Exponential Impact…

Stories from Worthington Schools

#ForWorthington

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the spring of 1982 I was living in Concord, California with my parents and younger sister.  My dad was transferred from the Bay Area to Columbus, Ohio and after doing extensive research my parents decided to locate our family in Worthington.  790 Ashler Court would be our family home for the next 16 years.  It was from that home that I would attend Worthington Hills Elementary, Perry Middle School, McCord Middle School, The Kilbourne Freshman Building and Worthington High School.

Today I look back on my parents’ decision to choose Worthington with great appreciation.  Like many high school and college students I was set on making my mark on this world outside of Worthington and as such I took my first teaching job in King George, Virginia.  I taught 5th grade at Potomac Elementary School and my first classroom was in the school’s old kitchen.  Teaching in Virginia was a great experience.  Immediately it created an appreciation for my home of Worthington and in the fall of 1997 Dr. Ann Heffernan hired me to teach 5th grade at Evening Street Elementary.  I was home and I was planning to be a teacher and a coach for my career.  (I was coaching football at McCord Middle School and lacrosse at Worthington Kilbourne High School.)

As often happens, my plans for life shifted.  Two things happened.  For one, Dr. Heffernan pulled me aside one day and encouraged me to consider becoming a principal.  I had never considered this before, but I was intrigued.  Secondly, Dr. Gerald Prince appeared at my classroom door with some bad news.  Because of budget constraints my position was being eliminated and I was being RIF’d (Reduced in Force.)  My plans changed in a hurry.  Luckily for me Dan Girard had left his position as Dean of Students at McCord Middle School and they had an opening.  I was hired for the dean’s position and learned that I really liked the administration role.

After a few years at McCord I decided I needed to move outside of Worthington again.  I became first an assistant principal, then a principal, and eventually the principal of two schools at the same time in Marysville Schools.  These were great years for me personally and I will be forever grateful to my mentor Larry Zimmerman for his faith in me.  But, as has happened consistently in my life, I came home.

In 2008 I was given the opportunity to work in Worthington’s central office (The WEC), first in Human Resources and three years later in my current assignment as Assistant Superintendent.  Today I learned that the Board of Education has the faith in me to become the next Superintendent of Worthington Schools.  I didn’t set out for this job.  Even seven years ago when I joined Worthington I would have never imagined this was possible.

As a student in Worthington I was labeled with a learning disability.  School was always very hard for me.  Throughout my academic career in Worthington I was supported by amazing, caring and talented educators.  Teachers and coaches such as Connie Ball, Bill Wolford, Mark Ellwood, Jan Fish, Chris Gallagher, Scott Gordon, Tim Cave, Janet Lanka, Tim Dove and Jane Baxter scaffolded my learning and helped me progress.  Even with their incredible support I graduated in the bottom half of my high school class.

Struggling academically shaped how I see education today.  My personal experiences are melded now with almost 20 years of professional experience in education.  Those experiences will continue to influence me as Superintendent of Schools.  They’ve taught me the importance of connecting with others, communicating expectations clearly, providing effective feedback, listening first, and setting high expectations for student success.

Worthington Schools is a great school district!  We are a school district that offers an incredible pre-school experience at Sutter Park.  Sutter Park is an example statewide for early childhood excellence.  Worthington is a district that creates stability and builds deep and meaningful relationships with families at our elementary schools that serve students in grades K-6.  My three children will spend 13 cumulative years at one elementary school.  The staff there is like our second family and this stability and personal relationship is a unique treasure in 2014.

When our students move to middle school they have incredible options.  Within our traditional middle school programs we offer many more choice options for students than do our neighboring school districts.  We also offer an alternative lottery-based middle school in Phoenix.  Our high schools provide an array of choices.  We pride ourselves in offering an incredible breadth of curricular and co-curricular options for our high school students.  Likewise our Linworth Alternative program has been a benchmark in alternative education for almost 40 years.

