Three New Ohio Board of Education Members

State school superintendent Richard Ross.  photo by Molly Bloom
State school superintendent Richard Ross. photo by Molly Bloom

Board of Education candidates run in non-partisan races but members sometimes vote along party lines. Democrats gained two seats in the November election and now make up 7 of the 11 elected positions but are still a minority of the 19 member board. Pat Bruns from Cincinnati won the seat held by last year’s board president Debe Terhar, a Tea Party advocate who gained national attention after comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler on Facebook. Terhar chose not to run again.

Bruns is a retired art teacher and she is not pleased with the board’s decision in December to eliminate the so called 5 of 8 rule so that local districts no longer have to hire 5 of 8 service personnel, which includes art teachers, music teachers, and librarians.

“You’re going to hear a lot for me about the important role of the arts in education a discipline and I believe that it should be significant and, frankly,on equal footing as other disciplines.”

Another new member who would like to see the 5 of 8 rule kept in the state standards is Roslyn Painter-Goffi from the Cleveland suburb of Strongsville. She’s a retired school librarian. She’s among the members who will get a chance to vote on the rule change when it goes before the board for a final vote - probably in March.

The third new member is Bob Hagan, from Youngstown. The railroad engineer and longtime state legislator is no shrinking violet. He says the state is not doing its part to provide enough funding for public schools.

“You have a governor who is trumpeting the fact that he is cutting income taxes. But when he cuts income taxes he’s basically saying ‘I’m also going to cut funding for education.’ And therein lies our biggest challenge as board members. And we have to speak up when we see it’s not being fair to the 611-12 school districts. “

These new members believe the state school board has taken their focus off of public schools and diverted too much taxpayer money from public schools to charter schools. Roslyn painter-Goffi is no fan of charters.

The fact that they are not doing well, that they are bleeding tax dollars away from local school districts when money is so tight for everybody, and the fact that there’s so little accountability .”

Accountability both in academics and in financial reporting. And she’s not in the minority here. The new board president Tom Gunlock and Governor Kasich both say they want to crack down on failing charter schools. Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court is set to rule on whether a for-profit charter operator has to show its financial books to its own school board.

The Republican dominated state legislature may take up the debate this year over the Common Core standards that Ohio has adopted. The three new state board members want to keep them although Painter-Goffi does have reservations

“I’m concerned that we have these high stakes test that are associated with Common Core that I think we need to be delaying.”

Roslyn Painter-Goffi, Pat Bruns, and Bob Hagan are also critical of the state school superintendent Richard Ross, a former education advisor to Governor Kasich. They fear he listens more to Governor Kasich than to the school board that hired him.
The board of education is officially non-partisan and new board president Tom Gunlock told the Columbus Dispatch that he welcomes all ideas and open debate.

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