State, local education minds gather in North Royalton for roundtable

Cleveland Plain Dealer - May 11, 2012
   

Scott Patsko

A collection of people who shape education law in Ohio, and those most affected by it — school administrators — gathered for a roundtable discussion at North Royalton High School May 7.

Under the umbrella of “The Future of Public Education in Ohio,” a seven-member panel discussed topics ranging from school funding to new district ratings to needed changes in Ohio’s education system.

“My hope is that we take this back to our own districts,” said Dan Langshaw, North Royalton school board member. Langshaw along with Terry Groden, North Olmsted school board and Reno Contipelli, Cuyahoga Heights school board organized the event.

The trio of school board members held a similar roundtable in 2011.

This time, members of the panel were: Anthony Podojil, executive director for The Alliance for High Quality Education; Piet Van Lier, communications director from Policy Matters Ohio; Michelle Francis, deputy director of legislative services from Ohio School Boards Association; Barbara Shaner, associate executive director for Ohio Association of School Administrators; Tom Ash, director of governmental development from Buckeye Association of School Administrators; Rep. Nan Baker, R-16, member of the House Education Committee; and Rep. Mike Dovilla, vice-chair of the House Education Committee.

Posed with the question of whether or not the tax burden on homeowners will ever lessen, both Dovilla and Baker urged school districts to do more.

“Some of this comes down to making tough decisions at the district level that we have to make at the state level,” Dovilla said. “To rely on the debt of residents in the district to fund an operating budget is just not right.”

“It’s not always about money. It may be more about doing better with what we have,” Baker added.

Shaner pointed out that, while Ohio is often thought of as a state with a high tax burden, it’s in the middle of the pack when local taxes are not factored in.

“What’s happened in Ohio has not made us stronger,” said Van Lier. “It won’t get better until we address the funding issues in the state.”

House Bill 136, a controversial bill, aimed to provide funds for students to attend schools outside their home district was also part of the discussion. Opponents feel the bill would steer public school students toward private schools.

While the panel collectively felt the bill, which is currently on hold, needs work, Ash felt public schools weren’t getting enough credit.

“We feel public schools will compete with anybody, if given the chance to compete,” he said.

Many school administrators are concerned about expected changes how schools are rated, and the confusion that may cause. A rating of “Excellent” or “Continuous Improvement” for a school district would switch to a letter grade between A and F.

“We do need time to explain this,” said Shaner. “There will be questions like, ‘What does it mean?’ and ‘Why are the grades changing?’ ”

When asked what changes the panel would like to see with Ohio’s education system, Dovilla focused on job training.

“The jobs we are training kids for today will not be the jobs in 10 to 15 years,” said Dovilla.

Podojil questioned the importance placed on state assessment tests students take in the spring.

“We’re getting away from the body of work it takes to evaluate a student,” said Podojil. “At some point I’d like to see a dialogue switch to the bigger picture.”

Van Lier feels cooperation will be a key to moving forward.

“All these districts are fighting for their little piece of bread,” he said. “We have to try and treat these issues as one. We have to work together.”

State, local education minds gather in North Royalton for roundtable

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