DISTRICT 5 SCHOOL BOARD RACE: Write-in candidate challenges school board chair

Published 4:07 pm Thursday, October 8, 2020

Until recently, it appeared that the only school district where there would be a contest on this year’s general election would be District 2, where three candidates are vying to see who will succeed Scott Hisle, who is not running again.

However, a late entry by write-in candidate Mike Cecil means there is also going to be a contest in District 5, currently held by Ashley Ritchie, who chairs the Clark County Board of Education.

The Sun reached out to both candidates asking them to share some of their background and answer some important questions in the school board race. Here are their responses.

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WS: Tell the readers a few basics about yourself.

MC: I am 42 years old. I graduated from Avon Lake High School in 1996. In April, Christy and I will have been married 20 years. We met while attending Cumberland College, where I played football. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and minored in psychology in 2000. Christy earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. We have five children: Gracie, 13; Emma,12; Tripp, 10; Ava, 8; and Charlie, 8.


WS: What makes you particularly well-qualified to serve on the Board of Education?

MC: I work in the pharmaceutical industry. I lead a team of pharmaceutical representatives across five states. The medical field is complex and ever-changing, and my primary responsibility is to find solutions to problems. I must also stay abreast of community health and scientific innovations in medicine, and maintain a business-oriented mindset. Having children at every level of our school system will give me a unique insight into the needs and operations of the schools.


WS: Why do you think you’re the best candidate for the seat?

MC: I have a track record of setting big goals and achieving them. In high school, I struggled with learning disabilities in English language arts, but still I wanted to go to college, and I did. I wanted to earn a football scholarship, and I did. When I graduated from college, I wanted to get into the pharmaceutical industry, and I did. My next big goal is helping Clark County have an elite public system.


WS: What are your thoughts on students returning to in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic? When should that happen, and what should be done to make them as safe as possible?

MC: We are a public school system, so choice is a crucial component for successful implementation. My wife and I decided that the risks surrounding mental health, lack of social interaction and the negative impact on education outweigh the risks of contracting COVID-19 for our children. For those who decide to return in-person, students need to understand and follow safety guidelines. We should use large indoor spaces and outside areas to increase social distancing.


WS: At a recent meeting, it was announced that the school budget for the current fiscal year is not balanced, in part because it was based on a tax rate that would have brought in 4 percent more revenue than the year before, but the board kept the tax rate the same as last year’s. As a result, severe budget cuts may be necessary. What should be cut to balance the budget, and should the board take the maximum tax rate next fiscal year?

MC: I have not seen a line-by-line budget for 2021. It is unfair for me to make a determination about the tax increase or cuts for the next school year without fully educating myself on the specific needs of the CCPS system. Speaking generally, I do not support raising taxes. If cuts are necessary, I support prioritizing people. We need to spend on the teachers and staff and resources they need to help our students be successful.


WS: What are your first and second priorities the school board should address this year?

MC: My first priority is giving parents, students and staff a choice about returning to school and then getting our students back on track. Families and staff members should have the flexibility to make the best decisions for themselves. We need to identify ways we can close the learning gap that has been created through this pandemic. My second priority is reducing teacher turnover. We can’t keep losing our best employees to other districts.


WS: Why is public education important to you?  

MC: I am a product of public education. I have five children who I have made the intentional decision to send to public schools. Public school delivers economic diversity and cultural diversity to our students that cannot be replicated. Public schools better prepare students for life by exposing them to diversity. In the workforce, they need to know how to work with others who are different. Public schools are the glue that holds communities together.