The Lakota Board of Education appointed a new president and welcomed in its newest board member at its annual organizational meeting Thursday.
After serving two straight years as vice president, Ben Dibble was the only school board member nominated for president. Dibble replaces Joan Powell, who had served as the board’s president for the past two years.
“I have be able to watch Joan do a great job and learn under someone who was on the board for a long, long time,” Dibble said.
“This will be a challenging year for Lakota and the board will need to work together.”
Overall, the selection process of the school board’s president went much smoother than it did a year ago when board member Ray Murray demanded change and challenged Powell.
In his challenge, Murray and board member Lynda O’Connor voiced their displeasure with fellow board members who agreed to spend $50,000 in its search for a new superintendent.
Those board members, Powell, Dibble and Paul Lohr voted in favor and approved the hiring of the search firm. More than six months later, the school district finally hired Karen Mantia as its new superintendent with the annual salary of $165,000.
At this year’s organizational meeting, newly elected board member Julie Shaffer was sworn in and appointed vice president.
Shaffer, who has also worked in the employee benefits and finance field for 22 years, joins the board at a time when it must decide how to trim $9 million from its operating budget for the 2012-2013 school year.
“There are certainly going to be many challenges ahead,” said Shaffer, who has three children (ages 13, 10 and 5) in the district. “There are no easy answers out there. It is going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of people working together to come up with any solution.
“I hope that I can bring my financial perspective to those decisions.”
One decision Shaffer and her fellow board members will need to make in 2012 will be whether to place another tax levy on the ballot.
With the district facing a projected budget shortfall of $14.1 million by 2015, the freshly appointed vice president is in favor of placing a tax levy on the ballot this year.
“When I look at the financial situation, which is where I have spent the majority of the last five years on while working on Lakota issues, I do still believe that there is a revenue need,” said Shaffer, who volunteered on Lakota levy campaigns and has lobbied in Columbus for changes to public school funding.
“I believe that passing a levy in 2012 would be critical in order to not continue eliminating opportunities for our students.”
Joining Shaffer in starting a new four-year term on the school board Thursday was O’Connor, who begins her second term. Shaffer and O’Connor each received approximately 25 percent of the vote in November’s election, which was more than fellow candidates Mark Etterling, Jamie Green and Luke Hall.
Choosing not to seek re-election this November was Paul Lohr, who closed out his term Dec. 12. Fellow board members, Powell and Dibble, terms will end at the conclusion of 2013.
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