We spent spring break in Ft. Myers, Florida. When my parents retired they moved south and eventually my sister and nephew migrated that way as well. Thus, for the 14th consecutive year we have spent at least one week in Ft. Myers. Certainly there are more difficult places to spend a week in late March. To alleviate our guilt for getting to spend time in the warm weather (and to reduce cost) we make the drive each year. It’s roughly 1,2oo miles door to door and takes us between 18 and 19 hours. Years ago the week allowed me to spend hours reading and reflecting while sitting on the beach or by the pool. At this stage of life, the reading is more difficult and the time for reflection is usually in the car. However, again this week I come back to work with a better perspective on our work and my role in Worthington Schools.
This has been both a great school year in Worthington and a very difficult school year. We’ve seen great success with increasing student achievement (Excellent with Distinction) and we were successful with both a fall levy and bond issue. School districts across Ohio would love to be in our position. But, this has also been a challenging school year. We are working to redesign our entire curriculum with the implementation of Common Core State Standards, we’re developing a new teacher evaluation system (WoTES) that uses student data as a significant measure of teachers evaluation and we’re preparing for the implementation of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Our work is always urgent in public education, but this year it has felt like we are running up hill on the treadmill at full speed and we’re holding on to the bar as tight as we can.
Right before spring break the principal at Wilson Hill Elementary (Cindi Montgomery) announced that she planned to retire at year-end. Cindi was new to Worthington this year and we had anticipated a long and successful tenure for her as the principal at Wilson Hill. Unfortunately, for completely understandable personal reasons she has determined this is the year she needs to retire, and thus, families at Wilson Hill are left wondering how they can recapture the stable leadership they had when Pat Reeder served as the principal for ten years. Families at Worthington Estates and Granby can relate to this as they experienced similar principal turnover in a short time before falling in love with Mr. Forsgren and Mrs. Schlaegel.
Before vacation I was getting wound, tighter and tighter in trying to turn difficult challenges into positives. In my role I desperately want things to work well for students, families and staff members. We want to implement standards with fidelity, we want to treat teachers with fairness in evaluation, we strive to make sure every child can read, and that every school is led in a positive manner. As I worked harder and harder to try and do the right thing, I found myself becoming easily frustrated, worrying more about final product and less about the important process. After stepping away for a week, and spending 37 hours driving, I am able to reflect on our work and am confident that we’re making progress in each of the above mentioned areas. Are we where we want to be? No, we are not. And we likely will never be. We’ll always strive to get better, to serve students better, to improve our work force, and to be the very best school district in Ohio.
As I return from break I’ll strive to be patient. I’ll work to listen before I speak. I’ll work to try to provide positive leadership both when all is positive, and when all is not. I vow to work with students, teachers, and parents, together, to create the community we want to create. I am refreshed mentally and ready to start a new pot of coffee for the work week. More than anything I am thankful that I was able to spend a week with my family and I’m thankful to return to work in a place that is a good place and a place I care deeply about. We have lots of work to do this spring, but….Onward!
P.S. In the 14 years we have been going to Ft. Myers I had never set foot on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University. However with their recent run to the “Sweet 16” in basketball we made the pilgrimage to the FGCU campus bookstore to share in their excitement.