Voter Guide

The counties included in the voters guide for the Nov. 5, 2019 elections are: Montgomery, Warren, Miami, Greene, Clark, Champaign, and Butler.

NOTE: Not all communities have issues or candidates on the ballot. Guide does not include uncontested races.

Madison School Board {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Vote for 3

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  • Candidate picture

    Jennifer Adams

  • Candidate picture

    Mike Cusick

  • David French

  • Candidate picture

    Amy Black Jessee

  • Pete Robinson

  • Candidate picture

    Joseph Solomito

  • Norman Trenum

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Biographical Information

What are the 3 biggest challenges facing the school district? How would you deal with them?

What makes you qualified to be on the school board and gives you an advantage over other candidates?

What is your position on state testing and graduation requirements?

What would you do to close the skills gap that employers say is hindering their ability to find workers?

Are there any areas where you believe the school district currently underspends, or overspends?

Is the school district doing enough to ensure student safety? If not, what else should they be doing?

Are there any subjects or topics not currently being taught (or not taught broadly enough) that you would like to see expanded?

What other changes could be made that you think would improve students’ academic performance?

If you had to choose between increasing the number of regular teachers, to lower class size, or increasing the number of counselors/social workers/mental-health therapists/school resource officers to deal with non-academic issues, which would you choose?

What other information do you want voters to have about you?

