by Jesse Mitchell, staff writer

JANUARY 2022 – The Governing Authority at Bio-Med Science Academy is responsible for the direction and vision of the school. It is made up of seven directors who come from a variety of backgrounds and fields and who serve varying term lengths. The Authority is led by President Dr. Lisa Testa, and Authority Vice President Aaron Kurchev. The Authority meets monthly to discuss school issues and “provide guidance on policy and planning for the academy,” according to Bio-Med’s website. Some of the longest-serving members are Testa and Dr. Annette Kratcoski.

From left to right: Kratcoski’s two children, Dr Annette Kratcoski, and Kratcoski’s husband. Pictured is Kratcoski and her family on a recent trip to New River Gorge National Park. As of last month her and her family visited their 44th national park. Kratcoski enjoys getting to see “a lot of our country, and it’s been really beautiful.” Kratcoski enjoys all opportunities she can spend with her family and her three boys. Image provided by Dr. Annette Kratcoski

Kratcoski is an Authority member and works at Kent State University as the Director of their Research Center for Educational Technology. Kratcoski has a doctoral degree from Kent State in speech-language pathology and curriculum, which led her to become interested in “technology as a way to support various learners and their needs.” This interest is what led her to her job at Kent State’s research center.

Through her work there in 2008, she met biology teacher, Stephanie Lammlein, now Chief Administrative Officer of Bio-Med Science Academy. Lammlein approached Kratcoski a couple of years later about the idea of starting a STEM high school, and Kratcoski became one of the colleagues Lammlein invited to the initial school advisory board that helped create the school. Kratcoski continued to serve on the advisory board when it transitioned to the Authority. She eventually left her position until she was reinvited to reapply in 2018, where she’s stayed at her position on the Governing Authority since.

Lisa Testa is the Bio-Med Governing Authority President, serving alongside Kratcoski. Testa is also a faculty member at Kent State University and is an associate professor in its School of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Studies. Specifically, she works in the Adolescent and Young Adult Education Program, helping to prepare education students for becoming middle and high school teachers. Before working at the university, Testa was a high school English teacher, and a conference and meeting planner for a nonprofit Christian organization.

Testa is from the Akron area and has four children, two of which, Sophia and Annalise, have graduated from Bio-Med. Being a mom of two high-school-aged children drew Testa’s interest towards Bio-Med. Another part of what drew Testa to the school was “project-based problem-based, inquiry-based learning.

“I think there’s a lot of autonomy that is built for students as they have a chance to identify problems, and then begin that investigation on their own,”

“I’m very drawn to being a part of,  supporting [inquiry-based learning],” Testa said. This style of learning was what led her to enroll her children at Bio-Med. Testa had first-hand experience of what it meant to be a parent of students who go to schools with a different style of learning.

Testa went on to say, “So I was very familiar with the school before I sent my daughter there. ” Testa was “really delighted to be a part of [the Authority], because I really do think that this is a better way to educate students.” She agreed to become an Authority member in 2017.

Pictured is Dr. Lisa Testa hiking at Capitol Reef National Park August 2021, an activity she enjoys doing with her husband. Testa enjoys spending time with people saying she likes, “kind of mentoring people or caring for them or teaching.” This is a passion she has taken into her work with her faith community where she is very active and connected to her church. Image provided by Dr. Lisa Testa

Since joining the Governing Authority, Testa became the Authority President within the past year. Dr. Bradley Goodner, the previous president, had planned to step down from his role, and according to Testa, the selection of the new president was “nose goes honestly, there wasn’t a lot to it. [It] made sense for me to step into this role because of my availability.”

As president of Bio-Med Science Academy’s Governing Authority, Testa has many responsibilities that she is required to perform. Testa highlighted that all members are asked to come to monthly meetings. At those meetings, members deliberate and provide feedback and recommendations for the Bio-Med district as a whole. Some of the Authority’s duties, Testa said, include “discussing matters that are important for the ongoing success, financially or employment-wise, of the school.” Ultimately, the position of the Governing Authority is to provide feedback and offer the experience of the Authority members to Bio-Med leadership.

For Kratcoski, as a general director of the Authority, her duties are similar to those of Testa. However, one of the personal responsibilities Kratcoski has given herself as an Authority member has been, “to advise and to support.” She likes to be an “active partner to support the teachers,” and find opportunities where she can share insight and expertise with teachers and staff at Bio-Med.  

