Big Things Big….Small Things Small pt. 1

Big Things BigOne of the great privileges I have as Superintendent of Worthington Schools is the opportunity to speak to our staff at our opening convocation the day before school starts.

“I’ve titled my talk this year “Big things big, small things small.”  I first heard that phrase sometime last winter when I was in conversation with Worthington Hills 6th grade teacher Greg Ross.  Greg attributed the phrase to the retired senior pastor at Worthington Christian Church, Dr. Marshall Hayden.

It was the summer of 69.  Me and some guys from school, we had a band and we tried real hard.  Jimmy quit, Jody got married, I should have known that we’d never get far.  Oh, but when I look back now, that summer seemed to last forever….wait, I’m sorry, wrong summer.

It was the summer of 1967.  Worthington was in the midst of a school building boom.  Colonial Hills Elementary had been open for 12 years, Evening Street and Wilson Hill had been open only four years, Brookside was open for a mere two years and the new state of the art middle school, Worthingway Middle School had just opened the year before.  After the passage of a bond issue in 1966 Worthington Estates Elementary was to open in the fall of 1967.

Construction on the new 20 classroom school had been difficult, but the school district had proceeded as scheduled.  They had hired the Evening Street Principal Eugene Putterbaugh to be the Principal and open the new school.  Eighteen teachers had been hired or moved from their current school to the new school.  I can imagine that they had endured countless meetings about redistricting students from Colonial Hills, Wilson Hill and Evening Street to attend the new school.  Families were frustrated because no one wants to move from their school and redistricting had occurred several times in the last five years.  By late June Superintendent Harold McCord knew they had a problem.  Because of construction delays Worthington Estates would not be ready to open school in the fall.

Mr. McCord had been Superintendent of Worthington Schools since 1938.  He’d seen most everything during his tenure but he hadn’t had this issue.  I imagine that he called a late night meeting of his team.  It was summer but in my mind he was still in his full three piece suit and wore a grey fedora.  He was joined at the administrative office building which at that time was in the Old Episcopal Rectory (west of the Worthington Inn on New England Ave in the building that most of us know today as the Doll Museum. The district did not move to the 752 building on the village green until 1978) by Principal Putterbaugh and Board of Education President Dr. Robert Holsinger Jr.  The room was smoky as ash trays littered the table and each meeting participant attempted to calm their nerves with their Camel cigarettes.  On the table were the maps of Worthington.  Push pens showed the precise location of each Worthington student.  These were the very maps these men had used several months earlier in the redistricting meetings that were held in each elementary school.  The very maps that caused the resident on New England Ave to get an attorney to keep his child at Colonial Hills.  These maps were now held down with ash trays and as the night progressed the smoky haze increased.

It was on that early summer night when a plan was hatched.  There weren’t a lot of good options.  School had to open after labor day and Worthington Estates would not be ready.  Mr. McCord, Mr. Putterbaugh and Dr. Holsinger determined that first through third graders would attend Evening Street.  (There was no kindergarten in 1967.)  The Evening Street first through third graders would attend school in the morning and then in the afternoon the Worthington Estates first through third graders and their teachers would use the very same classrooms at Evening Street.  All 4th graders from Evening Street and Worthington Estates would begin the school year at Brookside Elementary.  All 5th graders from those two schools would attend the Kilbourne building and all 6th graders would attend Worthingway Middle School.  It would work.  It wouldn’t be easy.  Teachers at all five schools would have to adapt.  Parents would certainly be upset.  

The meeting went late into the night and sometime after midnight Superintendent McCord headed home.  He was restless and so he went out to his wood shop to work.  It always relaxed him.  It was going to be a long summer explaining these changes to parents and teachers.  But, Big Things Big, Small Things Small.  Where kids go to school, that was a small thing.  The kids would adapt and may be better for it.  Now the parents on the other hand….Superintendent McCord went and found a drink.

