Voter Guide: Yellow Springs Exempted Village School District

Voter Guide
Voter Guide



The Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News invited local candidates to fill out the following questionnaire to inform readers.

Luisa Bieri Rios

Credit: Andy Snow

City: Yellow Springs

Education: MA, University of Utrecht; BA, Smith College; Salutatorian, Yellow Springs High School

Current Employment: Associate Professor of Cooperative Education, Community Arts and Performance at Antioch College

Community Involvement: previous board member, Yellow Springs Home Inc.

Why are you seeking elected office? I proudly attended Yellow Springs public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, as did my father and does my current seventh grader. I value the students, teachers and staff of our schools and want to see our young people thrive within a village that prioritizes their wellbeing and education. I will work to support and improve our district’s curricular excellence as well as its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and access. I would like to see YS Schools strengthened through ongoing development and retention of teachers and students, as well as new improved facilities. I remain committed to our public school system as the foundation of our civic and social fabric, and believe that all children have the right to equal access to education. I envision YS schools to remain integral to a flourishing village, and look forward to serving the community in this position.

Why should voters elect you? As an educator, I am passionate about young people’s holistic growth and their intellectual, social and emotional development. I believe that academics should be matched with excellent opportunities for experiential learning, creative expression and social engagement. I value dialogue and strive to be an active listener when concerns arise. I will invite student perspectives and input. I remain open to learning new information and ideas, while relying on science, historical facts and area experts. I unequivocally support inclusionary practices and the advancement of intercultural understanding and equity. We live in challenging times, and I am committed to supporting students as they problem-solve toward some of the greatest difficulties facing our world and our community. Yellow Springs schools teach students to use their voice and be their authentic selves, uniquely preparing young people to become future change makers. I am excited to be part of the vision for the future of our schools at this critical time.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? Many of the challenges facing public schools are due to gaps in state and federal budgets that leave districts scrambling for funding. Families then face difficult decisions around affordability and exceptional schools in their community. I will advocate for safe, accessible, energy-efficient facilities for our children to learn and thrive. I support the current levy for new K-12 facilities. The current plan is the most comprehensive and cost-effective over time. Postponing the issues that the levy addresses will only make them more challenging over time. I will also work to support curricular advances, teacher development and student needs to be able to close the gaps in district-wide achievement. I will continue to emphasize the need for strong socio-emotional learning, intercultural skill development, creativity, play, and other areas that are not measured on state tests. I have seen many exceptional examples of project-based learning since it was embraced by the district. I value this kind of experiential learning that builds a connection to the environment, a sense of community and relevance in dialogue with larger global issues. Finally, while maintaining an emphasis on health and safety during a pandemic, I will also prioritize efforts to attract and retain teachers and families to our district. I see YS Schools’ commitment to social and environmental justice as a strength and asset. I will strive to continue to create an educational environment where all are welcome and find a sense of belonging in our school community.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? I plan to engage with the educators, administrators, students and staff of our schools to listen and learn from their experiences and work to address current needs. I will work collaboratively with other school board members and the school community to move forward these priorities. I also will welcome dialogue with the larger Yellow Springs community, particularly as we move forward toward envisioning new facilities and ongoing partnerships that strengthen our schools and our town. I will intentionally work with leadership to enhance the schools’ efforts, while inviting direct input from students, parents, teachers and staff. I will keep my ears and mind open to new ideas and opportunities, seeking out models for best practices in the state and beyond. I plan to learn more about the budgeting process and allocation of school resources, so as to best serve the students of the district. I am continuously inspired by our young people and will prioritize their needs and wellbeing in times of change or challenge.

Anything else? It would be an honor and a privilege to serve our schools and community as a school board member.

Dorothee Bouquet

City: Yellow Springs

Education: PhD in History from Purdue University; M.A. from Université Marc Bloch Strasbourg II; B.A. from Université de Rouen (including one year study abroad in Universität Tuebingen)

Current Employment: Senior Lecturer, Purdue University

Community Involvement: Greene County Coalition for Compassionate Justice, Educational Visioning Team for the Yellow Springs School District

Why are you seeking elected office? Yellow Springs, as a community, has nurtured me as I became a new citizen and mom, and it’s my time to give back. As a new voter, I have realized that keeping up with local governing is out of reach for most citizens. In fact, I found myself being a sort of interpreter or reporter for other villagers who wanted to know but couldn’t go to the various meetings in person. I was happy to do the research, share my findings and put my skills to service for others. I want to bring the same energy, attention to detail, listening and communication skills to my position on the school board, and guide the public conversation on local issues to its most productive potential.

