Give Them a Chance

AntonioI was recently talking to a friend of mine (Thomas Worthington Class of 1992, legend, Antonio Benton) about the start of a new school year.  Antonio told a story about his 4th and 5th grade teacher and I thought his short profound story could benefit all of us as parents, teachers and students as we head back to school on Wednesday.  

Here’s what Antonio said…

“This is to all the kids that may not have gotten the teacher that you wanted. In 4th grade I had the “meanest” teacher at Paul Revere Elementary School, Mrs. Smith. She actually paddled me once. Don’t worry, it was justified. I ended up having her for 5th grade too. Mrs. Smith changed my life. She made me believe that I could be anything that I wanted to be. She never let me settle. She never let me feel sorry for myself. She challenged me every single day. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at age 9. I am who I am today in part because of Mrs. Smith.

To all the teachers that may have gotten the kid that everyone has warned you about. Give him a chance. You may be just the person that he needs. I sure needed Mrs. Smith.

Now let’s get this school year started already!”

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent & Antonio Benton TWHS Class of 1992

Antonio moved to Worthington for 6th grade at Colonial Hills.  Here’s the proof 🙂

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Increasing Student Supports for Mental Health and Wellness

safetybucketsLast week I had the unique opportunity to meet with former Newtown Connecticut Superintendent, Dr. Joe Erardi.  Newtown is the school district where the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred in 2012. Newtown is an upper middle class community much like Worthington that has experienced unspeakable tragedy.  Their lessons are important for all of us to listen to. Joe was in Columbus and agreed to meet to share those lessons around school safety that were learned in Newtown.

In our meeting, Joe provided us with multiple concrete steps that based upon his experience in Newtown would better secure our buildings, train our staff and provide enhanced safety.  You’ll see many of those steps in practice in Worthington as we communicate back to school information in a few weeks. In addition, Joe stressed the need to make sure that no student is isolated and for the community to work together to better serve the mental health and wellness needs of each of our children.  

In Worthington Schools we’re striving to do exactly that and I’m really proud of the strides we have made just since this time last year.  This fall we will be implementing the Sandy Hook Promise “Starts with Hello” program in each elementary school and continuing the “Say Something” program in each secondary school.  

As we begin school in August we will have seven mental health specialists with a LISW license employed in Worthington working with our students.  Since last October, our Board of Education has supported adding five new mental health specialists to the small team we had on staff at this time last year.  

In addition, Worthington Schools continues to partner with North Community Counseling Services.  North Community employs licensed clinicians to work with our students. As part of their services in Franklin County, they provide school services to our students as well as Columbus City Schools. Their clinicians collaborate with school counselors, parents, teachers and administrators to provide age-appropriate mental health services to help children succeed. Their services include individual counseling, case management, crisis intervention, preventative services, advocacy, and referrals to needed resources, linkages, and support.  For Worthington, we contract with 7 licensed clinicians working in all of our K-12 schools for the equivalent services of 5 full-time clinicians (some of the clinicians work part-time).

Thus, in addition to the 22 licensed school counselors in our district and 12 licensed school psychologists, we have this team of 12 professionals solely focused on supporting our students mental health and wellness.

Finally, Worthington employs Lori Povisil as our Safe and Drug Free Schools Coordinator.  In this unique role, Lori works with One Leg at a Time anti-bullying programs at all levels, she runs Insight classes for students and families who have violated our ATOD policy and she runs prevention trainings at the MS/HS level.  

In Worthington we care deeply about our students and we’re working diligently to provide the support necessary so all of our students see success both in and out of the classroom.  This is work that will never be complete but I believe we’ve made big strides this year in the right direction.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Welcome to Worthington!

WelcomeCenterOur Welcome Center enrolled 1600 new students last year. Every year August registrations are like a mad dash to the finish line. Six days a week we are incredibly busy with families attempting to register before the start of school and unfortunately, registration can be a stressful process for everyone involved.

In the Columbus region our school districts have boundary lines that are difficult to understand.  In Worthington Schools our students live in dwellings with Columbus, Worthington, Westerville, Powell and Dublin addresses.  When a family moves into the Columbus metro area just determining what school district they actually live in is a challenge. Then if you have an elementary child in Worthington you have to determine which of our eleven elementary schools you are zoned for.  Sometimes it is the one closest to your home, sometimes, it’s not. Even then, is there space available in your child’s grade? As a growing school district we are out of space in multiple elementary schools. (We do keep this up-to-date weekly and make it transparent on our website.)   

