The contested race for three seats on the Bethel Local Schools Board of Education drew eight candidates, the most for any race in Miami County this fall.

Seven of the eight participated in a candidate night in late September and all candidates subsequently were asked to answer the same series of questions including how voters if interested could obtain more information on them and their campaigns.

From those questionnaires and the candidate night, the following profiles were developed.

Danny F. Elam Jr.

Elam, 62, is a graduate of Bethel Local High School and Morehead State University. He has no prior political experience and retired after 29 years teaching in the district.

More information on campaign: On a Facebook page and on the Carriage Trails website.

Why are you running?

“Having experienced the tension between staff and administration before I retired, I hope to improve overall staff/administration relations. I also will work for better communication with the community and for better use of district funds.”

Elam said he believes he is qualified for the position due to his experience as an educator, working with booster groups and his involvement in the 2012 fundraiser to remodel the school auditorium. As a board member, he would work on problems such as pay to play, “extravagant” board spending, poor transparency at meetings and teacher negotiations. “I feel I can work in all aspects of public education,” Elam said.

List top issues facing board/how would address:

Lack of a teacher contract: “I will work toward equity questions in a new contract.”

Poor priorities in board spending: “All buildings and grounds questions cannot be addressed at the same time. We must take care of the people inside the building.”

Poor communication with the community: “I will give straight answers to community questions instead of dancing around the issues.”

Jennifer Evans

Evans, 42, is a graduate of Wright State University and The University of Dayton who teaches elementary school at Tecumseh.

More information on campaign: Facebook page Jennifer Evans for Bethel Local School Board or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Why are you running?

“I felt like there needed to be change at Bethel. I have heard about too many issues occurring at the school. There needs to be better communication between the board and the community and improved administration/teacher relationships. The board needs to set fiscal restraints on spending. I feel like I could make positive changes in the system.”

List top issues facing board/how would address:

Budget: “I would look at the item analysis on spending to see if cuts could be made without limiting necessary materials for teachers and students. I would closely monitor spending to restore/repair the old buildings by making sure several bids are considered. I would explore all options to maintain and increase money entering the district.”

Administration/teacher relationships: “I would like to create a liaison committee between the administration and the teachers so they can voice their concerns and issues professionally without retribution. The administration and teachers could work together to solve some of the issues and concerns occurring in the buildings.”

Administration: “I would like to survey the staff yearly in regard to school board members, principals and superintendent. The board needs to make sure the people they hired are treating staff like professionals and completing the tasks they were assigned.”

Pliny Scott Hawthorn

Hawthorn, 53, is a graduate of Wright State University and New Mexico State University. He is a board member.

More information on campaign: For questions, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Why are you running?

“Bethel is the fastest growing school district in Ohio, and is therefore facing many challenges. With this rate of change, experience is needed in the leadership. I have learned a lot in the past 8 years as a board member and in the levy campaigns I participated in before becoming a board member. I believe the kids deserve the strong, experienced leadership and stability that I am able to offer.”

List top issues facing board/how would address:

Finances: “We need to continue to manage the growth and see if/when we will need to build additional space. This requires us to really watch our finances very closely, as we do not have a lot of extra money, and the community feels saturated with current levies.”

Teacher Negotiations: “Bethel has a great staff. However, keep in mind that over 70 percent of our budget goes to staff salaries and benefits, so we have to be very mindful of the impact any agreement will have on the district. We have to find a solution that is reasonable for both parties without relying on additional taxes to fund it.”

Superintendent Longevity: “Long-term leadership is critical to making real advances in academics. The superintendent is committed to stay long enough to complete the tough challenges, be accountable for all facets of her job, and hold others accountable even when that makes her unpopular.”

Chase A. Heck

Heck, 19, is a Bethel High School graduate and a student at Wright State University.

More information on campaign: Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., also Facebook.

Why are you running?

“I want to give back to my community by being the voice our township, teachers and students need on the school board. I often think about all the amazing memories and experiences Bethel Local Schools have given me. Part of who I am today is most certainly because of this amazing school and environment. I want to ensure every student who attends Bethel Schools will have the same amazing memories and experiences I had.”

List top issues facing board/how would address:

Repairing administrative and staff/community relations: “I would propose creating a council made up of one or two board members, teachers from various grade levels, and maybe even a few community members. This council can meet to address concerns and resolve disputes before they turn into bigger problems. I believe this would be a good step to restoring mutual trust and respect between every group within the school district.”

School district financial stability: “I do not wish to be the one to say it, but another levy may be necessary to keep the school operational. I am not familiar with every single aspect of the budget. However, I would start with cutting as many non-essential expenditures as possible. Planned renovations for part of the existing school may have to be put on hold, especially if they are only cosmetic. Fiscal responsibility needs to be combined with practically in order to ensure the monetary stability of the school district.”