Fast forward 31 years and it’s 1998.  I’m in my second year of teaching at Evening Street Elementary.  I’m teaching sixth grade on a team with Jo Hall and Barb Spears.  Down the hall from me is a young Tami Hinz who I was certain was a better teacher than I was and I was developing a complex about that.  I had been hired at Evening Street as a fifth grade teacher the year before.  When the school year ended I looped with my kids to sixth grade.  

Back in 1998 it was common to be RIF’d after your first year of teaching.  (Reduced in Force.)  I held my breath all school year and as the end came and went I hadn’t been reduced.  But, I was still nervous and so I mustered up my courage (and it took significant courage) to go talk with the principal at the time Dr. Anne Heffernan.  Frankly, I was scared to death of Dr. Heffernan and truth be told, I kind of still am…. But, I puffed out my chest and Mrs. Given ushered me into Dr. Heffernan’s office.  I asked her if I would have a job the following school year and she just kind of looked at me confused.  Eventually she said, absolutely.  You’re in good shape.  “Sweet” I thought.  I would move up on the seniority list for the next year and I felt like I was set.  I felt so good about it, that my wife and I purchased our first home.  321 E. Selby Blvd in Colonial Hills.  Neighbors with Tom O’Leary Jr and Meredith and Pete Bruns on the other side.

Teaching sixth grade was great.  I just did whatever Jo Hall did and the fall flew by.  Sometime in March of 1999 Dr. Heffernan asked me to stop by her office after school.  That stopped my heart for a few seconds.  I’m thinking, do you think she’s still mad that I didn’t complete my cumulative folders in the correct way last June?  Or, maybe, does she know that I’m using John Ayre’s copy code and not sending my papers to the copy center?  I’m ashamed to say that many thoughts went through my mind, but none of them prepared me for what she actually needed to see me about.  When I got to Anne’s office she was behind her desk and she stood up and immediately handed me a sealed letter.  She said, “I was told I had to give you this.”  Uh-oh….

Slowly I opened the letter.  It was only a few sentences but it informed me that I was being RIF’d for the following school year for .5 of my job.  .5?  How would that work, I don’t teach Kindergarten?  What would I do?  Dr. Heffernan didn’t have any answers but she certainly registered my concern.  A few days later a man appeared at the doorway of my classroom.  It was Dr. Gerald Prince the Director of Human Resources.  He asked if I could speak to him for a minute in the hallway.  No problem, I thought, my students are just busy writing their spelling words five times each.  (Good instruction this was not…)  Dr. Prince talked to me about the letter and just told me to be patient.  It would all work out.  I was like, um, how will it all work out…? Gerald had no specifics.  He just repeated in the extremely kind and patient way that is Dr. Gerald Prince, “Trent, trust me it will work out.”

Here’s the thing.  I couldn’t see it.  I could see not having a job.  I couldn’t see how this .5 thing was going to work.  Would they make me teach kindergarten.  Really?  I had planned to teach and coach for my career.  My goal was to have the kind of impact that a Vince Trombetti or Jon Sprunger have had over their career.  That’s what I wanted to do in public education.  I had never considered doing anything else.  Now circumstances had changed.  I became the Dean at McCord Middle School in the fall of 1999 (following Dan Girard’s departure from public education for a business venture) not because of any grand plan.  I became the Dean because it was a full-time job and the job I had planned to stay in was no longer available.  Or at least I was not patient enough to see that it would be available.  

At that point in my life this was a big thing.  In the end, it really was a small thing.  Sometimes change happens like it did back in 1967.  Kilbourne Middle opened as a 1-8 school.  Eventually it became a 1-6 school and then it became the 9th grade school.  In 1992 it served as our Linworth AP campus. Now it’s a 7-8 school.  Every one of those changes was big at the time for those involved.  In 1986 Sutter Park opened as an Elementary School.  In 2005 we closed Sutter Park as an elementary school only to reopen it as a preschool.  Big changes at the time for all involved. At one point the sixth graders from Slate Hill went to McCord Middle School and an 8th grade team from McCord was housed at Worthington Kilbourne High School.  When enrollment dipped we closed Perry Middle School and created Phoenix Middle School.  25 teachers were reduced out of Worthington Kilbourne High School.  If you were involved in any of these moves or if you read about them in the Worthington News they were big things.  Staff were upset, people ran for school board seats to show their displeasure, parents hired attorneys.  Big things at the time, small things in retrospect.