To help families register for school, we have videos and checklists on the Welcome Center website.  They make the complex fairly simple.  But, nothing is really simple when you’re concerned about getting your child into school.  To register for school, a parent/guardian needs to find a child’s birth certificate, two proofs of residency, custody paperwork, immunization records, and previous grade cards or IEP’s.  In my house, keeping track of my children’s paperwork is 50/50 at best. Thus, it’s rare that a family comes in to enroll their children with everything they need.

Our team understands all of this.  They’re attempting to make a positive first impression of our school district while also working efficiently to process as many families as possible.  They work hard to make sure they have all of the required forms and proofs while also answering student and family specific questions. We want all of our students in school on day one and we work tirelessly to make that happen.  

If you are registering for school in August, you’re not alone.  Our team is here to help you. Please begin the process online and start looking for your paperwork at home.  When you come in to register, please be patient.  We all want the same thing and that’s to help get our students in school and seeing success.  

We have a great team working overtime in the Welcome Center (Jenny Dawes, Deb Sitler, Suzanne Hoyt and Sue DeRose)!  If you’re at the WEC stop in and say hello. Check out the organized chaos and thank our team for their dedication. Better yet, bring Starbucks! Everyone’s working crazy hours and caffeine may help.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Our Words Matter

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A simple truth, repeated as often as it is ignored, is that if you tell a child it can do absolutely anything, or that it can’t do anything at all, you will in all likelihood be proven right.–  Fredrik Backman, Beartown

 

I was able to spend some time with my family this summer at Holden Beach in North Carolina.  For me the beach is the perfect destination. For a week I drink my morning coffee while admiring the ocean, I sit in a chair with my feet in the sand and read books, and we get ice cream at Beaches-n-Cream almost every night.  I only take flip-flops to the beach.

For our vacation week I chose to read books exclusively chosen for fun.  There are other times in my year for professional reading. For this trip I had selected a mix of fiction (Beartown, The President is Missing, The Outsider, Twisted Prey) and non-fiction (Molly’s Game, Hunting El Chapo, A Higher Loyalty and Try Not to Suck.)  For me this was beach reading.

I enjoyed everything I read at the beach but I particularly enjoyed Beartown.  This was the first Fredrik Backman book I have read (it won’t be the last) but I was really struck by his writing and how he was able to weave important truths into an engrossing fictional story.  I highlighted multiple passages in the book but this one passage in particular stood out:

“A simple truth, repeated as often as it is ignored, is that if you tell a child it can do absolutely anything, or that it can’t do anything at all, you will in all likelihood be proven right.”  

Hidden in this fiction book was an indelible truth.  How we talk with our students matters a great deal. What we expect of our students is critically important.  Children will often live up to our expectations. In Worthington this year we want to make sure we set high expectations for all of our students both during this school year and for their future.  Our job as a community is to then partner with our students and provide the encouragement and support to help them meet those expectations.

I’m excited to see our students prove us right in a positive way throughout our upcoming school year!  

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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How cool is that?

Isaiah.jpgOne of the things I cherish most about Worthington Schools is that we have a majority of employees who consistently go above and beyond for kids.  Now, let’s all recognize that none of us is perfect and it’s easy to find fault with everyone who teaches, coaches, or conversely parents our kids.  But all in all we have amazing people in Worthington who I am in awe of their dedication.

Most people know that I’m at the stage in my life where my three daughters are in Worthington Schools.  It’s often really valuable for me to see one side of things as the Superintendent and another view of the same thing as a parent.  This summer my sister and nephew moved to Worthington and so I’m now also an uncle of a middle school boy in Worthington Schools. It was in my uncle capacity that I recently found myself in July at a middle school 7 v 7 football tournament.

Now, as a dad of three daughters, none of whom play football, I didn’t even know these types of events existed.  I had read that 7 v 7 has become a thing at the high school level but had no idea these competitions had filtered down to seventh grade.  But, they certainly have and there were hundreds of kids, parents watching their kids, and the Kona Ice Truck was there so this is definitely a thing.

