Governor Strickland recommended labor-management liaison, Richard Murray, as the replacement for former Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) Director Michael Shoemaker and the OSFC accepted the recommendation Thursday on a 3-0 vote.
Since 1996, Murray has led the Ohio Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET), a collaboration of the Ohio Contractors Association and the Laborers’ District Council of Ohio, a construction union of 15,000 members. “Because the quality of our classrooms will determine the quality of jobs and capital investments in Ohio, the state is committed to providing the best possible facilities for our students. I am confident that Rich will lead the way in providing strong and effective management of the Ohio School Facilities Commission,” Strickland said in a separate statement. “Rich recognizes that quality construction is critical for effective, safe learning environments for our students. His ability to handle complex labor and management issues and his background in the public and private sectors will be valuable experience as he takes on this new role.” In his other public capacities, Murray serves as mayor of Marble Cliff in Franklin County. Before arriving at LECET, he was an independent consultant to environmental firms and underground storage tank owners on tank clean-up and claims, as well as the executive director of the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Board. He also served as assistant to former Gov. Dick Celeste and legislative director for the Ohio Contractors Association. “Our public schools are perhaps the most important buildings in our state and must be constructed by the highest standards,” Murray said. “I look forward to utilizing my years of experience in construction and bringing labor and management together to construct modern, energy-efficient schools that are conducive to the needs of the state’s evidence-based education reforms.” Securitization of Ohio’s tobacco settlement will accelerate school construction with $4.1 billion and an estimated 250 campuses certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in the next two years. OSFC Chairwoman J. Pari Sabety, state budget director, highlighted the importance of that goal in remarks following Murray’s election. “Ohio has more schools scheduled for the program than any other state on the list,” she noted, giving him marching orders in his first commission resolution, “Directing the Executive Director to Make Recommendations to the Commission on Building Quality 21st Century Learning Environments.” The resolution assigns Murray the task of providing OSFC recommendations in four policy areas: 1) “A clear definition of a 21st century physical learning environment and the development of a strategic plan to achieve the building of 21st century learning environments.”
2) “Quality construction practices and sustainable funding” after tobacco proceeds are exhausted. 3) “Effective community partnerships….to promote co-location, collaborative services and joint-use agreements between schools and community partners, or collaboration between school districts and/or community schools.”
4) “Strategic alignment of the commission programs and design manual to support the education reforms adopted in HB1” – specifically – “how to better align 21st century educational and facilities needs with the education reform components.” Sabety said Murray could establish work groups for each of the four policy areas with a “broad range of stakeholders involved in school construction.” She was asked after the meeting whether Murray can mend some of the distrust between stakeholders who emphasize quality school construction and those who emphasize cost-effective school construction. Sabety pointed to his “extensive background in labor-management cooperation.” “This is a guy who knows how to traverse that dialogue and earn respect from both sides of the aisle,” she said.