Spotlight on Dr. Eric Schwetschenau  –

Sixth in a series of BOE candidate profiles

By Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (October 15, 2021) – Election Day 2021 is Tuesday, November 2, and will be here before you know it. With it will come your opportunity to decide who will serve as the majority members of the Loveland City School District (LCSD) Board of Education (BOE).  Loveland School Board candidates have been trying all kinds of ways to meet the voters.

I have been meeting with each of the candidates for one-on-one personal interviews in an effort to learn who they are and what they stand for. Meeting them face-to-face gives you the opportunity to learn about them in their own words.  

Several Candidate Profiles already appeared here on Loveland Beacon and were shared on Social Media outlets. In those personal interviews I’ve asked each candidate the key question: How they plan to do what they promise? The intent of these profiles is to provide some additional insight and information to help you, the voters, make a more fully informed choice at the polls on Tuesday, November 2.

PLEASE NOTE: Use the information to inform your decision at the polls. If you don’t have anything good to say, do not say anything at all!

Most importantly, I ask comments be kept civil and respectful toward

ALL CANDIDATES.

Here is the fifth in the series of Candidate Profiles with

the Beacon’s Light shining on candidate Eric Schwetschenau:

Dr. Eric Schwetschenau, serving as appinted member of School Board but seeking elelction for the 1st time (Provided)

Dr. Eric Schwetschenau( NOTE: Pronounced: Sweat-ya-now) and his family moved to Loveland in 2005.  He and his wife Kristen have 4 boys ranging in age from 13 to 20 years old. All attended Loveland Schools at one point, but the youngest no longer attends Loveland Schools. He joined the Loveland school board as an appointee in May of 2020 after two previous members had stepped down and applications were solicited.

Schwetschenau is a practicing physician specializing in is Otolaryngology, better known as ENT. He has treated patients from 7 days old to 97 years old for simple problems, like recurrent ear infections and complex problems like head, neck and thyroid cancers. He has 25 years of experience diagnosing and treating upper respiratory illnesses.

“After realizing the difficulties that the Board and the schools faced after two failed levies, community division, and a worldwide pandemic I willingly stepped up to try to heal our wounds.” – Dr. Eric Schwetschenau

Q – Loveland Beacon (LB)After serving nearly two years as an appointed member of the School Board, Why did you decide to run for election to the Loveland City School District Board of Education?

A – Eric Schwetschenau (ES) – After realizing the difficulties that the Board and the schools faced after two failed levies, community division, and a worldwide pandemic I willingly stepped up to try to heal our wounds.

(LB) – You’ve served, what are the things you now identify as your priorities for Loveland Schools going forward?

(ES) – That’s easy for me to answer. The priorities I have today are the same ones I identified in the two or three months after I was appointed to the board. I spent a large amount of time after my appointment asking: What went wrong here? Why did two people resign? Why did we fail two levies? Where is the divisiveness in our community coming from; what happened? In some way or form, can I help to fix that and get our school district and our community moving forward again? I talked with groups who supported the levy and groups who didn’t support the levy. I talked to groups who were older and retired, and who were younger and just moved to Loveland. I spoke to people in extracurriculars; music, arts. I spoke to parents of private school children. I spoke to parents of public school children. I spoke to business leaders. I spoke to charitable leaders. I could go on-and-on about the three months I spent trying to understand the words of the community and the position of the community. What I came up with then is the same thing I have on my website now – www.lovelandboard.com – those three things are front and center on the website. Rebuild trust. Promote Transparency. Demonstrate Fiscal Responsibility. Those are the three things I identified then. Those are the three things I will always push for Loveland Schools.

(LB) –  The first thing you mentioned is rebuild trust. We’ll take them one at a time. How do you rebuild trust? What is your plan to do that?  

(ES) – It’s a great question to ask if you take them one at a time, but you can’t. They are intertwined with each other. You rebuild trust by promoting transparency and by demonstrating fiscal responsibility. I heard over and over we don’t trust the school. Okay, well why don’t you trust the school? They’re making decision behind closed doors (Responses he heard) Done! We are not making decisions behind closed doors. How do I show you we are not making decisions behind closed doors? The board had already gone to a policy of livestreaming meetings because COVID had started. We didn’t have a policy that we would record those meetings and archive them for public view. I pushed very early to have them recorded and archived for public view. One of the biggest concerns was regulations require them to be ADA compliant – the American Disabilities Act. We overcame that by generating auto-captions. At little cost, I think at no cost, we managed to be able to not only archive the meetings, but have them completely accessible for all members of the community to view at any point in time. I added later on, you know we just had a six-hour meeting and I want somebody to go through and look where a certain conversation was had, how can I expect somebody to do that? We added timestamps to the minutes in the agenda. So if you’re going to see what happened with hiring and firing this month, you know that happened at 1-hour and 48-minutes into the meeting.

Another part of the transparency question is people were concerned things were happening behind closed doors. I promise you I have never had a conversation with more than one board member at a time about anything that has to do with schools and decision-making. We are very careful, and I personally feel it is critically important to follow the Sunshine Laws. You will not find us making decisions in a back room, or coming to a consensus before a meeting happened. The only time we go into Executive Session is to discuss hiring or firing, or other protected items.

