By Elliot Grossman
The races for the Loveland School Board have strengthened my faith in democracy. For at least two decades, most candidates for the school board had run without challengers. That means the community didn’t have much of a choice of candidates. It also meant there was minimal discussion about the issues facing the school district.
This year, there are nine candidates for four seats. The exchanges of ideas among the candidates and voters have been robust. That shows people care deeply about the school district.
Once the winners have been announced, the community’s focus will shift to helping the school district move forward. Better times are ahead for the Loveland Schools, our community and our children.
My campaign is about hope, optimism and restoring trust. This is a great school district. It’s a big reason my wife and I moved to the Loveland area.
But it’s gotten off track with some poor decisions by leaders. The problem is that those poor decisions have led to damaged relationships with the community.
Now, the district’s number one goal needs to be restoring trust. Without trust, the community won’t provide enough resources to the district. Without enough resources, the students will not get the education they deserve.
How do we restore trust? I have a plan:
- First, the district needs to embark on a thorough and formal listening process — seeking out voices from throughout the community — to learn what type of school district the community wants. What are the community’s priorities for the district? For a decade, a Butler County school district has held what they call Community Conversations. They’re led by a neutral facilitator. We need to do that here. Communication needs to be a two-way process. Systems need to be set up to listen to parents, students, staff and the community on an ongoing basis. These conversations are about building a partnership with the community.
- Second, after we’re sure we’ve sought out voices from throughout the community, we need to do a scientific survey to gauge voter sentiment before putting another levy on the ballot. We shouldn’t guess about whether a levy would pass. That could do even more damage if it fails.
I’m a strong supporter of public schools. I attended public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. I believe public schools are a great equalizer. They give children from all walks of life opportunities. I’ve given a big part of my career and civic life to supporting public schools. I have a daughter in the Loveland Schools. So I want the schools to thrive. But I’m not going to make decisions with just the students in mind. I will always make decisions with the best interests of the students and the taxpayers in mind.
How can I be so sure that we can turn things around? I’ve seen this situation before. Professionally, I’ve provided communication and community engagement services to school districts. In fact, I’m the only candidate who has provided professional communication and community engagement services to school districts.
I’ve attended hundreds of meetings of school boards and local governments in various communities as a news reporter and consultant to school districts for several decades. Additionally, I’ve attended meetings of the Loveland School Board as a parent, taxpayer and now candidate. I’ve learned what works and doesn’t work in school districts. I will bring those insights and ideas to the Loveland School Board.
A school district in western Hamilton county had failed two consecutive levies. I spent a year helping that district with communication and community engagement. With great leadership by a new superintendent, they passed a levy and just a few months ago they opened new schools. But again, I’m not saying we need new schools here. That’s up to the community.
Here’s another example about why we should have hope and optimism. This example shows the importance of setting priorities with our school district budget at a time when the district’s funds are stretched so thin.
For the first time this fall, the Loveland Schools are offering full-day kindergarten to all families who want it for their children. Significantly, the district expanded its kindergarten spots without additional salary costs. After a retirement, district leaders moved a teaching position to the Loveland Early Childhood Center as enrollment numbers changed in the upper grades. It’s all a matter of setting priorities with limited funds.
I know what needs to be done to move the district forward. I have the experience, the determination and the ability to listen to unite the community.
I hope you’ll vote for me.
Elliot Grossman, who lives in Miami Township, is running for the Loveland City School Board. He is a Loveland area business owner and a former president of the Cincinnatus Association, a 100-year old civic association that works to improve education, government and diversity in Greater Cincinnati.