You had questions For CPS school board candidates. Here are their answers
Four seats on the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education are up for election this November. Familiar names on the ballot include current board members Pamela Bowers and Mike Moroski. Board Vice President Ryan Messer and Board Member Melanie Bates have both elected not to run for another term. Board President Carolyn Jones and members Eve Bolton and Ben Lindy's terms don't expire until Dec. 31, 2024.
We reached out to our listeners to learn what questions you wanted answered before heading to the polls.
Below you'll find answers to some of the questions we received, as well as a brief profile of each of the six candidates.
If you plan on voting in this election, you must have registered by 11:59 p.m. Oct. 4.
- Do you support getting the XTRA bus routes back? If so, what would be your plan to get them reimplemented?
- What is one thing you see happening in CPS that is not going well? What is your plan to address it?
- What is the main issue that inspired you to run for school board?
- What are your thoughts about current mental health services for students and staff both during the pandemic and moving forward past the pandemic?
- If COVID-19 cases rise within the district again, would you be for or against moving the district to remote learning? Explain.
- English and math proficiency rates dropped within the district during the pandemic, especially amongst third graders. What are your plans to address learning loss to prevent children from being impacted throughout primary and secondary education?
- Student groups have been vocal for both removing and keeping school resource officers within the district. What is your stance on the issue and how would you address it?
Meet The Candidates (listed alphabetically)
Bowers has been on the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education since 2019. She graduated from Mt. Healthy High School before earning degrees from Fisk University and Tennessee State University, where she obtained a Masters of Science degree in guidance and counseling. She is currently the director of school-based mental health services at Central Clinic Behavioral Health.
Craig attended Walnut Hills High School before graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics from UC and Juris Doctor from the UC College of Law. Previously, he's worked in the Public Affairs Office and the General Counsel's Office at Cincinnati Public Schools. Recently, Craig has worked for Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Greater Cincinnati and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access at the University of Cincinnati.
Favors has worked as a teacher within the Cincinnati Public Schools district for 23 years and is a former U.S. Army officer.
Dr. Kareem Moffett
Moffett has worked as a chemist, an academic advisor and as director of diversity programs and services at Ursuline Academy of Cincinnati. She attended the University of Cincinnati, earning a Ph.D. of educating urban African American students. Within Cincinnati Public Schools, Moffett taught math and science at John P. Parker School and South Avondale School. Along with teaching math and science at Withrow High School, she also taught 10th grade geophysics.
Moroski has been serving on the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education since 2018. He's received degrees from both Xavier University the University of Notre Dame. Moroski is the policy and partnership manager at Cradle Cincinnati and serves as a trustee for Camp Joy. He's previously served as the executive director of UpSpring, a teacher at Moeller High School and as assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School.
Wineberg has worked as an educator for over a decade. She attended Walnut Hills High School, and then earned degrees at the University of Cincinnati and Mount Saint Joseph University. In 2008, Wineberg won a gold medal in the 4x400 meter relay at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, becoming University of Cincinnati’s first African American female to win a gold medal.
WVXU has only edited candidates' answers for style, clarity and grammar.
Do you support getting the XTRA bus routes back? If so, what would be your plan to get them reimplemented?
Bowers: Yes, I support having the XTRA bus routes restored. I am hopeful that data that our district administration is gathering, i.e. attendance, as well as the safety concerns around inclement weather, and as daylight savings time approaches, will help to come in the board’s dialogue with SORTA around the best outcome, restoring the XTRA routes, the safest way to increase transportation safety for out students.
Craig: I believe the ideal solution is multi-fold but does include the return of the XTRA bus routes. However, the ideal is not what we are working with. A workable solution would be to return specialized routes that have few stops and are more dedicated to the students. This would include having the buses pick up the students at the school. It also involves pushing for talks with SORTA to include a solution-focused strategy. One that looks at the limitations of the lack of bus drivers, but remains centered around providing our students with safe travels to and from school. The ultimate solution is for the district to offer more resources at local schools so that fewer students are having to travel across the city for their education.
