6 vie for 3 seats on Leetonia school board

LEETONIA- Six candidates will vie for three seats on the Leetonia school board on Nov. 5.

Candidates include incumbents Thomas Eastek Jr., Michael Rulli and John Rydarowicz, former board member Larry Duko and newcomers Rose M. Barkett and Michael Henderson.

-Rose M. Barkett, a 1990 graduate of Chaney High School, is a Bonnet certified hemo dialysis technician and has worked full-time the past four years with Fresenius Medical Care at the Boardman FMC unit in Boardman. She attended college at Youngstown State University.

Active at the school and in the community, Barkett is a volunteer parent and assistant cheerleading advisor and coach at the high school and a member of the Leetonia Sports Boosters, PTO and LASA board. She is also a member of the St. Patrick Church in Leetonia and the Youngstown Saxon Club, a contributor and volunteer to the St. Vincent DePaul Society and committee member for the 2014 Northeast Ohio Kidney Foundation, Kidney Walk.

Barkett said her experience volunteering the past 10 years at private parochial and public schools, plus her 20 years in the medical field, makes her a strong candidate for the board.

“As a volunteer in private and parochial schools I learned of creative ways to produce revenue from corporate and foundation money,” she explained. “This revenue is a way to sublimate extracurricular activities, teaching supplies…and fund workshops for family education. While working with underwriting in private and parochial schools it has given me a strong business sense to be fair and honest, with all who do business, teach, work and volunteer at Leetonia schools.

“Working in the medical field for almost 20 years has given me a strong charter to ensure the values, beliefs and desires of the community are met, by believing everyone has the right to speak and keeping all information and situation private. I bring drive, organization, determination to the Leetonia school district.

Barkett said she has a desire to be involved and to see the district progress.

“I believe in old and new traditions, but moving forward with progress,” she said. “I am an out-of-the-box thinker and produce results. I can produce superior service and have the ear to hear the desires of the local citizens, teachers, students and staff of Leetonia schools.

“I feel when you have a strong school you have a strong community behind it. I choose to live and volunteer in this community and I also choose to be active on all levels.”

Barkett lives with her husband, Drew, on Butcher Road with their two sons who both attend Leetonia schools.

-Larry Duko, a graduate of Leetonia High School, has previously served 14 years on the school board. He has also served eight years on boards at the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center and the Leetonia Community Public Library and served the district in a variety of capacities including a paid and volunteer coach, levy committee ticket taker.

Previously certified as a school treasurer with an accounting degree from Youngstown State University, Duko is currently a supply chain manager at RTI in Niles, a manufacturer of titanium doing nearly a half billion of annual sales, and has worked as an auditor for the state auditing school districts, cities and various public entities. His past work experience has involved budgeting, forecasting, statistical analysis and inventory management.

With past board experience and a strong background in accounting and auditing, Duko said he will be able to assist with budgeting and other financial aspects of the district. He said serving on a six-member leadership team at RTI has made him familiar with the team leadership concept which he said is the role a school board should play in the school management process. He also noted that he does not have any students in the district, which he said is good for a school board because it provides for more diverse points of view and a better grasp of long-term implications of proposed board actions.

If elected Duko highlighted several opportunities for improvement that he plans to address, notably pursuing a more consistent hiring process.

“Advertising in the newspaper and professional journals allows the administration to choose from an array of qualified candidates,” he said. “For example, in the last three years we have hired three different elementary principals without advertising for the position. Yet, in contrast, the district has advertised aggressively for football assistant coaches, cheerleading advisers and cafeteria aides.”

Duko also said there are flaws in the retire-rehire procedure that the district follows, namely with employees moving upward on the pay scale and accumulating sick pay, undermining the advantage of the program, and vacation pay should be a “use it or lose it” proposition and not be paying employees for unused vacation pay.

He also said he is opposed to the administrative salary schedules that the board has adopted, believing salary increases should not be guaranteed but earned on merit and evaluation, and that he supports a seven-period schedule versus the current eight-period one because it improves the utilization of the teaching staff that will allow the district to maintain class offerings without replacing retired teachers. He said he also wants to look at balancing class sizes, with smaller elementary classes when learning is critical, and review the academic eligibility policy to make is more consistent.

Duko encouraged turnover on the board.

“Sometimes when a board has hired all of the administrators, the tendency is to willingly accept all administrative decisions,” he said. “New board members tend to look at those same decisions a bit differently.”

A lifelong resident of Leetonia, Duko lives with his wife on York Street. They have two children, both graduates of Leetonia.

– Thomas Eastek Jr., a 1991 graduate of Leetonia, has served one term on the board. He earned a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing from Kent State with concentration in business finance in 1995 and a private pilot license in 2009. Self employed since 1997, he also coaches U12 fast pitch softball and serves as an Ohio High School Athletic Association Class 1 basketball official.

Eastek said his qualifications include long-term planning, financial responsibility, common sense and understanding of an importance of good role models and learning experience pertaining to children.

“I will work to consistently improve your child’s ability to be a productive product to this community and society,” he said. “to assist the best teachers in the area, with the tools to give your child the opportunity to be as successful in school and in life as they can be.”

During his tenure on the board, Eastek highlighted the fact that the district has become more efficient and effective, as well as more community oriented.

