School board appoints new member

By Dedra Cordle

Staff Writer

Camille Peterson

A new member has been appointed to the South-Western City School District Board of Education.

At a special meeting held on Dec. 12, the board announced that Galloway resident Camille Peterson had been selected to fill a vacation position by a majority vote.

She replaces longtime board member and retired district educator Cathy Johnson, who stepped down last month due to a change in residency outside of the district.

According to board president Anthony Caldwell, there were 20 letters of interest submitted after Johnson announced her resignation on Nov. 20. Nineteen of those candidates were interviewed by the board. Caldwell said they had a difficult time coming to a consensus.

“We had a great pool of candidates to choose from,” he explained in an interview after the special meeting. “All of the candidates had a very diverse background with a variety of experiences that could benefit our district moving forward so that made it very difficult to choose just one person because they all fit that mold of what you would want in a member of the board of education.”

Ultimately, Caldwell said what set Peterson apart from the crowded field was her passion and her experience in advocating for underserved and underrepresented individuals and communities, particularly on the westside.

“Camille has been a longtime westside advocate for kids who has over 16 years of experience volunteering for student, staff and community causes in the area and in the district,” he said. “All of her children are graduates of Westland High School and she has been involved in the Parent-Teacher Associations at each of the high school’s feeder schools. She has also been a district PTA president, she has served on the state PTA, she’s been involved in levy campaigns and site steering committees and she is currently the president of the Westland High School Athletic Boosters program and the chair of the district’s Educational Foundation, helping secure scholarship funding and grants for our students.”

As a fellow resident of the westside who has been involved in student causes prior to his election to the board, Caldwell said he has known Peterson for years through those channels and he believes the board made the right decision by choosing her to fill the vacant position.

“Camille wears her heart on her sleeve,” he said. “She cares about kids, she cares about her community, she cares about the district. I couldn’t think of anyone who has spent as much time as humanly possible outside of her regular job caring for our students the way that she has, especially in the westside community.”

He said he could not wait to see what impact she makes on the board and on the district itself.

“She is just a remarkable person who will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge and passion to the board,” he said. “She will bring geographic diversity and racial diversity to the board and she will serve as a great voice for the people on the westside and in the underserved and underrepresented areas of our district.”

Born in Detroit, Mich but raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Peterson came to Columbus with her high school sweetheart, William, to attend The Ohio State University. She received her bachelor of science in social work in 2002 and her master of social work in 2004. Upon her graduation, she found employment at the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging and she is currently the aging program case management supervisor.

“I have always had a passion for serving individuals who are underrepresented in our society,” she said.

As the mother of three children, Peterson said she became involved in their school PTA’s as a way to try to make friends when her family moved to the westside around 2004.

“I didn’t know anybody in the area so I thought that if I joined the PTA, it might provide me with the opportunity to get to know people, learn more about the community and learn more about the district where my children would be attending school,” she said.

She added that she did not expect to become so involved for such a long time.

“I couldn’t seem to help myself,” she said.

Peterson said what she has enjoyed the most about her years of involvement with the PTA and her engagement with other district causes like the levy campaign, the site steering committee and the Educational Foundation is feeling as if she is “making a difference in the lives of our students, our staff, and our community.”

Although she has spent nearly two decades volunteering with the PTA and other community leadership workgroups, she said she was never interested in serving on the board of education.

That changed after the passing of board member Robert Ragland in 2021.

Peterson was one of the individuals who submitted a letter of interest to fill his vacant seat. She said she felt it was important that the board continue to have a representative that was a person of color.

“The South-Western City School District has a very diverse population and I felt it was important for our students to continue to see someone on the board who looks like them, and to see someone who looks like them in a leadership role.”

Although she was not selected for that vacant seat – it went to retired district educator and former school board member Lee Schreiner – she said that representation was why she sought a vacant seat once again.

“I was confident to an extent because of my experience and my passion, but I was also not confident at the same time,” she quipped.

She said when Caldwell let her know she had been selected, she and her family were “over the moon.”

“I am so excited to be able to serve on the board of education,” she said.

Peterson said she looks forward to working with her fellow board of education members to try to “better the lives of our students, our staff, our families, and our communities.”

“To me, being a member of the board of education is about putting aside your personal politics and coming together with people who may have different views than you, who may have different experiences than you, and working together to find a happy medium to solve problems that may arise.

“We weren’t all made to be the same, we weren’t all made to think the same, but I don’t think there is any reason why we cannot show the community that we can come together and work hard for our district.”

Peterson will be sworn in prior to the budget hearing and organizational meeting on Jan. 8, 2024. She will serve until Dec. 31, 2025.

She will be joined on the board by current members Chris Boso and Kelli Martindale and newly elected board members Denise D’Angelo and Julie Liskany.

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