The student news site of Olentangy Liberty High School.

Patriot Press

The student news site of Olentangy Liberty High School.

Patriot Press

The student news site of Olentangy Liberty High School.

Patriot Press

Who We Would Vote For in The OLSD Board Election

This past Wednesday, we attended a panel hosted by Liberty Juniors Natalie Contini, Maggie Brown, and Carrie Mohler. It took place at 7 p.m. in the Olentangy Liberty High School Library and featured the five people running for positions on the Olentangy Local School District board. The candidates were both new and returning to reclaim their position in office. The two returning candidates are Kevin O’Brien and Libby Wallick. O’Brien is the longest-serving, having been on the board for 13 years. The new candidates feature Ben Weber, Shilpa Saxena, and Lizett Schrieber. They answered a series of questions first provided by the students and then asked by the audience. Its entirety was videotaped and published on 

Each candidate left a lasting impression on us, which we discussed afterward. Even though we aren’t 18 yet, we as students know which 3 candidates we would vote into office based on their answers and overall approach to the panel.


The Candidates

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Shilpa Saxena presented herself as a highly involved parent in the school district. She is someone who regularly volunteers at her children’s schools, encourages them and other students to voice their opinions and speak on their identities, and coordinates diversity events. She spoke passionately about the importance of diversity in our growing school district and what she has done to make her specific culture as a person from India celebrated. She has faith that with the right initiatives, students can become involved because to her they are the most important and influential aspect of Olentangy. She struck us as someone with a fresh perspective the board could use. Out of the five candidates, only two are people of color. Saxena seemed more than ready to advocate for people not only of her culture but also outside of it. She mentioned how she read to elementary schoolers on Chinese Lunar New Year, a tradition she does not personally celebrate. Eagerness is something we shouldn’t overlook in a candidate, she may not have experience on the board but she has done more than most in our community. 


Kevin O’Brien shared his standing on the board, which is 13 years and counting, technically making him the most qualified to have the position. He relied a lot on the length of his time in the position while answering questions. He struck us as a serious board member, answering his questions very matter of factly, in the ways he has seen them play out and also contributed to. When the panel was open to questions from the audience one concerned parent asked him a question relating to an evaluation that was missed one year during his time on the board. He ended up not receiving this question well, responding back saying this was the 12th time she had asked him this question in, what we observed to be, an unkind tone. Though we know parents asking questions repeatedly may become annoying, she still deserved a solid response, which from our observation she still did not receive. O’Brien did not provide any new or innovative ideas, though he has been on the board longest out of the five and therefore understands the inner workings better, we wish he would have had more of a compelling reason for wanting to uphold his position on the board. However, his time on the board is very valuable and the board would in no way be in peril if he were to stay in office.


Ben Weber began his introduction by referring to himself as a victim of Olentangy Local Schools. This was in contrast to the rest of the candidates who expressed pride for the academics in Olentangy. Multiple times he referred to his daughter’s experiences as a student in the district, leading to his conclusion that Olentangy needed to improve their academics. This felt like a strong statement to make based on one student, given that Olentangy has such impressive statistics and rankings. He gained a lot of attention at the panel after answering the question about diversity and inclusion. He stated that he felt there was too much money being spent on diversity and inclusion. He then gave a personal anecdote about how gay and straight students in the marching band were able to get along fine until students requesting alternate pronouns complicated things. During the question portion of the panel, Weber was challenged on his stance by an attendee. The interaction felt heated and Weber shared that they had had this conversation before. Despite having educated answers to multiple other questions, his stance on diversity and inclusion was the most memorable part of his portion of the panel for us and struck us as hostile and insensitive. 


Libby Wallick is another returning member of the board. She brought up numerous times that she felt disadvantaged by her seat on the panel, as she had to answer the majority of the questions last. Despite this, she was able to give valuable insight often based on previous meetings of the board. Many of her answers went hand-in-hand with O’Brien’s, and at times it felt like they were just speaking for the board. Wallick showed immense pride for Olentangy, and her background in education made her well-spoken on the topic of schooling. She felt strongly about the importance of taking into account student opinions, specifically referencing the student panel in the search for the new superintendent. In speaking on mental health, she also spoke on the importance of supporting our teachers, a necessary and compelling addition. She complimented Olentangy’s work with early literacy and concluded her answer to the question about her implementations by stating that she wants to continue to support the great work that is already happening in Olentangy. 


