by John Depoy, Governing Board Member
Educational Service Centers (ESCs) have been making a difference in Ohio’s schools for the past 95 years. ESCs were established in 1914 through an act of the Ohio General Assembly. The law created 88 “County School Districts” and charged them with the task of “elevating the state’s system of education to a proper standard.” This effort entailed county office staff members drafting courses of study for school systems, providing in-service training for teachers, and assuring quality classroom instruction through supervision and evaluation.
The role of the county offices of education evolved and expanded over the next several decades. In the 1930s, they began assisting districts with fiscal and purchasing services; later in the 1960s, their responsibilities expanded again as they began operating special education programs and increased professional development and technical assistance for schools.
In 1995 Am. Sub. H.B. 117 changed the role of the “County School Districts” by redefining their responsibilities and renaming them “Educational Service Centers” - a statutory name change intended to reflect the evolving nature of ESC programs and services. The law also required ESCs serving only one local district to merge by July 1, 1997, and that all ESCs with an average daily membership (ADM) of less than 8,000 students merge by July 1, 1999. Both the Athens and the Meigs County Boards met with surrounding county boards to discuss merging. It was soon discovered that Athens and Meigs had the most in common. Both Boards voted to merge to create the Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center (ESC).
The first Governing Board of the Athens-Meigs ESC was comprised of ten (10) members, which were the existing five (5) from each county board. With the resulting mergers, two types of ESC governing boards emerged:
1) Five-member boards as defined under section 3313.01 of the Ohio Revised Code; and
2) Governing boards exceeding 5 members who govern multi-county ESCs resulting from mergers.
When the Athens and Meigs County Boards merged, each county had three (3) local school districts, so it was decided that the voters of each district would elect a member to serve on the new board. The need for an off number of members substantiated that an at-large member would be elected by all voters.
The new seven (7) member board was seated in January of 2000. The first superintendent of this board was Dr. John Costanzo. He served until his retirement in 2011.
In 2002, the Meigs-Gallia Head Start was up for bid. The board applied and was awarded the grant - Heart of the Valley Head Start. In 2007, the Ohio Department of Education State Support Team grant became available. After the board applied, ODE awarded the grant which covers eight (8) counties in Southeastern Ohio, to the Athens-Meigs ESC.
In 2010, Southern Local School District in Perry County requested to become a member district of the Athens-Meigs ESC. After several meetings, all agreed that Southern should become a member. In 2011, a new governing board seat was created for a member to represent Southern, thus creating an eight (8) member board. An odd number of members was needed, so another at-large seat was created. The new nine (9) member board hired Mr. Ricky Edwards as its new superintendent.
In 2019, Mr. Edwards resigned, and Mrs. Heather Wolfe was hired as the current superintendent of the Athens-Meigs ESC.