Spotlight on Elizabeth Mason –

Fourth in a series of BOE candidate profiles

By Chuck Gibson  

LOVELAND, OH (October 7, 2021) – Election day 2021 is fast approaching, signs are popping up all around our community, Tuesday, November 2, 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).

I have reached out to each of the candidates to conduct personal interviews in an effort to learn who they are and what they stand for. In today’s social media driven world, each has created a website providing their own description of who they are, why they are running for election to the school board, and what they plan to accomplish if elected.  In recent days, you have seen the Candidate Profiles here on Loveland Beacon and shared on Social Media going beyond their webpage, in a personal interview with each candidate, I am asking the key question: How they plan to do what they promise? I hope these profiles will provide some additional insight and information to help you, the voters, make a more fully informed choice at the polls on Tuesday, November 2.

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

Elizabeth Mason, first time candidate for LCSD Board of Education (Courtesy Elizabeth Mason)

Here is the fourth in the series of Candidate Profiles with the Beacon’s Light shining on candidate Elizabeth Mason.

Elizabeth Mason lives in Loveland with her husband John, and three boys, the youngest a three year old and two older boys from her previous marriage. Both older boys are athletes and attend Loveland schools. Elizabeth owns a mobile art studio and teaches painting classes which she has put on hold to focus on her caring for her three year old and campaign efforts in hopes of being elected to the Loveland School Board. 

Q – Loveland Beacon (LB) – Why is Elizabeth Mason, a candidate for the school board? Why did you decide to run for Loveland School Board?

A – Elizabeth Mason (EM)  – That’s probably the number one question to ask of any candidate. Sure. Well, I mean, bottom line is, because I feel like it’s the right thing to do. I’ve put a lot of thought into this, I’m not really the kind of person who loves being in the spotlight. I don’t like conflict. I just I saw a need in the community, there’s a lot of division, I really felt very heavily all the division with the levy in 2019, and then a lot of division over other current issues. I feel like I’m very level headed, and I’m a good listener, and I feel like I could help bring the community together to some middle ground. I’m going into this knowing that it’s going to be challenging. It’s already been challenging. There’s been accusations and rumors and things about me from people who don’t know me. I really feel like it’s important that we get people on the board who; I know this is a secular institution, but I have a Christian worldview. I think it’s important that we have men and women who operate in integrity and who fear God. I answer to God, and because of my faith. I think that would show that I’m trustworthy because accountable to the Lord. Also by biblical principles I would be a candidate of integrityhaving accountability to the community as well.

(LB) – What are your three priorities for the Loveland Schools if elected to the school board?  

(EM) – I think it is really important to build trust within the community and educate them on how schools are funded.  I think that is a primary reason, well a component of why the last two levies failed because of a lack of understanding of how our schools are funded. I think if we have some type of monthly education so we can explain, and I’m not claiming to fully understand it, but since I’ve dug into it Loveland is really actually doing pretty well with the resources that we have. I know there is a lot of accusations of mismanaging the money and I don’t really think that’s the case. So, finding ways to educate the community on how schools are funded. I think it’s going to be a key component. Another thing that’s really important to me is critical race theory (CRT). When I say critical race theory, I don’t mean the college level theory. In layman’s terms, any type of move to implement ideas that America is inherently racist, whites are oppressors, blacks are oppressed; I don’t want that in our schools. I do have some concerns that is being pushed.  Those three are really my top three.

(LB) –  One is communication (trust) slash education with the public. You said you are interested in reaching out to the community, building trust and educating the community. If you’re elected to board, how do you do that?

(EM) – So I have a few ideas. I’m not sure who exactly would do the teaching, if it would be, you know, myself as a board member, or asking the treasurer. Because I understand my role as a board member is not administrative. I just have the idea that I think it’s important that our community understands how the schools are funded. And that’s kind of one of the ways that I think would be really crucial in getting any future levies passed. If the public understands how we’re funded, because there’s a lot of this trust (issue). You know, just thinking that there’s careless spending or, and also, with the change in the way that schools are receiving funding. It’s more based on, you know, I mean, it’s not just across the board, like liquor stores government funding. Schools that are in more affluent areas get less. Schools that are in lower income areas get more money. So really, since we’re in a more affluent area, we don’t receive as much assistance. So we’re really relying heavily on our taxpayer dollars. So I think it’s important that people understand that.  Yeah, I think education. Yeah. So I think if we were to have a monthly, or maybe even a quarterly meeting, so this will be separate from some regularly scheduled board meeting, but just an information session or whatever you want to call it, but just open to all of our community. And have a different topic, but just really, to educate you on how schools are funded. Because I think if people knew how we compared to other districts, as far as our spending, how much we’re spending per student, compared to, for example Sycamore or Forest Hills so that they can see the metrics and compare. I think it’s important that people understand that. That may be something they attempted to do; live conversations, which is ongoing education. Some of the classes will likely need to be repeated because not everybody’s going to be able to attend. I think that’s the way to build trust with the community. Now that could get a little bit hairy because when you start showing all those numbers, some people may immediately come back with: why don’t we do this? Why don’t we do this? Why don’t we do this? You know, and criticize. That could be tough to navigate. But the bottom line is: I think it’s important to get transparent and just by putting it all out there like this is what we have coming in,  this is how we spend it, this is how it compared to other districts; we’re getting this much funding from this source, this much funding from taxpayer dollars, this is how we’re spending it, and really just provide that overview so that people understand how their money is being spent.