Lizett Schrieber’s background made her an outwardly perfect candidate for the school board. She grew up in her mother’s classroom, is a lawyer, and is now a mother. Like many of the other candidates, she had gratitude for what Olentangy has done for her children. She emphasized ensuring that every student feels seen and accounted for, especially as the district continues to grow. Her ideas were well-researched and creative, we were particularly impressed with her perspective that new businesses being built in central Ohio could serve as opportunities for students to build workforce skills early on. She created a strong connection between inclusion and mental health, something that was validating to hear as students. Her answers felt raw and genuine, she even admitted to not knowing what a rule asked about was. She expressed her desire to learn and grow, making her feel like a person, rather than just a candidate pushing an agenda. 


Their Responses to Our Questions


We both asked the panel questions. Hannah’s question was about the district’s standard of academic excellence and how to combat pressures that come with it and falling behind at Liberty specifically and Avery asked about both how money towards diversity and inclusion is being spent, and how the money’s effectiveness is measured. In response to Hannah’s question, Saxena discussed the current standing of the High Schools, which have tutoring programs and small classroom sizes to facilitate maximum learning. Weber also discussed tutoring but mentioned it in relation to his daughter. He also called students to action to help their peers who are falling behind. The question was interpreted differently by Schrieber. She saw it as a question relating to mental health, as well as what the two candidates before her discussed. She agreed that the setting is highly competitive and to combat that each student must be valued and supported in all goals they have. O’Brien discussed the balance between gifted programs and programs to help struggling students in response and received the question well as feedback, however, he talked mainly about the board’s history with this topic instead of the present. Wallick also saw the question similarly to Schrieber. She agreed the high-performance burden is heavy and this is why mental health and well-being initiatives are important. She brought up the 3rd-grade reading guarantee as an example of how students are met where they are, which can further be applied at higher levels. In our opinion, the best response was given by Schrieber, who discussed it in a nuanced fashion that revealed her to be an active and analytical listener and thinker.

As for Avery’s question, O’Brien, Wallick, and Schrieber gave explanations as to how the results of diversity and inclusion money are measured. Their answers were very similar, all making it known that, with the exception of surveys, there isn’t a straightforward way to measure the effects of money spent. Weber and Saxena chose to turn the question back to Avery, asking about how she feels diversity and inclusion could be improved in the district. While asking for the opinion of a student is valuable, it felt unnecessary in a panel designed to gain insight into the candidate’s campaigns. Despite this, both candidates were open to Avery’s suggestions and were not mean or condescending towards her. Saxena urged Avery to take action to propose changes to Olentangy schools. This was kind and supportive but strayed from the question and felt frivolous. It should be known that none of the candidates gave a clear answer as to what the money spent for diversity and inclusion was being spent on. This response was especially frustrating from Weber, given that he originally said there was too much money being spent in that category. 


Through conversation and reflection, we were able to decide who we would vote for if we were of age. We would cast our votes for Shilpa Saxena, Libby Wallick, and Lizett Schrieber. Saxena’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in our schools was indicative of a candidate that our board needs. Her passion and drive were admirable, and it was clear that she would work tirelessly to improve Olentangy if elected to the board. Wallick had a strong desire to uphold Oletangy’s greatness, and she was able to provide specific examples of how our district is currently thriving, and how it could improve. Having a board member who is a true fan of the district was something that we felt could help foster positive leadership of Olentangy. Schriber’s background in both education and law was compelling, as were her ideas on mental health and programs to benefit students interested in certain careers. She managed to have both a strong argument for her as a candidate and remain a likable and authentic person. Ben Weber’s ideas, specifically those on diversity and inclusion, did not align with what we felt our district needed, costing him our vote. Kevin O’Brien’s reliance on his past on the board, and his avoidance of important questions made us agree that despite his history with Olentangy, he was not what the district needed for future progression.                                                                                       

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About the Contributors
Hannah Yacob, Staff Writer
This is Hannah's second year on the Cannon and Patriot Press staff. She is also in Yearbook. She enjoys baking, spending time with her friends, and listening to music. She has one dog named Onyx and 3 younger siblings. She works at an ice cream and coffee shop in Dublin. She plans to continue writing in college.
Avery Cook
Avery Cook, Staff Writer
Avery Cook is a third-year staff member. Outside of writing, she enjoys dancing, reading, and hanging out with friends.

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