A former critic of teachers and the public education system who now says teachers are not the problem appeared in Hillsboro on Monday and told education leaders that despite what he once thought, “You can’t run schools like a business.”
Jamie Vollmer, a former businessman turned author and public speaker, addressed area educators during a forum at Southern State Community College sponsored by the college, Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development, the Southern Ohio Educational Service Center and Brown County Educational Service Center.
Vollmer is former president of the Iowa-based Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company, which was once described by People magazine as the best ice cream in America.
He told a story Monday of being in a forum with teachers where he was insisting that schools should be run like businesses. One teacher asked him what he would do if the blueberries used in his ice cream were inferior. Vollmer said he would send them back. The teacher responded that they could not send back their students, even if they are considered inferior.
Vollmer said it was a perspective he could not ignore.
“That woman that day changed me,’ said Vollmer. “Schools have zero control over the quality of their raw materials.”
Vollmer said, “We do not have a people problem in our schools.” He said standardized tests “do not accurately gauge what teachers teach or what students learn.”
Vollmer encouraged people to spend a day in a school. He said teachers typically spend 50 or 60 hours a week at school and are not the lazy, union-obsessed stereotypes that are often portrayed by critics.
Vollmer’s book, “Schools Cannot Do It Alone,” and his message in person is that the relationship between local communities and schools has changed dramatically over the last few decades.
A handout on Monday summarized Vollmer’s philosophy by saying, “The contract between our communities and our schools has changed. It is no longer, ‘Help us teach our children.’ It’s “Raise our kids!’ No generation of teachers and administrators in history has had to fulfill this mandate. And each year, the burden grows.”
The handout provided a list of about 100 increasing burdens Vollmer says have been placed on public schools since the early 1900s, which by the 2000s has grown to include No Child Left Behind legislation, Internet safety, bullying prevention programs, Body Mass Index evaluation, eating disorder counseling, intruder lockdown training, Race to the Top legislation, Common Core standards and more, all on top of basic educational classroom instruction.
Kevin Boys, president of Southern State, welcomed attendees on Monday. He referenced the annual “Ag is Everyone’s Business” forum held at the school, and said “education is even moreso.” Boys noted the presence of state Rep. Doug Green (R-Mt. Orab) and state Sen. Joe Uecker (R-14th Dist.), whose district includes Adams, Brown, Clermont, Scioto and part of Lawrence.
Vollmer was introduced by Harry Snyder, president and CEO of Great Oaks. More information on Vollmer can be found at www.jamievollmer.com.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.