A Century of Serving Students
Prior to the County Board of Education
In 1912, Stark County had 189 separate school districts guided by township clerks, the county auditor, and a few district superintendents. These districts served approximately 8,300 pupils, an average of fewer than 50 students per school. Quality of education varied widely and the State of Ohio had little communication with the educators who served the more than 8,000 rural students.
1914 - Present
|Mr. John J. Armstrong
|Mr. J. Aurelius Smith
|Mr. Harvey D. Teal
|Mr. Leonidas J. Smith
|Mr. Estell D. Maurice
|Mr. Thomas C. Knapp
|Dr. Raymond G. Drage
|Dr. M. Herman Sims
|Dr. Curtis J. Hinds
|Mr. Larry L. Morgan
|Mr. R. Joseph Chaddock
In 1914, when James Cox was Governor of Ohio and Vernon Riegel was Director of Education, the State Legislature passed a law creating county boards of education. The law provided for the selection of county board members by the presidents of the local school boards. The first Stark County Board members were Mr. W.J. Pontius, President; Mr. J.W. Myers; Mr. R.B. Wingate; Dr. R.T. Temple; and Mr. E.E. Leighey.
They first met on July 18, 1914, to organize and to hire a county superintendent. The board considered five applications for the position and, after much discussion and several ballots, it selected John J. Armstrong as the first superintendent of Stark County Schools. He served in this capacity until 1919 (5 years).
Two of the major concerns facing the first five superintendents were school district annexation and consolidation. The law, with regard to school annexation, was loosely constructed and permitted annexation of one school district by another. Since the right to protest has always been a prerogative of the American people, not one proposal for redistricting was suggested without a protest. Stark County’s first superintendent, J.J. Armstrong (1914-1919), met with strong opposition from the county’s large German farming population. Nearly all his consolidations of districts and student transfers were rejected by voters when submitted to referendum. Armstrong’s first four successors - J.A. Smith, H.D. Teal, L.J. Smith, and E.D. Maurice - were more successful in implementing the process of consolidation and standardization.
In 1925, H.D. Teal was appointed to the superintendency of the Stark County Schools. During his tenure, he focused on countywide examinations and countywide textbook adoptions. Under the leadership of Mr. Teal and Mr. Smith, the consolidation movement in Stark County increased considerably.
During 1930-40, superintendents L.J. Smith and E.D. Maurice laid the groundwork for additional consolidation of school districts. In 1935, the foundation program of education was established. A provision was included which required county boards of education to submit periodic reorganization plans to the State Department of Education. In 1943, a law was passed that required county boards of education to prepare and submit reorganization plans to the State Department of Education once every two years.
Stark County’s longest tenured superintendent, T.C. Knapp (1940-62), took the helm just before the post-war combination of the booming population and the nearly universal desire for a high school diploma. State financial aid was increasingly sought. Initiatives for countywide master planning of such necessities as water and sewer supplies for the new school buildings, massive polio inoculations, and fleets of school buses and drivers stretched the authority of and demands upon the county office.
On election day in November 1954, Stark County voters approved a record number of 11 school bond issues for construction totaling $11,855,300, but each succeeding year saw greater sensitivity and resistance from property owners to the constantly rising demand for tax dollars for education.
Under the leadership of T.C. Knapp, the consolidation of many small districts resulted in the establishment of the 13 local school districts. Also, Stark County school enrollment increased from 12,000 to 39,000.
A new mission and a new style of leadership came to the Stark County Local School System in 1962 when Dr. Raymond G. Drage assumed the superintendency. A product of a one-room schoolhouse in Tuscarawas Township and a veteran 26-year educator, Drage headed a growing team of staff members whose chief priorities were service and instructional leadership. Greater emphasis was placed on assessing the requirements and viewpoints of local districts; and on providing in-service opportunities and instructional guidance through a staff of specially trained consultants. The scope of educational opportunities, particularly for students with special needs, was also emphasized.
By 1964, the Stark County Board, which governed the largest local school system in Ohio, had taken on many of its present functions - setting curricular parameters in seven basic subject areas through graded courses of study; adopting lists of approved textbooks; examining and certifying bus drivers; recruiting teachers; enforcing compulsory attendance laws; and much more. Workshops and supportive printed materials were made available to teachers of the more than 38,000 students attending classes in the now 13 locals. And from 1965 through 1968, the county system launched a Computer Service Division, a Special Education Programming Center, an Education Resource Center for the dissemination of shared audiovisual materials, and a Joint Vocational School named in Drage’s honor.
