New state board member: Don’t soften graduation standards

Charlotte McGuire, who replaces A.J. Wagner, pushes parent involvement, high standards, personal responsibility

Charlotte McGuire just replaced A.J. Wagner as the Dayton area’s state school board member, and she has a very different approach on one of the board’s top issues.

Wagner, who resigned in November, was the lead voice pushing to soften the graduation standards that will take effect for current high school juniors. McGuire disagrees, saying she still needs to do more research, but is sure she doesn't want to "cheapen" the diploma.

“I think we need to be competitive in the nation,” McGuire said. “We don’t want to reduce our requirements to such a point that Ohio’s graduation certificate does not (compare) with other states in the nation.”

McGuire, of Centerville, was appointed to the state board this month by Gov. John Kasich and will serve through 2018, when the role will be up for election again.

The District 3 seat represents more than 1 million residents in Montgomery, Miami, Butler, Preble and southern Darke counties. McGuire ran for the seat in 2014, finishing third in the four-candidate race won by Wagner, of Dayton.

McGuire spent more than a decade leading Project Impact and Reclaiming Futures, groups that help teenagers dealing with drug, alcohol and criminal behaviors. She says she's now a housewife who also helps her husband Arthur run Joshua Christian Ministries. The church's website lists him as apostle and her as prophetess. They have two adult children, one of whom went to public schools and the other to private schools.

On the issues

Charter schools: McGuire said the state is moving in the right direction with its closer oversight of charter schools.

“I’m definitely for educational options, and charter schools are one of them,” she said. “We have to be sure (all school options) meet all the requirements and standards for excellence and accountability.”

Parental involvement: McGuire said she grew up in a working-class family in segregated Memphis, but made it to college because her father instilled in her that education was the key to freedom.

“(He believed) that education, hard work and dedication would pay off, and that as a result, I along with anyone else could experience the American dream,” she said. “And my focus is that parents need to be true partners to the education process.”

Common Core: When she ran for state board in 2014, McGuire said she opposed Ohio's Common Core-based learning standards. At her first state board meeting this month, McGuire questioned whether upcoming tweaks would just be a "Common Core remix."

“I am a firm believer in limited government,” she said this week. “When you have overextension of federal into state and local matters, you lose the creativity and control needed.”

State testing: McGuire said she's not sure if Ohio has found the right approach on testing, saying teachers and schools can get caught up in how ratings and evaluations will affect them.

“You can overtest, which takes away from the teacher’s interactive time with every child to bring out the unique giftings and talents that that child may have,” she said.

Early childhood: This is another area Wagner called crucial, and where he and McGuire have some disagreement. Wagner thinks providing services to impoverished children in the first three years of life might be the best way to improve education in struggling areas. McGuire said she's not sure about that issue, saying it shouldn't be a requirement.

“I think at a very early age, there should be a very natural development of children. Let them explore and discover and dream,” McGuire said.

The state school board

The 19-member state school board helps set K-12 education regulations for Ohio schools, including learning standards and passing scores for graduation, working in conjunction with full-time Ohio Department of Education staff. The board has major turnover this year, as McGuire is one of eight new members.

Wagner and Tom Gunlock, who disagreed on many education issues in the past two years as state board members, agreed that the best advice for McGuire and other newcomers is to read and learn as much as they can.

Gunlock, also of Centerville, urged new members not to jump to conclusions, to focus on state-level policy rather than local issues, and to respect the importance of the job, “finding a way to work together improve opportunities and outcomes for all Ohio students.”

Wagner urged McGuire to read education studies on what works and what doesn’t, and get a handle on Ohio law, to understand where the state board’s role stops and the larger policy control of the state legislature starts.

About the Author