Experience Mother of five beautiful children Registered nurse of 15 years Nurse Practitioner of 6 years
Education Associates Degree in Nursing from Miami University in 2004 Bachelors Degree in Nursing from Miami University in 2009 Masters Degree in Nursing from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2013
We have an incredible district and recently received a B on our Ohio Report Card. This reflects the hard work done every day by the staff and students. With that being said, the three biggest challenges facing our district include teacher retention, lack of communication, and community infighting. We had a 26% turnover (resignations only) of our teachers in the last 18 months. We need to investigate what is contributing to the loss of high quality educators. Recently, major policy changes have occurred without any significant community input. This partially due to the fact that we have the most restrictive public participation policy in the county. It requires participants to sign-up in person during school hours, with a photo ID, two business-days before a meeting. We need at the door sign-ups. Our district shooting three years ago brought us closer together, but we have divided since then. We have so much healing to do. We need to communicate and bring the focus back to the kids
I am a mother of five children who have all attended Madison local schools. As the head of a large family, I understand that communication is the key to great relationships and problem solving. As a charge nurse in one of the busiest ERs in Butler County, my communication skills were put to the test every shift. The decisions I was tasked to make literally were life and death. Through these experiences, I continue to learn everyday about how to tackle difficult situations, communicate with diverse populations with varying beliefs and build a successful environment through teamwork. Becoming a Nurse Practitioner has helped me to hone my skills as a thoughtful communicator. This has helped to give me the ability to connect with people and listen to their thoughts and concerns. However, most of all, my most important qualification is my passion for the children of this community. I am a parent and active community member and I care greatly for the future of this district.
I think that it is important for there to be accountability for our teachers and an opportunity for our students to show what they have learned. However, I do believe that adding excessive testing has changed the way our teachers are forced to do their jobs each and every day. Every child in our district is different with their own learning styles. But these standards have pressured our teachers into teaching to the test instead of giving them the flexibility to teach to the individual child the way they see fit. Our graduation requirements for Madison Local Schools are impressive, as it assures our children to have a well-rounded education. I am a fan of the new Ohio graduation pathways that allow students to show they are either college or career ready by various methods. I think it is important to ensure that our children are ready to become productive members of our society upon graduation whether that means they are college prepared or ready to enter the workforce or military.
I think the most important part of closing the skills gap is communicating the need and providing options for our students to pursue the option they feel best fits their goals. We need to talk to local organizations, unions, and employers to see where Madison could be making changes. Industry engagement is paramount. Having a close relationship with local businesses will help us to build a long-term plan for students skill sets required for career readiness. In addition to these measures, we are lucky to currently have impressive and extensive vocational training at Butler Tech. Our children are very fortunate to have top-notch training programs so close to home should they decide to pursue the vocational option. These programs also allow our children to meet their graduation requirements while learning a new skill. My son is currently enrolled in one of their programs and he is enjoying it tremendously!
I am not an expert in school district financing. School funding and spending are very complex and I recognize that district treasurer and administrators take multiple college courses to specifically navigate school finance. I have reviewed the district’s financial information and I am happy to say that there are no glaring areas of overspending. If elected to the Board I would be eager to learn more about school finance and welcome discussion with our treasurer and administrators to discuss ways to achieve higher pay for our teaching staff. Similar districts spend 73% of their budget on their teaching staff. We spend 66%. I would like to shift things around to get our teachers on par with salaries of similar districts in the area. Our teachers are some of the lowest paid in the county. If we were able to give them the tools they needed, we may see an increase in retention.
Student safety is an extremely important topic in our community, given the fact we had a school shooting in 2016. It was a day we will never forget. Our current board voted to arm teachers 18 months ago. This was controversial and it has caused division in our community. I have 2 major issues with this policy, training and lack of input. Our armed teachers are only required to have 26 hours of training. Gov. DeWine currently recommends OPTA, a 700 hr course. Florida requires 144 hrs. My son had 58 hrs to become a Lifeguard with monthly refreshers required. I do not claim to know how many hours of training should be required, but more information from experts is warranted. In addition, our current resolution was passed without any formal input from parents, students, or staff. Most found out from the district Facebook page. I would like to focus on additional training for armed staff, revisit any additional measures to strengthen our schools, and provide opportunity for community input.
I am impressed by the variety of courses offered at Madison Local School District. We are lucky to have the diversity of courses available to our children in such a small district. One thing I would like to see expanded is the offering of Advanced Placement courses. We are lucky that our school works closely with local colleges and offers a robust College Credit Plus program for students. That being said, our school does not offer AP courses. Our district received a B on the Ohio report card, which is impressive. On the “Prepared for Success” measure we received a D. I believe our students are very prepared for success, but one of the areas used for this measure involves scores on AP exams. We will continue to score a zero on this measure without offering AP courses. Expanding an AP program in our district will not only help to improve these measures on the state report card but ultimately better prepare college-bound students with increased knowledge, as well as a higher GPA.
