Kent State Geauga Advisory Board Appointments Strengthen Community Connections

Building upon new decisions made in 2018, Dr. Angela Spalsbury, Dean and Chief Administrative Officer of Kent State University Geauga Campus and Regional Academic Center, has appointed nine new advisory board members for the Geauga Campus in Burton and Regional Academic Center in Twinsburg.

In the past, a combined advisory board for Kent State Geauga and Regional Academic Center served as the grassroots community liaison for both the Burton and Twinsburg locations. Nearly two years ago, Dean Spalsbury recognized the need for each entity to be represented by its own advisory board. Each board now functions separately, yet interdependently, since they represent one campus with two locations. In fall 2019, nine new members have been appointed to serve three-year terms, helping the advisory boards to fulfill their missions better.

Four new members have joined the Kent State Geauga Campus advisory board. “One of our major goals as an advisory board is to be advocates who tell the story as to what Kent State Geauga means to the region academically, culturally, and economically. We have a significant impact on the community in such positive ways,” says Richard Frenchie, MBA, LFACHE, who has served as chairman of the Kent State Geauga advisory board for most of the 25 years in which he has served.

President of The Frenchie Group in Chagrin Falls, he describes himself as an experienced health executive with a passion for leadership excellence, accountability and achieving high performance through mentoring, management and development of human capital characterized by a servant leadership style. Frenchie also served as the former director of the Kent State Foundation.

He explains, “Board members are advocates, advisors, and connectors who work closely with the dean as a resource to build connections with the local school districts. It’s great to have our local school superintendents on the board now. This shows we truly are committed to the community, kindergarten through college.”

“We have a very unique opportunity with our Berkshire partnership — a new school right on campus — elevating offerings to students for project-based learning, College Credit Plus, and opportunities in the technical field.”

"Project-based learning is not the old factory model, but it’s all about collaboration and communications within a group; it fosters relationships and all academic disciplines in an organizational format. It requires retooling the high school facility  and providing secondary through college-level teaching opportunities, all on one campus.”

Frenchie identified the following objectives as priorities for the Kent State Geauga advisory board:
•    Continue to attract new members to the advisory board
•    Encourage board participation in Kent State Geauga objectives
•    Engage in philanthropy
•    Be a business community link
•    Support partnerships with Berkshire Schools
•    Support Rising Scholars: 7th -12th-grade access to mentors and support
•    Attend to facility needs/program growth/resource support

Chairman Frenchie explains that its dedication to students strongly motivates the advisory board. “Students come first. It’s part of Kent State strategic vision. It’s so important to be able to support students and their faculty, making them successful through proper preparation, providing opportunities to cultivate their talents and discover their purpose.”

He goes on to say, “I’m very passionate about servant leadership. I am inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: ‘Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service… ’ It’s not necessarily what I do that matters but what we do together. We are training our future leaders. This is an awesome responsibility. We can help them reach their potential.”

New members to the Kent State Geauga advisory board include representatives from the local economic growth sector and  surrounding public school districts as follows: 

Tracy Jemison

Tracy Jemison, Past President, Geauga Growth Partnership 
Jemison is a lifelong Geauga County resident who grew up in Middlefield and now lives in Burton. Prior to becoming president of the business-led economic growth organization Geauga Growth Partnership, Jemison served as Geauga County Commissioner and has a long record of elected public office in Geauga County.

“In my posts as county auditor, county commissioner and with the Geauga Growth Partnership, I came to recognize the importance of our regional campus, but I also recognized that it was an under-utilized resource,” he says. “That was our fault at the county level for failing to leverage the fact that we have a world-class university right here in our community. “

This realization helped spur the PRIME partnership for economic development. “The merger of Ledgemont with Berkshire’s pre-K-12 school on the Kent State Geauga Campus is a big step for us,” he explains. “There may not even be any other PreK-12 models on a college campus in Ohio besides us. New legislation made it an attractive option, providing 55% of our funding from state monies and leaving only 45% of the cost to local taxpayers. “

In his new role on the Kent State Geauga advisory board, Jemison says, “I am excited to help leverage the importance of the university within the community. I’m very excited that they asked me. I will promote this campus and look for new ways the community can utilize it.”

His involvement on the board is just one more expression of the type of community Geauga County is. “This community has a willingness to collaborate, to look for what’s positive, and to arrive at solutions to problems together. Once we put our minds to it, nothing can stop us from getting things of value accomplished.” 

John Stoddard

John Stoddard, Superintendent, Berkshire Local Schools 
“The first thing that I would like to do is review the organizational goals that Kent State Geauga has set, and help in an advisory role to ensure that those goals are met,” says Superintendent Stoddard. “The first initiative that I look forward to working on is the Berkshire PRIME initiative. “

Berkshire PRIME (Partnership for Rural Innovative Models of Education) is a collaborative partnership involving Kent State Geauga, Berkshire Local Schools, and a host of other local business partners, he explains. The goal is to redesign education and open more opportunities for students with a new PreK-12 school campus that is being built behind the Kent State Geauga Campus in Burton.  

