LORAIN — Chantelle Lewis, principal of Larkmoor Elementary School and running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill O’Neill, hopes to make an big difference for all of education in Ohio.
“When I was a teacher, I used to say, ‘If were to affect one student each year by the time I’m 30 I will have affected a whole classroom,’” said Lewis, who has spent nearly two decades in education. “Now, I get to impact a whole state, and that’s what I want to do.”
O’Neill announced Lewis as his running mate Jan. 9, calling her “bright, articulate, and a success story right out of the American Dream,” in a Facebook video announcement. O’Neill wanted someone who knows education and found her background ideal, she said. When he asked her to join his campaign, she gladly accepted.
Lewis started out as an educator in schools in Northeast Ohio, including a few years as a special education teacher in Lorain Schools. She then worked as an administrator in Cleveland Schools for six years, but jumped at the opportunity to return to Lorain Schools as a principal five years ago.
“I always loved Lorain,” she said. “I love the culture, I love the people, especially the students and the families.”
She has a school superintendent’s license, two master’s degrees from Cleveland State University and is studying for her doctorate in education from Youngstown State University, according to an O’Neill campaign release.
Lewis said her role will be to focus primarily on the state’s educational system, which she said is in need of a big overhaul.
The biggest problems she expressed was Ohio’s controversial school-funding system through property taxes, ruled unconstitutional in 2002 by the Ohio Supreme Court. Since the case was brought 20 years ago, Lewis said it’s made for an unfair system that leaves public schools in unfair financial status depending on where they are. She promises a change to the system if elected.
“It’s not going to be a quick fix to do it, but I believe if we have all stakeholders involved, you just can’t make laws and ignore the law,” she said.
The principal is no stranger to politics, having served in 2009 as the vice president of the East Cleveland City Council and as an alternate delegate for former President Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Lewis said she’s confident she and O’Neill would bring Ohio some much-needed improvement. If she does win, Lewis said, she won’t forget lessons Lorain has taught her.
“Lorain has taught me it is ‘the international city’ and a melting pot,” she said. “What I can take away from Lorain is their heart for diversity.”