What Are You Reading?

FullSizeRender (24)I recently purchased several books that I intend to read before the end of this school year, or maybe before the end of the fiscal year, or at least before school begins again in August….

The first book I’ll begin is Warren Berger’s “A More Beautiful Question.”  Warren was a featured speaker at the Columbus Museum of Art’s Creativity Summit and the museum’s Cindy Foley recommended that I read this book about sparking ideas and leading with questions.  I’m looking forward to it.

In addition I purchased Ed Boland’s “The Battle for Room 314, My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School” and, Amy Morin’s “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.”  The first book I read the review in the NY Times and determined it may provide some nuggets on the teacher experience.  The second book was recommended by my friend Jake Guthrie and I felt I could use some guidance in this area.  

Purchasing the books made me take stock of what I’ve read thus far this school year.  I love lists of recommended books and I when I go to the Old Worthington Library one of my first stops is at the recommendations of the librarians.

Three books more than any other I have read this year have influenced my thinking on the future of education.  They are Tony Wagner’s “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Creating Innovators” and Ken Robinson’s “Creative Schools.”  These books all describe in detail the creative skills that will be necessary for students to succeed in the 21st century and ways in which schools need to shift to meet these new challenges.  If you are interested in the future of education and only have time to read one book I do highly recommend “Most Likely to Succeed.”

In addition I read Dale Russakoff’s book “The Prize, Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?”  Russakoff spends a year imbedded in Newark City Schools as they attempt to implement reforms with the help of a 100 Million dollar donation from Facebook.  This is an interesting and balanced look at the school reform movement.

In an attempt to improve my leadership skills this year I’ve read Peter Drucker’s “The Effective Executive” and Urban Meyer’s “Above the Line.”  These are very different books but each provided some useful tools on leadership.

All of my reading is not work related.  Throughout this school year I did read for pleasure as well.  I’ve read Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat” which is just one of those great books along the lines of “Unbroken.”  

I read Jeff Shaara’s “A Fateful Lightning” which is the final book in a four-book series about the western front of the Civil War.  Over the years I’ve read every book Shaara has written.

I recently finished reading Paul Stutzman’s “Hiking Through” about a man who quits his job to hike the Appalachian Trail and Bill Hancock’s “Riding with the Blue Moth” about a man who bicycles across the United States. (Don’t draw any inferences here, but it has been a long school year.)

As baseball season began last month I read John Feinstein’s “Where Nobody Knows Your Name” about life in the baseball minor leagues.  I’ve been reading all of Feinstein’s books ever since he published “A Season on the Brink” back in 1987.

As a dad of a middle school daughter I’m working through the John Green books.  Recently I read “An Abundance of Katherine’s” and “Looking for Alaska”.  I personally think John Green is a literary genius and enjoy his characters.

Finally I’m working through John Stanford’s Prey series in order.  I recently read “Easy Prey” and “Chosen Prey”  which are books 11 and 12 in a 26 book series.  These books are classic murder fiction.  Not a lot of redeeming value but I like Lucas Davenport.

What are you reading?

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

FullSizeRender (8)Saturday evening my whole family had the opportunity to see the Worthington Kilbourne High School Theatre production of Mary Poppins.  Wow! Seriously, just Wow!  Our high school theatre production had Emily Dyer as Mary Poppins literally flying through the theatre air.  The orchestra music was phenomenal.  The talent that our students displayed, the dedication and commitment that is required to put on a show of this magnitude by the cast, crew and leadership.  It was awesome!  It was one of those nights where I sit back and am thankful that I am able to be part of a school district that can provide these opportunities for students and I also sit back and marvel at the talent of our students.  

Harvard professor Tony Wagner recently said that “The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you do with what you know.”  The Theatre provides students an opportunity to perform and show what they know and can do.  It’s a great training ground for life in the 21st century.  Knowledge is less important today than ever because knowledge is so readily available.  Instead, what a person can do with their knowledge is critical.  Performing creates the necessary confidence and the incredible amount of practice necessary to put on a show helps build grit and perseverance.  

