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Cardinal Nation Questions the Mentor School Board Candidates – Part 1

The candidates explain why they are running, share their qualifications, and their biggest concern facing our district
Pioneer School Board Trustee Election

Early voting for the November 7 election begins October 11. In the Mentor Public School district, five candidates are running for two open seats on the 5-person school board. Cardinal Nation reached out to all five candidates to ask them to respond to issues important to students that are currently revolving around Mentor Schools. Below read all of their unedited response so you can compare and form your own opinions of the candidates.

Cardinal Nation: Why are you running for school board?

Christine Henninger, (Board Member Candidate) Photo By – Mentor Public Library

Henninger: I believe that every student’s voice is important, should be heard and is invaluable, especially regarding their own education.  I have had four children attend Mentor Schools, two of which have graduated, one who is still in elementary school and one who just started middle school. I have seen first hand how a student can feel lost, unheard, overwhelmed and as if they do not matter when in fact they are the most important part of everything that our community and school district is. I am running for the school board  to support our teachers and staff. To let them know that what they do is not going unnoticed, that their voices and needs are being heard, that their leadership in the classroom is appreciated, and how together, we can get the class sizes back to a manageable level. I have spoken up at the board meetings and emailed regarding our classroom sizes for the past few years. Last September, I offered temporary solutions at the board meeting, emailed Mr. Heath and met with Mr. Heath to ease the strain on classrooms like my son’s that were overfilled. Administration promised to work on long term solutions and to have a plan in place for this school year to ease the stress and mental burnout of our teachers by not overfilling the classrooms. Students in our classes are at different learning levels, have different learning styles and different mental/emotional needs. When we overfill the classrooms with students, some of the needs of our students get lost, may be overlooked and the teacher may feel like they are not doing their job when in fact they are doing amazing. My son’s class has 27 students in it again this year. Two of our 5th grade classes have 28 students and the other 5th grade class has 29 students. Classroom sizes are still out of control this year and there is no sign of reprieve for our teachers. We have to work together as a team to finally solve this issue. I am running for the school board because I care about ALL of our students and bringing the focus back to your needs and helping your voices to be heard. I believe that my leadership style, empathy and communication skills will be a great asset to the board because I will foster a sense of understanding, teamwork and community. A safe space where people feel free to speak honestly and openly leading to constructive dialogue. Where compromise is going to be key because one family’s needs might be different from another family’s needs when it comes to their student.  The board needs to be able to work together as a team to accommodate our students, families and teachers to the best of our ability. I believe that by working Together Everyone Achieves More. 

Ioppolo: After attending or watching every school board meeting for the past two years, it was clear there was a major disconnect between parents and the community and school board members. Board meetings were not productive and there was so much anger and divisiveness – between the board and the community, and between the board members themselves. As both a parent and substitute teacher in the district, I became concerned that Mentor was headed in the wrong direction if something didn’t change, so I made the decision to step up.

Marchaza: I grew up in Mentor and attended Mentor Schools, from Sterling Morton elementary to Mentor High, graduating in 1999. Mentor Schools prepared me for college, graduate school, and a successful career in nonprofits and education, 20 years and running. These schools are the reason my husband and I moved back here in 2016 to raise our children, who now attend Hopkins Elementary and Memorial Middle School. Giving back to my community has always been a priority for me, which is why I’ve spent my entire career working in nonprofits. Now, I want to take that contribution to my community a step further by serving on the Mentor Board of Education. Why? Because our schools need help. Our schools face serious challenges that can only be solved through dialogue. I have been attending board meetings since COVID and watched as members of our community brought the culture wars to our schoolhouse door. In Mentor Schools—and in schools across the country—we’ve seen superintendents be ousted, or resign due to stress. Teachers are leaving the field. Administrators are on edge, wondering what’s next. Parents and students are navigating a new, hostile, and uncertain environment. This is what school looks like today. This is where we parents send our kids every day to learn about the world, and about kindness—a quality Mentor Schools has always prioritized and encouraged. But how are our children supposed to learn a quality like kindness in an environment like this? People move to Mentor specifically for our strong school district. But these fights—which trickle down to our classrooms—weaken the strength of our district. They keep us from resolving the most urgent and pressing challenges our students need us to address: things like the bus driver shortage, our too-large class sizes, and the safety and security of our buildings. Things that, if resolved, would improve the strength of our schools. The strength of our school district affects every single resident in Mentor. Taxpayers and homeowners rely on their property values. Businesses need a strong community of consumers who can afford to support them. But it is perhaps the parents and the students who attend the schools that have the most at stake. These students include my children. If we can’t work together to make things right, it will be our children who pay the price with their academic success and well-being. It is on all of us—parents, taxpayers, and residents—to come together and solve the problems before us. If I am elected, I will remain committed to doing what it takes to protect our district, and maintain the inclusive, academically rigorous environment students deserve.

