The race for the Medina city school board is filled with newcomers to politics. They say that’s not a negative, arguing that new blood is exactly what is needed to restore trust in the school board following eight months of turmoil over allegations of fiscal mismanagement involving Superintendent Randy Stepp’s contract.
Six people are running for three open seats. The new board members will face immediate challenges, including replacing board members Karla Robinson and Susan Vlcek, who have pledged to resign before their terms end to allow the newly elected members to choose their replacements.
The new board members will also need to choose a new superintendent.
Last week, the board voted to start the process of firing Stepp, who has been on paid leave since April 8, after a special state audit reported he improperly spent $4,121, which must be repaid.
The new board members also will have to deal with a federal lawsuit filed by Stepp in response to the school board’s decision to rescind his five-year contract, which included an $83,000 signing bonus that sparked a public uproar.
Two of the candidates, Tom Cahalan and Doug Adamczyk, are incumbents, who were appointed to board to fill vacancies left by the resignations of members who had approved Stepp’s contract in January.
Adamczyk, 41, lives in Medina and has two children. He is a regional manager for mortgage sales for First Priority Financial. Adamczyk replaced board President Charley Freeman, who resigned in March.
Adamczyk is running a joint campaign with Cahalan — both their names appear on their yard signs.
He said he wants to continue to build on what he and Cahalan have done since being appointed.
“Specifically, I want to continue focusing on transparency to the community, open and active communication with school employees and the community, fiscal responsibility, and increasing the educational offerings of the district,” he said.
Adamczyk stressed the importance of providing more educational opportunities.
“We have one chance to educate our children,” he said. “We need to ensure that our children are provided with the best resources and tools for that education to occur.”
Adamczyk serves on the board’s two-member finance committee, which meets regularly with school treasurer Jim Hudson to go over district finances.
Cahalan, 50, is married with two children, and works as a personal trainer at the Medina Community Recreation Center, and is the retired owner of TLC Packaging. He has lived in Medina for 21 years.
Cahalan replaced Dr. Robert Wilder, who resigned in February.
He said his main goal if elected is: “to help the Medina city community members remain informed and involved.”
“Since being appointed to the board in March, this has been priority No. 1 for me,” he said. “The outcomes of that idea are: rebuilding the trust of the community back in district leadership; having the public know what the current district issues are, how they can give input and be part of the process, and then what are the outcomes of those discussions/decisions; and have the community regain a sense of ownership with public education, Medina City Schools and our students.”
Cahalan also serves as financial secretary for Connection Church and Northeast Ohio Division 1 Swimming sectional coordinator for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Carpenter, 50, a Medina Township resident, is married and has one daughter. Carpenter, his wife and daughter all graduated from Medina schools.
He works in showroom sales at Wolff Bros. Supply, and is a lifelong resident of the Medina City School district. He has not run for a political office before.
“The most important thing I will accomplish is regaining the confidence of the community in the administration of the schools,” he said. “I will strive for excellence in our educational curriculum, while maintaining fiscal responsibility.”
Carpenter said he wants to include the community in the board’s major decisions. “Going forward, we’re going to listen to the community,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of great ideas out there. We’re going to intertwine those ideas.”
Kovacs, 43, lives in Medina and is married with five children. She owns a small business and works as a running coach and graphic designer.
This is her first time running for office. If elected, Kovacs said her No. 1 focus would be on academics.
“It is time for us to move past the events of the past several months and focus on educating the children,” she said. “They’ve lost so many classes and services that they need and deserve. As a community, we can now work together to rebuild the district.”
Kovacs said she would like to see the number of study halls reduced at the high school and middle schools.
“I would very much like to see the electives restored at those schools,” she said. “I would also like to see the addition of foreign language at the elementary level. The best time to learn a foreign language is when you’re young.”
Kovacs is a board member of the Medina County Road Runners and volunteers for the Patriot Runners, a charity that helps wounded veterans.
Ross, 55, a Medina resident, is married with two children, both of whom graduated from Medina schools. He is retired from the Medina Police Department and U.S. Army.
An ultra-marathon runner, he has worked part-time in Homeland Security at Cleveland Hopkins Airport and at Carlson Funeral Home, Brunswick.
Ross ran for the board in 2011, but was not elected. He has not held an elected office before.
If elected, Ross said he would like to “be a good steward of our community’s tax dollars.”
“I would support spending the necessary money to constantly improve our children’s education,” he said. “I would support keeping a staff of well-qualified educators, to give our kids as many opportunities as possible, and encourage responsible spending geared specifically toward educating our children.”
Ross also said the new board needs to “get it right when we hire our new superintendent.”
“This is very critical as we move forward and move away from a past culture that was filled with some poor decisions and impropriety,” he said.
He serves on the recently formed Medina School District Community Finance Committee and the Medina Community Recreation Center Advisory committee. He is also a member of the Medina County Road Runners and volunteers with the Hospice of Medina County.
Skidmore, 43, a Montville Township resident, is married with two children. He is an attorney with Skidmore and Hall Co. and title agency owner of Transfer Title Agency, Inc.
Skidmore is also focused on regaining community trust.
“The board needs to regain the trust of the community,” he said. “The only way to restore public confidence is by the board of education proving to the voters that they have the children of Medina as their top priority within the district.”
Financial responsibility is a priority for Skidmore as well. “All future decisions should be evaluated to determine if the dollars being spent are in the best interest of the children of our district,” he said.
As for political offices, Skidmore was appointed as a Republican precinct committeeman last year to fill a vacant position.
Skidmore has served on the board of directors of the Medina City Schools Foundation since 2008, and was president through June this year. He said he would resign from the foundation if elected to the school board, because serving on both would be a conflict of interest. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds scholarships and tutoring in the district.
He also has served on the board of advisors of the Medina Salvation Army since 2006.
Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.