The Power of Performance

lipIt’s musical weekend in Worthington Schools.  Both Worthington Kilbourne (Seussical the Musical) and Thomas Worthington (Children of Eden) will present their musical productions Friday and Saturday.  We have amazingly talented student performers in Worthington, and if you missed Hamilton in Columbus over the past three weeks, you won’t want to miss either of these performances.

In Worthington, we put a high value on the arts.  We believe that a public school district is about academics.  However, it’s also about much, much more and providing students opportunities outside the classroom to perform, compete, debate, etc…are all important to the development of our students.  In Worthington, we refer to this as a Both/And approach.

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to see this approach in action as I attended the annual Colonial Hills Lip-Sync.  6th graders from Colonial Hills practiced intently with music teacher Gretchen Wessel for months. Wednesday night and yesterday morning the students presented 14 different acts that made me smile, clap along, and at one point, cry a few tears of joy.

Having lived in Worthington for the past 14 years and having worked in Worthington Schools now for 11 years, I have had the privilege of watching some of our students grow up.  Today I watched a student whom I’ve known since the day he was born. I thought back to pre-school where he went a full year without speaking to anyone in class. I thought back to 3rd grade where he would refuse to go to school because of his social anxiety.  Today I watched him on stage leading a performance, singing and dancing in full view of everyone. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

When I sent a text to his parents about the performance, they replied with words that made me proud to work with the people I get to in Worthington.  They said, “It’s hard to imagine this is the same kid that once needed to be dragged into school due to his social anxiety. It’s a testament to the amazing staff at Colonial Hills.  Can’t say enough about how much John Blaine, Gretchen Wessel, Deidre Rippel, and others contributed to pouring into our son and allowing him to be able to LOVE doing something like this.”

Academics matter in a public school district.  With that said, opportunities outside of academics sometimes matter just as much.  

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent


Worthington on Wall St.

Fearless_Girl_NYSE.1543425006In November our community voted 70% in favor of passing Issue 9 which was a 2.58 mil bond issue that will fund phase one of our master facilities plan and will also fund general improvements such as buses, technology, band instruments, roofs, boilers, chillers, etc…

Thus, I’ve been reading the Wall Street Journal, watching CNBC and talking to my friends on Wall Street.  When a community passes a bond issue they are actually providing the school district the authority to issue debt and to tax school district residents to pay off that debt over a period of time.  Our school district bonds are municipal bonds which are loans investors make to local governments. They are issued by cities, states, counties, or other local governments. For that reason, the interest they pay on the bonds is usually tax-free.  As the borrowing organization, we promise to pay the bond back at an agreed-upon date. Until then, we make the agreed-upon interest payments to the bondholder.

Municipal bonds are securities. That means the original owner may sell them to other investors on the secondary market. The price can change even though the interest rate never does.

Our bonds are general obligation bonds and not secured by any assets. Instead, general obligation bonds are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the issuer (Worthington Schools), which has the power to tax residents to pay bondholders.

Last week our Treasurer Jeff McCuen, Assistant Treasurer TJ Cusick and I, worked with RBC Bank to actually sell the bonds.  Selling the bonds is the process of packaging the debt into chunks that investors purchase. When they purchase our bonds they are essentially lending our community money.  This process is important because the better we package the bonds the lower interest rate we have to pay and thus the less tax money we have to actually collect from our community.

I’m happy to share that we had a very successful sale last week.  We’ve structured our debt to see a drop in millage for phase two of the master facilities plan and another drop around the time we would ask the community to support phase three of the master facilities plan.  As millage drops off (debt is paid off) over time if the community approves we can issue more debt to fund future projects while requesting less of a tax increase from the community.

We’re thankful to be in a community that supports the capital needs of educating our students.  We’ve sold our bonds and we’re moving forward!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent


Only in Worthington Schools: Poli-Rad

polyradIn education today we talk about preparing students to be critical thinkers so that as they enter adulthood they are prepared to learn, adapt, process information and make informed decisions.  In Worthington this has been something we have believed in for many decades. That’s evidenced by the support for our U.S. Political Thought and Radicalism (everyone in Worthington calls it Poli-Rad) class offered as an elective for seniors at Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne.

