Thursday, October 16, 2003

School board, council candidates see critical growth, funding issues



By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - As this booming Warren County city gets bigger, candidates for its school board and City Council say they also want it to get better.

A Wednesday evening candidate forum, sponsored by the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce at the old county courthouse near Lebanon's downtown, brought out more than a dozen candidates for three open seats each on the Lebanon Board of Education and City Council.

More than 40 people in the audience and those watching live on local cable TV watched as office seekers offered their opinions.

Candidate Katherin Poitinger said unfunded mandates coming from state and federal education reforms could threaten some of the advances the 4,650-student school system has made in recent years while rising to the state's top rating of "excellent."

"No Child Left Behind puts a lot of mandates on our children, but it's coming down with no funding for it," Poitinger said of President Bush's schools reform act.

Candidate John Lutmer, who was joined by candidates David Armold, Lee Wiederhold, Donna Davis-Norris and Stephen Kaiser, said the schools need "improvement in English and math ... and I think values need to be taught to these students."

Candidate Paul Brewer was unable to attend.

Davis-Norris said the district's climb to the top state rating bodes well for future school tax issues, which will be necessary to fund growing enrollment.

"We've restored a lot of pride in our district and that was big hurdle. I think we have earned the trust of the community," she said.

City Council hopefuls then took the stage and candidate Benjamin Cole emphasized the council's importance by saying "our local government impacts our citizens more than any other level of government."

Council hopeful Jeffrey Aylor, who was joined by fellow candidates Mark Flick, Andrew Wiethe, Jon Rodriguez, James Reinhard, Chuck Higgins and Ronald Pandorf, told the audience that Lebanon's booming population and development prompted him to run.

"We need to do much more long-term planning and we need to preserve the historical nature of our community, but we also need to grow," he said.

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com.




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