Prepared Notes for Board Meeting
February 14, 2011
Marc A. Schare –
I have a number of updates and random factoids this evening. In no particular order:
Congratulations to student board member Djenab Conde, who has advanced to Finalist standing in the 2011 National Achievement Scholarship Program. According to the NASP web site, only 1300 students out of 170,000 entrants are designated finalists. We certainly wish Ms. Conde well as she progresses in this very difficult merit based competition.
A week or so ago, Liberty Elementary School was proud to host a visit from a sitting United States Congressman. Congressman Stivers spent around an hour with the kids. As you might remember from the Liberty Leaps presentation we saw a few months ago, Liberty 1st graders and 5th graders are collaborating on a project to reduce cafeteria waste at the direction of our environmently-minded Superintendent, Dr. Conrath. The kids ultimately decided that composting with earthworms was the way to go and as Congressman Stivers arrived, the kids were engaged in trying to figure out how to prevent the earthworms from escaping their box and infesting the classroom. The congressman inspected the situation closely by digging his hands in to the earthworm environment. Never let it be said that Congressman Stivers won’t roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty in the performance of his duties. After cleaning up, Congressman Stivers returned to give the kids a lesson about how a bill becomes a law. While the morning was a fun event, there were some serious conversations that were held. With Liberty Leaps, the building is at the cutting edge of education reform. Elementary education can no longer be about 5 rows of 5 kids each with a teacher in the front of the room. Congressman Stivers was able to hear first hand from Principal Baker and Liberty teachers about 21st century education, American competitiveness in the world and how Liberty succeeds despite the changing demographics in the area.
Legislation is coming fast and furious so I can’t comment on each bill, but I will offer two highlights. Last Wednesday, the Ohio House Education Committee met to discuss, among other things, House Bill 30. I have had many discussions with the legislature about one part of House Bill 30 – the removal of the five year forecast requirement – so I trekked downtown to testify against this change. A copy of the testimony is on my web site, however, as it turns out, it was unnecessary as the committee amended the bill to restore the forecasting requirement prior to my testimony. Indeed, I received bipartisan applause when I did testify – by thanking them for their amendment and promptly sitting down. Our treasurer also offered testimony on House Bill 30 in opposition to a mandate concerning expenditures related to gifted services. While the mandate may get cleaned up in the budget bill, Mr. McCuen took advantage of the opportunity to remind the House Education Committee that timing of the restoration of the ability to charge for all day Kindergarten was important as these decisions are being made by parents today.
Along those same lines, I met with Senator Bacon last week and one of the items we discussed was the removal of the Kindergarten mandate and the restoration of the ability to charge. Senator Bacon did not present an optimistic view that this will get through the Senate prior to the state budget in July, this despite the introduction of Senate Bill 9 that would do exactly what was needed. As a result of this discussion, I think it is prudent to again consider the Kindergarten waiver offered by ODE as an expression of the boards intent, one way or the other, if this legislation is not passed.
Finally, a legislative report would not be complete without acknowledging the legislative elephant in the room. Senate Bill 5 seeks to provide comprehensive collective bargaining reform that would apply, in part, to K-12 employees throughout the state. Proponents look at the legislation as a chance to minimize the influence of public sector employee unions. Opponents see it as a direct attack on police, fire and teachers. As usual, anyone reading the bill would see that the truth is somewhere in the middle. It won’t surprise many in the room that in general, I support legislation that would result in the ability to treat teachers like the professionals they are, rather than interchangeable assembly line factory workers. I support legislation that would result in teacher empowerment on the strength of their ideas, not the strength of their negotiating skills and I support legislation that would allow a much needed career path for superstar teachers that wouldn’t necessarily lead to administration, for these are two very different skill sets. Whether SB5 would lead to these reforms is debatable, but it is my hope that these are reforms we can all get behind.