Three Miami University staff members win seats on the Talawanda Board of Education

By Aaron Smith

Rebecca Howard, Kathleen Knight-Abowitz and Chris Otto won the three available seats on the Talawanda Board of Education in Tuesday’s election.

Howard received 19.98% of the votes and a total of 2,824 votes;  Knight-Abowitz received 18.11% of the votes and a total of 2,560 votes; Otto received 19.77% of the votes and a total of 2,822 votes.

Otto was the only incumbent in the field of six candidates. Andrea L Prather and Bryan Price, who ran as a team, and Lois Vollmer, who had served on the board previously, were not elected. Prather received 1,878 votes, or 13.29% of the total. Price received 1,938 votes, or 13.71%; and Vollmer received 2,110 votes, or 14.93% of the total votes cast.

Prather told the Observer last week that she and Pryce were concerned that some residents in the more rural areas of the district felt that their voices were not being heard by the board, and that residents more closely connected to Oxford and Miami University were favored. Although Prather and Pryce lost, some of the winning candidates agreed that this feeling is an issue that should be addressed.

“We absolutely must recognize and respond to the concerns of city and township residents alike,” Howard said the day after the election. The board must “find a way to be able to work with and through differences that are inevitable in the operation of a large school district that has such a wide geographic and cultural diversity,” she said.

Knight-Abowitz concurred. The perception of a disparity between residents of the outlying townships and those closer to Oxford “is not good for our district or our students, either.” she said.

All three winning candidates work for Miami University.

“I am grateful and humbled, and looking forward to working with all residents of the Talawanda District to insure that our children are receiving a high quality education, with staff who are caring and committed,” Howard said in a Facebook post after the votes were tallied.

She said she plans to meet with the superintendent and the current board members to help her transition into the job before she formally takes office in  January.

Howard said she wants to tackle two issues immediately: a looming budget deficit and questions about the grades the district got in the recent state report card assessment. Talawanda’s overall grade dropped from a B to a C.

Knight-Abowitz also thanked supporters on Facebook after the election. “THANK YOU to everyone who supported the campaign! So grateful to be able to serve,” her posting said.

Knight-Abowitz said she wants to learn the processes and procedures that the Talawanda School Board uses to make decisions as one of the first things she does.

The first issue Knight-Abowitz said she wants to address is the budget. No data in regard to the budget issue will be available until January or February, 2020. At that time the board will be able to look at what the report says and see where cuts will fall in line the district revenues.

Otto also thanked voters on Facebook. “A special thank you to everyone who voted and worked hard on my behalf to get me re-elected to the school board!” he said in the post.