More Than A Transcript

As we get ready for graduation this weekend at the Columbus Convention Center I’ve been thinking about our seniors.  Worthington Schools recently had the opportunity to host a panel of speakers for a TEDx Talk on ideas about education for our community and the world. One of the speakers, our own Anna Farrell, a senior at Thomas Worthington High School, brought a message that reflected what we hope to instill in our schools – our mission to empower a community of learners to change the world.

The premise of Farrell’s talk was that she refuses to be a transcript. No, she’s a person and has a lot more to offer beyond good grades. She would like to see the entire education process reflect that idea. In a world where high school students often feel themselves thrust into a competition with one another, always aiming to earn that recognition that will propel them to a better college, Farrell admitted to finding herself caught up.

Following a stretch that caused her to break down in class, she admitted that all the focus on success actually “demotivated” her, where schoolwork just became another check mark on a To Do List. Her creativity was dulled.

This made her reflect back to her time in elementary school and then Phoenix Middle School where the focus is on developing the individual and allowing students to inspire each other and explore passions. She spoke of opportunities at Phoenix such as Discovery Day and the Middle East Summit, where learning happens through hands-on, student-driven life experiences. Learning wasn’t just dictated by a school bell, but these opportunities help mold them into contributing, caring citizens well before they graduate and go on to adult life. Thinking back caused her to focus on the big picture and her own positive experiences, and she began to approach school with new energy.

Ms. Farrell reminded us to remember that evidence of a good student can come in more ways than by honors on paper, but also from curiosity and hard work. In Worthington Schools, we want to create more than just a statistically pleasing result in our students.

We still need to focus on the things that measure progress in our schools, and colleges will continue to look at academic achievements as a barometer for success. But I believe at the same time, we can offer an education in our district that creates a well-rounded group of young people who are ready to take on life’s challenges in the classroom and in the world around them.

On Sunday (5.29.16) Anna will graduate from Worthington Schools and I can’t wait to watch her go off and change the world!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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Prepared for Future Success

GrossOne of our goals in Worthington Schools is to offer an education that creates a well­-rounded group of young people who are ready to take on life’s challenges in the classroom and in the world around them.  In working to make this goal a reality we partner with the Delaware Area Career Center and over 100 of our juniors and seniors elect to participate in a variety of different programs at DACC.

Last week I was honored to be able to attend the DACC senior completion ceremony to recognize our students.  One of our students, Thomas Worthington Senior Ryan Gross, was chosen to address the graduates.  Ryan studied Law Enforcement at DACC and plans to enter the military after high school.  After hearing Ryan speak I’m certain that he’s well prepared for future success.

I think sometimes as parents we wonder about allowing our students to access the different options provided in this school district.  Ryan’s experience is instructive in that it’s most important to find the right match between program and student.  I can’t do Ryan’s talk justice via summary so I’d ask you to take a few minutes and read his speech.  He certainly made Worthington proud!

“When I first saw the opportunity to give this speech, I looked at the question, “ How has the Delaware Area Career Center changed your life?”  my mind began to race,. There’s no true way to fully explain how it has impacted my life, the impact is too great. However as I begin to depart from DACC I will try and explain for everyone how it has.

In my first two years of high school, I was a quiet kid sitting in the back of the classroom, hood up, head down on my desk, my bookbag overflowing with notes and various papers. Binders stuffed full of worksheets that I would never see again. I said about two words every day, I did not really have any friends, never really talked to anybody, and I would eat lunch by myself. And when I got home, it was no different. I would sit in my basement, playing video games. I wouldn’t go outside at all. In 4 years, I changed schools 4 times. Each time I moved I was hoping it would be different, maybe I could make friends, maybe I can try some sports? So I  tried football, playing football was fun, it was lots of fun and I enjoyed it, I was even a team Captain, however I wanted something better. I knew that I could do better. When I came to Thomas Worthington, the opportunity came up to go to the Delaware Area Career Center for the Law Enforcement program, I will always remember the day when they came and gave a presentation. I saw the Law Enforcement program and knew that this is what I was going to do. I had always planned on enlisting in the Army, so I figured this would be a great opportunity to prepare myself for the military. I had my application in the very next day. I was the very first applicant for the Law Enforcement program. I was extremely happy when I found out that I got accepted into the program. I knew that this is what I’ve wanted all along. Now I don’t really have time to tell every thing that has happened in the past 2 years, I would literally talk all day.

