Kennedy keeps his seat on the Oregon school board

Kelly J. Kaczala

        The Oregon school board at a meeting Jan. 14 passed a holdover resolution that allows Keith Kennedy to fill the seat he has held but was not on the ballot for re-election last November after the Lucas County Board of Elections said he was ineligible due to problems with his petitions for his candidacy.
        Kennedy last year was included on an “invalid candidates” list on the Lucas County Board of Elections website, preventing him from seeking reelection to a second four-year term. Kennedy had accidentally provided the incorrect dates on a petition that he later corrected, but the board of elections still rejected the petition.
        The board of elections does not provide an appeal process.
        There were two seats up for election on the board last November. Incumbent Jeff Ziviski was reelected to his seat. Since there were no other candidates seeking the seats, the school board last week approved a “hold over” resolution for Kennedy so he could keep his seat for the next couple of years. He will then run again in two years for an unexpired term if he wants to stay on the board.
        “I am very thankful for their support and trust to allow me the opportunity to continue on,” Kennedy told The Press after the meeting.
        The board also voted for Kennedy to be vice president of the board.
        “They saw some benefits from some of the leadership I’ve taken over the course of the last four years to help keep us on a path. It was greatly appreciated,” he said.  
Previous holdover
        A holdover resolution for an Oregon school board member is not unprecedented. On Nov. 16, 2016, the Oregon school board passed a resolution in support of incumbent Board Member Heather Miller being a holdover after her petitions were not certified by the board of elections.
        At that time, there were two candidates seeking three seats on the board. Miller became a holdover for the remaining position on the board because there was no successor elected, nor was there a vacancy created under Revised Code 3313-11 and other applicable laws.
        The resolution then went to the Lucas County Board of Elections requesting that Miller be a holdover candidate for two years. Miller stayed in her seat. She was on the ballot last November for the unexpired term.
        The school board could have voted to accept applications of people interested in the seat and conducted interviews before appointing someone to the seat within 30 days. But as with Miller in 2016, it was more practical, in the interests of continuity, to keep Kennedy, since he is familiar with the issues facing the district.
        The biggest issues facing the district this year are are finances and EdChoice, said Kennedy.
        The District has a 4.95-mill operating levy on the March 17 primary ballot.
        “Among the highest priorities we’ll be facing is financial. If we don’t pass a levy, it will be the biggest issue we’ll have to tackle. But right up there with it is EdChoice,” he said.
        EdChoice is a school voucher program that allows parents from state designated underperforming public schools in Ohio to apply for funds or “scholarships” to help pay tuition at non-public schools. The program has been around since 2006. But it has become more controversial since the Ohio Legislature recently changed the criteria for what is considered an underperforming school. As a result, over 1,200 Ohio public schools are now designated as low performance compared to just 120 last year. Eligible students from K-8th grade who apply for the program can receive a $4,600 voucher. Eligible high school students can receive a $6,000 voucher if they qualify. In February, two schools in the Oregon City Schools District – Eisenhower Intermediate and Jerusalem Elementary – will be added to the list of schools in Ohio that qualify for EdChoice. 
        “I’m not sure the Ohio Legislature will hold true,” said Kennedy. “There’s a lot of movement going on in the state. It’s really brought a lot of public schools together as a unified front to fight against this. It really doesn’t tell the story of what a true failing school district is. It’s more like a money grab to use public dollars for parochial schools.”
        Regarding the proposed levy on the March ballot, Kennedy would like to see budget cuts as well to improve the district’s finances.
        “I think there are things we can look at as a board and as a district to help us be more fiscally responsible. I also think there should be more `give backs’ that we need to look at for the community as well. We’re talking about needing more revenue for the district. At the same time, it becomes a difficult task for us to ask the taxpayer to reach into their pocketbooks if we are not giving them something back in return.”


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