NEW MATAMORAS - Four candidates are vying for three open seats on the Frontier Local District Board of Education.
This is the first campaign for Newport resident Todd Collins, 47, who's been coaching teams within the district for some time.
"As a coach I get acquainted with the kids and their parents, so I often hear their concerns about the district," he said. "That's one reason I'm running for a place on the board. But it's a five-man show and everyone has to work together."
The father of three said he also wants to help keep the Frontier district on track for his family as well as for others.
"I have kids going to school in this district. I went to school here, and I hope my grandchildren will attend school in the Frontier District," Collins said.
He's hopeful the district's proposed 9.19-mill emergency levy will be supported by voters Nov. 5.
"It makes sense to me," Collins said. "But I think there's some misunderstanding by some people. If you have a $100,000 home you're looking at ($321) extra a year on your taxes. All three of my kids are going to school in the district, so that works out to a little over $100 per child for me. And I do understand there may be some concern for people on fixed incomes."
He said if the levy doesn't pass it will likely be back on the ballot next year.
As for the potential closing of Lawrence Elementary School if the levy isn't ratified, Collins said he understands how those who have children attending there must feel and he believes it may be possible to work something out to keep the school open.
"I think the biggest issue facing the Frontier district is that this area has very few larger businesses, so we see little backing from that type of business," he said. "I would like to see us possibly capitalize on the growing oil and gas industry in this area."
Collins noted the Wayne National Forest is the largest property owner in the district, but as a federal entity pays no taxes to support the district.
"The Wayne is allowing the drilling of at least five gas wells on its property, so maybe we could work out a deal where some of the revenue from those wells could be shared with the school district," he said.
Kurt Bohlen, 31, is also making his first run for office in the Frontier board race.
"I'm running simply because I have two sons that I hope to send to Frontier district schools someday, and I'm not satisfied with the quality of education the district is providing," he said.
Bohlen said he tries to take the objective view and believes the board could use someone who looks at issues facing the district from a different angle.
"I don't see any one big thing that's a concern, but I do think the education of our students has been going downhill for some time," he said. "In the annual state report cards on school performance we're among the lowest-scoring schools. Although I don't put a lot of stock in the state reports, that could be the only information available to parents who may be considering a move into this area."
Asked about the proposed emergency levy, Bohlen said he believed it would likely be placed back on the ballot for a future election if the issue doesn't pass in November.
"I think it could be tough to pass it this time, although our schools are troubled financially," he said. "As for Lawrence Elementary I think there may be several different options we can consider. I would hate to see it close. That's where my kids would go when they start school."
Bohlen said he expects serving on the school board will be a challenge for whoever wins a seat.
"But my main focus will be on beefing up the district's education," he said. "We're losing kids from the school system every year, and I know of families who are leaving this area simply because of the lack of quality education."
Also running for a seat on the Frontier Local district Board of Education are Gale DePuy II of Marietta and Daryl Bowersock of Wingett Run.
Attempts to contact those candidates over the past week were unanswered, but Bowersock is a former member of the Frontier board who served from 2000 to 2008.