Since 1975 Worthington has offered a Social Studies credit designed to study radicalism in the U.S. political system and has invited members of these groups to speak with our students in person or with today’s technology via Skype.  The students study the speakers ahead of time, gather background and prepare questions for the speaker. In so doing they model respect for the beliefs of others and wrestle with the thoughts they are presented.

As a school district we don’t support or condone these groups but we are working to prepare our students to wrestle with difficult topics, to create tolerance for the beliefs of others and we model through the class how to be civil.  These issues have been important since the founding of our country but they seem to be at the forefront of importance in today’s culture.

Last week Julie Carr Smyth from the Associated Press wrote a story about Poli-Rad that has been published by the San Francisco Chronicle, the NY Times and likely many other newspapers throughout the U.S.  The story “High-schoolers get face time with extremists in class” highlights a class we’re very proud to support in Worthington.  It’s part of what makes a Worthington education unique and something you can only get here.  

It’s great to be in a school district that was forward thinking in 1975 and in a community that has supported this class even in the midst of the seemingly sporadic but consistent controversy that the class has created over the years.  

Poli-Rad is an elective and thus we recognize it’s not for everyone.  But it’s a uniquely Worthington elective that we’re very proud to offer our students!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent



Life Lessons from a Master Teacher

pdOne of our enduring beliefs is that every child in Worthington Schools should have a trusted adult or many trusted adults that they know care about them and believe in them.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a teacher, an office professional, a food service professional, a custodian or a bus driver. if you work in Worthington Schools your first job is to be a trusted adult and build positive relationships with our students.

This enduring belief goes back decades in Worthington.  Last week a retired staff member shared with me a piece written by her classmate Major Patrick Donaldson titled “Life Lessons from a Master Teacher.”  Here’s what he shared:

“I was among a handful of students in Worthington High School privileged to study under a master teacher.  The knowledge and skills he taught me are beyond value. His class periods ran unusually long, eight hours a day with a half hour lunch break.  The semesters however were short, a couple of two-week sessions during the school year and a much longer summer school.

This gifted master teacher’s name was Bud Monska and he was the head janitor of my high school.  My classes began almost by accident. I can’t recall how but during my sophomore year I learned that a small number of students were hired by the school district to assist the janitors in deep cleaning the classrooms during the two long holiday periods during the year and for a much longer period during summer break.  I researched how to apply for a Social Security card, and when it arrived in the mail I applied for one of the positions. I remember discovering that the pay rate was .90 cents per hour before taxes. Now in 1961 the dollar had more purchasing power than it does in 2019 but it still wasn’t much. Google tells me the minimum wage was $1.00 in 1961 and it increased to $1.15 in September of that year.  The part time nature of the job may have permitted the district to pay the .90 cent rate; perhaps it was because we were under 18 years old. All I knew was I had a job that paid me money and I was thankful for it and wasn’t about to argue about pay.

The summer session ran from early June when the school year ended to about mid-August just before football practice began.  We started work at 7:00 A.M. Monday – Friday with a half hour lunch break and we got off at 3:00 or 3:30 P.M. I lived about a mile and a half from school and was lucky enough to be able to hitch a ride with my father who was driving to work at just the right time.  I walked home after work. There were four students in our work crew and we all packed our own lunches. There were no fast food restaurants nearby and besides a half hour flies by fast. Even if there had been none of us had cars or even driver’s licenses.

There were two full time janitors in addition to Mr. Monska and four student workers.  Mr. Monska had developed an orderly system to thoroughly clean the entire building. We started upstairs in the newly constructed junior high wing that was attached to the high school.  One room at a time. We washed the fluorescent light fixtures, wiped the bulbs, washed the classroom walls and cleaned the black boards. The we scraped gum from all the individual students chairs and washed them.  Finally, we piled the chairs on top of each other placing them to one side of the room. Next we used electric buffers with special pads to strip the old wax off, scrub the floor clean with soapy water, then apply wax and once it dried, buff it again.  We then moved the chairs to the now clean side of the the room and repeated the scrubbing and waxing on the remaining floor where the chairs had been stacked. When all the rooms on a floor had been cleaned we scrubbed the long hallways.

