Forward Progress

facility-meeting

On Sunday I heard a speaker say that what he was most thankful for this week was forward progress.  It took me a second to catch on but in football forward progress is a player’s forward momentum when carrying the ball, which is used to determine the spot of the ball when the play ends and where the next play will begin.  In Saturday’s Ohio State v. Michigan game Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was awarded a first down based on his forward progress on a crucial fourth and one run in double overtime.  The Buckeyes won the game on the very next play.

Forward progress is not just applicable to football.  A major part of accomplishing a significant goal is just about making forward progress.  Thus, I’m happy to report that as a school district we’re making forward progress on our Master Facility Planning Process.  In September we held three community meetings and administered an online survey to gauge community expectations for this process.  In October and November our facilities planning community task force met to review community expectations and to design an educational framework and questions to ask the community.

Our next step in this process is to ask you to attend one of our community meetings next week: Monday, December 5th at TWHS or Wednesday, December 7th at WKHS (meetings are a repeat of the same information so you can choose which one to attend and they will begin at 6:30 P.M.)  During the meetings we’ll be soliciting community feedback on a variety of educational topics such as school size, grade configuration, community tolerance for boundary changes, program delivery, etc…  Our facilities task force will then use the information provided by the community to guide the creation of potential options that could be considered.  We want you to be part of this important process that will impact our Worthington community for generations to come.  

We’re excited that we’re making forward progress.  We hope you’ll choose to partner with us this month and help us move a little further ahead.  You can find more information about next week’s meetings and the entire planning process at http://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/domain/989

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Thankful

thanksIt’s Thanksgiving week.  There’s a lot to be very thankful for in Worthington Schools!

I’m thankful that while I read about the many social challenges experienced throughout our country it’s clear that all students and families are welcome in Worthington. Worthington is a diverse community that is tolerant of one another and all students and families are welcome in Worthington Schools and in our broader Worthington community.  Our community is known for creating safe and open-minded learning environments, where students and teachers respect and cherish differences.  Every student in our schools has the right to learn in a supportive environment, where who they are and where they came from is appreciated and even celebrated.  Certainly we have our issues but overall we are a community committed to creating a culture of empathy and support where everyone can learn and grow and experience success.

I’m thankful that Worthington Schools is a growing school district.  There are over 10,000 unique children who attend our schools each and every day.  We’ve grown over 500 students in just the past five years and our projections show that we’ll likely grow another 400 – 500 students in the next five years.  In an educational era of school choice and competition families and students are consistently believing that Worthington Schools will provide them with the best possible opportunities and will best prepare them for the future.  Growth has it’s challenges and thus we now can’t always guarantee that we’ll have the necessary classroom space for every student in a particular school’s attendance area with the programs we are attempting to run and this is a difficult issue that we’ll continue to confront, but overall growth is good and I’m thankful that’s where we are in Worthington.

I’m thankful that Worthington Schools has incredibly dedicated staff members who build life-long positive relationships with the students they teach.  Last weekend I attended the funeral service for a family friend up in Sunbury, Ohio.  Longtime Worthington Swim Coach, Jim Callahan, also attended this service because the two boys of our friend who had passed away were high school swimmers.  They were swimmers for Thomas Worthington 20 years ago!  Jim cared enough to show-up for a family whose kids had graduated 20 years ago.  I was impressed and am thankful to work with a strong cadre of professionals just like Jim.

This list of things I’m thankful for in Worthington could go on and on and on.  I hope you have some time this week to reflect on the many things in each of our lives that we have to be thankful for.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Are you on point…?

Are you on point?  That’s the question that we’re asking our high school students.

There are new state graduation requirements for students in the class of 2018 and beyond.  As in the past, the State of Ohio requires students to pass a series of assessments in order to graduate.  Students now take assessments in seven subject areas: Math I, Math 2, U.S. History, U.S. Government, English Language Arts I, English Language Arts II, and Physical Science and Biology.  (There are two other paths to graduation: 1.  Earn a remediation free score on the ACT/SAT 2.  Earn an Industry Credential and pass the WorkKeys Assessment)  You can learn more about the system here.