“We owe the positive to the faculty, staff administration, board of education and the community,” he said. “The academic achievement has been on the rise. We have expanded the choices of the student athlete to include soccer. The district is it the black, and has not proposed a levy in a few years.”

A lifelong member of the community, Eastek lives with his wife, Stephanie, on Lisbon Road with their two children.

– Michael Henderson is a 1993 graduate of Leetonia High School. He has spent the past 17 years employed at Hunt Engineering in Salem, working his way from a part-time computer clerk while attending college to his current position of director of accounting/information systems.

Henderson holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science from Youngstown State University and Master of Business Administration from The Ohio State University. His work experience includes labor negotiations, pension plan and 401(k) administration, health insurance and benefits management, corporate budgeting and forecast, policy implementation, operations management and project management.

Henderson is the coach of the third- and fourth-grade Destination Imagination team at Leetonia, as well as a volunteer coach for local T-ball, baseball, soccer and basketball teams and a member of the St. Patrick’s Church in Leetonia.

With two children in school and one approaching school age, Henderson said he has a vested interest in ensuring all students receive the best education possible and that his education and work experience has helped prepare him for the challenges schools face with policy, enrollment and funding issues.

“Having gone through the Leetonia school system myself, I know we have a good school in a great community,” he said. “I want to help a good school get better, through improved test scores and graduation rates, through commitment to goals and policies, through working with teachers, administrators and fellow board of education members, and lastly by maintaining a close relationship with the community that supports it.”

Through work experience with finance, labor negotiations and policy implementation, Henderson said he feels he can benefit the school board.

“Operational experience and project implementation has helped me gain a broader view on monitoring and auditing established policies and systems to ensure success for both short term and long term goals,” he explained. “My fiduciary responsibilities for pension/retirement plans, retiree benefits and financial reporting require strict adherence to rules set by state and federal governments. My corporate budget responsibilities require a constant review of cash inflow and outflow to maintain uninterrupted operations.

“Through my education I’ve been able to experience three different levels of learning through high school, undergraduate and graduate studies. Each of these levels are unique in how the studies are presented and vary on how much responsibility is placed on the student, but all of them require the student to accomplish goals for their success. Lastly, my involvement within the community would help maintain the connection between the school and the community, helping foster the relationship and communication between the two.”

Henderson said he has chosen to remain and raise his family in Leetonia, a community which he called close-knit that he wants to support by serving on the school board. He lives with his wife, Tracie, and their three children on Faith Court.

– Micahel Rulli has served one term on the board. A graduate of Poland Seminary and Emerson College, he is currently vice president of Rulli Brothers. His community activities include being an active member of St. Patrick’s Church in Leetonia and the Knights of Columbus.

Rulli said his strong business background with a good primary and secondary education, as well as his passion for the school and community, makes him a quality candidate for the board.

“I am hopeful that voters see my passion for Leetonia schools and note what we have accomplished in the last four years,” he said.

During his tenure Rulli said he has worked with the board to turn the district from red to black and made the district financially sound. He also noted that the board listened to voters and found a feasible way to remove a levy from election ballots while helping the district excel in education, most notably helping the district rank in the top 100 in the state in value added for the second year in a row, making the district the only school in the county to rank in the top 100 in both value added and gifted, all without a levy.

Rulli lives with his wife and two children on Lisbon Road.

– John Rydarowicz has served on the board for two terms. A retired educator, he spent 37 and a half years in the field, including the last 32 at Leetonia High School where he retired as principal in 2003 and served 21 years as athletic director. Currently he serves as the Leetonia Village Zoning, Housing and Building Commissioner, a position to which he was appointed by the mayor with approval from village council.

Rydarowicz currently lives outside the district, but promised to establish residency if re-elected. Due to being qualified when submitting his petition to the board of elections, he will remain on the ballot.

A graduate of Ursuline High School in Youngstown, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University and later received a master’s degree in secondary education. He also earned graduate credits in chemistry at the University of Delaware on a DuPont Fellowship and completed summer studies under National Foundation Grants at Valparaiso, Dennison and Ashland universities. He holds permanent certification in science for grades seven through 12 and a secondary administration certificate.

Rydarowicz cited his 50 years experience in education, including as teacher, administrator, class advisor and coach, for giving him a broad perspective of the educational methods for student success. He noted that during his eight years on the school board, the district has shown progress on the state report card, achieving a rating of excellent, and grown from projections of deficit cash balances to a surplus.

He said his biggest accomplishments include assisting the board in hiring a superintendent who has dedicated himself to the district, stemming the confusion of leadership that developed from previous superintendents leaving for larger districts, as well as a treasurer that is equally dedicated to the district. He also noted that through fiscal and educational management the district is now on a sound footing and showing improvements in both areas.

Considering his experience in education, Rydarowicz said he understands the programs students need in order to achieve success in their future.

“For the past 40 years I have dedicated my life to the education of Leetonia students,” he said. “One of my primary goals is to educate in a manner that will provide our students with not only the educational aspect of their lives, but also on aspects of how to deal with conflicts in life as they progress beyond their high school years.”

Rydarowicz lost his first attempt at the school board. He has four children who all graduated from Leetonia High School.