LIMA — Of the 11 members on the Apollo Career Center board, two are retired teachers and the rest either work for local businesses or are self-employed.
Superintendent Judy Wells said it’s a great group, but because they are also school board members in their individual school districts, they may not be allowed to serve Apollo in the future.
“You are talking about deeply embedded and committed community leaders,” Wells said of the 11 members, all appointed from Apollo’s member school districts.
A provision adopted by the Ohio Senate in Amended Substitute House Bill 59 would replace Joint Vocational School District board members with representatives from business and industry.
Currently, a board member from each school district is appointed by his or her board to serve two-year stints on the career center board. The proposed law specifies that the appointed individual cannot be a member of the appointing school board.
The proposal states that appointees should have “experience as chief financial officers, chief executive officers, human resources managers, or other business and industry professionals who are qualified to discuss the labor needs of the region with respect to the regional economy.”
Vantage Career Center Superintendent Staci Kaufman said most on her board are working members in local industry.
“We feel they bring their experience in management and knowing what the industry is working with,” she said.
Vantage and Apollo both also rely on advisory boards and committees. Various groups work with and advise teachers, heads of programs and superintendents.
Career centers can build better relationships with local districts and keep them informed because of board members sitting on their boards, officials said.
“It gives us a direct link to their school board to let them know what is happening at Vantage. It is just a very good way to communicate and let those school districts know what is happening,” Kaufman said. “That board of education person is a vital link from our administration to their school board and their community.”
Under the proposal, as current career center board members’ terms expire, they would be replaced with a non-school board member. Wells isn’t sure filling the spots will be as easy as some think.
“It is really prescriptive, which I think will be very hard for local boards, especially smaller boards, to come up with a person to meet those criteria,” she said.
Bath school board member Rob McPheron spent eight years on the Apollo board; giving it up only to give another member a chance to serve. He has been writing letters to legislators and believes it is important for the Apollo member to be an elected official, so voters can have a voice and recourse if they aren’t pleased.
“We get voted on every four years and if we’re doing a lousy job, people are going to tell us that by not voting us into that office,” he said. “When people pay taxes they want someone they can go to and say, ‘Why did you do this, that was a terrible idea and I am not going to vote for you next time.’ You can’t do that with someone just appointed.”
Wells also worries about accountability, as well as potential ethical issues and conflicts of interest that could come up. Wells also questions why the issue is being brought up so late in the budget process.
“If there is a problem with way we are governed, pull it out of budget bill and work on it as a second issue and thoroughly research it,” she said. “I don’ see why we need to rush through all of this.”
Kaufman said school funding is likely the culprit of the proposal. Eighty percent of state per-pupil funding travels from a district’s home school to a career center. While she believes her board is fully supportive of Vantage, Kaufman wonders if there is a perception at the state level that district school board members would rather keep students in their home schools.
McPheron said districts such as Bath, Elida and Shawnee were leaders in getting the current Apollo building 30-plus years ago. Voters approved a levy then and residents in the 11 districts approved another levy in May for an expansion and renovation project.
“That building belongs to us. It belongs to people in the 11 districts who voted to build it,” he said. ” It does not belong to Gov. [John] Kasich. It does not belong to those people in the Senate and House. We built this building with taxpayer money. It is ours.”