Profiles Of Ohio State School Board Members
Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings is the newest member of the Ohio Board of Education. She brings with her a long history in education affairs. She also favors schools partnering with businesses, community officials and parents.
Stephanie Dodd, the District 9 representative on the State Board of Education in Ohio, has a history in politics, having worked as a fundraiser for Democrats. Also, her husband, Dan Dodd, is a former state lawmaker who now works as a lobbyist for private preparatory and religious schools. In her mainly rural district, she cites the lack of technology as one of her biggest concerns.
Politically neutral Michael L. Collins is the elected State Board of Education member from District 6 in Ohio. He decries the increasing political nature of the board and the lack of a responsible and fair funding system to pay for education in Ohio.
Deborah Cain was president of the State Board of Education in Ohio until elections installed a Republican governor. Once that happened, the makeup of the board changed and she was in the minority. She says her main goal is to support traditional public schools.
Joseph Farmer, an at-large member of the State Board of Education in Ohio, got his post after a recommendation was made to the governor on his behalf. The recommendation came from his son, Kyle, chairman of the Fairfield County Republican Party. Farmer came to the job with 19 years of experience as a local school board member. Farmer said his decisions are guided by his beliefs about right and wrong, and freedom of choice.
Sarah Fowler was elected in November 2012 to the District 7 seat on the State Board of Education in Ohio. At 25, she is the youngest member on the board and the only member who was home-schooled. In fact, it was through the home-schooled network, Ohioans for Educational Freedom, that Fowler learned of the opening on the state school board and decided to run. That group was aware that regulations regarding home school were due for review and were trying to make sure home-schoolers were represented on the board.
Ohio Republican governors have twice appointed Thomas Gunlock to positions on the State Board of Education. Most recently, he was appointed to an at-large seat and serves at the vice president of the board. He is a major donor to Republican politicians. Gunlock said his focus on the state board is to be a principal player in implementing the teacher evaluation system and to “change the accountability system.”
Ann Jacobs is serving her second term as the District 1 representative on the State School Board of Education. She is at odds with Ohio’s Republican governor over public funding of private schools and the use of vouchers. Jacobs says she is a “big advocate of the public school systems, which unfortunately the board isn’t anymore.”
C. Todd Jones was appointed in 2011 to an at-large position on the State School Board of Education by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He has become an outspoken member, who sits on five committees including Achievement and Graduation Standards. Also, he is president of a group that lobbies on behalf of 50 private universities and colleges in the state seeking funding and influencing legislation.
Kathleen McGervey was elected in 2010 to her first term as the District 2 representative to the Ohio State Board of Education. She is active in the Ohio Republican Party and in the Roman Catholic Church. As a board member, she is critical of the Common Core standards and traditional public schools, and is a proponent of parental choice in schools.
Jeffrey Mims Jr. will step down in December from his seat as the District 3 representative on the Ohio State Board of Education. He was the only African American on the board and one of few members with experience in urban school districts. During his tenure, he said he has been on the “short side of the majority.” Mims expects that, after leaving, the governor will appoint someone who sides with the majority thinking. “The balance politically on the board is already out of whack. It shouldn’t really make a difference, but it does.”
Mary Rose Oakar is a Cleveland native and the first woman sent to Congress from Ohio. Now, she represents District 11 on the State School Board of Education. Oakar finds herself at odds with the majority decisions on the board especially when it comes to charter schools and funding for public education. However, there is one shared goal. “I do think that making sure kids know how to read by the time they’re in the third grade is very, very important – and that is one of the goals the governor has that I agree with.”
Darryl Mehaffie came to the Ohio State Board of Education with a background as a teacher and a player in the state’s Republican Party politics, having served as campaign finance director for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. He is also a 30-year veteran of the classroom, having taught fifth-graders. Once a critic of school vouchers, Mehaffie now says he supports this method to publicly fund private schools because they offer parents the right to determine the education of their children.
Ronald Ruddock was appointed in August to the State Board of Education by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to fill an open seat in District 10. While he is the newest member on the board, he has a long history in education, having worked as a teacher, administrator and superintendent in public schools. He also wrote a book about the school funding system in Ohio, titled “The ABCs of School Finance.” While he has much experience with the funding side of schools, he admits he needs to educate himself on the issues facing urban school districts.
Mark Alan Smith was board in rural Appalachia and worked his way up to becoming president of Ohio Christian University. In January, he was appointed to an at-large position on the State School Board of Education. He promotes a “values-driven” education system, fewer regulations and more educational choices for parents.
Debe Terhar was elected in 2010 to the District 4 seat on the Ohio State School Board of Education. Since then she’s made national headlines on two occasions. The first came after a Facebook posting that seemed to equate Adolf Hitler to President Barack Obama. The second came after she called for banning “The Bluest Eye” by author Toni Morrison. These distractions did not deter her goal to promote different forms of education, including the merit-driven classroom, a link to her training as a Montessori teacher. She said the No. 1 goal of elementary education is to focus on the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
Bryan Williams has been a player in Ohio politics for many years, having served as a state representative and a board of elections director. Now, he is a lobbyist for non-union contractors and a member of the State School Board of Education representing District 5. He is an ardent support of charter schools and vouchers, saying “Choice to me is another word for competition, and competition is another word to me for eventual excellence.” He also promotes fewer regulations in education.
Tess Elshoff, an at-large member of the State Board of Education in Ohio, is active in state Republican politics having served as campaign chair for the Auglaize County Republican Central Committee during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign of John Kasich. After the election, the governor appointed Elshoff to the schools post. The stay-at-home mother of five says the decisions made on that board affects what happens at her kitchen table after school.