Nov 16, 2017

Get to Know: Board Member Elect Clay Lopez

Photo of Clay Lopez

For Clay Lopez, being elected to the Pickerington Schools Board of Education Nov. 7 is a bit like coming home.

That’s because Lopez – who was elected as a write-in candidate – previously served on the school board from 2008 to 2013. (Incumbent candidates Lori Sanders and Vanessa Niekamp also were re-elected.)

“In my previous five years on the board, I made a lot of friends, and I’ve missed working with them,” said Lopez, who will be sworn in at the board’s organizational meeting Jan. 8. “I’m excited to get back into things.”

Lopez was one of five write-in candidates running for office earlier this month. He said he had not considered running for the board again because he felt there were already qualified incumbent candidates running for the three open seats.

“I didn’t think there needed to be a change, because it looked like the district was in a pretty good spot,” he said. “With that third seat being open, I thought it would be a good chance for me to come back.”

Lopez discussed it with his wife and decided to toss his hat into the ring.

“I’ve missed serving,” Lopez said. “What’s going on in the district is still important to me. I’ve not been as active a participant since stepping down, but I’ve been watching from the sidelines.”

Lopez said he believes there are two key priorities for the board to focus on: student achievement and fiscal accountability.

“We want our students to have all needed resources available to them to achieve success every single day,” he said. “We want our teachers to have the proper tools to deliver the best education possible. As far as being fiscally responsible, I’ve looked at the treasurer’s five-year forecasts and they look incredibly good right now. I’d like to see that trend continue.”

Lopez said the district’s finances are in a very different place than when he was on the board. Back then, finances were tight and the district had not passed a levy for additional tax revenues for some time. The board was in the unfortunate position of being forced to make significant cuts to the budget.

“It was incredibly difficult to find all the places where the budget could be cut and not sacrifice the level of education we expect in Pickerington,” Lopez said. “Looking at the district’s current forecast, I don’t foresee that sort of thing for the future. But, I think going through that experience will be beneficial to me on the board as we move forward.”

Fortunately, Lopez said, many of the members of the current administration are the same as the ones he worked with when he was on the board. That should help make the transition back onto the board a smooth one.

Still, he plans to meet with Superintendent Chris Briggs and Treasurer Ryan Jenkins to get up to speed on current issues, opportunities, goals, and trends in the district.

“I think one of the things that concerns me is the state report card and the perception that the letter grades create,” he said. “I don’t think that tells the true story about our schools, but I think people look at those and jump to conclusions that things aren’t good. But, when you look at the data and search past that letter grade, you’ll see that we exceed similar school districts. We exceed state medians. We’re actually doing a pretty good job. I’m not saying we can’t do better, but the report card does not tell the whole story of what we’re doing in Pickerington.”

Lopez has been an attorney since graduating from Capital University Law School and passing the bar exam in 1999. He received his undergraduate degree from West Virginia University in 1996. He serves as chair of the Columbus Bar Association Criminal Law Committee and is a member of the CBA.

He and his wife, Shannon, have two children.

Kaitlyn, 21, is a Pickerington High School Central graduate who attends West Virginia University. She is majoring in strategic communication with an emphasis on public relations and a minor in business and communication.

Nick is a fourth grader at Pickerington Elementary.

The family attends St. John XXIII Catholic Church in Canal Winchester.