It’s Magic…

booksAs the Superintendent of Schools there are some things that I should understand how they work that my 43-year-old brain just can’t seem to comprehend.  One of those items involves the Worthington Library.

The Worthington Library system is an awesome, amazing library system that all residents in the Worthington School district have access to. They’re great to work with as a school district and just as great to work with as a private resident of Worthington.  

When my wife and kids traveled to Indiana for the holidays I stayed in Worthington because I needed to be in the office.  On Wednesday I was in my office when my sixth grade daughter sent me a text.  She told me she had finished the book she was reading on the car ride over to Indiana and asked if I could send another one in the series she was reading to her Kindle.  I had a few spare minutes and thus I did it right then.

I access the library primarily today via their website.  When I go to the site my user info and password is already stored there via Google Chrome.  (This is not a good practice for security, but really, who hacks library passwords?  And there are so many passwords to remember these days.)  I access most digital books on their Digital Downloads portal.  Two clicks and I was in the Worthington site and in Digital Downloads portal.  I typed the author’s name I was looking for into the search function.  His books came up and it showed which ones were available now.  I looked at a few book summaries and clicked the borrow button.  I had checked out two books.  I checked them out as Kindle books and with one more click I sent the two books to my daughter’s Kindle.  Finally, I sent a text to my daughter telling her the books were on her Kindle.  She replied with a smiley face and a heart.  (I think that is good!)

Total time for this entire process, 3 minutes.  In 3 minutes I exchanged texts with someone 200 miles away and sent two library books to her in Syracuse, Indiana.  I have no idea how that all works.  No idea, but it is awesome!  There are literally thousands and thousands of books available to Worthington residents wherever they are, whenever they need them.  As a school district we know that reading may be the most important thing a child can do.  The Worthington Library system helps allow that to happen even if I, the Superintendent of Schools, has no idea how it works.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Top 10 in Ohio for Enrollment Growth

enrollmentOn December 26th Columbus Dispatch reporter Shannon Gilchrist published a story titled “Central Ohio schools buck statewide trend by growing.”  Her article detailed that the central Ohio market is gaining students and it pointed out that school districts on the outer edges of the Columbus metro area with a significant amount of undeveloped farm land such as Olentangy, Dublin and Licking Heights have experienced the greatest number of new students.

For those of us who lived through Worthington’s expansion years in the late 80’s, we remember a time when new schools were being built and opened every year.  This trend continued in Worthington through 1991 and then enrollment in the school district peaked around 1998.  From the late 90’s until 2010 the growth on the north side of the Columbus area went into southern Delaware and Union counties.  From 1998 to 2010, Worthington was “built out” and empty nesters chose to stay in their homes.  Our school district actually lost 1,000 students and enrollment declined.  To combat the declining enrollment, Sutter Park Elementary School was closed and Perry Middle School was closed.

Since 2010 until current day, Worthington is growing again and at the rate of essentially 100 new students every year.  The Columbus Dispatch article points out that from 2010-2015 Worthington was one of the top ten districts in Ohio for enrollment growth.  If you know Worthington, you know that this growth is not coming from developing fields into houses.  Our growth is a result of housing turnover and an increase in multi-family housing units.  Our enrollment projections from 2016 predict that this growth will continue for the next several years.  

Managing the enrollment growth will be a challenge.  In 1998, when Worthington held the number of students we have today, we did not offer all-day kindergarten, nor did we have the special education pre-school or the autism numbers that we have today.  Each of these three programs takes considerable classroom space that was not allocated for these purposes 20 years ago.  In addition, the programs that are now housed in the Perry building (Rockbridge Academy, Phoenix Middle School and Worthington Academy) have become important educational options for students across our community.

In addition to space constraints, Worthington Schools does not receive additional funds from the state when we receive additional students.  Under Ohio’s current school funding model, we are on what the state refers to as “the cap.”  Thus, we’re stretching our current dollars to serve many additional students.

As a school district we’re working to manage our current growth with the least amount of disruption possible to our students and families.  However, like a growing family, growth will likely necessitate changes in how some things work over time.

We’re not only a growing school district, we’re one of the top ten school districts in Ohio for enrollment growth.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Kids Today!

kids“Kids today!”