I want the voters to know I am a fiscal conservative, and I really want to make sure that we’re putting taxpayer dollars to good use. Since I started running, I’ve seen that Loveland is using taxpayer dollars very well. I wasn’t really aware of that before. I’m just being honest. I think that’s why I think the education is critical. If they can see that the taxpayer dollars are being put to good use then they’ll be more likely to, when we do need to go back, to vote, yes. I do want to make sure, if, and when we go back for more money, they can see that we are spending the money wisely. And you know it always helps to have a fresh pair of eyes. So we can go in there and see: is there any, any room to cut back. I’ve had conversations with the treasurer and with the superintendent, and they both said, we’re pretty much bare bones. I did look at the Ohio Department of Education website. There’s something called the Cupp Report. I don’t know everything in and out, but I’ve started to, I’ve looked through some of that and Loveland really has cut back on administrators. That’s like the number one thing that I’ve heard from, from the community members: well, why don’t we just cut back on administrators? If you look over the data from the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve cut back, I wish I had the numbers, but it’s really significantly reduced. When you look at our administrator to student ratio compared to other districts it’s either on par, some schools, it’s a little bit more, but it’s not excessive. When you look at historical data, we have less administrators than we did over the past 10 to 15 years. Those are the things that I would like to communicate because this really, you know running for office, opened up my eyes to see that Loveland schools are being pretty fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars. I really want to make sure that you know our income from taxpayer dollars and any future levies that we request will be put to good use. I am not about excessive spending. I don’t want to be wasteful with taxpayer dollars. And one thing that you know, just from running my own business, I have to make sure that I don’t, I’m not misusing my own income. I want my business to thrive. Similarly to running my own household, I mean, my husband is the primary breadwinner. But I make most of our financial decisions, you know, as far as how much we spend on food and things like that, and I have to make sure you know, that we’re living within our within our means. Same with the school budget. Whether you’re talking about family income, 50, or 100,000, or whatever your budget is, it’s the same with the schools. If you’re talking, your budget is, I don’t know, but just throwing 10 million, you still have to live within those means; you can’t overspend. That’s important to me. I want the taxpayers to know that we’re not misusing taxpayer dollars.

(LB) – That information and trying to educate the public was certainly part of what the previous administration was doing – Amy Crouse, Kevin Hawley – now there is a new superintendent and ultimately a new treasurer. How do you, and the new administration, do it better than the previous administration?

(EM) – That’s a good question. That’s the question, really. Any individual can go on to the Ohio website, is it, I think it’s the Ohio Department of Education. You can look up the Stafford’s uniform, but if you don’t know what to look for . . . Because somebody had to show me. I’m new to this. I wouldn’t have even known to look on the website and know that to look for. So that’s why I was thinking if we have community sessions, and you know  any community member can already go to that website and look up the information themselves. Some people learn differently. Some people are self-learners, and some people need to hear it, some people need to see it, some people need that walkthrough. Also, most people have very, very busy lives, and don’t really have time to explore the issue on their own. If we had these ongoing sessions, they could just come and learn about it from somebody who really has a good grasp on these issues, and can communicate it clearly. Then they’re not having to sift through this information on a website that they’re not familiar with. I think breaking it down in layman’s terms, would be really beneficial to our community.

 

(LB) – Critical Race Theory (CRT) you touched on that. What are you saying specifically, in terms of that being a priority for you? How do you get CRT defined to exactly what you don’t want to see in Loveland Schools?  How do you get there?

