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Dayton School Board Candidates Debate Before High Stakes Election

Dayton School Board candidates participated in an issues forum in October
April Laissle

Dozens of people packed into the Dayton Public Library Monday night to learn more about the crowded race for Dayton School Board. Eight candidates faced off in a debate just weeks before the fall election. The race is attracting attention because a majority of the board’s seats are up for grabs.

At the forum, candidates clashed over staffing issues, educational policy for immigrant students, and the need for a new tax levy.

Candidates also expressed different ideas about the overall direction of the district. Several candidates said they believe DPS suffers from a perception problem in the community, and that the bright spots within the district are often overlooked.

Others disagreed.

“There are 23,000 kids who live in Dayton. Only 13,000 go to Dayton Public Schools," said candidate Mohamed Al-Hamdani. "And that’s because parents have gotten tired of failed school after school. We have to turn this thing around."

Al-Hamdani is running as part of a four-candidate slate that also includes William Harris, Paul Bradley and Karen Wick-Gagnet. Other names on the ballot are Ann Marie “Mario” Gallin, Jocelyn Rhynard, Jo’el Jones, and incumbent Joe Lacey.

They’re all competing for four seats on the seven member school board.

Learn more about the Dayton School Board race, and the candidates, at the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area Voters Guide.  

The election comes at an important time for the troubled district.


DPS narrowly avoided a state takeover last year by improving school report card scores. Test scores fell again this year.


This summer, the board oversaw difficult teacher contract negotiations that nearly culminated in a strike. And board meetings over the past year have been marked by spats between board members and members of the public.


Candidate Ann Marie “Mario” Gallin told the crowd the board needs to maintain a higher level of professionalism.


“We do need respect for each other as board members. We need respect for family members. It is not okay to berate a family member asking questions about their student’s education, whether it’s on the classroom level, the building administrator, or god help us, from the board,” she says.


That sentiment was echoed by other school board hopefuls.  


Candidates are scheduled to participate in another forum Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at Ponitz High School in Dayton.


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