New Ohio school board association presidents look to the future, far from controversy

The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and posted on under a content sharing agreement.

The Ohio education scene is trying to move on from different burning issues, like using racial history as a trigger in board meetings, and pushing further on how funding should be distributed among the districts.

School boards across the state must have listened to a very recent conservative political movement who claims, by confusing a theory taught in law schools with elementary education, that teachers and school districts teach racial issues in a way that makes white students uncomfortable. He further falsely claims the use of Marxist ideologies in elementary education.

The Ohio Legislature currently has two Republican Sponsorship Bills seek to regulate programs in matters of race and so-called “divisive” subjects.

The two people who come to head the Ohio School Boards Association take their stories and those of their communities with them as they envision the future of education in the state. They hope to create a landscape that avoids political controversy and moves forward to bring student learning back to normal post-pandemic, with appropriate funding from the state.

Robert heard
Former police officer and 17-year-old member of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Robert Heard, is set to take over the OSBA presidency in January. He’s not worried about the so-called Critical Race Theory in schools.

“As far as I know it is not, it is not taught as a theory in any of the school districts that I know of,” Heard told the Ohio Capital Journal.

As the son of parents who refused to raise their child in South Georgia in the 1950s, which led to their move to Cleveland as a child, Heard understands there are horrific times. story that some may be difficult to talk about, but don’t. thinks that should prevent teachers from giving lessons.

“Every nation on this planet has an ugly part of its history,” Heard said. “Does that mean we shouldn’t be teaching it?” “

What worries him is the increased presence of politics in education and curricula. He understands that part of education policy is to “prick up the ears” of legislators, but considers a less is more approach to policy intervention to be the best policy for schools.

“Politics just has no place in our classrooms, it divides too much, it is too one-sided,” he said. “Education should be a bit of everything for everyone. “

With that in mind, Heard supported the OSBA’s decision last year to separate from the National School Boards Association after the national organization spoke on behalf of all member organizations in a letter to President Joe Biden requesting a federal intervention at local school board meetings. .

The letter, for which the NSBA has since apologized, called the protests against critical race theory and other “disruption” of board meetings and educational events “heinous actions (which) could be the equivalent of a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes “.

“When you label parents as national terrorists, that’s a problem,” Heard said. “When you send a letter that your members aren’t aware of, that’s a problem. “

In his tenure as president, he hopes to leave curriculum decisions to school districts, where they should be.

“There are so many school districts in Ohio that I wouldn’t venture to tell them or make a general statement about what they should or shouldn’t be teaching in a school,” said Heard.

Christine varwig
The OSBA’s position as a group has always focused on local control, something Christine Varwig, a member of the Toledo Public Schools Education Council, knows intimately both as a leader and as a as parent involved.

“I can’t and shouldn’t dictate to someone in the Appalachian region what to do in their buildings,” Varwig said.

Varwig, who has served on Toledo’s board of directors for eight years, will spend her new year as OSBA president-elect, which she says will allow her to learn the ropes before becoming president in 2023. .

First a student in schools in Toledo, then becoming a mother and grandmother of students in Toledo, she took her to the school board and also inspired her to focus on the needs of students and parents in the district and state.

One of the things she sees as a benefit to all districts is increased communication between schools and the state house, and a connection between local lawmakers and their constituents.

“I am pushing for lawmakers to become substitute teachers for a day,” Varwig said. “I would love (lawmakers) to go to our schools, because you use what you know.”

She sees building these relationships as a way to break down differences and teach everyone involved what school funding would do. Varwig is not a fan of the EdChoice private school voucher program or backpack bills pushed by religious lobbies and supporters of private schools to divert education funds from public schools.

“We create opportunities, and so when we talk about school choice, we have it here in the public schools in Toledo,” Varwig said. “Think what a billion dollars could do for public schools, we could… develop our own communities. “

Broadband and a way forward
Heard also wants to see a real effort to change the way schools are funded, especially after several Ohio Supreme Court rulings calling the state’s funding system unconstitutional. He called the Fair school financing plan, included in the most recent state budget, “one of the most significant changes that has happened in some time.”

Heard and Varwig want school funds and OSBA’s attention to be focused on the progress of schools, rather than division issues and misinformation about schools.

As the five-year strategic plan returns next year, Heard believes there was a lot to learn from the pandemic on how to support and keep students in learning, even if they cannot do so in the traditional way.

“We must, as an organization, continue to address and highlight these disparities across the state, whether it is broadband or access to health and wellness facilities.” , Heard said.

Varwig said parents expect more and more from their child’s education, and in recent years, schools have been a resource to the region as much as they have been a learning facility.

With taxpayer dollars going to these districts, it makes sense that they become places that a community can count on for children to receive medical care or food where they are needed, according to Varwig.

“It’s like people go to the school football game on Friday night,” she said. “I think the same effort should be made around our schools when it comes to becoming a community hub.”

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