By Adam Kiefaber and Michael D. Clark
Newly appointed Lakota school board president Joan Powell announced on Monday night that she wouldn’t be running for her seat this fall. She is one of Greater Cincinnati’s longest tenured board members.
“This will be my last year on the board,” Powell said during the regularly scheduled school board meeting.
“16 years is enough. A friend of mine (Sandy Wheatley), who served on the board for 12 years, told me you will know when it is time … I just knew that it was time.”
The 16-year board veteran first took office in 1998 and her tenure on the board coincided with Lakota’s booming student population that has seen the Butler County district become the second largest in Southwest Ohio and the eighth largest in the state.
“She has been able to see the evolution of changes that have occurred in education,” said Karen Mantia, Lakota superintendent. “She also has a grasp of where it is going, so that past experience really guides her to see what the future will look like and we will miss that.”
Powell’s leadership has often been credited for some of Lakota’s many successes, but on occasion she has also been the center of controversy. Most recently, Powell in 2011 publicly criticized fellow board members for not working together and impeding the board’s effectiveness.
During Powell’s stint on the board, Lakota rose both in size and academic prominence, becoming the largest district in Ohio to consistently earn the state department of education’s highest academic rating.
“It has been incredible amount of time. Lakota has doubled in size since I first started on the board. There have been so many changes,” said Powell, 61, who is a realtor with Huff Realty in West Chester, also has two grandchildren and two children.
“I have worked with four different superintendents. I can’t think of how many governors. Lakota has seen a lot of change and I hope Lakota can remain so successful because I really do believe that it holds a valuable place in this community.”
The 17,300-student district has not seen voters pass a new operating levy since 2005 and saw three school tax issues rejected at the ballot in the last two years. The district has cut more than $36 million in personnel and programs in recent years and is anticipated to go back to the voters for a new school tax later this year.
Two other board members, whose terms are up after the year, Ray Murray and Ben Dibble said they were both planning to run for their seats.
Both Murray and Dibble began serving on the board in January of 2010.
The remaining board members Lynda O’Connor and Julie Shaffer were most recently elected in the fall of 2011 and began four-year terms in January of 2012.
Shaffer is currently serving her first term on the school board, while O’Connor is serving her second four-year term.
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