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

Standard

Grateful

kfriendsWe’re into the final weeks of the 2017-2018 school year in Worthington.  For our family this is a transition year. Our youngest of three children is finishing elementary school and will move to middle school next year.  We’ve been incredibly lucky as a family as we’ve been in the same house for the past 13 years. Our children have only attended one elementary school and this year will complete our family’s 11th year at the school.  

Many families in Worthington are lucky enough to have a similar story.  In cases like ours, our school has become an extension of our family. Many of the teachers at the school taught all three of our children.  Thus, over time we have built significant relationships. No doubt my children have shared stories about their dad that I would have liked to keep buried.  We’ve had phone calls and notes home for some positive reasons and some not so positive reasons. My one daughter went to school for her all important third grade reading assessment that would determine if she could be promoted to fourth grade without the glasses she needed to actually see the test.  Another daughter went to kindergarten one day without shoes on. (We didn’t notice until the school called.) I’m the Superintendent but one year my wife and I got our schedules crossed and we each thought the other was attending the parent teacher conference. No one actually attended. The school nurse has called home more times than we could remember.  One time my daughter forgot to hold onto the tire swing while in motion. The swing propelled her into the air and we ended with a very bloody face. Another daughter broke a finger in a spirited Nerf basketball game during indoor recess. Another daughter just liked to go down and talk to the office. We had to outlaw nurses visits so she would stay in class.

Over the years there have been more good times than bad.  We’ll leave the school with many fond memories but more than anything we’ll leave grateful to a group of adults who cared deeply about our children.  A group who dedicated thousands of hours to helping them build confidence in the classroom and outside the classroom. A group who put up with the craziness of our family and has become part of our family.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week throughout Ohio.  I will be forever grateful to the teachers in Worthington who everyday show up to make a long term positive difference in the lives of our children.  Teaching is much more difficult than those of us outside the classroom understand. In this transitional year for our family I’m able to step back and reflect a bit on our experience.  We’re blessed and I hope your family is having a similar experience.

Please take a few minutes this week and thank those who work with our children. They’re Worth It!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Standard

Awesome People Overload

Processed with MOLDIV

For the past several years I have posted the same tweet every Friday afternoon of the school year.  I simply post: “Thanks for making it a great week in @wcsdistrict #ItsWorthIt.” Accompanying the tweet is a picture collage from the week we are finishing.  The pictures are of Worthington staff members and Worthington students.  I take the pictures from other social media posts that week.

Last week when I posted my weekly tweet someone replied, “Awesome people overload!”  When I read the reply it made me smile. I feel that way every week. Worthington is a school district made up of amazing students and dedicated, professional staff members.  We work hard together in the classroom and in our co-curriculars and we have lots and lots of fun together each and every week.

This weekend I was talking with a high school student who was telling me about her teacher who has been on leave dealing with a medical issue.  She said, “You just don’t understand how much you’re going to miss your teacher until they’re not there for a while.” Again I smiled and I thought about what a profound lesson that is for all of us.  In the moments we work together we often find one another’s flaws. Yet, when we are apart for a while we miss all of the positive things that the person does and that we are prone to overlook in the moment.  

We’re really lucky to live and work in a school district full of amazing people.  If we have some awesome people overload I think that’s a good thing!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Standard

Striving to be Abnormal

DareNiyX4AEtYBbWinter hung around for a long time in Central Ohio this year.  Mentally that can be difficult for students and adults alike. We’ve all been confined to the same people inside our crowded schools for a bit too long.  Our weather combined with a difficult public discourse on almost every issue seems to put many of us on edge. We can be irritable with one another. Sometimes we can be uncivil in our zest to prove our point.  It feels like sometimes everyone is just plain angry about something.

I recently heard a local pastor speak and he provided some perspective for me that I have found useful.  Here’s what he said:

“Difficult people are normal.  YOU are somebody’s difficult person.  Somebody is praying for grace to deal with you and with me.  People who break commitments are normal. Not getting your way all the time is normal.  Being frustrated is normal. Being misunderstood is normal. It’s normal for things in this world to break down.  It’s normal for technology not to work. It’s normal not to have all the money that you want. It’s normal to misplace things.  It’s normal to be hassled at your job. It’s normal to not have a perfect relationship with everyone in your extended family. It is normal.

