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Bellevue School Board Race: 4 Candidates Battle for 3 Seats

The Bellevue Board of Education has three of its five seats on the ballot Tuesday.

Four people are running, including three incumbents.

Jen Hazeres is seeking her fourth term on the board, having served for twelve years. She says she is most proud of hiring Superintendent Robb Smith and the academic progress the district has shown.

"I would like to see consistent support of our district vision," Hazeres said."I would like to monitor the aspects of the district that  the board is responsible for, and see that our staff is allowed to work toward that goal."

Hazeres is a Bellevue native, and left to attend Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she met her husband and had three children.

They moved back to Bellevue to raise their family.

"I see our children being afforded the opportunities necessary for their continued success as responsible, well-informed, and inspired adults, no matter what path they choose to take," Hazeres said.

Dan Sparks, also a Bellevue native, is seeking his fifth term on the board, having served for sixteen years.

All his children graduated from Bellevue High School, and now he has five grandchildren in the district.

Sparks said that he watched the district grow financially over the years and noted the district's high graduation rate. He said the district is moving in the right direction, but he has concerns about support for charter schools that could compete with the public districts like Bellevue.

If elected, Sparks said that he would work to ensure continued growth at the district and to find ways to create new educational opportunities for the students.

Dan Swope hopes to be elected to his third term on the board of education. He has served for eight years. He attended Bellevue Schools from kindergarten through high school, and while he spent some time living in neighboring Dayton, Swope returned to Bellevue thirty years ago.

Six months ago, he moved into his childhood home. Two of his own children graduated from Bellevue.

Like Hazeres, Swope noted the hiring of Smith as superintendent as an achievement, calling him one of the most-respected and sought-after educational leaders in the state.

"I believe in the learning concepts and programs that our team has adopted, and in most cases, has created," said Swope. "These successful programs are already becoming models for the other districts in Kentucky and elsewhere."

Swope believes the district is poised to rise to the top academically. He noted the district's leadership, staff, and culture.

Funding is a problem, though, he said, adding that there is a consistent concentration on finding creative ways to stay healthy financially.

"If I am elected, I think we need to concentrate on surviving," Swope said. "With our governor's vision to abolish public education, for personal gains, as a board of education, we must find a way to allow our district team leaders to stay focused on educating the children, and lessen their concerns on how to afford to keep the doors open."

The three incumbents face a challenge from Jenn Owens, a Cincinnati native who first moved to Covington and then to Bellevue about ten years ago.

She has served on the site-based decision-making council at Grandview Elementary, where she played a role in hiring the school's principal.

Owens said that she is happy with the direction and vision in the district and believes that the superintendent has done a great job of inspiring innovation in the district.

However, Owens said that Bellevue needs to invest more in technology, arguing that the students should have tablets rather than Chromebooks.

She added that she would like to better connect parents to the schools, and argued that there is a divide between the two currently.

"I have always been an all-in type of person, so I am taking time to listen to everyone who has concerns about our schools, and understand what each individual experience has been like for them or for the students,"  Owens said. "We need to take a step back and work together. We are not on opposing teams. Our students don't win unless we can come together to support them."

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor