Peggy Thompson is concerned that Bowling Green City Schools didn’t have a plan in place when coronavirus loomed in 2019.
She wants to make sure what she considers a lack of preparation doesn’t happen again.
Thompson is running for one of the three seats available on the board of education.
She said she is running because of her grandchildren who attend Bowling Green schools.
The learning loss experienced by students due to remote learning during the 2020-21 school year should not have happened, Thompson said.
“They just didn’t get quality time with trying to do it online.”
Bowling Green had no plan in place while other districts spent months planning the return to school in fall 2020, she said.
One option could have been to have middle school and high school students taught online while using all the buildings to teach elementary students in person while maintaining social distancing.
“There was just no planning. We need to be setting some short-term and long-term goals and I don’t see that happening.”
While the district is hiring good teachers, an early learning foundation is needed to keep kids from struggling. They need time and attention, Thompson said.
She has started volunteering in an elementary library and is seeing a lack of respect shown by the kids to their teachers as well as the facilities.
As a board member, she would make sure there are more consequences for bad actions. Thompson also would spend time in the buildings.
“As a board member I would be visible, I would be around and I would be encouraging.”
Thompson thinks if the students knew there were community members coming in watching their actions, they would be better behaved.
She wants to see Penta Career Center utilized more, and to have vocational jobs introduced in the elementaries, perhaps to fifth graders.
“If they are excited about something, they’re going to study,” she said.
Thompson spent 32 years in the accounts payable department for the school district. She said she understands the reports as well as budgets discussed by the board.
She wants to see more transparency, even for things that are going right.
“We need to communicate that to the taxpayers,” Thompson said. “I don’t think we explain that enough. Money is a big issue. We need to be more transparent to let people know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
This is Thompson’s second attempt for a board seat. She came in fourth among eight candidates in November 2019. She also applied to fill the seat vacated by Bill Clifford. That seat went to Ryan Myers, who also is a candidate on the Nov. 2 ballot.
She said masks should not be required as students have a low transfer rate of the virus.
“These kids are resilient. I don’t want to close the whole school down but I think there is a way to keep kids in the buildings with no masks.”
There has been too much time worrying about facilities and not enough time spent getting kids caught up, Thompson said.
She said that she was not invited to participate in the facilities task force and neither was candidate Jessica Swaisgood.
“Those of us putting some skin in the game should have been invited to those meetings as well.”
Thompson wants to see more planning before the district commits to building new or renovating existing schools.
“Funding for it is the big question,” she said.
Revenue is shrinking as people move out of the district, she said.
While Crim Elementary is solid, Kenwood, Conneaut and the high school need work. Priorities need to be set, Thompson said.
“The funds are going to be the toughest thing,” she said, and pointed out there are several county and state properties in the district that are exempt from paying taxes.
She said the state needs to make changes in the tax law to make the district whole.
She also suggested putting donors’ names on the buildings.
“If we want a new school, we’re going to have to get creative.”
Community members are leery of the district not maintaining the facilities it has and while the buildings were empty last year, repairs should have been made.
Thompson gave the district a C.
“We lost a lot of ground,” she said. “It is going to take a while to get people feeling good about the school again.”
While teachers did a good job with remote lessons, it was not like being in the classroom, she said.
“We’ve lost families. I don’t think we’re failing but were not doing a good job either. It is going to take some time to get built back up.”
She sees the purpose of a board member as being a liaison with the taxpayers and to be a cheerleader for the district.
She also wants to have more discussion before votes are taken.
“I want to see what we’re approving and not just rubber stamp it. That may not be what we’re doing now but that is the impression people get,” Thompson said. “They are there to guide and if we have a well-rounded board, we’re going to get a lot of viewpoints.”
Board members need to be visible in the buildings and in the community and be available to answer questions.
“I hope that we can get back to being proud of ourselves and proud of our community. I want to build the kids first and make sure they have a sound foundation,” Thompson said.