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Six candidates vying for three seats on Ashtabula Area City Schools Board of Education | Local News | #Education

ASHTABULA — Voters will find the names of six candidates on the Nov. 2 ballot — all hoping to win one of three seats on the Ashtabula Area City Schools Board of Education. 

All six candidates participated in a Meet Your Candidates Night on Monday at Lakeside High School, sponsored by the school district’s unions and moderated by the League of Women Voters.

Political newcomers Jason Keeler, Mary “Peachy” Chatman and Darius Williams are running against three incumbent board members: the President, Christine Seuffert, Vice President William A. Niemi and Dr. Debra Barrickman.
Keeler, a lifelong resident of Ashtabula, is an Army veteran, police officer and small business owner. He’s earned a degree in criminal justice.

“It is time to get back to basics and focus on the ABCs: accountability, budget and curriculum,” he said. 

A Lakeside High School graduate, Darius Williams, served six years in the Ohio National Guard and works in food service industry. 

“I want to get back in front of our youth to show there’s more than one way to be successful,” he said. “I want to be a role model for our youth.”

Chatman brings 40 years of community service to the table.

“We need someone [on the school board] who’s in touch with people,” she said. “Our young people need something different because what we are doing isn’t working.”

Seuffert said she’s seeking re-election to Board of Education because she believes in and consistently supports the potential and dignity of all students and staff.

“As a former AACS teacher, coach, union officer, board member and community volunteer, I am able to base decisions on data, both financially and academically,” she said. “The team of superintendent, chief financial officer and school board members must know and drive the policy and vision of the district. It is an honor to serve and invest my time and resources in the AACS and our community.”

Niemi, a lifelong Ashtabula resident, graduated from Harbor High School in 1975, and holds an MBA in human resources. He retired earlier this year from Catholic Charities. 

“I believe my business background will help the district and I care about kids,” he said. “The board has made tremendous progress in our district and I hope to continue my service as a board member.”
With 46 years experience as an educator in a wide variety of roles and settings, Barrickman said she has the skill set and commitment to positively impact the Ashtabula Area City School District. She’s earned a PhD in curriculum and instruction from Kent State University. 

“I am eager to continue serving our community to help create an outstanding district,” she said. “I believe my professional background makes me qualified to serve on the Board of Education.”

Chatman said public education should provide the same opportunities to every student.

“Our children deserve the opportunity to learn and grow,” she said. “Public education should do it right.”

Keeler said education in America should be about equality.

“We need to reach out to those families leaving the district,” he said. “Public education is about equal opportunity.”

Williams said it’s all about supporting your neighbor.

“It takes a community to raise a child,” he said.

Seuffert, who’s spent her entire life in public education, said she loved her years as a teacher. She backed building new schools and other initiatives to improve education for students. 

“I am running for re-election to continue the forward motion of the board,” she said.

Barrickman said public education should give students life skills, preparing them for the future.

Niemi reiterated Barrickman’s response.

“We need to prepare our children for life,” he said. “Community members need to be involved in the district. That’s why I wanted to be on the Board of Education. I wanted to roll up my sleeves and dig in. My time on the board has been challenging, but it helped me understand the district.”

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