My thoughts on current events…

When public events happen as Superintendent of a large public school district, I’m not certain when I should add my voice to the conversation or when I should stay silent.  Over the past few days, our country has been shocked by the death of George Floyd, a Black American in Minneapolis.  After those videos have become public there have been public demonstrations and rioting in many U.S. cities including, here, in Columbus, Ohio.  I could never condone property destruction.  Martin Luther King Jr. said that “a riot is a language of the unheard” and as hard as that is for some of us to relate to and understand, some things have to change.

Growing up my dad was in federal law enforcement.  My uncle was a Columbus Police Officer.  In Worthington Schools, we have deep relationships with police officers in Worthington, Columbus, and Perry Township.  I have great respect for those who choose to put their life on the line to protect us and work to keep us safe.  I’m proud to call many in law enforcement my close friends.

But, we do have a problem in America.  As a dad raising three white daughters I never worry about how my daughters will be perceived when they walk into our local retail stores or if they are stopped by the police. I don’t worry about what clothes they wear when they go out for a run.  My nephew is black.  He lives 1.4 miles from me and I worry about him every day.  I worry about how he is perceived when he walks into a store.  I worry about him doing something similar to what my girls might do and the consequences being much greater.  We’ve had to talk about things that I never thought I’d have to talk about.  As a white male, I just didn’t understand.  Now I do.  The difference in what our white students experience and our black students experience is real.  Even in Worthington, Ohio.

In Worthington Schools, over 2,000 of our students are black or multi-racial.  Clearly, I am not black, but I am outraged.  I am sad.  We stand with our Worthington students and families of color.  We care about you and we love you.  Our school district must be a place where everybody is safe.  Everybody, always!  We’re not there yet, but we aspire to be there.  We’re committed to getting better every day.  To listening, learning, and creating environments that are safe for all of our students.

To our families in Worthington, I would say:

Hug your kids.

Teach them to love others.

Teach them to be people of goodwill.

Teach them to show goodwill towards every person they meet regardless of their background or the color of their skin.

Teach them to reach for justice whenever justice is within their reach.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent 
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School’s Out for Summer!

No more Chromebooks no more Flipgrid

No more teacher’s on the Zoom

Out for summer

Out till fall

School’s out for summer!

schoolsOutSchool’s out for summer! Thanks for finishing strong and making this a uniquely great school year in Worthington Schools. We appreciate the ongoing support of our families and your patience as we finished the school year with remote learning.  In many areas, our families made lemonade out of lemons.  Our conclusion to the 19-20 school year happens this Sunday (5.24.20) with our Virtual Commencement Ceremonies for the Class of 2020.  You can watch Commencement for WKHS at noon here and you can watch the Commencement for TWHS at 4:00 P.M. here.

Once we’ve celebrated our graduates we hope you can begin to enjoy your summer break.  After these last few months, we hope you can take some time for yourself to unwind, read a good fiction book, or spend time outdoors in the warm sunshine.  Hopefully, soon there will be a baseball game to sit in a lawn chair and watch.  I’ll look for you when I’m at the Dairy Queen.

As of today, I have no real idea of what next year will hold.  We’re scheduled to begin school on August 19th.  We’re planning to be prepared next school year with three scenarios for learning using a Green, Yellow, Red model:

Green:  All students in school following strict hygiene protocols

Yellow:  50% model following State-mandated social distancing guidelines

Red:  Remote learning

We have teams working on all three scenarios and we will be ready to discuss them publicly with the board of education and then the community in mid-June.  We’re building our plans with the belief that whatever we build we will need to be able to move through the levels at each school seamlessly.  For instance, we may open on Yellow in August, and in early October be told we can go to Green.  The next week we should be able to do that quickly.  Then maybe we have an outbreak at one school and they move to Red but everyone else stays Green, etc…  We see our scenarios as an accordion that may need to expand and contract all year with very little notice so we need to plan our Yellow scenario with that in mind and teachers need to be ready at a moment’s notice to move to Red.  

Back on March 5th, we took our family to the Ohio State v. Illinois Men’s Basketball game at the Value City Arena.  We sat in a full arena with 18,000 other fans and cheered for the Buckeyes.  I high-fived the guy next to me and thought nothing of it.  At the time this seemed like a normal and reasonable thing to do.  Just one week later Governor DeWine closed school buildings in Ohio.  That was 68 days ago.  What I understood 68 days ago was light-years from my thinking today.  Seemingly everything has changed and it’s evolved week after week.

