Name: Joseph L. Farmer.
Appointed, at large: Appointed in January 2011. Term ends Dec. 31, 2014.
School board committees: Achievement, Executive, Legislative and Budget, Appointments.
Political party affiliation: Republican.
Occupation: Performance leader, Delta Airlines. Also worked in Delta’s field ticket office, ground operations and air cargo departments. Has been with the company for 46 years.
Education: Public and private high schools, two years of college, no degree.
Family: Married, two grown children who attended public schools.
Other boards and affiliations: Member, 1992-2011, Liberty Union-Thurston School Board, former member, Ohio School Boards Association; Vietnam War veteran; named to All-Region and All-Ohio school boards in 1998; member and chairman of administrative council at Baltimore Christ United Methodist Church.
Joseph L. Farmer would not be a member of the Ohio Board of Education if it weren’t for his son, Kyle.
The younger Farmer, 39, is the chairman of the Fairfield County Republican Party.
“He knew Gov. Kasich,” said Farmer, a performance leader for Delta Airlines, who lives in Baltimore, a town of about 3,000, southeast of Columbus. “He knew they were looking for board members. He recommended me.”
Farmer is a believer in the voucher program, which allows students to attend private schools at public expense. He says schools already have the resources they need to provide an adequate education and that the key to improvement is to find the correct model.
Growing up in the Columbus area, Farmer attended two Catholic high schools and graduated from Liberty Union-Thurston High School in a rural farming area that includes Baltimore.
Farmer completed two years of college before being drafted into the military. He served during the Vietnam War, October 1969-70, and was honorably discharged with a collection of medals.
Although he doesn’t have a college degree, Farmer, 63, said he’s learned a lot in his life. In fact, he’s never stopped learning. Most of this knowledge came from years of hands-on experience serving on his local school board and state school board associations.
He was a football and track coach for his sons, and served from 1992-2011 on the Liberty Union-Thurston School Board, is a former member of the Ohio School Board Association and is a member of the All-Region and All-Ohio School Boards associations.
Farmer said he hopes that his experiences at the local level will help him be a better and more responsive state board of education member.
“It’s just a privilege to serve on the state Board of Education,” Farmer said. “I learn every day. I just want what’s best for the students and the state of Ohio.”
Farmer said he is guided by his beliefs about right and wrong and freedom of choice.
“Certainly, I’m a very committed Christian. I’ll say that upfront,” he said. “I educated my children on right or wrong. I think the parents have to make the decision about what’s best for their students.”
Farmer believes the state has an obligation to give parents good choices for educating their children and he believes the state has done parents a service by giving them vouchers to use to send their children to private schools when public schools are not satisfactory.
Vouchers create a more fair and competitive atmosphere for schools and students, he said.
“If the public schools are better and the playing field is even, then they’ll do fine,” Farmer said. “I think they’re being successful with that. I think it gives opportunities to students that they may not have in a public school setting.”
Farmer believes all public schools, including those in urban districts, have plenty of resources to be competitive and to properly serve students.
He said it’s more a matter of finding the right practices and replicating them.
“There are urban schools who have great success. Their numbers are high and they do well on the [state] report card,” he said. “Why is one successful and one not? We’re trying to focus on those and take them to other schools.”
Consistent with his ideas about parental choice, Farmer believes that discussions about sexuality are best left to parents and that these topics should never be addressed in classrooms.
“I think that is a parental right,” he said. “I think that is where parents should lead their children. Certainly, that’s my faith background. I think that’s a parent’s job to do.
“Certainly, there are public-funded areas that could offer a parent help. Certainly, a lot of faith-based places that could help in that area.”
Despite his strong religious beliefs, Farmer foresees problems if public schools were to open the door wider on religion. He said he likes student-led religious events in schools, but it may not be a good idea to go beyond that.
“I like the fact that something that is student led is acceptable in our schools. I think that it’s a slippery slope in that if we have Christianity taught in the schools, we also have to have any religion or cult, whatever you want to call it,” he said.
Some questions from the interview:
Q: What are your thoughts on the teaching of climate change and the role of humans in that process?
A: I think we need to be aware of our environment.
Q: Do you think climate change is something to be focused on in schools?
A: Depends on whose study you read. Certainly, I believe that students should be aware of the climate and that.
Q: When you say it depends on what study you read, what do you mean?
A: I mean you can read input from both sides. Those that say, “Yes, it’s happening,” and those that say, “No, it’s not happening.”
Q: What should children understand about history, government and economics as they graduate into adulthood?
A: They have to realize that if we don’t study history, it will repeat itself — we’ll make the same mistakes, over and over. We have to ensure that our student leave high school with basic understanding of how they make money, how they spend money, what debt is, how to balance a checkbook.
They need to know what government offers them. They need to know why people want to get involved in government. What platforms are they supporting, why are they for or against [something]. You can’t just be a one-party person and be closed [minded]. [They must know] all those other things that are involved in the government situation. What are the economic ramifications of government decisions about a person or group?
Q: Are there any problems with what is being taught in public schools?
A: I think that public schools are doing a good job of working toward making sure that our children are proficient. I think public schools understand that when students leave high school they prepared to go into the world. The curriculum has been geared towards making sure that they understand history, economics and government.
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