Beginning with the class of 2018, the State of Ohio requires students to earn a combined total of 18 points on end-of-course assessments in order to graduate.  The 18 points must include a minimum of four points from Mathematics assessments, four points from English Language Arts assessments, and a total of six points from Science and Social Studies assessments combined.  The remaining points may come from a combination of any end-of-course assessment.  

In addition, students who take Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests in Biology, American History, or American Government and whose AP or IB scores meet the state’s criteria, may use their AP or IB test scores in place of the state’s end-of-course assessment.  Students enrolled in the College Credit Plus courses in these same areas may use their grades in place of the state’s end-of-course assessments.

The State of Ohio School Board will be weighing in on the issue of the graduation requirement at their meeting on November 14 and 15.  I’d like to see them make some changes in the current law, at least for a while. There is absolutely no federal requirement, under ESSA or otherwise, for graduation to be dependent upon passing a test. Ohio is one of only 14 states to require this, down from 25 states just 10 years ago. Current high school students deserve a “safe harbor” so that state tests have no bearing on their graduation.  The current Junior class has been assessed using three different assessment systems implemented by the State of Ohio.  As 8th graders they were given the Ohio Achievement Tests.  As 9th graders they were given PARCC and as 10th grades Ohio switched to AIR.  These constant changes and the significant increase in what is expected for passage lead many statewide to become concerned that there has been too much change and too fast for this group of students.

In addition the three pathways system while promising long-term is somewhat of a myth right now.  Students who can earn the remediation free score on the ACT/SAT are also likely earning their points on the graduation tests.  Thus, those two pathways help the same students.  The industry credential pathway has promise over time but currently we do not have enough industry credential pathways on our campuses for the students who need them.  Thus that is a limited pathway option at this time.

In Worthington specifically we are working to help all students and parents have an accurate understanding of where they stand in the points they have earned.  All parents of juniors were mailed a personalized letter showing them the points they have earned and what they still need to accomplish.  We are concerned that approximately 12% of our current junior class is in real danger of not graduating next year.  Many of those students are identified as ELL which means they are just now learning English.  Our teachers and principals are actively working with our students to provide intervention and retake assessments to help students earn points.  

We believe in high standards and in accountability.  However I do believe Ohio needs to find a way to create safe harbor for our students until we can create a stable assessment system that is reliable and valid and until we can build more industry credential pathways for students to access.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Back-to-Back

twfhOn what was a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon much of Worthington traveled south to Upper Arlington to watch the Thomas Worthington Girls Field Hockey Team capture their second consecutive Ohio High School State Field Hockey Championship by beating Shaker Heights High School 3-0.  The team went back-to-back!  This is the 5th State Field Hockey Championship for Thomas Worthington with the previous championships coming in 2015, 2011, 2007 and 1988.

As I watched these young ladies compete I saw a group of girls who prove that you can be scholars in the classroom and fierce on the field.  When my own daughters were in primary school we would sometimes walk with them to school and often a young Emma Anderson would bound out of her house, backpack in hand, and also head to the elementary school.  Emma has a perpetual smile on her face and my girls couldn’t help but look up to her.  On Saturday, that continued as the little girl with a great smile completed her senior season with a state championship.  

In third grade my oldest daughter played Worthington Youth Booster Field Hockey.  The Field Hockey Director at the time was Rob Mertz.  He taught us how to buy the correct stick and which goggles were the approved ones.  At that time Stephanie, his daughter, was in middle school.  Like Emma, on Saturday we were able to see Stephanie celebrate her senior season with another championship.

Thomas Worthington Sophomore Althea Chan lives up the street from our home.  When I went to a game early this season I couldn’t believe that Althea was a Sophomore and more I couldn’t believe how good she was at Field Hockey.  It was an incredible joy to watch our neighbor win her first State Championship.

