Karen Bell
TheNewsOutlet.org

Name: Tess Ann Elshoff.

Appointed, at large: Appointed Jan. 18, 2011, by Gov. John Kasich. Term expires Dec. 31, 2014.

School board committees: Achievement; Appointments; Graduation Requirements.

Age: 38.

Residence: New Knoxville.

Political affiliation: Republican.

Occupation: Stay-at-home mother.

Education: Graduated from private school, attended some college.

Family: Married and five school-age children in public schools.

Other boards and affiliations: Auglaize County Republican Central Committee, served as county campaign chair during Kasich’s election campaign; member, Auglaize County Republican Women’s Group; former member, New Knoxville Board of Education; board member, New Knoxville Community Park Association and New Knoxville Garden Club; former Cub Scout den leader; adviser, Cloverbuds 4-H Club; former education board member, Holy Rosary School, St. Mary’s.

Tess Elshoff, 38, is a stay-at-home mother of five whose children all attend New Knoxville public schools, one of the state’s smallest districts in rural northwest Ohio.

She said she spends her days folding laundry and driving her children to activities, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Both she and her husband are active in politics.

He’s a township trustee and she served recently on the New Knoxville school board. More importantly, she’s active in Republican politics, serving as campaign chair for the Auglaize County Republican Central Committee during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign of John Kasich.

That led to the state school board.

She said she was stunned to receive a call from the governor in late 2010, and she said, “Yes,” when he asked if she would like to be appointed to a seat.

She took the position personally, because the state board’s decisions will affect her family directly.

“What happens at the board affects what happens at my kitchen table after school,” Elshoff said.

She hopes to bring a voice to small rural schools. “New Knoxville is about as rural as you can get,” she said.

In reality, though, she’ll be among several on the board who hail from small towns and rural communities, and it is urban districts that are under-represented.

Like many rural districts, Elshoff’s New Knoxville district scored well on the 2012 state report cards with five A’s, one B and one C. The report card showed that 100 percent of the students were graduating in four years and 89 percent of them were passing the state achievement tests.

The unemployment rate in Auglaize County is about two points below the state average, and only 17 percent of New Knoxville students are classified as economically disadvantaged, compared with 48 percent statewide.

And only 4 percent of New Knoxville is nonwhite, compared with 27 percent for Ohio.

She admits that her understanding of urban schools is limited.

“I have been working with members that are from urban [areas]. I’m trying to understand them better so I can be a better board member,” Elshoff said.

For board members, it’s “our obligation to be the most understanding and best support we can,” she said.

She and five other board members serve on a committee to revise the Ohio high school graduation requirements with a goal to better prepare students for the next steps in life.

She said she hopes the board will “build upon our success, not scrap and restart. We have a good foundation. I think the best thing to do is to build upon it, not change it completely.”

On controversial topics, Elshoff had answers to some, but not all.

On the discussion of religion in school, she said: “I still haven’t come up with an answer that I would like to give you on that one. I am just going to pass on that one.”

However, on a question about whether sexuality should be taught in schools, her answer was quick, definitive and short. “No.”

In a recent state board policy discussion on whether cursive writing should be a required course, she was among those in favor of keeping cursive.

She said she does not believe the role of humans in climate change is definitive enough for the science curriculum.

“I don’t feel that should be taught at this point because there are too many unanswered questions,” she said.

Elshoff said there are basic components to a quality education that she would like to ensure that all students learn: “How banking should work; the foundation our country was started on … and beliefs; our rights; banking … our stock market and how it affects our country.”

If teachers ever offer their opinions to students on issues, she said it is critical that they identify those opinions as views and not facts.

“That is why we are the great country that we are. We have that freedom to be able to voice our views and we also have the freedom to not accept or agree with those views.”

The big issue, she said, is funding.

“[Schools] take two pennies together and they make a dollar because they have to,” she said.

Elshoff pats educators on the back for their accomplishments. “I think schools are doing incredibly,” she said.

Answers to some questions:

Q: What are some ways Ohio’s system of education is not changing that you wish would change?

A: There really isn’t a whole lot. I hope that in the years to come that we will build upon our success, not scrap and restart curriculum and standards. Just build upon it to make it better. That is more of a hope than a complaint. In years past, legislators have told [the board] to scrap [everything] and put new standards in. It is confusing. And every time the standards change, I feel that there is a year or two that fall through the cracks. I think that we have a good foundation coming in the works and I think the best thing to do is to build upon it not change it completely.

Q: What do the schools need in order to adequately address changes?

A: Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to change that because that’s all legislative. That’s why [standards, curriculum] keep getting changed. I feel that as you have a turn-over and representation in elected officials that they make those changes.

Q: What would you say are the strengths of each form of education in Ohio, and what does each need most to succeed?

A: •?Public schools: I think public schools — and to go back to all the changes that have happened through out the years — I think that the public schools have been phenomenal with stepping up and embracing those changes in trying to make them as successful as possible.

•?Charter schools: I think their success is, they have some success in taking children who have had issues in public schools and helping them find their strengths and become successful.

•?Homeschools: Their strength is you’re able to spend more one-on-one time with the child, so they’re able to learn, they’re able to understand their learning type. And they are able to teach to the way the child is able to learn better.

•?Private: [This] is right along the same lines because a lot of your private schools are very, very small. Well that is not necessarily the case with all private schools. … Their success is they tend to have a very high bar set for their students and they reach that bar.

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