Kevin Dougherty and Dr. Eric Schwetschenau share their story with us (Part 1 introduces us to Kevin Dougherty)
By Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH (June 23, 2020) — Kevin Dougherty and Dr. Eric Schwetschenau were approved for appointment to fill two vacant Loveland School Board seats during the May 12, LCSD Board of Education meeting.
Both were officially sworn in as new members of the Loveland School Board during the May 28, 2020 meeting of the board. Dougherty and Schwetschenau will serve terms set to expire December 31, 2021. They will be eligible to run for election to continue serving on the board of education if they so choose.
They were the two candidates, out of 34 considered, selected and appointed by the LCSD Board of Education. A visit to the Loveland School website administration page dedicated to information about the Board of Education will show you their photograph and give you a brief profile description of each. Here is what Kevin Dougherty (pron: Darr-tee) said about what he brings to the Loveland School Board today, and what he hopes to accomplish.
Kevin Dougherty, member Board of Education, Loveland City School District (Provided)
Kevin Dougherty came to Loveland in 2001 with his wife Barb and their three children – two daughters and a son – and now has five grandchildren. He retired from an executive position with Kroger in 2017 and became very active developing a program at Xavier University (X-Path) to promote young students in Cincinnati on the Autism Spectrum. He says: “You don’t talk to Kevin without hearing something about the X-Path program.” and feels it is a very important thing he and Barb are involved in.
“Autism is a broad spectrum of challenges,” said Dougherty. “The common denominator is difficulty navigating social interaction. Those issues often seriously inhibit the ability to be on their own and succeed in life.”
Dougherty’s involvement with the X-Path program at Xavier University offers a little insight into his interest in helping people succeed in life. It is that desire to help which led directly to becoming a member of the Loveland School Board.
“I did not ever seek out a public role,” Dougherty explained. “I did not campaign for this. Some folks in the community reached out to me and said you really might be helpful to some of the challenges the district faces right now.”
It was short notice and he didn’t know a lot about the issues at the beginning. He decided to offer his help. For more than a month Dougherty was “going to school on a whole lot of the issues” hoping to learn how he could bring his life experiences to help solve problems faced by the board and the school district.
“I’ve been an ardent supporter of management transparency in the business world for many years,” he said. “I’ve been very appreciative of the value of every team member in everything we do from a business perspective. I think it is critically important.”
Dougherty speaks of lessons learned in his nearly 40 years in the business world. He talked of understanding the value of his personal opinion is relatively insignificant when it comes to making decisions. He learned to focus on the customer, where the customer’s mind is, what is important to the customer, their ability to pay, and how important price is. In his role as a school board member, that translates to knowing the community, hearing the community and understanding the wants, needs, and abilities of the community in relationship to the school district.
“I’ve developed a real sensitivity to economic situation,” said Dougherty. “I really have to do the homework. Cash is not created, it is earned and there is never enough of it. There are many great ideas; sometimes the ability to fund them does not exist. We have to prioritize, get real focused and make difficult decisions on a regular basis.”
Since his appointment in May, Dougherty has been working hard to get into the issues. He has identified three areas of distinct concern for the district now. Transparency, which underlies the degrees of trust, was the first he mentioned requires attention and work. Another which will not wait is trying to figure out “Education in the COVID era”. He sees that as a challenge for the district working really hard to perform the mission while facing certain constraints and a very real timeline. Third, but not necessarily final in the list of three is the financial problems faced by the district.
“The district has a little bit of cash,” Dougherty said. “It is not an emergency. It allows some time to figure out what the right plan is.”
Becoming an appointed member of the school board did not allow Dougherty the option to come into the position slowly. He had to hit the ground running – literally – to reach out to the community and get a feel for what they want. He had to quickly learn what can be done and what can’t be done to “demystify” the school administration and board not only for himself, but especially for the people. Trying to talk to people on all sides of the issue has left him with the firm belief everyone has the best interest of the community at heart.
“I continue to try to engage folks and understand their viewpoint,” said Dougherty. “My sense is people are not opposed to funding the school system, not opposed to funding it incrementally, but they have to feel good about it, feel it is appropriate, that the school has been a good steward doing the right thing, not wasting money.”
There is a segment of the community that does not trust the school administration and board. He says that’s something the board must do better. Dougherty brings an attitude of hyper-transparency to the effort of total transparency to the edge of inappropriate. There are some things which simply cannot be made public such as school documents with names of children, or even some negotiations. It is a small percentage, but the rest can be totally visible
“People are bright enough to get it,” he said. “I do think the district has been a very good steward of the buildings. For their age, they are in remarkably good shape. They’ve done well, but that doesn’t change the fact they are 50-60 years old. Eventually, we’ll have to deal with that. It’s not the emergency that should be primary focus now.”
Dougherty pointed to “good honest communication” by all sides as a priority. He expressed deep concern about the realities of personal financial stress for the community – especially amid the unknowns of the coronavirus pandemic. He brings a conservative fiscal approach mindful of current expense and likelihood of ability to fund the future. These are the demands of leadership he has known throughout his business life. His focus is on serving , getting it right and bringing the community together.
“We’re all gonna do our best to solve this complex set of issues in front of us,” Dougherty said. “Not about me, not about the board, it’s about what work gets done. I look forward to getting communications. I’m going to do my best to be as open as the law allows me to be.”