My personal story of change.  To me at the time.  Big.  Giant!  Rocked my world!  I look back 20 years later.  Small.  Best thing that ever happened to me career wise.  Put me where I needed to be.  It’s true Tami Hinz was a better teacher than me.  

Big things big, small things small.  People tell me all the time that nothing ever changes in Worthington Schools.  I tell them that’s a myth.  Change has been constant.  And, I’m here today to remind you that it will continue to be constant.  Some of that change may include you.  It may include where you teach, it may include what you teach, it may include where your own children go to school.  Nothing stays the same and the only constant is change.  I’m not certain what changes will be occurring in Worthington Schools in the next five years, but based on our enrollment trends I am certain that change will be occurring and it’s going to affect most every one of us, some of us in multiple ways.  When that change happens, Big things big, small things small.  

So, if everything I’ve listed is on the small things list, and in retrospect it is, even those things that felt big at the time, what qualifies as a big thing?

James Ford was the 2015 North Carolina Teacher of the year.  In the January 31, 2017 edition of Ed. Week he said this, “ The relational part of teaching may very well be its most underrated aspect. It simply does not get the respect it deserves. When teachers are good at building relationships with students, the skill is sometime seen more as cover for a lack of content knowledge or wherewithal to instruct with rigor.  James said, I see it differently. I’ve learned that when students enter a classroom with so many different base-level needs, a certain foundation has to be laid before true learning can take place.

Most beginning teachers are well-schooled on Benjamin Bloom. We’ve memorized, discussed and written about all of the stages of his taxonomy of the cognitive domain, from Remembering to Creating. In classrooms of our own, we continually push our students to the highest rungs of this cognitive ladder. What we often neglect, however, is that students have needs that transcend academics that must be met for learning to happen. These needs aren’t in the standards or curriculum.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow knew this. He theorized that there is a hierarchy of needs that humans constantly strive to meet. Our most basic needs begin with the physiological—food, water, rest, safety. Only when these are met can we concern ourselves with higher needs like social skills, education, esteem and self-actualization.  

With that in mind, our first job as educators is to make sure that we learn our students, that we connect with them on a real level, showing respect for their culture and affirming their worthiness to receive the best education possible.  Our students’ learning and high achievement are just the fruits of this labor. But the truth is before the seed is planted, the ground must first be prepared.

In the classroom, Maslow ALWAYS comes before Bloom.  In Worthington we frame this focus on relationships with our students as our first priority.  Be Kind to Kids.

Big things big, small things small.  Change happens.  In 1967 when Worthington Estates was to open that change was massive.  It’s happened in large ways every decade for the past 50 years in Worthington.  It will happen again soon.  Likely both on a district level and potentially on a personal level.  It will be O.K.  It always is.  Our focus in Worthington Schools is and always has been in taking care of our kids.  In making sure they have a trusted adult who they know and cares about them and who believes in them.  No matter where we teach kids.  No matter what our attendance lines, we’ll keep things in perspective.  How we take care of our kids, how we build relationships with them, invest in their lives, and help them grow and learn to meet their potential, those are the big things! Our mission in Worthington is to empower a community of learners who will change the world.  In order to do that…Big things big, small things small.  Be Kind to Kids! Have a great school year!”

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Much is Expected

HaxtonOne of the great honors and responsibilities I have as Superintendent of Schools is the opportunity to speak to our graduating classes at our commencement ceremonies.  This year as I attempt to impart whatever morsels of wisdom that 44-year olds can share with confident 18-year olds, I will share a little about a friend of mine from way back when, Steve Haxton.

