Host Joel Gagne speaks with Richard Lewis, the executive director of the Ohio School Boards Association, about local control of schools and its value. The two discuss outside organizations that support school districts, the impact of social media for schools and more.

Richard is starting his starting his 34th year at the Ohio School Boards Association, and he says it’s been a privilege to serve so many school leaders.

He says he’s so passionate about it because school boards really do make a difference in schools.

“School boards make those schools a better place to learn, and they make their communities a better place to live,” Richard says.

Ohio has more than 600 school districts, and the Ohio School Boards Association represents all but one of the school districts in the state.

Richard explains that members of the OSBA can become involved with various programs to help save school districts money.

“We saved districts over $43 million in electricity purchasing just in the last several years,” Richard says.

In addition to the financial savings, the OSBA can help train new school board members and teach them about the value of local control of schools.

They also provide advocacy for public schools, training, legal assistance, communication teams and more to help assist school boards throughout Ohio.

“We’re here to serve as a source of guidance, assistance, unity and support for all those schools across the state,” Richard says.

Joel agrees that when he was a member of a school board, having the connection with an attorney who could give the school board perspective was incredibly helpful on top of the training he received from the state school board association.

Joel says that too often, not enough is shared about all the great things that are happening in public education, so he asks Richard to share a success story.

Richard agrees that too often the good stories get buried, so he talks about the OSBA’s website committed so sharing public school success stories,

“Every day we add success stories to this site,” Richard says. “There are dozens of stories of bringing students and employees together.”

Richard says that schools of all sizes are facing educational challenges, so it’s great to celebrate all the success stories that are happening, especially through the leadership of school boards.

The OSBA is also a way for school boards throughout Ohio to connect with each other to discuss what’s working and what’s not in each community.

“Every school district across the state is making a difference in children’s lives,” Richard says. It’s important to share the good news coming from each school district.

Joel agrees and says that one of the reasons for the We Love Schools podcast is to allow schools to share just how great they’re doing.

When it comes to the topic of local control of schools, Joel mentions a recent podcast featuring Mark Kingseed, the former mayor of Centerville, Ohio. Joel says that local control helps people feel invested and like they have a voice. He also references a recent podcast with Eric Waldo about how the federal government is a small minority investor in the role of public education.

Joel asks Richard how he feels about local control of schools, and if it’s stronger today or if there’s been erosion.

Richard says the value is more important than ever, but he does believe that public education is under attack.

“Far too often there are those who blur the lines between school choice and just pure entrepreneurialism,” Richard says. He says this puts students at risk.

Richard also says the importance of local control of schools also comes down to the different needs for different schools of different sizes. Each local school board knows what their students and communities value.

Joel asks how social media has changed communications for local school districts and boards in the last decade.

Richard says that when used correctly, social media can be a great way for schools to connect with parents and community members. On the flip side, though, sometimes community members just rely on social media for information, and that information isn’t always accurate.

Joel asks if he had no limitations, would be the one thing that Richard would change within public education. Richard says he wishes Ohioans would value, respect and support public education more. Additionally he wished the state of Ohio had a better funding system for public schools, and that school boards could better address diversity and equity.

Joel asks which one book Richard would recommend to our listeners, and he suggests “Lincoln on Leadership.” He says the book was wildly popular among the OSBA’s book club, and it discusses Lincoln’s diverse learning abilities and how they could be applied to today’s complex world.

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