Jacob King

King, 43, is fire chief at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

More information on campaign: On Facebook @ Jacob King for Bethel Local School Board of Education

Why are you running?

“I have felt the current school board has not handled the growth, new building project or daily business of district effectively. I feel they have no transparency to spending, decisions being made and violate the Ohio Sunshine Law at most meetings. They have made policies that do not reflect our community needs.”

Top issues facing board/how would address:

Finding resolutions that are amenable for both sides to complete contract negations: “Ensure the discussions are handled with dignity and respect for the teachers. I would have an open mind coming into these discussions, while also understanding the pay inequalities amongst teachers.”

Managing the growth of the district currently and predicted future growth: “Accommodating the teachers with appropriate classroom sizes, looking at open enrollment, efficiently doing the most for the greater need, maximizing available space for classrooms.”

Establishing fiscal responsibility with an anticipated deficit currently projected in the forecasted budget starting in 2019: “Increase transparency to the community on spending, to ensure all members have access to see what their tax dollars are paying for. Stop unneeded spending by not purchasing luxury or items that are used for aesthetics and not for the learning environment. Establish a fiscal financial responsibility policy for the superintendent to maintain, with the board of education to enforce.”

Brian Moore

Moore, 46, has served on the board since 2014 and attended Paul Smiths College and the Rochester Institute of Technology

More information on campaign: Facebook Page: Brian Moore for Bethel School Board, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Why are you running?

“The reason I am running for another term is because we just moved into the new High School that we as a community voted to build and then worked so hard to design and construct. I am proud of what we designed and want to be an active member of the board to continue to our commitment to having a 21st century school for the children.”

Top issues facing board/how would address:

The district has fastest rate of student growth in the state: “We have to first understand the full scope of the growth. Student population has been growing at a rate of 100 to 125 students per year for the last four years and is expected to continue for several more. This is the projections impacting our combined K-12 School structure, which was built to a capacity up to 1,500 students. However, due to the school board’s foresight, we designed the building with some contingencies to adjust for some overcrowding.

How are we going to afford maintaining our aging infrastructure while facing the financial challenges: “We must maintain the old building with property improvement expenses for the repairs while having a project wish list of repurposing parts of our campus such as updating the elementary primary boys’ bathrooms and multipurpose room. This is in addition to working on building reserve funds to afford new structural projects. These would be smaller and more manageable projects.”

Julie Reese

Reese, 57, is a Bethel graduate and graduated from the University of Cincinnati.

More information on campaign: Facebook group “Julie Reese for Bethel Local School Board of Education” ( or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Why are you running?

“I believe change is needed. I went to a BOE meeting and was told that I could not speak that I must attend a private, off-the-record ‘coffee talk’ with the superintendent and/or another BOE member to ask questions or raise a concern. I also was concerned by the absence of a detailed business plan for the building of the new addition and the lack of fiscal transparency. I do not believe we are spending our funds as wisely as we could.”

Top issues facing board/how would address:

Fiscal responsibility/ open communications: “I will prioritize our necessary projects and repairs above ‘wish list’ items. In many cases during recent years, funds were spent on showy, decorative accents rather than needed repairs and projects. I will form a partnership with businesses and volunteers to eliminate pay-for-play fees and to bid on/help fund projects. I propose use of the Ohio Checkbook so spending is transparent. I will invite community input and open debate on all agenda items.”

Growth explosion: “I would develop detailed shortand long-term plans to stay on top of the issues and anticipate them prior to their occurrence – when and for which grades will we need additional teachers; when will the cafeteria require more capacity; when do we need to add classroom space; does our security plan need tweaking due to expansion; at what point will we need additional buses and drivers; etc.”

Joseph G. Solch

Solch, 65, has served 12 years on the school board. He is a graduate of Wright State University.

More information on campaign: A letter from Solch to all Bethel School district households about serious issues involving our schools is available at

Why are you running?

“As a 36year resident of Bethel Township, my children attended the Bethel School system their entire lives. They received a good education that was a direct result of the efforts made by many previous Board of Education members. I want to continue to participate in the process of helping improve our schools. If re-elected, I will work to see that the school continues to provide the best education possible for the children of the district.”

Top issues facing board/how address:

-Pressure from increased enrollment: “Continued efforts are required to address issues associated with increased enrollment. Even though Bethel Local Schools just opened a new high school addition, projected increases in enrollment will require renovation of older spaces and new construction of additional classrooms.”

Adapting and keeping abreast of technological changes in the educational process: “Schools are facing challenges in adapting to changes in education. Particularly in science and other technology driven areas, development of a strong program in computer technology is a necessity.”

Improving proficiency in State of Ohio mandated tests: “The continually changing state graduation requirements will require altering instruction to improve proficiency scores. Adequate resources must be dedicated for teachers to obtain training and support in order to be able to help students perform well on the constantly changing evaluations.”

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