By Okon Ekpenyong
Dion Manley is seeking election to the Gahanna-Jefferson School Board. The family moved to Gahanna from California 15 years ago. Dion’s daughter has been in Gahanna Jefferson Public Schools since Kindergarten and is currently a senior at Lincoln high school.
Community service has always been a way of life for me, but I never thought I would run for office. I see being on the school board as a way for me to give back to the school system that has done so much for us and believe now is the time for regular folks to step up. I’m a working-class single parent raising my daughter on my own and work full time. The schools have been a big part of our lives, my daughter has loved all her teachers. I’m grateful for the education and support that my daughter has received.
I want all kids to have the great experience that we did. And I believe we can bridge our divides and make every kid feel included and supported. I know people have different points of view. I’m a good listener and want to hear what families, teachers, staff, community members have to say. I went to trade school. I’ve been an apprentice. I know the value of vocational education. I’ll actively support the Eastland-Fairfield program expansion to make sure our kids are prepared for good jobs. Gahanna-Jefferson currently is a satellite location for Eastland-Fairfield’s Architecture/Construction Management, Bioscience and Teaching Profession programs. I’d like to see those satellite offerings expand so we have more options for students to explore or plan post-graduation pathways. It is my goal as a board member to contribute toward keeping Gahanna schools, a welcoming place for the diversity of people and ways of thinking so every student feels valued and supported. These partnerships and apprenticeships would have little or no additional costs. We need to move forward as a district. Our teachers and facilities need to be ready for the future. We need to maintain strong schools to keep property values high. And we need to bring all the stakeholder together to make that happen. Now is the time to bridge our divides and move forward together.
I have participated in district-specific volunteer activities while living in Gahanna: GLIMB volunteering, including athletic events, Band competitions and consistently attending school functions. I served as an officer on a nonprofit board, Acting Executive Director, Vol. Coordinator, Outreach Specialist. I have worked for the Board of Elections since my 30’s, most recently in the Absentee and Provisional Department, plus over 10 years as Voting Location Manager at Como Elementary. Experience as a small business owner brought a balance of being practical while maintaining forward motion with development and growth.
My inspiration for running in this year’s school board race is my daughter and her positive, life-changing experiences in the Gahanna-Jefferson school district. As a fully engaged student, my daughter is a student-athlete, yearbook editor, officer in the National Honor Society, in the Global Scholars Program, member of the Link Crew school community-building group, and is on the board of a national
non-profit. I am grateful for the opportunities and support she has enjoyed throughout her Gahanna-Jefferson school career. My focus for running for school board to help ensure that our schools maintain their forward progress and continue to provide amazing educational opportunities for all students.
Running a campaign is very hard work and well worth it. It is an unbelievable experience to have so many people show up to support shared goals regarding the future of our youth. Talking and communicating with thousands of people throughout Gahanna is an honor, very inspiring. Voter turnout is key and so very important, we have a record number of candidates, and the majority of the School Board is up for grabs with three open seats. Everyone must vote, tell others to vote and share information about voting that is available on BoardofElections.gov. People can even apply online to be a poll worker! I have worked for the Board of Election since I was 30, it is a great job and very rewarding. I encourage youth to look up Youth at the Booth to apply and get paid the same as adults! Franklin County Board of Elections is still hiring. We have had 2 School Board Candidate forums, most recently one prepared and moderated by students at Lincoln High School. It is to be released on YouTube in the very near future. The previous Forum is in a link provided here and although it is long, all 8 (yes 8) candidates participated. I promise you will find revealing statements from each candidate. Here’s the link to the Town Hall for your review.