Tipp voters will choose 3 new BOE members


By Amantha Garpiel

For Miami Valley Today

TIPP CITY – Eight candidates are running for the three open seats on the Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education. When Tipp City voters make their way to the polls on Nov. 7, they will have to decide which three individuals they want to serve the next four years on the school board.

Miami Valley Today sent questionnaires to each of the eight candidates and their responses are compiled here to allow community members to get to know the individual they might be voting for on Nov. 7. Of the eight candidates, David Morrhead and Rebekah Glover did not respond to Miami Valley Today’s requests for information by the provided deadline of Oct. 23.

Linda Ares, of Tipp City, is a conservative republican who is a retired Tipp City teacher and the lead pastor of Charis Miistry. Ares holds a Bachelors of Science in education, a master’s degree in education and is a National Board Certified teacher.

Ares is married with three children and 11 grandchildren.

Cindy Wilson Dillard, of Tipp City, holds a Bachelors of Science in Education and a masters degree in education both from the University of Cincinnati. She also has a superintendent’s licensure from the University of Dayton.

Dillard has one son, Nate; a daughter-in-law, Ashlee; and a granddaughter, Gabby.

She is a retired educator, but has not run for office previously.

Joshua Grear, of Tipp City, currently works as a customer account manager and intelligence analyst and has completed education in AAS Network Engineering and until deciding to run for the Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education, has had no political history.

Grear also has a wife and three daughters.

Ray Lilly, of Tipp City, has a wife, Sydney, and three children; Paisley, 2, Rhett, 4 months old, and Riley, 4 months old.

Lilly does not have any political history and works as a senior business analyst in Clinical Research Informatics at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

He has a Bachelors of Science in healthcare management from Franklin University and a Masters of Clinical Research Management from the Ohio State University.

Angie McMurry, of Tipp City, holds a Masters in Education and Principal’s License from the University of Dayton, a Masters in Administration from Ball State and a Bachelors of Science in biology and environmental science from Ohio Northern University.

She is married to Glen McMurry and together they have three children; Jack, Layton and Claire. McMurry has not held any office previously but is an educator and involved member of the Tipp City Community.

Kyle Thompson, of Tipp City, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies from Lee University. He is a conservative, registered as an independent, and currently serves as the CFO at Living Word Church in Vandalia.

Thompson has been married to his wife, Caitlin, for 12 years and the two have two children; Hardy, 7, and Violet, 3.

Why are you running for Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education?

Ares: “As a retired Tipp City School’s teacher, I have remained interested in seeing Tipp remain strong for the future of our town, parents, and children! Because our schools are the most important asset in our community, I want to be a part of maintaining and advancing the tradition of excellence in Tipp City Schools.”

Dillard: “I have been thinking about this for several years. I am seeking this office to give back to the community that educated me and my 7 siblings. It is my hope that my leadership, knowledge, and experience will help cultivate and grow community confidence in our school board.”

Grear: “I am tired of the behavior of some of our board members and wanted to be part of the change I want to make this a better community. The amount of back and forth and bickering was too much to stomach most of the time and instead of complaining, I want to be part of the solution to that problem.”

Lilly: “To make a difference in my community and make the schools a better place for my children.”

McMurry: “Education is evolving…faster than ever before. I would like to collaborate with students, parents, teachers, administrators, community stakeholders, and state legislators to ensure that our community is preparing for the needs of our students. College preparedness and career-technical training are just two areas that we can continue to improve upon NOW for the benefit of our students, our community, and our local employers. Tipp City Schools must undertake these steps to maintain our strong tradition of success. I desire to serve our schools for the betterment of our children and the community at large.”

Thompson: “I want to bring traditional values and modern solutions to Tipp community schools. We have the potential to be the greatest school district in Ohio. I’m seeking office to use the gifts and skills I’ve earned in my 17 years of professional experience to add value to the children and families of Tipp City.”

Why do you feel you are the best candidate to serve on the board?

