Help a Grieving Friend

Make a differenceWKHS School Counselor Brianna Abbott wrote this blog piece to the WKHS community.  While it’s written to WKHS it’s applicable to everyone in Worthington and thus I felt like re-blogging it to a larger audience could help others.  The original post can be found along with many other posts at this link.

“The Worthington community is, once again, reeling from a tragic loss.  One of the TWHS seniors, Ambryn Welch, died yesterday and I spent the day over at their school to help support their students and staff during this heart-breaking time.

I have had a lot of time to think and reflect today after watching as the Thomas students and staff grieved together, shared memories with one another, and found the strength to help each other during this crisis.  And I keep circling back to the reality that everything can change so quickly.  In one moment, the biggest problem facing you might be an upcoming test and the next it is how are you supposed to say good-bye to someone you love and care about.  The reality is that life does change fast.  We never fully know what the next moment will bring for ourselves or those around us and that is why it is essential that we make the most of every day, that we remind those we love how much they mean to us, and that we never take for granted the people in our lives.  So I would like to remind each of you how thankful I am that YOU are a part of my life.  I care about you, I wish you never had to grieve the loss of a friend or family member, but I know that is unrealistic so I hope you will always know that there are people (like me) who are here to help support you along the way.

I know that a lot of you didn’t know Ambryn, but you may have friends who are students at Thomas that are grieving or separate from this crisis, you may be facing losses in your life that aren’t well known throughout the whole school, but have touched your heart deeply.  When faced with the news that someone you know has died there are a range of emotions and experiences. If it is a person very close to you, it can be a struggle just putting one foot in front of the next. If you are a friend of the person grieving it can be a time when you feel helpless because the reality is that you cannot take away the hurt and sadness for your friend, but you can help!

Below are a few ideas and reminders about what you can do to help support anyone who is grieving.  Please remember that the most important point is that you can’t “fix” this.  You cannot take away the sadness, but your care and support does matter and it does make a difference!

– Listen! I know it may not feel like much, but that is often what your friend will need the most.

 Say the name of the person who died – don’t be afraid to use their name. Some people worry that if they bring up their name that it would bring up their pain. The reality is that the pain and sadness are always there, but by using the name of the person who died you give your friend permission to talk about him/ her. If you knew the person who died, share some stories or memories you had of him/ her.

– Remember that everyone grieves differently. There is no right or wrong way and no timeline for when they will be “over” their loved ones death. Actually, I don’t think you ever get “over” a death, but you do develop a new sense of “normal” which is far different than the old “normal” (that they would really like to have back.) Remember that it is OK to cry and show emotion.

– Try to remain focused on your friend and their needs. Avoid statements like “I know how you feel” or making comparisons between your past experiences and their present grief. This can be a slippery slope as you may soon be talking all about your past experiences rather than focusing on your friend and how he/ she is doing.

– Be normal. Your friend is still your friend. While in some ways everything in their live feels like it has turned upside down, he/ she is still the same person they were before and will still look for opportunities to be and enjoy their normal activities of the past. Your friend might want to try to return as many things to normal as quickly as possible and that is certainly OK. You do not have to sit around and just be sad. Look to your friend for cues.

– Be realistic with yourself. You know what you can and cannot handle. If it simply too challenging/ emotional for you, particularly because of your past experiences, accept that and do not blame yourself.

– Be there for your friend over time. It is easy to forget that life has changed for your friend forever. Continue to provide him/ her with support over time. This can be by listening and talking, writing a card or note, or other helpful positive outreach days, weeks, or even months from now.

These ideas are in no way a complete list of ways that you can try to help your grieving friend. It is also important that you allow yourself to grieve if this is someone that was important to you. Remember, if you or your friend are struggling with your grief it is important to make sure to communicate with a trusted adult. I hope that you also know that I am here to help now and in the future.
In particular, if you did know Ambryn and are struggling, I want to remind you that the entire Kilbourne staff and in particular all of the Counseling Center team are here for you.  I hope you will stop by and talk to me, I would love to hear the stories of how you knew Ambryn and what you will miss about him… everything I had the chance to hear about him during my time with the TWHS students and staff assures me that I missed out on knowing a really fun and interesting guy.”
– Trent Bowers, Superintendent

The full link for Brianna’s blog:  http://missabbottswkhsblog.blogspot.com/

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Christy

ChristyToday is Administrative Professionals Day and in Worthington Schools we have an incredible team throughout the district that dedicate their professional lives to supporting our mission of empowering a community of learners who will change the world.

