243 Days

images 2It’s been 243 days since the Worthington Board of Education announced that I would be the next Superintendent of Worthington Schools (btw that’s a whole year on Venus!)  Today is the day! Please don’t contact me today.  I’ll be very busy today changing my email signature, my twitter description, etc… to say “Superintendent.”  (21st Century tasks…. and J/K I’m available and working.  Please contact me…)

Many people have asked about the transition phase.  It’s unlikely that many CEO transitions last as long as this one did, although certainly there are some examples that are longer.  With the luxury of being able to look back with clarity, the 243 days was really, really beneficial for me personally and hopefully for all of Worthington Schools.

First off, I appreciate Dr. Thomas Tucker in this transition.  He acted with class and provided me the space necessary to move forward.  Inevitably from time to time I stepped on his toes and overstepped my bounds. He usually handled it well.  Secondly, this time allowed me to spend significant time building relationships across the school district.  I was able to meet with many constituent groups as well as hold community meetings about our school district.  This engagement provides both myself and our Board of Education clear direction moving forward and a better understanding regarding the priorities of our community.  Third, I had an opportunity to handle the “snow day call.”  Sometimes our community would say I did it right.  Sometimes our community might say I failed miserably.  Likely they’ll feel the same way next year as they did this year but I head into inclement weather with some experience.  Finally, the 243 day transition allowed me to get to know the other Central Ohio Superintendents and create a support system that will benefit Worthington as we partner with others to create shared solutions that make Central Ohio the education leader of Ohio.

Today I move one office over at the Worthington Education Center.  I’ll change my office phone number.  I’ll change my email, twitter description and business cards.  But with 243 days behind me not much else will change.  I’ve been blessed to have had the time to learn the job with a safety net.  We’re 49 days from the start of the 2015-2016 school year for students in Worthington.  Over the next 49 days our team will discuss “what matters most” in Worthington.  We’ll work with all staff so that every Worthington student has a trusted adult who they know believes in them.  We’ll work tirelessly to make Worthington a great public school district.

It’s been a fun 243 days.  Onward!

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Coach Cave

11180600_10153322078023887_8579943781619228129_nSunday at the 136th commencement of Thomas Worthington High School, Social Studies teacher Tim Cave was selected by the Hall of Fame committee as one of new members of the Thomas Worthington Hall of Fame.  As Tim arrived on stage he shook the hand of Principal Jim Gaskill and Superintendent Thomas Tucker.  He then did something none of the other Hall of Fame recipients did (and I am in no way implying they should have…) he came over and made a point of shaking my hand.  Sometimes it’s the little things in life that mean a lot.  At that moment I wanted to put Tim Cave in a giant man hug.  But, if you know Tim well, you know had I done so he may have publicly executed me.  Thus, I settled for a firm hand-shake and a look in the eye.

Over the past seven years as an administrator in Worthington’s central administration office I have known Tim as an outstanding teacher of AP European History at Thomas Worthington High School.  I’ve known him as a man who believes teachers should be allowed to carry guns to confront violence and I’ve known him as the guy who shoots off fireworks from his front yard when the Thomas Worthington Football team scores touchdowns.  (Don’t tell the Worthington Police and yes, we need to score more touchdowns!)

While my connection with Tim in an official capacity has been very positive, my connection with Tim actually goes back 28 years to when I met Tim Cave as a scared 14 year old freshman coming out to play Worthington Lacrosse.  Tim was the assistant coach and was my position coach.  He was in ridiculous physical condition and he would send us on long runs from the high school around Antrim Lake and back up the hill to the field house.  Not only would he make us run but to ensure we actually ran the whole way he would run with us and every so often stop and do push-ups so slow guys like me could catch-up.

