The West Geauga Local Board of Education is looking to improve their transparency rating by implementing “best practices” through the Ohio State Auditor.

Treasurer Karen Penler presented the auditor’s Star Rating System, or StaRS Best Practices, which monitors transparency of public governing entities, such as school boards.

StaRS includes seven practices suggested by the auditor that are not already required by the Ohio Sunshine Law, Mrs. Penler explained. She said the practices include having a method to track public records requests, having standardized public request forms for both requesters and staff, providing acknowledgement of requests received, publishing the name and contact information of a records custodian, completing required training for public records in the first year of an elected term, having an online presence for the public office with agendas, policies and schedules available for viewing and having an online presence for the public office with official documents, like budgets or salaries, available for viewing.

Mrs. Penler said that the district is looking to achieve a four-star rating under StaRS, which requires five or more of the practices to be put in place.

She explained that the district already has a few of the practices in place, such as being Sunshine Law compliant, tracking requests, acknowledgement and having agendas, schedules and policies available online through BoardDocs.

By having three best practices in addition to being Sunshine Law compliant, the district would have a three-star rating, according to the Ohio State Auditor’s rating system.

A one-star rating means a public entity just meets all Sunshine Law requirements, a two-star rating includes one or two best practices in place, a three-star rating includes three or four practices in place and a four-star rating, which is the highest rating under StaRS, requires five or more practices.

“In order to get a four-star rating,” Mrs. Penler said, “we have a couple things that we have to put in place.”

She said that steps to achieve the four-star rating for the district will include improving their website, more frequent public records training, implementing a standardized process for submitting and receiving public records requests and updating board policy.

She said updating the website to have access to the form and adding two board policies that identify her as the public records request official are expected to be done this month. She said she will complete the board’s public records training in April, and as the public records official for the district, she will have to complete the training every year.

In other school news, the West G district accepted the donation of four LIFEPAK CR2 automatic electric defibrillators, or AEDs, from University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center, valued at $15,200.

Jim Kish, director of public relations and development, explained that the district is among the first groups to receive the CR2 AEDs. He said upon opening, the AED automatically connects to WiFi and contacts 911.

“So it takes one of the steps out of the emergency procedures and does it for us,” Mr. Kish said.

Dr. Don DeCarlo, president of UH Geauga Medical Center, said AEDs are “very important to have on your property and close to where you may have large gatherings.

“A majority of the people that go into cardiac arrest, if they’re not resuscitated effectively within the first 10 minutes, the chance of survival approaches zero,” Dr. DeCarlo said.

Mr. Kish explained that the AEDs will be placed outside both athletic areas of the high school and middle school, and the other two will be placed in other yet-to-be determined “high-visibility” areas in the district upon determining where there is a greater need for them.

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