Perrysburg voters wooed PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer   
Friday, 20 September 2013 10:25
School board candidates (from left) Cal Smith, Mark Schoenlein, Lara Lengel, Sue Larimer and Gretchen Downs address a crowd during a candidates forum at a Perrysburg Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Perrysburg. (Photo: Kristen Norman/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG - Candidates for school board and municipal court judge debated issues relevant to the posts they're seeking during a forum Wednesday.
Five of the seven people seeking three available school board seats participated at the Carranor Hunt and Polo Club, including current board members Gretchen Downs and Mark Schoenlein, and candidates Sue Larimer, Lara Lengel and Cal Smith. Incumbent board member Valerie Hovland and candidate Jason Decker were not present.
Judge hopefuls Tom Mackin and Molly Mack both attended the event, presented by the Perrysburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
Mackin and Mack, who each hope to replace retiring Municipal Court Judge Dwight Osterud, answered questions about their qualifications and several issues facing the court, such as increased domestic violence and drunk driving cases.
Each touted their courtroom experience, Mackin working in private practice and Mack as chief of the civil division of the Wood County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Mackin, a city council member since 1998, pointed toward a long record of public service in many avenues, while Mack said she has experience writing opinions and managing a court docket.
When asked about the judge's role in the community, both highlighted the court explorers mock trial program Osterud started with area high school students as an important link to youth. Mackin said he would continue the program, with Mack offering to expand it.
Perrysburg judge candidate, Molly Mack, addresses a crowd at the Perrysburg Chamber of Commerce lucheon in Perrysburg, Ohio.
Perrysburg judge candidate, Tom Mackin, address a crowd at the Perrysburg Chamber of Commerce lucheon in Perrysburg, Ohio.
"I think a judge is much more than just the person that sits on the bench," Mack said.
Each candidate also spoke about how to protect victims of domestic violence, particularly in cases of homicide involving intimate partners.
Mack said she supported a no-bond policy in some cases, but others present an "opportunity to make a difference" with first-time offenders.
Mackin said domestic violence continues to increase, and it's important that police, attorneys and court staff are well trained and have clear guidelines on how to handle such cases. He supports continuing a program that puts officers in touch with the judge before any bond is set.
"I think that's an important contact from the police of different jurisdictions to the court so everybody knows right away," Mackin said.
At the other end of the table, school board candidates discussed challenges facing the district such as future funding and crowded classrooms, as well as the responsibilities that fall upon a board member.
The most engaging conversations were held when the group addressed how the state's allowance of school vouchers for charter and private schools affects local districts, and how to promote diversity within school staff.
Most agreed that ethnicity shouldn't be a factor in hiring, even if meant to encourage diversifying the learning experience of students.
"I think when you make an effort to deliberately go out of your way to create diversity, that in and of itself is a bad thing," Smith said. "If the best candidate was a Martian, let's hire them."
Schoenlein said the district's policies reflect as much, with no consideration given to race or creed.
Lengel said she was disappointed with Smith's labeling of efforts to increase diversity as trying to be politically correct. Larimer suggested using outside programs and speakers could be an effective way to address the issue in Perrysburg schools without altering hiring policies.
While most considered the state's approach to funding charter and private schools with vouchers that use public money and take it away from districts whose students leave, several said the competition with other schools has had a positive impact.
Downs said she thinks such schools improved use of technology has pushed public schools like Perrysburg to increase their own commitment.
Smith agreed that there shouldn't be a "monopoly" on education, and that competition makes schools stronger.
Larimer said the matter was a "loaded question," as much of the public is unaware of the funding system that essentially penalizes districts with reduced funding when students leave for the other schools.
Lengel and Larimer agreed that while the funding mechanism is unfair, it's important for parents to have options, as all students don't require the same method of instruction.
The chamber will host a second forum, this one involving candidates for Perrysburg Mayor and city council, and Perrysburg Township Trustee, at 11 a.m. Oct. 16.

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