Under Dr. Tucker’s leadership Worthington’s academic performance as measured by standardized tests has never been stronger.  But we’re about so much more.  We still value recess time for our elementary students and we take time out of each day for the arts and physical education. We’re a “both/and” school district.  We won’t sacrifice what we believe is good for students in order to score a few points more on tests (that’s the “either/or” approach.)

As we move forward my commitment is that Worthington will continue to get better in every aspect of schooling.  In a competitive marketplace people will choose Worthington Schools for their children not only because our offerings are second to none, and the quality and rigor of our offerings is outstanding, but they’ll choose Worthington because every member of our staff is committed to building a personal relationship with our families and is therefore committed to do whatever is necessary for our students to succeed.

In the near future I will meet with Dr. Tucker and the board of education and we will begin to map out the future.  I anticipate the need to study our enrollment trends and our facilities.  I’d like for us to engage our community in strategic planning to guide the next several years of our work.  We’ll continue to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money and we’ll work to make certain every dollar spent has a positive impact on students and the community.

Today I am totally and completely humbled.  I stand upon the shoulders of the great educators who have made Worthington a special place.  In particular my life has been touched by Anne Heffernan, Jeanne Paliotto, Paul Cynkar, Jim McElligott, Mark Glasbrenner, Melissa Conrath and Thomas Tucker.  There are many others who have come before us and there will be many more in the future.  I stand surrounded by a group of talented, caring, and committed administrators, teachers, and education support professionals.  I love Worthington Schools!  My goal everyday will be to give back to this community that has given me so much and to give forward to the next generation.

As we make daily strides we will do so For Worthington!  Not for ourselves, but For Worthington.  For the kids of Worthington!  For the community of Worthington Schools.  For those who have come before us in Worthington.  For my neighbors whose kids have come and gone.  I look forward to partnering with you to make Worthington the best school district in Ohio.  FOR WORTHINGTON!

Respectfully,

Trent H. Bowers, Ed.D.

If you’re on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook please tag your Worthington related posts with #ForWorthington as we work together to make Worthington the best school district/community in Ohio.

 

Parent-Teacher Conferences

IMG_5611I began my teaching career at age 22 as a fifth grade teacher in King George Virginia.  My first classroom was the old kitchen in Potomac Elementary.  The students and I actually had to walk through Mr. Young’s fifth grade classroom in order to get to our classroom.  That was a very interesting year.  Being my first year in the classroom there are things I remember like they happened yesterday.

I remember getting ready for my first set of parent-teacher conferences.  With 26 students in my class, I was scheduled to complete roughly 13 hours of conferences with parents.  I probably spent 40 hours preparing for those conferences.  I gathered student work to share, I made notes on student strengths and weaknesses, and I created plans for how parents could help their children at home.  I was ready!

When conferences came I was nervous.  I was a 22-year-old kid playing adult with all of these 40-year-old parents.  Most of my conferences went well but a few sets of parents didn’t show up for their conference.  “What was wrong with these people?  Don’t they care about their child’s education?  Do they realize all of the time I put into these conferences?  What kind of parent doesn’t show-up for their own child’s parent-teacher conference?”  At 22 years old those questions made sense to me.

In my current role as a district level administrator it’s important to me that we utilize parent teacher conference time effectively.  It’s important that we intentionally reach out an invite parents in and it’s important that we meet at times that work for our families.  In Worthington we have great teachers and I’m proud of what I see going on with parent teacher conferences.

My daughters each had conferences scheduled.  The teachers sent home information and surveyed the parents as to what we wanted to learn about during our conferences.  They created portfolio’s of student work and they even sent reminder emails.  Our conferences were neatly scheduled for our kids on the same day one after another.  It was all set-up.  These were going to be really good conferences.

Here’s the kicker….they may have been really good conferences had Doreen and I remembered to show-up.  Yep, we’re those parents.  Not only that, but, I’m the stinking assistant superintendent of schools and Doreen is a teacher.  We not only value education, we know how hard the teachers of our children work to prepare for these conferences. And, somehow, neither of us checked the calendar (which was on Google Calendar and thus on our phone, tablet and computer, plus it was written on the kitchen calendar.)

