CIRCLEVILLE — With nearly 30 years of experience being a school board member between them, Amy DeLong and Todd Stevens are stepping down from Circleville’s School Board at the end of this year.
Both Stevens and Long decided to not seek reelection in November and won’t have a place with Circleville Board of Education.
Stevens, 57, has served on the board for 16 years. DeLong, 50, has been on the board for the last 12.
Stevens and Long had different reasons for deciding to take the plunge on being a board member.
“I was raised with the philosophy that you give back to the community in any way that you can. I believe that you pay it forward too,” Stevens said. “The opportunity came available and I was asked to consider it and I thought it would be good to do. I didn’t think it would be 16 years later.”
DeLong, who’s worked in state government and now city government in Columbus, said she wanted to learn about the schools as her daughters were set to enter school.
“I think for me I was at state at the time but I didn’t understand how the school worked,” she said. “I had two children in kindergarten who were about to go through it and I thought that I could be one of those people that complain about my school or be someone that does something about it. I think that’s why I ultimately decided to do it.”
The construction of the new schools and passing the accompanying levies and re-aligning the district so all the grades were together and then on one campus, were some of the highlights both DeLong and Stevens shared of their tenure.
“The buildings are wonderful and we’re fiscally sound now,” Stevens said. “We had some struggles in our early years. I think we’ve got great leadership and the future is bright for Circleville. That gives me a sense of pride to walk away and know that everything is looking good.”
DeLong said she felt like the biggest accomplishment of the board outside of the new buildings was the combining of the grade levels during the district realignment.
“I thought that made a tremendous difference in seeing where my children’s friends were at,” she said. “They were all on the same path versus some of them that hadn’t started multiplication or others that were through. I think that made a big difference. Getting a lead teacher in place and working through that I thought was where I could see big improvements.”
Both Stevens and DeLong acknowledged other longterm board members including Chris Williams, Dan Bradhurst and Tom Scherer and downplayed their own role in shaping the direction of the district.
“I’m part of a long line of board members,” Stevens said. “They all played a role and so many different people have played so many different roles. I’m just a small piece of that. It’s neat to be a part of it.”
DeLong said it was a nice change for her to have everyone focus on education and not athletics like previous experiences she had.
“When I first started, this board said we’re not here about athletics, we’re here about education. I think seeing that perspective and having Chris Williams, Stevens, Dan Bradhurst and Tom Scherer involved — education has always been our focus even with decisions about how our money is spent.”
DeLong said the hardest part of being a board member in regards to education is its constant state of change.
“It’s like you try to set goals and you find out that the state wants you to achieve here and not over there,” she said. “That was the hardest part locally and internally here.”
Stevens agreed, testing seems to be the focus of education.
“My personal belief is that we don’t allow teachers to teach in a way that’s comfortable for them,” he said. “It’s almost a formula approach and making sure we pass the test. I think there is undue stress on students and teachers to pass the state mandated tests. That target is always shifting.”
Stevens said he will miss being a board member, especially being in the know and thick of things. A highlight for him was giving his daughters their diploma.
“I’ll miss helping to guide the ship and working with great administrators,” he said. “I always marvel at what they come up with. We have great innovative thinkers now trying to be creative with what we’ve got. I’ll miss watching them move this district forward.”
When it comes to looking ahead DeLong said future board members should take the plunge but to do so selflessly.
“If you want to make a difference and serve you community do it but don’t do it for personal reasons,” she said. “I think you have to do it for the betterment of the whole. There’s a lot of times with things I didn’t agree with personally that I had to step back and go is this little thing that important. You want to do it to make a difference but for the little things you can’t take something on our agenda as a personal part.”
Stevens encouraged people to get involved in the community and if they join a board — practice patience.
“People don’t get involved unless they think something directly impacts them,” he said. “I think it’s important and I try to instill that in my girls to be a part of your community. Don’t be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution and try to see what you can help and what you can do.”
Editor’s note: This is the first of several articles highlighting education in Pickaway County for National Education Week.