When I was growing up I had a mentor by the name of Steve Haxton.  Steve is likely about 15 years older than I am and growing up he was larger than life.  Steve invested his time in my life when he didn’t have to.  Steve, my dad and I once won a three on three basketball tournament.  That meant I would pass the ball down to Steve on the post, he would bully his way inside and score 80% of our points.  Once in awhile, he would kick the ball out to my dad who had a decent set shot.  I was just there to be a decoy.  But, we were champions baby!

Steve would often remind me that to those whom much has been given, much is expected.  When I was a kid we used to write important information on 3×5 note cards.  There was no notes function on a smartphone back in 1989.  I remember the day that Steve wrote on one of those cards and gave it to me to carry with me.  To those whom much has been given, much is expected.  I still have that note card and will be able to pull it out of my pocket when speaking today at graduation.  Steve was right, to me much had been given.  From my family, from the Worthington community, from him.  I had no excuses in life and a ridiculous amount to be thankful for.  And, in a softer way, that is what I will attempt to impart to our graduates.  If we’re in Worthington, Ohio, no matter what our situation, we have much to be thankful for and this community has given each graduate a great deal.  Now they too have a responsibility to use what they have been given.

“As graduates of Worthington, you have been given much.  You have been provided a safe place to live, food for your belly.  You have been provided a first class education and you have been provided co-curricular opportunities that have taught you the critical skills of collaboration, perseverance, and grit.  Graduates if you take a few minutes this evening to reflect on your journey and if you actually write down and list out those things that you are thankful for you’ll see that indeed for you much has been given.

And, for those to whom much has been given, much is expected.  We expect you to capitalize on your opportunities.  We expect you to treat those you come in contact with with empathy and respect.  We expect that you’ll use your talents to make Worthington, Ohio, our country and even our world a better place.  The mission of Worthington Schools is to empower a community of learners who will change the world.  We expect you to do exactly that.”

I’m 44 years old and Steve Haxton took me to lunch a few weeks ago.  He’s still investing in my life and I still know that much is expected.


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HustleIt’s speech season and as Superintendent I was asked to give a few remarks at the Thomas Worthington Senior Scholarship event.  Here is what I said:

“Here in Old Worthington we have a local bakery named Sassafras Bakery (657 High Street).  They sell a cinnamon sugar donut muffin that is the size of a softball and melts in your mouth.  They have warm, gooey frosted cinnamon rolls and iced cookies that are simply unbelievable.  As you can tell I have a sweet tooth and being able to walk to Sassafras from home is not necessarily a good thing.

Recently Sassafras was looking to hire an associate and they posted a picture on Instagram.  At the top of the picture it had a banner that simply said:  


Underneath the word hustle it said:



Bake Pies

If You Don’t know Ask!

Drink Plenty of Water.


Have a snack.

Get some fresh air.

Clean, clean, clean.

Enjoy your work.

Be kind.

Support your team.

Have fun!

I believe that Sassafras provided good, simple, local advice to live by.  Certainly you could change a few of the words out.  I might change Bake Pies to Work Hard.  And for your future I might change, clean, clean, clean to learn, learn, learn (you will have to continue to learn and grow not matter what your age) but Sassafras has it right and these are simple, yet profound words to live by.

So as you leave the safety of Worthington Schools I’d advise you to do these things:




Work Hard

If You Don’t know Ask!

Drink Plenty of Water.


Have a snack.

Get some fresh air.

Learn, learn, learn.

Enjoy your work.

Be kind.

Support your team.

Have fun!

Enjoy your graduation weekend seniors.  On Monday it’s time to Hustle!