In Worthington we want our students to have opportunities to perform and to learn the skills that performances teach best.  Last week Worthington Estates Elementary put on their 6th grade production of “The Emperor’s New Robe” several weeks back Liberty Elementary performed “The Drum” and Brookside performed “The Lion King.” This week, McCord will perform “The Sound of Music” at Kilbourne Middle School, in two weeks Worthingway does “The Music Man” in the Bronwynn Hopton theatre at the McConnell Arts Center.  Soon Colonial Hills will perform “Charlie in the Chocolate Factory”.  We value these opportunities for student learning and see them as more than an extra.  They are a critical part of what makes a Worthington education.

If you didn’t get to see Mary Poppins this weekend you can still see some excellent theatre.  Worthingway’s production can be found here and you can still see a show at both TWHS and WKHS.  

Don’t miss these shows they’ll be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Questions and Answers

FAQExcellent schools mean a lot to this community. That’s why many of us chose to live and raise our families here. I feel blessed to live in such a vibrant, passionate and supportive community.

Our community has high standards and expectations in education and in operations.  We do, too. That is why we examine our operations on a continuing basis to make sure we are meeting the standards our community has come to expect. Our goal is to make sure we remain on a path of excellent schools at a good value for taxpayers.

In doing our research and planning for the future, we discovered that there are some challenges on the horizon – some of them immediate while others more long-term. One involves our increasing student enrollment and the other planning for the future of our school buildings.

If you read the local newspaper, attend a school board meeting, or follow local social media boards, there has been a lot of conversation about what our school district is doing to address these challenges.

Unfortunately, there are rarely perfect solutions to many of the challenges we face as an organization. We sincerely want to do what’s best for all of our kids and with the least disruption to their educational experience.  It’s a responsibility that we do not take lightly.

I also feel it is important that we keep open, continuous and transparent conversations going with our community about these topics and more. I want to share with you some of the top questions I am receiving and the answers that can help keep you informed on the state of our schools.

I’ve heard Worthington Schools’ enrollment is growing. What does that mean for my child’s school?

A recent enrollment study completed by Future Think projects that the school district will see steady growth from 2015 – 2024 and will increase in student population by 650 more students during that time. Houses are turning over and there is significant reinvestment in the community.  This means more students to educate in Worthington!

However, where the growth is happening impacts our neighborhoods and schools differently. It requires the school district to take immediate actions for some of our school buildings for next school year, while others will require additional planning for the future.

I’ve heard that Evening Street, Colonial Hills and Worthington Estates will have capacity problems next year. Is that true?

Evening Street has exceeded capacity even with the use of two classrooms at the McConnell Arts Center.  Next year, Evening Street will become a K-5 school and the 6th grade will be served at Kilbourne Middle School.  Worthington Estates Elementary needs one additional 6th grade classroom for next year.  With no open classrooms in the school we have decided to relocate a district special education unit to Worthington Park Elementary.  This move will provide the needed classroom space for next year.  Colonial Hills has no excess space.  We are monitoring enrollment very closely but believe they will have the necessary classroom space for next year.

What about redistricting?

Our school communities have developed a significant loyalty to their schools thus no one wants to leave the school they attend.  At this time there are no immediate plans for redistricting.  We plan to have further conversations and survey our community to gather additional feedback on this topic before determining if this option should be considered.

Does the district have a long-term plan to deal with growing enrollment?

We will be developing a plan to guide the school district as we face current and expected growth in pockets. This growth comes after many years, 1998-2011, of enrollment decline where we needed to shift the way in which many of our buildings were used.

What do we know about the state of our school facilities?

In 2011 Worthington developed a 25-year capital improvement plan for facility maintenance.  This plan would maintain our current facilities for their current purposes and be funded through bond issues every five years.

In Worthington, our newest school building is 25 years old.  Several of our schools are 50 years old and were not built with today’s learning in mind. In the fall of 2015, a study was completed by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which looked at the useful life span and the educational environments for each of the district’s schools. What we found is that some of our buildings are in great shape and are in need of some minor maintenance, while others could use extensive renovation or even replacement.

