by Dr. Kathryn Lorenz
I am an individual school board member in Loveland and am speaking as such.
I believe our world is full of wonderful people trying to navigate the dangerous territory of a global pandemic. I believe our country is full of great people trying to determine the course of our political landscape by voting this year. And I believe our school district is populated by a caring, diverse citizenry trying to support our schools.
In the past year, much has happened to affect the way the Loveland schools are viewed by our community. A November 2019 levy was the cause of much consternation and concern. A failed March 2020 levy did little to relieve concerns or move the district forward. Both losses were substantial and reflected deep disagreement within our community.
I am an individual school board member in Loveland and am speaking as such. I am unable to make statements either on behalf of the Board of Education that voted to put past levies on the ballot or on behalf of the current Board. I am speaking only for myself.
In November 2019, I ran for re-election, primarily to show support for the decision of the Board to put forward a combined levy that proposed a shift in direction for our district. That decision was based on information gathered from citizens and reports from hired architects as well as from the Ohio facilities commission. I will not try, with this statement, to repeat any justification for proposing that issue.
I will try, however, to again apologize to those who regarded that levy as an affront. While I felt that I was able to view the levy not only as a school board member but also as a retired, fixed income taxpayer, I was clearly not representing well all Loveland citizens. I was also not representing well those who were not in agreement with the vision I had for the future of the facilities and the educational experience for Loveland students.
But I was proposing a levy as a school board member, which was one of my duties. While both levies were considered by board members based on financial data, community input, research and the input of the Loveland superintendent and treasurer, the levies were placed on the ballots via school board resolution. As one of five board members, I am responsible for those levy proposals, just as the voters in Loveland are responsible for deciding that those levies would not pass, as is their right and their civic duty.
Over the course of the two levy campaigns, I was called many names. I was labelled a liar, a bully, and a money grabber. As an elected official, I would not expect everyone to agree with all the decisions I make, but I would expect that differences of opinion to be voiced with civility. I could have chosen to submit my resignation, as was called for by many vocal opponents of the levies.
I have chosen instead to continue to try to fulfill my responsibilities as an elected official, honorably and diligently, as I have done for many years. One of my current responsibilities is to evaluate the jobs being done by Dr. Amy Crouse and Mr. Kevin Hawley, as superintendent and treasurer of our district. Additionally, I consider it my duty to clarify the roles of those employees and to strongly support their work and the manner in which they are performing that work.
Currently, there are social media postings making a continued effort to discredit the Superintendent and Treasurer. I would not expect every constituent of the district to agree with every action taken by these employees. But again, I would expect differences of opinion to be voiced civilly based on true information. While it is important, when evaluating our direct reports, for a Board to consider input from other employees of the district, input from parents and students, and input from the community, it is equally important for a board member to attempt to point out information that is misleading or incorrect. Such information risks jeopardizing the ability of district employees to do their jobs and in fact jeopardizes the health and future of the district as a whole.
Again, I would not care to rehash all that was published and said by different sides of the levy issues, but I would like to point out a few misstatements that are being made currently.
One particular post states that the Board of Education that hired Dr. Crouse ignored the recommendations of a Community Advisory Board. As far as I remember, being part of the Board that hired her, and having researched records from the time period, there was no such Board that existed. The site further states that the Board ignored those recommendations based on the guidance of a paid Ohio State Department of Education (ODE) headhunter. The State Department of Education has no such employee and does not involve itself in such a manner with local school districts.
At the time of Dr. Crouse’s hiring, the Board did bring her forward as one of three candidates and those candidates met with staff and community members in open meetings. The Board collected written comments from attendees of those meetings and considered those comments when deliberating. The Board had used the services of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) for the collection of applications and reference materials but never solicited a recommendation from them, nor did they offer one.
Other issues are still being raised about efforts to provide information concerning the 2019 and 2020 ballot issues. As an individual, I cannot speak accurately to all statements made by members of the community, district employees, participants in the Citizens for Loveland PAC, or participants in the PAC that was formed to present information in opposition to the levies. It would be foolish of me to state that no misstatements were made or that there was never an instance where corrections to figures needed to be made. There are many accusations about both the Superintendent and the Treasurer regarding statements they made. As I stated before, I am not able, in this format, to address those accusations, as I was not present at all meetings where questions were asked and answered. I am, of course, willing to consider all aspects of the performance of these two employees as I enter into the process of evaluation.
I can state, unequivocally, that according to my research and my recollection, there is no evidence of dishonesty on the part of the Board or on the part of the Superintendent or Treasurer. It is the Board of Education that voted to place those levies on the ballot and the Board of Education that was informed of all statements published regarding the performance and needs of the Loveland School District. While the plan behind the November 2019 levy was obviously not accepted by the voters of the district, it was the plan presented by the Board and that Board directed the Superintendent and Treasurer to articulate that plan. Nothing about either levy was proposed or supported with any ill intent.
While I continue to be open to hearing public comment on the past, I would prefer to move forward. The community has had the opportunity to vote and has thus indicated the direction they support for moving forward. I personally plan to move forward with integrity. I believe that, as an individual board member, I would look for that same integrity in any employee of the district. Our school district and our community deserve no less.