However if you fast forward 2 years, I am, organized, I still have all my notes from junior year in my binder on my bookshelf, my book bag is clean, my boots are polished,  my hair is clean cut, I have a life plan, I know what I want to do. I am in good physical shape, because our class had deputies from the Delaware County Sheriff’s office come in and make us do physical fitness. With every push up, we look at them with rage in your eyes just wanting them to make it stop. But when the push ups  become easier and easier, they’re not really becoming easier, we’re  just getting better. We realize that they are not doing it to make us hate them, they do it to make us better, to improve ourselves, because it all starts with physical fitness. Thanks to them, I can now pass my Army Physical Fitness Test with ease. I am a leader, I stepped up, not afraid to make mistakes. As a class leader, if anyone needed help, I was right there. I helped everyone and anyone. If I saw someone in need of help I stopped to help. A classmate and I were even awarded a certificate of recognition from the Delaware County Prosecutor, for being the first responder to three vehicle crashes this school year. I also joined the Ambassador program, the same program which got me interested into DACC. I traveled from school, to school giving speeches to middle schoolers, high schoolers and parents. Staying late at night talking to parents about the program. Trying to inspire and motivate others, not even necessarily to get them to join the program or the school. But, motivate them to find something they find interesting, something they want to do. It is important to me to give back to a program that has given so much to me. When the public speaking gets easier and easier it’s not actually getting easier, I  am just getting better. Before I joined the Career Center I never would have been able to stand up here and give this speech to you today, I would have never had the courage. Today, I can do it with ease.

Today, I am a completely different person , in a good way. I am who I want to be, I am myself. Now many people when they are about to leave high school say things like “Heck Yeah!” Or “It’s finally over….” But I, I wish I had more time. I wish I could go through it all again. Coming to the Delaware Area Career Center has changed my life in more ways than one speech can ever explain. It has given me the skills to succeed in life, it has given me the experience and training to set myself aside from everyone else, the connections to begin my career, and the friends to last a lifetime. It has made me realize that time goes quickly, so find something you want to do in life, chase your dreams and don’t let anything stop you.”

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

ellLike many in the United States I grew up watching the television show Cheers.  For many years Cheers was one of the most popular shows on TV and you likely know that the show was based in a Boston bar “where everybody knows your name…”  Knowing someone’s name is important as it shows them that they are valued, unique, and that you care enough about them to not only know their name, but pronounce it correctly.

Increasingly pronouncing the names of the students in our classrooms is becoming more and more difficult.  As our diversity grows so do the number of different names that identify our students.  I recently attended an event put on by the Columbus Council on World Affairs.  At that event they shared that the English Language Learner (ELL) population (those students who come to school knowing a native language but still needing to learn English) is the fastest growing segment of the public school population.  They stated that by the year 2025 25% of U.S. public school students will be English Language Learners.

In the Columbus metro area 146,259 residents were born outside of the United States.  21% of the growth in the area has come from international migration.  Public school students speak a combined 74 different languages at home with Spanish, Somali and Arabic being the three most popular.  

In Worthington Schools we have almost 600 students now who qualify for services as English Language Learners.  Our students in Worthington speak 35 different native languages. Based upon the prevailing data we expect both the number of ELL students and number of different native languages to continue to increase.

This diversity in our schools is a good thing.  Our students will grow-up and live and work in an increasingly diverse and global economy.  22 of our local companies operate 1,600 global facilities located in 71 different countries around the world.  

But in order to help all of our students we have to get better at one simple thing.  We have to work to be a school district “where everybody knows your name…”  Mispronouncing a student’s name negates the identity of the student? This can lead to anxiety and resentment which, in turn, can hinder academic progress. In order to build positive school culture and promote respect for students and their families, we all need to commit to get better at this.  

With that in mind please check out the My Name, My Identity pledge. It’s simple really.  The pledge is asking everyone who works with children in Worthington Schools and in the Worthington community to strive to know and pronounce correctly the names of our kids.  Sounds simple.  It’s not.  But with work we can get better at this and in turn help all of our students feel valued and connected.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Ohio’s Elementary School Secretary of the Year!

FitzWe have incredibly dedicated and talented staff members throughout Worthington Schools.  It’s exciting to see when they are recognized for their contributions to our students and our community.  Recently the Ohio Association of Elementary School Principals named Granby school secretary Sheri Fitz as the 2016 Elementary Secretary of the Year!  There are close to 3,000 elementary schools across the State of Ohio and thus Sheri’s honor is both meaningful and well-deserved.  Our Granby staff and families nominated Sheri and their words are powerful.  Here’s what they said:

“Sheri shows every day how invested she is in our school culture and having an impact on kids.  Not only does she have the skills to help us stay organized, maintain our school calendar, and keep track of our budget, but she also makes time to participate in our Warrior Run athletic events – getting muddy with kids.  She has hosted our staff retreats over the summer and welcomed staff to camp out – she even recruits her husband to get involved and do physical labor for the school and in the bike park!

Not only is Sheri warm and welcoming to staff, but she is the first face our families and students encounter at Granby.  When kids enter the office, she is always warm and welcoming, taking time to acknowledge the child that entered the room.  No spreadsheet or email is too important to Sheri to keep her from recognizing the people around her.  When families come to visit our school, Sheri is very friendly and helpful.  She takes them on a personal tour of our building, and introduces the teacher and student individually.  As she does this, she always offers some personal touch – a tidbit about the student or the teacher that will help them connect and ease the student’s transition into a new environment.  She gets to know the family and students so she can help foster these meaningful connections between teacher and students.

