Still Going Viral

0The Internet can be an amazing place.  Sometimes that’s a good thing (read on) and sometimes not so much (see: We Don’t Need Yik Yak in Worthington).  Recently, a story from Worthington Schools in 2012 made the rounds on Facebook and other social media sites.  It seems that many people saw this story for the first time in 2015.  A website called Liftable featured the story and it was shared with me by several friends from across the country.  Likewise,our Board of Education received the following email from a citizen in Maryland who has no connection to Worthington.  The email was titled “Proud of Colonial Hills Elementary”

I live in Maryland, and I just saw the video of the field day at Colonial Hills Elementary where the coach, then the students, fell in to support Matt, a student with cerebral palsy running a race.  I don’t know how old that video is, but everyone in that video demonstrated true character and showed what it means to be part of a community.  Everyone matters, and they demonstrated that finishing the race is more important than winning the race.

I know that video is going viral, and that’s a good thing. Colonial Hills Elementary is showing America and the world the right way to act. I wish you all the best and please pass on my appreciation to the staff and students of Colonial Hills Elementary School.

The story originally garnered significant attention in June of 2012.  CNN, The Today Show, Inside Edition, NBC 4 and even ESPN was in Worthington to show the amazing story of our kids at Colonial Hills.  I blogged about it twice in Coach Blaine and Worthington Has Amazing Kids.

If somehow you have missed this story, Matt is a physically challenged student who was at Colonial Hills Elementary who during field day inspired us all with his effort and determination.  Amazingly without prompting, the rest of the Colonial Hills student body joins in to cheer on their classmate.  The video is a testament to Matt and all of our kids.  It warms the heart just to watch it.

Obviously the star of this story was Matt and our kids.  Playing a supporting role was the Physical Education teacher, John Blaine.  In the video you see John pushing Matt, encouraging Matt, and challenging Matt, to keep working hard.  Anyone who knows John knows that this is what he does everyday.

The really cool thing about Worthington is that while this particular video went viral, the contents were not a one time occurrence.  One of the best things about Worthington Schools in 2015 is that our district is a melting pot of kids and families and we’ve become an inclusive community where it’s O.K. to be different.  Many of our students who were at Colonial Hills for this field day in 2012 will begin as freshmen at Thomas Worthington High School this August.  They’ve grown a bit since they were sixth graders, but they’re the same great kids who support one another and treat everyone as equal.

It’s fun to see a great Worthington moment continuing on in cyber space.  It’s even better to have an opportunity to interact everyday with our kids in Worthington and to partner with our families to make certain Worthington is a great school district for all students.  As we plan for the 2015-2016 school year that is our mission.  Make Worthington a great place for all kids. Only 51 days until kids return to class!

– Trent Bowers, Soon to be Superintendent

p.s.  If you didn’t see it, the ESPN feature on this story was just amazing.  Check out “Run with Me by ESPN

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Worth U and WoTown Funk

IMG_7148Today more than 300 Worthington teachers attended professional training at our Worth U professional learning day.  The focus for today’s learning was on collaborating with colleagues to help all students maximize their learning potential.

Central to the day’s learning and how we approach our work daily in Worthington is the concept of a “Growth Mindset.”  Author Carol Dweck wrote the book “Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success” and each teacher who attended the training received this book.  (You may want to read this book as well.)  In her work “Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals—personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.”

Secondly, teachers heard from our keynote speaker Dr. Brian McNulty.  Dr. McNulty is the Vice President of Leadership Development for the Center for Performance Assessment.  His work and writing have been featured in leading journals and newspapers throughout the world. With our teachers today, he helped provide a structure for teacher collaboration and student data review called “Teacher-Based Teams.”  This five-step process includes collaborating with grade level or subject-specific peers to:

  • Step 1: Collect Evidence of Student Learning
  • Step 2: Analyze Assessment Results
  • Step 3: Plan for Instruction
  • Step 4: Implement with Fidelity
  • Step 5: Re-assess and Evaluate Effectiveness

As our teachers prepare for the 2015-2016 school year they will spend a portion of their summer learning and improving their craft.  We’ll enter August focusing on a growth mindset and collaborating with peers to help each child maximize their learning.

This “WoTown Funk” video kicked off our event.  (Caution:  there is some very bad acting in this video….  But, you may recognize some of the faces, and you’re guaranteed to smile.  Your team will help you, just watch!)  Remember: Growth Mindset and Collaboration!

– Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

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Graduation Rate Goals

Congratulations to our entire pre-K-12 student body, teachers, administrators and parents!

Our projected 2014 four-year graduation rate is 93.8% and our projected 2014 (based on the class of 2013) five-year graduation rate is 96.4%.

Both of these equate to A’s on the ODE Report Card. The cohort benchmark for four-year graduation rate is 93.0-100.0% = A and five-year graduation rate is 95.0-100% = A.

This is the first time we’ve reached both milestones under the new graduation rate formula.

Thus, I strongly recommend that we continue to focus on graduating college-ready and career-ready students which starts by increasing the graduation rate.