I know I’ve touched on this already, but the biggest change we could make to improve academic performance would be to retain our highly skilled educators. Currently, the majority of our teachers have less than 10 years of experience. Only 4 students in the current fourth-grade class have had teachers every year with more than 5 years of experience. Our turnover rate this last school year alone was 15 %, which is almost double the national average. We need to investigate why our teachers are leaving at such alarming rates and create a plan to address this. Our district is one of the lowest-paid districts in Butler County. It is not uncommon for new teachers to arrive, get a few years of experience, and move on to districts with higher pay and better resources. We need to invest in our teachers. I believe this can be done without any increase in taxes for the community. If we had supported and experienced educators this would certainly help to improve students’ academic performance.
Children these days are being challenged in ways they have not in years passed. We have children with significant life stressors in our community. This may be family-related, school-related, poverty, increased use of social media and/or online bullying but whatever the cause, the rates of depression among children aged 14-17 has increased by 60% in the last eight years. The suicide rate has increased by 30% in the last 20 years. Many children are dealing with the effects of the opioid epidemic and have drastic changes in their family dynamics. If a child is struggling mentally, even the best teacher will have a hard time getting them to engage in a learning environment. I feel that increasing the number of counselors, social workers, mental health therapists, and school resource officers would be the route I would choose. I believe most teachers would want what is best for their kids, and therapists/social workers will be able to help them in ways that teachers are not trained to help.
I would like voters to know even though I’m not a politician and I have never run for public office, I feel a call to serve my community. I am an honest person and with me, what you see is what you get. I have no hidden agendas or self-serving desires. I just want to do good for the community that I love so much. I want to help our teachers and students. I want to open the lines of communication and bring the community together to work toward a shared goal of student success and Mohawk Pride. I am humbled at the possibility of having this come to fruition.
Experience 10 Years Experience in Public Education
Education Master's Degree in Education Bachelor's in Business Administration Associates Degree Computers and Information Systems
* Teacher retention/high turnover rate: Our teacher turnover is extremely high at Madison. Our Board of Education needs to make teachers a financial priority.and valued at Madison. Currently, we are under spending on revenue vs.teachers salary and benefits and overspending on purchased services compared to the state averages. Changing our financial priorities will create a competitive salary scale that will attract and retain the talented teachers that our students deserve. * Collaboration and transparency: there is a disconnect between our teachers, community, and the Board of Education. Focusing on collaboration to increase morale in the school and community will lead to higher student achievement. * Bring the focus in our community back to the education of the students. There have been a lot of distractions pulling us away from what truly matters at Madison that our students get the best possible education to prepare them to be respectful, respectable contributing citizens.
I earned a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration, with experience in the corporate world and small business. I followed my heart and passion, earning a Master’s Degree in Education. I have ten years experience in the public school system as a substitute teacher, paraprofessional, wrestling coach/ assistant coach, and varsity golf coach. I have gained a diverse educational background as a long-term substitute teacher at Middletown City Schools, an Intervention Specialist with severely emotionally disturbed students in grades 6-8, and the past five years at Madison as an Intervention Specialist. I was elected by the teachers as the President of the Madison Teachers' Union. Currently, I’m working as an Intervention Specialist at Franklin Junior High School. Although I miss the Madison Educators and students, I believe I will be able to make an even bigger positive impact being the ONLY elected Madison Board of Education member with EXPERIENCE and a degree in EDUCATION.
State testing and graduation requirements will always be here. We cannot change state policy at the local district level. There will always be ups and downs on the report cards. As an educator, I don't agree with teaching to the test, but the reality is our district is compared and ranked to other districts using test scores. I think that all teachers have room for improvement, (including myself) working toward "A" on the report card. Given our teaching experience at Madison, we are exceeding expectations when compared to “A” districts who have an average of 65% of their teaching staff with 10+ years experience in 2018 compared to Madison’s 49%. The average teaching salary for the “A” Schools in 2018 was $71,556 compared to Madison’s $50,168 average salary. So once again, attracting and retaining talented and tenured teachers is one way to ensure success in this area. Madison has great teachers who are under appreciated and overshadowed, at times, by the report card.
I would work to build programs that instill a sense of pride in students with recognition for hard work at whatever level each individual student has the capacity for, develop in them a sense of accountability for their actions (each decision comes with consequences), leading by example that rules are followed, work is completed carefully with attention to detail, and a respect for authority. I would like to see career days with broader exposure to possible careers throughout the middle and high school years, and opening opportunities for students to possibly do summer work studies to gain valuable skills and insights that will help them once they leave the doors of Madison High School for the next chapter of their lives. Students need a well rounded education that consists of the core curriculum, enhanced by valuable and applicable life skills electives.
We need to make our teachers a financial priority at Madison Local Schools, we are only spending 67% of total revenue on our teachers’ salaries and benefits (Salaries/Benefits as a Percent of Operating Expenditures indicates the percent of the total operating expenditure of the districts that goes to personnel salaries and benefits), compared to the state average of 74%. While spending 30% on purchase services (Operating Expenditures shows the percent of the total operating expenditures devoted to the purchase of various services such as food services) compared to the state average 21%, and Madison supplies/materials (shows the percent of the operating expenditures devoted to the purchase of supplies and materials) spending is 2.14% vs. state average 2.92%. We need to re-prioritize spending to reflect what truly matters, those teachers who are helping to mold the students in the district.

