Vote May 7, 2013!

Public education began with the first school in 1635 in the Massachusetts Colony. The Boston Latin School was founded and continues today as the first and oldest existing school.  After the Revolutionary War, it was recognized that an educated citizenry was vital to the health and success of our young nation.  This idea continued to develop alongside the growth of our nation. By 1870, there was a focus and emphasis on education.  The movement to have all states offer free public elementary school had begun as a result. Literacy rates in the United States were high.

Thirty years later, at the dawn of the 20th century, the purpose of public education became clear.  Educators realized post secondary school were needed. The premise was that an educated electorate could build more educated citizens, develop skills needed to increase prosperity in the United States, and improve both critical and logical thinking skills.  Today, these same qualities exist as the foundational tenants behind public education.

In 1917, the National Education Association (NEA)reorganized. Their competition is the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).  According to Wikipedia, both organizations’ goals are to “better mobilize and represent teachers and educational staff”. Wikipedia also states “the NEA saw itself as an upper-middle class professional organization, while the AFT identified itself with the working class and the union movement”and is located more in larger cities. In Ohio, there is another teacher labor organization, called the Ohio Education Association (OEA). According to the OEA web page (About OEA – History), “The Ohio Education Association has a long and proud history of advocating for children in public education”, founded in Summit County in December of 1847.

Our nation and state economy have yet to fully recover from this recent recession. Through these challenged times, we all have been forced to make tougher choices than we would have preferred. Some were humbling to many.  People experienced a loss of homes, savings, and a degree of security. Maybe you went on unemployment for the first time in your entire life and struggled more than you had in the past to put food on the table for your family. Your retirement benefits dwindled; you may be re-employed at a lower pay scale; or you had to take a pay cut, just to survive.

Our school district is not immune to these same uncertainties.  An uncertain economic future impacts not only individual households, but also those entities which are dependent on the financial support from those same households. At the April 25, 2013 Board of Education meeting, the board discussed that over $233,000, yes, over $233,000 in school fees are uncollected – delinquent. School fees are extra charges to parents for consumable goods used in educating their children. Obviously even our community has not recovered and things must be tight for our families in Springboro.

As our year progresses, as citizens, you will have at least 3 opportunities to exercise your electoral rights. May 7 is around the corner.  Regardless of which way you vote on May 7, it is your duty to perform due diligence upon the issues, evaluate the arguments, then vote based upon rational reflection.

Please share this message with your friends and family, encourage them to take a few minutes, learn about the issues on the May 7 ballot and vote.  Isn’t that one of the main purposes of public education?  Not to mention one of the freedoms we have by living in the United States of America.

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It’s about the children, right?

On Sunday, a community member contacted me to let me know about a campaign in its infancy.  It was loosely titled, the “Red Ribbon Campaign” because red is being used to show support for Springboro Community City School teachers.  At first, I was uncertain on how to respond.  My wife Kim and I support our teachers.  She is a teacher, her mother was a teacher, and her father taught for years at a well know university and war college, which makes my family no stranger to the education profession.

When the purpose of the red ribbon was explained to me, my initial reaction was one of confusion.  Why do we need to rally behind the district’s teachers?  Yes, contract negotiations have started but we have not attacked anyone or showed disrespect for their work and profession.  On the surface, one may misconstrue this Campaign and action to be yet another attempt to create a divisive environment in our community, clearly under false pretense.  Perhaps just a knee jerk reaction because this school board and administration have made astonishing progress in defining and meeting the needs of our students with a focus to make our instructors as effective as possible.

Reflecting back to January 2012, it has been a busy, fulfilling, frustrating, and exciting year.  The accomplishments will not be forgotten!  Vince Lombardi said,”Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will be judged by only one thing – the result”.

With the drive of our current administrative team and teachers, the district has we made many collaborative decisions to increase professional development Ÿtraining for teachers; Ÿenhance our technology platform; invested in Ÿnew books; added Ÿnew AP classes; hired more  teachers; provided Ÿnew tools for teachers; invested in Ÿnew laptops for teachers; combined ŸDennis and Five Point Elementary; invested in Ÿsafer & newer buses for students; Ÿincreased investment in capital expenditures to reduce deferred maintenance; established community committee to Ÿevaluate our safety plans; Ÿbranded The Springboro Panther; Ÿcreated a more transparent budget and finance process; Ÿestablished effective board policy management; Ÿadvocated for stronger HR practices; invested in teacher training on data use; Ÿawarded an ‘A’ on the new state report card; advocated for transparency from all district support organizations; recovery of $439,000 from the athletic booster Ÿtreasurer; and the list goes on and on.   This does not even begin to touch on all the new Common Core and evaluative tools being worked on daily by the entire district.

It is not one person who can be lauded for these achievements; it took a unified vision, a determination and support of the board and central office leadership, and our teachers to execute the plan. We have a strong administrative team and faculty dedicated to student achievement, and as one board board member, I applaud the effort.

Mr. Petrey is using student test data to drive academic decisions, financial data to drive efficiency, his own and the expertise of outside consultants when needed, to meet the needs of all students.  He recently developed a “turn around cost plan” which used student test data to re-align and re-allocate resources.  This is a huge step in applying data to align money and human resources responsibly.

Our Central office and high school leaders have also committed to reevaluate our high school Course of Studies.  Drawing on our Superintendent’s experience at Lakota, the District is working to incorporate STEAM(M) into curriculum.  The board has been given a commitment from the administration to align our high school program of studies with the 21st century.  Without a supportive board and determined central office team, none of this would be possible.  I personally continue beating their drum for the good work they are doing and if you see Mr. Petrey, Mrs. Strittenberger, Mrs. Vincent, Mr. Madden, or Ms. Teresa Rohrer – tell them thanks for a great job!

Since Mr. Petrey’s arrival last August, he has gained a great deal of respect from the entire community.  Respect he has earned.  Both he and the District’s administrative team have been working hard to strengthen this district’s educational and operational foundation.

In 2013, the board voted to adopt a long-term technology plan.  The plan provides for new laptops for each teacher bundled with professional development to insure our teachers succeed.  It also brings Wi-Fi into every building and replaces over 1,100 computers.  The board’s decisions and vision in these areas are critical building blocks to transition our schools and teachers into a 21st century classroom environment.  This is cool stuff and is good for educators and education in Springboro.

2013 for me is focused on curriculum and student achievement.  To understand student achievement, one must understand how schools are ranked, what is the basis for those rankings, and finally, what does our raw data look like.  It is more difficult to argue where our resources need to be allocated when the data points you in a particular direction, so long as the data is not taken out of context.  That is why the raw data became so intriguing when making investment decisions for the classroom.

I am committed to make sure we remain fiscally responsible and do whatever it takes to protect our city, district community, and taxpayers who elected me to this humbling position – because that is good for educators and education in Springboro.

The district still has challenges as outlined in our May and October 2012 forecast assumptions.  Please seek them out at www.springboro.org.  There are critical assumptions that must be met, but until they are negotiated, it is impossible to prioritize needs.   As a school community, I believe we will work together and succeed, for failure is not an option.

As we attempt to negotiate from a reasonable, rationale, and responsible offer, my prayers are that the Ohio Education Association (OEA), the National Education Association (NEA), and ANY other EA (education association), respectfully,  check their agenda’s at the door and do what is right for our teachers.

The Red Ribbon displayed on our mailbox is displayed there as a sign of hope.  Hope that this community and OUR teachers – come together to conclude negotiations because we all want to do the right thing for our children.