Why should voters elect you? Choosing to become a U.S. citizen has motivated me to be an involved member of my community. I had been an immigrant for 12 years prior to becoming a citizen and felt the limitation of paying taxes without having a vote, especially when I became a parent. I am fortunate to have completed graduate degrees (I have a PhD in history), which gave me research and analytical skills, and I have been applying those to understanding how our local governing works. I am also coming to these conversations on local issues with empathy: I do not believe the narrative that people vote down a school levy because they don’t care. I believe that people pay the price for the state legislature failing to follow the Supreme Court rulings on how to adequately fund schools.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? The first priority would be to reach a long-lasting solution for our school facilities, and I see that in the proposed school levy: it’s the most affordable and long-lasting solution we have on the table. An offshoot of this issue is to determine the fate of the Mills Lawn School property so that it’s beneficial to all. I advocate for community forums on this topic. Our village is made of passionate, knowledgeable and creative people. Let’s hear their best ideas. My second priority is to strengthen our HR policies. One of the reasons for which our school district is so great is that many of our teachers are our neighbors. We have lost about a quarter of our staff in the past recent years, especially during the pandemic, and we need to do our best to retain our staff or to entice our future employees to live in the village. Finally, 15% of our student population needs educational accommodations, which is just slightly above the state average. I want for the board to work on providing them with a robust school experience, where we meet them where they are.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? My plans are already in place: I am currently advocating for both the proposed school levy and for the need of community forums on the fate of the Mills Lawn property. I come to the table for those conversations with empathy and readiness to hear everyone out. On the next issue, I have already reached out to and engaged with the superintendent on how to improve our HR policies. Some of these improvements are small but mighty, such as setting up exit interviews for the employees who are leaving. I am also encouraged by the district’s recent decision to join the PINE program, which will help us better embrace neurodiversity in our schools. I look forward to see how it will help the staff, administration and family come up with the right plan and actions for the kids who need accommodations.

Anything else? Yellow Springs is far from being the only rural community that struggles with passing school levies. In fact, a third of school levies fail in Ohio nowadays. We are all paying the price for the state legislature’s failure to follow the Ohio Supreme Court rulings and adequately fund our public schools. The fiscal burden is falling on the shoulders of rural communities. The problem is that failing a school levy does not make living more affordable. In fact, it might accelerate the rate at which a community ages, which hurts everyone. The proposed school levy is ambitious but will keep our community vibrant.

Judith Hempfling

City: Yellow Springs

Education: A.D. Nursing

Current Employment: Miami Valley Hospital

Community Involvement: Yellow Springs Village Council

Why are you seeking elected office? It is in our best interest to preserve and improve the current school facilities. I therefore oppose a new K–12 school. These are my reasons: No. 1: Our children are facing an unprecedented emergency, a code red according to the United Nations, regarding warming of our planet. We are citizens of a first world country who out consume the rest of the world. We contribute more than most to this destruction of our planet because of the huge consumption we feel is our right. No. 2: The greenest building is one which already exists. The EPA states, “a new, green, energy-efficient building that includes as much as 40 percent recycled materials would nevertheless take approximately 65 years to recover the energy lost in demolishing a comparable existing building.” No. 3: Our school buildings are not worn out. They are structurally sound. We would not be using them if they were not. Adequate funding for maintenance and upgrades can ensure the current buildings meet standards appropriate for the education of our children for the indefinite future. No. 4: By making the decision to preserve our current school facilities, our youngest children will continue to flourish at Mills Lawn Elementary School, a beautiful natural setting and much loved village green. No. 5: We can provide an excellent education for children of all incomes in our public school system and contribute to the effort to keep our community affordable. This requires a maintenance/rehab plan, which cost the community can bear.

Why should voters elect you? I am committed to protecting the fiscal health of the school district as a key responsibility of the school board. It is essential in protecting academic excellence. School board members are representatives of the community and need to also respect the taxpayers ability to pay. The operational budget pays teachers and staff, and funds activities and curriculum are central to educational programs. Our operational budget will need to be increased in the near future. We do not want a community overstretched by school taxes, which is then unable to meet the needs of the operational budget. We do not want to be among schools which have shiny new buildings but inadequate monies for teacher salaries and curriculum needs.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? No. 1: Caring for our school facilities with a thorough permanent improvement plan which prioritizes the needs of our facilities and is paid for by an adequate permanent improvement levy, which is placed on the ballot next spring. No. 2: I will support rigorous democratic debate among school board members and robust citizen input for optimal policy decision-making. When significant concerns arise in the district, whether academic or other, school staff should play a central role in finding solutions. Open honest discourse between school board members with robust citizen input should assist in this problem solving. No. 3: I agree with our community’s strong consensus for following CDC guidelines regarding COVID, respecting and supported transgender and gender non-conforming students, and teaching the truth about white supremacy’s destructive role in our country’s history and current day.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? No. 1: the school board should hire an engineering firm to assist with a permanent improvement plan to update the current facilities. No. 2: An adequate permanent improvement levy should be placed on the ballot next spring. No. 3: I will advocate for the rigorous debate of ideas during school board discussions and for robust citizen input for optimal decision making.

Anything else? I served on the Yellow Springs village council for 11 years, six as the council president. I am most proud of achieving inclusiveness and respect for all villagers input.

