The 18 current members of the state board of education spent about nine months coming up with what has been dubbed the “Ohio Strategic Plan for Education,” says Nick Owens, the District 10 representative to the board.
District 10 encompasses a large portion of Southern Ohio, including Scioto County. That’s why State Superintendent of Schools Paolo DeMaria was in Portsmouth recently meeting with parents and educators gathered at the SOMC Friends Center.
DeMaria & Co. is taking the state plan on the road to about a dozen similar meetings planned across the state. Why was Portsmouth chosen to unveil the state plans?
“We looked around and saw that we had never been to this part of Southern Ohio before. So why not come here?” says Pete LuPiba, a public affairs officer for the Ohio Department of Education.
The strategic plan is about 17 pages long, and consists of what DeMaria described as eight guiding principles, four equally weighted learning domains and 15 strategies.
The guiding principles include the idea of looking at the “whole child,” which means, for example, making education the state’s top imperative. “A student’s circumstances should never predetermine his or her success. Further, a student should never be denied an opportunity based on where his or her family lives or the socioeconomic makeup of his or her community,” the plan reads at one point.
Other guiding principles include a call for involvement of caring adults, a strong education system and a vision for each child. DeMaria was careful to note the plan, as presented, is a vision of what the state hopes to achieve. It does not talk about how the state will reach the goals listed.
Seated at tables around the room, visitors to last week’s forum were invited to answer specific questions regarding the overall plan. Scioto County Domestic Relations Judge Jerry Buckler said he was pleased to see a focus on the whole child, not just on education. A former math teacher himself, Buckler said he was also happy to see the state is looking for a vision for each individual child, and not taking a cookie-cutter approach. Buckler also talked about making sure schools are filled with qualified teachers and guidance counselors.
“It’s amazing,” he said, “what our guidance counselors are called upon to deal with today.”
A parent and former member of the West Portsmouth School Board, Craig Hazelbaker also liked the idea of individual plans for individual students. Speaking on a more practical level, he expressed a wish for the state report cards given each Ohio school be used in the future more for feedback than just for handing out a grade.
One topic which might be said to have been noticeably missing from the strategic plan was the issue of school safety. DeMaria said officials have been taking looks at building level security. He said that part of the idea of looking at the whole student is to monitor behavior for such things as bullying and so on. He talked about safety plans for each school to include plans to deal with school disasters such as active shooters. “We need to know who is responsible for what at the building level,” DeMaria said. “We’ve got a solid foundation, but there are always things we can look at.”
DeMaria spent part of Wednesday morning touring the Scioto County Technical Center for high school students located in Lucasville. The school draws students from all over the county. Instructor Craig Tackett showed off 3-D printers, complicated-looking robots and stations of students using high-tech design programs to model machine parts and other items.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931