In the craziness of our life, at 41 years old, I learned a new lesson.  Some of those families that I was so frustrated with at 22 years old, they cared about their children and the education of their children, more than I ever understood.  But, sometimes at 41 years old, life is a bit crazy, and sometimes you just mess-up.  That was us yesterday, and today, I have a bit more compassion for many of the parents I’ve worked with for 20 years.  I’m one of them, and now I understand.


Even the Crossing Guards…

RileyThe average school district in Ohio has around 2,500 students.  Thus, Worthington with over 9,500 students is considered a large school district.  One of the challenges in a large school district is connecting with our students and families so that there is a small town atmosphere.

In Worthington one of our main connection strategies is K-6 elementary schools.  Our students enter kindergarten at age 5 in one school and ideally they spend 7 years with the same principal, teaching staff and support staff.  This time allows for our adults to get to know our students and our families really, really well.  Likewise it allows our students to build lasting friendships with their peer set.

When things work out well our students are supported by a cadre of caring adults all who know the kids like they are their own.  In my children’s case we’ve seen this first hand.  My family lives .4 miles from Evening Street Elementary.  We’re solidly within the walking zone and so my three girls walk to school each day.  Daily they have to cross 161 on their way to and from school.  The traffic on 161 is often heavy, sometimes moving quickly, and can be less than patient.  To make sure our students are safe the City of Worthington provides a crossing guard.

Carol Leahy has been the crossing guard at 161 and Evening Street for at least the past seven years.  (Maybe, long before that, but I didn’t have the records from the city.)  Being a crossing guard is difficult.  This morning it was 45 degrees and sprinkling rain.  I was cold walking from my warm car to my warm office.  Mrs. Leahy stands outside for over an hour, corrals kids and parents to the cross walk area, and physically stands in front of rush hour traffic.  Then she does it again each afternoon.  (I believe there is a special place in heaven for crossing guards.)

Here’s the amazing part….not only does Mrs. Leahy do her job and keep kids safe, she somehow also takes the time to build a positive relationship with them.  She actually knows each child!  She does this to the level that just this week she said, “I see that Riley (my 7-year-old) lost a tooth.”  How is that possible?  My kid is bundled up and under an umbrella.  My kid is surrounded by her two sisters (who are certainly talking a mile a minute), she’s surrounded by parents with dogs, the kid down the street who skateboards to school, and the three kids dragging their scooters that they thought would be fun to ride to school but are considering ditching in the neighbors bushes.  In all the craziness that is Mrs. Leahy’s daily life she knows that my child lost a tooth!

That’s the Worthington connection.  That’s what is different about Worthington than many other communities.  In a competitive marketplace that’s why families should seriously consider Worthington Schools for their children.  Not only do our kids receive a diverse, high quality education, our kids are supported by an incredible group of adults.  Even the crossing guards!  Thanks Mrs. Leahy!

 

 

The Worthington Advantage For My Kids

CamThere are many incredible advantages that we enjoy by living and working in Worthington Schools.  Recently I had an experience that reminded me of that advantage.

As a dad of three active daughters, and the husband of a wife who works full-time, there is a significant amount of communication and coordination required to make certain everyone in the family gets to their scheduled locations on time.  Sometimes we even remember to pick them up and bring them home.

In this vein, last Friday my wife and I reviewed our daily schedule.  It was determined that my wife would make certain my fourth grade daughter got to her book club on time at Panera and that she would make certain my daughter had money to buy her drink and snack.  It was my job to be at Panera by 5:30 P.M. to pick my daughter up, just like it had been my job a week earlier to download the book needed for book club onto my daughter’s Kindle.

Yes, you’re reading this correctly and this is where the Worthington advantage comes in.  My fourth grade daughter is involved in a regular book club with a group of friends and each month a different girl picks the book for the club, writes the discussion questions, and determines the location.  Friday’s book was “Isabelle” which is an American Girl book based on the American Girl doll of the year for 2014.  (If you don’t know about American Girl dolls, the doll of the year is a really, really, really big deal.  And, most of the American Girl books are excellent historical fiction books.)

