Area superintendents angling for more local control

By Lance Mihm -

LIMA — Superintendents from five more school districts joined the Northwest/West Central Ohio Public School Advocacy Network, bringing the group’s total to 45.

The group was formed in early March, with intentions to advocate for positive change in public education. The group believes that the state needs to return more local control to school districts.

“The goal of the group is to advocate for and support positive change in the Ohio public education system,” Bath Local School District Superintendent Dale Lewellen said. “We want to educate our communities about factors impacting local education.”

Lewellen said the group also wants to increase communication with state lawmakers.

The group completed a survey among residents to get a feeling of what the public thought. Nearly 5,000 people responded to the survey. The survey indicated a wide gap between what the majority of residents want on several key issues impacting public schools and the statewide education policies that are in place.

An executive summary issued by the group stated, “The overwhelming message from a large and statistically reliable sample of 4,679 citizens from these school districts is clear: We want our local boards of education to be in control of our schools which are doing a good job of preparing our children for their future. We want less government regulation and fewer government mandates. We are opposed to using our tax dollars to support private schools and for-profit charter schools. And we believe that student test scores should not be used to evaluate our teachers who are the key to providing our students with a high quality education.”

The survey indicated that 59 percent of the respondents thought that regulation from state and federal government was the No. 1 issue facing public schools. Other key results included 44 percent feeling public education had gotten worse over the last five years, and 85 percent disagreed with tax dollars going to charter schools.

Lewellen said that the survey will be used for a guide on future advocacy efforts. The group has planned a meeting for June 10.

“Everyone wants the same thing,” said Waynesfield-Goshen Local School District Superintendent Chris Pfister. “Putting in place today that which will help all children learn, grow, and prepare for success in life. It comes down to what we believe is the most effective way to accomplish the goal. In my experience decisions made closest to the work tend to be the best decisions.”

St. Marys City School District Superintendent Shawn Brown said that state and federal legislators need to ditch the “one-size-fits-all mentality.

“Essentially, I think there are state and federal mandates imposed upon districts that unintentionally may do more harm than good,” Brown said. “Who better than the community themselves, through their elected officials, to know what is best for each district? Many decisions coming out of Columbus are one-size-fits-all solutions and do not take into account the numerous and varied factors of each district.”

Lewellen said it isn’t the group’s goal to battle with government officials, but to work with them.

“We understand that our federal and state legislators have the best intent to improve education for the children in the state,” Lewellen said. “We, as a group, want to work with them to help shape those efforts. Personally, I believe that the current policies which seem to move us away from a public education system, in the end, will be detrimental to the education of our children.”

Most local school districts have now joined the group, including Ada Exempted Village, Hardin-Northern Local, Kenton City and Ridgemont Local in Hardin County; Indian Lake Local in Logan County; Celina City, Coldwater Exempted Village, Marion Local, Parkway Local and St. Henry Consolidated Local in Mercer County; Columbus Grove Local, Jennings Local, Miller City-New Cleveland Local, Ottoville Local and Pandora-Gilboa Local in Putnam County; Lincolnview Local and Van Wert City in Van Wert County; Allen County Education Service Center, Allen East Local, Apollo Career Center, Bath Local, Delphos City, Elida Local, Lima City, Shawnee Local and Spencerville Local in Allen County; and Minster Local, St. Marys City, Wapakoneta City and Waynesfield-Goshen Local in Auglaize County.

By Lance Mihm

Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at Twitter @LanceMihm.

Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at Twitter @LanceMihm.

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