Seven candidates vying for West Branch BOE seats

BELOIT – West Branch Local School District residents will have plenty of choices for school board on the November ballot with three seats open.

Incumbents Eric Glista and John Wallace will be joined by newcomers Josh Carreon, Marci Craig, Don Gullet, Karen Rice and Courtney Stryffeler on the ballot. Incumbent Earl Trimmer will not be seeking re-election.


Marci Craig

Craig holds a master’s degree in public administration, human resource management from Kent State University and a bachelor’s in science in education, communications from KSU. She is currently the vice president of human resources at Windsor House Inc. in Girard and a human resource instructor as needed at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

She has experience in the Microsoft package and journalism curriculum including corresponding and general assignment reporter, media equipment, teaching assistant, substitute teacher and private tutor.

Craig is a senior professional in human resources as certified by the HRCI, SHRM senior certified professional and completed the Leadership Mahoning Valley in 2010. She has served on the MCCTC Advisory Board for Adult Education, Hannah Mullins LPN School Advisory Board, Society for Human Resource Management programs officer and member, Workplace Advisory Committee for the Tri-County Violence Prevention Coalition, corporate volunteer council for hands on volunteer network of the Valley, volunteer guardian for adult nursing home resident, leader and volunteer for the Big Reach Center of Hope, volunteer for the American Heart Association, mortar board for the National College Senior Honor Society, Chi Omega Sorority alumni member, Kent State University Alumni Association, West Branch Parent Advisory Committee and vice president of the West Branch High School Athletic Booster Club and a certified foster parent through Northeast Ohio Adoption Services.

Craig lives with her husband Brian and their three sons on Stratton Road.

Karen Rice

Rice has served the past 29 years as a treasurer assistant in charge of payroll and human resources, with a retiring in December. She has also worked as a part-time dispatcher with the Alliance Police Department and managed accounting with her husband during his ownership of Whistle Stop Pizza and Henry’s Drive-in until 1994.

A 1975 graduate of West Branch High School, Rice holds an associate’s degree in accounting from Kent State University and assists her daughter with an Alliance Girl Scout group when needed.

Rice said she will be able to draw on her 30 years of service, when her department has been entrusted with a $10 million to $12 million payroll and managed another $3 million in employee benefits without a state finding for recovery or citation in audits, proving her dedication and integrity. Rice said she has she is running for the school boar because she has noticed a lost of trust in board, “I have watched over several years that the community has lost trust with the Board of Education. I want transparency and open communication with the public,” she said. “I want to get the students prospective on their school. Children see things from a completely different angle and if asked, they have some amazing ideas.

“I have integrity, knowledge and experience with West Branch. I know the staff and I have a lot of passion for West Branch. I want the community to understand decisions, not just throw decisions at them. I want to regain the trust from the community with openness and honesty.”

Despite spending the first 11 years of her education outside West Branch, Rice

“So many nice people and the teachers are embedded in my children’s hearts,” she said. “To this day my children recount the fond memories of their school days. I know times have changed and children are so much busier. I want to keep the schools fulfilling the children’s needs and the community to have trust in their school district and keep the passion alive!”

Rice lives with her husband of 25 years, Jim, at their Fifth Street home in Beloit. They have eight children.


Courtney Stryffeler

A 1992 West Branch High School graduate, Stryffeler is currently a nurse manager of Same Day Surgery, Perioperative and Infusions services at Mercy Health St. Elizabeth’s Youngstown Hospital.

Holding a degree in respiratory therapy, master’s degree in science of nursing-executive nursing and doctorate in nursing practice-health care leadership, Stryffeler has served in various positions at Aultman Hospital, Affinity Medical Center and Alliance Community Hospital. She participates in the Damascus Friends Church (DFC) Race Against Hunger; teaching helmet safety in Alliance area schools; participating in the American Heart Walk for a Cure annually; Backpacks for kids; United Way’s Women’s Leadership-Get Connected Mentor; professional panel for Aultman’s Camp Scrubs; Sunday school teacher at DFC 2015-2016; and currently serve on the medical response team at DFC as well as a greeter for the women’s ministry, The Well. She has also been appointed to the 2016 Stark County Community Health Needs Assessment Committee.

“Currently, I am a nurse manager for a Level 1 Trauma, Cardiac and Stroke Center at St. Elizabeth’s Youngstown Hospital. I manage five units, oversee over 50 employees and lead my team of union and non-union employees,” she said, “I am responsible for managing a budget for each of my five units and ensuring we are meeting our organization’s financial goals. Additional responsibilities include communicating with patients/families/surgeons and administrators; payroll; attendance tracking; strategic planning; process improvement projects; performance evaluations; discipline; planning and implementing education and competencies for staff; developing action plans; budget planning for the upcoming fiscal year; and advocating for my staff and our patients.”

At Aultman, Stryffeler worked 2.5 years as the Critical Care Instructor in Education and Development. She was recruited for the role and was responsible for training new or transferring nurses entering critical care. She created and revised the curriculum as well as exams.

As a critical care nurse, she cared for open heart patients, as well as lung and vascular surgical patients for four years prior to working as the Critical Care Instructor.

Stryffeler’s appointments at Aultman included chairing the Recognition Council; member of the Critical Care Council; chair-elect of the Professional Development Board which made decisions on upcoming education and initiatives that impacted multiple disciplines; member of the Aultman Telehealth Grant Committee and Telehealth Team; and Chair of the Critical Care Symposium planning committee. Regionally she represented Aultman as a member of the 2016 Stark County Community Health Needs Assessment Committee. At the state level, she is currently serving as a member of the Evidence-Based Practice Committee for the Ohio Organization of Nurse Executives.

Stryffeler said she is running for the school board because her parents, in-laws, husband and herself are all graduates of West Branch and she currently has three children who attending the district.

