State school board member Tom Gunlock of Centerville has resigned from the board after six years of significant change, including two years as president in 2015-16.
Gunlock guided the board through decisions on controversial testing, new graduation requirements and revised school report card measures, and led the hiring process for new state superintendent Paolo DeMaria.
His most prominent stance may have been as a supporter of tougher standards. When the state board had strong debates on where to set the bar for a high school diploma, and whether to make cut scores easier or more challenging, Gunlock consistently said Ohio should ask more of its students.
“Is an eighth-grade education as the very minimum OK today? … That’s not where I want to be,” Gunlock said Monday. “Maybe that’s all the further we can get. I hope not. But I think it’s a conversation we need to have within the state – what’s the minimum we’re willing to accept to give a diploma.”
Some board members, including former Dayton board member A.J. Wagner, said that approach will cause more students to fail. Gunlock often argued that Ohio’s students, teachers and school leaders would rise to the occasion if more was asked of them, and students would be more prepared for adult life if that was the case. He accepted the possible need to phase-in such standards.
Gunlock said one of the most important things the board did during his tenure was the creation of an “A to F” school report card to give the public more detailed information on how their schools were doing.
He said politics and widely spread misinformation have made the state school board’s job more difficult, with people confusing the various testing plans, as well as the difference between state learning standards and the curriculum that schools use to teach that material.
“Everybody has an agenda, both sides of aisle and both sides of any question,” Gunlock said, calling on the 10 new board members to carefully consider proposals. “It’s your job to get both sides of the story and the issue … You have to read, you have to analyze, to dig out the truth before you make a decision, and that takes a lot of work.”
Gunlock questioned whether all schools have aligned their curriculum to state standards – for example whether some schools are calling a class Algebra 1 when it only teaches some of the concepts the state calls for. He argued that doing so may help kids pass that class, but doesn’t help them in the long run.
“If I buy a bad product at Walmart, I just take it back and say it doesn’t work,” he said. “You can’t do that in education.”
Gunlock was appointed to the board by Gov. John Kasich in January 2011, serving as vice president for four years and then as president, before he stepped down from a leadership role in January, in advance of this resignation.
He said six years of leadership on the state board while also helping to run a development business, RG Properties, had been tiring. He said he hopes to be able to spend more time with his young grandson.
Gunlock will be replaced by Kasich appointee Kara Morgan of Dublin, a researcher at the large Columbus firm Battelle and an adjunct professor at Ohio State’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs.