Four seek board seats

WARREN – A longtime community activist and a veteran school board member are among the four people vying for two seats on the Warren School Board of Education.

For more than 20 years, Robert Faulkner Sr. has served as a member, vice president and past president of the school board. Part of his role with the school board has involved serving on 15 local, state and national committees for education, community and transportation. He has also served as his school district’s representative on the Trumbull Career and Technical Center Board of Education.

Rhonda Bennett, 52, has served as president of the Southwest Neighborhood Association, for three years, was among those who worked to reopen Southwest Park off Palmyra Road. She also been active with several groups including ACTION of Youngstown, the Warren Weed and Seed Board, the Warren Neighborhood Leadership Committee and the League of Women Voters of Trumbull County.

The other candidates hoping to win seats on the city school board in the Nov. 5 general election are school board president Regina Patterson, who is running for her second term, and Roderick Lewis Jr. Neither responded to Tribune Chronicle inquiries about their candidacies or returned candidate questionnaires distributed by the Tribune Chronicle to individuals included on November’s general election ballot or attend scheduled Tribune Chronicle Editorial Board Candidate Endorsement Interviews.

Both Bennett and Faulkner cited promoting community involvement with the city schools as a priority.

“I especially feel it’s important to do what we can to encourage and promote involvement of the parents. It’s imperative for the children, the teachers, the entire school system,” Bennett said.

Faulkner acknowledged he has seen many changes, serving on the board through numerous administration changes and amid controversy. But he said he is confident that the school district has made many strides, after experiencing several tumultuous years, has reached some stability under Superintendent Michael Notar after several years of upheaval.

Still, Faulkner said the grades the school district continues to earn on its annual state report cards is “not acceptable.”

“I am hoping that now that things have quieted down with our administration, and that they have settled down that we can get on with the business of educating our students and bringing our grades up. We have wonderful programs and a remarkable, dedicated staff. Now we need to work on making sure our students received the education each one should get and that each one deserves.”

Notar became superintendent in July 2012, shortly after Bruce Thomas resigned not long after he admitted to having a romantic relationship with a subordinate and less than a year after he was hired. Thomas succeeded Kathryn Hellweg, who also resigned before her contract was up after receiving a buyout from the school district.

Bennett said she agrees with Faulkner that the school district needs to move forward, leave the controversies in the past and focus on educating its students.

“We need to come together as a community, to work together as one, the school district, the parents, the city,” she said. “We are all responsible for the education of the students in this community.”