Just what did Mr. Monska teach me that was so valuable?  So many things….

RESPECT FOR WORK.  Meaningful work takes many forms and is performed by millions of people every day.  Such work demands that we respect and honor it.

PROMPTNESS.  I learned it was important to be at work on time every day.  If I was late it affected the team I worked with.

RESPECT FOR OTHERS. While some may feel janitorial work is mundane and beneath them, I certainly learned much from Mr. Monska and the other full timers.  I learned floor care and how to use a buffer. I learned about buffer pads and how to fix the machine when it broke. I learned how to wax a floor properly.

LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE.  Bud taught us how to do things by doing them himself, then observing us perform the same task to his exacting standards.  He never told us to do something and walked away leaving us scratching our head.

LEARNING TO WORK AS A TEAM TO ACCOMPLISH A GOAL.  Most work required two or more people to work together.  We soon learned to cooperate and develop plans to work efficiently and effectively without wasting time and making mistakes.

ENJOY WORKING AND THE CAMARADERIE OF INTERACTING WITH OTHERS.  I learned to work and interact with others successfully. It helped me overcome near paralyzing shyness and being introverted.  I learned to enjoy doing meaningful tasks and accomplishing my goals with others.

I studied with Mr. Monska for three years; by that time I was making $1.15 per hour.  Many of my friends will recognize the names of my fellow student co-workers: Paul Jones, Ira Porterfield, P.D. Quick and Russ Cellar.  Paul and Ira were in my class of 1964 and P.D. and Russ were a year or two ahead. Years later my sister Susan once asked me how on earth I was able to get a job with all the ‘cool’ guys; you weren’t cool in school she remarked.  She was certainly correct about that, I guess. I definitely wasn’t a leader as they were and I was painfully quiet and shy. Working with Mr. Monska helped me to begin to emerge from my shell.

At our 50-year high school reunion Paul and I were walking down a hallway together after a brief tour of the school that we knew so well.  A wide cloth broom happened to be leaning against the wall. We glanced at each other knowingly. We both had studied under the same master teacher and together learned so very much.  The diploma I received from Mr. Bud Monska so many years ago wasn’t a fancy document. It was a simple handshake and a thank you. It means more to me than my high school diploma.”

Patrick Donaldson graduated from Worthington High School in the class of 1964.  He spent 20 years as a combat arms Army officer and another 20 years in management with FedEx.  He has a BA in psychology and a Masters in Family Counseling. Today he is very happily retired. He credits Bud Monska and his influence.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

The Need for Balance

JBThose of you who know me well might say that I have a bit of a “Jelly Belly” problem.  While I’d have to agree with that statement because I do love Jelly Belly’s, it’s probably more accurate to say that I have a sugar problem.  I love candy, baked sweets of all kind, etc…

Since we’re halfway through January I’m on my third self-help book of the year.  I’ve been reading a lot about the need for balance in life. I’d have thought by the time I reached middle age I would have learned to balance my sugar addiction, but even now, balance is an elusive goal of mine.

As a school district we’re working on balance as well.  Throughout our Issues 9 & 10 campaign we discussed the need to balance our high school populations.  Currently Thomas Worthington High School as almost 1,800 students while Worthington Kilbourne High School has around 1,300 students. Both schools are projected to grow over the next five years and thus Thomas will exceed the capacity of the building.  Throughout the campaign, we committed that we would move one elementary school that currently feeds to Thomas Worthington to Worthington Kilbourne. No one currently in high school or middle school will need to move schools but over time by moving an elementary feeder we’ll get to balance.

To determine what school will need to change feeder patterns a committee has been established.  31 people were invited to participate and each school in the district will be represented. The feeder pattern committee will meet in January and February and by early spring we should receive a recommendation from that committee.  This will allow us to communicate with affected families before the students begin middle school.