We have this 21st Century ideal that life is supposed to be comfortable, that it’s supposed to be easy, that everything should come easy.  The reality is life is often hard. And, that’s normal.”

As we work through challenging issues together as a community it’s normal that we won’t all see things the same way.  As we interact with one another in the classroom or the school hallways or on the athletic fields it’s normal that we’ll find some interactions difficult.  

Spring will someday arrive in Columbus and that will help.  We’ll all get outside and we’ll have some space from one another.  But, what helps me most is to reframe my thinking and to understand, what we’re experiencing is normal for human behavior.  

My hope for Worthington Schools is that while we understand the behavior may be normal we strive to better than normal. Let’s make Worthington a community that honors differences by communicating with others in positive, constructive ways. We’re unlikely to always hit the mark.  But together let’s strive to be abnormal.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Standard

A Celebration of Social/Emotional Learning That Inspires Students to “Change the World”

Shirt designAuthor Robert Barr, in his book Building a Culture of Hope, noted that  “…the social and emotional learning celebrated in a culture of hope [provides] the foundation of personal strength that is necessary to keep kids traveling a pathway toward their better life.”

Inspired by the Columbus-based Harmony Project, Worthington’s “Hands and Voices of Hope Project” has begun its inaugural year of building and supporting students of character and purpose by cultivating their personal strength for Perseverance to change themselves, Responsibility to change their schools, and Compassion to change their community.

Supported by a grant from the Worthington Educational Foundation, the Hands and Voices of Hope Project began as the vision of the district’s 11 elementary school principals and the Director of Elementary Education. The idea was a simple one: identify students of great potential, and invite them to be part of a community of learners seeking to build a sense of pride, purpose, belonging and optimism that they could share with other young people around them. Their roles as “Character Ambassadors” would mean committing themselves to:

  • self-improvement related to their academic life at school,
  • modeling improvement in their schools by leading for character, and
  • demonstrating improvement in their local community through service.

In each elementary school, 10-15 students in grades 4-6 were nominated by their principal. Upon accepting the invitation, the students then began meeting regularly with their school’s principal and other school Ambassadors to dialogue together about decisions they make to act upon the three commitments, using a project reflection workbook authored by the elementary leadership team to monitor their work on personal improvement goals, as well as the contribution(s) that they make to their school culture.

To fulfill the commitment to community service, the Director of Elementary Education organized three projects, partnering with local service organizations that held special interest for the student Ambassadors. Each Ambassador was asked to commit to one Saturday of service in addition to their school work.

Through the community partnerships, the Hands and Voices of Hope Project connected with The Sedona Grace Foundation which provides assistance to families in need with resources to keep and maintain the health of their pets, which provide emotional support to students. The Ambassadors led a pet food drive that provided donations of 327 pounds of dog and cat food – the largest donation ever for the Foundation. In addition, Ambassadors showed up on a Saturday morning to pack 1500 biscuit bags for the Foundation – a four-month supply!

On Saint Patrick’s Day, Ambassadors worked with the Family Mentor Foundation to build more than 550

“Buddy Bags” using donations they had collected. “Buddy Bags” are provided to needy boys and girls throughout Columbus, stocked with enough breakfast, fruit, snack, and dinner items to feed a child for the weekend. The food used was another result of the character leadership that the Ambassadors demonstrated through their school-based food drives.

Additionally, the Ambassadors were able to donate more than 1000 pounds of food items to the local Worthington Resource Pantry.

The final community service project will involve a local artist, Jeremy Jarvis to create a public work of art that will share a visual message of hope and character. With creative input from the students themselves, Jarvis mocked up a four-panel mural that students will work collaboratively to complete on the weekend of April 14-15. The mural will hang in the Worthington Education Center on permanent display, when not being used as a presentation piece that will travel to elementary for Ambassadors to share and discuss their journey of hope and character with fellow schoolmates in the coming year.

Finally, in Harmony Project style, the Ambassadors will invite their parents and teachers to share an evening of musical reflection and celebration on April 30 at Worthington Kilbourne High School. The “Celebration of Hope Concert” will allow our student Ambassadors to celebrate their work and the adults who supported their journey.

The Hands and Voices of Hope Project is one of the many ways that, in Worthington Schools, we invest in cultivating personal strength and a sense of purpose and character in our students. Our Character Ambassadors are truly living out our district mission: “To empower a community of learners who will change the world.”

