Editors note: This is the first of three stories giving a more in-depth look at the 12 candidates up for election in the race for Buckeye Local Board of Education seats.
Candidate Mike Belon, is a Yorkville resident whose face and name: "Mr. Mike" are familiar to many Buckeye Local School District families, as he spent nearly 30 years in the employ of the school district, working for 24 years at what was the elementary school in Yorkville and another four years at the high school building..
For 12 years Belon served as president of the local union representing the non-certified employees of the district, providing him the unique opportunity to have participated in contract discussions with the some of the current members of the administrative team as well as the current board.
His past experiences as a coach for an Odyssey of the Mind team that earned a fourth place state level finish, provides him experiences unique to those who have had opportunities to work directly with students in pursuit of a mutual goal.
Belon also believes his four years as a member of the school district's Safety Committee again provides him another unique point of view and personal experiences to bring forward in support of his desire to earn a seat on the school board this election.
While Belon believes the district has been making improvements in building safety policies and procedures he is a firm believer there are always reasons to review and continue to update these standards and procedures.
The focus of a board member's duties is to make certain the quality of education being provided students is measured against the highest standards, and attention to its always changing nature is maintained. Belon believes one way to keep the top quality of coursework being offered in the local school district is to increase the number of college prep courses offered.
Candidate Ed Blazeski Jr. of Tiltonsville, if elected expects to seek a change in how the agenda of the regular board meetings are structured in an effort to bring out additional details in the day to day operational matters of the school district.
"No one has directly asked me any questions, but hearing the voters of the district, their concerns seem to be that the information from board meetings is vague," said Blazeski. "One of my goals is to change the agendas of the board meetings."
He would like to see additional information being shared about t how money is being spent and what we are trying to do to upgrade building security levels.
Blazeski is an advocate for a "stress free environment for teacher and the other employees.
He would like to see additional focus on matters that can "bring back the moral and pride of this district," something he believes could be realized by an increased administrative and board presence in the school buildings on a day to day basis.
"Remember, not one person makes a board; we must all work together, I would be only one vote but, that would be the voice of the parents, students, teachers and the non-certified employees.
Candidate James Cesario of Rayland is a 2010 graduate of Buckeye Local School; a 2011 graduate of The Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy; has served as a volunteer firefighter and holds "various certifications pertaining to areas of both public and personal safety". He is pursuing undergraduate degrees in Criminal Justice and in Political Science at Ohio University Eastern.
"I'm running because I believe a significant change is needed within the district pertaining to the highest levels of the administration and that an individual my age can offer a unique perspective towards the legislative system within the school district," he said recently in prepared comments.
"I am strongly disappointed in what I view as being a lack of common sense and leadership in regards to the manner of how and why finances are being utilized. It is wrong to purpose levies that have to do with proficient schooling operations and fundamental basics of running a school district when you're carelessly spending funds on other lesser priorities," he said. " It's time for accountability towards the individuals who are making and approving these fiscal decisions and we as a voting community have the obligation to start holding these individuals responsible for their actions."
"If elected I will vote with what the majority of the districts constituency wants pertaining to policies and procedures. When it comes to employment I do not care what your last name is, who you know, where you go to church, or how many butts you kissed to work your way up the social ladder. I care about qualifications and how much of an asset an individual can be to our school system," said Cesario
"When animosity is presented by your political peers I want to make it well known that it is the citizens, the school bus drivers, and the teachers who make this district function and that it is their opinions and ideals that should be held in the highest regards."
Additional comments concerning his goals for the school district if elected include: "fiscal accountability; revision of the current legislative and executive administration(ors) at the highest levels within the school district; re-building the relationship between the educators, laborers, and administration within the district; improving school safety without imposing levies, or higher taxation rates; and having constituents take pride in their school district once more and realize only their vote and their voice has the power to make the changes available to meet the needs of their children. And that Buckeye Local is their school district not that of any one sole individual or group of people(s) by which they may feel or have been told otherwise."
Russell "Rusty" Cominsky, of Tiltonsville, an employee with Jefferson County 911, has found local voters are interested in increasing their personal understanding and knowledge of just how school districts conduct day-to-day business matters.
He also believes voters would like more details of how business is conducted, particularly in the areas of personnel and of financial matters, be brought forward in a more transparent fashion on a regular basis.
Recognizing the structure of the school systems in Ohio is built on a framework that considers annual audits to be crucial, he said, "all money must be accounted for at all times and that the state of Ohio conducts performance audits on school districts every year," offered Cominsky.
"I've told people that if they have a question or suspect improper conduct, they should either attend a board meeting or contact a board member and demand answers," he said. "Idle chat amongst neighbors accomplishes nothing. It's the duty of the citizens to hold the board and staff accountable for the actions in the district. If someone has an issue about anything involving the district it needs to be brought to the attention of the board at the earliest possible time."
Cominsky said he considers the safety and security of the students, staff and public in and around the district's facilities as leading his list of goals to address if elected, as well as trying to "put to rest the notion of corruption in both the school board and the staff/administration." The third goal he intends to focus on involves efforts to continue to improve test scores, attendance and increase drug prevention programs".
Asked to reflect on what he considers the single greatest concern for the district: Cominsky said "the safety and security of students, staff and facilities." He suggested working with staff, district partners and local public safety resources to increase training and enhance security.
"No facility is 100 percent secure, but with diligence, patience and support from all parties involved we can make a difference," he said, noting one way would be through establishing the position of safety Director for the school district
Asked why he would be a candidate to support above others on the slate he suggests voters look to his more than 25 years in public safety.
"People only call upon public safety personnel when their problems are too big to handle themselves. The Board of Education is the problem solver of the district."
Cominsky has a daughter and a niece who are students in the Buckeye Local School district, and is a graduate of what was Buckeye South High School. Cominsky is the Jefferson County 911 representative on the district's safety council, and is also involved with police, fire and EMS in the district.
Concerning state mandates: he believes his familiarity with funding challenges through his professional responsibilities provides him unique capabilities and insight into how to successfully navigate those challenges.