Westlake Votersí Guide: Board of Education Candidates

Download the entire Voters' Guide as a printer-friendly PDF.

View the video of the League of Women Voters' Oct. 1 Westlake candidates' night.

Non-partisan information provided by the League of Women Voters - Cuyahoga Area, Westlake/North Olmsted chapter

Absentee Voting Begins: Oct. 1
Voter Registration Deadline: Oct. 7
Election Day: Nov. 5
LWV Candidates Night: Oct. 1, 6:45 p.m., Westlake Porter Public Library

Westlake Board of Education
Term: 4 years
Salary: $125 per meeting

Questions for Westlake Board of Education candidates:
1. What do you see as the two most important issues facing the Board of Education?
2. What ideas do you have for reorganizing resources to use tax dollars as efficiently as possible?
3. How would you further citizen awareness (transparency) of the Board of Education’s agenda?
4. What experience do you have that will make you an effective leader on the Board of Education?
5. What additional technological initiatives should be introduced to the Westlake schools?
6. What programs that have been implemented in other communities would you like to see happen in Westlake?

John J. Finucane Jr.
Age: 47
My family moved to Westlake 9 years ago to raise our children in the
Westlake Schools. I am the President/COO of PartnerShip, a Westlake company. With an MBA and a Bachelors, 25 years of business management experience, I have the education, experience, and leadership skills to be a successful board member. I am personally and professionally, “Invested in Westlake”.
1. Most important issues: School funding will always be a major issue. If the 5.4 mil levy does not pass this November, student services will be dramatically cut which will directly affect the quality of education. An investment in our schools is an investment in our community.
Additionally, we must focus our efforts on those educational areas that help prepare our students to be successful as they enter college or the workforce. We need to look at all options such as cost sharing, other sources of revenue, and doing more with less to address our funding issue, to prepare our students for their future.
2. Tax-dollar efficiency: Every functional area of the school district’s operations should be analyzed to determine if greater efficiency can be achieved. For example, the school district should explore the possibility of sharing certain expenses with other local school districts. Currently, Westlake is participating in group buying efforts which have resulted in cost reductions. As a result of the district’s effective management of its resources, the last levy was stretched from five to seven years. A long term strategic idea would be to consolidate our four elementary schools into three, which would drive greater efficiencies and lower costs.
3. Transparency: Information about the district and its plans are readily available to anyone who chooses to be informed. Having attended school board meetings regularly for the past three years, I can attest that if one wants to know anything about the district’s finances, educational offerings (e.g., offering the International Baccalaureate program), staffing, etc., one just needs to ask or attend a meeting. For those who do not want to attend a meeting in person, one can listen to a recorded version of the meeting and view board agendas and minutes on the district’s website.
4. Leadership experience: As the President of a company, I understand the importance of good fiscal management and adhering to a budget. With over 25 years of experience managing people and finances, my background will help provide good fiscal oversight for the district. During my professional career, I have worked in many different environments including ones that had organized labor and ones that did not. In either environment, my ability to communicate and work collaboratively to solve problems always produced a successful outcome. I will be an objective voice on the board and leave “politics” at the door.
5. Technological initiatives: At times it appears that embracing technology will be the magic wand that will help all students continue to improve and be successful, but technology is a tool. If used correctly, it can be an asset for the students, teachers, and parents. For example, permitting students to bring their own devices to school is an idea. These devices, such as smart phones and tablets, if used responsibility, can allow for greater collaborative learning and access to information more readily. However, the majority of students of all ages still prefer the printed textbook compared to reading off a tablet or laptop.
6. Transferable programs: Westlake Schools are already one of the leaders for educational programing and services statewide for its students. An expansion of our Advanced Placement (AP) program would help many students earn college credits, thereby lowering their cost of college, and ultimately their student loan debt. Westlake as well is one of a few schools on the westside that is moving forward with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program for its schools. This optional degree program will provide those students a broader understanding of their world and better prepare them for the new competitive world we know live.

Brad Lamb
Age: 39
I am a graduate of Westlake High School (Class of 1993) and The Ohio State University. I am currently work for the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Prior to moving to Westlake I served for 6 years on the Fairview Park Board of Education (2 years as the Board President). I am presently serving on the Westlake Planning Commission.
1. Most important issues: The two most important issues facing the Westlake Board of Education are finances and curriculum.
2. Tax-dollar efficiency: I would work with the Treasurer to look into a Performance Audit of the District to see where saving could be identified.
3. Transparency: I would like to see the Board Meetings begin later in the evening and not at 5:30 in the afternoon. I would also work with the Superintendent to begin a series of “Ask The Superintendent” evenings. These would be an open forum between parents, residents and the District.
4. Leadership experience: I have had the pleasure and honor to serve as a member of the Fairview Park Board of Education from 2006 to 2012. During that time I served as the President of the Board and the Vice President of the Board. I learned many things in Fairview and want to bring my knowledge and experience back to Westlake.
5. Technological initiatives: In Fairview Park we began the One to One Initiative. This provided net book computers to high school students for their class work and to be used in lieu of textbooks. It is easier and cost effective to update an e-book than it is to have to purchase new books. Along with providing the net books computers we increased technology throughout the district. In the elementary school we increased the number of mobile carts that contained iPads for use in the classrooms. These carts were reserved from the 1st day of class until the last day of class.
6. Transferable programs: Also in Fairview Park we eliminated our school bus service garage and shared services with a neighboring district to reduce expenses for both school districts. Why have two service garages when one got the job done and reduced costs. Every school district needs to look into a form of regionalism where district share more and more services.

