Superintendent Paolo DeMaria of the Ohio Department of Education speaks at last wee’s summit on the state’s initiative “each child, our future.”

CIRCLEVILLE — Around 100 educators from Pickaway County and surrounding communities visited Ohio Christian University last week to attend an education summit organized by the university

The event brought in leaders in education, mental health and other fields tied to the development and education of children. Ohio Department of Education Superintendent Paolo DeMaria was among those that spoke at the all-day event.

Valarie Jones, teacher education department chair at Ohio Christian, felt the event went really well for their first time.

“I would have loved to see more people attend, but when you start something you have to start somewhere,” Jones said. “Our students got to be a part of it and network. They heard from the state superintendent on campus about what the state is thinking in education. It was a great opportunity for them to see that. It was a really good day.

The focus of the summit, according to Jones, was social emotional learning, something the Ohio Department of Education has included in the state education plan.

“It’s in response to the opiate crisis, mental health crisis and poverty crisis,” Jones said. “We’ve got these kids and young adults that have seen a lot of trauma. We’re seeing what we as educators can do to help them be successful in the classroom. They’re experiencing all these things and we just need to teach the students what we know to be productive members of society and make sure they have their base needs met, that they’re fed, warm, and clothed.”

Jones said discussions took place during the event on the future of education and what it could look like.

“There was a panel on House Bill 305, which is a plan to finally fix the school funding issue in Ohio,” she said. “Overall, it was really just about here is where we are, where do we go from here and what we can do to support our educators in the classroom.”

Jones hopes that her department and OCU as a whole can help facilitate more cooperation, especially among educators and other fields like mental health.

“We’re all going to have to work together,” Jones said. “Governor [Mike] DeWine has released a lot of money to help schools. I think teachers will feel a lot of support now and we can use that to work as a team.”

Jones would like to see the summit become an annual event.

“One of my goals for this was to be part of the Circleville and Pickaway County communities,” she said. “I want us to be a partner with all the groups in the area and in turn have them partner with us. I want people to know that we’re here and we want to be a major part of this community and help in any way we can be a resource.”

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