Before any decision is made about the future of our school buildings, we must engage our community in all options through a master facilities planning process.

How can I be involved in the master facilities planning process for the future?

We’re currently working to create a process for master facility and enrollment planning.  I plan to present that process to the board of education before the end of this school year and to begin engaging our community as we enter into summer.  You’ll hear more about this plan in the coming months.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Most Likely to Succeed

20%It’s said that children may only be 20 percent of the population, but they are 100 percent of the future.  With that in mind, it’s critical that as a society we’re doing everything possible to prepare our students for that future.  I believe everyone agrees with these sentiments but there is not universal agreement on “how” we should be getting there.

Current standards based education policy and the accompanying testing of students in grades 3-8 every year was based in the No Child Left Behind Act.  Last year’s rewrite of the bill the Every Student Succeeds Act will provide more flexibility for states but will keep the foundational items in No Child Left Behind in-tact.  Current legislation provides one version of the “how” we will best prepare our students.  But there are other options and Tony Wagner continues to challenge the status quo on these options.

For a long time I’ve been a fan of the work of Tony Wagner. Tony serves as an Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab and as a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute. His books include Most Likely To Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for The Innovation Era, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World, and The Global Achievement Gap are must reads for anyone who is willing to think deeply about our model of education in the United States.

Partnering with venture capitalist, Ted Dintersmith, they created a documentary that advocates for the change they believe should happen in education.  This Friday, (April 8th) the Columbus Museum of Art will show this documentary,  Most Likely to Succeed, A Film About What School Could Be.

In a brief visual history of the last 124 years, the film outlines how the Committee of 10, based on the Prussian model, adopted courses, subjects and age cohorts. For decades this factory model prepared an adequate number of workers for the economy.

With stubbornly high levels of young adult unemployment and underemployment, the film explores the broken bargain that diplomas equal employability. They outline their core premise that “Enduring school to get a job may not be true anymore.”

Quietly railing against conventional wisdom of longer day, longer year, and test prep, Most Likely to Succeed argues that it’s “time for another transformation.”

The film honors the parental dilemma of wanting to see the enthusiasm associated with engaging work but hoping for good grades and test scores sufficient to gain access to target colleges. It doesn’t offer a prescription but it criticizes the old model of rows of compliant students regurgitating facts and celebrates active engagement, challenging work, and authentic demonstrations of learning.

I’ve not yet seen this film but I have read the book.  I believe this Friday we have an excellent opportunity for those in Worthington who want to think deeply about what school could be to spend time together viewing the documentary and discussing what implications there are for our practice in Worthington.  Please add it to your calendar and come check it out.  I hope to see you there.

Most Likely to Succeed Community Screening

Friday, April 8, 6:00 – 8:00 pm at the Columbus Museum of Art (480 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215)  view and discuss the documentary, Most Likely to Succeed, based on the book by Tony Wagner. This program is free and open to the community and registration is requested in advance.  bit.ly/1RPFRul

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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Time Flies

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They say that time flies when you’re having fun.  That’s certainly the case in Worthington Schools.  With spring break behind us and our students and teachers back in school today we have only 42 more school days until graduation.  Our seniors are down to only 39 school days!

There is no slow season in the school calendar today but Spring is certainly the busy season.  Beginning in April our students will take their state mandated AIR tests which will be administered to students grades 3 and above.  After testing season we’ll be into May with field days, student recognition’s, AP and IB exams, end of year concerts, and the many events which celebrate our graduating seniors.  

Graduation is May 29th at the Columbus Convention Center.  On that day our students will walk across the stage and join the ranks of Worthington Alumni.

Only 42 school days left this year!  Let’s make every one of them count.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Winter Hiking in Yellowstone…Why Not?

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Worthington Schools has been serious about empowering a community of learners who will change the world for a long time.  This is true in many areas, but none more so than the district’s commitment to unique education opportunities that create lifelong memories and enrich students’ lives.