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The Jeff Maddox Award for Inspiration


Last Friday night I was lucky to be able to attend the Worthington Academy Recognition Ceremony.  Worthington Academy is a school that was created to help students see success who may have struggled in traditional schooling.  We have 120 students who attend school at the Academy and watching them see success is a true joy.  (Learn more about Worthington Academy here, here and here.)

At the recognition ceremony the staff and students at Worthington Academy chose two students who were to receive the Jeff Maddox Award for Inspiration.  The award is given to the students who inspire others at Academy for their commitment, perseverance and attitude.  (This year the award was given to Kira Helpman and Sadia Ali.) The award is named after our Director of Certified Personnel, Jeff Maddox.

Before moving into his current position selecting new teachers for our school district, Jeff was the Director of Innovation and Support and the person directly responsible for championing the creation of Worthington Academy.  Jeff formed a work team along with Ken Nally from WKHS, Julie King from TWHS and current Academy Principal, Adham Schirg, who worked diligently to open this new option for our students.  Jeff has a long history of this kind of work in Worthington as 10 years ago he was the administrator on the ground for the the creation and opening of Phoenix Middle School.

In 2017 Worthington has an alternative middle school (Phoenix) and another alternative high school option (Academy) because of Jeff’s selfless leadership.  Jeff has great skills in bringing talented people together and helping guide their work.  He chooses to lead with others and his selflessness allows others to get the credit.  Because of this sometimes people believe that Phoenix and Academy were both started without administrative leadership.  Certainly in both cases we had strong teachers and strong teams dreaming about what could be possible and doing significant work.  But Jeff’s leadership and guidance behind the scenes was invaluable in both cases.

Jeff is a Worthington graduate who has spent a career investing in Worthington kids.  When he and I recently talked about Academy and his role he said, “Worthington has always supported different and I have always appreciated that about this school district.”  It’s true that our community has always supported different and we should be proud of that.  But what’s also true is that different does not happen without someone championing it and doing the work.  I’m proud to work with Jeff Maddox and as I listened to families say “thank you” for the Academy program and the difference it has made for their children I couldn’t help but think, Jeff supported this when others were skeptical.  Jeff championed this when I told him it was too expensive.  Jeff helped staff Academy with the right principal and the right teachers.  Jeff made this happen!

It’s appropriate that Academy named their award for inspiration after Jeff.  It’s well earned.  He’ll hate this blog because he doesn’t want or ever seek the credit.  But credit where credit is due.  

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I’m heading back to McCord

mccord_mustangs_middle_school_columbus_ohio_greeting_card-r800cc5528bb54a3a9a3c51b2d7dc8168_xvuak_8byvr_324Last February I participated in the Shadow a Student Challenge designed by the School Retool Network.  Last year I spent the day at Thomas Worthington High School shadowing Quinn Mottice.  This year I have chosen to participate again (although one day before the challenge actually begins) to shadow McCord Middle School student Ella Brown.

The goal of the Shadow a Student Challenge is for administrators to gain a better perspective on the student experience in our schools.  I’m excited about my opportunity tomorrow and can’t wait to be back at McCord.

In 1986, I was an 8th grade student at McCord.  The school was brand new and after having spent 7th grade as a student at Perry Middle School my neighborhood was redistricted and I was sent to McCord.  As the first class there, we were able to vote on the school colors (blue and silver) and pick the mascot (Mustangs, although I voted for Mavericks as the movie Top Gun had just come out.  The colors and mascot have since changed to align with Worthington Kilbourne High School.)   My memories as a student in class are very limited.  I remember more about riding on the ski club bus to Snow Trails and jamming to Bon Jovi and The Beastie Boys at school dances than I do any one academic moment.

