Mount Gilead Schools Superintendent, Jeff Thompson held the attention of Morrow County Chamber of Commerce members as he compared the history of the humble lead pencil with the latest digital technology available in schools.
Thompson told how in the late 1800’s the lead pencil was the newest technology in schools. At that time pencils were purchased by the schools and kept at the teacher’s desk. Pencils were only handed out for tests or assignments. Teachers were concerned that pencils would be a distraction for students. Children might doodle or send each other notes if they kept pencils at their desks.
With the Great Depression in the 1930’s schools and school boards were only too happy to pass the expense of pencils on to parents. And soon it became customary for children to keep their own pencils at their desks. Concerns about pencils being a distraction were forgotten.
“Follow the money,” commented Thompson. “Always follow the money.”
With the present revolution of digital technology, students are now more responsible for their own learning. Kids now have access to many digital devices. With the digital revolution, the teacher is more a facilitator.
Thompson mentioned that he is a graduate of Buckeye Valley High School as well as the Ohio State University. He taught High School Science and Agriculture for 14 years before serving as high school principal at London and Kenton School Districts. His last position was in administration in Springfield, Ohio before coming to Mount Gilead two years ago.
In the year before Thompson arrived $744,000 was cut from the district budget. This was a large portion of the over $2 million that the budget has been cut and reduced since 2004. Many of those cuts came from teachers and staff who retired and weren’t replaced. The technology administrator was also replaced with a person who contracted for part time consulting, which was also a savings for the district.
Thompson got a definite nod from Morrow Co. Hospital CEO, Chris Truax when he mentioned that one big expense for the district continues to be health insurance for teachers and staff. That is an ongoing concern for all employers. Another important issue facing the district is to have a plan for the replacement of buses. Thompson said it’s been 10 years since the last two new buses were purchased and a bus life is only 10-12 years.
That is where the ¼ mill levy came in. Thompson thanked levy Chairman, Erin Kelty and all the parents and community residents who took the poor levy results last fall of a 60/40 turn down to a second levy run in April that lost narrowly by just 115 votes.
In the future Thompson said he is seeking ways along with the board and administrators to continue to improve the district budget and services to children. They are seeking better use of the E rate for technology services and looking for more post-secondary courses that allow dual advantage for high school students to receive both high school and college credit.
The district continues to seek out and apply for state money to expand the use of technology, computers and other tech devices.
Thompson called Governor Kasich’s K-12 seamless education program “spot on” and said the idea of looking at vocational options in education is valuable for students to obtain employment in the future.
A bright spot for Thompson is the after school Bee Hive program at Park Ave. Elementary. It’s been successful in improving elementary test scores and reading skills in the past year. They are planning to expand the program through the year and into summer months next year.