One of Kratcoski’s other personal duties is to help teachers make connections. Given her role at the university, she has the ability to meet a lot of different administrators and teachers from other districts, and she likes to connect people through common interests, goals, and needs.  Kratcoski does this because she believes “[people in the education field] can all work purposefully towards improving teaching and learning for kids everywhere.”

For Testa, her personal goals for Bio-Med have come from a new assignment within the Governing Authority that resulted from a shift in the way work was divided up. Within the past year, the Governing Authority, changed the way it operates by introducing subcommittees to “address the major goals and mission and vision for Bio-Med,” said Kratcoski. The newly created subcommittees comprised of parents of Bio-Med students, teachers, school administrators, and Authority members. They are designed to utilize these members and their expertise to provide insight for the Authority.

The different subcommittees include Strategic Plan and Development, Finances and Audit, and Outreach and Engagement that both Kratcoski and Testa serve on. The two work with schools and nonprofit organizations as part of their jobs at Kent State University. “We both have some connections to the area that we can help leverage in that discussion about outreach,” Testa said. “We’re tapped, just depending on what the need is that arises,” she continued, which was a sentiment shared by Kratcoski.

Kratcoski enjoys the implementation of subcommittees, saying, “I’m really, really pleased and honored to be serving on that committee.” She has particularly enjoyed the shift towards subcommittees because she hasn’t had the ability to work firsthand with parents before, which has given insight into the work the Authority is doing.

As a part of the Authority’s subcommittee for Engagement and Outreach, Kratcoski and Testa have been able to help develop plans and create events for not only Bio-Med’s community, but also the surrounding community. The committee planned to host summer camps, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, as one of its ways to show the community “some really innovative things going on at Bio-Med, with teachers in their classrooms in terms of what they’re doing with coding, programming, design thinking, inquiry, robotics, and hands on kind of learning,” Kratcoski stated.

The camps would be run by Bio-Med and offer opportunities for students and children not enrolled in the academy to participate in different kinds of learning Bio-Med specializes in. Kratcoski hoped these summer camps would start in the summer of 2022, but the situation is dependent on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another important aspect of the camps would be partnering with teachers from other districts to create “a very meaningful way to collaborate and engage with some of our other districts,” explainedKratcoski. Testa was also excited about the potential for partnerships that could help the academy achieve more endorsements and support in general and for its summer programs.

Another project the Engagement and Outreach Subcommittee has been working on was the idea of developing after-school programs. After-school programs created by the committee would provide “more opportunities to explore, like maybe robotics, or maybe something more with arts or music,” Kratcoski said. The program was going to be rolled out this spring, but due to staff shortages and the current pandemic, the after-school programs have been potentially delayed to late fall of 2022. She is excited about this delay because she wants to “be able to do it right,” she said. She believes this to be a “wonderful opportunity for the students enrolled in our academy, particularly giving them an opportunity to explore some of their interests and passions that maybe they don’t necessarily get to explore during the school day or they’ve explored a bit.”

Testa and other Authority members have ambitious plans for the academy, including expanding its size and impact. Trying to “replicate the school, that’s been something we’ve talked about at our Authority meetings over the years that we could create a brand that then is, you know, almost like franchised,” said Testa. Testa sounded excited to hopefully get Bio-Med into a franchisable model where the work being done at Bio-Med could be replicated in other schools. This is an opportunity Kratcoski is excited about to “explore some ways of approaching teaching and learning that we haven’t done here.”  Testa believes the education happening at Bio-Med with inquiry models and competency-based learning could be “powerful” for the world of education. Kratcoski sees Bio-Med as a testing ground for a new learning system that could be “scalable for other schools, whether they’re a tiny little private faith-based school, or a large school district.”

For Testa, one of the many ways she has been able to help Bio-Med outside of direct subcommittee assignments has been through the work she does at Kent State. Testa helps coordinate a program that prepares teachers in their Master of Arts Teaching program. “Often, a lot of my former students are [Bio-Med] teachers, you know, so it helps to have a bit of a connection to the university,” said Testa. Her connections to her former students have helped her to connect with staff members, having known them and their teaching style from when they were at Kent State.

Kratcoski and Testa both plan to remain committed members of Bio-Med’s Governing Authority. “I’ll always be connected in some way to Bio-Med,” Kratcoski said, which is a view and opinion that Testa holds as well, since she first fell in love with the work Bio-Med is doing. Both are passionate and excited about what the future holds for the academy.

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