By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer
COVINGTON - City Commissioner Craig Bohman, who is not running for re-election this year, is pondering a run for the Covington Board of Education.
Bohman, 31, a 1991 graduate of Holmes High School, said he picked up campaign papers Wednesday from the Kenton County Clerk's office and is "likely" to run for one of three board of education seats on the ballot in November.
In January, Bohman said he would not seek another commission term because he was trying to open a religious-themed bookstore in Latonia.
"That did not pan out, and I have a new job that will give me some time to still serve the community," said Bohman, who operates the gift shop at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington.
Bohman said he is considering running because people in the community have expressed concern about the direction, performance and finances of the Covington school system.
"There are a lot of people very frustrated with the school system, and they are looking for a change in leadership on the school board," Bohman said.
"The school district is obviously in transition, and it is starting to move forward," he said. "But the improvements are not meeting the community's expectations."
Bohman said he is concerned that the board considered raising taxes last year and that test scores are not improving quickly enough.
Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) scores released earlier this year show Covington's school ranked in the bottom 30 percent. But nearly all of the schools have shown improvement, and three elementary schools - Sixth District, Ninth District and Glenn O. Swing - have exceeded 2004 improvement goals set by the state.
Three of the five school board members are up for re-election this year - Rita Wilson, Glenda Huff and Col Owens. All three are expected to run. Filing deadline is Aug. 10.
Owens, a 12-year school board member, said test scores have improved and the district's budget has gone from a deficit to a two percent surplus over the last year.
"We streamlined staff and we made some hard decisions to deal with the deficit," Owens said.
Covington is a large urban school district in which 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced cost lunches, a sign of widespread poverty among the student population, he said.
"People who say we spend too much money per pupil or don't know how to handle our finances don't understand the magnitude of our situation," Owens said. "We have poverty in the district, and that brings huge challenges and huge costs. Our kids have all sorts of issues - lack of role models in the homes, lack of reading material, hunger, health and mental health issues - that kids in other districts don't have to deal with.
"That puts a lot of pressure on us, but we're working to raise the bar in this district and we have had our successes," he said.
Wilson, a retired teacher, knew Bohman when he was a student at Holmes.
"I have nothing against him," Wilson said. But she did take exception to Bohman's comments about the school district's academic performance.
"Test scores are going up, but it's not going to happen overnight," she said. "It's going to take time. We're doing the best we can, and we are making a difference."
Board member Mike Fitzgerald said Bohman "is so ill-informed it's not funny."
"A few years ago, we were at the bottom of the state in test scores, but now we're moving in the right direction," Fitzgerald said. "Last year the school district's budget was in the red, but we closed the budget this year with a 2 percent contingency."
The district was one of the first in the state to offer all-day kindergarten, a program designed to help improve students' reading.
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