January is School Board Member month in Ohio. It is a time when citizens are given the opportunity to recognize and honor the men and women who provide valuable leadership to public schools.
Ohio’s school board members, one of the largest groups of elected officials in the state, have the responsibility of ensuring the best educational opportunities for Ohio’s students.
Until a person does so, it is difficult to appreciate the pressures, politics and satisfactions of serving on a school board. Despite coming from diverse backgrounds and having different levels of knowledge and expertise, members are expected to work together as a united team.
According to the Ohio School Board Association (OSBA), “School board members make decisions on wide-ranging issues: hiring and evaluating superintendents and treasurers; setting district policy; planning student services; goal-setting and long-range planning; adopting curriculum; establishing budgets; engaging parents; being good fiscal stewards; acting in the best interest of the school district and within the scope of their legal authority; and creating community relations programs.”
Ohio’s public school system is the sixth largest in the country, employing more than 240,000 people, and serving over 1.9 million young people every day.
As the backbone of our American way of life, Ohio’s schools foster our ideals of freedom and shared values, while meeting the changing needs of our evolving society through a commitment that every child can succeed and become a contributing member.”
Todays public schools must prepare students to succeed in a fast-paced, high tech world, and that requires exceptional leadership. Creating an environment in which a school district can excel requires the diligent and deliberate efforts of board members who share a common vision and purpose.
The Defender, this week questioned members of the OVSD and Manchester Local boards about their ideas regarding our districts’ futures and what they hope to accomplish by serving. Their responses follow.
Judy Campbell, who serves on the OVSD board explained what she hoped to accomplish as a school board member.
“What I hope to accomplish as a school board member is to be efficient by being well informed, flexible to change, be a good listener and to vote at all times in the best interests of the children in our district. It is important to note that one of the main duties of a school board member is to develop the policies the district uses for operation. We also select and hire directly the superintendent and the treasurer. The superintendent is the chief administrator and the board has no administrative function. Our superintendent implements the policies, goals, and objectives of the board through an agreed upon procedure.
As a school board member, I try to represent the people of the school district. I realize the reputation of the school district is reflected in my behavior and attitude. I listen, sift fact from fiction, sort rumors from realism and support the decisions made by the board.”
Charlie Bess, also an OVSD board member responded, with a particular emphasis on the personal challenges students often face in the educational system.
“As a school board member I hope to put policies in place that prepare students for the future. They are our primary concern. My favorite thing about serving as a board member is handing out diplomas. I love to see their smiling faces as they cross the stage to be rewarded for their hard work. We have so many wonderful and talented students. The students of today are faced with the many challenges of an ever changing world. Technology has made education and the work force much different than the one we experienced. Students of today must have experience with technology to be successful. While we consider this we must also remember that the basic building blocks of knowledge are still found in reading, writing, and arithmetic. We must have quality educators in the class room. They bring the diversity and enthusiasm to the class room that makes students want to learn. I have a passion for school because of my own experience. I can still remember my first day of school. Unfortunately health issues made it difficult at first. I missed so much school due to illness my first grade year, I had to have a tutor at home. I was blessed to have a teacher that helped me excel. The one-to-one experience allowed me to be ahead when I returned to the classroom in second grade. My experience was different than most, but different can be a good thing.
My physical restrictions were lifted by my fifth grade year, and by that point I had already discovered being smart was a good way to be different. Studying and trying to achieve were important to me. Children come to us with many different things going in their life. Many of those things make learning a complicated issue for them. We have to remember each one is an individual with different problems and dreams. Our job is to try help them have the best educational experience possible. It is important to me to make parents and students feel like part of the process. Each student is a precious gift and each has great potential.”
Members from both school district boards also explained what they hoped to achieve as advocates for students and parents.
Rick Foster, President of the Manchester board responded, “We sincerely believe in the statement, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We believe that the MLSD board strives for collaboration with the Manchester community to enrich our children’s education. This can be accomplished by expanding education opportunities, increasing expectations and raising the bar of excellence. You’ll hear or see in our district, “Excellence is the expectation, not the exception.”
