door executive sessions, leaving the public taxpayers waiting and wondering needlessly. I've attended many school board meetings for several years and there is no reason for these meetings to last three or four hours. I pledge to improve the way these meetings are run, to better inform the public, and to make sure that everyone's valuable time is better utilized and not wasted," said Pielech in a prepared statement.
The two most frequently asked questions posed by voters during the campaign have focused on interest in why Pielech is running and on the question of whether one person's actions can in fact bring about change.
"One of my primary reasons for running is I want to give back to the community. I want to see our school district improve and be better than it is today. I want to be a proud citizen in Buckeye Local, and to be able to make a difference by helping to make Buckeye Local the Pride of the Ohio Valley. At my job as a Postmaster, I have a proven track record of making positive improvements. I can do the same for Buckeye Local. One person can make a difference," offered Pielech.
"In my opinion, paramount goals to be addressed in Buckeye Local are to build unity and a sense of community within the district that is largely non-existent at this time," said Pielech.
"We must listen to our taxpaying citizens, keep the people informed, and consider their opinions when decisions are being made. Money needs to be spent wisely and not wasted. By being fiscally responsible, we can continue to provide quality education for our students. Our focus needs to be the children and the educations that they are receiving. We must make sure that our district's youth are prepared for college and to compete in the workforce. I passionately believe in equality and fairness for everyone and I am doing this for every student, for every family, and for every town.
"Many citizens in Buckeye Local seem to be dissatisfied with our school district. Overall, we need to do better. Our children deserve to have all of us working together to make their futures better and brighter. In my opinion, our school district is not one of several separate towns. We are one community. Buckeye Local has to take action to unite our district.
"I am involved in our school district and I believe that I possess the leadership qualities necessary in order to help make this happen. At the same time, I expect greater financial responsibility within our district. Safety is another paramount concern," he said. "I am experienced in those areas and more. I believe I should be elected to the Buckeye Local Board of Education because I believe I am the best qualified candidate. I am a 17-year Postmaster, experienced in every area of management, finance, administration, and safety," offered the candidate when asked why he should be considered the top candidate for a seat on the school board.
Pielech noted his children go to school in the local district.
He holds an undergraduate degree in business and is pursuing a master's degree.
"I am a graduate of the Buckeye Local School System I've been an advocate for students and I have helped many of them. I have been one of the few men to serve as a PTO homeroom parent. I have been involved in the Buckeye Local youth sports programs for many years. I served on the Junior High School strategic planning committee."
I would like to see our current District Emergency Preparedness Committee provide a comprehensive evaluation of needed physical controls, lock down procedures, and involvement in training with our local Fire and EMS Departments.
Buckeye Local needs to continue to prioritize safety and security training that involves the students, faculty, and staff, and also the community and all first responders. If elected, I will join the emergency preparedness committee and provide input and communication back to the school board and to the Buckeye Local community as well."
Prince offered her reasons for running for election to one of the three open seats.
"Why do I want to run for a Board of Education that does nothing but what administration wants," she said. "I want to make a difference in how our Board of Education is perceived and operates. I want to make sure that all of the students at Buckeye Local get the education that they deserve to receive. You, the residents of Buckeye Local School District, are the ones that can make that change happen by voting for the candidate of your choice."
"All goals for the school district should revolve around the students receiving the best education in a safe and secure environment. I believe that every individual working for the school has a responsibility to the students, the parents, and the community to make sure that our school district is taking care of the students and their education. Every individual working for the school district should be held to the highest of standards in order to accomplish this.
Prince said she would like to see greater details discussed in meeting records for the board.
"Currently there is not enough positive visibility within the district. I want to make sure that not only the parents but all the residents within the district are aware of what is happening within the district. For example, the current postings of the Board of Education minutes do not convey enough of the detail what happens during a board meeting," she said. "I also feel that the board members should conduct 'Town Hall' meetings so that residents can talk to them and voice their concerns without the constraints of the more formal board meeting. All residents within the district pay taxes that keep our schools operational, their voices should be heard.
Prince considers herself among several candidates qualified to seek the position of school board member. As for me, I do have a Bachelor of Science in Accounting; I have worked for a publicly traded company and have been accountable for our company's financials; I have been a part of other school systems that were visible within the community; I ask questions in order to get the best possible solutions; and my only agenda is to make sure our students are the priority. I would only be one vote on the School Board, but I would vote for the best solutions for the district."
"I am a proud graduate of Buckeye South High School. My children are grown and both have college degrees, so I currently do not have my own student within the district," she offered. " With that being said, I have no hidden agenda, I want to make sure that our students have the opportunity to receive the best education that our district has to offer".
When asked about details of mandates focusing on improving in-school emergency and security preparedness and what she thought about how future improvements in district security and safety policies, procedures and practices should be handled Prince offered the following.
"This can be tricky, because if the best plan is not implemented correctly, or there is no follow-up with the plan, then it is a just great plan that will fail. The district's plan should include training for every individual within the school system. This not only includes the Board, Administration, Teachers, other staff, but also the students and parents. If the students don't receive training on how to respond during an event, then the plan has failed. Parents need to be involved so that they know that the school is taking care of their children. The School Board should be responsible for implementing these mandates within the district. The Board already approves improvements, is responsible for long term planning, and writes the policies for the district. The superintendent, as well as the board, should be responsible for inquiries. They should all be aware of any questions or concerns that the community might have."
PYCIAK of Harrisville is a member of the 1982 graduating class of Buckeye West High School, and a 1986 graduate of the University of Steubenville with a bachelor of science degree in accounting.
He has been employed at Tecnocap in Glen Dale for about 15 years.
When asked why he is running for a seat on the school board Pyciak's response is "for the kids, and the teachers. The rest of us; board, parents, administration, need to support those two parts. We need to allow our teachers to teach and must demand that our kids learn to the fullest extent of their capabilities."
His two paramount goals for the district if he should be elected to office include "making sure our children are being taught real world usable skills and subject, back to basics, the 3 R's. In some of my discussions with teachers it seems that they have to spend more time filling out forms and doing paperwork for the various programs and less time teaching," he reflected.
"We need to fix the perception of this school system in the valley and beyond. We're perceived as dysfunctional and backward. A lot of this comes from the interaction between the board, superintendent and parents. We have a great district with outstanding teachers and many students that have been and will be successful
"In my opinion the greatest concern is the excessive conflict that exists up, down and across the system, he offered. "In the board meetings I've attended there has been as much time sparring as there has been accomplishing goals. Specific policies and procedures need to be developed and shared" Pyciak said.
"Greater tolerance and understanding of each other in the meetings and elsewhere needs to be the norm, not the exception," he offered.
"Our school system should, and recently has, committed to partnering with an outside firm that specializes in safety and security. We need to continue down this path and be willing to adopt and implement suggested practices," he said..
"The board was basically "challenged" to adopt a program after the failure of the levy. We need to change this mind set in the future, being more proactive and develop multiple options.
Why vote for Pyciak, in the candidate's own opinion.
"I am a lifelong resident of the district, graduating from Buckeye West in 1982. My children and my niece have attended and are attending Buckeye Local, going through West Elementary, Southwest Middle and the high school," he said. "I have been associated with numerous parents clubs for the past 8 years, holding numerous offices."
"My agenda is to improve the system, on all levels, improving relationships between the various groups is a top priority. Explanation and understanding of the school policies for the parents needs to be improved." he said. "I also plan on being very available to the various groups and a pathway for improvement."
Loccisano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org