FEATURED PHOTO: FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR BARBARA SYKES
IdeastreamPublicMedia.org, By Connor Morris, Posted November 16th 2023
The Akron Board of Education will have some new faces starting next year with former State Rep. Barbara Sykes and city employee Summer L. Hall and incumbent Rene Molenaur winning the three seats on this year’s ballot, according to unofficial November 2023 election results.
Sykes, who was the first Black woman to be elected to Akron City Council and was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006, got the most votes in the eight-person race by a wide margin, receiving about 21,450 votes. Hall, who is a community outreach coordinator for the city of Akron, came in second with about 11,200 votes and Molenaur rounded out the pack with 9,868 votes. Molenaur, an instructional coach at the university of Akron. was appointed to a seat vacated by former Board President N.J. Akbar in the spring.
The board faces some big decisions in the near future, with the district likely to put a school levy on the ballot amid a challenging financial outlook over the coming years. At the same time, it’s contending with how to replace the aging North High School, a decision which could also require putting a bond issue on the ballot. The district is also dealing with declining enrollment as well as low test scores and student achievement at many of its schools.
The new board members will be working with relatively new Superintendent C. Michael Robinson, who was hired by the board over the summer.
Two of the vacancies the new board members will fill will be those of current Akron Board of Education President Derrick Hall and board member Valerie McKitrick who are stepping down at the end of the year. They started their tenures in 2020 and saw the school district through the pandemic and the hiring of two superintendents. The current board has been criticized for their treatment of former Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack, who left the district after roughly a year and a half on the job.
Sykes in comments during a candidate forum in October criticized the board for not being transparent about what led Fowler-Mack to leave and campaigned on the board being more transparent with the public about its decision-making processes.
The slate of candidates included Patrick Bravo, who was a board member from 2012 to 2021 and board president in 2017, 2018 and 2020; Phil Montgomery, director of finance and budget for Summit County; Keith Mills, an intervention specialist at Cleveland Metropolitan School District; Gwen Bryant, a national instructional consultant and leadership coach; and Myron J. Lewis, a retired chemical dependency counselor. Bryant received the fourth most votes, followed closely by Bravo.