When I arrived at Panera my daughter was sunk into a rich leather chair.  Her book was on her lap and she was sipping a Mocha Frappe. Seriously, rough life!  But, the cool thing is, she was reading and discussing her book with her friends.  How cool is that!  At nine years old my daughter and her friends have taken Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee to a whole new level.  They’re reading, discussing, and having a ball doing it.

In Worthington many of our kids have significant advantages.  One such advantage is that my daughter has a group of friends that read together for fun.  All I have to do as a dad is download the book (one click ordering from Amazon) and remember to pick her up.  We’re very, very lucky!

If you’d like to read about another advantage we enjoy in Worthington check out our school district blog: Absolute Excellence

 

Using the Tools of Technology

photo (59)Last week was the first week of school for the 2014-2015 school year in Worthington.  The first week is always exciting, but it’s also exhausting.  It’s a week of explanations and procedures.  It’s a week where we realize that the plan or schedule we’ve worked all summer on may not work like we thought it would.  It’s a week of implementing new things.

One of the new things in Worthington this year is a transition to Google Apps for Education.  All of our students in 2nd -12th grade will have access to a Worthington Google Apps for Education Account (GAFE)..

Worthington GAFE is an integrated communication and collaboration solution, hosted by Google and managed by Worthington.  GAFE will provide the ability for Worthington students, faculty and staff to communicate (email), store files and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in real time from school, work, or home.  This is all within a secure online environment.

Teachers can use Google Apps to facilitate group projects and use the history tool to see the level of participation of each student in a group. Teachers will be able to give feedback to students directly in documents shared with a teacher. Turning in assignments will be as easy as sharing the file in Google Docs with the teacher or by emailing it to the teacher through the student’s Worthington Google Apps Mail account.

As a district employee I have a GAFE account.  So do all three of my daughters.  Only my sixth grade daughter accessed her account during the first week of school (actually what I can say is that only my sixth grade daughter told me she accessed her account.  The others may have and just not mentioned it.)  The GAFE email works for students in a “walled garden.”  They can send and receive email within the Worthington system but not outside of it.  Because of my position in the school district my daughter and I are both within and walls and she took the opportunity to email her old man.  What she said I want to share because it warms my heart as a dad and as a district administrator equally:

School so far this year is pretty much… AWESOME! I mean everything about it! Even the way all the teachers teach is different and even more awesome! I’m so happy with the teacher I have but this year all of the teachers are soooo amazing that there is no difference!

Our schedules are really good so far as I can see. I do wish my Science/Social Studies was in 2nd period, if it was then I would only have to carry stuff for 1 class instead of three at a time! 
I will tell you the rest verbally.  Love you!
My hope is that all Worthington students use the new tools of technology to describe their start as “pretty much….AWESOME” and that they describe the way their teachers teach as “even more awesome” and “soooo amazing.” We have higher hopes for how our new technology tools will be used eventually, but for now I think that would suffice.

I Love the First Day of School!

2010_0824firstdayofschool0026 (2)Today is the first day of the 2014-2015 school year in Worthington!  I love the first day.  It’s a new beginning for everyone.  It’s a chance to improve on last year and an opportunity to prove that what you did well last year was not a fluke.  In our house our school supplies were purchased just after the 4th of July.  My girls are excited about their teachers, their new colorful and carpeted classrooms, and the opportunities that await them.  As a child I remember being anxious about the first day.  Would my new parachute pants still be in style with the cool kids?  Would the teacher make me read out loud in front of the class?  Would this be the year that they actually let us use the climbing wall in the gym?  Would the cafeteria still serve the bagels dipped in melted butter?  Would Beth Davies actually talk to me?  All important questions….(For the answer to these questions you’ll have to read all the way to the bottom of this post.)

This year will mark  my 20th first day as a professional educator.  I still get anxious thinking about the first day of school, but it’s very different than it was in my youth.  In thinking back I was reflecting on my first days:  I spent kindergarten in Cleveland and grades 1-3 in San Francisco.  I have no real memories of these schools and am not even certain of the school names.  After moving to Worthington to begin my 4th grade year I spent three first days at Worthington Hills Elementary, one first day at Perry Middle School,  the first, first day ever at McCord Middle School, one first day at the Kilbourne Building and three first days at Worthington High School.