I am certain Worthington Academy, under Adham Schirg’s leadership, will play a pivotal role in reducing the student dropout rate.

With that said, we need to also create a dashboard (similar to our data tool kit) that gives us a signal when students are in jeopardy so we can maintain a graduation rate that will make us proud.

– Dr. Thomas Tucker, Superintendent

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The Last Week of School

FullSizeRender (10)We’ve reached the last week of school.  It’s a week filled with final exams, pool parties, student recognition ceremonies and super fun days.  On Sunday we held the 136th commencement of Thomas Worthington High School and the 24th commencement of Worthington Kilbourne High School.  700 young adults walked across the stage at Battelle Hall in the Columbus Convention Center and they now join the over 50,000 living alumni of Worthington Schools.  As a 1991 graduate of Worthington Schools I say, “Welcome to our alumni club!”

Graduation is a special day.  It’s a day that we spend 13 years as a school district preparing for.  Worthington Board of Education Member Marc Schare said this about graduation:

“Today is graduation day for the Worthington School District and I have a confession to make. I love graduation day. It’s one of my favorite parts about being a school board member. I love the speeches where the Principals recount the accomplishments of the senior class. I love it when the Principals acknowledge those seniors who have chosen to defend our country by enlisting in the armed forces or accepting an appointment to a military academy (and the inevitable standing ovation that follows). I love the amazingly eloquent remarks made by the student class leaders. I love the fact that students get to select a special teacher or coach (or bus driver…see the 5/25/15 Columbus Dispatch article) to present them with their diploma because it makes for hundreds of special emotional moments, especially so when that teacher or coach is also a parent. I love the spontaneous outburst from parents when their child’s name is called even though it’s against the rules (really, can you blame them?) and I especially love the fact that the vast majority of Worthington graduates are, at the end of the day, “College or Career Ready” because after all, wasn’t that the point?

Congratulations to all of our graduates, their parents who have been dreaming of this day, and our staff who helped make it happen.”

2014-2015 has been a great school year in Worthington.  Our hope is that the summer of 2015 is a great one for you and your family.  Spend some time together, enjoy some lazy days by the pool, at the lake, beach, or in the mountains.  Please make sure your student reads everyday. (The Worthington Library Summer Reading Program can help.)  We’ll begin the 2015-2016 school year on August 19th.

Thomas Worthington High School senior Andrew Craig is locally famous for saying each day “It’s a great day to be a Cardinal!”  I’d say it was a great year to be part of Worthington Schools!  Thanks for a great school year!  The best is yet to come!

-Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

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BIG IDEA Grant Winner Announced

After much deliberation by the Worthington Educational Foundation Grant Committee, it is with great excitement that I announce the Worthington Educational Foundation (WEF) has selected a winner for their BIG IDEA grant. The WEF will be funding “Words Take Wing,” a wonderful grant submitted by the team of Renee Linn, Ken Pease, Ben Rule, Ken Lease, Margaret Wilcox, Holly Farley, and Carol Price. One of the amazing things about this grant is the established partnerships with other entities. The Worthington Libraries, The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy at The Ohio State University, as well as Head Start Columbus have all signed on to support this project.

Here is the Project Summary:

In early September of 2014, a group of interested stakeholders from the Worthington education community gathered to begin a conversation about how to create school readiness opportunities for preschoolers from multi-lingual families. Many ELL children are entering Worthington kindergartens at a disadvantage because of their lack of exposure to English vocabulary and literacy activities, including the experiences of being read to and talking about books. This academic lag often continues during the children’s elementary years. There are 250 ELL students in kindergarten through second grade in the district this year and the overall ELL population has increased 10% since the 2013-2014 school year. After focus groups and discussions with Latino families, the partners developed the Words Take Wing project with the goal of increasing the frequency of literacy exposure for ELL pre-k boys and girls through the following: 1) providing training for parents in reading aloud with their children, using specific research-based strategies, and 2) expanding the children’s access to picture books by giving books to the families. The project would benefit pre-k English language learners in the Worthington Schools community. Training would be delivered through 8 learning modules throughout the school year to 30 targeted families. By increasing the children’s vocabulary and literacy exposure prior to kindergarten, we hope the impact will be to decrease the gap that separates the disadvantaged from the advantaged and improve school success for this unique group of children.

At this time, please help me congratulate our three semi-finalists: Lori Povisil from the “Students Creating Change” grant, Jon Baird and his team from the “STEM Pathways” grant, and Jacquie Schmittauer with the “Awaker Spaces”. They put in a lot of time and passion, and the WEF wishes they could have funded the semi-finalists, as well.

Lastly, the WEF accepts grants twice during the school year, and always accepts donations through their website – www.worthingtoneducationalfoundation.com

Thomas Tucker, Worthington Superintendent

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Goals for 2015-2016

IMG_7125While we are only a few short days from graduation for the class of 2015 and end of year activities are in full swing across the district we’re also already working on the 2015-2016 school year in earnest.  Just last week the Board of Education (BOE) and district leaders met for four hours on Thursday and another six hours on Friday. The purpose of the retreat was to go through the community input data, community survey data and administrative and BOE goals and come to consensus on goals for the 2015-2016 school year.

