Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lakota's final 3 superintendent candidates answer questions from the community

Michael Acomb from Solon City Schools answers questions submitted by Lakota community members
Zack Carreon
Michael Acomb from Solon City Schools answers questions submitted by Lakota community members.

Lakota Local Schools is one step closer to finding its next superintendent. Earlier this month, the Board of Education announced its finalists for the top position and told the community they would have a chance to submit questions for the remaining three candidates.

The district has been searching for a new leader since January after former superintendent Michael Miller resigned from the position.

Recently, board members and some in the community have clashed over culture war issues like discussing race & identity in the classroom and accommodating LGBTQ+ students. Disputes over these issues have brought plenty of attention to Lakota, but not in the most positive way. All three candidates took time to address this and talk about how they plan to move the district forward.

One candidate, Jason Spencer from Cincinnati Public Schools, told the community he's focused on making all students feel welcome. Spencer says he learned a lot from working in both urban and rural districts. He plans to use those skills to build personal relationships with students and create a school environment that encourages students to show up every day ready to learn.

"It does not matter to me where you come from. It does not matter to me what you look like. It doesn't matter to me what you believe. I'm here to support you," Spencer said.

Michael Acomb, a candidate from Solon City Schools in the Cleveland area, said he's been paying attention to what's been happening at Lakota, but is more focused on student performance. Acomb says his current district has been consistently ranked among the best in the state and he credits some of that success to being able to tune out outside noise.

"There are a lot of things that happen in a community that can be divisive, that can be surprising, disappointing," Acomb told attendees in the school cafeteria. "As adults, we can't allow the adult issues to filter into affecting the kids."

According to some at Lakota, those issues have negatively impacted the district's ability to hire new teachers to serve the growing student population.

Before leaving the school system, former Lakota West Principal Elgin Card told board members during the final meeting of the Diversity Committee in May that the negative attention was driving potential teachers away from the district.

Ashley Whitely, the third superintendent candidate, currently with Wyoming City Schools, says she plans to tackle that issue head-on by seeking more diverse teachers to fill classrooms.

"Our staff population needs to mirror our student demographics," Whitely said. "Children like to see themselves not only in what they're learning but in who's teaching them, and that takes a different kind of effort."

Following each Q&A session, the candidates met individually with the school board for a final round of interviews.

The board says it intends to name a new superintendent by the end of the week.

Lakota's next school board meeting is this Thursday evening.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.