Amy Magnus

City: Yellow Springs

Education: Air Force Institute of Technology, PhD, Electrical Engineering, 2003; AFIT, Masters of Science, Electrical Engineering, 1995; Rochester Institute of Technology, Bachelors of Science, Electrical Engineering, 1990

Current Employment: Founder and Director, Yellow Springs Science Castle

Community Involvement: Presently, I serve as the manager of the Yellow Springs Winter Farmers Market and assistant manager of the Yellow Springs 4-Season Farmers Market. I am the admin of the Facebook group YS Schools Talk and a member of the Yellow Springs Theater Company. I also mentor tech startups. This fall, I’m mentoring Gonzola Perez, a University of Dayton alum, through Project Enginuity, a business development program run by the Entrepreneurs’ Center and Dayton Chamber Minority Business Partnership. Formerly, I authored the weblog Mixin’ in the Village Gravy at the Yellow Springs News. I have served as board president of Yellow Springs Library Association and board vice president of YS Home Inc. At the public schools, I have been a math tutor, reading tutor, and coach of the Late Wednesday Lego Team.

Why are you seeking elected office? I’m running for school board to give voters a well-informed, meaningful choice. For the sake of good governance, I urge district voters to say no to Issue 18, and yes to saving Mills Lawn School. We are at a critical juncture where voters will set school fiscal policy for the next decade. We need policy that balances our responsibilities to maintaining facilities with the pressing needs of students and faculty. The choice I offer villagers is a disciplined approach committed to high quality education, well-maintained schools, the preservation of Mills Lawn and affordability in our fair village. I come from a family with experience in education. Grandma Katherine was a farmer, third grade teacher and the elementary school principal. Grandpa McCoy was an engineer and school board member himself. In the school buildings of my hometown, I still recognize their well-loved handiwork. Its scale and continued relevance fills me with a strong sense of identity and belonging. I’m a dedicated public servant and passionate supporter of public schools. The local public schools of Yellow Springs educated not only our children, but also Jeremy and myself as parents. We didn’t know what autism or ADHD was starting out, but the schools gave us clear guidance. They’ve made enduring contributions to our children’s education for which Jeremy and I are deeply grateful. I want to pay forward. I’m here to help.

Why should voters elect you? I offer a sound and affordable alternative to the costly levy and 0.5% permanent income tax proposed on the ballot. I represent a choice that maintains our beloved elementary school and other existing school buildings rather than tear them down to start all over again. Yellow Springs has never invested in new buildings while its school population has been falling. Given the turbulence of this decade, we would be well-advised to be cautious now. Fortunately there is another path. I advocate for financing phased facility improvements using a permanent improvement levy. A PI levy accumulates revenue at good pace and funds capital projects over time. This steady revenue stream will enable us to end a failed policy of deferring maintenance.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? My priorities are high quality education, healthy schools, and fiscal discipline. I’m excited to contribute to promoting excellence through cooperative education, group learning and play. As a student of cooperative education, I learned how work experiences shape identity and self advocacy. I will connect students with cooperative education opportunities through partnerships with local employers, the Career Center and the Strategic Ohio Council for Higher Education. Challenges await as schools address the learning gap — interruptions in group instruction brought on by the pandemic. Unaddressed, these gaps will impact graduation rates and student readiness. Complications from the pandemic must reveal themselves but my experience assessing group instruction for its impact on readiness will help the schools identify emerging issues. Recently, principal Hatert said the path to closing the learning gap is through quality teaching. Exactly! Science out of Harvard suggests the key to instructional recovery is providing students with age-appropriate group instruction. Students thrive when challenged at their present stage, and the schools’ dedication to Social-Emotional Learning shines here. Art programs contribute as students practice individual agency through music, multimedia, creative writing and theater. Play is also critical to recovery. Our students have missed opportunities to play together, and play is the work of childhood. We facilitate childhood development through its improvisational and nurturing accommodations. Here I bring my work with Learn to Earn Dayton and their programs promoting childhood development through interactive, purpose-driven and wonder-filled activities on regional playgrounds

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? If elected, I will set sustainable fiscal policy so we have resources for operations, regular maintenance and upgrades, and professional development without maxing out school credit. I will keep school policy laser-focused on high quality teaching and student readiness so learning recovers from the disruptions of the pandemic. I will connect students with cooperative education opportunities through partnerships with the Strategic Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE), the Entrepreneurs’ Center, the Wright Brothers Institute and local employers. I’m particularly excited about opportunities in broadcasting. I will dedicate myself to researching the efforts of other school districts as we aim to serve more children and families. Finally, I will fortify resources for the arts, special education and early intervention so that they are truly integrated into the school and not shoehorned in.

Anything else? Currently my life’s work is dedicated to standing a children’s museum. This endeavor has been a source of joy as it has involved me in the education of young people in a variety of settings. On June 19, 2019, I founded the Yellow Springs Science Castle. In August, the children’s museum received its third grant from the National Informal STEM Education Network, and we look forward to developing Earth sand science interactives with the community. We work with Learn to Earn Dayton on designing regional playgrounds for the project Play on Purpose.

Pamela Nicodemus

No response