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Science school picks first director

A local farmer-turned-educator will be the founding director of the new Springfield-based agricultural science school.

The Global Impact STEM Academy Governing Board on Tuesday unanimously approved hiring Joshua Jennings, 34, as the school’s first permanent director.

Proposed by Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, the academy will be the first industry-focused regional science, technology, engineering and math school in the state. It is slated to open in August at Clark State Community College’s Leffel Lane campus and later relocate to South High School.

Jennings, a Clark County native, is a graduate of the Ohio State University with a degree in agriculture. After college, he returned home and worked in agriculture, farming the more than 200 acres he owns with his wife and working at another local farm.

He started his career in education at Northeastern Local Schools, where he taught agriculture and advised the FFA. He is currently the director of career technical education at the Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center.

“The ag-bioscience and the food science, that was right in my wheelhouse, so it was kind of just a perfect fit,” Jennings said.

Jennings said he was attracted to the position because of the challenge of building something from the ground up.

Jennings will finish out the year at the CTC and will work as a consultant with Interim Director Carl Berg until he takes over July 1. Jennings will be paid $94,000 a year.

Backers say the STEM school is not only an educational opportunity but a workforce development tool that will fulfill job needs for one of Ohio’s largest industries. Agriculture accounts for one in seven Ohio jobs, according to Widener.

“(Jennings) understands the tie-in between education and workforce development. He gets it,” said Berg. “You don’t have to explain it to him, he gets it. He understands there’s a real linkage between providing and helping kids get a good education and what that means to them in their livelihood.”

Jennings’ experiences in education and the agriculture industry will be an asset to the school, said board Chair Ed Leventhal.

“I think he brings a lot of those things together in terms of agriculture, business, education, good experience, and I believe is passionate about the mission for the agricultural STEM (education),” said Leventhal.

Jennings said his family has a long-established history in education in Clark County. He and his wife own the family farm and his great-grandfather was a member of A.B. Graham’s first 4-H club in 1902, which Widener has previously compared to the STEM school.

“Some of the experiences and successes he had he attributed to … being a part of that (club),” said Jennings. “What I hope is that this endeavor here has the potential to be just as important in the future.”

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