American Government students at Edison High School got a civics lesson from officials during a visit from Edison Local school board members on March 17.
Pupils heard from board President Aaron Richardson, Vice President Ron Smyth, member Matt Bordash and Superintendent Bill Beattie about their roles and how the district works to improve education. Smyth and Bordash spoke to an earlier class and the former returned with Richardson and Beattie for a later session outdoors. Teacher David Schultz said he has held a program for the past five years to help his students understand how government sectors work and one previous lecture was led by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), who briefly spoke during a visit two years ago. The latest gathering explained the mechanics on a more local level.
“They discussed what it’s like to be on the board and took part in some general question-and-answer sessions,” said Schultz. “I try to take the kids to a school board meeting once a year, and this year because of COVID restrictions I decided to have them come here. We have done the program in February and this year we modified it.”
The purpose is to give students a chance to meet local representatives, understand how meetings function and discuss how local, state and federal governments contribute to education. Among other topics, Smyth discussed the districts’ $25 million annual budget and said it is primarily financed through taxes with secondary income from the state and tertiary assistance on the federal level.
Talks also turned to projects such as the planned unified sports complex on the EHS grounds.
“My goal was to get kids off the road and in one place. When we talked about the gym, it evolved into what I think will be one of the finest complexes around,” Smyth said. “We stepped in at a time where voters signed on and we had gas and oil money. We’re making decisions to get new opportunities for you.”
He noted that Edison will also receive $1.7 million from the $1.9 trillion federal COVID relief package and money will likely be used to add air purifiers to improve safety in the buildings. Meanwhile, Richardson said leaders looked at opening the buildings after last year’s COVID-related shutdown and its success has been attributed to everyone staying safe.
“We opened at the beginning when other schools opened and that’s because you guys have been safe and your parents have taken care of you,” he added. “In my opinion, if we are safe and healthy, then let’s return to school but be healthy and safe.”
Richardson said he wanted to be on the school board and enjoys his role in leadership.
The visit also was a sense of déjà vu since Smyth once taught government to both Richardson and Schultz, and now they had a chance to pass on some wisdom to another generation.
“I love it. I did [a program] when I was a government teacher. I love the interaction with the students,” Smyth said.
“I love it, too,” added Richardson. “That’s why I’m here. The kids never get a chance to interact with school board members and we get to hear things we’ve never heard before. It’s nice to get some perspective.”
“[The students] love it,” Schultz said. “They learned a lot about what it takes to be on a school board and what level to ask questions to.”
Several students said they enjoyed meeting the leaders and learned something new through the program.
“I thought it was interesting to see how money is allocated and to get their opinions on COVID-19 guidelines,” said junior Emily Phillips. “It’s nice to see how much they genuinely care about the student body and want to see everyone at Edison succeed and get the best education possible.”
“I thought it was good to get the school board members’ thoughts on what goes into the meetings, especially on the new athletic facility,” added sophomore Thomas Phillips.