As far as school safety goes, I don’t think we should ever feel like we are doing all that we can. School safety is a very important topic, and of utmost priority. How can our students learn, teachers teach, and staff members do their important work if they do not feel safe. As a board member I would strive to understand all modalities for keeping the school safe. We are doing a great job with two dedicated resource officers, and some increased safety measures that have been put into place over recent years. I think there is definitely room for improvement in ways to keep outsiders out, keep weapons out, and better secure the actual classrooms, without them feeling they are incarcerated. No matter what measures are added, this should never be an area that we feel we are done improving. We should be able to trust that just as surely as our children get on the bus in the morning, they will be getting back off in the afternoon.
It will be my priority to make sure that our students start to learn a foreign language, such as Spanish, at the higher elementary age and throughout Junior High and High School. This will allow us to complete with schools in areas such as Bishop Fenwick and other junior high schools in the area, and help to diversify the cultural experience at Madison. This can be very valuable learning process and life skill that can benefit our college students or people entering the workforce.

Our Art, Music, and Culinary classes are very strong at the high school level. Our after school musicals and thespians clubs have great student involvement and this brings a lot of different students together. I would like to see thespians and drama offered as an elective course in the same fashion as our chorus and band.

I would like to see alternative track math courses offered to students who do not plan to attend college, but are interested in Butler Tech, the military, or entering the workforce.
Providing our students and staff with curriculum and updated textbooks would be a great start for the majority of our staff at Madison. In my short time at Franklin, I have been exposed to a plethora of new curriculum ideas, assessments, and software that I can vouch for. These are tried and true with data to back up their success, so we will not waste time and valuable resources on trials at Madison. Having worked alongside the teaching staff at Madison as a fellow educator, I have earned the trust of many teachers that I have the students best interest and success at heart, which is important when introducing new ideas. I would work closely with the teachers and administrators to further explore the resources many resources that are needed and available.
In my teaching experience, the classroom sizes at Madison are smaller than the average classroom at other districts. I would rather see us invest in retaining and attracting quality teachers and expanding our electives listed in the previous question. I believe mental health is extremely important, so as a board member I would work to understand best practices how they are being utilized effectively across the country, with input from a task force of staff, community, and board. I will collaborate with our current resource officers on current policy and procedures to make sure that we are continuing to improve school safety, following best practices, as proven throughout the state.
My wife and I have bought a house in Madison as soon as we found out we were expecting our son in 2012, we knew there was no place we would rather raise him. Our goal is for him to attend Madison, as my wife Jill (Black) Cusick attended K-12 and graduated Salutatorian of Madison Class of 1996. My two sisters-in-law and two brothers-in-law graduated from Madison. Along with our son Micah, we have eight nieces and nephews currently enrolled at Madison. One nephew graduated last year as Valedictorian, another nephew graduated in 2018 and recently graduated from Butler Tech’s welding school. We have set strong roots in this community that called us back here to raise our family. We are highly invested in seeing Madison be the best school district that it can be.
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Education Graduated with Honors from Madison High School in 1998 Bachelor's of Science in Human and Consumer Services from Ohio University in 2003
We have lost some excellent teachers and administrators over the last few years. I would like to investigate the reasons for this high turnover rate and solve the problems at hand. I would love to see our township brought closer together through increased transparency and communication between our community, school staff, and school board. I would like to see more engagement between these groups through the addition of community forums and surveys, and increasing the opportunity for active participation in board meetings. Ultimately, my job on the board is to represent the voice of the citizens of our school district. Bullying is rampant in our society as a whole. I would like to increase awareness and decrease frequency, establish and enforce policies school-wide, and ensure that there is unbiased and nonjudgmental support available to all of our students.
My four children are third generation Mohawks spanning across all three schools. I spend lots of time with my kids at school volunteering to read, help with holiday parties, Santa shop, field trips, and I was a Girl Scout troop leader for six years. There is a special place in my heart for all of the kids that I have had the chance to cross paths with, and also for the teachers and staff who nurture and teach them every day. My husband and I were both raised in Madison Township. I am a proud graduate of the class of 1998. I was very involved in clubs and sports during my school years at Madison. I am dedicated and loyal to Madison. I am approachable, patient, and a good listener. I have a passion for helping others and know I would be a great resource for our students, teachers, staff, and community.