Our Linworth Alternative School has had a running relationship with mountaineer Andy Politz, Linworth Class of ’81, for nearly 20 years. (Google Andy’s name.  He’s had a fascinating career on the mountains.)  Years ago, Linworth Teacher-Director Chris Hasebrook went on a week-long canoeing trip up the Muskingum River from the Ohio River with Andy. Last year, Andy taught a class at Linworth in Tiny Homes, based on his passion for working with homeless military veterans.

This summer, Andy approached Chris about the idea of studying the caldera of Yellowstone and taking kids there for a winter hike of the park.   Because of Andy’s schedule the class would have to meet after normal school hours and Linworth Social Studies teacher Mark Shannon volunteered to be the staff member who would attend and support every class session. Andy came to Linworth on the first day of school to advertise the class and answer questions. Fourteen students signed up for the class, and we met with all families to negotiate a time for the class to meet; Monday nights at Linworth from 7:00 pm – 9:00pm worked for all parties.

In those classes, they discussed:

  • The geology of the area, eruption history and the impact on our lives, were it to erupt today,
  • The ecology of the area,
  • The politics of reintroducing Bison, Wolves, Grizzly and Elk,
  • The Native American history of the area,
  • The Euro history: mountain men, railroad and, the area’s designation as America’s first national park,
  • Environmental literature, and
  • Post-service issues for military personnel.

Our students earned a .5 credit in Group Studies English on a pass/fail basis. As we came closer to the end of the 1st semester, decisions had to be made about who would go on the trip (Yellowstone National Park would allow only 14 total people). We had nine (five seniors and three juniors) who wanted to go. Andy had already arranged for three other adults to mentor the trip. For example, one guide is Michael Fairman, a retired Marine medic and CEO of Summit for Soldiers. Two female guides, from Colorado and Michigan, joined them at the park.

The group hiked 100 miles on Grand Loop Rd., from the north end of the park, past the caldera and Old Faithful, then down toward the South Entrance. Temperatures one evening reached -5 degrees fahrenheit.  This was extreme!  They used Amtrak and busses to get into and out of the park.  On March 9th they arrived home safe and sound.

How cool is that!  A group of students and educators willing to meet each Monday night and a capstone experience that teaches lifelong skills.  I’m proud to play a small part in a school district that supports non-conventional learning opportunities.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Vision Statements

palm-card-front-rev01bThis is part 2 of a blog detailing the Mission and Vision of Worthington Schools…

The goal of the process for developing vision statements is to clearly identify the values that will guide decision-making and the work of the district.

The vision statements describe how we will get the mission accomplished.. In other words, the vision breaks down key areas of focus and guidelines for each area. The vision provides inspiration for completing the daily work and decision-making in the district.

In order to create the vision a community steering committee was assembled.  This team was made up of parents, engaged community members, board of education members, teachers, administrators, support staff and recent graduates of Worthington Schools.  There were 40 people who met throughout October and into November in order to set the direction for the new vision.

In Worthington we have four vision statements:

  • We will engage each student with diverse opportunities to maximize every student’s potential.

Goal: work with each student in a way that maximizes their potential.  We will strive to create personalized learning opportunities and connect with each student’s interests so that they grow and excel.

  • We will provide a safe environment where every student can grow intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically.

Goal:  provide a safe environment both physically and emotionally.  We’ll work to make certain every child knows they have a trusted adult who believes in them and who cares about them.  We’ll strive to help our students interact with one another in positive ways both in person and in a digital environment and we’ll work with our community partners to make this happen.

  • We will provide consistent communication and promote dialogue with our community.

Goal: communicate with our 60,000 residents of the Worthington Schools community about  important issues and work to solve problems collectively.

  • We will be responsible and transparent with our community’s resources.

Goal:  utilize the resources provided to the district in efficient and effective ways.  We will work to educate the community on how their tax money is spent.

As a Worthington Schools community we will work to implement each of these guiding statements into our daily work.

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-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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