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5 running for 3 seats

Cary Ashby • Updated Aug 10, 2017 at 11:13 AM

Five candidates are running for three open slots on the Norwalk school board.

Steve Linder, who is completing his second term, is seeking re-election. Board members Kevin Cashen, currently the president, and Rob Ludwig have decided not to run. Wednesday was the deadline to file petitions with the Huron County Board of Elections for the Nov. 7 ballot.

The other four candidates are Julie Castle, Eric Gonzales, Ralph Ritzenthaler and Beth Schnellinger.

After 13 years on the board, Ludwig said “I think it’s time to let someone else step in.”

Ludwig served three complete terms after completing the term of Gary Bauer.

“He had a year left when he went into the commissioners,” Ludwig said. 

“It’s been a very rewarding experience,” he added, complimenting the district on its great teachers, administrators and support staff. “It’s been a joy to be part of.

“It’s time to move on to other challenges,” Ludwig said. “I feel good where we are. George Fisk is a good superintendent.”

Linder said he had “a lot of support” and people in the community who asked him if he was interested in running again. After Tuesday’s board meeting, he said his first term was about learning what it takes to serve Norwalk City Schools and the second term was about refining what he had learned.

One of the issues that most interest Linder and Ritzenthaler, a former board member, is the possibility of the district constructing a building that would house all the elementary grades. 

“We’ve really started to talk about it (as a board),” Linder said. “If that happens, I’d like to be a part of it.”

Castle, a 1995 Norwalk High School graduate, said she considers herself an advocate for children, especially those with special needs. She said it’s important to consider the entire population of a school when making decisions.

“I think it’s important to keep everyone in mind,” she added.

Castle, who is pursuing her certification in being a board-certified behavior analyst, worked with autistic children for 19 years. Her experience as an educator includes seven years as a Title I reading instructor at the St. Joseph School in Monroeville and “instructional coaching” in New London Local Schools.

Gonzales is a 2001 NHS graduate.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to run. I know we have great potential. I’m excited to be part of the future,” he said.

Ritzenthaler served on the board for four years starting in 2011 and lost his re-election bid to current board member Lisa Wick. An all-new elementary school building remains one of his passion projects.

“I’d like to pursue that a little more. I think we should strongly look into it,” Ritzenthaler said.

Citing the possibility of the district using “certificates of participation,” he said his goal is to get the building created “with very little money from the taxpayers.”

“I’d like to see what that’s about,” he added.

Ritzenthaler said one of the advantages he has in the election is being a teacher and knowing how the school system operates. He started his teaching career in Monroeville Local Schools, where he worked for 2 1/2 years. Ritzenthaler retired in 2011, having served as a fourth-grade teacher at Maplehurst Elementary in Norwalk for 33 years.

Cashen and Schnellinger couldn’t be reached for comment.

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