Working with Columbus

I’ve been on the Milford school board for just about a full three years now.  In that time, we have lamented unfunded mandates; sent resolutions to Columbus about specific mandates; tried to engage our legislators and other school districts to address mandates in general; and more, with some, but limited, success.

This past October, as we looked at what options we had if the November levy failed, I became even more frustrated with the inability for school districts to manage their own “business.”  I’d heard about an Ohio initiative for the private sector called the Common Sense Initiative (CSI).  CSI was designed to create a more jobs-friendly regulatory climate in Ohio.

After reading about some of the great success stories coming out of CSI, I wondered why we couldn’t apply this same approach to school districts – so off a letter went to Governor Kasich, asking about this possibility.

Gov. Kasich’s office answered me within days, suggesting a meeting with several state education personnel plus the head of CSI.  Just before Thanksgiving, Dr. Farrell, board member George Lucas, and I went to Columbus to sit down with a group of people who are committed to helping school districts find solutions.

After about an hour and a half meeting, we left extremely optimistic about the possibilities.  Mark Hamlin, Director of Regulatory Policy for the Ohio Lieutenant Governor’s office and head of CSI, said this will be the first meeting of many:  “CSI wasn’t created in one meeting, and we will keep talking,” he said.  While there are many differences between school districts and the private sector, he feels it’s worth exploring how a CSI-type approach can help Ohio school districts become more flexible and responsive.

We also met with Barbara Mattei-Smith, Assistant Policy Director for Education; Richard Ross, Director of the Office of 21st Century Education; and Sarah Dove, Teacher Liaison for the Ohio Department of Education.  All three were supportive and gave us some great ideas.

The best thing about the meeting was we were able to meet and talk with four people who are committed to helping school districts.  We are not talking about school funding, or more money, and none of these solutions will help us right now:  instead, our goal is to start the process of change, so in the future, Milford and all Ohio school districts will hopefully be able to take more control of what they do locally, helping us serve our students and community more effectively.

I hope to reconnect with the group in early 2013, and I’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

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