The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) announced Tuesday it has severed ties with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) because of a letter sent from the NSBA to President Joe Biden requesting federal intervention at local school board meetings.
The rift stems from concerns from the OSBA about the NSBA letter’s claims of “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” around the country at school board meetings, particularly concerning issues involving mask mandates and the teaching of critical race theory as well as the letter’s labeling of parents as “domestic terrorists.”
The OSBA Board of Trustees recently directed OSBA Chief Executive Officer Rick Lewis to send a letter to the NSBA notifying it that the OSBA would not continue its membership in the national federation. The letter is posted at http://links.ohioshoolboards.org/80805/.
“We were not informed or asked for any input into the creation of the letter sent to the president,” said Lewis in an Oct. 26 OSBA press release. “We believe in the value of parental and community discussion at school board meetings, and there is tremendous value in allowing and encouraging the public to have meaningful input into the decision-making process. However, that participation should not come at the expense of interfering with the board’s ability to conduct its business or subjecting individual board members to threats of violence, abuse or harassment. But dealing with such interference should be dealt with at the local level, not by federal officials.”
His statement went on to say, “We believe the letter from NSBA leadership demonstrated how out of touch the national association is with the concerns of local school boards and the principle of local control. Because of that, OSBA no longer sees the value of continued NSBA membership.”
Lynchburg-Clay Superintendent Jack Fisher said he values local participation in school board meetings.
“I would just say, as far as we are concerned, we always encourage parents to state their viewpoint,” Fisher said. “All that we ask is that people be able to do it respectfully and have productive conversations. I don’t know all the particulars, other than what I’ve read, about their move to withdraw from the national association, but we just encourage parents to be able to come to meetings and express their viewpoint and have productive and respectful conversations.”
Fisher said he does not think his district will be negatively impacted in terms of a loss of services from the national organization due to the split. The OSBA and NSBA work to provide legislative and legal advocacy, and public relations support to school boards.
“The GEVSD School Board members, our treasurer, and I value the support of the Ohio School Boards Association,” said Greenfield Superintendent Quincey Gray. “We don’t expect to see any change in the support provided to our district.”
At an Oct. 18 meeting of the Hillsboro School Board, board member Jerry Walker said, “I just want parents to know this board member … if a person has a concern, we welcome public comment … with civility. Parents are a valuable and critical part of their children’s education. We are working for them and not against them.”
During the meeting, fellow Hillsboro School Board member Larry Lyons said he recently called the OSBA to voice his disagreement with statements in the letter issued by the NSBA.
The Sept. 29 NSBA letter was signed by NSBA President Viola Garcia and NSBA Interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven. Garcia has since been appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The National Assessment Governing Board provides reports evaluating student performance around the country.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571