PERRYSBURG - Starting Jan. 1, 2014, Penta Career Center board members will have to have certain business experience.
A provision adopted this summer in House Bill 59 replaces joint vocational school district board members with representatives from business and industry.
Currently, each of Penta's nine board members represent area educational institutions.
The proposal states that appointees should have "experience as chief financial officers, chief executive officers, human resources managers, or other business and industry professionals who are qualified to discuss the labor needs of the region with respect to the regional economy."
Penta's board members learned more about the stipulations at their meeting Wednesday, from representatives from Dickinson Wright law firm in Columbus.
The theory with the new law is that since career centers exist to prepare and place students in local industries, industry representatives are best positioned to advise school leadership on what makes students successful in the workplace, the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of existing programs, and where new programs are needed.
Penta, incidentally, already has more than 30 business advisory councils to help make those decisions and can have appointing boards give preference to members who serve on those councils.
The board accepted from Dickinson Wright a recommended Memo of Understanding (MOU) that it wants its eight districts represented on the board to sign, plus a questionnaire to have interested parties fill out.
The Penta board will vote on whether to approve both forms at its November meeting.
"We want to make sure we have nine people committed to Penta Career Center," stated Penta Superintendent Ron Matter.
Under the new legislation, as current career center board members' terms expire, they would be replaced with a business or industry representative.
Set to leave the board Dec. 31 when their term expires are Robert Righi, representing Maumee City School; Ken Sutter, representing Rossford Schools; Joe Rutherford, representing the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West; Judith Sander, representing North Point Educational Service Center; and Judith Paredes, Wood County Educational Service Center.
These boards would have to chose and appoint their new representative, preferably by Jan. 14, so Penta can seat its new board by Jan. 15.
"We want to have continuity from each of our eight entities," said Matter.
The documents presented to the board, namely the MOU and the questionnaire, have very little creativity, said Amy Borman, with Dickinson Wright.
The forms allow for "front end compliance to protect Penta down the road," she stated.
Of concern is board action in the future that might be questioned if a board member is wrongly appointed.
"We won't know the legal ramifications until we do it wrong," pointed out Righi, who is a business owner. The new law "doesn't take any respect for education."
Kyle Kanuckel, superintendent of the Wood County ESC, asked how his board should develop a pool of candidates.
"The law is absolutely silent on that," said Terrence O'Donnell, also with Dickinson Wright.
A web site application was suggested.
The necessary steps to go forward with the new appointments is to have the eight appointing boards approve the MOU, and identify a pool of candidates and get their applications.
Matter said he wants the appointing boards to act on this as soon as possible, because he doesn't want any "wiggle room down the road because we didn't follow statute."
The new law also does not require board members to live in the district, but says at least three-fifths of the members "shall reside in or be employed within the territory of the joint vocational school district."
Penta serves students from Wood, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky and Fulton counties.
The statute continues: The appointing board shall appoint individuals who represent employers in the region ... who are qualified to consider the state's workforce needs.
O'Donnell said the statue allows for "any business professional qualified to discuss local labor needs."
The remaining four board members whose terms expire at the end of 2014 are Paul Walker, Bowling Green Schools; Mark Schoenlein, Perrysburg Schools; William Green, Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center; and Kathy Limes, Wood County Educational Service Center.
Schoenlein is running for reelection in November, and wondered what would happen with his Penta seat if he no longer serves on the Perrysburg school board.
Since he is in the first year of his two-year term on the Penta board, nothing should interrupt that term, said O'Donnell.
"That's our interpretation," he added.
But if the Perrysburg resolution appointing Schoenlein states he has to be a board member to serve at Penta, that trumps the Penta term, O'Donnell said.
Sutter wondered what would happen if a school board couldn't decide of an appointment, especially if one or more board members were interested.
O'Donnell pointed out the interested party could no vote for himself, and the board needed only three votes to pick someone.
Under the former law, school boards and educational service centers appointed representatives from their own school boards to serve on the Penta board for a two-year term.
The new law limits members to two consecutive three-year terms. A member could sit out three years before being reappointed.
The Wood County ESC has two representatives on the board, thus bringing total board members to nine.
Matter pointed out boards are welcome to hire their own legal counsel, but "we're investing the legal dollars to get this done."