No greater stakes: Eric Coble and the board of education
The quiet buzz of voices fills the room at the conclusion of the Oct. 4 meeting of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education. As people slowly begin to filter out, board president Eric Coble remains, laughing and talking with other board members and various community members in attendance.
Coble, 43, is running for re-election this fall after four years on the board. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Fort Lewis College in Colorado and a master of fine arts in acting from Ohio State. He currently works as a playwright and screenwriter.
In an interview, Coble said he joined the board hoping to help ease some of the tension between the community and the board, and promising to be accountable for his actions. Overall, he said he feels that the community and the board have reached a point of mutual understanding, and the board generally holds the community’s support.
His actions, and those of the board, have largely been focused on managing the district financially against enormous challenges. Over the past four years the budget has been cut by more than $6 million, yet major improvements have still occurred in schools district-wide.
These improvements encompass a multitude of areas within the schools. The school day has been lengthened, time spent on Math and English has been doubled, literacy has been emphasized, especially in kindergarten through fourth grade, and new technology has been integrated into the classroom.
One of the most overt uses of technology in the district is the laptop program. Every student in sixth through 12th grade is given a laptop to use throughout the school year. The laptop program has been especially beneficial to students – the quality of their work has improved and they are more engaged, Coble said.
All of these changes are helping Coble realize his dream for the district – “if we could just reach every student,” he said.
The board, under Coble’s leadership, is doing better in statewide rankings. This year three of the board’s thirteen schools have been ranked effective, and “the high school only missed being rated excellent by two points.” Two years ago, only one was rated effective.
Coble said he wants to make sure that the schools continue to perform well without falling victim to outside influences, specifically the budget.
For Coble personally, his daughter, who attends school within the district, is included among the potential influences. He says he votes for what is best for the district, keeping the extra information he has as a parent of a student in mind, but not allowing it to sway his decisions.
While balancing the responsibilities of being the president of the board and a parent, Coble has managed to achieve a good reputation within the board, according to vice president Ronald Register.
“Eric tries to reach consensus on important issues facing the Board of Education. If consensus is not forthcoming he makes it clear where he stands. This approach has gained him respect from other members,” says Register. “The best thing about working with Eric is that he seeks to understand all points of view.”
The respect of his peers is one of the benefits of being a member of the board. And there are others, Coble explains. “It’s incredibly rewarding. There are no stakes greater than the children of this community.”
Robin Weaver is a student at John Carroll University who is following this candidate for her journalism class.