Name: Jeffrey J. Mims Jr.
District 3: Resigning at the end of this year from a term that ends Dec. 31, 2014. Covers Butler, Montgomery, Preble, Miami and part of Darke counties.
School board committees: Urban Education; Graduation Requirements.
Political party affiliation: Democrat.
Occupation: Retired teacher and administrator for Dayton Public Schools. Taught elementary and high school classes before becoming director of legislative affairs, compliance and community relations.
Education: Graduated from suburban Dayton public school; bachelor’s degree in art, art education and industrial technology, master’s degree in education.
Family: Not married, grown children attended Dayton schools.
Other boards and affiliations: Former president, Dayton school board; former president and contract negotiator, Dayton Education Association; executive board member, Council of the Great City Schools; chairman, Urban 21 Ohio School Board Coalition; steering committee member, Dayton Dialogue on Race, and the Equity & Adequacy School Funding Coalition; advisory committee member, Central State University Department of Education; Vietnam War veteran; member, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity; Beautillion drillmaster mentor for 36 years with Jack and Jill of America Inc.; volunteer with YMCA Mentors Matter Program and the Dayton Youth Golf Academy.
Jeffrey J. Mims Jr. is in the minority on the state school board. He’s the only African-American, he’s one of only five Democrats, one of the few living in a major Ohio city, and he places traditional public schools ahead of school choice.
And he’s leaving in December to take a position on the Dayton City Commission.
Gov. John Kasich has the authority to appoint a replacement for the remaining year of Mims’ term.
His departure saves work for the conservative home-schooling group, Ohioans for Educational Freedom, which had targeted him for the 2014 election. The organization takes exception to Mims’ views that public money should go exclusively to public schools, and that there should be more oversight of home-schooled students.
“We can’t do anything about Mims for two more years,” the group’s website said last fall as it laid out its slate of candidates for the 2012 election. “But we do have the opportunity to make sure seven other seats are filled with candidates who support our right to home educate, and not filled by those who would take away our freedoms. OEF will seek to replace Mr. Mims in 2014.”
Mims won his first election to the state board in 2011 after serving two years of a four-year term on the Dayton city board.
When he announced his candidacy for the state school board, he told the Dayton Daily News that urban districts were underrepresented and that Columbus was where he could do the most good.
“There is a void in Columbus relative to understanding the urban issues,” he said “All my adult life I’ve tried to create greater opportunities for children. I have no other agenda than to create greater opportunities for children.”
When he announced his candidacy for the Dayton City Commission, Mims told the Dayton newspaper that this is where he “could do the most good.”
“It’s a logical fit for me to bring those years of experience working on a state and national level, all in areas trying to benefit this community,” Mims told the newspaper.
He recognized that if the governor fills his seat, the board is likely to lean even more toward a market-driven method of distributing public dollars.
“[The appointment] is going to be his choice and when it’s his choice, those individuals generally responded the way he wants them to respond,” Mims said. “When someone is elected versus appointed, they tend to be more responsive to the people that have elected them. You generally responded to the powers that put you in that position.”
The board is so unbalanced now, his departure won’t matter, he said.
“Well, the balance politically on the board is already out of whack. It almost doesn’t make a difference. I think we have five Democrats on the board and the rest of them are Republican. It shouldn’t really make a difference, but it does,” he said.
When Mims won his seat in 2010, he had the support of the state’s two major teachers unions, the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers. He raised $30,492 between 2010 and 2012, putting him near the top of fundraisers on the board. The largest contribution, $6,000, came from the Ohio Education Association Fund for Children.
Mims won with 58.35 percent of the vote.
His tenure on the board has been marked by opposition to the ideas of many of his colleagues.
“I have been on what you call the short side of the majority,” Mims said. “I have been one who has consistently pushed for looking at the high-achievement school districts in the state and in the nation and saying that if you want all of our school districts to be high performing, then you give those low-performing schools what the high-performing schools have.”
On the other hand, he complained that the state is imposing ineffective rules on the districts.
“I would say that research clearly indicates that many of the things that we have mandated are not effective and are not beneficial to children or society.
“Raising standards, legislating higher standards, legislating more restrictive activities, is not the way to create the diverse set of educational programs that our diverse population of children need. So what we’re actually measuring and the way we’re preparing our kids to be measured is really not necessarily beneficial or workable for society as a whole.”
Mims said he is not opposed to alternative forms of education, but he does not think it makes sense to use public funds to support those alternatives and “to further erode resources from struggling school systems.”
He believes that funding should go to public schools, and parents who want choice need to pay for those choices themselves.
Mims said his public school education was strong enough that he did well in college. However, he said something is missing from today’s public school offerings.
“One of the things that the educational system needs to find a way to do a better job of is trying to create this sense of value and self-worth in each student so that the student is the driver of his or her educational process, and that we as adults, facilitate that, not dictate that.”
Answers to some interview questions:
Q: What is the problem with public education?
A: “… If [the mandate is] not beneficial to the child, then also it is not beneficial to the society of Ohio and the economy and the communities within Ohio. So if you continue to do something that you know is not working, then it tends, in my mind, that either you’re doing it on purpose or you’re just clueless, because there’s mountains of data that indicates what’s working and what’s not working in the educational field.”
Q: What are your thoughts about teaching global warming?
A: For us to ignore the research and the facts is tantamount to just sticking our head in the sand and acting like the sun’s not shining.
Q: What do you think are the things that are working and what are the things that need to change?
A: Almost anybody can start a charter school with very little accountability, and even when the board tried to lead its department on charter schools and community schools to put in more accountability factors as far as charter schools are concerned, the legislature took all those accountability factors out.
Q: What should be taught about religion?
A: To me, it’s a futile exercise that takes time, energy and money away from the challenges that we have. I don’t see a positive resolution because you have too many diverse opinions as far as people’s religion is concerned. Everyone should have their choice of religion and everyone should have his choice of politics — but you can’t put the two of them together and expect to make good things happen for children.
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