By Patricia Beech – People’s Defender
The Southern Ohio Educational Service Center hosted its 19th Annual Four-County Board and Dinner Meeting March 22 at the Laurel Oaks Career Campus in Wilmington. Board of Education members, administrators, and honored guests from Adams, Clinton, Fayette, and Highland Counties were among those in attendance.
Guest speaker Dr. Kirk Hamilton, the Executive Director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, spoke about the importance of supporting each other as teachers, administrators, and educational leaders. He encouraged the audience to remember that school districts often share common experiences in the day-to-day operations related to educating Ohio’s school children and encouraged educators to use a bit of humor from time to time as they tackled challenging issues.
Hamilton also commended the commitment of educators and shared that contrary to popular belief, our schools and our students are out performing those of other countries.
Among those accorded special recognition during the night’s events were “Friend of Education Award” recipients. Each year, superintendents from each of the four counties are asked to nominate members of the community as Friends of Education — individuals or organizations that have contributed greatly to successes in the schools.
Adams County’s Friend of Education Award was presented to Roy Willman. Willman is an active member of the Adams County community and has contributed greatly to the overall development and education of the students in the Adams County Ohio Valley Schools. Willman is the coordinator of the Junior Achievement organization that facilitates financial and career awareness for the middle school students in all three attendance areas.
“Roy has been involved with the Adams County Junior Achievement initiative for 16 years,” said Tony Long, Superintendent of the SOESC. “During those 16 years and under his leadership, approximately 100 local Junior Achievement volunteers have personally been recruited by Mr. Willman, and as a result, thousands of students have benefited from his commitment.”
“I’m grateful for this recognition,” Wilman said, “It has been my privilege to provide this service to our fifth-grade students.”
Clinton County’s Friend of Education Award was presented to Juvenile Court Chief Probation Officer Deanne Whalen. Whalen began serving Clinton County in 1990 as a college intern, and “during the past 23 years, she has worked diligently to offer creative options for the judge and families to prevent students from incarceration or probation,” said Tony Long, Superintendent of the SOESC. “Deanne has the uncanny ability to show both compassion and a tough demeanor that has transformed the lives of hundreds of students.”
Fayette County’s Friend of Education Award was presented was Mary Dye. Dye serves as a caring nurse as well as the certified diabetic educator at Fayette County Memorial Hospital in Washington Court House and makes a huge difference in the lives of many people. “She devotes countless hours of her ‘free time’ giving back to diabetics and their family members in Fayette County and communities beyond,” said Long, “and as a true Friend of Education, Mary provides multiple training sessions every year for both Washington Court House City Schools and Miami Trace Local School District.
Highland County’s Friend of Education Award was presented Dr. Kevin Boys. Boys is the fifth president of Southern State Community College and is now serving in his seventh year. He has devoted over 31 years of his life to K-12 public education in southwest Ohio, including his service as a teacher, principal and superintendent in two suburban school districts near Cincinnati.
“Boys regularly collaborates with all of the superintendents and school districts in the region to provide expanded opportunities for students,” said Long. “With Boys’ leadership and the collaboration of 30 area school districts, SSCC has doubled the number of high school students taking college credit plus classes.”
Also recognized at the SOESC event was Blanchester High School English teacher Stephenie Eriksson and West Union High School music teacher Carl Schneider who were both nominated for the 2016 Ohio Teacher of the Year Award.
Eriksson, who was selected as one of ten finalists for the Ohio Department of Education’s Ohio Teacher of the year, is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been honored regionally and nationally several times by organizations for her leadership in English Language Arts including the Ohio Council of Teachers of English/Language Arts and the National Council of Teachers of English. Eriksson was also selected by Phil Delta Kappa International, the international education fraternity, for their Emerging Leader in Education program.
Schneider is a National Board Certified Teacher and has taught music for 32 years at West Union High School. He has been honored by nearly every region and state music and choral organization. Schneider has also been honored nationally by the Tri State Marching Association and Phi Beta Mu, the national music fraternity, and currently serves on many regional, state and national committees to promote music education. He has written and received over $215,000 in grant money to promote music education at Adams County/Ohio Valley Local Schools.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized,” said Schneider, “After 34 years of teaching, going to work every day is still fun. Music is my hobby, and I think any time you can combine your hobby and your work, it’s a joy, and a great way to make a living.”
Representing Lynchburg-Clay Elementary for having been named a National Blue Ribbon School were Principal Joni Minton and Superintendent Brett Justice.
In 2015 The U.S. Department of Education named 335 schools as National Blue Ribbon award winners, and in November, Lynchburg-Clay Elementary representatives traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive their Blue Ribbon award from the US Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan and the Outreach Director Aba S. Kumi.
In his closing remarks, SOESC Governing Board President Richard Peck congratulated the award recipients and thanked all those present for the leadership they provide and the role they play in the many successes that our schools have experienced.