That was only 68 days ago.  We have 90 days until the start of the 20-21 school year.  Thus, while we would all like to know what next year holds, based on the ups and downs of the last 68 days we’re miles and miles away from knowing what the fall looks like.  As you enjoy your summer, we will commit to working to inform you of our current thinking and we’ll all have to remain patient knowing that current thinking may need to evolve each week.

Thanks for working together to support our students and our schools.  Happy Summer!

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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The Class of 2020

Processed with MOLDIVWe’ve reached the last week of the 2019-2020 school year.  For the class of 2020, they will have an opportunity to pick-up their cap and gown, to receive their diploma, and to take some pictures at school.  On Sunday we hope that families will gather together in family rooms or in backyards and celebrate their graduates as we release their virtual graduations.  It’s not what any of us envisioned nine weeks ago.  But, as I thought about what I would want the class of 2020 to know and to take from this experience, I was drawn back over and over again to a conversation between two fictional characters.

As you well know, and as you will experience many times in life, what we envision and what actually occurs are often very different.  In J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous book “The Fellowship of the Ring” the character Frodo is a hobbit and he is speaking to Gandalf who is the wizard and the leader.  Frodo says, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.”  I’m sure all of our seniors can relate to that today.  “I wish COVID-19 had not happened in your time.”  As adults, we wish it had not happened in your special time.  Gandalf the wizard and the leader responds to Frodo.  He says, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

So we wish things had turned out differently.  But sometimes in life, we cannot control how things turn out.  But what we can control, is how we choose to respond.  As our seniors graduate from Worthington Schools and move on to the next phase of their life this lesson will remain with them. They’ll be tested often.  Some things will go their way, other things won’t.  I believe that how they choose to respond will determine the success they see in life.

Whether they want to start a business, build a winning team, raise great kids, provide safe drinking water in Africa, help the homeless, find a cure for cancer, educate children or create a more peaceful world, adversity and conflict will be part of their story as they strive to achieve their goals.

As Gandalf said, “all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us” and so when things don’t happen as we envisioned I believe every one of us has a choice between two roads – the positive road and the negative road.  The positive road leads to joy, success and fulfillment and the negative road leads to failure, negativity and despair.

The negative road will tell our seniors that they aren’t strong enough, good enough, successful enough, wealthy enough, happy enough, smart enough, talented enough. Well, I say enough with that conversation. Instead, we choose the positive road! Our seniors need to know the truth about themselves.  They have everything they need inside them to be successful. They weren’t meant to be average. They have a desire to be great because they were created and born to go do great things. They have a purpose. There’s a plan for their life. They may be going through a hard time this Spring but they will get through this. It looks like the end of the world but it isn’t. This too shall pass.

The truth is, we can’t control the events in our life, but we can control how we respond.  Choose the positive road.  Our seniors are well prepared. They have a Worthington education.  They have a community that loves them and is here to support them today, tomorrow, and into their future.  As they go off and change the world, we will be here watching, and after they have found their great success I’d ask that they remember Worthington.  It’s important to give back to the community that has given so much to each of them.  

The Class of 2020 has had an experience like none before them. It’s not what they envisioned but I’ve been incredibly proud of how our students have responded.  In many cases, they have handled the situation much better than we have as adults.  They provide us great hope for the future.  Someday soon they will be our doctors, lawyers, teachers, firefighters, and police officers.  We’ll be in good hands.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time” said Frodo “So do I” said Gandolf “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  Choose the positive road Seniors!  And go Change the World!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Celebrating our Retiring Staff Members

EXggisWXQAAzPWoThis school year has been a long strange ride for our students and for our staff.  As we end the school year next week this also marks the end of a career for several of our teachers and support staff members.  In a normal year, we would have gathered together to celebrate the momentous occasion. There would have been speeches given, memories shared, and likely some delicious cake to add to the celebration.  

Like with everything else, this year is different.  We have 27 Worthington staff members who have decided to retire this year.  In most cases, these teachers and support staff members have served our Worthington students and the community for 30 or even 40 years.  Undoubtedly they have made a positive difference in people’s lives.  They’ve lived through both times of growth and times of reductions in Worthington Schools.  They began teaching before personal computers were a thing and they ended their career via remote learning.