It’s always fun to win!  It’s special when a team commits to “Do the Work” and that work is rewarded.  But, win or lose it’s special to get to watch a community come together to support a group of students.  It’s great to watch our little girls mature into young ladies and it’s fun to see their dad’s sweating it out in the stands (I’m talking about you Hanson Perese and Mark Huber….)

Thomas Worthington went back-to-back and that’s a significant accomplishment!  I’m sure next year there will be stiff competition from Academy, Liberty, Watterson and from Worthington Kilbourne, but I wouldn’t want to play this team next year either.  An offense led by Sarah Charley and Maya McDaniel and a defense led by Paige Lampman and Isabelle Perese will be a formidable group.  But next year is for another time.  Today we say congratulations ladies.  You did it again!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

P.S.  Worthington Kilbourne Boys Lacrosse, we’re expecting you to go back-to-back too!  Just sayin….

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Naturalization

naturalizationEveryone’s ancestors come to Worthington from somewhere else! Our ancestors may have moved here from Asia, Africa, Europe, South America or from somewhere else in North America. You may have moved with your family from another country, from one state to another, from the country to the city, or from a city to a suburb.  When people choose to leave their home and come to The United States they do it for many different reasons.  Some leave for opportunity, some for adventure and some to escape oppressive regimes that threaten their rights or religions. Sadly some immigrants are those who are forcibly removed from their homelands.

Last week Worthington Schools was able to partner with The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to host a Naturalization Ceremony at Worthington Kilbourne High School.  Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  

124 new citizens participated in the ceremony and they came to The United States from 39 different countries.  Our new citizens ranged in age from 19 to 76 years old.

By hosting the ceremony at Worthington Kilbourne our senior students were able to attend and witness the event.  Each participant in the ceremony stood-up and shared their name, their country of origin and most stated how happy they were to have the opportunity to become a citizen of The United States.  Watching the joy and excitement on the faces of the participants was inspiring.  

In a season where many of us are tired from a long and contentious election.  It’s heartwarming to note that our country is made up of people who all came from somewhere else.  That fact continues today and regardless of the challenges we face as a nation, The United States is still a place that promises opportunity for a better life.  Our students at Worthington Kilbourne were able to witness this staple of our democratic process first-hand and I believe every one of them left with a better understanding of a foundational principle of our country, naturalization.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Our students come to school from many different situations…

noterbTwo 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
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See Something, Say Something

see_something_say_somethingIf you’ve been following the local news you’ve undoubtedly heard the story of a Hilliard Davidson High School student who is being held at the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center after he was arrested in connection with a plot to carry out a mass shooting.  The young man has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

I don’t know any more about the specifics of this case than what has been reported.  But I read that the alleged plan to carry out a school shooting was reported by two high school girls who took their concerns to a school resource officer.  In my book those two high school girls are real heroes.

It’s not easy in high school to see something and then say something, but it’s really the only way to make sure we are keeping one another safe.  All across the United States we have been dealing with a rash of public incidents of violence.  Sadly school shootings have become a part of our modern lives.  Rarely does something happen in a high school setting that was a total secret.  Usually, as in the case above, the potential perpetrator tells someone ahead of time about their plans.  Unfortunately, sometimes those warnings are dismissed as likely untrue.

For all of us working with students it’s critical that we teach our children that if they see or hear something they need to tell someone.  As parents if our children or the friends of our children tell us of events we need to act.  At a school level we’re working in Worthington to make certain that every child has a trusted adult that they know cares about them and believes in them.  If our students hear of potential acts of violence they need to tell that trusted adult, an administrator in the school or even the local police.  If students or families are uncomfortable with saying something they can always anonymously call our safe schools hotline at 1 (866) 871-0926.  

Safety is everyone’s responsibility.  If you see something or hear something, say something.  Please make sure your children know to do the same.  I’m thankful that two young ladies in Hilliard had the courage to do just that.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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