Meredith Bond is running a unique campaign to capture a seat on the Orange Board of Education. Dr. Bond, a resident of Hunting Valley, is hosting a private fundraiser next week with the invitation listing contribution levels of $500, $1,000 and $2,500.

“Nobody has done a big fundraiser like that since I’ve been on the school board,” said Melanie Weltman, a six-year member of the nonpartisan board who is running for re-election this fall.

Some residents of the Orange City School District received the invitation at their home on Sept. 10. The invitation states that there will be a reception at The Country Club in Pepper Pike starting at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 and Dr. Bond will speak at 6 p.m.

The event hosts, many of whom are elected Hunting Valley Village officials, are also listed on the invitation, including Mayor Richard Hollington, Councilmen Bruce Mavec, Jerry Medinger and Bill O’Neill and Clerk of Council Scott Mueller. Other Hunting Valley residents named on the invitation are healthcare executive Brian Colleran, entrepreneur Joel Adelman and businessman Mal Mixon. This contributors-only event is closed to the general public.

“I was surprised to read of the cost of this fundraiser,” Pepper Pike Mayor Richard Bain said. “It is the first time that I’ve ever heard of a similar event regarding a seat on the Orange school board. Generally people simply go out and meet the community and sell their ideas.” The mayor said he was not invited.

Dr. Bond said that she wants to raise significant funds so she can campaign throughout the Orange school district, which includes Orange Village, Pepper Pike, Woodmere, Moreland Hills and Hunting Valley, in addition to parts of Solon, Bedford Heights and Warrensville Heights.

“We want to generate a community-wide discussion about the quality and cost of educating our children versus the quality and cost of educating the children in neighboring, comparable districts,” she said.

Ms. Weltman has served two terms on the school board. In her first campaign, she said that she spent $3,000 to $4,000. On Monday, she said that she never held a fundraiser. Ms. Weltman noted that she has largely self-funded her campaign and some friends have given contributions. Once she also held a coffee hour at a residence to get to know the citizens and explain why she was running for the board of education.

“It was generous of my friends to donate, but no one donated even close to the lower amounts [on that invitation],” Ms. Weltman said.

Ms. Weltman spent her campaign funds on mailings, yard signs and an ad in a local newspaper.

Board of Education President Beth Wilson-Fish is also running for re-election this fall. She is completing her first four-year term on the board, and said that when she first ran, she did not ask for donations because she was unopposed. Mrs. Wilson-Fish said that she self-funded her campaign and paid for postcards for publicity. She spent $160.92 during her self-funded 2015 campaign solely to pay for postcards and postage. This time, she is looking to keep costs down.

“To be fiscally responsible, I hope that no more than $5,000 is spent on this,” she said of her campaign for the school board.

Mrs. Wilson-Fish said that she wants to be transparent about how her campaign funds are being spent, explaining that the money will be used for yard signs, postcards and two newspaper ads. She is having a “Meet the Candidate” night on Sept. 26 that is open to the public, but is not a fundraiser. She said that the average donation that she has received for this campaign is $25.

According to Dr. Bond, she is collecting campaign contributions to reach out to as many voters as possible.

“The issues that I’m raising impact everybody in all seven communities that make up the district. It’s about how we educate our students and how we protect our communities,” Dr. Bond said. “If we’re paying more, we’re putting our communities at risk.”

Dr. Bond said that she will use her funds for campaign literature to pass out while going door to door.

“I want to introduce myself, my background, my experience and my passion for students and education,” she said.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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