In 1999, I returned to McCord as the Dean of Students.  I had actually interviewed at McCord to teach Language Arts in 1996 but I was not selected for the position. (A team of teachers conducted the interview.  Current Worthington teachers Mark Shannon, Christy Shannon, Robert Estice and Kevin Finnegan were all part of not selecting me for a teaching position.  I’m considering forgiving them soon….) I spent two great years at McCord as the dean and football coach.  I taught with Greg Ross, Dave Murphy, the aforementioned Estice, Finnegan, Shannons and Worthington legends now-retired, Tim Dove, Janet Lanka and Janet Ellis. Our football staff included Bill Wolford, Jeff Todd, Mark Gallagher and my dad, Dick Bowers.  Our starting cornerback was a scrawny kid named Colt Cunningham.  While he teaches for us now at Kilbourne Middle, he still reminds me that I should have started him at quarterback.  

I left McCord in 2001 to become an assistant principal in Marysville Schools and now, 16 years later, I am set to spend my first full-day at McCord since those days I look fondly upon.  I plan to write about my observations from my day back in school and some observations from my time riding school buses yesterday on our blog sister site Absolute Excellence on Monday, February 6th.  If you’d like to follow along tomorrow I’ll post updates on my twitter feed @tbowers3.

I’m looking for a McCord Mustangs shirt to wear tomorrow.  We’ll see if that pans out.  I’ve checked the lunch menu (It’s Donatos Pizza day, score!) Thanks ahead of time to Ella Brown for letting the old Superintendent tag along for the day.  

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Evelyn Cummins Changed My Life

lmyearbookIn life it’s often the seemingly insignificant moments that you are able to look back upon and recognize the importance.  Everyday in our classrooms these moments occur between adults and students.  Sometimes these moments change lives.

After Christmas dinner we were sitting around our dining room table when my dad told a story I had never heard before.  I had known that my grandfather worked on the railroad as a locomotive engineer and I had known that my dad was the first member of his family to attend and graduate from college, but I had never really learned what made my dad choose to go to college.  That decision to go to college led my dad to a career in federal law enforcement with the U.S. Secret Service.  It led to us being able to afford to grow-up in Worthington, and it led to me going to college and eventually earning advanced degrees.  That single decision changed my dad’s life, it changed my life, and likely it will change the trajectory of the lives of my children, their children, etc…It literally had exponential impact.

Here’s what I learned.  Dad grew up in the Linden area of Columbus and attended Linden McKinley High School.  In the spring of 1962, dad was signed up for the classes he would need to graduate from high school his senior year.  The classes were all average courses that would fulfill his requirements for graduation but wouldn’t cause him too much stress.  Dad was an average student who likely had above average intellect but was left by my grandparents to manage school himself and as such, he did just enough to get by and gave little thought towards the future. (He was a normal adolescent boy.)

That changed in the spring of 1962 when Linden McKinley guidance counselor, Evelyn Cummins, called dad down to her office to review his schedule.  She promptly informed him that this schedule would not cut it if he was going to go to college and he should be planning to go to college.  Without his consent, she changed his courses to a college prep load and insisted that he plan to attend Ohio State after graduation.

In 2016 it’s funny to think about, but Dad had never considered going to college.  No one had really mentioned the idea and no one had ever pushed him in that direction.  He didn’t have other plans and when Ms. Cummins expressed confidence in his abilities, he began to think about himself in those terms.  That simple meeting changed everything.

Dad completed his senior year in the college prep track.  He graduated from Linden McKinley in the spring of 1963 and enrolled at Ohio State University that fall.  Tuition was around $175.00 per quarter in 1963 and he found the money to pay for school by enrolling in the Army ROTC.  

Certainly there were other contributing factors but one could draw a line to say that Evelyn Cummins met with my dad on her own accord because she cared.  She changed his senior year course schedule and with her insistence, he went on to college.  Because he went to college, I went to college.  Because I went to college, I met my wife, and likely our daughters will each go to college.

Thus, Evelyn Cummins, a lady I never met, changed my life and the life of my family forever.  And, that’s what public educators do every day across this country.