I would like to see more teaching toward a curriculum and skill set than teaching for a test. I understand the idea behind state testing, but I do think that our students are missing out on valuable information and opportunities when the biggest focus is placed on the state test score they receive. I would like to see the focus return to important life skills - literacy being at the top of that list. Money management, decision making and problem solving, shop class and home economics are a few of the others that come to mind.
It is important that our school system provides the tools to create an individual who is confident and comfortable in managing their own life and responsibilities. Instilling a strong work ethic and the basic skill sets necessary to be an accountable and productive citizen can start at a very young age. Courses that teach basic life skills will help to build confidence in our graduates. It is important to introduce students to all of the possibilities for their future, outside of what they see every day. In a small town like ours it is easy to focus only on college careers that we see our parents and teachers participating in. While college prep is an excellent path for many students, so many others have talents that would lead them to excel in a respectable trade. We have an excellent resource in Butler Tech. Exposure to those trade programs and encouragement to explore those opportunities is extremely important in helping our students find their own path to success.
The pay of our teachers has recently been an important topic of discussion. We are one of the lowest paying school districts in the state when it comes to our teachers. Aside from us as their parents, a teacher can be one of the most influential adults in our children's lives. Reducing the turnover rate of our teachers would allow us to retain more experienced teachers and recruit talented young teachers to our district. They deserve to feel appreciated and be compensated for the work that they do. My children have had the most amazing teachers here and I honestly believe that Madison has some of the best.
I believe the school is doing its best to adjust safety measures in our ever changing climate. There has recently been a policy put in place for arming staff at our school. I am not opposed to staff carrying firearms to form a deterrent against school violence. I do think arming our staff should not be viewed as an end-all be-all answer for student safety. I think we should continuously evaluate our safety procedures and look at all of the possible solutions for protecting our kids. I would like to improve upon the system in place to keep us from getting to a gun versus gun situation. I want to explore additional preventative measures that may benefit student safety and keep us from getting into that sort of situation.
I believe that teaching our children basic life skills is extremely important. Money management, decision making and problem solving, skills we once learned in shop class and home economics should all be part of the core curriculum. I want our kids to know how to read a tape measure and make a meal for themselves when they graduate. Students may have an opportunity to learn some of this through elective courses, but I believe it is important for all of them to be introduced to these things. Requiring courses that touch on a number of these skills could be very beneficial moving forward and into adulthood.
Early exploration of career options can expand a student's mind to consider possibilities outside of what they see every day. Identifying a hidden talent or interest may help to engage them in the learning process if they feel it could lead to a possible career they want to pursue. We need to continue to create strategies to keep up with academic performance requirements and engage all staff and educators involved in order to come up with a practical solution to address any deficiency. I would like to see that current textbook materials are made available to our students. I would also like to see more emphasis on acknowledgment of academic achievements within our student body.
Teachers are Madison’s most important asset. Our children spend so much of their time at school. Aside from us as their parents, teachers are some of the influential adults in their students' lives. It is important to me that our teachers and school staff are fairly compensated and have the necessary resources available for nurturing and educating our children and our future.
I have four children currently spanning all three levels of the Madison School System. I have a deep love for Madison Schools and I want to show this through my service on the school board. I have always enjoyed volunteering as it has allowed me get closer to what Madison School District stands for and all of the wonderful people that make it so.
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Experience 5 years as treasurer of Madison Music Boosters. Over 10 years as Chief of Cardiology at Atrium Medical Center. Member of the Medical Executive Committee. Member of Medical Staff Quality Assurance Committee. Started and was Medical Director of the Chest Pain Center at Atrium Medical Center. Founding member of the Premier Heart and Vascular Steering Committee. Medical Director of the CCU and Echo departments.
