[Updated] Governor's office invites Ohio teachers to a meeting and stands them up

"Waiting for my committee" by Flickr user anneohirsch.

One of the platform points campaigned on by Ohio’s current governor was that he would get rid of Governor Ted Strickland’s evidence-based school funding model, passed in the 2009-20011 state budget. With Ohio the only state in the nation without a permanent school funding model, planning has begun in earnest, as the current Ohio governor hopes to present a new funding model to state legislators before the end of the calendar year.

Leading the effort to create a new school funding model is Barbara Mattei-Smith, Assistant Policy Director for Education in the governor’s office. Mattei-Smith is no stranger to state government, having worked with the state since 1995 and the Ohio Department of Education since 2005. In March of this year, Mattei-Smith assumed her current role as Assistant Policy Director for Education in the Governor’s office.

While the anatomy of the new school funding formula has yet to be determined, the governor’s spokesperson has gone on record saying the new model will be contain the “over-arching principal of driving more money into the classroom.” Mattei-Smith scheduled five meetings over a two-week period inviting teachers, superintendents and principals, but failed to include teacher-leaders from the Ohio Education Association or the Ohio Federation of Teachers until much later in the process.

The email invitation that participants received stated that Mattei-Smith wanted educators’ help to “develop the principles that will guide” the development of a new funding formula. The email went on to say that Mazzei-Smith wanted “participants to come prepared to discuss the kinds of resources they need to do their jobs and help students succeed.”

On Wednesday, July 20, CEA Vice President Sally Oldham and eight other teachers from central Ohio school districts traveled to the Eastland Career Center to attend the final meeting that was called by the Governor’s office. The teachers arrived well before the 10:30 scheduled start time and were fully prepared to discuss the types of resources they needed to help their students succeed.

Unfortunately for the students and the families that those nine teachers represented, the governor’s office wasn’t prepared to discuss anything. No representatives from the governor’s office, including Mazzei-Smith, attended the meeting. Calls made by OEA to notify the governor’s office that teachers were waiting at Eastland Career Center were not returned. All nine teachers waited patiently for more than an hour for someone from the governor’s office to arrive for the previously scheduled hour-long discussion. No one ever did.

“I was looking forward to relaying the concerns of our teachers about how a new school funding model should be created,” said CEA Vice President Sally Oldham. “We are the largest district in the state of Ohio, and we have a perspective that others don’t have. I was quite disappointed that since no one showed up from the governor’s office, I was unable share those concerns.”

Central Ohio teachers wait patiently to meet with Barbara Mattei-Smith, Assistant Policy Director for Education in the governor’s office. Image courtesy Join The Future.

07/21/11 UPDATE #1: According to the blog of a local paper, “While nearly a dozen teachers waited in a conference room at the Eastland Career Center for the governor’s representative to arrive, the aid, Barbara Mattei-Smith, apparently was waiting in a nearby classroom for the teachers.”

7/21/11 UPDATE #2: According to an article from NPR’s StateImpact, a spokesperson for the governor said that the office of Ohio’s chief executive would “try to reschedule the meeting.” The spokesperson characterized the non-meeting as a “simple scheduling snafu.” The article also said the governor’s spokesperson also described “teachers’ suspicions of an intentional snub (as) “politically motivated.”