If you and I have interacted professionally you know I am personally blessed to work with Christy DeWees.  Really incredibly blessed!

Christy and I both went to Worthington High School and graduated a year apart from each other.  (She’s a year older!) We may have frequented The Continent at the same time but neither of us really knew each other in high school.  When I returned to Worthington as the Coordinator of Human Resources in 2008, Christy worked across the hall and we began to get to know each other.  Several years later Christy moved to St. Louis, Missouri and we were only Facebook friends for a few years.

When I became Superintendent of Schools and Kathy Rowe determined she wanted to go back to working in a school (I have that effect on people sometimes.  Kathy is now our leader at Wilson Hill). The position opened and Christy was willing to moving back to Ohio. It was a “no brainer,” if she would come home I wanted to work with her.

She chose Worthington and everyday I’m thankful for what Christy does for me.  She manages my calendar, takes significant community feedback on the phone for me, coordinates with the Board of Education, is an integral member of our communications team including our crisis communications team, and is the new “Wilson” in our internal Wilson Bridges communication.  Christy manages our budget and is in charge of convocation, State of the Schools, etc. Christy makes sure we have Diet Coke in the fridge and is my unofficial therapist. She literally does it all!

Christy, like many of our administrative assistants, will never receive the recognition they deserve for the work they do in our schools.  But behind the scenes our talented team gives selflessly of their time to help Worthington.

I’m thankful to work with Christy and for our team of administrative assistants throughout Worthington Schools!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Chris

1001405_524310284309598_493478197_nOn Saturday (4.6.19) Worthington lost a good friend and a difference maker for kids.  Worthington resident Chris Collaros passed away after being diagnosed with cancer this past fall.  In Worthington, Chris was a teacher at Granby Elementary from 1989 – 2002. In 2002 Chris became the Principal at Liberty Elementary.  In 2005 when Worthington combined Sutter Park Elementary and Liberty Elementary to combat declining enrollment, Chris moved to become the Principal at Evening Street Elementary and served in that capacity until 2008.  For almost 20 years Chris positively impacted Worthington students as a teacher and elementary principal.

In 2008 Chris pursued his love for progressive education and took over for his mentor Dr. Fred Burton as the Principal at Upper Arlington’s Wickliffe Elementary.

While Chris took his professional career to UA, he and his family remained Worthington residents.  Chris’ daughters Maria, Sophia and Zoe all were students in Worthington Schools. Many of us would see Chris often as he played gigs with his band “Principally Speaking” at Worthington events.

Chris was a brilliant educational leader.  He held degrees from Princeton and The Ohio State University, and he often traveled the country sharing his expertise with Progressive Education Network (PEN).

I didn’t know Chris well personally.  When we were together, he was always smiling, telling stories, challenging my views on education and was relentlessly friendly.  Worthington Schools was lucky to get to spend 20 years with Chris making a difference in the lives of our students. We will forever be grateful for Chris’ impact on our community.

Chris, in life and death, reminds me that every day is worth living, enjoying, and celebrating with those you love.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dispatch/obituary.aspx?n=chris-collaros&pid=192132619&fhid=8704

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Proposed Feeder Changes pt. 2 of 2

MFP2From our historical records, we believe that from the time Bluffsview Elementary opened in 1990 they attended Perry Middle School.  When the district decided to close Perry in 2009 to save money during declining enrollment, Bluffsview students began to attend McCord Middle School.  Now in 2019, as student enrollment growth has occurred rapidly throughout the district, we expect the Feeder Pattern Committee will recommend that Bluffsview move back to the new Perry Middle School.