For my generation that phrase is often uttered in frustration as we share all of the ways that kids today don’t measure up to those amazing kids who grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s.  Kids today spend way too much time on their electronics.  (Go out and play!)  Kids today are spoiled by their super soft cotton and moisture wicking Under Armour clothing.  (No one cuts off their sleeves anymore.  They’re too nice to cut-up!)  Kids today expect things to be given to them instantly and they have no attention span. (Back in the day you actually had to go to a store to purchase something…)  Kids today do this, and do that….Kids today.

As we grumble about kids today and fret that the next generation may be the generation that finally ends the United States as we know it, I’m certain that our parents’ generation had similar concerns about us and our grandparents’ generation likely had similar concerns about our parents.  The crazy thing is that while kids today are certainly different than kids from previous generations, from the interactions I get to see with kids, I think that difference is likely better.

Kids today are much more accepting of one another than kids were in my generation.  Statistically, our kids today engage in less risky behavior than what kids did 20 years ago.  Kids today are much more engaged in causes such as social justice and the environment, and they are motivated by more than making money.  Kids today are connected with one another, but that connection allows them to build cohorts of friends that cross school attendance lines.  Kids today are really pretty awesome.

The week before school ended for the holiday break we had bitter cold temperatures.  One day we hit -14 with windchill.  On those days, being outside is difficult even for short periods of time.  Our crossing guards are outside for an extended period of time and extreme cold is really tough to deal with.  On the day of the -14 windchill our crossing guard for Wilson Hill Elementary, Jeff Kauderer, was dressed in many layers of clothes.  He was still freezing but determined to do his job and keep our students safe.  From behind a young lady tapped him on the shoulder.  When he turned around, he was surprised that she was holding a steaming cup of hot chocolate that she had brought out just for him.  She simply said, “I thought maybe you could use this.”  

That’s kids today.  They care about more than themselves and they’re always doing things that surprise us – In a good way!  In 2017 let’s work to see the good in all our our kids.  Happy New Year!

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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WINTER IS COMING

223697-winter-is-coming

WBNS 10tv meteorologist Chris Bradley has forecasted that this winter could have above average snow and possibly below average temperatures.  As the local school district superintendent I cried a little when I heard his forecast.  Determining when school should be in session or when it is safe to run co-curricular events is one of the more difficult tasks I face and it’s certainly the one that the student body and the community likes to provide the most feedback on.

School delays and closing for winter weather are a reality for transportation departments and superintendents in Ohio.  We take the responsibility for the safety of our students very seriously. In Worthington we have multiple personnel on the roads between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. assessing the conditions. We will only close or delay school when we determine it is a necessity and we understand that changes in school schedules create a tremendous burden for our families. Our goal is to safely transport our children to and from school so that learning can take place.

Unfortunately winter weather in Columbus is unpredictable.  There have been times where we determined it was safe to go to school and the weather pattern shifted and weather became worse not better.  Other times we believe school will need to close and the weather shifts and the day becomes beautiful.  In either case we look foolish.  My guess is at some point this school year one of those scenarios will occur.  We are committed to making the best possible decision with the information we have in the early morning hours. My goal is to reach a decision about potential delays or closing by 5:45 a.m.  It’s possible that you won’t agree with my decision.  Please know that even if we choose to go to school, we do care about our kids and if we choose to close we aren’t trying to ruin your work schedule.  We’re doing the best we can.  

We encourage parents, and our students that drive, to keep an eye on weather forecasts. There will be mornings that require a little extra time; a little more cautious driving. This is simply part of living in Central Ohio. It’s likely that winter weather will cause our buses to run late some mornings.  This is also part of winter and we’ll ask for your patience as everyday our buses will run four routes before school and will pick-up approximately 5,000 students.  Plan for some delays.  

Finally, we’ll work to clear snow from the sidewalks around the school, but we don’t employ separate winter weather personnel.  The snow removal tasks fall to our custodians, landscaping and maintenance teams and sometimes even to school principals.  Often snow will cover sidewalks on the way to and from school.  Please plan for this to occur and make adjustments as necessary.

When we make a decision to delay or close school we will utilize our email notification system as well as putting the information the district website and social media sites.  We also share our decision with local television stations, NBC4, ABC6 and 10TV. Our goal is to get you the information as soon as is possible but I would encourage you to always double check a source to make sure the tweet you saw was correct.  (I’m @tbowers3 on twitter, but each of the last two years students have set-up fake twitter accounts in my name and in the district name to provide misinformation.  Don’t fall for that.)

Winter is coming!  It’s sure to be an adventure.  

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Check out our Worthington Schools Winter Weather FAQ here

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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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