(EM) – That’s a very good question. Board members, we don’t dictate curriculum, right? We write policy. Yeah, we can approve it, but we don’t choose it. There’s varying interpretations. One thing, there’s the 1619 project, which in my opinion, is revising American history. And there’s a lot of notable historians, who are, who have written in opposition to it, saying that there’s factual errors. And on the same website that I mentioned, (NOTE: The Ohio Department of Education Website) where I found the Cupp Report, they also have links to resources for teachers to teach the 1619 project to their students. I don’t think it’s currently being taught here in Loveland, but the fact that it’s available on the Ohio Department of Education website, who’s to say that it might be introduced to our school. I would want to write a policy that this is not allowed to be taught in our schools. There’s some controversial books out there. One of them was an author by the name of Ibram Kendi. I’m really hesitant  to say that I would ban that book because I do think it’s important that kids learn how to be critical thinkers. If that book were to be taught, I would want the counter view. Maybe for example, something written by Candace Owens. She wrote the book “Blackout”. She’s a black republican woman. She has a conservative viewpoint. whether it’s that book was something else, I just want to make sure that our students are being taught how to think critically, and not what to think.

(LB) – Correct me if I’m wrong, but you want to bring balance to the classroom. Your #3 priority is getting back to the basics of education in the classrooms. What do you mean? What are your ideas to ensure that happens?

(EM) – Absolutely we’ll call that number three. That’s under, we’re calling it excellence in education. But we do want to get back to the basics. There’s so much of a push, not only in Loveland, but a lot of schools for the social emotional learning, and diversity. I just think it’s well intentioned, but that’s not our government’s job. That’s not the school’s job. The school’s job is to educate. I think there’s a gray line because Loveland does some really amazing things. For example, my son had a third grade teacher, she was amazing. Every month, they had a compassion project, and they did some kind of service project to help the community. Could that fall under the category of social emotional learning? It’s teaching the kids to be kind to others. Yeah we do want to teach those basic ideas. I’m concerned that we’re taking away from academics, and Americans really are falling behind other countries academically.  I want Loveland, America in general,  to be able to continue to compete and be a leader in our world. And so the way I think we should do that is focus more on education. And these social programs, whether it be diversity or social-emotional learning, those kinds of concepts need to be taught at home. In my own opinion, I think it would be important to go back to the community and get a community consensus. I think that the most, majority of the community would back me on that idea. But I think we would need community input before we made any decisions about that. I think the challenge is communicating with parents who are busy and inundated with emails. And, you know, to be honest, I don’t I don’t read every single Tiger talk. I try to, but I know there’s some that I miss. I don’t have a specific answer. It’s challenging. We could explore having a subcommittee, but I know that there was a subcommittee for the levy even before it was on the levy. They were trying to get community engagement. The first idea that comes to my mind is go where the community is. I know a lot of the community is involved with sports. It’s just an idea I have, parents are there at the end of every game, the parents congregate, coaches give an announcement, maybe we can have an a delegation that would go and say I need two minutes of your time and then explain what we’re trying to do. One other thing is to have parents “Opt in”, currently they the option to “opt out”. By requiring parents to opt in, their students will not be taught “that” unless they have yes from the parents. Similarly, let’s say we have social-emotional programs, opt in. That way parents will be required to give a response. If they have an issue with it, then that would open up: this is what is being taught to your children, if you don’t agree with it, please communicate with us so we know how you stand. That would take care of communicating with the parents. As far as community members who don’t have students in Loveland Schools, that’s a whole other ballgame.

Final Question: To Elizabeth for all of you:

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

(EM) – I would like to earn votes because I am a very good listener, very even-keeled, and I’m not ruled by my emotions. I think I can be a voice of reason really bringing more unity into the community. When I’m dedicated to something, I give it my all. I’m fully committed to this. I’ve already taken courses through the board of education on being an effective board member. I’m dedicated to making our schools the best they can be and really educating myself on how to do that. It will be a long journey. A little background, my uncle was a school superintendent in Columbus for many, many years. I talked to him, I picked his brain when I contemplated whether or not to run. I wanted to know what the board members do. He told me it really takes to years for a new board member to get a grasp on how to be a board member. That’s why the terms are for four years. Hopefully, I’ll be able to learn more quickly than in two years, but he gave that broad term to communicate to me there is a learning curve. I didn’t wake up one day and say I’m going to do this. I really put a lot of consideration into this decision.

“My intentions are to scrutinize where our taxpayer dollars are going,” said Mason, “ and see if there is any room to cut back before putting another tax levy, however minimal, on the ballot.”

CLICK HERE to visit the website of candidate Elizabeth Mason

NEXT UP: We hear from Anna Bunker.