Sunday, October 24, 1999

Enquirer endorsements for school board

        Finally, Cincinnati Public Schools has rekindled sparks of hope under new Superintendent Steven Adamowski. On Nov. 2, voters can douse those sparks with cold water — or keep hope alive and glowing.

        Mr. Adamowski has brought fresh, bold leadership to replace a grid-locked bureaucracy with a flexible system of independent schools. Already, he and the board have given schools more control and raised accountability. But insiders prefer the failed status quo. They want the reforms stopped. If that happens, CPS will lose its best chance to win back public trust, and could also lose crucial support from long-time allies in the business community.

        For three open seats on the seven-member board, we recommend:

        • Rick Williams is a natural “fit.” This 44-year-old community planner was unanimously chosen by the board to replace Virginia Griffin, who retired earlier this year. He lives in North Avondale, works for urban and economic renewal at Neighborhood Renewal Corp., and is a longtime CPS volunteer.

        “There are some drastic changes that need to occur in this district,” he said. “We have to get out of the one-size-fits-all mentality and do what different children need to succeed, not what makes the adults in the system comfortable.”

        • Louis Buschle offers expert financial and management experience. He's a certified public accountant who lives in Columbia Tusculum and served 10 years on neighboring Forest Hills school board years ago. He's a practiced consensus builder who knows his way around school finances.

        • John Gilligan is a distinguished former Ohio governor (1970), Cincinnati City Councilman and Congressman, now living in Walnut Hills.

        He wants city schools to provide health care, social services and other services. “We have 47,000 children, most coming from backgrounds where their one chance for a better life is the public school system. The economic future of this region is tied directly to the outcomes of CPS,” he said.

        Among the other candidates:

        Incumbent Arthur Hull's experience and guidance helped the district restructure its management team and recruit the new superintendent. But Mr. Hull's lack of voting support for Mr. Adamowski's reforms is a discouraging signal.

        Florence Newell has outstanding education experience and credentials and innovative ideas about learning. But her commitment to the reforms underway and to the new leadership is uncertain.

        Roy McGrath is an accountant who has run for school board three times and the only candidate who opposes a $24 million operating levy on the ballot. His passion for better schools is solid, but his solutions are thin.

        Here's what is at stake. The teachers' union (CFT), teamed up with other unions, is urging members to “change policy through the school board election” — a call to stop Mr. Adamowski's reforms, by replacing his slim 4-3 majority with four votes against charter schools, contract changes and other parts of the district's plan.

        Mr. Williams and Mr. Buschle are dependable votes to back Mr. Adamowski. Mr. Gilligan is endorsed by the unions, along with Mr. Hull and Ms. Newell. Mr. Gilligan is likely to get elected; it is our hope that he will not obstruct the superintendent to push his own agenda.

        For CPS to stay on course under Mr. Adamowski's leadership, voters must choose board members who will not derail progress.

        As the unions say this is “a high-stakes school board race this year.”

        Vote for Rick Williams, Louis Buschle and John Gilligan.

Integrity, leadership are high on our list

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