The attention of all Ohioans will be directed on our town in a little more than two weeks when Gov. John Kasich delivers his second State of the State address in the Steubenville High School Auditorium.
Education, the economy and our area's growing shale drilling industry are expected to be among the topics that will be covered Kasich, a Republican who is completing an eventful first year in office, speaks to his cabinet, members of the General Assembly and Supreme Court justices.
The Feb. 7 speech is significant for several reasons. Perhaps most significant, the address will be an opportunity for the governor to recognize the accomplishments of Wells Academy, which has been named the best school in the state.
Wells, which has been housed in the same building as the high school since 2009, is deserving of the honor. It saw 100 percent of its pupils test proficient in reading and math during the 2010-11 school year. The governor pointed out that the pupils benefited from creative uses of technology and distance learning. The academy's 319 pupils were able to accomplish that despite facing socioeconomic hurdles, the governor added.
Success in the classroom is nothing new to Wells pupils. The academy has been named an Ohio School of Promise every year since 2003, earned the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award in 2003-04 and 2004-05 and was one of two Ohio schools to win the National Title I Distinguished School Award in 2009.
Those numbers are a credit to the staff at the academy as well as Principal Joe Nocera and Mike McVey, superintendent of the city school district.
The visit also will give the school the chance to show off the renovation work done in the auditorium. That project, completed in 2010 at a cost of $1.35 million, created a state-of-the-art performance facility.
Kasich also is expected to discuss the economy in general and the state's growing shale drilling industry in his annual speech.
What will be even more significant is that it appears that the Feb. 7 speech will mark the first time in anyone's memory that the State of the State address will be delivered outside of the Statehouse in Columbus, and the first time since 2003 that the General Assembly will convene outside of Columbus. That was a significant event in itself, as the state marked its bicentennial in its first capital, Chillicothe.
While reaction to the announcement that Kasich will be coming to Steubenville has been overwhelmingly positive, we must remember that the State of the State speech is as much a political event as a policy event, which means we can also expect to see Kasich's opponents in town that day. The list will include representatives from the state's public employees unions, who waged a long and bitter fight against the Kasich administration before November's election.
That said, a visit from the governor is always an important event, but the Feb. 7 stop in Steubenville will be even more important than those that have happened here before. It will give Steubenville a chance to shine in the eyes of the rest of the state.