I think about Donna Gehring from Bluffsview.  Donna began her career with a starting salary of $16,484.00.  She’s taught at Bluffsview since 1994 and she ends her career in Worthington having accumulated the highest sick leave balance of any Worthington staff member.  Obviously, Donna was fortunate with good health but she also set an amazing example for others in that she knew her students were counting on her and she just refused to miss a day of school.

I think of the invaluable role that Marie Steward played in our school district.  While her role in Computer Services was behind the scenes, her impact was tremendous. Marie was a tireless advocate for staff and students.  She embodied the district’s goal to “serve the customer.”  She was friendly, approachable, and patient. Marie took calls and answered emails at all hours of the day and night, and she was happy to meet with staff to help them use our Infinite Campus System. When presented with a problem, Marie worked until it was resolved.  If Infinite Campus presented limitations, Marie worked with staff to find a practical solution.  

I think of Stephanie Riedmiller who has spent 34 years teaching in Worthington Schools.  Stephanie taught at Colonial Hills Elementary School and then at Worthington Hills Elementary. She is well-known in the Worthington Hills school community as being a talented sixth grade English Language Arts teacher with high expectations for her students.  Stephanie was exceptionally gifted at developing students’ writing skills.  Stephanie has been a student council advisor for over 24 years and she taught summer school for another 12 summers.  Families at Worthington Hills would consistently remark on how prepared their children were for middle school and beyond.  

As we celebrate the final week of the 19-20 school year next week.  Please take a minute to reach out to our retiring staff members and thank them for spending their careers as difference- makers for kids in Worthington.  As a school district, we are grateful for their service and we wish them well in their future endeavors.  

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Retiring Staff Members

Shelly Baker – Liberty – 2nd Grade Teacher

Ted Dennison – Wilson Hill – Art Teacher

Ellin Granger – TWHS – Intervention Specialist

Michelle Harper – Worthington Hills – 5th Grade Teacher

Joanna Hemmer – Phoenix – Intervention Specialist

Cindy Howell – Worthington Park – Intervention Specialist

Cindy Keller  – Colonial Hills – 5th Grade Teacher

Renee Linn  – District Intervention Specialist

Dawn Mack – Liberty – Gifted Teacher

Mary Spencer – Worthingway – Science Teacher

Stephanie Riedmiller – Worthington Hills – 6th Grade Teacher

Donna Gehring – Bluffsview – 2nd Grade Teacher

Jhan Yoder-Wyse – Slate Hill – Art Teacher

Amy Inzetta – Sutter, Granby, Bluffsview – School Nurse

Dennis Bentz – TWHS Custodian

Carol King – WKHS Attendance Secretary

Rita Ellis – Bus Driver

Judith Baker – TWHS Media Asst.

Ralph Nooks – WKHS Special Ed Asst.

Robert Williams – Phoenix Custodian

Marie Steward – WEC Tech Support Specialist

Debra Hausch – Bluffsview Building/Instructional Asst

Moona Eakins – WKHS Food Service Associate

Deana Barnett – WEC Tech Systems Analyst

Monna Eakins – WKHS Food Service

Michelle Hadley – WEC Food Service Specialist

James Smith – WKHS Custodian

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Just a Kid from Worthington

SoupOur school buildings have been closed now for almost two full months.  While remote learning has continued, what I’ve been most impressed with is our teachers working to reach out to students and connect and make things special.  Just last week Bluffsview kindergarten teachers, Alysa Merrill and Ashley Comer, drove to 52 different houses and wrote chalk messages on their students’ driveways.  At Worthington Hills our music teacher, Kara Johansen, worked with all of her 6th graders on a collaboration that brought me to tears.  The examples of what our teachers are doing throughout our district are too numerous to name. In my own house my 7th grade daughter, Riley, received a full page handwritten letter from her physical education teacher Mr. Cunningham.  (I didn’t know physical education teachers wrote letters?  Handwriting was excellent too!)  Riley has the letter hanging on the wall of her bedroom. It was that meaningful to her.