I’d been watching the competition for about an hour when I realized that standing down to my left on a hot July day was Worthingway athletic director Bill Mosca.  I had the same thought as I had on a cold rainy Sunday last May when I was at my daughter’s middle school girls lacrosse tournament: “what is Bill doing here? Seriously, this guy is amazing!”  In May, and then again in July, Bill was just out supporting our students. He didn’t need to be there for his job, neither day was a contracted work day, and yet, here’s Bill Mosca. Encouraging athletes, guiding young coaches and investing in our kids.  Setting an example for our young teachers on what it means to be an educator in Worthington.

I smile just writing this, because that embodies our people in Worthington.  Cold, rainy Sunday in May, they’re there. Hot, sunny day in July, they’re there.  Bill’s my example and he won’t like that I put the spotlight on him. But, as we welcome our 2018 new teachers to Worthington this morning Bill sets a standard for our Worthington culture.  How cool is that?

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

p.s.  That’s my nephew Isaiah in the picture above.  If you see him around welcome him to Worthington and please remind him to make good choices 🙂

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Melissa

MeilssaBy Ohio standards, Worthington is a very large school district.  Out of the over 600 public school districts in Ohio we are around the 25th largest in Ohio.  (And, we are one of the 10 fastest growing districts in Ohio.) What makes Worthington great is that even though we are a comparably large district we also can feel like a small community.  There are several places throughout our school district that I know if I go and spend time, I will inevitably see many people I know.

Recently I was meeting with some people in one of those places, Panera at The Shops of Worthington Place, when I ran into Dr. Melissa Conrath.  (Jack was with her too…) Melissa was a trailblazer as the first female Superintendent in the history of Worthington Schools. She was the person who gave me an opportunity to come to Worthington as an administrator and she admirably led Worthington Schools through some turbulent years with state funding challenges, consolidation of programs and necessary personnel reductions.

Melissa still lives in Worthington and is involved in education at The Ohio State University.  You’re certain to see her literally running through town and she’ll likely have paint on her hands from a home project.  I’m incredibly thankful that she is an ardent supporter of our school district and is someone who still provides me counsel when needed.  I have many Superintendent colleagues who struggle with former Superintendents in their community who create challenges. My experience with Melissa could not be further from that.  She is an invaluable resource to our school district.

I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Melissa in Worthington.  I’m thankful to still have the opportunity to learn from Melissa and I’m thankful to live in a community where getting a cup of coffee inevitably leads to running into old friends.  I look forward to seeing you as we get coffee together soon!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Graduation 2018

donWe’ve reached graduation week for the Worthington Schools class of 2018.  On Sunday we will graduate 720 seniors from Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne.  It’s hard to believe that the school year is almost over and harder to believe that some of our students are not only seniors but soon to be graduates.

I love graduation day as it’s a special day for both the school district and more importantly for families.  As a school district, we get to award a diploma that will be significant for students the rest of their lives.  For families, it’s a moment of culmination and of transition. So many great families in Worthington will watch their child cross the stage and receive their diploma.

They say that the days are long but the years are short.  It’s certainly true when that comes to seeing someone else’s child grow up.  It seems like they move from preschool children with bookbags as big as they are to young adults driving around town in the blink of an eye.  It’s a pleasure to watch our students grow up and an honor as a school district to get to play a part in shaping their future.

At Thomas Worthington, Elaine Miller will graduate.  Elaine is the third sibling in her family to graduate from TWHS.  Her brother James and sister Abbie proceeded her at TWHS. Her parents Don and Trish are both graduates of Worthington High School.  Her grandmother retired from Worthington Schools and my first interview with Worthington Schools for a teaching position in 1995 was with Elaine’s great aunt.  (I didn’t get the job…) I grew up attending a local church that was founded by Elaine’s grandfather. I once asked Elaine’s Aunt Katie to attend the Perry Middle School 7th grade Valentine’s dance with me.  There is no question that after she graduates on Sunday, Elaine will go off and Change the World. But, I’m hopeful that one of those Miller children will someday decide to reside in Worthington and raise their children in Worthington Schools.  

Elaine, like all of our graduates, will hear this final charge from me as I complete my address to the graduates on Sunday: in Worthington we expect a great deal from you, but we will be here to support you.  We will be here watching and after you have found your great success I’d ask that you remember Worthington.  It’s important to give back to the community that has given so much to you.”

Graduation is held on Sunday, May 20th at Battelle Hall in the Columbus Convention Center.  Worthington Kilbourne will graduate at noon and Thomas Worthington will graduate at 4:00 P.M.  No tickets are required to attend.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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