Board Member Candidate (Gil Martello)

Martello: The simple retort or response to that question is, for you! I am running for the benefit of the students of Mentor. At no point in my lifetime has there been so much economic opportunity for a young person – with the proper skillset.  The demand for the skilled trades, nurses, IT security, pilots, aviation support, and scientists is immense. Currently, educated or skilled people can write their ticket anywhere. The opportunities are endless. That is the really good news. Regrettably, I am personally witnessing many missed opportunities. Those missed opportunities are the result of decisions being made and not made by the current leadership of our current school board. This needs to be corrected immediately. The taxpayers, businesses and students of our district deserve better. They all deserve greater value for the dollars spent and the time in class.

Wall: I grew up here in Mentor, attended Mentor Public Schools and am a proud 2009 graduate. I now have two boys, a first grader and third grader, who are just beginning their cardinal journey through our schools. I am running for the Mentor School Board because I believe in our schools, trust our teachers and want ALL of our children to succeed and be the best that they can be. I am running to build a bridge between our schools, families and community. The divide that we have recently seen is affecting our students and limiting our teachers. In order for our schools to be successful, they must have the respect and support from our community members. I will lead by example and give the support and respect that is needed so our teachers have the freedom to teach, and ALL students have the freedom to learn. 


Cardinal Nation: What qualifications do you have that make you the best candidate?

Henninger: I have been involved and have invested thousands of hours within our school district and community for over seven years now getting to know our schools, our students, our teachers, our families and our community. Some of the involvement is listed below:

  • PTA President Memorial – 2017 through 2019 and presently
  • PTA President Hopkins -2018-2022
  • PTA Hopkins Board Member – 2022 to present
  • Mentor Library Board of Trustee for five years 
  • President of The Mentor Library Board of Trustee currently
  • Coach Softball each summer for the last three years
  • Strategic Planning Committee for Mentor Schools
  • National PTA School of Excellence Award Recipient (only PTA President within Mentor Schools to ever receive this distinction for Communication, Community Involvement, Inclusion, and Family Engagement)
  • Created and implemented multiple yearly budgets
  • Helped to create multiple strategic plans as a board 
  • BA in Legal Studies, MBA, Project and Process management Certificate
  • Providing volunteer opportunities for our highschoolers so that they can earn their community service cord.

I value teamwork, listening to understand not to respond and other people’s perspectives. I have been a part of three successful and amazing boards. We do not always agree and that is ok because we are able to help each other to understand where the other board member is coming from. To see a point of view, idea or perspective that we may not have considered and to find a workable compromise that meets the needs of the community that we are representing. I understand that disagreeing creates healthy discussion, creates learning opportunities and a more inclusive and productive team environment. I know that I can bring the peace that we need on the board so that we can start moving forward and put the focus back on the students. 

Rose Ioppolo (Board Member Candidate)

Ioppolo: As a parent of four- one in college, two in high school, and one in elementary school- I have always been very involved in their education and embrace the parent-teacher collaboration that is necessary for successful learning. Having school-aged children allows me to have a real world understanding of how a policy will affect students and families. As a substitute teacher in the district, I have experience supporting teachers inside the classroom. This provides me with a front row seat to all that teachers and staff are responsible for every single day. It would be difficult to make decisions that directly affect them without a true understanding of all that they do. This, along with my BA in Communication from Cleveland State University and years of business experience working for Fortune 500 companies, makes me a top candidate. I believe I understand clearly what the focus of our school system should be and how to execute change. 