Judy Campbell responded: “As an advocate for students and parents, it is my desire to offer the very best of services and facilities to the children and the citizens in our district. By setting high expectations of our students and staff, keeping current with educational trends, working toward the improvement of the instructional program, being fiscally sound and by hearing the concerns of parents and community members at our meetings I strive for a team work approach to accomplish our goals. I would hope that all would feel welcome as a part of that team.
“We have many achievements to be proud of in our district. A few years ago our district went through a difficult financial time. We had to make some tough decisions regarding staffing and fees. Over the past 3-4 years we have been able to eliminate the Pay to Participate fees, refinance bonds from our building projects to help our citizens by reducing the payback on them substantially, and have increased our staff to levels where class size is at or below the minimum requirement by the state. We are fiscally sound.”
“Our students attend school in state of the art facilities that are one of the most energy efficient in the state of Ohio and the nation. We work toward employing the most highly qualified staff possible and provide professional development, training, work sessions, and planning time for both our certified and classified staff.”
“We have students every month who excel in athletics of various kinds at the local, district, regional, and state level. Our students compete winning awards in FFA contests, music and drama, art, academic teams, debate teams, state contests through the CTC and BETA Clubs, etc. Every graduation I am amazed by the scholarships obtained by our students, those who are going to serve in the military, and those prepared to enter the work force. The students make their parents proud and this helps them to feel connected to the school by being supportive and active in it.”
When asked to identify the OVSD’s greatest challenges in the future, Campbell responded, “One o
f our biggest hurdles for the future is to prepare our students to not only be college and career READY, but to be college and career SUCCESSFUL in an ever changing society and worldwide economy and workforce. We need to foster confidence in our students that they can be successful outside of our school system.”
“It is my desire to challenge our students to a higher level of quality education and to provide the needed professional development for our staff and follow up with efficient evaluations to make this a reality. We need to maintain fiscal responsibility and accountability. With the ever fluctuating state budgets and appropriations it is imperative for us to be proactive financially. I would like to see an increase in opportunities for training and retraining for our adult population to gain skills for employment in our county. Hopefully, this would attract and encourage more industry and job opportunities in Adams County.”
Rick Foster’s response to future challenges was two-fold. As a member of the Manchester board his ideas were focused on both economic and academic concerns.
“I believe this question deserves two answers: The first concerns the proposed elimination of public utility tangible personal property (PUTPP) tax, and the second, dealing with the ever changing assessment process.
“The statehouse is currently reviewing legislation that will have an impact on revenue for MLSD if passed as proposed. We stand to lose a significant value from our tax base for future levies. There is a “hold-harmless” provision, however, nothing prevents future administrations and legislatures from stopping that provision as we have seen in the past. The proposal includes “freezing” payments that would insulate from new investment in the generation property and would also not allow for “cost of living” increases. This would result in shifting the tax burden to other taxpayers. We have already experienced phaseout of payments from previous reductions in the PUTPP. Fortunately, through strategic and efficient budgeting, MLSD has not become dependent on the PUTPP revenue for operating. However, we must keep in mind that economics of our district footprint without the value of the PUTPP certainly limits our ability for future local revenue increase. We then become more dependent on Columbus.”
“I couldn’t agree more with this statement from the Ohio School Boards Association, “Whether from a plant closing or state policy changes, the effects of losing the value of the generation property on many of the affected local governments and school districts may be devastating. In some cases, this property may represent nearly half of the property value for an entity. Unfortunately, the real impact will be on the other taxpayers within the districts of the affected schools and local governments. The elimination of the value of the generation property represents a shift in the responsibility to homeowners, other businesses and farmers for funding these local entities.”
“In addition to constantly changing the revenue streams for education, it seems legislators change the assessment process as often as they change socks. We have eliminated the OGT, switched from the OAAs to the PARCC last year and will now be changing again to another assessment. Our district report cards are used to track the performance of several factors including academic growth. Assessments that aren’t consistent from year to year certainly cannot illustrate trends positive or negative. Our challenge is not only implementing the process changes, it’s hitting the moving target for achieving positive growth.”
“Serving on a board of education requires a serious commitment of time, energy, and talent. Board members serve as the link between schools and the public. They help build public support and lead their communities in demanding quality education. Board member appreciation month gives the public an opportunity to express their appreciation to the men and women who step up to the task in communities across Ohio.”