“This will help to create a pipeline for students to continue a natural progression directly from high school to college without moving off of their campus,” Stoddard says. It also connects the students to the trades through partnerships with Geauga Growth Partnership (local businesses) and Auburn Career Center.  

“In the end, we will be able to offer the students from Berkshire many opportunities ranging from college to career and all things in between. This will create a real cradle-to-career pipeline for our students and equip them with the skills necessary for them to be successful in whatever path they choose.”

Stoddard has spent the past 20 years in the field of Ohio public education and has been the Berkshire Local School District superintendent for the past two years. 

“My goal has always been to help open doors for students and to show them that education can be their ticket to prosperity. Being a part of a team that helps to create opportunities for others is what motivates me to get involved as a Kent State Geauga advisory board member.”

Dr. Richard Markwardt

Richard Markwardt, Superintendent, West Geauga Schools
Having served an earlier term on the advisory board in the early 2000s, Dr. Markwardt is pleased to serve again on the Kent State Geauga advisory board. “My primary goal will be to help to promote Kent State Geauga as a viable option for students seeking a local, affordable college education. This can be done by various means. As a member of an advisory board, it is beyond my role to dictate those means, but I will certainly lend my experience in leadership, marketing, and communication to the process.” 

Dr. Markwardt has a wealth of experience in K-12 education and holds three post-secondary degrees (a BA in History from Houghton College, an MA in History is from Kent State University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, also from Kent State).

“I have had a long career in education as a teacher, principal and superintendent working in a variety of districts, each with distinct strengths, needs, and audiences,” he explains. “I thus have a strong background and experience related to leadership, education, communication, management, problem-solving, long-range planning, fiscal responsibility, and construction projects.” 

He served as superintendent of schools in three school districts for nearly 20 years (Berkshire [1999-2004], Beachwood [2004-2015] and West Geauga [2015-present]). 

Dr. Markwardt has called Geauga County home for nearly 20 years. He and his wife live on a farm in Troy Township. Their three adult daughters graduated from Berkshire High School, and two graduated from Kent State (one attending Kent State Geauga for much of her undergraduate experience). 

“My residency, considered along with my role as a Geauga County school leader, and my activities related to faith-based organizations, 4-H, and the Geauga County Fair, qualify me as a pretty recognizable figure in our community,” Dr. Markwardt shares.

“I suppose my motivation stems from my belief that my qualifications, experience, and reputation can benefit Kent State Geauga. I was honored to be identified as a potential appointee to the board, and I hope that I can have a positive effect on the future growth of the campus.“  

Brian Bontempo

Brian Bontempo, Ph.D., Superintendent, Auburn Career Center & Ohio Technical College
Dr. Bontempo has been a Geauga County resident or 22 years. He was previously an educator in Lake County for 20 years and knows the business community and elected officials well. He earned his bachelor degree from Ashland University, has two masters degrees from
John Carroll, and earned his Ph.D. from Northcentral University in Arizona.

He expects that he and the other board members “will set new goals and lend our expertise/opportunities where our institutions can partner with industry leaders and the campus community. It has been wise of the university to partner with the local school districts in our midst. Kent State is listening to the K-12 community (Berkshire, West Geauga, Twinsburg), aligning to our educational objectives and meeting workforce needs. I am happy to be a part of it all.”

As for himself, he says, “I have the contacts and ability to make things happen for the betterment of our community, which are mutually beneficial for ACC and Kent State Geauga. It’s incumbent upon my responsibilities as superintendent of Auburn Career Center to advance opportunities for my students in their careers. This is a natural fit to expand that access and provides a great opportunity to do that.” 

Dr. Bontempo says that his school’s existing partnership with Kent State Geauga offers many opportunities for his students to take IT and nursing programs on the Kent-Geauga campus that expand upon their knowledge base. “They can earn college credits at our school that fulfill prerequisites on the Kent State Geauga campus. We have set the table for students to continue along their career path from our programming to a higher-degree program at Kent State.”

The superintendent calls Kent State Geauga “a natural next step for our students. Our partnership creates a set of options and a clear pathway for our students. When life provides those on- and off-ramps, we are there to provide a way forward. Students don’t have to choose one or the other; they can have both technical and academic training to get ahead. Vocational education and traditional college are not mutually exclusive, as many assume. The more we partner together, the better it is for everybody.”

“It’s important that we don’t forget about the value of a highly trained workforce to the community. The more we share our educational resources and support systems, the more we attract business interests and student advancement. It’s the best thing for all of us.”

To read the companion article about new Kent State Regional Academic Center advisory board appointments, visit the article webpage.

POSTED: Monday, September 23, 2019 - 2:40pm
UPDATED: Monday, September 23, 2019 - 4:24pm
Estelle R. Brown