One of the the most important messages coming out of our community engagement and the retreat is that people are very happy with the education we are providing for the kids in the community, so change is going to be incremental and whatever we do, there will continue to be lots of opportunity for community engagement as decisions are made.

We came to consensus around four goals:

  1.  Determine (undertake a comprehensive evaluation of) the current state of the district including enrollment; programming; staffing; facilities

The first goal is to conduct facilities and programming audits. The purpose of the programming audit is to identify exactly where we are in relation to other Central Ohio Districts, should we be offering additional opportunities or, conversely, are we offering opportunities that are no longer needed or desired. The purpose of the facilities audit is to identify useful classroom space and anticipated enrollment patterns. A few of our elementary schools are overcrowded and we have pockets of construction in the district that could exacerbate the problem (e.g. the proposed UMCH development project). We are going to need long term solutions to these problems. In addition, many of our buildings are older and more costly to maintain. We need to determine if some of these buildings become candidates for replacement.

  1.  Create mission/vision statements that provides a filtering tool for future decisions

The second goal was to update the district’s mission and vision statements with input from all district stakeholders. The district last conducted a visioning exercise about 10 years ago. Since that time, we’ve experienced demographic shifts in the community. The intent of the mission/vision statements would be to serve as a filter for future programming decisions.

  1.  Maximize academic potential for each student by increasing number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement, International Baccaleurate, College Credit +, and Honors courses; and decrease the number of D’s and F’s that students are receiving.

The third goal was to maximize the potential of every student. Essentially, we are looking to stretch the academic boundaries of every student, so that a student would be encouraged to take more advanced classes, more AP classes and so forth, but just as important, a student who has struggled would be similarly encouraged to take and pass classes that challenge their abilities. This will take the combined efforts of our guidance counselors, principals and above all, our teachers to accomplish this goal.

  1.  Ensure that students graduate without the need for remedial coursework in their college and career plans.

The fourth goal was to ensure that Worthington students graduate from high school “College and Career Ready”. To be “College Ready”, one must be remediation free. Throughout Ohio, a significant number of students who graduate have to take remedial courses when they get to college. Worthington’s stats are already very good in this area, but we feel they are not good enough. We want to make sure that every graduate is ready for college when they get there. We will also work to ensure that our students are “Career Ready”.

A highlight of the 10-hour goal setting exercise was the no-holds-barred nature of the conversation between the Board of Education and the administration. We do get very high ratings from our constituents, but we can and will do better while continuing to respond to the challenges typical in a changing student population, ever-changing state and federal laws, and changes in society that require adjustments in education. We need to keep innovating and adopting in order to move forward and I’m really proud of our willingness to set goals that will allow that to happen.

– Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

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Tangible Personal Property Tax

17106975-mmmainLike all public school districts across Ohio, Worthington is watching the state budget process very carefully.  One important aspect of this process for Worthington residents is how the Tangible Personal Property Tax is treated.

On Sunday May 17th The Columbus Dispatch printed an article “Ohio’s phaseout of tax still hitting schools’ finances” on the Tangible Personal Property Tax or TPP and I want to take a moment to provide the information as it pertains to our school district.

Tangible Personal Property Tax was a local tax on businesses which represented 11% of our total district valuation in 2005 and each new mill passed since 2005 would have provided almost $200,000 in additional tax revenue.  Today this would have provided additional annual revenue of $2.7 million per year for Worthington Schools when we factor in the 2009 and 2012 operating levies that were passed.  The elimination of this taxing authority, by a four year phase-out starting in 2006, increased the impact of tax levies on district taxpayers.

In 2005 the State of Ohio developed a new tax to replace the TPP.  This tax called the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT), is collected on business income and remitted to the state.  The state used this revenue to reimburse school districts and other governmental entities for the full amount of losses due to the TPP being taken away.  The intent of the change was to increase the State Foundation aid provided to school districts over the course of the past decade in such a way as to replace at least 70% of this loss to the local school district.

Governor Kasich reduced the reimbursement for Worthington Schools from $15 million annually in fiscal year 2011 to $10.6 million by the end of fiscal year 2013.  His current budget proposal will reduce this funding to $0 by fiscal year 2019 while increasing our foundation aid by a total of $4.3 million from 2005.  This increase in foundation aid is not even close to a 70% reimbursement for our loss and thus it will further increase the burden of real estate taxes on our homeowners.

While we are similarly affected as other districts mentioned in the article Sunday, we have prepared for this scenario and have had it included in our financial planning forecast for a significant period of time.  We do not appreciate the state decreasing our revenue nor breaking its promise to increase funding to account for the change in tax policy, but proper planning on our part will avert any dire scenarios as may occur in other districts throughout the state.

As a school district we will continue to speak with our representatives and will watch the budget process very carefully.  How the state chooses to handle Tangible Personal Property reimbursement will have a significant impact on the budget in Worthington and in many other districts across Ohio.

Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

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