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
Standard

Recent Columbus Dispatch Article

On March 20, a Kilbourne Middle School student was arrested by Worthington Police and charged with inducing panic after allegedly threatening to bring a gun to school. With the arrest and disciplinary actions, there is no ongoing threat.

A recent news article has reported that Worthington Schools administrators delayed in informing police about the threat. We understand how concerning this is.  The administration assessed the information. They have an ongoing relationship with the student and worked directly with the student before contacting law enforcement.  The threat was not ignored.

We are currently reviewing our communications expectations and assessment of threats. Based on our reflections of this event and the community concerns around this incident, we will be instructing our principals that if a threat comes in after hours or on the weekend that involves a weapon and they are unable to fully investigate, they should call the police immediately.  In addition, our administration will undergo training this summer regarding threat assessment.

We take every threat seriously.  We all agree that the safety of our school community is our top priority.  In Worthington, we care about our students, staff, and visitors and strive every day to provide a safe yet welcoming learning environment for all.  Should you have any questions about the safety of your students’ school please contact Randy Banks (rbanks@wscloud.org) 614-450-6000.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
Standard

Planning for our Future

visual_object-117313I recently read an article in the Columbus Dispatch about a group that is questioning whether the costs of school repairs and remodeling are good for Grandview City Schools.  Grandview Schools, like Worthington, Columbus, Upper Arlington and Westerville are all school districts with aging infrastructure and like us they are working on a plan to address their needs.

While we all have similar needs with aging buildings, an increase in student enrollment, etc… each school district has created a plan that they believe works best for their community.  Upper Arlington recently passed a massive $230 million bond issue to replace their high school and renovate all schools.  Columbus City Schools has replaced 19 buildings over the past decade.  Grandview and Westerville are working on their plans.

In Worthington, our plan began in 2015 with a partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.  This State of Ohio organization brought teams of architects and construction experts to walk each Worthington school.  They provided individual assessments of every system within our schools.  Based upon the OFCC reports, we learned that to bring our schools up to a statewide standard we needed $260 million worth of replacements and renovations.

After receiving the OFCC assessments, we partnered with Cooperative Strategies to create a facilities master plan.   Sixty-one community members invested 18 months to create a plan that would address our aging buildings, balance high school enrollment and create capacity for all students.  (Our enrollment has grown by 1,000 students in the last five years and is projected to continue to grow by another 800 students in the next five years.)

We intend to come forward with this plan in phases.  Phase One would require funding of approximately $70 million dollars.  (There will be additional dollars needed for technology and buses.)  This would provide capacity for our elementary schools by moving 6th grade to the middle school.  It would address our aging buildings by rebuilding Worthingway Middle School and Perry Middle School (Perry would reopen as a 6-8 grade middle school, while Phoenix and Worthington Academy remain on that site).  The plan balances high school enrollment by moving to 4 traditional middle schools (plus Phoenix) with two middle schools feeding to each high school and by moving a current TWHS feeder elementary to the WKHS feeder pattern.

This is just Phase One of our plan.  We’ll propose to come back to the community in 2022 with Phase Two of the plan and likely back again around 2026 with Phase Three of the plan.  By phasing the work we are able to maintain our state mandated debt limits and hopefully make the work more affordable for community members.

Certainly, Phase One does not solve every issue in Worthington.  As our enrollment continues to climb, we have multiple elementary schools that have exceeded their capacity.  Redistricting our students is not an option that will solve our capacity issues because all schools are utilizing their full allotment of classroom space (even Sutter Park and Phoenix).  Therefore, we will continue to overflow students to other schools when they enroll in a specific grade level without space. We have already added modular classrooms at Colonial Hills and Worthington Hills and until Phase One of our plan is complete (Fall of 2021), we will add modular classrooms at schools as they are needed.  We project that we will need to add modulars at multiple schools over the next several years.

Like our neighbors in other inner-ring suburbs, we see student enrollment growth as families choose to live in these desirable communities.  At the same time we have aging infrastructure that has to be addressed for the long-term health of our school districts and ultimately the desirability of our communities.

We’re excited about our community driven plan and look forward to partnering with our community over the next decade to make it a reality.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Standard