Norman Geer had ideas when he joined the Bowling Green City Schools Board of Education in 2018.
But he had little time to implement them before the pandemic hit.
Geer is running to keep his seat on the board in the hope of implementing those ideas.
Geer, an incumbent, is one of four candidates running for two seats on the board in the Nov. 2 election.
“I feel like I have a responsibility to the community to continue the work we’ve started,” he said.
There are a lot of plans that the board hasn’t been able to address that he would like to be a part of pursuing, Geer said.
One goal is to coordinate all early childhood education programs district wide, whether they are at private, public or parochial schools. He said he originally ran for a seat on the board because he believes in the important of early childhood education and preschool.
“It is critical that every student that goes to the first day of kindergarten be prepared.”
It should be “all hands on deck” when it comes to preschool.
“We need to have a coordinated effort for the kids to have the opportunity to learn during that crucial period.”
Geer hopes he can help the school board move in that direction.
“We have dealt with this, but we need to do more,” he said.
Providing a solid early childhood education leads to equity when the child enters kindergarten, he said.
Still, once the child enters kindergarten, “we do a pretty good job catching kids up.”
The district is seeing improvements in elementary test scores and will introduce a program at Crim and Conneaut that has shown success at Kenwood, “but we can do better,” Geer said.
This needs a be community-wide joint effort, he continued, and the district can take notes of other models from other communities that have done this.
“It can be done.”
After serving on the board for four years, Geer said he now has a knowledge of how schools work and how to be an effective board member.
“Running a school district is a huge job. There are so many running pieces to be aware of.”
A board sets policy after much consideration and planning, he said, whether it be related to education or financing.
Geer is a Bowling Green native and a graduate of Bowling Green High School. An attorney by trade, he began practicing law in Bowling Green in 1971.
His three children all attended Bowling Green schools and his wife, Tari, was a teacher in the district for 32 years.
He has dealt with civil rights cases and juvenile law, as well as personal injury and probate cases.
“I have a good background in what’s going on in the community. I’ve lived here all my life. I understand what is important to the people of Bowling Green and it is important to me, too,” Geer said. “I have a real desire to see the schools improve and when the schools improve, the community improves, and we improve. It is important that we have good schools in Bowling Green.”
He gave the district a B-.
“I think we’re doing a lot of things well … but we can always do better.”
The district has hired some outstanding teachers to join outstanding teachers already in place and they need to find ways to support them more, Geer said.
“We want to have salaries that are competitive and allow us to hire the best candidates.”
Salaries have increased since he has joined the board, and negotiations for new contracts will begin next year, he said.
“Teaching is the most important job in civilization. Teachers should be compensated according to the responsibility that they have.”
Communicating with the community is always important, Geer added.
“I think we can do a better job of letting the community know what’s going on in our schools.”
A lot of attention is given to the negative stuff and the district needs to share positive actions and events with the community.
“People want to know what’s going on in the schools and we want to tell them.”
If there is a perception of a lack of transparency, we need to do something about that, he said.
“We are trying to be as transparent as possible. We are not doing things behind closed doors,” Geer said. “We’re doing a good job of educating but we want to do better. We want to get to the top grade.”
To say there was no plan in place for the start of the 2020-21 school year is inaccurate, Geer said.
They had a comprehensive plan in place that included making Chromebooks available to all students and adding internet hotspots through the district.
There also was a hybrid plan that was considered, he said.
“We decided in the interest of safety we would go remote,” Geer said. “No one on the board thinks remote is the answer. We all know face to face is the way to learn. That is what we’re doing this year with the masks.”
While no one likes them, masks need to remain for now, he said.
“The main reason for having mask now is to keep the schools open and not having to quarantine,” Geer said.
With no masks, if a student is in close contact with someone who has the virus, they would be sent home for 14 days. With masks, they can remain in school.
If the decision is made to build new or renovate buildings, he is open to ideas on how the projects would be funded.
“There are a lot of combinations we can use for buildings,” and there may be federal money available.
He also sees as a priority voting on a new high school. He said the community never had the option to vote on just that project and he thinks there will be support.
“I think that should be the flagship of our schools.”
But as just one person on the board, Geer said that the collective wisdom of all board members will direct the direction of the district.