By Kevin Kelley
A current Westlake school board member, the campaign treasurer of a current member and a former Fairview Park school board member are vying for two seats on the Westlake City Schools Board of Education in the Nov. 5 election.
Barb Leszynski, a retired North Olmsted Middle School teacher, was appointed to the school board in March 2012 to fill a vacancy. She has said she will continue to advocate for strong schools while being fiscally prudent.
At the Oct. 1 League of Women Voters forum, a questioner noted that Leszynski’s daughter is employed by school district as an elementary intervention specialist.
Leszynski told West Life her daughter’s employment by the district does not change her objectivity as a board member. “I don’t see it as being a problem,” she said, adding that in the last teacher contract she negotiated a pay cut for her daughter. Leszynski added that she abstains from any board actions specifically mentioning her daughter.
Opponent John Finucane, president of a shipping logistics company, said he did not think her daughter’s employment was a conflict. Brad Lamb, the former president of the Fairview Park Board of Education, told West Life it was a concern, but, was not making it an issue in his campaign. Lamb said he believes Leszynski would recuse herself from votes when appropriate.
In 2011, Finucane served as the treasurer during the successful campaign of current board member Tony Falcone. Does this mean his philosophy is too close to Falcone and other board members?
Finucane said getting involved with Falcone’s campaign enabled him to become better informed about public school issues. Finucane said he won’t be a robot mimicking other board members, adding that questioning of the school board should always be welcomed.
Lamb, a county court bailiff, said he was not concerned about Finucane’s connection to Falcone, with whom Lamb played high school football when both were students at Westlake High School. Leszynski told West Life that Finucane’s business perspective could be valuable to the district.
During the LWV forum, Lamb offered mild criticism of the coming Common Core State Standards, suggesting it would lead to too much control of education by state legislatures. He said the district could exceed the standards on its own. “My biggest concern is losing local control over the education of our kids,” Lamb later told West Life.
Finucane said he was surprised at Lamb’s criticism, adding that the standards will elevate academic achievement without the loss of local control. “He didn’t seem to have as much background on it as he should have,” Finucane said of Lamb. Finucane also noted that the Common Core State Standards were initially advocated by governors and corporate leaders, not the federal government.
Leszynski said she was concerned by Lamb’s criticism of Common Core, asking how someone could be against raising academic standards. “It’s not something to be afraid of,” she said, adding that Lamb’s comments caused her to question his understanding of the standards. School districts will retain local control over how the standards are implemented, she added.
Lamb’s background indicated a clear interest in politics. Just a few years out of college, he served as executive director of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party. He served as campaign manager for Matt Dolan’s run for county executive. Lamb, who moved to Westlake in August 2012, was appointed to the suburb’s Planning Commission in January.
Finucane, who made a point at the candidates forum of stating he would not use the school board seat as a political stepping stone, told West Life Lamb seems to be on a political path.
It’s a criticism Lamb said he has heard before. He said he has been encouraged to seek other offices during his six years on the Fairview Park Board of Education, but stayed on the board until his family moved. Lamb said he does not see the Westlake school board as a stepping stone.
“I enjoy school issues,” he told West Life. “I enjoy getting things done.”