Area lawmakers are hopeful legislation being considered in the Ohio General Assembly will provide a fix for one Medina County school district.
When Black River Schools opted to sever ties with the Tri-County Educational Service Center based in Wooster and rejoin the ESC of Medina County in 2015, manydistrict residents didn’t realize they wouldn’t be able to vote for ESC board members serving their community, state Rep. Steve Hambley, R-Brunswick, said.
“They went with Tri-County ESC and then they went back for services from Medina County (ESC),” he said. “In between, the boundaries for ESCs froze, so that the voters of Black River were actually electing a board member of the Tri-Country ESC.”
Sponsored by Hambley and state Rep. Darrell Kick,
R-Loudonville, House Bill 438, which passed the Ohio House on Wednesday with bipartisan support, would allow Black River district residents to elect Medina County ESC governing board members.
“This fixed that border problem that basically allowed them to reattach, if you will, to Medina County ESC, and their voters in Black River will now get to vote (for) those board members,” Hambley explained.
Because the Black River district spans three counties — Medina, Ashland and Lorain — it hasn’t always been clear which ESC the district should affiliate itself with, Black River Superintendent Chris Clark said Thursday.
“In 2015, I started the dialogue with Medina County ESC about reattaching Black River with Medina County schools because it was established in Medina County schools,” Clark said.
After rejoining the ESC of Medina County, a Black River resident attempted to run for a position on the governing board, but was rejected by the Medina County Board of Elections because of the boundary issue.
“When a school district jumps ESCs, when that school district doesn’t fit in the county proper, which Black River doesn’t, then their people cannot be a part of the legislative board for that board of education,” Clark said.
In addition to addressing the issue facing Black River, the bill would allow for better representation from municipal school districts served by the Medina County ESC.
“Right now, Medina County ESC provides services to Brunswick and Medina and Wadsworth,” Hambley said. “This will allow them to develop a plan to appoint people from those school districts to represent them on that board.”
There are five seats on the Medina County ESC governing board. If the bill passes the Senate and becomes law, four seats would be added to governing board to account for municipal school district representation.
Hambley said he is optimistic the bill will be approved by the Senate.
“It is a very simple, low-level fix. There is no opposition,” Hambley said.
Neither ESC of Medina County Superintendent William Koran nor state Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Montville Township, could be reached for comment Thursday.
Educational service centers provide a variety of programs and services to school districts in their coverage area including professional development; technology and gifted services; and alternative school options.
Contact reporter Nathan Havenner at (330) 721-4050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.