By Wayne Gates –
Brown County education professionals and parents got a chance to help shape state education policy on April 12.
Southern State Community College in Mt. Orab hosted one of only 13 meetings statewide where Ohio State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and staff members held listening sessions with educators and the public.
It’s part of the ODE’s preparation of a new strategic plan titled “Each Child Our Future.”
State Board of Education Member Nick Owens requested that one of the listening sessions be held in his district.
“I have a lot of gratitude for the community for coming out. For the size of our community on a per-capita basis, it was the most well attended listening session across the state. I think that shows how much we value public education in southwest Ohio,” Owens said.
“Everyone I spoke with was very grateful to have this event in Brown County and to be able to share their concerns with the Ohio Department of Education.”
Owens said it was a rare chance for parents and educators to help shape state policy from the bottom up.
“All to often you hear from the state and federal government telling you what you need to do. I think a lot people appreciated the chance to tell the Ohio Department of Education what they would like to see in our education system,” he said.
“I feel like the superintendents were appreciative to be part of the conversation and a part of developing the framework of where we go forward in the state of Ohio. It was just a great conversation.”
Owens added that he appreciated the work put in by SSCC and the Brown County Educational Service Center to make the event possible.
Earlier in the day, DeMaria toured Southern Hills Career and Technical Center and the Stanley Black and Decker plant next door to SHCTC in Georgetown.
“We were very honored that he would take the time out of his schedule to spend time with our kids and tour our building,” said SHCTC Superintendent Kevin Kratzer.
“We got the impression that he walked away with a really positive impact, not just from Southern Hills, but what career tech offers for kids.”
Kratzer later joined DeMaria and others on a tour of the Stanley Black and Decker facility.
“I think (DeMaria) was really struck with the genuine relationship that’s been built with business partners, in this case Stanley Black and Decker and Southern Hills,” Kratzer said. “He said that is the model he would like to see across the state, where industry and education work as genuine partners.”
Kratzer was quick to give credit for the good relationship that SHCTC has with local industry.
“I think it’s a tribute to my staff, because if they weren’t preparing kids at this level, we wouldn’t have a good relationship with industry if the kids couldn’t actually come in and do the job. We’ve proven over a period of time that we are preparing kids to be successful in the workplace.”
DeMaria took time out of the event to speak with The Brown County Press about his visit.
He began by talking about a group of students he met at SHCTC.
“They are all bright, articulate with really keen insights into their own educational experiences and their community. I’m a big fan of career and technical education. It’s knowledge that stays with you, like working in teams and critical thinking,” DeMaria said.
He also referenced recent success at Georgetown with increased academic scores and graduation rates and decreased disciplinary issues.
“They are doing incredible things in Georgetown. Great leadership, a great sense of team and culture among the staff. A really strong sense of caring about kids and a good curriculum,” DeMaria said.
He gave a lot of credit to the community mentoring program and advisory period program at Georgetown for the recent success, but said that good things were happening elsewhere as well.
“It’s not just in Georgetown. It happens in many places. Many times, we tend to be too critical of education when actually there are a lot of great things happening,” DeMaria said.
He said that gatherings like the one at SSCC with other stakeholders are always valuable.
“We develop greater policies, better strategies and better actions agendas together than if we all try to do it separately. There is strength in collaboration.” DeMaria said.
He also made this request of parents.
“Make sure you stay connected with your school. We are all in this together. We can help you, you can help us and together we can help this child reach their full potential,” DeMaria said.
Owens said that the plan would be refined by the ODE over the next couple of months and would be unveiled to the public possibly as early as June.