Marchaza: First: I have a history here. I can clearly recall my days at Sterling Morton Elementary: field days in tie-dye shirts, playing “Hot Cross Buns” in the band on my saxophone, and singing the fifty states in alphabetical order during school concerts. Shore Junior High is where I made lifelong friends, and by the time I got to Mentor High School, I was preparing myself for college. My history in Mentor and the schools, and my experience walking these halls—being taught by some of the same teachers—will provide informed insight to the work I’d do as a member of the school board. Second: I have experience in education and board work. My journey in education began as a graduate teaching assistant at Ohio University, which was followed by two years as an adjunct instructor at University of Hartford in Connecticut. I moved to Cleveland to work as an internship coordinator for students at Notre Dame College before managing a student mentoring program for three years at College Now Greater Cleveland. Today, I still work in higher education as editor and director of publications at Case Western Reserve University. I’ll be able to apply all of this experience—teaching, creating syllabi and curricula, and that ongoing interaction with students—to my role as a board member. I’ve served on the board of the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (both in Cleveland). As a nonprofit professional myself, I’ve supported the work of the boards appointed to lead my organizations. Since I announced my candidacy, I’ve been attending trainings with the Ohio School Board Association to prepare me for serving on the school board—I’ve learned what it means to serve, what authority does (and does not) rest with the board, and how the board must collaborate to shape the future of our schools. Third: I am a parent of two children who have been attending Mentor schools for nearly a decade. Every child has a right to education—it’s the foundation of our civil society. In 2016, my husband and I decided to move back to Mentor because we wanted to ensure our children’s access to excellent schools, a supportive community, and all of those precious memories I shared above. It has been deeply rewarding to watch our children learn and grow in a school system with teachers and staff who genuinely care about and enable their success. I believe we need a parent’s voice on this board—one who can provide balance and real insight into what the district’s families are thinking and feeling. Fourth: I have been—and will continue to be—fully invested in the success of our schools. I have a history and a future here in Mentor. My family is here and I own a home here. My children attend these schools where I volunteer for class parties, field days, and go to their art shows and orchestra concerts. I’m proud to have a stake in this community and its schools, and will devote my passion, energy, and experience to make it the best place it can be—because my kids are counting on me, and I won’t let them down. Finally, I’ve met with teachers, students, staff, bus drivers, parents, board members, community members for countless conversations about their concerns because hearing from everyone is how I can best represent everyone.

Martello: The Mentor School Board is a five seat deliberative body.  I believe this body needs a person with my background and leadership skills. A forty+ year career in manufacturing has taught me a lot. The two most useful skills I have learned are to listen and then communicate a rational, reasoned response. My ability to listen, learn and appropriately respond has been rewarded with an executive engineering manager position at a large manufacturing company. Over the past ten years, my ability to recognize value in people, programs and processes has been tested and proven. The ability to distill complex issues into subject matter that most junior associates can digest and create further value with has also been recognized and rewarded. Finally, I recognize, I don’t have all of the answers, I rely on others or seek out other opinions to fill in my blind spots, which all of us have.  Humility, humbleness are virtues I seek to improve upon. Being a team player is critical and a goal I strive towards each and every day.

Board Member Candidate (Lyndsie Wall)

Wall: While I may not have the list of college degrees or the impressive resume that other candidates will list, I have spent the last year taking classes and educating myself on the role of a school board member, what can and cannot be done in that role and how to work with others so that decisions are made with the best interest of all students in mind. My roots are deep here in Mentor, this is my home and where my heart is. I care deeply about the success of our district and community. Once a cardinal, always a cardinal. I also possess the empathy and respect that is very much needed right now. I am willing to have hard conversations and be open minded. Most importantly, I support public education. 



Cardinal Nation: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing this district, and what is your plan to address it?

Henninger: There are several big challenges facing the district right now:

  • There are a lot of decisions being made for the students, teachers and parents without teacher, parent and student input. A one size fits all approach that is not only unhealthy and unproductive, but that is creating a hostile environment at the board meetings. Which is also taking the focus off of other issues that need to be addressed but that are being overlooked, like classroom sizes for example. Students, families and teachers feel unheard and do not feel included. It is a common theme among those three groups.
  • The board meetings are creating a divide, instead of fostering a sense of community. We need to be able to work as a team in order to keep moving the students and the district forward in a positive manner.
  • Classroom sizes are out of control and creating a nonconducive learning environment for our students as well as putting undue stress on our amazing teachers. 