In Worthington our mission is to empower a community of learners who will change the world.  We remind people often that our students WILL change the world.  They will do so in big and small ways.  They may find a cure for cancer or help negotiate a peace project. They will be the next generation of doctors, lawyers, business owners, teachers, police officers and firefighters.  Our students will change the world and Mr. Cunningham is an excellent example of that.

McCord Football

Back in 1999 I was the Dean of Students at McCord Middle School.  I was also the head football coach back when our mascot was still the Mustangs and our big game each year was against Perry in the Wolf Bowl. (The picture above is of my dad and I coaching together on the field at Worthington Kilbourne High School in one of those Wolf Bowls. Wolf Bowl Champs ‘99 and ‘00!) When we coached at McCord we coached a young athlete named Colt.  He played cornerback for us on defense and some running back, receiver, and quarterback on offense.  He was a good athlete but mostly just a good kid.

Colt is just a kid from Worthington who grew-up, graduated college, and came home to IMG_2541teach in Worthington.  When he was coaching basketball at Worthington Kilbourne High School in 2014 I wrote this blog about the difference he was making for a young man named Drew George.  In 2020 I see Colt Cunningham going above and beyond as a physical education teacher to encourage my 7th grade daughter.  I see him investing in my nephew, Isaiah, and I see him taking the time to go the extra mile for kids. I’m old enough to see things come full circle and because of that I’m old enough to know that our Worthington students will make a positive difference in this world.  They will accomplish our mission.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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The Financial Stress from COVID-19 and its Potential Impact on Worthington Schools

budgetThe COVID-19 crisis has changed almost every aspect of our everyday lives. Generally speaking, there is so much uncertainty that makes it very difficult to predict what the future will look like. Our school district has a strong track record of conservative and responsible financial planning. It is our hope that this ongoing commitment will enable us to get through this challenging time by protecting the quality of our schools as much as possible.

What we do know: The closure of much of the state will result in significant decreases in state tax revenue.  This week Governor DeWine announced the implementation of $775 million in cuts and reductions, including $300 million in state funding reductions to K-12 schools.  That’s understandable when you consider the economic impact of the pandemic right now. But, the impact of these cuts will be significant.

The average deduction for school in Ohio was 3.7% in line with what we thought would occur, but the methodology resulted in our reduction being 10.48% or $2,193,375.  In light of this new information, we are estimating an additional reduction of 10% for FY21.  As of today, It’s hard to predict whether FY22 will return to normal level or continue at the reduced level. We’ll need to take a conservative approach.

Additionally, the Franklin County Auditor sent a letter to the Ohio Department of Taxation asking to delay the update of the tax valuations which are scheduled for next year’s tax bills.  The letter asked for a one year delay of the change in valuation.  In the event the update is delayed for one year, Worthington would likely lose between $3-$4 million dollars of projected revenue.  If the update does not occur and values remain unchanged until reappraisal, Worthington Schools would lose approximately $8 million dollars of projected revenue.  The delay could further reduce the capacity to complete future capital projects funded through bond issues.

We are seeing more stress on our planned budget because of this emergency. For example, we are experiencing modest increases in special education expenditures and a decrease in revenues to the food service fund. Additionally, the Worthington Board of Education approved the refund of fees for All-Day Kindergarten, Preschool and Pay to Participate. 

Finally, Worthington Schools is facing these revenue reductions while at the same time, our enrollment is increasing and our school district does not receive additional funds to accommodate our growing population because of the State Budget Cap.

It is important for the District to think proactively and plan ahead to maintain the resources needed to reach our goal of ensuring student success.  As we are seeing in every aspect of our lives today, the situation will continue to change as more information becomes available.  Informing the community with accuracy and transparency will remain a priority.  

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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Let’s Make Delicious Coffee

CoffeeIt’s been a long quarantine.  Some days in our house we’ve really enjoyed our time together.  Other days not so much and there is a sadness in thinking about the things that have been cancelled or lost, and an anxiety about what the future may or may not hold.   Earlier this school year I had the opportunity to talk with the new inductees to the Thomas Worthington National Honor Society.  In my remarks at their induction ceremony I shared with them the story of the coffee bean.  Personally, I love coffee:  hot coffee, cold coffee, coffee ice cream and even coffee flavored Jelly Beans.  Authors, Jon Gordon and Damon West, recently published a book titled “The Coffee Bean” and it is a powerful lesson about life that’s applicable to all of us, especially now.  

