That’s a Wrap

It’s time for one last post before putting our campaign to bed.

Since learning of our loss yesterday, many people have called or written to ask how I’m doing. I’m doing just fine, thank you. You can’t run for office if you can’t take defeat, and from the beginning it was clear that winning this race would be a heavy lift. I’m proud of the campaign we ran, proud of all of you who helped out, and proud of the trust you placed in me to advocate for what we know is best for kids.

During the campaign, I met hundreds of people and made many friends. I also learned some valuable lessons.

  • People value high-quality public schools for all students, and they are looking for candidates with a positive vision for education and society.
  • Despite the distrust that exists between different segments of our diverse district–as in society itself–we have more in common than we sometimes realize.
  • You’re never too old to develop greater self-understanding. Campaigning taught me things about myself. This isn’t the place for specifics: ask me sometime, preferably over a pint.
  • Regardless of their political persuasion, candidates–especially entry-tier candidates–are heroes. I met many wonderful candidates giving freely of their time, talents, money, and energy to make things better.
  • “Commitment, service, and leadership” isn’t just a slogan: it’s a summation of what we should demand of officeholders in general and State School Board members in particular.

So, to answer the question several people have asked: If I had known a year ago that this would be the result, would I do it again? Oh, yes. I wouldn’t have missed it.

All of which doesn’t make losing less painful, but it helps to keep a sense of proportion. My race was just a small footnote in a much larger, historic election. If Campaign 2016 was a national tragedy, as I believe, then in that context my own setback will seem pretty small.

A lot of people are sad today. Let’s pray for our country and, especially, her children.

Election Eve

As I write this, polls will open in ten hours. Twenty-four hours or so from now, we’ll know the result of this amazing adventure.

By tomorrow, this campaign will have taken up exactly a year from November 8, 2015, when friends from Warrensville Heights, Aurora, Bedford, and Twinsburg stood with me at Bay High School as I announced my candidacy for the State Board of Education.

Since then it seems that we have been on a treadmill, but I have never doubted the importance of the voters’ decision or the value of this effort.

Tomorrow we’ll see what the voters decide. I probably won’t write one of these columns tomorrow. Afterwards, there will be a time for thanks, and a time for reflection, and sadness or joy to express. But for now, let’s do our duty as citizens. See you at the polls tomorrow!

Making the Case – Leadership

Since early in this campaign, I have been emphasizing three themes: Commitment, Service, and Leadership. On Friday I wrote about Commitment; yesterday I wrote about Service; and today Iā€™m taking up the third theme: Leadership.

When I attend a meeting of the State Board of Education, it seems clear that the people there–appointed and elected, Republicans and Democrats–are trying in their own ways to do the right thing for Ohio’s kids. They are generally conscientious and sincere.

But that doesn’t mean that they’re right. As Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” And some positions taken by some State Board of Education members are simply wrong.

The State Board of Education can play a role in upholding what works best for schools and kids. We can’t get there by talking only with people who agree with us. We need to point out when members are mistaken, persuade those who are persuadable, and unite those who advocate for responsible positions; and those are leadership skills.

My work as a leader of educators has taught me to work with a very diverse membership, the public, and lawmakers, and to reach across organizational divides. Fifteen months of observing State School Board meetings convince me that the Board needs those skills, and I look forward to bringing them to Columbus.

With the proper leadership, the State Board of Education can lead the way for things we know work for kids: consistency; patience; high expectations; and respect for learners, educators, and learning itself. And if we can do that, all of us will benefit.

Making the Case – Service

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Meeting with the Parma Board of Education, August 8.

Since early in this campaign, I have been emphasizing three themes: Commitment, Service, and Leadership. Yesterday I explained what I mean by Commitment, and today I’m writing about Service.

I believe in the power of people to get things done when they work together, and as a result I have worked in a wide variety of religious, musical, civic, educational, political, and professional organizations. Those experiences have taught me how to turn good intentions into concrete steps that can help get things accomplished, and some of those steps apply to the work of the State School Board.

State Board of Education District 11 includes 27 K-12 school districts. Over these past months I have reached out to all of them to introduce myself, both to open communications and to learn about them in order to represent them effectively.

Generally, they have welcomed this outreach, but they have also been a bit surprised to be getting this kind of attention. That’s because I offer a much higher expectation of the service to be provided by a State School Board member. I offer two main ways to raise the level of service, and both ways are grounded in my organizational experience.

  • First, I will provide a monthly report on actions of the State Board of Education. This simple step seems so basic to good representation that I am surprised that previous SBOE members haven’t done it. It’s what I did as a union representative, and it makes sense to do it as a State School Board member.
  • Second, upon taking office I will immediately begin scheduling community outreach sessions to meet with residents and learn their observations on how Ohio’s schools are serving Ohio’s kids. I’ve learned that you don’t get far sitting around waiting for people to come to you: you have to go to them.

My vision of Service is based on my experience of service to the community, the education profession, and my church. I look forward to providing a radically different level of service to the communities, educators, and families of District 11, for the good of Ohio’s kids.

Tomorrow, the third theme: Leadership.

Making the Case – Commitment

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State Board of Education considers the “cut score” for the Third Grade Reading Guarantee on October 18. By a 9-8 vote, the Board raised the score by two points for 2016-17.

The voters and residents of our district have my commitment to three critical issues in the campaign for the State Board of Education. I summarize them as Overtesting, Underfunding, and Privatizing.

Let’s review:

  • Overtesting: Parents, teachers, and community members ask more questions about this topic than the others combined. That’s not surprising, since this issue directly affects children. Quite simply, we are using too many tests, frequently the wrong tests, and we are using them for the wrong reasons. While the State Board of Education can’t end high-stakes testing, I am committed to holding the line on reasonable use of those tests, including the setting of “cut scores.”
  • Underfunding: More spending won’t solve all the problems of schools; but many of those problems are aggravated by Ohio’s unconstitutionalĀ  school funding system, which relies too heavily on local property taxes. While the State Board of Education doesn’t have authority over Ohio’s budget, I am committed to working with legislators of both parties to find a solution to this problem.
  • Privatizing: Ohio’s kids have a constitutional right to a “thorough and efficient system of common schools,” and school choice shouldn’t be used to dismantle that system. Ohio’s charter schools are protected in law, but I am committed to making sure that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Ohio Department of Education do their jobs to make sure that charter schools are held accountable.

There’s more, of course. but these three examples make a good start in identifying my priorities. Commitment is the first of three themes that I have emphasized since early in this campaign. Coming up in these final days are the other themes: Service and Leadership.

Making the Case: a Preview

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Noel and Pat greet voters at the Cuyahoga Board of Elections for early voting on Sunday, October 30.

Elections vary, but in one way they’re all the same: every candidate has to make the case for why he or she should hold office.

From the beginning, this blog has provided a vehicle to talk about the issues that face education in Ohio today and my vision for how to address them.

As Election Day approaches, I plan to use these last few days of the campaign making the case for my candidacy. If you’re still reading these posts, you’ve probably already decided to support me; maybe you’ve already voted. But in these final days, you can still help move the needle by passing them along to your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members.

I invite you to join me for these last few days, and consider sharing these upcoming posts as I make my case to represent District 11 on the State Board of Education.