The way to address all of these issues is to have a school board in place that is capable and willing to work together as a team. To listen to one another and to understand each other’s perspective without judgment. A board that understands not only the importance but also the need for all students, families, and teachers to feel heard, to feel valued and to feel represented. We also need to involve all of our stakeholders, which are our teachers, students and families in discussions to gain valuable feedback and insight into what issues are important to them and how these issues are affecting them, like class sizes for example. They are a valuable resource that we are not involving in discussions about issues that are ongoing and impacting them. Our fifth grade classes at Hopkins have 28 and 29 students in them. Redistricting was supposed to solve this issue but here we are again in 2023 with overcrowded classrooms with students at different learning levels and with different learning needs/styles. We need to work together to come up with a viable and sustainable strategy to finally lower class sizes, not just rush into a solution without insight and input from our stakeholders. 

Ioppolo: Mentor Schools used to be known for their elite academics. Throughout the last decade, academics took a big hit. If elected, I plan to work with Mr. Heath and my fellow school board members to prioritize academic excellence and dedicate myself to making the district a model for all other districts in the state. This can be done with a singular focus of getting back to basics…that is, improving comprehensive early literacy initiatives, giving teachers a voice and the freedom to use whatever methods they have proven success with, provide additional assistance to those who have fallen behind, maintain more appropriate classroom sizes and restore discipline and order in the classroom. A key factor to being successful is consistency and the willingness to allow time for these changes to work. 

Lauren Marchaza (Board Member Candidate) ( David Schwartz)

Marchaza: Without question, the biggest challenge facing this district is that political culture wars are distracting us from addressing the true problems we need to come together to solve. These culture wars have created a chaos we’ve never seen before at our school board meetings. What’s worse, we spend countless hours talking about controversial topics while our bus driver shortage goes unaddressed, our classroom sizes continue to balloon, and our buildings remain less safe and secure than they could be. What’s more, this chaos undermines the trust of the public, causing the community to lose faith in our public school system. We must push our board (and community) toward a more productive and constructive dialogue—the future of our district depends on it.

Martello: There are few institutions in our town with a greater influence than our schools.  Its influence and success (or lack thereof) touches everyone. Many believe this school system is pursuing an agenda that is not in alignment with the community’s values or standards. The perception is, this influence is coming from outside of the Mentor area, in an attempt to change the social landscape of our city. Many people believe this is affecting the decisions being made by the current board majority. It is felt by parents teaching the basics of academics has taken a backseat. There is an appearance that the pursuit of socially re-engineering the student body, usurping parental authority is all important.  After having many conversations with Mentor residents, I believe there is a significant breach of trust between the school board majority and the parents. This current board majority struggles to hear the pleas of this community, so once again, here are the community’s needs as I have heard them.

  • We need a policy reaffirming parental rights.
  • We need the educational experience of our students to return to that of the basics.
  • We need restrooms that are safe for our daughters.
  • We need all inappropriate materials removed from our school libraries and premises.
  • We need School Resource Officers in all of our buildings.
  • We need our school system to reflect the values of this community.
  • We need a school system where the money spent is respected.
  • And finally, local businesses need a workforce they can be confident of investing in.

My overarching goal will be to facilitate in repairing the breach of trust, in the hopes we could all have a school system to be proud of. I firmly believe, through hard work and constructive dialog, we can put forth an educational experience that serves the entire community’s needs. Will it be easy? No! Can we do it? Yes! Nothing worth doing is ever easy…

Wall: Environment. Our students need the space to learn and grow while our teachers must have the space and tools to educate. Every single child is unique and deserving of kindness, patience and encouragement. Our teachers and staff are special people who are qualified, educated, and dedicated to our students. They need to be respected, supported and trusted. We cannot expect our teachers to teach in a stressful, hostile, or disrespectful environment, just as we cannot expect our students to learn when they are feeling tired, unsafe, invisible or unwelcome. Bullying was an issue when I attended Mentor Schools and it clearly still is. But we must do better as parents and adults and lead by example. We must teach our own children how to be kind and respectful to everyone. 

Read Part 2 and Part 3 of our series as well. To learn more or contact the candidates yourself, check out their own campaign websites:

Christine Henninger

Rose Ioppolo

Lauren Marchaza

Gil Martello

Lyndsie Wall

As always, you can find Cardinal Nation on X @CardinalNa8ion, on Instagram at @cardinaln8ion, and on Facebook at “Cardinal Nation.” You can also download our app by searching “Student News Source” at the App Store and get it on your preferred device.

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About the Contributor
Loren Wandersleben
Loren is a current junior at Mentor High School. She is currently involved in, Cardinal Nation, Model United Nations, Sparkle Cheerleading, NHS, and is President of the Mentor High Chess Club. Outside of school, she enjoys hanging out with friends, going to the beach, and traveling.