For four years I learned a lot from Tim Cave.  Two things stand out and they are two things that I’ll never forget. First, Tim taught me “you’ve got to shoot to get hot, you’ve got to shoot to stay hot!”  He’d say it over and over.  The phrase has been important in my life.  When I was nervous to ask the woman who is now my wife out on a date that phrase was in my head.  You’ve got to take a shot.  When I applied to become the Superintendent of Worthington Schools four years ago and everyone thought I was crazy, Tim’s voice was in my head.  At many points throughout life when I’ve had doubt I’ve heard Tim’s voice.  You’ve got to take a shot!

Second, Tim, along with our head coach CG (no first or last name needed, just CG), taught me one simple phrase.  “Finish.”  I’ll never forget running up the hill from the flats to the TWHS field house, dog tired, wanting to quit with every fiber of my being.  Here comes Tim Cave and he’s running back down the hill after already finishing to run next to me, all the way saying “Finish.  Don’t you dare quit.  Don’t walk.  Finish.”  Later in life when I went through a marathon running phase, over those last six miles of the marathon I would hear Tim’s voice or picture CG sitting on the back of his black Ford Bronco, yelling FINISH!  When I was struggling to complete my doctoral dissertation and wondering if it would be worth it, Tim’s voice came back to me.  There was no way I could quit.  What if Coach Cave found out?

Tim is Worthington to the core.  He actually attended preschool at St. John’s on the Village Green.  He was a long-time Colonial Hills resident and now he and I both live in Kilbourne Village.  Tim didn’t get inducted into the Thomas Worthington Hall of Fame for his work with me.  He was inducted because he’s a great teacher and a credit to his profession.  But for me personally he’s in my hall of fame.  He made a difference in my life and I hope to teach my own children, and someday my grandchildren, what Tim taught me.

Congratulations Coach Cave!  Well deserved!  #Go Cards!

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The Amazing Drew George and my quest to beat Greg Garris

10250048_799776196773003_5819524181675856559_nMost mornings I attempt to go for a run before work.  I need the exercise and it’s a good way to clear my head.  Like many mornings I passed Wilson Hill teacher, Todd Smith (more accurately Todd passed me as he’s a machine and I’m an old, balding, semi-fat man attempting to run….but I digress…).  As I ran along my normal route I attempted to run a little faster than I normally would.  (Faster is a relative word.)  This attempt was mostly due to the fact that in a few short days I need to beat Thomas Worthington Mathematics teacher, Greg Garris, in the Fusion for the Fight 5K.

Why do I need to beat Greg Garris, a man 15 years younger than I am you may ask?  Here’s the back-story. Last June I ran the #DrewStrong/GussStrong 4.23 mile race from Worthington Kilbourne High School to Thomas Worthington High School.  With only a few hundred yards left in the race I was able to catch-up to Greg.  Unfortunately, as I began taunting him and challenging him to a sprint to the finish he remembered than he had young legs and I had old legs and he easily out sprinted me.  This Fusion 5K is my unlikely opportunity for redemption.

But, that’s all lead up to the real story.  The real story is that I ran the #DrewStrong/GussStrong race to support Worthington Kilbourne student, Drew George, who was diagnosed with leukemia on Nov. 7, 2013.  Later last school year George underwent a bone marrow transplant April 9, 2014, with his sister, Tori, being the 10 out of 10 perfect donor.11072723_792756390808317_790912669257019934_n

Fast forward one year and Drew George is back and better than ever.  He’s playing baseball for Worthington Kilbourne and just last week a healthy Drew George pitched a complete game shut-out for the Wolves.  Coach Dan Swallie tweeted out “Wolves win 2-0!  Drew George with the complete game shut-out.  Is there anything he can’t do?”  I literally shed tears when I saw Dan’s tweet.  Not only is Drew back playing the game he loves but he’s also been on the Worthington Kilbourne honor roll for his academic success.

