© 2022 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Northeast Ohio school board races are a big draw in the year's elections

Hudson BOE.PNG
Kabir Bhatia
Hudson Board of Education meetings featured fiery and contentious public comment over the two months leading up to Tuesday's election. Three incumbents faced two challengers running on a platform critical of the district's mask policy and diversity initiative. At the beginning of the September 27 meeting, hundreds of parents and faculty showed up in support of the incumbents.

A number of communities in Northeast Ohio saw strong voter turnout in a year when local was the big word for elections. A number of municipalities saw heated school board races driven by a range of school issues from mask mandates to how diversity is talked about in schools.

Hudson, Nordonia voters settle contentious races

Voters in Hudson decided a contentious school board race Tuesday, as three incumbents faced two challengers who ran on an anti-mask, anti-CRT platform. Recent school board meetings have included hours of public comment on the district’s mask policy and diversity initiatives. There were also accusations over a textbook of writing prompts which was removed due to its content. Christine Callahan has two kids in the district and says issues like that have been “overblown.”

“From my personal exposure, I know there were people involved in that who specifically stated that that wasn’t necessarily a problem for them, but they were looking to get school board members out who were for masking, and who had voted to mask. So, I think there was a lot of theater involved in that, in my opinion.”

Board of Elections races have received a great deal more attention this year, as school boards have become political battlegrounds. In Nordonia, there were no incumbents for the three open school board seats, which go to educators Amy Vajdich and Jason Tidmore, plus attorney Matt Kearney. They beat police officer Tim Ellis, and Joseph Kopec – who told the Akron Beacon Journal he was “tired” of what was happening in the schools. He pulled his four children out last year over the district’s COVID-19 protocols.

Get more Summit County school board results here.

Cleveland Heights-University Heights incumbents prevail

Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board incumbents Malia Lewis, Dan Heintz and Jodi Sourini defended their seats Tuesday night, handily beating the “New Voices for a New Direction” challengers Charles Drake, Maureen “Mo” Lynn and Mordechai Rennert.

Jodi Sourini, Dan Heintz and Malia Lewis on election night.
Andrea Turner
Act ONE Communications
Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board incumbents Jodi Sourini, Dan Heintz and Malia Lewis on election night.

Heintz told Ideastream Public Media that the top goal for the election was to keep the school board’s make-up “pro-public schools.”

Yeah, that's job number one, is to make sure that the five members of the board are genuinely in support of public education and in support of Tiger Nation,” Heintz said.

Although Sourini felt confident about how the public felt about the work the CH-UH board is doing advocating for the district’s children, she did worry about how successful the opposition might be in garnering votes.

“It's always a concern because you just never know who's going to come out and vote in an off-year election, right? But. I was confident that our community is very well informed. Their informed voters, they do their research,” Sourini said “I think that our community really appreciates what we've done. As far as you know, all the trips we've made to Columbus to fight for our community.

Two conservative candidates join the Strongsville School Board

64-year-old Sharon Kilbane ran on a campaign that was critical of COVID-related mandates and conversations about race in the classroom. Conversations that “divide,” rather than “unite,” according to Kilbane, a grandmother of 16.

 Hayley Christine Stovcik and Sharon Kilbane on election night.
Hayley Christine Stovcik
Hayley Christine Stovcik and Sharon Kilbane (right) on election night. They will add two new conservative voices to the Strongsville school board.

On Tuesday night, that messaging and Kilbane’s strong ties to Strongsville proved to be a winning combination. Kilbane easily secured a spot on the Strongsville school board and said the election results gave her hope that voters liked her “conservative views.”

“Parents need to be in charge of their kids. We need to take that back into their lives," Kilbane said. “I'm glad that people are rallying around that. I think it's time government gets out and parents have a voice in all the things that their kids are learning and doing at school.”

Hayley Christine Stovcik, who held similar positions to Kilbane, also won a seat Strongsville school board Tuesday night. Together, they ousted board appointee Sherry Buckner-Sallee, who was looking to secure her first full four-year term.

In looking towards her first term school board member, Kilbane said she would give it her all.

“God will help me through it. I mean, all the decisions will be carefully considered. You know, I love the kids and all I can do is my very best in their best interest,” Kilbane said.

Rocky River adds three new members across the political spectrum

The Rocky River school board race was a crowded one, with 9 candidates vying for 3 seats on the board. After the votes were tallied, incumbent Kathy Goepfert lost her seat, making way for three first-time members.

Lauren Negrey and Jessica Wilson, who campaigned together, were the top-two vote getters, garnering 16% of the vote each.

Following behind them, was Peter Corrigan, a member of the conservative slate whose slogan was ‘Education not Activism,’ who secured the third seat on the board.

Chuck Bartsche was also a part of the slate that railed against mask mandates and Critical Race Theory being taught in schools. Bartsche garnered 11% of the vote, but believes he felt his candidacy was instrumental in getting Corrigan on the board.

“I think I threw the block that allowed a conservative voice to be on the school board. I mean, nobody recognizes the block, but I'm very proud to have done that.,” Bartsche said. “I think I communicated properly to the city, you know, that CRT was being taught in the district and that the school board that should stand up to that.”

Get complete school board results for Cuyahoga County here.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.
Jenny Hamel is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media and calls the eastside of Cleveland home. Prior to that, she was a reporter for KCRW, the NPR affiliate in Los Angeles, covering a range of issues from immigration to politics.