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Fulton School Board appoints Bonderer to open seat

The Fulton School Board spent an hour and a half visiting with and questioning candidates before ultimately appointing Andy Bonderer to the open board seat Wednesday night.

Each of the five applicants for the position — which also included Jeffrey Stone, Paula Fessler, Crystal Morris and Clint Smith — was given five minutes to address the board during its open public meeting, followed by a series of questions from the board members.

By random drawing, Morris was the first to make her statement.

“My vision for the Fulton Public Schools district is to increase the educational curriculum so children of all backgrounds have the opportunity to learn and be educated,” Morris said.

Asked about what she saw as the school board’s role, she replied, “to be there to address issues that arise within Fulton Public Schools and identify answers for parents, and be there for the students,” Morris replied.

Next up Smith, a former board member, had the opportunity to plead his case.

“I’ve been asked many times why I would serve on the school board,” Smith said. “To watch our students enter the system and not know who they are or where they’re going, and then 12 years later watch them walk across a stage and get their diploma, that’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

He said his goal for the district is for it to become more unified.

“I want us to have one board, a superintendent, teachers, children and community all come together to be one Fulton,” Smith said. “If we can do all that, a lot of our problems would be solved.”

Bonderer was the next applicant to adress the board, noting that he was “a little taken aback” at the amount of support he received when he announced his decision to apply for the position.

“I don’t come to you with a list of things that need to be changed and a pocket of pixie dust to fix it,” Bonderer said. “I’m on the Millersburg Fire Board, so I understand making decisions where needs exceed means and you never know 100 percent if you’re right.

“You have to do your research and go where your heart tells you.”

He response to the question regarding what his priorities would be if the board were forced to make cuts was that he couldn’t provide an answer right away.

“I would have to read and research more to have more knowledge,” Bonderer said. “If you’re talking about programs, is that program doing what it’s meant to do — are you getting value out of that — the same with people, are they doing what you’re paying them to accomplish?”

As to dealing with patrons with complaints, Bonderer said his first step would be to “wade through the emotions — is there a legitimate issue?”

“You have to be diplomatic and research the issue,” he said. “The place to start would be (Superintendent Jacque) Cowherd — what is the other side of the story?”

Bonderer said he sees the role of the school board as providing support for the faculty.

Asked why he did not choose to run for the school board in the general election, Bonderer said he had initially had some reservations regarding lack of knowledge about how the board works, but noted “I’ve considered it several times, I just feel like I’m being led.”

When it was his turn to speak before the board, Stone said he has a unique perspective to bring to the board having grown up in Fulton and then later having chosen to return to the community to raise his own children here.

“I’m an administrator at Fulton State Hospital, I’m an adjunct instructor at William Woods University, I’m on the PTO board, I’m a very active parent,” Stone said. “I spent 20 years in the Air Force and I’m an employer now in this community — I know what it takes to get a student through school (and ready for the work force).”

He equated the role of a the school board to his job at the state hospital, saying he sees the board as an executive group that “oversees all the different areas and makes sure the staff has the resources it needs to be successful.”

Fessler, a former teacher with Fulton schools, was the last to appear before the board.

“I retired two years ago and I do miss interacting with students and feeling like I have a positive impact on their futures,” Fessler said. “My goal is to continue what it is the district is doing to prepare students for life after they leave this school."

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