I don’t know Drew personally but as a grown man approaching middle age I can easily say I look up to this young man.  He’s persevered through circumstances that most of us would rather not even imagine.  It’s an amazing story.  Today I wear my Wolves baseball hat in honor of Drew George.  (I look ridiculous in these flat bill hats that are in style today.  I’m hoping 1989 circles back around soon.)  Next week I’ll run attempting to beat Greg Garris but more importantly running for a good cause:  beating cancer!FullSizeRender (9)

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My 6th Grader’s View of PARCC Testing

PARCC imagesTomorrow the PARCC assessment window will open all across Ohio.  In Worthington we have been preparing for these Next Generation Assessments for some time.  (Check out this website for important information regarding the assessments.)  In preparation for these assessments I thought it would be interesting to see what a student thinks about the assessments. Since two of those students live in my house I decided to ask my sixth grade daughter to write down her thoughts on the tests.  Those were my only instructions.  Thus, here is one student’s view of sixth grade assessments (disclaimer, this is just one student’s view,  certainly there are many other perspectives.)

It was a regular day in Mrs. Snyder’s 6th grade math class. We were listening to her talk and make some announcements about a schedule change. Next she points out that we are having 11 days of PARCC testing. What? This is crazy. 11 days, seriously? What if I’m too slow of a typist? What if the questions are too hard? How will I study? These questions were going through my classmates’ and my minds. Everything about this seems horrible. Am I right? It is a big change for every child in the district that will be taking the PARCC assessments this Spring.

Even though I was worried when Mrs. Snyder started talking about the PARCC assessments, I still was happy! I mean, the idea of our community, our state, taking the big jump from the idea of a paper and pencil test to a computer test is a big thought! Another thing would be that I have taken a practice PARCC assessment and the new tools that are available on the computer will make it easier for me to approach the test. On the math test, we have multiple calculators, a protractor, etc.. On the English/Language Arts test, we are able to highlight and use a line reader.

Mrs. Snyder showed us the calendar. As a 6th grader, there will be 3 tests that I will have to take. It will be in many segments, each one will be for a day. We will prepare by trying out questions on the PARCC website and we will do practice tests in class. It will be a great way to prepare for a test. No matter how BIG of a test it is. My teachers will work hard to treat it like any other OAA and that is what it will be.  

When we go into that classroom we will have no choice but to take a test. In my mind, it doesn’t matter if it is the PARCC or the OAA. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that no matter what, we are going to take a test. When I log onto the computer it is just like sharpening a box of #2 pencils. When I sit down to take a test, I’m taking a test. I will be nervous either way. No matter who is looking at it, an adult or a 6th grader, it is a test. And it’s not like we have a choice if we want to test.”

Here is the assessment schedule that my daughter’s sixth grade class will follow:

 

Grade and Administration Dates Assessment

PBA-Performance Base Assessment

EOY-End of the Year Assessment

Grade 6
February 23 Literary Analysis PBA

8:30-10:00 a.m.

February 25 Research Task PBA

8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

February 27 Narrative Writing PBA

10:00-11:30 a.m.

March 3

Grade 6 and Math 7 continued

Social Studies PBA

8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

March 10 Math Unit 1 PBA

8:30-10:00 a.m.

March 12 Math Unit 2 PBA

8:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m.

May 4 ELA Unit 1 EOY

8:30-10:00 a.m.

May 5 ELA Unit 2 EOY

8:30-10:00 a.m.

May 6 Math Unit 1 EOY

8:30-10:00 a.m.

May 8 Math Unit 2 EOY

8:30-10:00 a.m.

May 12 Social Studies

10:00-11:30 a.m.

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The Bobby “Stinkin” Basom Story

IMG_6240Since October when the Worthington Board of Education named me the next Superintendent of Worthington Schools I have been able to speak to many different groups in the Worthington Community.  It’s a real pleasure to have the opportunity to partner with our community in helping to make certain Worthington is a great place for all kids.

This week one of the groups I was privileged to speak with was the Worthington Youth Boosters (WYB) Board.  Worthington Youth Boosters is the volunteer organization that runs youth sports across the Worthington School district.  They sponsor 12 different sports and support athletes ages 4 – 14.  This group touches thousands of our Worthington students and their families each year.

