Erosion doesn’t happen overnight. Over time, though, the little things accumulate and wear us down. The first storm began for our district in 2021, could have been a blip. When three candidates for Forest Hills school board rejected the offer in 2023 to appear in front of voters at the nonpartisan Meet the Candidates event –– we were taken aback, and sat to consider the impact of erosion of trust & normal candidate & elected official's behaviors & the risk to FHSD.
In a local podcast recorded in May of 2021, Mr. Bibb offered hope to champions of transparency and sunshine laws when he commented to the host “that’s my whole goal, to let the light in.” “We’re a public institution,we need to work with the public, not just suppress information and only give it to them when somebody actually asks for it”.
So how much better has transparency been since this board was installed?
Every elected leader is trained on the guidelines and community expectations related to their roles. In addition, this group of four campaigned on transparency, demanded it prior to entering the roles, and aligning themselves with advisors that by their own claims are experts in the law. With all that in place — is there evidence that the board has demonstrated that they have not only awareness, but also understanding of the value of transparency to democracy and have taken that understanding to heart in their actions, behaviors and efforts?
Here is the first video from our school board candidate video series. This is the intro video for the candidates PLUS a bonus question to get the ball rolling. Stay tuned for answers to six community group questions throughout the next weeks.
All candidates were contacted to participate in our video series. Appearance in this video does not imply an endorsement on the candidates.
An Advocate FHSD co-chair caught up with Kevin Commerford at the 9/20/23 school board meeting to ask about his participation. His reply was "We have our own thing happening, thanks."
Kris Wahlke expressed interest in submitting written answers and a photo so we could add a voice-over, but did not meet the Sunday, September 24 deadline for this video. His answers were submitted after the video was edited and posted on Monday, September 25. His answer to these questions are below:
Q: Why are you running for FHSD School Board?
A: To reclaim the Redskins name.
Q: Why now?
A: There is momentum for the Washington Redskins and our current board ran on an anti-CRT platform. The numbers should be there.
Q: How does the Ohio school funding model impact FHSD?
A: Seems our tax dollars are being used outside the district. A lot of the coolest things in the schools are parent funded after taxes.
In the first few weeks of the 2023-2024 school year here in the Forest Hills School District, the Superintendent and Board have made several critical decisions on short timetables that have left parents wondering:
On August 29th, 2023, a soft-lockdown was enacted at 7 of the district's 9 schools. In the first email sent to communicate the lockdown (full email here), Superintendent Hook stated only that "we located an unauthorized individual walking around the Anderson High School campus a short while ago" followed by his second email (available here) which stated, "After a thorough search of the area, it has been determined that the unknown individual is no longer on district property" both quotes seem to imply the man was outside the school and then somehow disappeared.
Hook's email from today (shown above) explains a more serious breach. He provides details explaining that a staff member discovered an adult male had entered Anderson High school through a propped-open side-door and found his way into the hallways during school hours.
Several sources advised us a week ago following the Forest Hills Council meeting (days before the district communicated to the public) that Superintendent Hook had shared the details now provided in an email. We at AdvocateFHSD.org have been gathering information about the incident, and before publishing anything, we reached out to the district yesterday asking for any statement on the situation and submitting a PRR for the surveillance video. Our full email is here.
Who Made the Call to Paint Over the Nagel Mural?
New information from community members indicates that Superintendent Larry Hook likely erased the mural at the direction of board members. Sources suggest Hook may have taken ownership of the decision to misdirect community frustration and to avoid influencing the November election. The Superintendent role is not an elected position, and thus not held accountable with an election cycle.
AdvocateFHSD gathering evidence
AdvocateFHSD.org submitted a public records request on August 15, and as of the publishing of this blog entry, the district has not yet responded. We are concerned that the delay could buy time for board members to conceal communications, as there is potential evidence that at least one board member has done so already.
In September of 2022, Township Trustee public records requests by AdvocateFHSD.org related to the high school consolidation efforts produced text messages between Board Member Sara Jonas and Trustee Lexi Lausten as well as between Jonas and Dee Stone. Jonas stated in an email obtained through PRR that she had no "record to share". If Jonas or any member of the board acted to conceal or obfuscate the text records would demonstrate yet another example where board behavior contradicts their stated goal around transparency. It is possibly a violation of the Records Retention Act, ORC 149.351 putting the district at risk of yet another lawsuit, and reason for the community to express concern for adherence to the laws on record retention.
Welcome to AdvocateFHSD! We’re so happy to have you here. Strong public schools = strong communities. Here, we strive to engage and inform the FHSD community, and empower residents to be the best advocates for our students, teachers, administrators, and district.