Favors: We cannot try to solve Metro driver shortages so we must be ready to take it upon ourselves to look for alternative transportation means like many other districts throughout the country: Lyft, Uber, private providers to name a few. Adding competition to our providers can only strengthen the service.
Moffett: Placing the needs and safety of the kids first would dictate that we restore/reinstate dedicated routes for every location where the lack is causing dangerous situations and/or notable time delays. As a school board member I will request more input from families, students, drivers, administrators and the community to prioritize safety and efficiency so our kids can focus on learning and growing. While we work on this we can incorporate work that has been in process around safe walking routes as well, to attempt to eliminate any more children hurt traveling to school. If our bus routes cannot be restored, we need to work with SORTA, the city and communities to ensure that our students have alternative safe and timely round trip routes that do not impact their education or social-emotional learning.
Moroski: Yes. Adamantly so. The Metro plan is not good for families and kids. We passed a resolution to this effect, and we have directed the interim superintendent to continue pursuing ways to get our routes back. My plan is to not back down. At present, we haven't, and we won't.
Wineberg: Yes, I definitely support getting the XTRA bus routes back into full existence. I remember as a 7th grader, riding the XTRA bus to school and I had the ability to feel safe and knew that I had reliable transportation each and every day. I didn’t have to worry about how far I would have to walk to the bus, where it was going to pick me up at and what happened if I missed the bus. I think that CPS, SORTA, the board, community partners, City Council, Metro all need to have a seat at the table. It is vital that these key groups have representation in order to be transparent and resolve this so that our students who live in the various 54 neighborhoods and beyond aren’t subjected to delays in arriving at school, crowded bus stations and unsafe conditions. I would ask that a new contract be discussed or they look at other solutions that will entice drivers to want to be hired and to also see if another bus company can be utilized. I also think that there needs to be a discussion about where funding or allotted monies have been used and the reasoning behind these decisions.
What is one thing that you see happening in CPS that is not going well? What is your plan to address it?
Bowers: The one thing I think our district has improved in is communicating with parents via multiple streams, inclusive of obtaining feedback via surveys. We still have more work to do. One thing that we can improve in is collecting data to help us strategically identify which parents are completing surveys, from which school, as well as demographics. Having this information helps our district re-align our effort in equitable polling.
Craig: Communication from the district has been poor. The website is not easily navigable and information coming from the district to parents is incomplete, at best. Additionally, the lack of communication around the changes to transportation made it difficult for parents and students to adjust. With respect to communicating better, I would advocate for a revamping of the school district's website. Additionally, I would push to ensure that both external and internal communication is better managed. Improving the district's communication will allow us to make more comprehensive changes to improve the education for our students.
Favors: Even before the pandemic our graduation rate was extremely low and now our students have large gaps in their learning. We must focus on bridging those gaps to decrease our dropout rate and help to increase our graduation rate.
Moffett: Inequitable educational options within our district is a concern. We have expanded certification programs and changed how entrance to our magnet high schools is decided but we are still not offering enough equitable educational options across our district to address the talents and ambitions of our students. CPS must become more creative and flexible to meet the needs of our students, and utilize all the assets available from our teachers, staff, families and communities. We can no longer accept that some voices at board meetings and some vocal segments of our district truly speak for all our schools and communities. We NEED to learn the lessons of the pandemic to find efficient, thoughtful ways for parents to share their insights, dilemmas, troubles, ideas and passion with our board to contribute to enriched equitable decisions. Community support and involvement is built from the ground up: we can use what we have learned to improve the quality and the breadth of input to improve our responsiveness to what kids need.
As an active school board member, I will attend meetings of school LSDMC, PTO, community council meetings and events to see what's happening in real time to real families with real needs and access input and support from community members, business leaders and innovators in our city. I also plan to support efforts to have student voices in decisions of the board such as the superintendent search.