When I went to the WYB meeting I brought with me my fifth grade football jersey from when I played “Big White” football under the old Cardinal Boosters umbrella.  (WYB was Cardinal Boosters until Worthington Kilbourne High School opened in 1992 when the organization shifted to the WYB name.)  When moving my parents from their previous home last summer we discovered this jersey in the basement.  It was significant to me not because it was an old jersey but because of the story about how I became #15 on the “Big White” football team.  I call this the Bobby “Stinkin” Basom story.  (I’m certain there are many Bobby Basom stories, but most should never be told on a school related blog….)

If you’re a football fan try to name the famous football player who wore #15.  If that task was impossible name any football player that wore #15.  Likely you’re 0-2.  No famous or even semi-famous football players wore #15.  It’s just not a good football number!

5th grade football was my first year playing football.  “Big White” was the local Cardinal Boosters travel team and I was going to play running back on that team.  Before the first game the coach allowed each of us to choose our own number.  As a young boy this was a dream come true.  I had my number picked out.  It was an obvious choice for 1983.  I was going to be #33. This is the number that famous Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett wore every Sunday.

Not only were we going to be able to pick our number, but we were doing it in alphabetical order.  I had hit the jackpot!  My last name begins with a “B” and thus I had the third pick.  I was dreaming about how I would look streaking down the sideline in #33 when the unthinkable happened.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  Bobby Basom, the person forever after referred to as Bobby “Stinkin” Basom chose number 33.  He was the player right before me in alphabetical order.  I was stunned.  I had no back-up choice.  It had never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be #33.  And, with that I ended up with a number that no self respecting football player wears: #15.

32 years later I remember my experience in Cardinal Boosters.  Thus, when I spoke with the community members who volunteer countless hours to run our youth sports programs in WYB I did so with significant gratitude.  I’m thankful for my experiences years ago, I’m thankful for my daughters’ experiences today, and I’m thankful that as a school district we can partner with an organization that is good for kids in Worthington.  It takes hundreds and hundreds of volunteers to make WYB work each season.  Thanks to every one of you that goes above and beyond to make a long term positive difference in the life of a child!

Many of you know Bobby “Stinkin” Basom and his family.  They’re great, great people and invest heavily in Worthington….but, I’m still mad at Bobby!

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One Worthington

worthington_logo_smaller

Tomorrow (1/3/2015) Worthington Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington will meet on the basketball court where the boys teams will compete against one another.  (Freshman at noon, JV at 1:30 and Varsity at 3:00.  Games at WKHS.)  These games are always highly competitive and fiercely contested.  For our high school athletes the game is a true rivalry game and one that both teams want to win.  Our athletes from each high school have grown up together.  They competed on the same youth booster teams, the same AAU teams, and regardless of what high school they attend they know each other well.  It’s fun to watch them compete, it’s fun to watch their fans cheer loudly, but in the end, we’re all on the same team. Team Worthington!

In October we rolled out our social media hashtag #ForWorthington (A social media hashtag is a way to categorize social media posts on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  The ForWorthington hashtag is an internal reminder that the schools serve the greater Worthington community and our job is to help all students succeed.).  Just before the holidays we rolled out shirts with #ForWorthington  on them.  Our hope was that all across Worthington a wave of support and enthusiasm for Worthington Schools would blossom.

222432worthingtonMany people have asked how they can get a #ForWorthington shirt.  We have run out of shirts from our first order.  But there is an online store where you can order a #ForWorthington shirt and have it shipped directly to your house.  Click here to access that store.

In this store (which is not affiliated in any way with Worthington Schools but is run by a Worthington Kilbourne High School alumnus) you can also purchase a wide variety of “Worthington” apparel.  These items are not unique to any one school but instead show your pride for Worthington!  The blue color used in the logo is intended to be our neutral Worthington blue.

Worthington has 2 traditional high schools that compete in athletics and overall we have 19 different schools with strong individual cultures.  We’re proud of the individual schools and the allegiance that they create with their students, parents and alumni.  There are many places where you can purchase clothing specific to your school.  (We love that and appreciate the school pride!)