Sheri is, above all, a top-notch professional.  She is always finding more technological ways of running the office, providing us with more of a 21st Century work environment and replacing inefficient or outmoded ways of doing things.  For instance, Sheri implemented a Google Calendar for our staff, replacing a huge paper calendar and a weekly paper copy calendar.  She is always up-to-date on district policies, even with the frequent changes we’ve had in education lately, and is able to quickly provide answers to teachers and often soothe jangled nerves!

Sheri Fitz is an essential member of our school community whose positive energy and professionalism helps us feel like a family member!”

Congratulations Sheri!  Thanks for choosing to invest in the students and community of Worthington Schools!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Enrollment and Facilities Master Planning Process

WES 960

In June of 2015, the Board of Education and administration determined the need to conduct a comprehensive review of the organization.  An immediate district goal was to assess the current state of the district including enrollment, programming, staffing and facilities.  As part of the evaluation, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission provided assessments on the condition and lifespan of each district building, and FutureThink, a school planning organization, provided a new ten-year enrollment report.

As part of the last 25-year capital improvement plan, the district has attempted to maintain current buildings, protect programming and minimize student overflow by utilizing strategies such as: leasing space, moving classrooms and limiting kindergarten options.

With the information collected and with the continued student growth since 2012, it is time for the district to lead a community discussion around these questions:

What does our community want for the future of our school facilities?

  • What do we value about educating students and the educational process?
  • How do the current spaces and technology support today’s instructional strategies and desired educational outcomes?
  • What are we doing to provide equity across the district?
  • How do our standards/philosophy regarding facilities compare to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission?
  • How are similar districts successful with facilities?
  • What are the costs (potential savings) of building new vs repairing & maintaining existing structures/systems?

What does our community desire for attendance areas?

  • How do the current attendance boundaries affect educational programs?
  • What is equitable, what is reasonable, what is neighborhood?
  • Is there enough space for all kids from a specific neighborhood?
  • What is the projected enrollment information by school?
  • What are we doing to ensure equity across the district?
  • What is the cost of any move,- financial or human?

Our administration has identified DeJong Richter’s educational planning services to lead us through this process.  (DeJong Richter is also leading a similar process in Columbus City Schools and you can see the depth of the work we will be expecting by viewing their website for Columbus http://www.dejongrichter.com/ccsoh/)  Beginning in August we’ll conduct an 8-12 month community process that will include a representative task force, many community meetings and surveys for resident input, and will ultimately culminate with recommendations for the future.   At Monday’s (5.9.16) regularly scheduled board of education meeting Assistant Superintendent Randy Banks will present this process to our Board of Education.  You’re welcome to attend in person or live stream the presentation here: www.worthington.k12.oh.us/BOElive

Next year will be an exciting year as collectively we work to create a vision for the future of Worthington Schools.  We look forward to working on this together!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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The Best Teachers in the World!

BenedictAs a parent, everyday I feel incredibly blessed to be able to send my kids to Worthington Schools. Certainly in my role as the Superintendent of Schools I see many things we need to improve upon in all areas.  Daily we come to work and strive to get better.

But, in the scheme of things, Wow!  Worthington is a great place for kids and I’m thankful for the cadre of caring adults who everyday come to work in our schools and invest in our children.  I can’t imagine that it’s ever been more difficult to be a public school teacher.  Teachers today work in a world of mandated standardized tests, teacher value-added ratings, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, increased childhood poverty, and decreased respect for authority.  In addition, as a teacher today if you make a mistake or give a poorly conceived assignment someone posts it on an online discussion board and 44 other people publicly comment about it.  It’s not easy to be a teacher in 2016.

And yet….our teachers still show-up everyday, invest in our kids, work to become the trusted adult that all children need, and ultimately strive to make a positive difference in the lives of kids.  Our Worthington teachers are well versed in educational pedagogy.  They understand the labels and know the techniques necessary to educate students in 2016.  They’re truly masters!  But, what I’m most proud of is that they know and understand the need to forget all the labels, forget the techniques, and that the real key is to forge a genuine relationship with their kids.  When this happens the kids will find a way to learn, and a way to behave, but first our kids have to know they can trust them and know that our teachers care about them.

All over our district we have teachers going the extra mile to help our students learn and grow.  They’re meeting with students on Sunday nights to practice for performances.  They’re taking students on educational trips to New York, Chicago, down the Scioto river in a canoe, and they’re connecting on a personal level by writing hand-written notes of encouragement both to our students and to their parents.

This week is the official teacher appreciation week.  I’m thankful for the teachers we have in Worthington.  They’re working everyday to empower a community of learners who will change the world.  We’re really blessed to have the adults we do working with our children.  Please take a minute this week, or sometime before the end of the school year to thank our teachers for investing in the lives of our kids!  They’re worth it!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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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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