By Dedra Cordle
The South-Western City Schools community is mourning the loss of a ‘champion for students.’
Late last month, the family of board of education member Robert Ragland Sr. announced that he had passed away on Dec. 23. He was currently serving as the vice-president of the board.
While Ragland had only been a member of the board for a handful of years, his involvement and impact on the community goes back decades.
As told to The Columbus Messenger in 2016 by Ragland, he wanted to take a more active approach within the school community when he, his wife Sheila, and their young son Robert Jr. moved into the district in the 1990s.
He thought the best way to play a role within the community at the time was by joining the Parent Teacher Association.
As his son moved throughout his school graduation path, so too did Ragland but on the PTA side of things. Over the course of 14 years, he served as treasurer of the West Franklin Elementary PTA, a council delegate for the Franklin Woods Intermediate PTA, the president of the Franklin Heights High School PTA, and the district’s PTA Council.
Ragland was also known to serve as a willing chaperone for many camping trips, provide piano instruction at Franklin Woods Intermediate, and be a cheerleader for music and the arts though work as a band booster at Franklin Heights and a chair on the Reflections committee.
Upon his son’s graduation, Ragland moved onto other volunteering avenues, serving on the Community Advisory Group and the Ohio Graduation Test Range Finding Committee. The latter group provided input to the district administration from a community perspective.
Ragland said he was content in these roles as a part of “the other side of the board,” but wanted a different challenge when it came to making an impact on students, the schools, and the community.
In 2013, he ran for the seat on the board of education but withdrew his name before Election Day.
Still, interest lingered and he submitted a resume when he heard there was a vacant seat on the board in late 2016. He was appointed to the position on Aug. 22, 2016, and he was re-elected by voters twice.
Cathy Johnson was on the board when Ragland was initially selected to serve. She said they believed his personality, his knowledge of the community, and his commitment to improving the lives of students in the district would be a boon for the board.
She said he proved them right.
“Robert W. Ragland Sr. brought a unique perspective to the South-Western City School District board,” she wrote in a statement after his death. “He was the consummate team player.
“Mr. Ragland exemplified what a servant leader should be. It was always about what was best for the students in the district. He was humble, so few knew what all he did for us during the more than 30 years he was part of the SWCSD family.”
She said this ‘champion for students’ will be sorely missed.
The board is currently reviewing applications for the vacant seat. The district plans to vote on a replacement at a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 12 at the District Service Center on Marlane Drive in Grove City.
The newly-appointed board member will serve until Dec. 31, 2023.