Time Flies

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They say that time flies when you’re having fun.  That’s certainly the case in Worthington Schools.  With spring break behind us and our students and teachers back in school today we have only 42 more school days until graduation.  Our seniors are down to only 39 school days!

There is no slow season in the school calendar today but Spring is certainly the busy season.  Beginning in April our students will take their state mandated AIR tests which will be administered to students grades 3 and above.  After testing season we’ll be into May with field days, student recognition’s, AP and IB exams, end of year concerts, and the many events which celebrate our graduating seniors.  

Graduation is May 29th at the Columbus Convention Center.  On that day our students will walk across the stage and join the ranks of Worthington Alumni.

Only 42 school days left this year!  Let’s make every one of them count.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Winter Hiking in Yellowstone…Why Not?

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Worthington Schools has been serious about empowering a community of learners who will change the world for a long time.  This is true in many areas, but none more so than the district’s commitment to unique education opportunities that create lifelong memories and enrich students’ lives.

Our Linworth Alternative School has had a running relationship with mountaineer Andy Politz, Linworth Class of ’81, for nearly 20 years. (Google Andy’s name.  He’s had a fascinating career on the mountains.)  Years ago, Linworth Teacher-Director Chris Hasebrook went on a week-long canoeing trip up the Muskingum River from the Ohio River with Andy. Last year, Andy taught a class at Linworth in Tiny Homes, based on his passion for working with homeless military veterans.

This summer, Andy approached Chris about the idea of studying the caldera of Yellowstone and taking kids there for a winter hike of the park.   Because of Andy’s schedule the class would have to meet after normal school hours and Linworth Social Studies teacher Mark Shannon volunteered to be the staff member who would attend and support every class session. Andy came to Linworth on the first day of school to advertise the class and answer questions. Fourteen students signed up for the class, and we met with all families to negotiate a time for the class to meet; Monday nights at Linworth from 7:00 pm – 9:00pm worked for all parties.

In those classes, they discussed:

  • The geology of the area, eruption history and the impact on our lives, were it to erupt today,
  • The ecology of the area,
  • The politics of reintroducing Bison, Wolves, Grizzly and Elk,
  • The Native American history of the area,
  • The Euro history: mountain men, railroad and, the area’s designation as America’s first national park,
  • Environmental literature, and
  • Post-service issues for military personnel.

Our students earned a .5 credit in Group Studies English on a pass/fail basis. As we came closer to the end of the 1st semester, decisions had to be made about who would go on the trip (Yellowstone National Park would allow only 14 total people). We had nine (five seniors and three juniors) who wanted to go. Andy had already arranged for three other adults to mentor the trip. For example, one guide is Michael Fairman, a retired Marine medic and CEO of Summit for Soldiers. Two female guides, from Colorado and Michigan, joined them at the park.

The group hiked 100 miles on Grand Loop Rd., from the north end of the park, past the caldera and Old Faithful, then down toward the South Entrance. Temperatures one evening reached -5 degrees fahrenheit.  This was extreme!  They used Amtrak and busses to get into and out of the park.  On March 9th they arrived home safe and sound.

How cool is that!  A group of students and educators willing to meet each Monday night and a capstone experience that teaches lifelong skills.  I’m proud to play a small part in a school district that supports non-conventional learning opportunities.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Vision Statements

palm-card-front-rev01bThis is part 2 of a blog detailing the Mission and Vision of Worthington Schools…

The goal of the process for developing vision statements is to clearly identify the values that will guide decision-making and the work of the district.

The vision statements describe how we will get the mission accomplished.. In other words, the vision breaks down key areas of focus and guidelines for each area. The vision provides inspiration for completing the daily work and decision-making in the district.

In order to create the vision a community steering committee was assembled.  This team was made up of parents, engaged community members, board of education members, teachers, administrators, support staff and recent graduates of Worthington Schools.  There were 40 people who met throughout October and into November in order to set the direction for the new vision.

In Worthington we have four vision statements:

  • We will engage each student with diverse opportunities to maximize every student’s potential.

Goal: work with each student in a way that maximizes their potential.  We will strive to create personalized learning opportunities and connect with each student’s interests so that they grow and excel.

  • We will provide a safe environment where every student can grow intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically.

Goal:  provide a safe environment both physically and emotionally.  We’ll work to make certain every child knows they have a trusted adult who believes in them and who cares about them.  We’ll strive to help our students interact with one another in positive ways both in person and in a digital environment and we’ll work with our community partners to make this happen.

  • We will provide consistent communication and promote dialogue with our community.

Goal: communicate with our 60,000 residents of the Worthington Schools community about  important issues and work to solve problems collectively.

  • We will be responsible and transparent with our community’s resources.

Goal:  utilize the resources provided to the district in efficient and effective ways.  We will work to educate the community on how their tax money is spent.

As a Worthington Schools community we will work to implement each of these guiding statements into our daily work.

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-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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The Mission of Worthington Schools

palm-card-front-rev02At our February 24th State of the Schools event we unveiled our new mission statement for Worthington Schools:  

To empower a community of learners who will change the world.

In order to create the mission a community steering committee was assembled.  This team was made up of parents, engaged community members, board of education members, teachers, administrators, support staff and recent graduates of Worthington Schools.  There were 40 different individuals who met throughout October and into November in order to set the direction for the new mission.  

The goal of the process for developing a mission was to clearly identify why we exist.  From the beginning we felt the mission should be short and memorable. It should answer these two questions:  

Why do we exist?  

Who do we serve?

I’m excited about our new mission statement because it clearly sets the goal for the organization.  It reminds us that we serve a “community of learners.”  This is larger than the 9,800 students currently in our school district.  It encompasses our 1,200 staff members and all 60,000 residents of the Worthington School District.  We are continually learning and growing together.  Our schools must play a central role in this learning.

