When school started in August, we opened with our new K-5 elementary school, 6-8 middle school and 9-12 high school structure. In order to make this transition possible, we’ve been rebuilding and adding on to each of our middle schools under Phase 1 of our Master Facilities Plan. For five weeks now students have been learning in the new Perry Middle School and the totally renovated Phoenix Middle School. Our new Worthingway, McCord and Kilbourne Middle spaces are full of natural light, bright colors and open and airy learning areas. It’s so cool to see this progress happening in our mature community.
Please take a moment and check out a quick review of each space here.
This weekend and next weekend we will be having an open house for the community to walk through our new spaces. The open houses are designed for you to come and go as you please but we want you to see these new learning spaces.
Sunday, September 19, 1-4 p.m.
Kilbourne Middle School
Worthingway Middle School
Sunday, September 26, 1-4 p.m.
McCord Middle School
Perry Middle School
Additionally, our Master Facilities Task Force has been hard at work for the past several months planning for the next phase of facility improvements in Worthington Schools. Last week we held a community meeting in order to get your thoughts on the next phase. Many of you participated in person, but if you were unable to do so we’d still like your thoughts. Please take a few minutes and review the video and provide your feedback on the survey.
As a large school district with older facilities we know we will need to invest heavily in our buildings over the next ten years. Doing so will improve the experience for our students, keep Worthington a desirable location for those looking to move here and will benefit the entire community for the next half century. Let’s celebrate what we’ve accomplished together and continue to work to build our shared positive future.
Believe it or not, we are nearing the end of the 5th week of the 2021-2022 school year! Our focus this year in Worthington Schools is on learning the story of our students so that we can reconnect with them and help them reconnect with one another. From my perspective, our team is doing an AMAZING job! Obviously, COVID continues to challenge us and it’s been a more difficult start from a COVID perspective than I understood it would be back in early August.
Last week Thomas Worthington Football Coach Mike Piccetti asked me to speak to the football team. Both Mike and Worthington Kilbourne Coach Michael Edwards are from Eastern Ohio. They’ll tell you that they’re proud “Valley” guys. Tough people come from tough places and football is a tough sport.
In thinking about what I wanted to say to the team I focused on life in Eastern Ohio. Whether it’s working in a coal mine or a steel mill the work is really hard. It’s hot, dirty, exhausting work and I can’t imagine that anyone really grows up and thinks this is their dream job. But every day they pack a lunch pail and head to work. They do it not for themselves but for their family. And every day they get up and do it again.
On the football field, I told our athletes they need to be lunch pail guys. They need to get up and do the hard work necessary for success. Likely they won’t feel like it, surely it will be hard, but in the sports world, they do it for their teammates. They personally sacrifice so the team can see success.
As this school year continues to challenge us I’m focusing on doing the same personally. There is a whole lot outside of our control right now. But every day I can pack my lunch and show up and attempt to give my best effort for our community. I see our teachers and support staff members doing that too. I’m thankful we don’t have to work in a coal mine or a steel mill but nonetheless, I appreciate their blue collar work ethic to do everything they can to support our students and families even as we continue to weather this pandemic.
As we near the end of week three there are many, many positive things going on throughout Worthington Schools. Just this week I had the privilege to watch Wilson Hill first graders go down their new giant slide as we opened their new playground. The pure joy on their faces was priceless. Students are learning in school and our teachers are doing everything possible to build positive relationships and connect students to school and to one another.
But, going to school during this COVID Delta spike is just plain hard and if I’m being honest our team is really struggling. Each day we’re deluged with emails, phone calls, and messages from families who are angry about what’s going on at school. We’re angry about masks. Angry about having to wear them. Angry when we see someone not wearing a mask correctly. We’re legitimately concerned about COVID and some families would like to see more restrictions or more spacing. Others are concerned that the school district is making decisions for students that might best be family decisions. When changes do occur they often affect other areas. Thus, a change in how lunch runs may have the unintended consequence of changing when a student receives special education services and that disrupts consistency for a student who really needs consistency. Teachers are receiving concerns about teaching about diversity or social justice. They’re also receiving concerns that they’re not teaching enough about diversity or social justice. Name the issue and as a public school district we seem to be in the middle and hearing concerns from both sides all day everyday.