Moroski: We need to rebuild trust in the community. The past year and a half has been traumatic on everyone and we need to ensure we have policies and procedures moving forward that encourage transparency. Truly, transparency breeds trust. We need the community's FEEDBACK more so than INPUT. We often ask for the latter and not the former. CPS will build back even STRONGER, but we need to do so with everyone at the table.
Wineberg: I believe that the one thing that CPS could improve on is their communication with families. It has been a tough time these past two years and families are feeling as if they can’t trust the district. I have heard many families refer to CPS as a district that is always changing and not taking into account families or students' situations. I know that a pandemic is something that no one could have ever anticipated, but moving forward we must do things differently - starting with listening to our families. I plan to open lines of communication between the district and families. I want the board to be transparent with families and bring more community input. I will be a board member that is accessible to our district, who will engage and allow for the voices to be fully heard. I plan to have ongoing dialogue with parents through the use of productive surveys (not biased) and then take those data points to report out the findings to our families. I want to provide a connection and allow families to feel connected to their school and community.
What is the main issue that inspired you to run for school board?
Bowers: The main issue that initially inspired me to run for school board is the opportunity to advocate for students and families in a macro system.
Craig: The main issue that inspired me to run for office was the district's reaction to COVID-19. The confusion that many parents, students, teachers and staff experienced was preventable. It is something that I noticed about our district. We have unfortunately had a history of waiting until there is a problem to address some of the major concerns in the district. But the district is starting to address more issues before they become a problem. They are beginning to also put substance and planning to their solutions. That is something I will be focused on if elected to the Board.
Favors: I am running for school board because I want to make a positive impact on students, their families and teachers. I am committed to hearing from all stakeholders and assessing what is working and what needs to be changed. Board members set policies which directly impact all involved. When elected I will focus on the following areas: 1.) Advocating for better policies based on stakeholder feedback and current data. 2.) Increasing diversity hiring across the board and increase diversity training. We must supply our students with role models which reflect our community and country. 3.) Increase equitable funding for all schools ensuring that all students have textbooks to take home. Textbooks provide content, practice and serve as a communication tool with parents. I believe parents want to help but often don’t know the latest educational methods.
Moffett: The lack of effective engagement during the pandemic was concerning yet motivating. During the pandemic, as the chair of the education committee of the Cincinnati NAACP, we conducted Zoom workshops for the community on a variety of topics including: advocating for students with disabilities, the Preschool Promise and Lincoln Heights and the gun range. While in this work I was able to assist parents and bridge community connections; yet many times parents and students still felt unheard, undervalued and left out of their education. Community members asked me to seriously consider running for office to use my talents and skills to impact our education in Cincinnati. The pandemic exposed many areas needing improvement and also that we need to actively engage in order to recover.
Moroski: Equity for all young people. Our society's systems favor the privileged and are built to ensure those folks have access to anything they want. Education, if administered properly and justly, can afford EVERYONE the same opportunities in life. We need to upend our systems to center CHILDREN. Our country does not presently do this, but we can change that in our corner of the world. I was a teacher for 10 years, an assistant principal for two, and ran an education nonprofit organization for three. Kids motivate me and inspire me. They got me here and I just want to do good by them.
Wineberg: I was inspired to run because of the great opportunities that CPS afforded me as a student. As a CPS alum, teacher and parent, I felt as though our district could do a better job of bringing diversity into our curriculum and environment. I want to ensure that CPS is doing everything possible to afford all of our students the same opportunities I had. The kind of opportunities that led me to becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist and 2nd grade teacher. I am passionate about our youth and the opportunities that they can use to reach their full potential.
What are your thoughts about current mental health services for students and staff both during the pandemic and moving forward past the pandemic?
Bowers: As a mental health therapist, I have always been concerned about the well-being of both students, as well as teachers. I am pleased that this year, with each school building having a school social worker (SSW), our students and teachers will receive the social-emotional learning (SEL) services and supports needed. The pandemic has heightened the importance of paralleling SEL with Bloom’s Taxonomy. Realizing that both are essential to the whole child in academic success. I am focused on ensuring that these services are maintained, as the long-term effects of this pandemic, psychologically, emotionally and mentally are unknown.
