In today’s episode of We Love Schools, host Carole Dorn-Bell speaks with Dr. Daniel Kaffenbarger, the superintendent of the Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center in Ohio. Dorn-Bell and Dr. Kaffenbarger discuss educational service centers and the important role that educational service centers play in Ohio today.

Dr. Kaffenbarger is a 39-year veteran in education, and he started his career as a high school English teacher. He’s been a teacher, a principal and a superintendent, so he has quite a bit of experience in education.

When asked to define what an educational service center is, or an ESC, Dr. Kaffenbarger explains that in Ohio all counties previously had a county office before transitioning to educational service centers in the mid-90s.

When ESCs transitioned into their current form, they went from a regulatory agency to more of an agency that provides a menu of services to client districts.

“For every one dollar that we get in direct state subsidy, we turn that into roughly $100 in services that we sell,” Dr. Kaffenbarger says. “It’s a tremendous value not only in what we save districts, but in what we’re able to produce for schools.”

Dr. Kaffenbarger explains that because their districts are largely rural, they create cooperative groups to help schools save money.

“It makes sense to bring all of the multiple disability students together in these cooperative units,” Dr. Kaffenbarger.

The benefit for the district is that they’re only paying for what they need.

Another thing that ESCs can accomplish that school districts may have issues doing is that a lot of the staff members of the ESCs are retired and can only work a few days a week.

“We’ve been able to draw people into our organization from a variety of places, but particularly that retire/rehire group has been a real boon for us in terms of being able to fill all these service positions,” Dr. Kaffenbarger says.

Dorn-Bell says sometimes it can be difficult to explain to parents what an educational service center is, and she wonders if he has a succinct way to explain ESCs.

“ESCs vary, especially in Ohio,” Dr. Kaffenbarger says. “There are 52 of us, and none of us provide the same list of services. The simplest way to explain ESCs is to use the name as part of the definition. We provide specialized educational services to districts.”

Dorn-Bell adds that she usually explains that ESCs save districts money because of shared services. ESCs are all about capitalizing on economies of scale.

Dr. Kaffenbarger says that they recently transformed their professional development department based upon what their districts needed. He says that the switch to delivering what their school systems needed have helped them turn a profit and to be an even better partner for their schools.

He says switching to having a very direct approach to customer service has helped lead their educational service center to success.

When asked for his favorite book recommendation, Dr. Kaffenbarger suggests listeners check out “Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership: Practicing the Wisdom of Leading by Serving.” He says the book has transformed his approach to work and would recommend it to everyone.

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