Additionally as a school district we have the same issues as most employers. We’re running razor thin on bus drivers and the ability to transport students to school and to events. Our drivers are amazing but the job is difficult on a good day and the qualifications are significant. We all want safe drivers driving our kids. But the combination of the job difficulty and qualifications makes staffing difficult every year. During COVID it’s almost impossible. Likewise there is a critical shortage of substitute teachers throughout Central Ohio. Forget about finding a substitute licensed in high level science, math, or in things like special education. But even finding people with a college degree willing to sub during COVID, is near impossible. AND, like most employers, we’ve seen more turnover this year of support staff in special education, kitchen staff, maintenance, etc…because for some, what people were asked to do last year, and at the beginning of this year, doesn’t seem worth it.
Finally, we, like everyone else, have supply chain issues. There are many items we attempt to order for the cafeteria we just can’t get. At our new middle schools we have old rusty bike racks because as we have attempted to order new ones and apparently there are none. Simple things like having new basketball hoops installed on the playground we can’t get crews to come do. We’re not different in this respect, but we should all realize this is where we are.
Throughout the United States, and to a lesser extent in Worthington, public schools have become the battleground. My plea is simply, please be cognizant of this and if possible, stop. I believe that our teachers, bus drivers, and support staff are doing the best they can. If you treat bus drivers poorly they have many, many other job options and we can’t replace them. Likewise your principal who is at their breaking point is an advocate for kids who is absolutely amazing. We’ve got the very best in Worthington but with all of the issues they’re facing, and all day long being beat up over restrictions, or not enough restrictions, many are wondering if they can sustain these jobs. Our nurses are on the front line of people’s emotions. They’re working hard to keep students and families safe and to contact trace. Contact tracing happens all day, all evening, and all weekend. You may not like the decisions of our nurses but we can’t replace them if they walk. There are nurse shortages everywhere. Please work with them, and please don’t vent your frustrations at our health office teams.
Going to school during this pandemic is just hard. Teaching and learning with political divisions over several large issues is also hard. Our teachers, principals and support staff signed up to work with kids. To attempt to love them, teach them, shape them, and help them grow. They didn’t sign-up for what’s going on in society today.
This is where we are. But it’s not where we have to be. I understand we’re all nervous. We want our students to be safe, we want our students to experience the special events we value, and to have positive peer interactions. We want our children to be taught information that aligns with our family values. When any of those items is at risk it creates fear and we often express our fear as anger. (Even when feedback or suggestions are not expressed as anger and expressed kindly we’re at a breaking point with the number of diverse opinions we’re getting on each issue.) Worthington is full of amazing people who help support our children. My plea for all of us is simply to recognize that this is very hard. As a school district we’re doing the best we can and I’d ask that you work hard to interact with all Worthington staff members in a constructive way recognizing that the very thing you may be advocating for just might be the very thing your next door neighbor just emailed us fighting against.
The 2021 school year is off to a great start in Worthington! Our new middle school spaces are awesome learning environments for kids. Our elementary schools are now Kindergarten – 5th grade and middle schools are 6th – 8th grade. Our Slate Hill students have begun as freshman at Worthington Kilbourne High School. A new playground is going in at Wilson Hill Elementary. Good things are happening!
Today we began universal masking K-12 for all staff, students, and visitors to our schools while indoors. From my perspective, this is a reasonable precaution to take (some will agree with this and others will not). However, as we attempt to navigate the pandemic and try to provide a robust and engaging learning environment for our students, we’re in uncharted territory.
Each day as we think about school this year, I struggle with knowing what is a reasonable precaution and I think people can disagree on that topic and still care deeply about kids and student safety. I’ve come to the conclusion that the rigid restrictions of last school year were much easier to navigate than where we are this year. How should school run? Should all events run? Does optional vs. mandatory matter if something is planned? Should all desks face the same way in the classroom to minimize spread, or do we want kids interacting even though it may cause more potential spread? Who decides which is more important: physical safety or student interaction and learning environment? I’m afraid that every event we run this year as a school district is likely to have significant critics. Some think we shouldn’t be doing the event for COVID safety reasons and others believe the event is critical for the student experience and mental health.
My point simply is that this is really messy. Reasonable people can and will disagree, and as a district, we’re going to need everyone’s help and support to navigate this school year. It will be easy to be critical of something. It’s harder to balance the competing interests of physical safety, student learning, experience, and social interaction. Each person may put a different value on each depending upon their personal family situation. Can we actually navigate all of that in the public school sphere?
I’m saddened by people being labeled as for or against something or on one team or another. Certainly there are extremes on either edge but the overwhelming majority of people I agree with or disagree with are just my neighbors who want what’s best for their families. We need to find a way to run school this year understanding that there may not be general agreement on what is a reasonable precaution.