In our 2019 Winter Newsletter that was mailed to all homes in Worthington we outlined four tasks for the Feeder Pattern Committee:

  • Determine which elementary school will shift to WKHS – the committee has identified its top considerations for school selection: student diversity, travel time and distance to school and enrollment at each building.
  • Establish WKHS feeder pattern – reassigning which elementary schools feed into either Perry or McCord Middle Schools.
  • Establish TWHS feeder pattern – reassigning which elementary schools feed into either Kilbourne or Worthingway Middle Schools.
  • Make suggestions to ensure a smooth transition – implementation of communication and welcoming strategies, early enrollment for families and a possible grandfathering process for families.

On March 25th our Feeder Pattern Committee presented recommendations to our Board of Education (view the slide show here.)  The committee recommended that Slate Hill elementary move to WKHS.  That means that current 6th graders at Slate Hill will attend Worthingway for 7th and 8th grade but will then move to WKHS as 9th graders in the fall of 2021.  Over a number of years, we will see a balance between the schools.

Next fall the Feeder Pattern Committee will reconvene to determine which elementary schools feed to which middle schools.  

According to the committee’s current plan, students from Brookside and Bluffsview would move from McCord to Perry.  Students from Wilson Hill would move from Kilbourne Middle to Worthingway. Students from Slate Hill would attend either Perry or McCord depending on the plan selected by the Feeder Pattern Committee.  If Slate Hill attended McCord then Liberty students would be reassigned from McCord to Perry.

In addition, our new schools are to open in the fall of 2021.  We estimate that 35-40% of this year’s 5th-grade class will need to begin 7th grade in one middle school and then attend 8th grade in their new middle school.  For instance, a 5th grader at Bluffsview would spend 7 years at Bluffsview, one year at McCord, one year at Perry and then four years at WKHS. Finally, our current 4th graders and current 3rd graders at all elementary schools will exit elementary school the same spring (2021) and will be the first 7th graders and 6th graders at the middle schools district-wide.

As we open a fourth traditional middle school (Perry) and we move all of our middle schools to 6th-8th grade a level of change will occur.  Throughout our history in Worthington, elementary schools have fed to different middle schools. This change has happened before and now we’re preparing for it to happen again.  

Big things big, small things small.  Change has happened in large ways every decade for the past 50 years in Worthington.  It will happen again soon. Likely both on a district level and potentially on a personal level.  It will be O.K. It always is. Our focus in Worthington Schools is and always has been in taking care of our kids.  In making sure they have a trusted adult or many trusted adults who they know and cares about them and who believes in them. No matter where we teach kids.  No matter what our attendance lines, we’ll keep things in perspective. How we take care of our kids, how we build relationships with them, invest in their lives, and help them grow and learn to meet their potential, those are the big things.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

This is post is part two of a two-part series.  Learn more about our plan at: https://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/domain/1117

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The Foundation pt.1 of 2

MFP1On March 25th our Feeder Pattern Committee presented recommendations to our Board of Education (view the slide show here.)  The committee recommended that Slate Hill elementary move to WKHS.  That means that current 6th graders at Slate Hill will attend Worthingway for 7th and 8th grade but will then move to WKHS as 9th graders in the fall of 2021.  Over a number of years, we will see a balance between the schools.

Next fall the Feeder Pattern Committee will reconvene to determine which elementary schools feed into which middle schools.  These recommendations were part of a long-term plan that we presented to our community for approval in the way of a ballot issue in the the fall of 2018 and 70% of the community voted to support the passage of the bond issue.  Because Worthington continues to grow, I recognize that many of you may not have even been in Worthington when we assembled our Master Facilities Planning team and created the plan that is the foundation for all of the change we are beginning to implement.

In Worthington, our plan began in 2015 with a partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.  This State of Ohio organization brought teams of architects and construction experts to walk each Worthington school.  They provided individual assessments of every system within our schools.  Based upon the OFCC reports, we learned that to bring our schools up to a statewide standard we needed $260 million worth of replacements and renovations.