Ares: “I have first-hand knowledge and understanding about the traditional values that make our district exemplary. I am committed to preserving and improving the quality of our schools. Being a member of the school board will allow me to share my knowledge of education and life experiences to help foster stronger ties between the school board, staff, community, and other stakeholders. The community wants a board that will work in harmony for the good of our schools. I will represent the different groups in our community and ensure that others have a voice in the decision making. As a board member I will maintain open dialogue for the concerns and interests of teachers, parents, and community members.”

Dillard: “I am a successful and competent school leader. I bring over 40 years of leadership experience. character and commitment. I have been a teacher, principal, director, instructional coach, adjunct, parent, and grandparent. I have worked collaboratively with teachers, parents, businesses, nonprofits and district and state leaders in numerous school districts not just in Ohio, but Texas, Minnesota, and Hawaii. I know how teams should function effectively so I can prioritize student, staff and community needs by being a good listener and asking the right questions. I also understand compromise and consensus and when it is needed.”

Grear: “I offer the board a vast experience of leadership, complex problem solving, and a perspective from multiple communities. From my time in the Army, leading at multiple levels through very difficult times, and my career at GE Aerospace, I have developed skills to navigate any situation. I attribute my success to being able to build amazing teams around me and being able to integrate myself into already established teams. For the community, I bring over a decade of making decisions for the betterment of the group and not myself. Using organizational trainings (Lean, HOP, Moving to Leadership, Impactful People Leadership, Warrior leaders Course, and Army specific trainings for Intelligence) I make unbiased decisions as humanly possible every day.”

Lilly: “I am just an average dad that wants the best for his children and the schools they will go to. I don’t have an agenda going into this election – I want to hear the concerns of other parents and members of the community to make Tipp City the #1 school in the area!”

McMurry: “I believe I am uniquely qualified to serve on the Tipp City Exempted Village School Board. I have worked in education for over 25 years. In addition to being a teacher and having my principal’s license, I have hands-on experience with the drafting of curriculum at both the state and local levels. I have participated in the drafting of the Ohio state assessments for high school biology with the Ohio Department of Education for over 10 years. I have first-hand experience in the creation of our state curriculum and how we assess the same.”

Thompson: “I bring a non-anxious presence and thoughtful, measured leadership to any environment in which I’m asked to serve. I will do the same for the Tipp City BOE. The highest calling of any elected official, or anyone in a position of influence, is to serve. My life’s work is helping people, and having the opportunity to serve the children, families, faculty and administrators of this school district would be a natural extension of what I already do. I will represent the values of our great community and bring common sense solutions to the complex issues we face in 2020’s. I will be an advocate and a voice of reason for the children and their parents. More than anything, as a parent myself with a child in the Tipp City School system, my interest is protecting and preserving educational excellence in our community.”

Funding for the district is always a concern since state funding changes from year to year. How will you bring new money/funding to the district?

Ares: “I support a renewal of an Emergency Levy which will continue to generate $5,607,516 each year. I would pursue state and federal grants the district would be eligible for.”

Dillard: “Public schools in Ohio are funded primarily through local real estate taxes and state funds. Some dollars come from federal grants. Many publications celebrate Tipp as a place to live. As a result, property values and new home construction are on the rise. New construction is a wonderful way to get new taxpayers. Many residents, particularly single income, and fixed income residents are concerned about additional increases in millage or a bond. The district should partner with the city to attract new businesses to offset the burden on current homeowners. Reviewing current investments for the highest yield is also prudent.”

Grear: “Before I could bring new funding into the district, I would have to understand where our funding stands today. An additional tax burden on our community would be the last resort. Whether it be through grants supplementing already existing curriculum objectives or establishing new avenues to acquire funding through the state, this solution would have to be explored as a team. I don’t have the magic answer today.”

Lilly: “I cannot answer this without knowing what the budget consists of from year to year.”