Craig: The recent investment into more counselors in the district is a big deal. Unfortunately for many of our students, the need for mental health assistance is crucial. Whether it is one's home life, bullying, sexual awareness or genetic information, the need for mental health assistance can be important for students, teachers and staff. Often we pay attention to the trials and tribulations of our students without thinking about the mental health struggles of our staff and teachers. For many of our staff, the last two years have been rough. But as we move forward, we need to make more of an emphasis in providing space and time for our staff and teachers who may feel burned out, stressed out or left out.
Favors: All stakeholders have suffered trauma from living within this pandemic. The impact may not be easily seen for all and some will take longer to show signs of the trauma. We must increase our mental health services for everyone working and learning within our district. I would consult with trauma specialist to create programming for all concerned.
Moffett: Recognizing and supporting the mental health of our students and staff is paramount to our success moving forward. The physical safety and securing of our students and staff should be protected by every means possible and the mental health is just as paramount. I believe that we are all experiencing trauma in some manner having managed COVID and now the variants. Our children have had unprecedented exposure to stressors that many can only imagine. Our teachers and staff not only have to manage their own families and their career stressors with safety in the classrooms and buildings. Our students and staff need mental health services available that are trauma supportive and consistent. Students perform best when they know they belong, when they know adults are listening, and when they know their todays and tomorrows are important to us all. We need to dedicate additional resources to support the mental health needs of our students and staff and I would commit to approving funding.
Moroski: I think we did a good job of making these services available. More so, we invested HEAVILY in them in this most recent budget; hiring many more social workers and guidance counselors. To say nothing of our MindPeace partnership that enables us to have a mental health specialist in EVERY CPS building.
Wineberg: I think that if you asked me in the beginning of the pandemic if the current mental health services that were made available for students and staff were up to standards. I would have said no, not during the beginning and middle part of the pandemic. I felt that the mental health of the district’s staff/students were not taken into account. But I must say that now CPS, after sending out various surveys, were able to listen to the staff/families of students. CPS as a whole district stepped up to the plate and made available services to ensure that mental and emotional support of the staff/students were a priority. Are we there yet? No, but we are definitely in a better place and I am proud of what the district is stepping up to do to ensure that help and resources are available. Currently the CPS district offers MindPeace, a mental health resource that provides school-based mental health support. The district also provides parent resources to families that provide suggested help to students suffering from depression/suicide/bullying. They have also increased their numbers of mental health support and therapists in the schools. Students are able to be provided with extra social and emotional (SEL) support to ensure that the stress encountered with the pandemic and life is not what causes our students to shut down, or give up on school. I want to see all students thrive and be successful.
If COVID-19 cases rise within the district again, would you be for or against moving the district to remote learning? Explain.
Bowers: I am interested in sustaining our students with in-person learning. Because the school board and administration has not discussed any metrics around this, in collaboration with the health department, I would need to have more information about the effectiveness of the current safety precautions that we have in place, such as contact tracing and quarantines.
Craig: Decisions regarding whether to move to remote education should be done in a methodical manner and be based on scientific evidence. We have to look at what resources the school has, how many students would be affected, and are there alternatives to complete remote education that are possible. Additionally, an increase in the cases of COVID-19 for the general population may not be replicated in the district. All of this must be reviewed and considered when addressing whether to return our students at any school to remote education. I would also want there to be a plan put in place for remote education prior to any school's return. It is insufficient to simply say return to remote education without a plan on how to do so. We must look at all factors such as how to provide IEPs, what technological resources might the students need, and what steps are needed for that transition. The last time we transitioned to remote learning, we did not have answers to these questions.
Favors: I would not be in favor of returning to remote learning. CPS does not have the resources to make that transition successful and last year has proven that fact. I would work to keep students in school and mitigate the health risks of the virus. This plan would benefit students academically and socially.