“I have the opportunity to interact and speak to parents at sporting events, DW3 robotic clubs, and other school events,” she said. “I am vested in ensuring the success of the West Branch district and collaborating with administrators, educators, parents and students to ensure West Branch is delivering an excellent educational experience.”As a West Branch graduate I have been a life-long learner and passionate and dedicated to education not only as a student, but also as a nurse educator and scholar. I believe in the success of every child and having a mentorship program that supports each child. I value that every student is different and has unique goals and interests. In addition, I believe that very child should to be mentored and supported have the opportunity in reaching their goals. I am naturally curious, always learning, and 100 percent committed to serving my community and ensuring West Branch remains an amazing school for current and future generations.,” she said.

If elected, Stryffeler said her three main objectives will be “reviewing academic programs that focus on academic excellence and the criteria in place for supporting and/or recognizing academic achievements of our students; continuing to support and work with our educators and community to grow agricultural programs that will support our rural community; and (conducting) a full review and dissection of the budget that includes looking for opportunities to improve the financial state of West Branch while maintaining a high quality education.”

Stryffeler lives with her husband, Doug, and their three children, Trenton, 12; Drake, 8; and Kase, 7, at their Shoemaker Road home.


John Wallace

An incumbent with 24 years on the board, Wallace is a 1977 graduate of West Branch with bachelor’s degrees in physics and math from Mount Union College in 1981. He has worked 36 years in the metals industry for companies that design and build equipment for metal producers, having held positions such as engineer, international sales manager, technical sales manager and vice president of sales. He currently works as manager of product development of engineered equipment sales at SES LLC in Alliance as well as manager of business development for the SES SALICO Joint Venture (Spain and Italy) and the Achenbach SES Joint Venture (Germany).

His community activities include membership of St. Ann’s Church in Sebring, the Association of Iron & Steel Technology and the West Alumni Association.

“The West Branch community has been my home and family all of my life, so I know and appreciate what it has to offer and stands for,” Wallace explained. “The knowledge I have gained over my 24 years of service on the school board has been a privilege and gives me valuable insight to the operations required to run an effective and efficient school district both fiscally and educationally.”

Wallace said he is seeking re-election because he believes he can continue to help guide the district.

“I have the knowledge, education, experience and passion to be on the school board where future issues will need local, state and national interaction in order to keep up with the many changing mandates put upon our school district,” he said. “Traveling all over the United States and many parts of the world with my work has let me see many diverse areas, and you realize the benefit of our West Branch Community.

“WB always puts the children first and foremost ensuring that their educational needs are met, and it is imperative that we continue this tradition.”

As a long-time incumbent, Wallace said he has had the honor of earning community support in the early 2000s for the district’s building projects including a new middle school, Damascus Elementary and Knox Elementary with the renovation of the high school. He also noted the district has consistently educated its students at a financial level significantly under the state average per student while maintaining a stable financial position the past several decades operating under the state minimum 20-mill tax floor, “and that is a difficult task to achieve with increased unfunded state mandates, decreasing enrollment and decreasing state funding.”

Additionally he cited the implementation of the OIP (Ohio Improvement Process) in the district about five years ago, helping the district improve the quality of education to all students of our district.

“Our staff and administration do a fantastic job of educating our children. The implementation of OIP has improved communication and procedures within our administration and staff through the District Leadership Team (DLT), the Building Leadership Teams (BLT’s) and the Teacher Based Teams (TBT’S),” he said. “This allows the district at all grade levels to look at data incorporate future “Best Practices” educational decisions to educate the students of West Branch in the most efficient and effective way.

“West Branch implementing the required professional development for our staff and the new 1:1 initiative starting in the fifth and ninth grades this year and over the next several years by utilizing the proper technology integration will also help engage the students with content to create and develop new thinking processes, encourage higher-order thinking skills and facilitate collaboration in and out of the classroom. These are all important skills and attributes to make West Branch students college and career ready and achieve state standards in the most efficient way.”

Wallace said during his tenure on the board he has researched and attended professional development workshops in order to understand educational issues and legislation changes.

“As a school board member, we expect our administrators and teachers to constantly look at ways to improve, whether through additional college classes or professional development, so that they can educate our children in the best way possible. School board members must be sure that they understand the requirements and the work required to implement legislative and state mandated Educational issues (i.e. common core standards, new teacher evaluations, principal evaluations, etc.),” he explained. “I make the effort to do the research and attend the needed workshops to get the knowledge required to be an effective school board member.

“I have received numerous credit hours of training on implementation of the new common core standards, new teacher evaluations, collaborating with colleges, using district data for implementation of best practices, common core, etc., by participating in OSBA workshops, Board Leadership Institute and attending National School Board Association meetings.”

Wallace also noted his participation on multiple committees within the district such as the District Leadership Team (DLT), the Athletic Council, Buildings and Grounds Committee and Management Committee.

“In order to be an effective school board member, you must make the effort to be as knowledgeable as you can and be active in the district,” he said. “I make the effort to be the most effective school board member I can be.”

His interaction with the children of the West Branch community extends beyond his role as school board member, too, Wallace said, noting more than 30 years of involvement including teaching CCD and working with the youth group at St. Ann’s Church for over 25 years, serving as cub master and den leader for the Boy Scouts in the Knox Township area and helping with Girl Scouts in addition to coaching many teams throughout the years.

“All of this interaction has given me a wonderful knowledge of the students in our district and has kept me focused on ensuring that they receive nothing less than the best,” he said.

Wallace lives with his wife, fellow West Branch graduate Amy (Nezbeth) Wallace, on Homeworth Road. The have four children, all graduates of West Branch.

The Salem News did not receive a response to an election questionnaire from Josh Carreon, Eric Glista and Don Gullet.