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Get to know the school board candidates

It’s election season and Barberton and Norton have important local races. The Herald is providing profiles of each candidate, written by themselves, lightly edited for style. Each candidate answered four questions: Who are you? Why are you running? What makes you better than your opponent(s)? If (re-)elected, what are your plans?


Here are be Norton’s school board candidates, presented in alphabetical order; voters may choose three of the five:

Patrick Burch

My name is Patrick Burch and I’ve been a Norton resident since 2014. My wife and I have two kids ages 6 and 4 that keep us very busy. We have developed lifelong friends all throughout this community and it is time for me to give back. I am an engineer by trade with a decade of operations experience in either project or personnel management positions. I currently lead a team of several hundred manufacturing personnel in a 24/7 operation up in Cleveland. In my spare time, I am in a leadership role with a local community outreach ministry where I try to leverage all of my time and resources to make the biggest positive impact possible on the people around me. When I get time to myself I enjoy hunting, working on projects around the house and making memories with my family.

I see a need for principled leaders in all levels of government that are willing to take their oath to the Constitution seriously and that starts with educating our youth. When we see a public school system that is primarily run by one world view we know we have a problem. This problem has manifested itself in plain sight in today’s society when it comes to heavy handed COVID policy and destructive material making its way into our schools through the back door. Our nation was founded by a brilliant group of men that envisioned participation in government from all corners of society. This vision of competing ideas from all aspects of life has been lost within the public school system. I really feel like there is a large percentage of our society in general, and specifically in Norton, that is looking for someone to represent their values in the oversight of the district.

I have been a part of countless major capital investment projects and I know what it takes to drive performance in an organization. I probably don’t fit the standard description of what people expect in their traditional school board candidate and I think that is my biggest advantage. You are voting on much more than someone’s social status or whether their family tree grew up in town or not. A lot of times local politics becomes a stark reminder of our worst memories of high school popularity contests. I am not a part of the “club” and I think that is something this town needs. Oversight in a school system should be done in a principled way that puts the students first. I am unashamed of my Christian faith and my conservative worldview because it penetrates every decision I make throughout my life. This is the foundation I stand on as I live my life and I intend to bring those values to the school board.

My approach to the board is going to be similar to my professional life. My specialty throughout my entire career, I has been to get in front of a team and help break down barriers that hold us back from achieving our goals. We can clearly define our goals in the education system by looking at how efficiently we are spending our money, what types of educational results we are getting as a result of that investment and what kind of progress we are making in our efforts to improve. I am excited to work with the staff to create the most well rounded educational experience possible for the students. A big part of the success of the district hinges on the trust level of the community. We need to improve communication with the community so everyone can easily understand exactly where their tax money is going and what types of results we are getting with that investment. Norton is a growing community, which is very exciting, but that brings a unique set of challenges to the district. I will find the most creative ways possible to keep the community informed on all of these initiatives.

Sarah Dykes

My name is Sarah Dykes and I am a graduate of Norton City Schools.

People have lost confidence in public education. We’ve strayed from a focus on superb core subject mastery and a value system upheld for generations. If our public schools are meant to be a reflection of the public with whom they reside, then the values of that public should be evident. Sadly, I have seen and heard from many in our community that this is not the case and many others are merely uncertain. Furthermore, folks are discouraged and disheartened and question whether their voices are represented in this community we share and in the district we support.

As a proud Norton graduate, active community member, devoted aunt and godmother, I have decided to run for school board to be the fresh voice our district needs and represent the community as a whole, one that reflects our core values and is diligent in preserving the educational standards of excellence that have for decades earned us a distinction of pride.

With Norton as my hometown, my value system is firmly rooted as a small-town girl. I’ve attended the same church my entire life, where I have been elected to numerous committees and volunteered with Children’s Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I have been a poll election official for many years and I’ve previously been elected as a precinct committee official for Summit County. In addition to other civic memberships, I’m a Friend of the Library, and I volunteer with Right to Life of Northeast Ohio. I have 20 years experience in nonprofit and public policy sectors with an emphasis on grassroots activism; as an alumna,  I would bring an unbiased and unique perspective to the Board.

My top priority as a member of the Norton school board is to be a representative of our community and our values while advocating for high educational standards.

