Meet the three challengers for the upcoming school board election.
BY LUKE ERIKSEN, ’22 AND ELLIE CRESPO, ‘22. PHOTOS COURTESY THE CANDIDATES’ WEBSITES.
Over the course of the Aug. 10 Upper Arlington Board of Education meeting, the audience went from booing to cheering and back again. The public participation section of the meeting was the cause; parents on both sides of the mask debate expressed their opinions on the school district’s mask policy.
Around 90 minutes into the meeting, one man said he believed the school district should wear masks. Later in the meeting, a woman said she believed students should be given a choice whether to wear a mask or not.
There has been no shortage of controversy regarding
the board’s decisions surrounding the district’s approach to COVID-19. In February, the board voted to move in-person students to a five-day schedule starting Mar. 1. This move was met with frustration from parents, students and faculty. The teachers’ union reacted to the board’s decision with a work to rule mandate, teachers were required to work only the minimum hours. Administrators hosted information meetings and created
scheduling and safety procedures. Many parents said they felt they were not given sufficient notice from the vote, and wished they had time to address it at board meetings.
In the midst of divisive issues and controversial board decisions, three people are challenging incumbents Scott McKenzie and Carol Mohr, the board’s president and vice president, respectively. The incumbents are running joint campaigns and share a website. With five
candidates running for two seats on the board, the community is preparing for a competitive race.
The election will be held on Nov. 2. Voters must be registered 30 days prior for both online
and in-person voting and mail-in ballots must be postmarked for 30 days prior.
Liz Easton has been a resident in Upper Arlington for 15 years. All of her children have graduated from Upper Arlington High School, the youngest graduating in 2020.
Easton has a teaching degree, but only taught in Upper Arlington for a few years in order to take care of her kids at home.
She decided to run after her youngest child graduated this past year.
“I’m just kind of concerned about the direction that our schools are headed. The school board has kind of lost focus on what is really important and that’s the education of our children,” Easton said.
She said she gained inspiration from her father who was a principal in a suburban community outside of Chicago.
“We had one high school. [It was a] very similar community and [it was the] same size [as Upper Arlington], and my dad was there for 25 years,” she said.
Easton explained her father came up with the ‘three A’s’ for working in education.
“That was his focus for 25 years with excellence. Those ‘three As’ are academics, athletics and activities,” she said.
Easton wants the school board to focus most on issues regarding the ‘three As’.
“I think we spent a lot of time and energy on things that don’t have anything to do with the academics for our kids. You know – for example, the whole bathroom issue, and time and money spent on masks,” Easton said.
She mentioned she was concerned about UA’s dropping school rankings in recent years.
“We need to be focused on getting our school rankings back up, and while I totally understand that rankings are not everything, they are important when people move to a community,” she said.
Easton did not state any specific policies she would want to implement, although she said she believed the board is not using finances in the right way.
“We have so many great resources in many ways that fiscally, I’m not sure we’re using the money in the right places,” Easton said.
Optometrist, mom and avid participant in the district Nidhi Satiani entered the race earlier this year.
“Lots of things inspired me to run for Board of Education… watching how policies are being made within our district and knowing that there is a better way that is more inclusive of everyone’s voices,” Satiani said.
Satiani has served as the After School Discovery Chair/Co-Chair at Wickliffe Elementary for five years before the pandemic, exposing herself to a wide range of perspectives.
“There’s the parents, there’s the teachers, there’s administration, there’s community members who don’t have children in the district, there are people who formerly had children in the district. I’ve really appreciated the ways that I’ve been able to be involved because you can see how these different stakeholders have a different impact on what’s happening within the classroom,” she said.
Prior to being actively involved in the UA school district, Nidhi started out as a student herself, becoming an optometrist and studying public health at The Ohio State University.
“I have fifteen years of practice of combining [the] science-backed answer to a problem with the human element,” Satiani said. “Creating a treatment planhonors all of that.”
As an optometrist, Satiani often provided care for patients facing serious issues like drug addiction and income instability.
“My experiences allow me to be very comfortable in different settings. We need to have respect for the lived experiences of people different than ourselves,” she said. “That’s something I value.”
She also put great emphasis on the importance of having a good method of communication with the Upper Arlington community.
“I would love to see the board stepping into the role of being the [organization] that you reach out to, the [organization] that you connect with,” she said. “As a citizen in our community, it’s important to me that I’m able to connect with the person that I voted into office.”
Lou Sauter, UA native and father of two, is running because of his disapproval of the board’s recent decisions.
“I felt like Upper Arlington School [District] leadership has failed our kids and that the UA School Board has failed to lead and provide oversight,” Sauter said. “I think a lot of people, especially parents and some of our older students, recognize the same things that I see, and are uncomfortable with the current direction of school.”
Sauter said he values transparency within the school district.
“It seems as though a lot of decisions are made without communicating to the community first, so, you know, we should trust our community,” he said. “It’s about being honest and open with the community about what you’re doing.”
The issue of masks in UA schools is also a focus of Sauter’s.
“I think we should have followed what New Albany did and, and allow[ed] the parents the opportunity to choose whether or not their kids should be in a mask at school,” he said.
Sauter shared his thoughts on the Aug. 10 Board of Education meeting, where the decision regarding masks was made.
“I thought the behavior of the people in the crowd on both sides was something we shouldn’t be finding acceptable. We shouldn’t be yelling at a doctor [who] is volunteering his time to be guiding our community and guiding our schools. We shouldn’t be yelling at the school board. We shouldn’t be yelling at each other,” he said.
Mental health is also a priority of Sauter’s.
“We should have, for our students, an opportunity not to schedule something with somebody a week later, right? But somewhere, someone in the school for you to go and talk to, not a college counselor, somebody who’s a trained psychologist [to] stay in the school to help you,” he said. “I think this is an issue that should be talked about. It is so normal to have… some kind of mental health [struggle] in your life. If you haven’t had it, there’s a good chance you’re [going to]… it’s okay to say, you know, I need some help along the way.”