I don’t know what the future holds for this pandemic or for the school year. We’re planning for in-person learning all year and planning for students to participate in the co-curricular activities they love. But just one week in, we’re making a change because things are messy, and likely they’ll continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
It’s August!!! School begins in Worthington for most students on August 18th. We can’t wait!
As we near the start to the 2021-2022 school year, we can already feel the excitement building in our community. We are full of optimism and gratitude for the ability to provide our students with the educational experience they deserve. We look forward to seeing students back in class on August 18 and our community coming together to support our student extra-curricular activities this fall.
Phase I of the Facilities Master Plan is now complete. This August, we are thrilled to welcome our incoming sixth-grade students to our new and updated middle schools. The district will be hosting a community open house so that residents can see first hand our amazing middle schools. Please mark your calendars and join us on September 19 at Kilbourne Middle and Worthingway and on September 26 at Perry and McCord. The schools will be open from 1- 4 pm.
In addition, Worthington Kilbourne High School is also preparing to greet students who live in the Slate Hill elementary attendance area to be our newest Kilbourne Wolves.
Financially, taxpayers will be glad to know that the district is doing all it can to ensure we operate as efficiently as possible. Last year, when the Governor cut state funding and future property tax revenue was uncertain, we estimated a reduction of $28 million in revenue over a five-year period. This prompted Worthington Schools to take immediate action, tightening our belts with $1.8 million in budget reductions this past school year.
Since then, the financial outlook has improved. Revenue in the State of Ohio is exceeding projections and the Governor’s proposed state biennial budget for 2022-2023 restores education funding to pre-pandemic levels, and one-time federal relief funds were provided to cover additional costs caused by the pandemic. Projections in the five-year forecast this May restore revenues to pre-pandemic levels, and future expenditures are slightly under prior estimates.
We are moving forward with our eyes open – embracing the good news while recognizing continued challenges of the pandemic. Although the proposed state budget restores funding to pre-pandemic levels, our growing district is still projected to receive nearly $6 million less per year in state funding since our legislators have chosen not to fully fund the educational formula. We expect the need to return to voters in the next few years for both operating and capital needs.
Looking towards the upcoming school year, our staff is ready to support students to ensure they are learning to their highest potential. Our goal is to ensure academic progress continues despite the unusual circumstances of last year and whatever restrictions we may face this year. We are also focusing on the second phase of our Master Facilities Plan, a process which is led by the community. To date, we have held five of eight planned Facilities Master Planning committee meetings. We have undergone a subdivision and housing analysis in order to better understand the future of student enrollment.
With the information gathered through the help of experts and community feedback, our vision moving forward is starting to take shape. Phase II plan includes renovation and major replacement for sections of Thomas Worthington High School, select renovations at Worthington Kilbourne High School, and replacement of 1-2 elementary schools. We continue to work towards finalizing the plan and will present a draft to the community in the fall upon completion. The voice of the community is important to us. We invite you to participate in this process. We look forward to seeing our community in October for our next meeting.
This is an exciting time for Worthington Schools. With the support of our staff and community, we were able to make it through an especially challenging year and we look forward to making the 2021-2022 school year the best it can be!
On May 12th, Governor Mike DeWine announced the expiration of all health orders across the state of Ohio with the exception of some limited orders applying to places like nursing homes. The expiring health orders do apply to schools and will be rescinded on June 2, 2021.
Starting tomorrow, June 2nd, the masking orders will expire for schools. Individuals in Worthington Schools are encouraged to continue to wear a mask in school or at school-related events, but it will not be mandated. We ask families to consult with their health providers for recommendations on the best choices for their specific needs.
Please note that some practices that have been adopted or expanded this year will remain as public health orders begin to lift. These practices include hand washing routines, hand sanitizer stations and use, and deep cleaning strategies. Additionally, for summer learning, monitoring signs of illness and staying home when ill will continue to be very important. These practices are important to help schools reduce the spread of seasonal colds and other illnesses. Perhaps most importantly, we envision a traditional start to the 2021-22 school year.
We truly appreciate our students, staff, and families’ efforts throughout this school year to follow the public health orders which allowed us to complete the school year in a positive way. This has taken a community effort and we are so proud of every member of our Worthington family. Thank you!
One of the lessons in life that has been cemented to me over and over again is that who you’re with is always more important than where you are. It’s the people that we are surrounded by that enrich our lives and make all the difference in our experience. In public schools that is even more true. We say that nothing is more important than the teacher in the classroom. I believe that at my core. And, I also believe that it’s those staff members in our offices, on our school buses, and helping to keep our facilities operating, that play critical roles in the experiences of our students and those in our community.