Barb Leszynski
Age: 68
Westlake School Board Member, unanimously appointed in 2012 from 19 applicants; B.S. and M.A. in Education Retired teacher; Past President, Teachers’ Association PTA, Past President; College Club West, Past President; Fairview Hospital, volunteer Patient Advocate; Dover Elementary, volunteer tutor; Nursing Home and Food Pantry volunteer; 33 year resident; 3 children graduated from WHS, 4 grandchildren currently attending Westlake schools.
1. Most important issues: As a current Board member, I see the most important issue as continuing to prepare our students to compete in a challenging, dynamic world. They need the necessary knowledge and skills to be productive citizens and to achieve success in their career goals. Secondly, we need to accomplish this goal by using resources as efficiently as possible, remaining current in best practices, hiring the best employees, and providing great service to our community, all while enduring the loss of state funds. Our excellent school programs are in jeopardy if the levy does not pass in November.
2. Tax-dollar efficiency: Westlake taxpayers need to know that we are in the bottom 25% of school taxes while rating in the top 5% in excellence. All resources must be aligned to our Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP), a plan developed with individuals from the community. If spending is not aligned with that plan then we shouldn’t be spending it. We are a model, 1 of only 4 districts recognized statewide, for using Shared services. We belong to Suburban Health Care Consortium, Ohio Schools Council, and Ohio Schools Plan. Purchasing through consortiums saves us money and is an efficient way of using tax dollars.
3. Transparency: We invite community involvement in every aspect of doing business-from developing the Continuous Improvement Plan, to planning for the new buildings, to serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee to attending Board meetings. Board agendas and notes are posted online prior to meetings. Minutes of meetings are posted after being approved. Meetings are audiotaped and available online. During the school year, the meetings are televised by WHBS-TV. Our communications director sends news and updates to the community several times a year.
4. Leadership experience: I have a Bachelors and Masters in Education and am a retired teacher. Classroom teaching experience, various leadership roles in professional and volunteer organizations, along with an understanding of the fiscal needs of the community (taxpayer in Westlake for 33 years) gives me a unique perspective as a Board member. I applied for the open Board position because it is important to be productive, positive, and part of the solution as opposed to being a negative force. I work collaboratively with my colleagues, listen and learn from others, and am actively involved in my community through many volunteering opportunities.
5. Technological initiatives: New technological initiatives must adhere to our CIP which requires seamless integration and sustainability. To support quality instruction, the district must routinely update existing software to keep the interactive projectors and smartboards current. In 2015, the State of Ohio will require on-line testing, therefore, we must evaluate the best technology and any necessary network expansions including BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) to support this requirement. Westlake will provide a technology infrastructure that can meet the demands of 21st century instruction, all within the guidelines of the CIP.
6. Transferable programs: Westlake Schools are already on the cutting edge of programs being offered. We are a candidate for the International Baccalaureate Program and our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Program has made Westlake a leader in NE Ohio. Westlake High School offers 21 Advanced Placement classes which is considerably more than many neighboring districts. At the elementary level, the Wilson Reading System, a multi-tiered program, has been successfully implemented. Westlake Schools will continue to evaluate innovative, proven programs for possible implementation.

This Voters’ Guide was assembled by members of the League of Women Voters - Cuyahoga Area, Westlake/North Olmsted Chapter, who selected the questions and placed word limits on the responses. Candidates’ responses are printed verbatim, up to the word limit. Truncated responses are denoted by the [...] symbol. Candidates are presented in alphabetical order for each position. The League of Women Voters does not endorse any candidate for any office. We neither endorse nor reject any views quoted in this Voters’ Guide. Published as a service to the voters of Westlake by the League of Women Voters - Cuyahoga Area, Westlake/North Olmsted Chapter in partnership with the Westlake | Bay Village Observer. The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political membership organization. We encourage informed and active participation in government, work to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influence public policy through education and advocacy. www.LWVCuyahogaArea.org

Read Westlake Mayor, Director of Law and President of Council Candidates’ Responses 

Read Westlake City Council Candidates' Responses

Read More on Westlake
Volume 5, Issue 20, Posted 9:09 AM, 10.01.2013