Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
Woman is voice for small schools
By Shelley Grieshop
NEW KNOXVILLE - Tess Elshoff will spend the next four years fixing meals for her family, chauffeuring her children to activities and bending the ear of state educators.
The 36-year-old stay-at-home mom was sworn-in as a member of the State Board of Education during a ceremony in Columbus on Tuesday.
The role isn't completely foreign to Elshoff, who began her first term on the New Knoxville Local Schools board of education last year. She's talked to state educators in the past on various school-related issues, she said.
"They heard from me a few times," she joked during a phone interview Tuesday.
Her passion for education, as well as demographics, got her appointed to the four-year position, she said. Eleven of the 19 state board members are elected by Ohio voters; eight are appointed by the governor and they must be evenly derived from urban and rural school districts.
"They said New Knoxville was about as rural as you can get," she said.
The small Auglaize County school district has a K-12 student population of approximately 450.
Elshoff said she received the "shocking" phone call from the governor's office on Thursday requesting she fill the vacant seat in District 1. Although honored to be asked, her reaction was somewhat bittersweet, she said.
"I had to resign my position on the New Knoxville board on Monday night," she said. She can't serve both boards because it is considered a conflict of interest.
Elshoff, who is married and has four children ages 1 to 12, was the sole woman on the local school board and the only female ever to be elected to the position. She attended Wright State University where she majored in social and industrial communications.
Elshoff, who grew up in St. Marys, also is a 4-H adviser, a former Cub Scout Den leader and a past member of the New Knoxville Community Park Association and the Holy Rosary School Board in St. Marys.
She will head to Columbus each month to attend the two-day state board of education meetings. The board's duties include creating policies for all of Ohio's public schools, approving Ohio Administrative Code Rules relating to education and adopting legislative and budget recommendations for public education.
The board often reviews and rules on personnel issues such as the suspension and revocation of teaching licenses.
Elshoff said she has no particular issue to bring to the board at this time. However, she believes she has much to contribute.
"A lot of the most successful schools in the state are located right here in Auglaize and Mercer county. I hope to be able to share the successes of these schools with the rest of the board," she said.
The New Knoxville district is one of many in the area to consistently receive "excellent" ratings on their state report cards.
"There's such a good quality of education here ... unless you live here, it's hard to understand how small schools can accomplish so much," Elshoff said.