The other part of that is the fiscal responsibility. I think it is no surprise to anybody in the Loveland community a lot of the division we had in our community came after the first levy ask which was resoundingly defeated. I honestly believe, and I want to say, I was no part of that. I was not even close to being on the board at that time, nor particularly paying attention to it. The board at that time really had people’s best interest at heart. I really don’t think they tried to sneak anything in, and/or surprise anybody. They felt like they had worked very hard to understand the pulse of the community before that was presented. They were just wrong. They misread the room. We saw that and that’s okay. We moved on and they went back with what would be considered a more normal operating levy, but that was voted down too. At that point in time, trust in the schools was hurt. The appearance of fiscal stability and responsibility was significantly damaged. We had to make steps in order to change that. We have. The last levy passed in Loveland was in 2014. It was supposed to last for five years. We’re already two years past he expiration date of that. I won’t bother everybody with school financing and how complex it is. Essentially costs go up, inflation occurs, and the amount we collect each year for a levy doesn’t. As our costs have gone up, our amounts collected haven’t. You start to go into deficit spending. What ended up happening with the previous board and as we continued over the past year, significant cuts in programming, cuts that personally I think have hurt our community. Things like losing high school busing, increasing pay for play fees. These are things we’re responsible as a community and as a board to discuss. I think it is very clear to everybody the minority of people in Loveland have children in the school district. Loveland has 30,000 residents approximately. About 10,000 of those residents are under age 19. There’s 4,500 kids give-or-take in the school system. That means there is somewhere around 3,000 households with kids in the schools. It may be a little more, it may be a little bit less. There’s many more people without kids in the Loveland school system than with children in Loveland Schools. How do we convince our community about things that are responsible to support? That’s been part of my job all along. We’ve made, I think, tremendous strides in showing that. We’ve cut costs significantly. We’ve identified areas in which we’re outliers and we’ve tried to bring those costs back in line with surrounding districts.

(LB) – You’ve talked about the importance of transparency. If elected, how do demonstrate that transparency to the community?

(ES ) – I’ll be tremendously honest with one of the things I think has been my biggest mistake during the time period I’ve been on the board. In the interest of fiscal responsibility, trying to cut costs, our communications director had left. We replaced that person with a part-time consultant. We were using somebody at about a 40-percent level. In retrospect, I understand that was a bad decision. We now Andrew Setters, he is our communications director, he’s working full-time. People have already seen the work he’s done. We’ve overhauled our web system. We’ve gone to the one-call system. We have better outreach messaging to the student and parent community. We’re even starting to reach out to the non-parent and non-school community. We’re trying very hard to understand what the community itself, as a whole wants. To go back, my pursuit of fiscal responsibility hurt our pursuit of transparency. By bringing a full-time communications director back, we’ve already made tremendous strides in that. It is just one of the ways in which I hope to continue to build on that work – which, quite frankly is never done. If there is a problem, somebody feels they’re not heard, somebody feels a decision is made that is not understood, it is our job as a district, and my job as a board member to try to figure out how to fix that. Continuous improvement is very important.

(LB) – What is your plan to maintain fiscal responsibility; to make sure the public sees it, knows it and trusts it?

(ES) – I think I referred to this earlier. Part of fiscal responsibility is not only making the hard cuts that had to be made to continue the school’s function, but looking at places where we were outliers compared to surrounding districts. What does staff pay look like? How many administrators do we have per student? We’ve worked on both those things already and brought them back in line with surrounding districts. Not to harp too much on salary and pay structure, but we have a $50 million dollar a year business. The operating expenses each year, taking out some of the building costs which go into a different bucket – 80-percent of those costs are salary related costs. Inflation goes up, people’s pay goes up. We have to realize as a community we’ll come back for a levy again. That doesn’t mean we are not fiscally responsible. We need to make sure we have a strong communication strategy, which we’ve instituted, in order to make sure we have fair, complete, open and honest discussions with all the community members about what their expectation are for our school system.

Final Question: To Eric for all of you:

(LB) – I am a Loveland City School District voter, why should I vote for Eric Schwetschenau?

(ES ) –I think, more than anything, the Loveland district voter need to be really excited that we have eight (8) different people willing to donate their time to his job. The fact there is so much interest in it has to be good for the schools. Everybody needs to do their research and figure out who their preferred candidate is. I’ve spent the last year-and-a- half working very hard identifying the weaknesses we’ve had in the school system and fixing those weaknesses. I’ve gained the trust of the administration and the teachers. I think if anybody asks any administrator or teacher, they would say, without a doubt, I’ve been an excellent school board member. If anybody asks any of the teachers in Loveland Schools, they know I’ve worked very hard to ensure that we have the ability to come back and improve our programming; that we can continue our excellence in education, that we can continue to support the ultimate mission of the schools which is the development and success of our children. The reason you should vote for me: I’ve got my eyes on the kids. I want the kids to succeed. That’s the number one, two and three most important thing to me. Going back to the beginning, are there six things? One, two and three are kids, four, five and six are trust, transparency and fiscal responsibility.

“One of the things I’m most proud of during the time we’ve been together as a board is our ability to take a diverse group of people with diverse voices and, even when we disagree, we are able to work through those and come together as a board to figure out how to come together, support each other and continue to move the goals of the district forward. We spent a lot of time interviewing and ultimately hiring a superintendent. I think Mike Broadwater is an excellent superintendent. I think he’s going to be here for a long time and build our schools into a really strong place. I’m really proud that I’ve been a part of that.” – Eric Schwetschenau

CLICK HERE to visit the website of candidate Eric Schwetschenau

NEXT UP: We hear from Elliot Grossman.