For some reason the first day of class in college isn’t really significant, so I’ll leave those years out.  As an educator I spent my first day as a teacher at Potomac Elementary in King George, Virginia.  I spent one first day at King George Middle School.  I spent two first days at Evening Street, two more at McCord Middle.  I spent one first day at Creekview Intermediate School, five first days at Navin Elementary School and one first day split between Navin and Northwood Elementary in Marysville.  Today is my seventh first day as a member of the Worthington Schools central office team.

First days are both an end and a beginning.  The first day marks the end of an incredible effort by principals, secretaries, custodial and maintenance staff, transportation staff, the welcome center, etc…  The hard work of getting schools ready and students in the right places is mostly done when the first day arrives.  It’s also the beginning.  The beginning of a new journey.  A marathon that will take many twists and turns we do not yet know about.  Each school year has it’s own unique story.

As an educator I’m anxious for the first day the way I hope my kids are.  I’m not nervous and I’m not fearful.  I’m just excited!  For my own kids I’m excited about what they’ll get to learn, do, and experience this year.  I have total confidence in the adults in their schools and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to send my children to them daily.  Enjoy the first day of school.  It’s always a special day!

Every first day starts for me with this saying….

This is the beginning of a new day

you have been given this day to use as you will.

You can waste it or use it for good.

What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.

When tomorrow comes this day will be gone forever.

In it’s place is something that you have left behind….

Let it be something good.

And now for the long awaited answers….

Q1:  Would my parachute pants still be in style with the cool kids?

A:  Just barely.  I was always about 8 months late on the trends that lasted for 8 and a half months.  I didn’t totally embarrass myself but I think I likely only wore the parachute pants once.

Q2:  Would the teacher make me read out loud in front of the class?

A:  Always! And as a student with a learning disability in reading this was incredibly painful.  Of course I would always try to determine ahead of time exactly what paragraph I would have to read and while the other students were reading aloud and I was supposed to be listening, I would be secretly practicing my passage.

Q3:  Would this be the year they actually let us use the climbing wall in the gym?

A:  I was incredibly lucky in this area.  Dr. Gary Moore was my Phys. Ed. teacher at Worthington Hills and the man is a genius.  Seriously, before he created SuperGames he was my gym teacher.  Not only did we use the climbing wall, when we got to the top he let us jump off and try to catch a trapeze bar.  Apparently the school district had no liability concerns in the 80’s.

Q4:  Would the cafeteria still serve bagels dipped in melted butter?

A:  Yes!  The actually allowed this.  For lunch you could buy a bagel dipped in hot butter.  I’ve been on cholesterol medicine since I was 18.  We may know why.

Q5:  Would Beth Davies actually talk to me?

A:  “Crashed and burned”  I never had a chance…

There’s a New Principal at Mill Valley Elementary

1619485_10203585895671939_1181489392_nLast night the Marysville Board of Education approved the contract of my friend Amey McGlenn as the next Principal of Mill Valley Elementary.  The decision by Marysville Superintendent, Diane Mankins was not only a good decision, it was a GREAT decision and I’m happy for Amey, for the staff at Mill Valley, and mostly for the kids of Marysville.

In the spring of 2001 I left Worthington Schools (I was the dean of students at McCord Middle School) to become an assistant principal at Creekview Intermediate School in Marysville.  Creekview was a new concept still under construction and when I began my job in June of that summer Mr. Kannally and I worked out of the Mill Valley Elementary office.  (Tim got the guidance office and I worked in a closet used at the time for the old Ohio Reads program…#NewGuyProblems)

In 2002 when I was again opening a new school, this time Navin Elementary, I had the unique opportunity to hire a significant number of new teachers.  One of those new teachers was directly out of college in Rhode Island.  She was a brash, confident New Englander with the last name of Fregeolle.  She would teach 4th grade in room 212 with teammates Karen Hanson, Becky Yurasek and Michelle Jenkins. And teach she did….

