Incumbent Steve Linder is running against Julie Castle, Eric Gonzales, Ralph Ritzenthaler and Beth Schnellinger. They shared why they want to be a school board member in Part 1.
The candidates have experience handling budgets in a variety of settings, ranging from schools to therapy centers, church, Veterans Affairs, a construction company and small business.
Also, the candidates share how they plan to devote the necessary time to serve Norwalk City Schools and its constituents.
What kind of experience do you have with big budgets?
Castle: My experience with “big budgets” has stemmed primarily from my work as a behavior specialist for both schools and behavior therapy centers as well as from my time as an instructional coach. While serving in these positions, budgeting involved a needs-analysis as well as (an) expense comparison for the cost of new curriculum materials (and) related services for students, school equipment, etc.
Gonzales: As a human resources manager at the Cleveland department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VA), I have direct responsibility for a budget aimed at recruiting and retaining the very best talent in positions across the medical center, from administrators to physicians. The annual budget is in excess of $700,000.
Additionally, as a church elder, I am entrusted with stewarding the financial gifts of the congregation. This is role and a responsibility I approach with the utmost reverence. Lastly, as the vice president of the Norwalk board of park commissioners, I am keenly aware of the implications of levies and the obligations inherent with spending tax payer dollars.
Linder: I have been employed by (the) Kokosing Construction Co. for the past 13 years as a bridge superintendent. I have been in charge of projects ranging from $5 million to $140 million. I have been on the school board for the last eight years and this past fiscal year our general fund-revenue was $28 million.
Ritzenthaler: My first term (2012-2015) was a great learning experience with a budget the size of the Norwalk school district. I learned a board member must have an open line of communication with the treasurer. The treasurer will keep a member informed with the information they need for decision making, such as a five-year forecast, daily operational costs, medical benefit expenses, etc.
Schnellinger: (As a) past member and PTO president, (I) am financially aware of some of the needs facing today's school systems. As a small business owner, I understand the value of the dollar and will ensure that the money is spent wisely. (I was) recognized in 2010-11 by the Norwalk Teachers Association as a “Friend of Education.”
How will you devote the necessary time needed to do this job and properly represent your constituents?
Castle: It is my opinion that there is never a “cap” on the amount of time that one will spend serving as an elected official. I will devote whatever amount of time is necessary to make certain that this board of education is making the most educated and sound decisions for this extremely important component of our community. Serving within the field of education has conditioned me to put in the “extra” time that is sometimes required to get things where they need to be.
Gonzales: It has been said that “you make time for things that are important.” Accordingly, I can think of no more important cause than the education of young people. I recognize that all the ideas and initiatives that are needed for the district to achieve its mission will not and cannot be originated by me. Consequently, I am committed to creating forums where I can listen to the thoughts, ideas, concerns and desires of the community. To put it succinctly, we are better together.
Linder: I have been on the board for eight years and have always taken the time to return phone calls and have had no problems doing what is expected.
Ritzenthaler: I feel board members should attend as many student and staff activities as possible. This will keep a board member updated in many areas, thus the member can pass information to his or her constituents.
Schnellinger: My husband and daughters are very supportive and (I will give) all the time needed to ensure this position is represented properly.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In Part 3, the candidates will share what issues concern them the most about Norwalk City Schools and if they believe being a board member is a political job.