A key factor in student success is parental involvement. It is imperative that the parents have oversight and approval of the materials in their children’s classrooms. There is a lack of transparency and communication in subject matter, day-to-day lessons and classroom resources. I would like to give the power back to the parents by creating a community review board that will ensure that all materials are age-appropriate, align with curriculum standards, and promote our American values. I do not support teaching Critical Race Theory or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion lessons in any form as they seek to divide rather than unite. I do not condone Comprehensive Sexual Education or Social Emotional Learning as these are inconsistent with the values of our community. I will work diligently to promote educational opportunities that allow our students to thrive in and out of the classroom. I will encourage programs such as our 4-Cities Compact that create and promote alternate avenues for career success as well as programs for increased community involvement.

Chris Inks

I am the current president of the Board of Education for Norton City Schools and was elected to the school board four years ago. I am also a lifelong resident of Norton, as well as a graduate of Norton High School.

Most importantly, I am a husband and a father. My wife Angie and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary this fall. We are proud to have two wonderful children. Our daughter Mya graduated from Norton High School in 2019 and our son Andrew will be receiving his diploma in May as part of the class of 2022.

Norton schools is a large reason why my wife and I decided to raise our family in this community. Four years ago, I decided that the best way that I could continue to give back was to join the school board to ensure that the future families would have the opportunity to have the same great experience as mine while attending Norton Schools.

I feel that in my time on this board I have helped create an open-minded and team-oriented atmosphere which has garnered the support of this community. I am running again to continue to see the progress of this board and this district. It has been a pleasure to serve, and I look forward to continuing for four more years.

(I have) experience, both board experience and leadership experience in my professional and personal life have given me the tools needed to collaborate with others to set and achieve goals. As a board member you must see the big picture. It is easy to fixate on one topic or issue, however, it is important to understand how that one decision could affect many different people. This was never more evident than over the past 18 months. The COVID-19 pandemic left us to make decisions daily that could have had lasting effects long beyond that current day. The experience of navigating our district thru that time with our team has made me a better board member.

In 2018 Norton City Schools passed a much-needed operating levy. Since then, conversations have shifted from what needs to be cut into what more can be done for our students and staff. With that change in conversation, the culture has changed. “We roar together” is more than a motto, it’s a way of life in Norton City Schools. My plan, if re-elected, is to continue to collaborate with our amazing team to nurture this culture while keeping the traditions and values that this community has supported over the years. Progress –Community–Pride were the values that I based my campaign on four years ago and those still stand today.

Elissa Staats

I am the wife of a lifelong resident of Norton, Dan Staats, who has been an educator in Canal Fulton and wrestling coach for 28 years. I have two adult sons and Dan and I have a daughter who attends Norton Elementary School. I am a former school board member of St. Hilary School in Fairlawn, Ohio. As a successful business owner, Marine Corps Officer Candidate School graduate and practicing attorney for the past 28 years, I know how to get things done. I have lived in Norton for the past 11 years and have become fully engaged in our community. I am a member of the Norton Historical Society, Norton Kiwanis, Norton Elementary School’s Parent Advisory Committee and Norton’s Panther Parents Athletic Booster Club. I am a Norton High School Wrestling statistician, Norton Youth Fastpitch Softball volunteer and former Norton Youth Cheerleading adviser. Because I am deeply involved in our community, I hear what parents want for their students and am committed to the continued improvement of Norton City Schools. In just eight months as a member of the Norton City School’s school board, I chaired the Panther Preview event, bringing our entire community together to celebrate our students and the start of a new school year. I am currently working to improve our academic and athletic programs. I will ensure that the school district is a good steward of our taxpayers’ money. I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves to make things better. I am committed to serving Norton schools and am asking for my constituent’s votes.

I was appointed to the Norton Board of Education on Dec. 14, 2021, to fill Pat Santelli’s position. In my short tenure, I have impacted the school district and have more that I would like to accomplish. I feel I can continue to make a positive difference for our students and their educational experience.

What sets me apart from my opponents is that I have school board experience inside and outside Norton City Schools. I understand the role of the Board of Education and I am committed to working with the other members of the board to continue to make Norton an excellent school district. Being married to a teacher and being the parent of a student, I bring a unique perspective to the board because I know what occurs both outside and inside the classroom.