As we near the end of this school year we have many very important Worthington staff members who have decided to retire. The past 15 months have been very difficult for our students and families but they’ve also been extremely challenging for our staff members. One of the many disappointments of the pandemic year is that we haven’t been together and we haven’t held our normal retirement celebrations.
We have a significant number of staff members who will retire at the conclusion of this school year. They have invested their lives in striving to make a long-term positive difference in Worthington. Liberty teacher Sara Dale is an amazing example of just that. In her retirement letter she said:
“Having lived in the City of Worthington for nearly 54 years, the core of who I am is a reflection of the education and experiences my family and I enjoyed from living in this community. A graduate of Evening Street Elementary School (’76), Perry Middle School (’78), and Thomas Worthington High School (’82), I have now been teaching at Liberty Elementary since 1988. My mother, Polly Tewart and my brother, Jeff Tewart both dedicated their careers as teachers at Worthington Schools. Currently my niece, Jennifer Schulze teaches kindergarten. I suppose I followed in their footsteps and learned from them the importance of working with children and the impact a teacher can make for the community.
It is now time for me to move on. I am respectfully submitting my plans for retirement, effective the end of this school year. I am as humbled and proud today as I was when I first accepted a teaching position 33 year ago. My love for this community and my students will remain with me for the remainder of my days and I am thankful for the opportunities I had with Worthington Schools.”
How cool is that. Sara’s story is unique and yet everyone’s story is equally unique. Over the last two weeks of school please work to celebrate those who have chosen to retire from Worthington Schools. They deserve our sincere thanks and appreciation! – Trent Bowers, Superintendent
This week begins the official Teacher Appreciation Week nationwide. I’m not sure there is any way to adequately show our appreciation for the work of our Worthington staff over the past 14 months. (But, it would be great if you attempted to appreciate them anyway!) The work of public educators matters. It matters yesterday, today and tomorrow. It’s often very difficult work, but it’s meaningful and both life giving and life changing. I’m sure our staff is tired both emotionally and physically. I think that’s to be expected. Because making lifelong positive contributions with other humans takes a whole lot of work, patience, relentless persistence, and consistent desire.
Last week I attended a middle school track meet to watch my daughter Riley run. It was a day where the weather changed twelve times. In the morning I was sure the meet would be canceled due to projected storms. But by 4:00 P.M. my phone was showing just a 15% chance of rain during the track meet hours and temps around 60 degrees. I decided to throw a jacket into the car just to be safe and headed to the meet. Almost as soon as I arrived the rain began. It was a slow rain at first but steady. I put my jacket on and assumed it would stop. Instead of stopping it rained harder. I walked back to my car skirting puddles and mud to get an umbrella. Almost as soon as I had my umbrella along the fence line, the winds picked up. We were now in a driving rain storm, the wind was blowing umbrella’s inside out and some parents were losing their umbrella’s and having to chase after them in the wind and it was getting really cold. I don’t know what the temperature was but I was now wet and cold and closing my umbrella because I couldn’t keep it open. And we had three more hours of a middle school track meet to watch.
In the midst of the rain, wind, cold, and utter chaos of middle school track I looked up and in the middle of the field were our middle school track coaches, Jackie Loar and Nick Wiedenhoft. Both were wearing their masks, hoods pulled over their heads, Jackie wearing shorts, soaked from the rain and fighting the wind. And yet, they were coaching our kids. Being positive even when middle school kids ran slowly or didn’t jump very high. They were blocking out the miserable conditions to encourage, to attempt to get middle school athletes to pay attention and not miss their events, they were educating through sports in the very worst of conditions.
I think that’s been our school year. In the midst of a pandemic in the very worst of conditions that have changed, again and again, our team in Worthington has risen to the challenge over and over again. It has been hard both physically and mentally. It has come with personal discomfort and challenge. And yet, our educators have consistently put the needs of students and families first and educated students no matter what challenges have been placed in front of them.
I’m not sure anyone outside of education will ever truly understand what our educators experienced this year but I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with our team in Worthington Schools. It’s been a rainy, windy, cold, ever changing year. And yet…time and time again they said yes to the hard things and made it a positive year for our students.
One more thing. At the very end of our track meet when we were soaked to the bone, cold and wet, the sun began to peek out through the clouds. It was brief but it signaled that the worst was behind us, that we had overcome and the best was yet to come!
We have awesome staff in Worthington Schools! As both Superintendent of Schools and a dad and uncle I’m forever appreciative for their investment in the lives of our kids.