Moffett: My goal is to keep our schools open in the safest manner possible. Our district must trust the advice of our medical partners (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Centers for Disease Control, etc.) to guide us on what is best for our students and staff. As long as our medical partners are in support, my position is to keep schools open because there are families where the safest place for their students is the school building. I believe that it is the district's responsibility to provide equitable education options for students, regardless if they are in-person or remote.
Moroski: I would be for it if we had NO OTHER choice. Thankfully, we are the safest district in the region with our mask policy and brand new vaccine requirement policy. I am hopeful we can pass a vaccine requirement policy for students as well. We HAVE to do all we can to keep our doors open.
Wineberg: As a teacher I witnessed firsthand the difficulties that come with virtual learning. There were many students who fell behind when learning from home whether it be due to lack of resources, difficulty learning remotely or any other outside factors. While I believe that in-person learning is the best way for our students, especially those in their most formative years. I have seen firsthand with my own current students the mental toll that staring at a screen has done to them. I do understand the importance of keeping the students and their loved ones physically healthy, but I would be hesitant to return to remote learning. Our children have been wearing their mask to school and although there are cases in the different schools of CPS, I know the children are learning more efficiently in person and are able to move forward in helping to close the gap on lost student achievement.
English and math proficiency rates dropped within the district during the pandemic, especially amongst third graders. What are your plans to address learning loss to prevent children from being impacted throughout primary and secondary education?
Bowers: This is very important to me. As learning loss has occurred in most students across our nation, we are naturally focused on decreasing the gaps. Our district has hired reading and math specialists for all of our schools to be able be intentional about helping to improve scores. As we are awaiting the most recent MAP assessments across all grades, we will be able to begin implementation of two-week testing cycles to measure progress, re-align interventions and adjust as needed.
Craig: Unfortunately, the lack of planning and the difficult transition to remote learning left many of our youngest learners without vital resources and time with their teachers. While some efforts, such as the Summer Scholars program, have been added as part of the solution, there is still more that can be done. I would start by rethinking how we discuss alternative teaching resources for our students. Working with our local universities and trusted academic allies we can build some additional math and English assistance. If it is done right, we can put in measurable goals so that we can assess the effectiveness of the programs and make decisions about next steps going forward. I also think we have to give our teachers more support in their efforts to evolve how education is delivered. Utilizing more online resources to supplement the in-class education can also be another way to provide more information for our students who are struggling.
Favors: There is no quick fix to bridging these gaps in education. To bridge these gaps, we may need to examine an extended day or calendar year of school. We can’t magically make up for this gap by removing another subject and spending more time on math and English. Our students need all subjects to be well-rounded individuals. We not only have academic gaps but many of the teachers have noticed significant social gaps in their students' development as well.
Moffett: We have great teachers and staff within our schools. I believe that they need to be supported in their work to provide creative and innovative instruction to our students without the pressures of standardized and mandated testing. I would advocate for an increased budget for innovative curriculums and extra staffing. I supported district efforts that provided summer education options to students that were identified as needing more support. This is a start and we can go further. We also need to work with our partnering organizations to identify how we can utilize their expertise, and then connect them to our schools in specific ways that will fill the needs of our students and address specific learning loss concerns.
Moroski: We invested a lot of money into ACCELERATING learning in this last budget. We have dozens of first grade reading specialists in the district now and many other adults to work with our young people. The key is ACCELERATION, not remediation.
Wineberg: As a current 2nd grade teacher I know how difficult it was during the 2020-2021 school year to ensure students were fully processing such vital subjects as math and English. I plan to address this loss by providing extra support for our elementary students over the next two years in math and English to make sure they are able to catch up and build upon those foundational blocks. I also know that the district provided this summer students an opportunity to get extra learning through their (Summer) Scholars program. The district also plans to implement a new first grade literacy goal to make up for the pandemic loss, and provide a new reading specialist for K/1st grade to ensure this goal is being met. Reading is an essential tool needed for everything in school. We must have children reading.
Student groups have been vocal for both removing and keeping school resource officers within the district. What is your stance on the issue and how would you address it?
