New CNE board members ready

to move district forward

By Dick Maloney

CLERMONT COUNTY, OH (January 24, 2024) – Two lifelong Clermont Northeastern School District residents are among the group charged with guiding the district’s future, and both are excited to see in which direction that leads, while acknowledging the challenges.

Christa Burbage and Alex Cunningham were sworn in as new board members at an organizational meeting Jan. 2 in the high school’s Heather Rhoades Commons. They, and incumbent Julie Schmidt, beginning her second term, were chosen by voters in November. Becki Johnson and Jon Stahl are the other board members. Johnson was elected board president and Burbage the vice president.

The two newest members of the CNE School Board: Alex Cunningham & Christa Burbage (Photo by Dick Maloney)

The two new members have similar backgrounds. Both graduated from Clermont Northeastern High School in 2001, and both have children in the school system.

Cunningham works as a facilities manager for General Tool Co. in Reading. He and wife Angie have four children in the district (10th grade, eighth grade, sixth grade and third grade); they attend Welcome Baptist Church, where he is a deacon and Sunday School teacher. Cunningham previously served on the board about a decade ago.

Burbage teaches at Milford’s Charles L. Seipelt Elementary School and has been a member of Clermont Northeastern’s Facilities Planning Committee and FFA Alumni Committee. In the latter role, she helped organize an Agricultural Day at Seipelt, working with the Clermont Northeastern FFA chapter.

Clermont Northeastern is their home, and neither sees that changing.

“I’ve never had a different address in my entire life. I went K-12 through CNE, went away to school at Morehead (State University), but didn’t ever leave home, never changed my address, and chose to buy the house that I grew up in,” Cunningham said. “And I have no intention to ever leave the district.”

The two Burbage children, Boone and Tabor, are fourth-generation Clermont Northeastern students.

“We plan to be district residents for the rest of our lives,” Christina Burbage said. “I care deeply about the history and future of the place we call home. I have a lot of respect for the residents of all ages, the staff of our school, our students, as well as local business owners.”

Their roots in the district give Burbage and Cunningham distinctive perspective, and the determination to keep Clermont Northeastern Schools true to the district’s character.

Clermont Northeastern School District Treasurer Kathy Neuner administers the oath of office to school board members Alex Cunningham, Christa Burbage and Julie Schmidt during the Jan. 2 organizational meeting. Others present, from left: Superintendent Tim Sies and board members Jon Stahl and Becki Johnson. (Photo by Dick Maloney.)

Cunningham would like to see improvement in district facilities (not necessarily new construction), pointing out that the drama program has to stage its productions at Anderson High School. Clermont Northeastern athletic teams also lack adequate places to practice, Cunningham said.

“There’s a lot there, he said. “So I don’t know that I’d say that’s my highest priority, but it’s definitely on my radar that I want to see our facilities improved.” 

 Facilities are also a priority for Schmidt, beginning her second term. She is one of the founders of CNE CARES (Community Alliance for Resources, Engagement and Support).

“The way our community comes together is also a huge strengt,” said Schmidt. “Another challenge is the way we are funded, while it is improving, we are not funded like districts similar to ours and will not have the same opportunities for building funds from the state as neighboring communities have had to get new facilities.”

There is more to a district, however, than state-of-the-art buildings. Burbage and Cunningham acknowledge that, and cite those unseen factors as part of Clermont Northeastern’s strengths. Burbage said the dedication and professionalism of staff match that of surrounding districts.

Cunningham notes Clermont Northeastern’s geographic footprint – it is the largest land-area district in the county, stretching from Batavia to Miami Township and even into Brown County, but doesn’t have a large anchor town. The Village of Owensville sits two miles from the three-building (high school, middle school and elementary school) campus, but the district is often associated with Batavia.

“What I think is great about our district is the fact that the school is really the community hub,” Cunningham said. “It’s just a broad area, but everybody comes together for the school.”

Clermont Northeastern’s Board of Eduation, from left: Alex Cunningham, Christa Burbage, Becki Johnson, Julie Schmidt and Jon Stahl. (Photo by Dick Maloney.)

“Many of the large fancy schools who come to our humble campus are simply several failed community schools wrapped in a large colorful package,” Johnson said. “They look really good, but they don’t have what we have.”

Few people know what makes Clermont Northeastern exceptional as well as Burbage and Cunningham. What is the best sales pitch to a family considering moving into the district?

“I think CNE has excellent staff members (who) also are competitive with any other surrounding school district. I think that oftentimes our district gets judged by its appearance, and I think that I would not want that to hold anybody back from bringing their kids here,” Burbage said.

Cunningham referred to the multi-generational nature of the student body, noting that his children are in classes with the children of his classmates, and he “knows everybody in the district.”

“The fact that Christa and I went to kindergarten together all the way through high school … I think you’d be hard-pressed to look at other school districts to see board members that went K through 12, serving together on the board.” – New Board Member Alex Cunningham