Tonight we’ll celebrate 50 years of Worthington Lacrosse when the boys teams from Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne meet at Hamilton Field (TWHS). Back in 1972 John Galipault Sr. started the lacrosse program at Worthington High School. Since that time, the game of lacrosse has spread throughout Ohio and countless athletes in our community have learned important life lessons around teamwork, competition, striving for a shared goal, working hard, and sacrificing for one another. They’ve also built lifelong friendships and treasured memories.
On a personal level, my association with Worthington lacrosse began in 1983 when I purchased my first lacrosse stick (Brine Superlight) from Worthington Hills teacher and Worthington High School lacrosse coach Al Brady. I was able to play middle school lacrosse in Worthington for Coach Craig Gallagher and high school lacrosse for legendary Coach Chris Gallagher, better known as CG. (In 2016, I gave a TED Talk about CG’s profound and ongoing influence on my life.)
As a player in Worthington, I was able to play with great talents like Tim James. Tim was the first person I ever saw score a goal by shooting the ball behind his back. There was nothing Tim couldn’t do on a lacrosse field. (Tim’s son Luke will play for WKHS tonight.) I had the honor to play with both Kahoun brothers who went on to become college all-americans at Butler (Cory’s son Jake will play for TWHS tonight). In 1988, I was introduced to AC/DC’s Back in Black cassette tape on a lacrosse trip to Pittsburgh by Jeff Appel. (Jeff’s son Owen will be in the goal for TWHS tonight.)
When Worthington Kilbourne High School opened in 1992, a new tradition in Worthington lacrosse was born. Bill Wolford left Upper Arlington High School to become the first coach at Kilbourne and for 15+ years he added to the sport we love. When I became a teacher in Worthington Bill hired me to become an assistant coach for him. We had the opportunity to coach Ryan Sprague, Bryan Basom and a host of talented young men. In 2009, when Worthington Kilbourne won the D1 State Championship, I stood in the stands and cried as I watched coach Mike Riffee embrace his son Pat as the final whistle blew and the championship was secured.
Tonight, two equally talented teams will battle. They’re both coached by alumni from their school who care deeply about the sport and it’s place in our community (Collin Lisi and Brian Miller). When our athletes walk onto the field tonight they represent their respective schools and they represent all of us who once wore a Worthington Lacrosse jersey. They’re the current custodians of a great legacy. Both teams want to win their rivalry game and they’ll certainly play with intensity and passion. Over the years as our teams have competed they do so like brothers. Sometimes the passion boils over. But, when it is over both teams are part of the legacy of Worthington Lacrosse. A legacy that began 50 years ago in Worthington and has been important to many of us ever since.
Before the game tonight we’ll honor the contributions of John and Pam Galipault. John tragically passed away in 1993. But tonight Pam will join us and be escorted by CG onto the field. We’ll pay tribute to what Pam helped start here in Worthington. Something that has been very important in my life personally and in the lives of many in our community.
Our mission in Worthington Schools is to empower a community of learners who will change the world. We want our students to know that they can and will change the world in big and small ways. Helping our students internalize this mission is accomplished daily in our classrooms in conversations with our teachers and other trusted adults. Additionally, as a school district we have created visuals that are displayed at each school with current students sharing how they plan to change the world. Hopefully this takes an abstract mission and makes it more concrete and realistic to our students.
Our current “change the world” displays have been displayed in our schools for two years. One of the students who is featured in Bryce Presser. When the display was designed and his picture taken he was a young middle school student. I’ve walked by his picture and “tweeted” it out many times but I hadn’t met Bryce personally until recently.
Here’s the cool thing….Bryce really is changing the world! As part of his quest to earn his Eagle Scout badge (only 4% of scouts ever achieve this rank. It’s seriously elite.) Bryce decided to create book lending libraries for Worthington Estates, Slate Hill and Worthington Park. The project which he titled “Worthington Worthiness Library” is a collection of books focused on diversity and inclusion designed to help students see themselves in the literature they read. He built cabinets on casters so they could be wheeled in and out of classrooms. He then filled the cabinets (which in and of themselves were amazing with his attention to detail) with a significant collection of books. Last week Bryce presented the projects to each of the schools.
Bryce has changed a great deal since his picture was taken for our mission and vision displays. His hair has grown out, he has a different understanding of the world around him, and he is developing into a mature high school student. It’s so incredibly cool to see Bryce not just in print on our display but living our school district mission and vision in our community.
In Worthington Schools our students will change the world. Bryce Presser is an excellent example of that!