McMurry: “Public schools are taxpayer funded. The school board can work hard to explain the needs of the district to the taxpayers and build trust by spending their dollars wisely. As Program Director for The Ohio Academy of Science, I am very aware of the millions of dollars in under-utilized state and federal grant money that can be devoted to the enrichment of our schools. In fact, available grant money is at levels not seen for decades. I would encourage our school to utilize these untapped resources. We can also make sure our representatives in Columbus understand how investing in our schools brings student success.”

Thompson: “We should tap into as many resources as are available to us. A committee should be formed to explore the federal grants available to us, as well as seeking private money through alumni associations, fund raisers, etc. There are probably ways in which I’m unfamiliar to raising funds, but I look forward to solving these problems with my fellow board members.”

What are the strengths of the district?

Ares: “Our district’s strengths are strong families, excellent leadership and staff, and strong emphasis on academics. Tipp City Schools has a tradition of excellence in education. It cultivates a culture that supports its community, students and staff, and strong academics.”

Dillard: “Tipp has many strengths due to its long tradition of excellence. We have excellence in Academics; a 5 Star rating this year. Excellence in Sports. Numerous teams won the division championships this fall. Excellence in Scholarship Endowments. The Tipp Foundation has increased endowments each year to provide extensive opportunities for scholarships. Excellence in Alumni involvement through organizations, attendance at events, and financial support of the football field. Excellence in Teaching. The teachers show up every day to make a 5 Star Rating happen.”

Grear: “We have some of the best teachers in the state and the most talented students. They are the strength of this district. The board should build on this foundation and remove any obstacles to allow them to thrive and achieve higher than before.”

Lilly: “We have the best teachers and the best staff around!”

McMurry: “The best thing about Tipp City School District is our community’s near universal support of and pride in the schools. While we may differ on some issues, there is never a doubt that we all believe that Tipp City Schools are one of the most important parts of our community, that the schools continue to succeed in producing accomplished students, and that we must work hard to maintain this incredible asset. The single best thing about our schools is that virtually every resident firmly believes the schools are the key to our community’s future success.”

Thompson: “Educational excellence, athletics, community-mindedness, cohesive connection from kindergarten through 12th grade, the quality of teachers & administration, and our conservative values”

What are the weaknesses of the district? How do you improve the weaknesses?

Ares: “I prefer to look at our weaknesses as challenges. I believe that the most pressing district challenge is our aging buildings. They are extremely dated and are inadequate to accommodate the 21st- century educational technology. It is crucial that the board and superintendent maintain transparency and excellent communication with the community as we move through the process to replace the aging buildings.

“Another challenge the Tipp Board of Education is facing is the loss of public trust in their ability to work collaboratively to achieve the goals and objectives of the board. As a member of the board, I will work with the other members to restore community trust of the board. I will work with the board to clarify community understanding of issues, following up with action on concerns brought to the board, and by including all of the diverse voices in our community.”

Dillard: “I do not like to use the word “weakness.” I prefer to use “opportunities for improvement.” The most obvious one is the public image of the board. With 3 new board members joining in January, the board has an incredible opportunity to show the public they are focused, diligent and professional. Another opportunity for improvement is promoting and retaining excellent staff. Improved avenues of communication, opportunities for growth and leadership and protocols for being heard will improve the overall climate that makes staff feel valued and stay. And of course, the third opportunity is to improve our learning environments.”

Grear: “The inability to provide satisfactory facilities to our students and staff. We do not provide adequate resources such as smart boards, climate-controlled environment to hold class, and we fail to have productive conversations to solve these problems.”

Lilly: “The rapport of the school board and the community as a whole. Setting a precedent and acting in a professional manner would help tremendously in this aspect.”

McMurry: “I do not think we have weaknesses; I think we have opportunities for improvement, including: Workforce training, vocational, and career preparedness programs. We must encourage student participation by normalizing participation, training staff to promote participation, and identifying candidates. Staff support and enrichment. We must commit to creating opportunities for staff to advance their training and careers. If we commit to making our staff successful, then our students’ success will follow. Building safety. There are certain buildings within our district that are incapable of supporting our students. We must develop a cost-effective strategy to improve or replace our aging infrastructure.”