I could tell many an Amey McGlenn story.  But from the start as a 24 year-old first year teacher she was a star.  She connected with kids and parents.  She was organized and well-prepared and she always exhibited a level of maturity beyond her years.  Marysville recognized these traits and she’s broadened her impact as an instructional coach and now will broaden it again as a school principal.

Amey will lead instructional improvement and will create a positive culture in Marysville.  She’ll lead in a school in a community she not only lives in, but she’s passionate about.  I watched my mentor in educational leadership do three important things.  I strive to do them (but don’t always succeed) and I believe Amey will strive to do them:

1.  Take care of people

2.  Model service to others

3.  Listen

As an old guy in educational leadership teachers I hired right out of college are becoming principals.  It’s really a cool experience.  I’m proud of Amey’s work to date and excited about the impact she’ll have as a building leader.  If you’re looking for a school for your child outside of Franklin County (inside is a no-brainer http://www.worthington.k12.oh.us) I’d look to Mill Valley Elementary.  Their new principal is an east coast transplant with firmly planted midwestern roots.

 

School’s Out For Summer….

photoToday is the last day of the 2013-2014 school year for Worthington.  Originally we were scheduled to complete the school year yesterday (5.29.14) but because school was closed for seven days throughout our extremely cold winter, today was used as a make-up day.  Across the school district students will complete finals, enjoy field days, classroom parties, and clap-outs.  It will be a good day!

In our house it’s been a good year for each of my daughters.  We’ve been blessed with teachers who really match the personalities of our kids and who clearly care about both their academic and emotional needs.  I personally hate to see this year-end as our kids have loved being in school.

As a former teacher the last day was always bittersweet.  It meant the end of meaningful relationships but it was also a relief.  It meant rest was near as was a chance to rejuvenate.  I think I was as excited as the kids were when the final school bell rang.

I know how I felt and thus when I received an email yesterday from one of my daughter’s teachers I was both shocked and thankful.  I was shocked because the teacher was inviting the entire class to a movie at a local theatre one morning next week (the week after school was out!). The movie ties into the current unit of study and they didn’t have time to watch it during the school year.  So, on her first week off of school, her first week of freedom from these 24 kids, she is inviting all of them to join her to watch the movie.  I was shocked.  Who does that?  Why isn’t she going to the pool, sleeping in, reading a book? Does she really want to see my kid another day?

I was shocked, but mostly I was thankful.  Thankful because my child spent the last year in the care of someone who likes kids this much and thankful that our school district employees teachers who don’t care if it’s a scheduled day or if it’s into the evening – they’re going to go above and beyond for kids.

Today is the last day of school this year.  But, my kid will see her teacher again next week.  How cool is that?

 

Thank You Teachers!

photo (55)As the 2013-2014 school year winds down I am completing my 19th year as an adult in public education.  During my career thus far I spent six years as a teacher in the classroom and have spent the past 13 years as either a school principal or a central office administrator.  I’m an educator by trade and I’m very proud of that.  But, I have a confession to make.  I’m not a teacher.  And, when I was a teacher I wasn’t a great one.  I connected well with students and with families, but I never really was able to make the magic happen in the classroom that I’ve witnessed with great teachers.  Thus, I recognized my abilities and put them to use in other areas in public education.

My time as a teacher helped me immensely.  What I learned is that teaching is a really challenging  job!  It’s much more difficult day-to-day than my current job is.  It’s physically and mentally demanding and the pressure for student achievement in 2014 is something I never had to experience during my time in the classroom.  In my life however, I have been very lucky.  I’ve spent a career around those who really make a difference.  I’m married to a teacher.  My sister is a teacher.  I’ve been the principal of three different schools where I watched first-hand teachers making a positive difference in the lives of kids every single day.  In my current role as the Assistant Superintendent of Worthington City Schools I have the opportunity to work with 19 different schools and over 700 teachers.  I’m in awe of the dedication, self-sacrifice, and caring that I see everyday in our schools.