I am a successful attorney with a practice dedicated to family law, so I know and understand many issues our students face. My colleagues have selected me to serve in leadership positions with the Akron Bar Association. Having received a quality education myself, I know first-hand how a solid academic program can open doors for students. As such, I want to see continued improvement in Norton’s state and national rankings and test scores. As an active member of several community organizations in Norton, I am aware of what citizens want out of our school district and for their children. Aside from planning the Panther Preview event, I have worked to bring internet connectivity to our stadium, which is in the process of being installed over the next couple of months. I have suggested using our Four Cities Compact students to build a pavilion at the stadium so that fans can gather for tailgating before games and students have a place for outdoor learning. I am focused on improving the upkeep of our district’s campus grounds and facilities. Because I have a daughter enrolled in Norton City Schools, I am personally invested in the community and want our school system to continually improve. We must have board members who value Norton schools enough to enroll their children in our school system.

If elected, I plan to make sure that our students receive an excellent education that will enable them to be successful and ready for careers in the 21st century. While Norton provides a great education, there is always room for improvement and for the district to adopt new educational avenues for students to succeed. I support implementing various paths to career readiness and improving state and national test scores and rankings. I plan to enhance school programs both in and out of the classroom. We must educate the whole student, academically, artistically, and physically. I am currently working to have transparency regarding how the school system budgets for athletics and other extra-curricular activities. I plan to ensure that the school district is a good steward of our community’s money, and I want to continue bringing the Norton community together to support our students.

Cindy Webel

I am a Norton graduate who has lived in the community for the last 36 years and have dedicated myself to improving Norton schools for many years. I am married to Paul and we have four children and six grandchildren. I am the secretary of the Norton Alumni Association, which raises money for student scholarships. I am a member of Kiwanis and I participate in the Akron Children’s Hospital Tree festival each year in memory of our daughter, Nicole. In addition, I co-founded the non-profit organization the Norton City Schools Foundation which also supports students with scholarships. I also volunteer with Norton Aid during the holidays. Norton Aid provides families with food at Thanksgiving and gifts for Christmas. I also volunteer at my church by helping with the Blessing Bag program. The Blessing Bag Program provides a bag of food for food insecure Norton students for the weekend. In addition, I was a Norton Girl Scout leader for 13 years. I love serving and trying to make things better for our students.

I am running for re-election on the school board because I have a passion for serving the children in the Norton Schools. My experience working within our school system as well as my involvement in the community gives me an invaluable perspective of the needs within our district. It takes hard work and dedication to maintain a top ranked school system within our budget. My goal is to continue to work with our district to improve the educational experience of our students. We strive for this each and every day.

I have a tremendous commitment to our school system and many years of experience dedicated to making Norton City Schools better for our students. I have been working in our school system for over 30 years, which began when my children first entered Norton City Schools. I run a fundraiser at the band competition Art in Motion to raise money for Children’s Hospital. I help with Norton Aid and co-run a program called Blessing Bags which provides food for food insecure children on the weekends during the school year. I have always put student’s needs first and I have a great working relationship with our administrators and staff which enables us to accomplish a great deal. We all work hard together to deliver the best possible educational experiences for our kids. My heart is with our students and community and I would love to continue to serve them.

My top priority is and has always been the education of our students and to provide the best possible opportunities for them within our budget. I understand school finances, which is not always easy. I want us to continue to provide additional programs, including classes to better equip students to work and lead after graduation. We need to continue to provide mental health services to help our students cope with the pandemic and the issues they face as they go through life. We are never finished in evaluating what we can do for our students. Together, I want to continue to work toward providing better educational opportunities to prepare our students for their future.


Here are Barberton’s school board candidates. Two seats are open.

David Polacek

My name is David M. Polacek, I have been married to Joy Polacek (BHS Class of ’87), the father of two BHS graduates, Joe (2018) and Brooke (2021). An Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster of Troop 110 in Barberton, I have resided in Barberton Since 1987. I am a graduate of Norton High School (’86) and The University of Akron, BA (’91). I am a member of the Magic City Kiwanis and finishing my third term on the board.

I was part of a board that started a plan to enhance the district, with new buildings, curriculum development and to prove what many knew already, that Barberton City School District is an amazing entity. These last two years have been challenging and our team has taken the lead in many ways. We are not through this yet and I wish to remain on the board to help continue our positive direction.

What makes me better than my opponent? Nothing. Dedication and commitment are necessary in any elected position.

What are my plans? I am only one of five voices on the board. My plans are to continue to meet these challenges face to face and ensure that our district is the best it can be.

Tina Ludwig

Polacek faces a write-in challenge from Brady Avenue resident Tina Ludwig. Ludwig was invited to participate in the profiles but did not submit one.

1 Comment

  1. Schools on October 12, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    Show me the candidates who OPPOSE the Critical Race Theory and those will be the ones getting my vote.

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