Education St. John's University Undergraduate. UAG Medical School. Mount Sinai School of Medicine - Internal Medicine. Tulane University School of Medicine -Cardiology.
In a relatively small district such as ours with more limited financial resources, providing salary incentives to attract and keep teachers can be difficult. We have to come up with more innovative ideas to make the teaching experience at Madison Local Schools more rewarding and attractive than other area districts. The second issue is community involvement. I believe the members of our community would welcome the ability to become more involved and to enjoy a greater degree of transparency. I would address both of these concerns with a program of shared governance that would initially be extended to the staff, both teaching and nonteaching in the district and then be extended to the community at large and which I address in detail on my website, DrSolomito.com. The third most challenging issue is school security. Madison has chosen to allow qualified employees to carry concealed firearms. We are assessing this program very carefully.
I have served in multiple leadership roles in my professional career as described above under “experience”. This has given me the ability to innovate, start new programs, supervise, and critically assess the success or failure of systems and processes. It has given me the experience to work with diverse groups of people, solve problems, form consensus and facilitate ways that people can work together to achieve a common goal. In addition, teaching has been an integral part of my professional career. I have served as assistant professor of medicine at Tulane University and have formulated and delivered numerous lectures to the staff at Atrium Medical Center.
Our graduates are going to enter many different walks of life. They may be competing for jobs and community leadership positions in a variety of different geographical locations. In order to ensure that they will not be at a disadvantage when confronted with graduates from other parts of the country, minimum educational standards must be met. Local school boards, however, should have input on these standards to make sure that they continue to be relevant to our graduates.
First, we must get back to basics. While advanced technology in the classroom is very attractive, it is for naught if our students haven’t mastered the basic skills of communication, i.e. reading and writing, which, unfortunately, many have not. Basic mathematics skills have given way to graphing calculators. Without these strong foundations, advanced learning is not possible. Second, school boards must maintain an open dialogue with local industry and businesses so that they may adapt to changing needs in the real-world environment.
At this point, from what I have seen as a community member, I believe our district has achieved a reasonable balance and distribution of capital and operational expenses.
Ensuring student safety is a delicate balance between providing an adequate response to real or perceived threats on the one hand and overreacting, transforming the school into an impenetrable fortress which can in itself produce anxiety in students by implying a greater threat than actually exists. Madison uses a blend of restricted access during school hours, visible school resource officers and a program of voluntary training for employees to allow concealed carry of firearms. This may not be appropriate for all school districts but I believe it works for our community.
I would like to see a class entirely devoted to students doing deep dives on, and debating, current geopolitical events. Once the students have mastered the basics of history and geography I would like to see them use this background to critically analyze what is happening in the world today. I would like to feel confident that our students know that “Kurds” does not relate to spoiled milk. I would like them to be able to formulate their own opinions on anthropogenic climate change and be able to defend those positions rather than just recite what the talking heads on television tell them. I don’t think our current educational system puts enough stress on students being able to think critically on their own.
I would like to see students involved in, rather than just observing, school board activities. I think this would help to better prepare them to participate in real-world postgraduate activities.
At its essence, education involves transferring a body of knowledge from one person to another. This is supported by technology and non-academic professionals, but without talented, dedicated and knowledgeable people who are devoted to the transference of that knowledge, education will fail. Every “breakthrough” in education from television through computers and whiteboards has ultimately circled back to the interpersonal relationship between a teacher and a pupil. I would never want to minimize the importance of the nonacademic professionals mentioned in the question but in an environment of limited resources, I would almost always be in favor of putting larger numbers of teachers in front of smaller numbers of students.
Although it may sound old-fashioned, my goal in running for school board is indeed to give back to the community and the education system that has provided for my family. My goal is not to dismantle and rebuild the board but rather to bring my experience and leadership to the table in order to make it even more responsive to the needs of the community, the students and the teachers.
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