Our hope with these offerings is that we will begin to unify as a community and show our pride in being part ofWorthingtonLogo Worthington Schools!  Whether you’re just heading to the local grocery store or you’re walking down the beach in Florida, wearing Worthington attire is sure to strike up a conversation with an alumnus or someone who has a connection with Worthington.  If you’re interested in purchasing Worthington gear, click here.  (If you know someone who might be interested in purchasing Worthington gear, send them the link.)

The hope in this endeavor  is to create enthusiasm, pride and excitement around our great school district! #OneWorthington #ForWorthington!

One Worthington Online Store

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A Christmas Miracle! (Thanks Keith Schlarb)

IMG_6162Throughout the 2013-2014 school year I spent a significant amount of time and effort working with our district community technology team creating our three year technology plan.  This school year it has been exciting to watch this plan come to life in our schools.  Already this fall we have added over 3,000 new chromebooks to our schools.  These devices combined with the 450 plus PC laptops that were added last school year have made mobile learning a reality throughout Worthington.  This spring and next fall we will add even more mobile devices and we’ll reach our desired ratio of a mobile device for every two students.

IMG_6103Having this ratio in place will allow students to access technology on demand throughout the school day.  In addition we are beginning to pilot our technology lending libraries at Slate Hill, Worthingway and Thomas Worthington.  These pilots will allow students to take devices and 4G access points home to continue their learning outside of school.  By next fall these libraries will be in all 19 school buildings.

Finally by 2017 our plan calls for 1:1 computing.  Students bringing their own devices will be a major part of this plan.  With this in mind Worthington Schools published a chromebook buying flyer for parents this holiday season.  My family utilized this flyer and purchased each of our daughters a chromebook for Christmas.

As a family we’ve certainly been blessed and we can afford to make this investment in 24/7 learning.  Already it has been very cool to watch from the parent’s perspective.  Chromebooks are simple, powerful, education tools.  On Christmas morning the chromebooks took three minutes to take out of the box and turn on.  It took another 30 seconds for each girl to log into their unique wscloud account provided by Worthington Schools.  (This is the same log-in they use everyday at school.)  Once logged in, they had immediate access to all of their Google Apps for Education, documents, emails, slide presentations and the like.

Not only did they have GAFE access, but a Worthington Schools icon appears on the bottom left handFullSizeRender (5) corner of each of the girl’s machine.  With one simple click on that schoolhouse icon my girls have instant access to:

ABC Mouse.com

ABCYa.com

Accelerated Reader

Book Flix

Brain Pop Jr

CAT Jr

digits

First in Math

Gizmos

INFOhio

IXL

learnin3.com

Lexia Reading Core5

MobyMax

National Geographic

Nathional Geographic Kids

NWEA

RAZ Kids

Reflex

Science A-Z

Sheppard Software

Vocabulary Spelling City.com

ST Math

Story Line

Tumble Books

Wixie

It’s all right there!  As a parent this is the single greatest present in the world!  (Thank you Keith Schlarb!!!)  Not only can my daughters access a wealth of curriculum based practice and learning sites, as a parent I didn’t have to find all these sites.  The sites were already there! (I did have to find some passwords which in our house we struggle to keep straight.)  By 8:30 A.M. on Christmas morning I had three daughters logged into education apps, happily learning while Doreen and I were drinking coffee.  Let me repeat, I didn’t have to do anything.  The Worthington Schools technology team found each app, located it in one handy icon, and added the apps to all wscloud student accounts so they have instant access from any device they log into.  It’s a Christmas Miracle!

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Technology is a tool to personalize learning and engage students in 2014.  The best 1:1 learning is still with the teacher in the classroom.  But on this Christmas morning I saw a glimpse of the future and the present all together.  I saw first hand how technology will aid student learning and how the school district can partner with families to help make this happen in a simple, yet powerful way.

If your student logs into their wscloud account and you see the Worthington schoolhouse icon, don’t be afraid to click on it. It’s awesome!

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