In addition, our mission is to develop students who will “change the world.”  To some this phrase is audacious.  But, in truth, it’s the goal.  Our job as a school district is not only to help our students learn academic content knowledge.  Academic content knowledge has become a commodity as our smartphones now have more information at our fingertips than could ever be learned or recalled.  We know that excellence in education is more than a data point or a grade on a report card.  Excellence in education is in helping our students develop into young adults who can process information, collaborate with others, innovate, communicate, overcome adversity, and have a sense of purpose and direction.

We want our students to leave Worthington Schools and make a difference in the world.  They’ll each be prepared to literally change the world.  But, changing the world happens in big and small ways.  Some will go off and start companies, go into politics or write the next great novel.  Others will choose to serve their community as educators or to serve their families as parents.  Each will be prepared to have a positive influence and in their own way change the world around them.

As a school district this mission clarifies for us what is important.  It reminds us that everything matters: co-curricular participation, career counseling, work partnerships, art, music, physical education and rigorous classroom learning.  Our goal is not simply the graduation or college admission of our students  but it’s in helping our young people develop into well-rounded global citizens who are confident enough to go forward and accomplish their dreams.

In Worthington Schools we’re committed to empower a community of learners who will change the world.  That’s our mission!

Our students describe it best.  Check out this video:

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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This is part one of a two part blog series on our Mission and Vision.

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Reflections on my day at school

IMG_9386Earlier this week I participated in the Shadow a Student Challenge along with a number of our other administrators.  The goal of this day was for adults who work in schools to spend a day and better understand the student perspective.  I spent my day with Thomas Worthington Freshman Quinn Mottice.

First off, Quinn was awesome!  Really, what 15 year old boy wants to spend the day with an adult following them around? What’s worse than that: The Superintendent of Schools following you around!  That’s about as bad as it gets, and Quinn was great.  He talked with me throughout the day, he helped me navigate the hallways and the traffic patterns, and he saved me a seat with his friends at lunch.  I’m indebted to Quinn.

As I reflect upon my day the first thing I learned is that I now better understand the Thomas Worthington High School that freshman Quinn Mottice attends.  But, his experience will be different than other experiences and over time his experience will change and expand.  Thus, I’d need to do this ten times with ten different students to really understand the different aspects of the school.  For instance, with Quinn I experienced Cardinal Band and Theater Survey.  But, I never even walked past an art classroom, the library or anywhere near the gymnasiums.  I never saw a science lab and I didn’t sit through a Advanced Placement course.  There is much I did not experience.  

With that in mind, there is much I did experience.  The main hallway has not changed since I was in school at Thomas Worthington 25 years ago.  At class changes it is still very full and you ride the wave of humanity down the hallway.  The traffic pattern moves well and students are respectful of one another.  But, it sure is full.  What is different than 25 years ago is that kids today have their cell phones out as they walk the halls and 50% or so have earbuds in.  (I must admit that I too had my cell phone out.  But, no earbuds for me…)

I learned that 47 minute class periods worked for me.  I’ve always thought they were too short for learning but the day moved at a nice pace and for me there was about the right amount of sitting and movement.  The time between class periods is adequate, but there is no time to mess around.  Thomas Worthington is very spread out and no one I talked with actually used their locker during the day.  Every student carried a large backpack and only used their locker to store their coat.

I learned that lunch also worked ok for me.  Once I was seated with Quinn’s friends I really didn’t notice what was going on around the room.  We ate, we discussed school, we discussed the Led Zeppelin shirt one of the boys was wearing, etc.. Everyone finished their food in the allotted time and it seemed to work.  In addition, I learned that we really have great kids.  I was nervous going into school for the day.  Obviously I wasn’t going to be accepted as one of the kids, but everyone I encountered was respectful, behavior in classrooms was very good, and students seemed genuinely interested in helping me out.

Our teachers did a really nice job as well.  In each classroom I was in our teachers maximized the instructional time and clearly had built strong relationships with our students.  I was impressed by the teaching and learning I experienced.

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There are some challenges.  I was struck by the fact that Quinn only saw his friends in band and at lunch.  The rest of his schedule in this large school was with mostly acquaintances (although in English class Olivia Midnight did walk across the room to offer us both a brownie.  We both accepted!).  Quinn handled his schedule well, but I do see this as a challenge as there is very little downtime during the Thomas Worthington day and almost no time to find friends and hang-out between classes.

In addition, our students have a significant amount of freedom and need to be accountable for themselves.  In an eight period day with seven different teachers Quinn needs to manage a number of different assignments at all times.  This seems difficult to me and there is no easy way to manage it.

Finally, there were little things.  Thomas is an old school.  It’s very difficult to find a place to plug your device in.  I used my chromebook is most every class.  Most students chose to use their phones when a device was needed even though chromebooks were readily available in many classrooms.  Either way keeping a device charged at Thomas Worthington is a 21st century challenge.

As I went about the day I asked each student I talked with to tell me about their experience.  I’m happy to report that our students seemed to enjoy their experience at the high school.  They told me they didn’t think the work was any harder than middle school, but the school was much larger and you had to be responsible for yourself.

Moving forward Dr. Gupta, our Director of Secondary Education, has scheduled some time for our administrators to get together and reflect on the experiences we had this week shadowing our students.  As a team we will work to troubleshoot where needed and also to celebrate the positive.  In the end we will work to make sure we are providing the best possible experience for all of our students.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

p.s.  In addition to my reflections you can read the reflections of Dr. Neil Gupta, our Director of Secondary Education here and the reflections of Worthington Kilbourne High School Principal Angie Adrean here and the reflections of Thomas Worthington Assistant Principal Greg Garris here.

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