Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Kings school candidates debate



By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Now is not the time to change leadership, argue Kings Board of Education incumbents in this Warren County district recently bedeviled by costly problems.

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But challengers vying for two open seats on the board say some of those problems are self-inflicted by the incumbents and that a change in leadership is needed.

More than 100 Kings residents heard those arguments and more during a candidate forum Monday evening at Kings High School. Audience members submitted questions for each of the four candidates - incumbents Roger Jones and Konrad Kircher, and challengers Toby Darkins and Michael Sharbaugh.

Sharbaugh, an executive with ABX Air Inc., hammered on Jones and Kircher for asking voters in May to approve a $43 million property tax increase. The issue was rejected by 61 percent of voters.

But Jones countered that Kings' three consecutive years of earning the state's top academic rating of "excellent" is ample evidence that the current leadership of the 3,800-student district is doing well.

Moreover, Jones argued, the recent discovery of toxic lead on school grounds and its potentially costly cleanup, combined with storm damage last month totaling more than $500,000, makes this a bad time for new leadership.

Kircher criticized Darkins and Sharbaugh for their connections to the political group Family First, saying the two were more interested in pushing a political agenda rather than improving schools.

Darkins said he has taken no campaign money from Family First but that he "agrees with 70 percent of what they stand for." Sharbaugh responded that he was endorsed by Family First and has accepted campaign money from the group.

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com




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