With the appointment of Dr. M. Herman Sims to succeed Dr. Drage in 1979, the Stark County School System came full circle by restoring the emphasis on local control and grassroots decision-making. His administrative team maintained the local and statewide political advocacy pioneered by T.C. Knapp and Dr. Drage. Also, Dr. Sims focused on developing partnerships with the local businesses in Stark County and the non-profit agencies. During the 1980’s, there was a large increase in the use of technology support services at the Stark County Board of Education. The key to his success was the development of a specialized and diverse personnel support team inspired by visions of the future for Stark County Local educators and their students.
With the increased emphasis on services to the local districts and the new alliances that had been formed with the business and non-profit community, the facility at Molly Stark could no longer house the staff of the County Board of Education. On behalf of the board, Superintendent Dr. Curtis J. Hinds worked with the Board of Commissioners and business leaders from the Diebold and Timken Companies to raise funds for the purchase of Edgefield Elementary School from the Plain Local Board of Education. This purchase represented the first time the County Board owned its own facility. Remodeling of the Edgefield facility created housing for all of the county staff, excepting the print shop and the Stark/Portage Area Computer Consortium.
Student Exchange Program
A highlight of the Diebold partnership was a student exchange program between the schools of Stark County and the former Soviet Union. The Diebold Corporation helped facilitate communications to coordinate the travel and lodging of representative students. This enabled a unique sharing of culture, knowledge of technology, beliefs, and dreams for the future between our students and those in the Soviet Union.
Legislative Action Changes Name
In 1989, legislation was passed that allowed City School Districts to affiliate with the County Board of Education for services. This legislation also required each County to develop a comprehensive service plan that outlined how the County Board would provide service to member and affiliate districts and how that service would be evaluated. With the development of this plan, the name of our organization was changed from Stark County Schools to the Stark County Service Center. Later legislation renamed all county offices in Ohio to be called Educational Service Centers.
State and National Grants
The service center plan allowed the county to attract state and national grants. Through a grant application, the State Department of Education named the County as the site for its East Regional Professional Development Center. The center served the following counties in Ohio: Ashland, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, and Wayne.
Another grant was awarded to develop and implement programs for Early Childhood Education. In addition, grant funds were received from the National Science Foundation for staff development in science education.
Stark/Portage Area Computer Consortium
The expanding role of the Educational Service Center and the isolation of the print shop and Stark/Portage Computer Consortium (SPARCC) from the rest of the staff created a need for the expansion of the Edgefield facility. With the support of member districts, the Stark/Portage Area Computer Consortium and the Board of County Commissioners, funds were made available for an addition to house these units at the Edgefield site.
Mr. Larry Morgan, appointed in 1995, maintained the rich heritage that he inherited from the leadership and legacy of previous superintendents. During his years as county superintendent, the services provided expanded in many ways.
Stark County ESC and R.G. Drage Career Technical Center Partnership
Soon after Mr. Morgan became Superintendent he was approached to assist the R.G. Drage Career Technical Center to improve its financial condition. A partnership between the ESC and Drage was forged with the naming of Mr. Morgan as the Superintendent of Drage, a service for which he receives one dollar ($1.00) annually. This cost saving measure allowed R.G. Drage to become financially stable while expanding its career and technical offerings for students. It also resulted in a collaboration that produced the new R.G. Drage Career Technical Center auditorium that is utilized not only for student activities, but also for professional development across the region. In addition, this complex includes the Bill Mease Center for Science and Mathematics, perhaps the finest facility of its kind in the nation. Access to this professional development center along with the significant support of grants, both public and private, is expanding opportunities for the development of leadership skills and best practice teaching techniques.
Mr. Joe Chaddock is a graduate of Minerva High School. He graduated from Mount Union College with an Education degree and a Psychology minor in 1995. In 2000, he obtained a masters in Educational Administration from Ashland University. Joe was in the classroom at Pfeiffer Middle School in Perry Local for five years, teaching seventh grade science. He began his administrative career as assistant principal at Pfeiffer in 2000. He then held the Perry Local positions of principal at Edison Jr. High for two years, Director of Business Operations for one year, and assistant superintendent for four years before his appointment as Superintendent of Minerva Local Schools in 2011. He joined the Stark County ESC in 2013 as Deputy Superintendent and took the helm as Superintendent August 2015.