By Okon Ekpenyong
The Ohio School Board Association conference has reaffirmed its commitment to preparing members to participate responsibly among one another.
It reminded them always to serve all students and emphasized that regardless of their highs or lows, they were elected to serve the community, not their consistency. The association has strived to protect its members since 1955.
So, regardless of whether you are newly elected or have been on the school board for a while, constantly showing your total commitment to striving for excellence and ensuring that all children have the same opportunity to learn, engage, and grow should be the end goal.
It takes more than understanding how to interpret the budget, learning the technical details of the job itself, and knowing what educational bills are out there, whether you are against it or for it, and how that serves the students.
During the height of the pandemic, watching the exchange between board members and the community, the hostile environment in which the school board meetings were becoming seemed overwhelming. News outlets showed clips of the discussions at various country meetings between a school board member and a parent. Often, you had to hold your breath.
School Board Members from Reynoldsburg and Upper Arlington
Angela Abrams is a licensed Occupational Therapist who finished serving on the school board in 2019 after current Mayor Joseph Begeny stepped down to become Mayor. Abrams was re-elected to a full term in 2021.
“I’m happy to be here and to have the opportunity to continue to improve our craft,” Abrams said.
The school district is working on its Monopoly to find out where they are financially and what it could do to improve some of the challenges they face. Abrams explains that because the issues have changed from last year to this year, she would like more up-to-date information about what’s impacting the school district.
Transportation issues are one of the school district’s challenges, “so learning about how we are utilizing our funds and managing our food service is essential,” she said.
Julie Towns, another Reynoldsburg School Board elected in 2021 and is attending her second Ohio School Board Conference, also provided an insight into her experience attending the event. “Last year, I was new, so everything was just a learning curve.” And this year, Towns says that she understands each session better based on the district’s needs.
She still teaches at Columbus Public School, and when it comes to transitioning from teaching to being a board member, Towns says, “as a teacher, I only saw one aspect of what schools are about, and now I see all these parts, it’s a different perspective.”
Addressing policy and budgeting is one of the most significant tasks to tackle as a school board member. Towns weigh in on how her perspective has changed now that she is looking in from the inside. “I can look at the policy part and say, here’s the finance piece; you know, I didn’t pay attention to any of that as a teacher. I teach my students, and you know, that was about it, so now seeing all the different pieces and parts, like oh, there’s a lot involved that bring down your stress level.”
During her campaign in 2001 for the Upper Arlington School Board, Nidhi Satiani pledged to improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the district. “I attended a session this morning hosted by the Department of Education’s equity gap analysis tool; I am excited to introduce that part of the session to the rest of our board members,” Nidhi G. Satiani said.
Satiani is an optometrist working with multiple patients from various diverse backgrounds. She wanted to use her educational experience to influence some of the school district’s policies and bring more diversity and inclusion in decision-making.
“It will allow us to move from doing the critical diversity and inclusion work that is obviously important for cultural shifts but converting that into a systems-based approach that is sustainable and can be rolled out among cell buildings. “And that will be a vital tool for us to implement in our school district,” she said.
She had the chance to meet Actor John Lithgow, one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Conference. “Lithgow has a book called “I’m a Manatee,” which is super fun, and when my kids were younger, they were obsessed with that book.” And when asked about the experience of meeting the Actor, Satiani had the biggest smile.
Angela Penquite, the Deputy Director of Communication Services, has been with the Ohio School Board Association for the past fifteen years. So, we caught up with her to learn more about this year’s Conference and attendees could expect.
We have a fantastic trade show where they can find everything that they need to run their district sufficiently. Attendees, including school administrators, superintendents, board members, and exhibitors, can expect a lot of professional development and networking opportunities. We also had a tremendously suitable affair, and we had over 75 boosts students talking about the things that help them achieve on/off the classroom.
The kids were so excited to be here and loved sharing it with all our attendees. We also have performing groups based on social speakers’ subpoenas, and it’s an inspiring event. It’s a great way for board members around the state to connect and learn from each other.
Improvement from year to year
We have expanded this year from about 150 sessions to more than 170. The trade show is more significant this year, with more than 500 vendors.
More students in the student achievement are present, which is an opportunity for the kids to know that boards member work daily to keep them safe and provide the best resources to help them succeed.
Our keynote speakers included Kenyan Salo, a skydiver, and national teacher of the year Kurt Russell, who teaches at Oberlin City’s Oberlin High School. Former Resident of Yellow Springs Actor, John Lithgow, who Coretta King once babysat, yes, the wife of Dr. Revered Marthin, spoke on Tuesday. John Lithgow has written several children’s books and has appeared on multiple television and movie shows. An American Swimmer and a seven-time Olympic Medalist, Amanda Ray Beard, also spoke at the Conference.
It is all levels of districts that find their event as well as their district leadership presentations. You will have some students doing sessions participating in some of those learning sessions as well, so it’s a variety of education.
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