Two things happened last week that could be perceived as polar opposites and yet illustrate to me the diversity of Worthington Schools. The first happened in my own house:
Early last week my fourth grade daughter was making her lunch in the kitchen before school. I was in the kitchen making my morning oatmeal and I heard her say, “I’m going to write myself a note.” Her words didn’t register to me at the time and I went about my day. Later that day I received a text from the school principal who found it hilarious that my daughter wrote herself a note and put it in her lunch box. The note said, “Dear Riley, I love you, remember to be kind. – Riley”
When our kids were younger my wife would often write them a note and put it in their lunch. We’re now trying to help our children be more independent and one of the ways is by allowing them to make their own lunch. Thus, no more notes. When my daughter got home from school I casually asked her about the note she wrote. She said very matter-of-factly, “Dad, everyone’s parents write them notes in their lunch.” Everyone does? Really? After I recovered from the idea that we’re the slacker parents in the school, I thought about how lucky some of the kids are that attend our schools. They obviously have very engaged parents.
On Friday of last week I was able to participate in a poverty simulation with around 50 other Worthington administrators, support staff, and community partners. While our students and teachers were off school we had a full day of professional development for our district support staff. SON Ministries from Hilliard ran the poverty simulation which was a unique, enlightening experience that was designed to help individuals begin to understand what life is like with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress. It’s designed to move people to think about the harsh realities of poverty and to talk about how communities can address the problem collectively.
Poverty is moving to the suburbs and Worthington is not immune to this phenomenon. 29% of Worthington students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. Certainly not all of those families live in actual poverty, but we estimate that 10% of Worthington students, almost 1,000 kids, live in poverty. Economically disadvantaged students have a very difficult time with succeeding in school and the lives of our poor students are often very different from those of their more affluent peers.
In Worthington Schools we have students whose parents put notes in their lunch each day (we have one student whose parents don’t, but she writes her own notes) and we have students who struggle everyday to focus while at school because their basic needs are not being met consistently. In a small way I was able to see both just last week. As a school district it’s our job to help every one of these students learn and grow no matter what their situation. We’re working hard to make that happen.
- Trent Bowers, Superintendent