Earth to Debe Terhar: Step Down as State Board of Education President

I’ve sent this letter or a very near version of it to every member of the State Board of Education of Ohio, to Governor Kasich and to State Senator Lehner and State Rep. Stebelton who are Ex Officio members of the state board. I’ve had phone calls with both Mary Rose Oakar and with Ann Jacobs, both board members (Mary Rose is my state rep for the board and originally I only sent the letter to her). I’ve received a more or less pro forma email from Ms. Terhar stating that there’s not enough time to give notice for a special meeting so she says that she will speak on February 11. I wrote her back to assure her that she has a right to speak before that if she wanted to tell us she’s stepping aside as the board president and going for sensitivity training and social media bootcamp, rather than hide behind a rule. No meeting of the board is needed for her to announce a decision. Maybe for a vote on it, maybe, but certainly not if she wants to tell us all about it. In any case, my letter pretty much says it all. Also, if you are able, the next regular meeting is Monday, February 11 at 8:30am. It is a public meeting – please try to attend. They’re at the School for the Deaf in Columbus, 500 Morse Road.

Dear Board Member Oakar,

My name is Jill Miller Zimon and I’m a resident of Pepper Pike and therefore in your School Board district. My three children have attended the Orange schools, and two are still there (oldest is now in college). I’ve been dedicated to public education my entire life and find wholly unsatisfactory Ms. Terhar’s inability to comprehend that her actions this week have been inappropriate, offensive, inaccurate and unworthy of someone whom you and your colleagues have placed in the position as the nominal and actual leader of our state’s top public body related to the education of millions of Ohio children.

I realize that unless you were absent, you must have voted to affirm Ms. Terhar’s place as president of the Board (my understanding is she was re-elected to being president unanimously), but clearly the Board must possess better alternatives among the remaining 17 of you (I note that there is one at-large vacancy at this time).  For if there is not a better option at this time than Ms. Terhar, we should all be questioning the fate of our state’s education system. I am asking you to do everything within your power to remove Ms. Terhar as president of the Board and install a member who can appreciate the wholly inappropriate actions and reactions of Ms. Terhar.

In addition, I would urge that the following steps also be taken:

1. Social media policy for the Board members be reviewed, modified and adopted as necessary.
2. Social media training for the Board members be designed, implemented and required for all Board members.
3. Sensitivity training be procured and implemented with all the Board members. Facing History and Ourselves is an outstanding, award-winning program that could be contacted, but groups like the Anti-Defamation League as well as the NAACP and I’m certain many others (we have the Diversity Center here in Cleveland) could also handle such an assignment.

Ms. Oakar, in addition to being a parent of children in the Ohio public schools, I’ve also been a lawyer and social worker. I just began my second term as a board member of the American Jewish Committee and was recently nominated to serve on the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Additionally, I’m in elected office – I have been a City Council member in Pepper Pike since 2010. I understand what it is to be engaging with the public online and off, and I also understand how online content works, in terms of how that interacts with my being an elected official, regardless of what my opinion may be about what should be and ends up not being “public” or “private” information. I have been blogging since 2005 and have kept a blog specifically about my city council work since 2010. I am fully aware of the pros and cons of online communication.

Let me clearly state that I am not, under any circumstances, speaking for any of the entities I’ve just named and that have honored me with the privilege of being involved. I am, however, writing to you as an Ohio taxpayer, voter and parent who cares very, very deeply about the state of our state’s public education system, from top to bottom.  I want to see Ms. Terhar removed as president of the Board and I want to see her demonstrate a conscientious and sincere regret, not for sharing a photo she shouldn’t have shared because it could be seen that she shared it. I want her to demonstrate a conscientious and sincere regret because 1) the information was wrong, 2) the information was inflammatory in the worst ways possible and 3) she has utterly failed to recognize her extreme lack of judgment in all these actions, especially as someone in the field of education, let alone at the top of the pyramid for our state’s public education system, by using a photo of Hitler and an inaccurate quote attributed to him to, as she claims, get people thinking about history and the 2nd Amendment, and not, as she denies, suggest a comparison between Hitler and President Obama.  There should be a zero-tolerance for educators, of all people, to be using such provocative and inaccurate memes as a way to provoke thought and it certainly does not reflect the kind of thinking I want going into the making of our children’s public education system.

I look forward to hearing how you progress in this effort and I thank you for your service now and in the past.


Jill Miller Zimon

2 thoughts on “Earth to Debe Terhar: Step Down as State Board of Education President

  1. Thanks Susan. I know many Ohioans are incredibly upset about this situation and I’m sorry that Ms Terhar refuses to see the role she’s playing in it.

  2. Thank you Jill. I hope all Board members take the time to read your letter. To Ms. Terhar, if you do not subscribe to the content or theme of something you’ve received, then DON’T re-post it!

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