Two residents have entered the race for the expiring seats on the Newbury Board of Education during the general election in November, both focused on uniting the township and ensuring a smooth transition if the proposed territory transfer with the West Geauga Local School District moves forward.

David Lair, 67, and Terri Rice, 52, both pulled petitions from the Geauga County Board of Elections on May 20 for the seats currently held by Martin Sanders and Kirk Simpkins that will be up at the end of the year. Mr. Lair and Mrs. Rice are running as a slate and held a meet the candidate’s event on June 1 at Veteran’s Park in Newbury to collect filing signatures.

While the seats up for election are four-year terms, those elected might only serve on the board for six months if the territory transfer is approved by West Geauga’s school board and the county educational service center and Newbury becomes a part of West G on July 1, 2020, as tentatively planned.

Mr. Lair retired from his position as Geauga County administrator in January after serving in that role since 2005, and he previously worked as township clerk (now known as fiscal officer) for Newbury Township. He said he is running to help the township have a school district that attracts families and spurs economic development.

“I want to see the kids in this community have the best possible education,” Mr. Lair said. “I want to make sure as a community we’re portraying ourselves as being organized in how we conduct local government business. The local government can’t bring in business like politicians promise, but local government can scare off businesses if they act dysfunctional. I want to help us operate in a very professional manner going forward.”

A Newbury High graduate, Mr. Lair said while he wants to “preserve the good things about having a small single township district.” Newbury’s low enrollment numbers prohibit cost effectiveness and he supports the territory transfer. He noted that if elected he would not join the board until after West Geauga and the county ESC made their decisions, and he wants to have productive and civil conversations with those opposed to the territory transfer throughout his candidacy and beyond.

“I understand where (those opposed are) coming from, but we have to look very hard at the opportunity now to join one of the top rated school districts in the state,” he said. “Because the other issue is if we somehow successfully push off on this and the territory transfer doesn’t come through and we go a few more years, we could be in a situation where Ledgemont was where the state could come and dictate.”

Mrs. Rice has lived in Newbury for more than 12 years and works as the executive administrative supervisor for the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. She said her main reason for running is to make the transition to West Geauga as easy as possible for students, parents and township residents if the territory transfer goes through, noting her personal experience when her children changed schools as they grew up and working with Refugee Response in Cleveland with those making dramatic life changes.

“I really have a heart for people who are making this kind of change,” she said. “I just really think the West G territory transfer is a great opportunity for Newbury students. I want to help bridge the gap, maybe be a liaison with West G Schools and just kind of listen, be able to listen to concerns Newbury kids have and concerns parents have and make sure their needs are being met when they transition to their new school.”

Mrs. Rice said if elected she will work to unify the township and build relationships between the Newbury and West Geauga communities.

“Especially with West G Schools, just build rapport to show them there are citizens in Newbury that really want to make this a successful change,” she said of her goals. “Bringing the community together in unity, I know that’s probably a big reach, but I think the best that we can hope for is some kind of unity so that the identity of Newbury continues, that they have still a proud heritage and proud identity.”

Mr. Sanders said he is considering running for re-election but acknowledged his decision will depend on how West G and the county ESC vote on the territory transfer issue. He along with Mr. Simpkins voted against the resolution in January that confirmed Newbury’s intention to move forward with the transfer.

“I’m sort of waiting and seeing to be quite honest,” Mr. Sanders said. “There’s part of me that wants to run, my son graduates next year, but this has been a really tough two years. Right now I’m contemplating it, but I’m not 100 percent sure either way.”

Mr. Simpkins said he does not plan to run for re-election this fall.

“I’ve done my time,” he said.

Tim Tedeschi covers the Solon and West Geauga Board of Education, as well as statewide education issues, sports and features. He is a lifelong diehard Cleveland Indians fan and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University.

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