No matter how successful we are in life there are problems and today at the top of that problem list is a virus the world was unprepared for.  In our modern world it can be easy to attempt to ignore our problems and spend a lot of time on social media and watching YouTube videos, but that rarely helps and over time it often makes us feel more negative and depressed as we spend our time comparing our situation to the best of someone else’s life they have chosen to put out on social media.  

The book talks about the differences between a carrot, an egg, and a coffee bean.  

Think about a carrot inside a pot of water.

What happens when you put a carrot in really hot water? 

If you’ve ever done any cooking you know that when we put a carrot into hot water after about ten minutes the carrot changes from something hard to something soft and mushy.  The carrot is softened and weakened by its environment. It’s impacted by the water and the conditions it’s in.

Sometimes we let the conditions we’re in impact us and soften us.

Now, what happens when you put an egg inside a pot of boiling water? You likely know the answer to this.  The egg becomes a hard-boiled egg.  

Thus, the hot water causes the egg to harden. The egg is hardened by its environment and the conditions it’s in.

Unfortunately, that happens to a lot of people as well. We become mean, angry, negative, and sometimes numb because of the difficult environments we’re in. We can grow to be down on life and down on other people. Our heart hardens and we can lose the desire to love and be loved. We don’t want this to happen but if we’re not careful as quarantine drags on it can.

The carrot is weakened by the environment it’s in and the egg is hardened by its environment.

Now, what happens when you put a coffee bean in really hot water?

Most of you know that ground coffee beans in hot water make delicious, heavenly coffee but what you may not know is that a coffee bean actually does the same.  When the coffee bean is in hot water it doesn’t change.  Instead, it changes the water to become coffee.

For all of us, life is often like a pot of very hot water. It can be a harsh, stressful, and difficult place. We find ourselves in environments and facing conditions that test who we truly are and those environments can change, weaken, or harden us if we let them.

Our students might be feeling the pressure of school, papers, tests and college decisions. Parents are feeling the pressure of educating their students, looking for summer activities, and navigating uncertain financial futures.  The nastiness on social media and the negativity in the world is rising; it’s all one big pot of boiling water.

But we all have a choice. We can be like the carrot that is weakened and softened by its environment. We can be like the egg that is hardened by its environment.  Or, we can be like the coffee bean that transforms our environment.

In Worthington Schools we’re striving to create delicious, heavenly coffee.  There are many challenges for all of our students, teachers, and parents.  How we deal with those challenges is up to us.  As we enter the month of May together, let’s not let the challenges soften us or harden us. Let’s end this most unique of school years attempting to transform the situation we’re in, in positive ways.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Transitioning Some Employees Back to Buildings

unnamed (1)Following Governor DeWine’s Responsible ReStartOhio Plan, Worthington Schools will begin the process of transitioning some employees back to working in our buildings, keeping the safety of our employees at the heart of all of our decision making.  This will be a slow, purposeful reentry, that will bring groups back in a staggered fashion, allowing for proper social distancing and other safety protocols to take place.  This means that some groups will be coming back to the buildings regularly, while others continue to work on a more remote basis.  This is the new normal that may carry through the summer, so we will all have to become comfortable with this change.

Our world has changed, and as a result, our work environment will have to adapt in response.  Employees will be asked to wear a mask, which is not always enjoyable, or comfortable, but is necessary.  Staff will also be asked to complete the Health Assessment Log each day they report to a Worthington Schools facility.  These measures will take a bit of time each day but are well worth the investment to make sure our employees are safe and remain healthy.

Families should expect that the Worthington Education Center and most school offices will be open on a limited basis as of May 12th.  In the next few weeks, schools will be sending communication on how families can retrieve student belongings and turn in school materials such as textbooks and library books.  Following the official end of the school year on May 20th, all Worthington facilities will remain closed until June 30th. All camps scheduled for June will be canceled and all facility rentals for the summer will be canceled.  We’ll re-evaluate student camps, etc…in July.

If we have learned nothing else during this time, we have realized that patience and grace are our strongest virtues.  As we enter into more uncharted territory with this transition back to our buildings, I ask for your continued patience as we complete a school year unlike any other in our memory.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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