Balance is important at the high school so that we can utilize the existing space in an effective way and so that we can provide high school students at both high schools with equitable opportunities.  While I may still struggle with balance in my personal life we should be able to obtain balance of our high schools.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

The NEW McDonald’s

McDonald's1Our Worthington Education Center is on E. Wilson Bridge Road.  When I’m providing someone with directions from High St. to our office I often say that it’s just past McDonald’s on the left.  For the past several months McDonald’s has been closed as they tore the old building down and rebuilt a new McDonalds on the same site.  

Before I worked at the Worthington Education Center I wasn’t sure if people in Worthington actually ate at McDonald’s.  I mean, I like a good Quarter Pounder with cheese and a large french fry with a Diet Coke. (If the drink is diet the entire meal is calorie free, right?).  I didn’t know anyone else who admitted to eating at McDonald’s so I didn’t tell people I liked it. But, when you drive by McDonald’s four times each day like I do you realize many, many, many people eat at McDonald’s.  The drive thru line alone is often out to Wilson Bridge Road.

When I heard that they were going to tear down the old McDonald’s I had a few thoughts.MDonald's2  First I thought, “that makes sense, the building hadn’t changed a bit since I was a kid.”  But, my second thought was, “really? Why tear down a McDonald’s? The food won’t change and will a new building really add business?”  Finally, there was a sense of nostalgia. In high school we used to go to McDonald’s every Saturday morning in the fall to get a few Egg McMuffin’s before watching football film of Friday night’s game.  I kind of liked that it never changed.

Well, last week the NEW McDonald’s opened and I’m lovin’ it!  I don’t know exactly what it is but it’s light, it’s designed in a much more user friendly way.  Traffic flows better with a redesigned drive thru. The food hasn’t changed but the updated space draws you in and it makes you want to go there.

In thinking about the new McDonald’s it makes me excited as we begin the design phase for our new middle schools.  I’m sure there are people who wonder how a new space could change school? Certainly there are others who, like me, have nostalgia for the old spaces.  But, in watching McDonald’s reinvent themselves on the same site, I’m doubly excited to watch us reinvent Worthingway, Perry, Kilbourne and McCord. On January 14th at our regular Board of Education meeting at 7:30 P.M. our architects and construction management team will begin to discuss plans for each site.  In late January we’ll be holding community meetings to get your input on the sites and what is possible. It’s going to be an exciting time. Like McDonald’s we’re going to reinvent some spaces to position Worthington for the next 50 years of education.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Happy Holidays!

HatsWe’re a month and a half past the passage of Issues 9 & 10 for Worthington Schools. Internally we transitioned from campaign mode to implementation mode.  We’re actively meeting with groups to determine how we will structure our 6-8th-grade middle schools and what the design and construction will look like.  We’re setting up a representative feeder pattern committee to make the necessary changes to balance our high school enrollment and we’re getting ready to install a new phone system in every classroom and a visitor management system in each office.

While we’re moving forward, there isn’t a day that has gone by since November 6th that someone hasn’t stopped me on the street to say a sincere congratulations.  I’ve been overwhelmed by the community support for Worthington Schools. Senior citizens have called me to share stories about why Worthington Schools means so much to them.  They tell me about their children’s experiences and often their grandchildren’s experiences. I’ve heard from current families about teachers, coaches and bus drivers who have made a positive difference in a child’s life and I’ve heard from families who don’t yet have kids in school who share that the schools are why they moved to Worthington.

I’m struck by how important Worthington Schools is to people.  I’m humbled that at this time in history we get to be the custodians of this institution and build upon the legacy of those who have come before us have built while we attempt to leave Worthington better than when we arrived.  We are all blessed to work in this school district in this community. The work is hard for sure. Resources in public education are always a little less than we’d like and the challenges are real. But this fall I was reminded that many, many, many people care deeply about the work you we every day for kids.  

In Worthington our goal is for our students to feel the same support from our staff as we do from the community.  I hope as you head into the holidays your students know how much each and every one of them means to us.

It’s been a great fall in Worthington!  Today we finish the first semester of the 2018-2109 school year.  Enjoy the break.  Happy Holidays!

Trent Bowers, Superintendent