Bowers: The role of a student resource officer (SRO) is to ensure that our learning environment is safe for students, teachers and staff, provide resources to school regarding school safety and address criminal activity within the school. I am not in favor or removing SROs from our schools. I believe that our re-assessing how our school administration utilize our SROs is a huge concern. There are varying viewpoints from both students and school staff with regarding to this subject. I believe that instilling restorative justice practices across all spectrums of the school building will decrease disciplinary referrals in our district. I also think the this will decrease the number of interactions that our students have with SROs.
Craig: The role of a school resource officer is to bridge the relationship with students and the law enforcement community. They should be seen as a positive figure within the school and have a relationship with the student body that is supportive and educational. However, in some cases administrators have not used them as the Memorandum of Understanding clearly defines. Additionally, the current MOU does not leave room for CPS to be able to assess the performance or effectiveness of the SRO for a school. I would look to move the SRO back into their traditional role with some modifications. The SRO should be a part of every school's safety team, providing information about safety concerns of the schools and their neighborhoods in which they reside. Principals and administrators who seek to use their SRO in a manner that is not aligned with the district's MOU and principles should be held accountable for their failure to follow procedure. But the need for the SRO to provide security assistance is absolutely still present in our schools.
Favors: I feel the money could be better spent hiring resource staff (social workers, therapists) who do not hold the added burden of being a sworn officer of the court. We need resource personnel that can make case-by-case decisions and counsel students without that student being fearful of their words being legally held against them. The present-day resource officer brings a totally different dynamic that is often not one of building trust and cooperation
Moffett: I’ve had the pleasure to interact with students from both sides of this issue. I’ve met with the student leaders of the Young Activist Coalition regarding removing SROs from school buildings. I have also spoken with students who are in strong support of SROs and want the opportunity to continue the relationships they’ve built with the officers in their schools. I believe that young voices should be at the table to make decisions regarding the MOU for the SROs. According to former Superintendent (Laura) Mitchell, the contract (MOU) will be revised regarding SROs and it is imperative that students from both sides be at these discussions. I will encourage and support this from the school board. I do not support the current MOU with SROs in our buildings. The CPS Anti-Racism Policy 2256 states that “each school shall collect and report data on all disciplinary actions. Schools shall review data, regularly, with the goal of reducing racial discipline disparities and reducing severity of corrective action by race.” If the district does not own this data and is not getting the data from CPD then this is a violation of our anti-racism policy and I cannot support it as written. I will take the lead in ensuring that student voices are at the table; convene the appropriate partners to address SROs within our district; and ensure compliance with our stated policies, specifically to reduce our disparate discipline data of our Black and brown students.
Moroski: I have asked repeatedly for data that indicates the school resource officers (SRO) program is beneficial for children and have not seen any. Data from the ACLU is most concerning and seems to indicate the program is not good for kids. Until I see data that counters this then I am all for completely gutting or doing away with the program. I was elected to create environments that are good for kids, and all signs say the SRO program is not. We have a lot of serious work to do here.
Wineberg: I have heard from groups of students that are both in favor and opposed to school resource officers (SROs) remaining in schools. I believe that each school has different needs and SROs can play different roles to fit individual schools. I think that with the appropriate training and communication SROs can be helpful in the duties assigned to do - help with traffic in the morning/afternoon of the school day, assist at after school events, serve as another resource on school grounds that will aid in cohesively working together and uniting the staff/students of schools. In elementary school, I enjoyed my DARE officer, he made sure to build a relationship with the students at my school and we looked to him as a resource. When I further went to attend high school at Walnut Hills, Officer Hamler was an amazing man who taught us to believe in ourselves, how to strive for greatness and to always make the best choices possible. He was like a father figure to many and a resource to those who may have needed someone to talk to. Yes he provided the students with safety, effective communication and the ability to know that someone else cared about us. He also let us know when we were wrong and how to change the trajectory of the paths that some chose. So yes, you can always hear two sides to a story but in this case I would like to see a relationship formed between police, community and students. We must not let anyone into our schools that want to harm our kids, we want them to know that they are supported and cared for.