Thompson: “Our greatest weakness at the moment is the 3 elementary facilities. We must find a way to replace these old, worn-out buildings and modernize facilities for our children. We’ve also had high turnover rates in the district due to unstable leadership at the Board of Education level. Restoring an environment where teachers/faculty feel seen and supported, as well as making sure they are compensated competitively, will help solve this issue.”

How can you improve communication with the school district residents?

Ares: “The district is working hard to improve communication with the community and I would support this effort in any way I can. Presently the Superintendent holds community meetings concerning facilities, publishes weekly newsletters, and meets with community members where they have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their concerns. This type of outreach fosters transparency which builds trust in the leadership of the district.”

Dillard: “Superintendent Moran has already initiated increased communication with the residents. Social media has updates daily and there is a weekly update sent through email to anyone that requests it. He has been holding community meetings, coffee meetings and building tours as well. A new weekly column in the Tipp Gazette also gives updates. I think this is a fantastic start. As a board member I will continue to seek traditional and innovative ways to communicate with our community through social media and visibility. Being approachable and available is the best way to improve communication.”

Grear: “Being present in the community and going to events. Being open and receptive to the community and not stifling their feedback. Conducting myself in a professional and authentic manor will be the foundation that will stimulate the open communication with the public.”

Lilly: “Actually listen to the concerns of residents and take their comments/concerns into consideration before making any decisions that will have an effect on our students.”

McMurry: “You can never over-communicate. We must make ourselves, as board members, accessible to our community in an orderly fashion. We should promote participation in our meetings and advertise how community members may attend, observe, and give comments. The Tipp City School Board is, and should continue to be, a reflection of our community. As school board members, we should commit to representing the educational needs of Tipp City by LISTENING, ASKING QUESTIONS, and BEING ACCESSIBLE.”

Thompson: “Simply being available to the community goes a long way. Everyone who holds a stake in their children’s education has the right to be heard and their opinions should be valued and considered. I also believe it’s important to make information about their children’s education concise, understandable, and readily available. Social media is the town square of the internet, it should be utilized more to distribute information. BOE members should also make themselves available quarterly to hold Q&A sessions or meet and greets so that members of the community can get to know them outside of the official meetings.”

Any additional comments:

Ares: “I am a conservative candidate. I believe it is imperative to be transparent concerning school policy and fiscal spending. Parents need to believe the Board of Education will respect their values and parental rights. I believe in high expectations for academics, citizenship, and patriotism.”

Dillard: “I am a cyclist, gardener, reader, and I love the outdoors. I am a pet owner with two cats, Stormy and Lucky. I grew up here in Tipp and love this small town. I am excited about the opportunity to serve this community.”

Grear: “I bring a history of problem solving and people leadership. I am a very authentic and transparent person. I will not tell you what you want to hear, I will tell you the truth. I do not politic nor do I people please. I dearly love this community and I want to make this community the best it can be. I want to be the change we want to see. It would be absolutely tragic if we elect another board member that has never been put through extraordinary stress and they absolutely fall apart as a person, dragging the reputation and culture of this community through the mud.”

McMurry: “If elected, I will prioritize coursework necessary for student success, faculty education, and safe and secure facilities that promote the well-being of students and faculty. This district matters to me. It matters for my kids. It matters for our sense of community and local business partners. As a community, we need to elect experienced people who represent our community and are committed to student success. Tipp City is an amazing place to raise a family and educate our children. It’s time to get back to focusing on what makes our community so unique and special. Tipp City Schools are central to that focus.”

Thompson: “My goal will be to build consensus around these priorities and plans by engaging with the local community, including parents, teachers, and community leaders, to gather input. Collaboration with like-minded individuals and organizations can strengthen our ability to enact these initiatives successfully. By implementing these specific plans, I will help the board work towards achieving parental choice, local control, academic excellence, rigorous standards, and fiscal responsibility for Tipp City Schools.”

The writer is a regular contributor to Miami Valley Today.

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