The Miami Student’s podcast “People and Policies” focuses on Oxford’s local election cycle, featuring conversations with candidates about various issues relevant to students, faculty and residents.
On this episode, Staff Writer Raquel Hirsch sits down with Talawanda School Board candidate Andrew Langsner who, if elected, would be new to the school board. The two discuss Langsner’s background in business, reasons for running, Talawanda’s finances and more.
Editor’s note: This conversation has been edited for concision. Listen to the podcast for the full conversation.
Hirsch: How did you find yourself running for Talawanda school board?
Langsner: It's not something I was expecting to do. When I moved here a few years ago, I first became interested in the school district and some of the politics that's going on during the last levy election, where I really hadn't been as involved in that kind of a levy situation before and have it be so polarized.
So when I started looking into what is the reason for this, why isn't everybody united around our schools, I uncovered a lot of people who've lived around here for a while who I've spoken to [and] have explained some of the politics around our school district. Which I was kind of surprised and saddened by initially because it's such a beautiful place to live and we have so much quality things going on for us.
I thought, ‘I'm here, I'm invested in the community. I feel like I've got a good background that could play a role.’ So I want to put my hat in the ring and learn more about it and be part of the solution.
What are your connections to the Talawanda schools?
I've lived in the actual district just going on three years now. So relatively new to the district, but I’ve been working in the Hamilton area for several years before that.
As far as children, we are proud to adopt in Ohio. So we are looking forward to welcoming little ones into our family and having them go through the district. But other than that, just a community member that's interested and invested in our students' education.
With your current role at your insurance company, how do you think that will enhance your potential seat on the school board?
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I work for an oil company that's been around for over 100 years. And technology is just transforming everything, every type of business, the way we interact with each other, and that also creates a lot of friction.
A huge part of my role in technology is to make sure that these transitions go smoothly, that ultimately we're leveraging new things to really make our company in our industry stronger. And I feel like a lot of the skills that I've developed in this kind of role would make me a great fit for the school board.
Do you think that your background in business … sets you apart from other candidates?
It definitely does. I am all about education. I was raised by a teacher, my sister's a teacher, both my grandmothers were teachers. It's sort of in my blood, literally.
But yeah, I do think I've had unique experiences outside of education. There's a lot of wisdom out in the world. A lot of it is in education, and there's a lot in all different kinds of experiences. So, I feel like it's important to bring those experiences and those different mindsets to the board so we can have really good dialogues and do the best that we can for our kids.
One area of your campaign that you mentioned is transparency. What kind of improvements would you like to see in this area?
Transparency requires certain actions. And I really feel that we need to develop, within our district, our own community metrics.
So, finding ways that we can give guidance to the administration about what's important to us as a community and give them that guidance, so they know when they're succeeding at those things or not.
Transparency to me means the school board works with the community and develops what those guidelines are, what those goals are, and then holds the administration accountable to those.
Another area that you are campaigning on is collaboration. What does effective collaboration look like to you and who does it involve?
We’re not there just to represent our own opinion on things. We're there to really listen to people in the community, listen to our teachers, our parents, even our students. And we're required to have those discussions in front of everybody with each other. So it kind of goes back to what I said, where we just need to make sure that we are representing other people's voices in our position.
Talawanda is currently in a budget deficit that has affected programs such as pay-to-play sports and cutting busing services. What are your thoughts on these cuts?
Let’s talk about transportation. This really concerns me that this became one of our top priorities to cut. I think it goes back to that we didn’t really provide clear guidance to the administration. So I think a lot of people felt kind of blindsided and maybe there’s other ways that we could have looked at in the short term to get some of those immediate cuts.
I’m okay with some pay-to-play dollars. We’ve had them historically. However, it should be the goal of the school board to make sure that every kid who’s interested in extracurriculars or sports, finds a way to do it, whether it’s directly through the school funding or working with groups.
Do you have any specific plans on how to close Talawanda’s budget deficit or things that you’d like to see happen?
It’s going to be tough for the next couple years. We need a short term strategy and a long term strategy. So long term, we got to win that fight with the State House. We also need to look at the whole levy structure. At the state level, we have a lot of flexibility with taxes where we can really allocate those in a much more fair way.
At the local level, we have very few options, so it's really hard to levy taxes on people who can more easily afford it without impacting those who can't. So, we need to have some working groups to really investigate this, maybe even bring in experts.
We do have time, that's a good thing our predecessors have created that for us. And that's where we need to show that we can build trust, that we can have transparency. These cuts are going to be difficult, but we can at least align on what's most important to us, provide that transparency there, and use that as a way to start building trust.
Going back to the levy that you mentioned, what is your stance on the one that failed last November? And would you like to see a version of another one on the ballot again?
After talking to so many people in the community, I'm not surprised it failed. It was by a significant percent, and it kind of goes back to the issues I was talking about. So I would not support a levy unless I felt like we had really achieved that trust and transparency and we were doing it in the right way.
If we can get there then 100%, I support it. And hopefully if I’ve read everything right, we have community support for that too. But without really having these difficult discussions about funding, we're not ready for that yet.
What strengths do you believe are currently present in the school district that you’d like to build on?
We have an incredibly strong community when you look at where we live. Let me give you this example; one thing that we're starting to teach in schools is grit, farmers understand this. So we’ve got a lot of this built into our community.
Not only that, we've got tradesmen, trades-women, and we have a beautiful center of higher education. So, we've got all the pieces to be an incredible school district. We just have to be really creative in how we bring all these pieces together. And that just requires a ton of collaboration and communication and trust, but it's all there now. No other district has this as far, as far as I know. That's what I'm most excited about.
Is there something else about your campaign that you’d like to discuss?
I just really hope and encourage people to give me an opportunity. I would love to represent this district and this community, and I’ll do everything I can for it.