As a parent I have been incredibly blessed with teachers who work hard to connect with my children.  They are teachers who structure their classroom so learning occurs at high levels and where creativity and individuality is valued.  My children have teachers who will remain as trusted adults for a lifetime.

And I, like you hopefully, have teachers who I still believe shaped my own life in positive ways.  At 41 years of age I don’t often remember the subject matter a teacher taught me, but I still remember specific conversations I had with Bill Wolford, Jan Fish, Tim Dove, Mark Ellwood, Gary Moore and Noel Noblette.  All teachers who went out of their way to shape my life.

This week is teacher appreciation week.  Really every week should be teacher appreciation week.  Sure, teachers get some of their summer off.  Sure, from time-to-time we all encounter teachers whose style we don’t agree with.  But, let’s be real.  Everyday I trust certain adults with the life of my children.  I trust teachers!

This week I want to thank the teachers of Creekview Intermediate, Navin Elementary and Northwood Elementary in Marysville.  I am in awe of your work!  I want to thank Tami Hinz for showing me 15 years ago what an amazing teacher is like (and thus helping me realize I should maybe be an administrator.)  I want to thank Mrs. Fuller, Mrs. Eakins, Mrs. Benedict and Mrs. Jarzecki at Evening Street for being difference makers with my own children this year.  I want to thank my wife who works much harder than I would choose for her to as she strives to connect with students digitally.  I want to thank all of those teachers who made a difference in my life and all of those teachers who come to work everyday in a high stress environment and work tirelessly to help every child see success.  I want to thank Mark Hill who works to advocate for all Worthington teachers and all teachers statewide via STRS.

This week take a few minutes and reach out to the teachers who are making a difference everyday.  Let them know you appreciate what they do.  #ThankYouTeachers!

Spring Break 2014

unnamedI’m back in the office this morning but I spent most of this week (spring break in Worthington) in Ft. Myers, Florida.  15 years ago my parents purchased a condo in Ft. Myers and they now split their time between Ft. Myers and Columbus. Four years ago my sister and nephew moved to Ft. Myers and thus the trip was one to spend time with family. (The weather was nice too!)

My sister is my opposite.  It’s unlikely that two family members could be so different.  She is currently the art teacher at Colonial Elementary in Lee County Schools.  (I can’t draw my hand.). She is creative, spontaneous, and adventurous.  I am linear, steady and conservative.  We have great parents.  Somehow we came from the same home.

One of the joys of this trip was getting to see my sister,  the art teacher, in action.  On our first evening in Ft. Myers she ran an art fair in conjunction with her school’s parent teacher conferences.  After meeting with the home room teacher, parents and students moved to the cafeteria where there was face painting, sand art, a photo booth, painting, popcorn, cookies and punch.  (Volunteers were necessary and thus along with school staff I took the photos.). On this evening I watched a couple of hundred students and their families benefit from my sister’s creativity and passion.  On our final evening in Ft. Myers we went to an art exhibit hosted by the Alliance For the Arts.  The art teachers in Lee County all chose 10 – 15 pieces of art and each school displayed their work.  The parking lot and surrounding areas were full of families with smiles on their faces coming to see the student work.

As a school administrator and as a big brother it’s really neat to see my sister making a positive difference in the lives of kids.  Next year she’ll likely be at a different school because her current school, which serves a student population that is over 90% free or reduced lunch, is being reconstituted.  Reconstitution is a reform option under No Child Left Behind for when a school consistently fails to meet improvement targets.  The theory of action is that by moving out the current teachers and bringing in new teachers the school will see more success.photo (54)

From my perspective, and from the research I found, this is a flawed strategy and rarely works without other significant systemic changes. The strategy assumes that the new teachers will be somehow more committed, more talented, more something…  I personally don’t think we can or should put system failures on the backs of teachers, but that is our simplistic answer to many things in education today. (I’m not objective here….  It’s my sister.)

So, where she’ll teach next year I’m not certain.  After watching her this week I am certain that wherever she is she’ll use art to help students learn and grow, to build creativity and problem solving, and to put smiles on the faces of families.

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