After receiving the OFCC assessments, we partnered with Cooperative Strategies to create a facilities master plan.   Sixty-one community members  led by community chairs Nikki Hudson and Amy Lloyd invested 18 months to create a plan that would address our aging buildings, balance high school enrollment and create capacity for all students.  (Our enrollment has grown by 1,200 students in the last five years and is projected to continue to grow by another 800 students in the next five years.)

We intended to come forward with this plan in phases.  Phase One required funding of approximately $89 million dollars and was passed by the community this fall as issue 9.  This plan provides capacity for our elementary schools by moving 6th grade to the middle school in the fall of 2021. It will address our aging buildings by rebuilding Worthingway Middle School and Perry Middle School (Perry would reopen as a 6-8 grade middle school, while Phoenix and Worthington Academy and Rockbridge remain on that site).  The plan balances high school enrollment by moving to 4 traditional middle schools (plus Phoenix) with two middle schools feeding to each high school and by moving a current TWHS feeder elementary to the WKHS feeder pattern.

This is just Phase One of our plan.  We’ll propose to come back to the community in 2022 with Phase Two of the plan and likely back again around 2026 with Phase Three of the plan.  By phasing the work we are able to maintain our state-mandated debt limits and hopefully make the work more affordable for community members.

Certainly, Phase One does not solve every issue in Worthington.  As our enrollment continues to climb, we have multiple elementary schools that have exceeded their capacity.  Redistricting our students is not an option that will solve our capacity issues because all schools are utilizing their full allotment of classroom space (even Sutter Park and Phoenix).  However, when we rebuild several elementary schools in Phase Two, they will be rebuilt larger than they currently are and redistricting would need to occur at that time. (I’d project that to be around 2024.)  Therefore, we will continue to overflow students to other schools when they enroll in a specific grade level without space. We have already added modular classrooms at Colonial Hills and Worthington Hills and next year we will add modulars at Bluffsview, Evening Street and McCord until Phase One of our plan is complete (Fall of 2021), we will add modular classrooms at schools as they are needed.

This three-phase multi-year plan is the foundation for all of our current work.  However, as change becomes more clear, people are beginning to question why we’re taking the path we are.  Some are asking us to consider different paths. These ideas make sense but they were vetted considerably by the Master Facilities Task Force.  That team made many very difficult decisions and our work now is to implement the plan that was proposed and accepted. As a district, we’re working to do just that.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

This is post one of a two-part series.  Learn more about our plan at: https://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/domain/1117

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Happier than happy

SjannekeI’ve been lucky to be in Worthington Schools as an administrator in Central Office for 11 years now.  Back in 2009, I was working as the Coordinator of Human Resources and in that role, one of my main responsibilities was recruiting and selecting the highest quality teachers to serve our students.

It was in the spring of 2009 when I met a senior at Ohio University who was interested in becoming a special education teacher for Worthington.  We had a really positive initial interview and I marked her as someone we should look more closely at. Before my day at OU had concluded she had completed the online application and scheduled a second time to speak with me so that I knew she was interested and that all of her materials were complete in our system.  She was impressive and we didn’t dawdle. We hired her to teach in Worthington!

Fast forward 10 years and I’m the Superintendent.  Last week I had a meeting at the Worthington Education Center.  Typically in meetings when I choose my seat the seats closest to me remain empty.  As team members enter the room people typically choose seats as far away from me as possible.  (I’m hopeful this is more a positional issue and not a personal issue…) In Worthington, because our middle schools are last to dismiss when we hold after school meetings, middle school teachers are often stuck with the empty seats near me.  

Thus, this is how middle school teacher Sjanneke Baker ended up next to me at our meeting.  She was last to arrive. Sjanneke is the amazing teacher we hired from OU ten years ago and in talking after the meeting last week, she was telling me how happy she is as a teacher at Worthingway.  How lucky she is to work with colleagues who really care about students and to work for a supportive administrator who she has great respect for. She said “Trent, listen….I am happy. Happier than happy.”  

“Happier than happy.”  I don’t think we can ask for more than that.  As a district, we’re also “happier than happy” that Sjanneke chose Worthington and my hope is that as we recruit new teachers in 2019 we find more than a few who in 10 years are “happier than happy!”  

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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