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Oak Hill brings back former board members

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

Two former Oak Hill United School Corporation board members were re-elected Tuesday night, ousting two incumbent members after one term of service.

Oak Hill School Board President Lori Goss-Reaves was defeated by former board member Scott Dubois for the second District 6 seat on Election Day.

The decision for Oak Hill District 6 School Board members was decided by just 67 votes Tuesday evening. There were two seats open for District 6 and three candidates. Incumbent Board Member Scott Deaton received 1,312 votes, while Dubois beat Goss-Reaves with 1,078 votes to her 1,011.

Goss-Reaves started her term in 2014, making this her first chance to be re-elected to the board. She was named board president in January, where she said she felt vital in the process of evaluating the superintendent and helping others to do so.

During her tenure, she said she felt she had a strong work ethic and willingness to approach tough issues facing the corporation. Her hope after she leaves is for that attitude to continue.

“I can't thank enough the people who supported me during my campaign and at the polls,” she said. “It is my hope that the board will continue to ask the hard questions, and find solutions to the pressing issues facing our corporation.”

She added that her son Colton Reaves, a 2013 Oak Hill graduate, has inspired her to “speak up” for families with special needs children and be an advocate for special needs programs at Oak Hill. Before the election, she faced some criticism on social media regarding her youngest son transferring to Marion Community Schools for the theater program. Some pointed out that she was the only board member without children in the school system, though her other four children graduated from Oak Hill schools.

She added that a local group’s public endorsement of candidates Scott Dubois and Scott Deaton may have contributed to the election swinging in her opponent’s favor.

Dubois served on the board for 16 years starting in 2000. He was defeated in 2016 by District 2 Board Member Teresa Shafer but said he was encouraged to run again by locals.

Dubois said his reputation in the community and history on the school board helped him seal the deal on election night.

“I hope it was the idea that voters know I really care about students and that I try my best to protect them and teachers while serving on the school board,” he said. “I’ve known Lori for many years. She’s hardworking, but I guess voters thought they’d go in a different direction.”

Dubois was board president multiple times during his 16-year term on school board.

Another board member’s current seat was overturned by a former member in District 4.

Incumbent Board Member William Lehman was voted out, 532 votes to Stephen Fagan’s 1,439 votes in the race for District 4. Lehman said he was surprised by the wide margin.

“I thought it would be a close race, but it wasn’t,” he said. “I was out there (at the polls) yesterday, and it felt positive. I was definitely surprised.”

First elected in 2014, he said he thinks the change in representation may be due to his contrary voice on the board.

“I’d like to think I have a fresh perspective … I didn’t like borrowing money for projects and renovations that maybe weren’t needed, but we continued borrowing anyway,” he said. “I asked questions and made myself heard.”

He added that Fagan likely won due to his deep roots in the community.

Fagan said he’s been with Oak Hill United School Corporation “since its inception,” either as a student, teacher or school board member. He said he didn’t campaign, “I didn’t even put up signs.”

“I’ve lived here all my life, and he hasn’t. I don’t know why someone would be penalized for that,” Fagan said.

He served on the board for eight years until 2014, when Lehman ran unopposed for District 4. Like Lehman, he said he felt “outspoken,” but added that isn’t a bad thing on a school board. He mentioned some recent disagreements the Oak Hill School Board had been having and said conflicting visions are common and a chance to talk through problems.

“Open discussions and problem solving, coming together to find a solution to problems that seem insurmountable, I think that’s the best part of being on the school board,” he said.

While he can’t pinpoint a reason for the wide margin of victory, he said he’s excited to be welcomed back.

In Mississinewa Community Schools, Michael Crouch maintained his seat against Dennis Sample for District 3, 1,565 votes to 1,100. For Eastbrook's school board, Randy Atkins won against incumbent Roger Richards for District 1, and Gregory Bankle maintained his seat against Michael Fite in District 3.

School board officials will begin their term Jan. 1.