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What Do I Really Do?

what-do-i-really-doThis blog was originally posted by

When my kids were little, they used to ask me, “Daddy, what do you actually do all day?”  As the superintendent of a 10,000 student school district in Central Ohio, I would often just casually respond with, “I go to meetings.”  For a while, that seemed to satisfy them, and they moved on.  But, what is the role of the district superintendent? Officially, the superintendent is the top executive in the school district. It’s my job to implement the school board’s vision by making day-to-day decisions about educational programs, spending, staff, and facilities and by hiring, supervising, and managing the central office staff and principals.  

But, what do I really do….?

It’s my belief that my most important role, and the most important role of all leaders, is to positively impact and build the culture of our school district.  Focus 3 leadership consultant and Worthington City Schools graduate, Tim Kight, teaches that leaders create the culture, that drives the behavior, that produces the results.  

Thus, I want to spend the majority of my time leading to impact the culture of our school district.

One of my core beliefs is that humans desire leadership and want to know what is expected of them.  When they are clear on their expectations, most people will rise to meet them.  With that in mind, I communicated ”My Six Expectations” for all staff members in our school district in my opening address to the entire staff.   In speaking to the entire certified and classified staff in one room, I shared my expectations that were designed to clarify the daily actions that we would value, which began and ended with the simple mantra – “Be Kind to Kids.”  

change-the-world-3Throughout my first year as the superintendent, I attended a large number of meetings; many of those meetings were set-up to create a new mission and vision for the school district.  We intentionally designed these meetings and brought a representative community group together, because we wanted a mission that would resonate with our staff and clarify our purpose as a school district.  My goal was to create vision statements that would specify how our team would work with our community to accomplish our mission.  These statements would create clarity and help prioritize every staff member’s daily actions.  After a solid six months of regular meetings, we developed our mission and vision statements.  Instead of solely creating posters and hanging them in buildings, we unveiled them at our February State of the Schools event.

After the evening of our State of the Schools event, we recognized that we had clearly articulated our daily expectations and our team had created new mission and vision statements.  The question that kept nagging at me was, “what am I supposed to do now?”  If we were really going to move the needle and impact behavior and results, what was needed next?  Immediately, we went to work with a graphic designer to create mission and vision visuals for all schools (which turned out to be pretty awesome!).  In addition, our communications team developed a video of our students talking about “Changing the World” (also, super awesome!).  Momentum was building, but we kept feeling like we were missing a large segment of our staff.  Without taking some sort of action, our statements would look good on paper and on the wall, but may make very little difference.  In Leading with Focus, Mike Schmoker points out that a leader needs to be “obsessively clear”.  That thought kept resonating in my mind.  Am I being obsessively clear with our team? How many of our 1,250 employees would really know the mission, vision and expectations?  And, since we all process things through our own perceptive lenses, how many would really know what these statements meant to their daily work in our district?  If we were going to impact the culture and change adult behavior, we had to do something more.

With that goal in mind, we worked to be bring clarity to our mission, vision and six Processed with MOLDIVexpectations for all staff members.  This summer, working with Dynamix LLC, I created a book that each school will use throughout the school year to clarify our district’s core values.  At our opening staff convocation, we handed out to each staff member (including bus drives, cooks, and custodians) a copy of the book, “Worthington Schools Living our Mission, Vision and Shared Expectations“.  Our plan is that every Worthington Schools employee will go through this book with their teammates this school year.  They’ll meet in staff meetings, department meetings, cafeteria manager meetings, maintenance staff meetings, etc…  The central office staff will also complete the study together.  

The idea is to touch all 1,250 of our employees in a tangible way.  And, we wanted something that would be sustained month after month throughout the school year.  The book was designed as a simple way to keep the mission, vision and expectations in front of our staff.  And, it’s also a way for each staff member to internalize our values and wrestle with how they personally fit into each area.  It’s designed to be done in collaboration with peers, because we recognize that all real learning is personal and, as a district, we want to learn in community with one another.  

Each section has a short reading, a process for dialogue with peers, and an area for personal reflection.  Our belief is that when all 1,250 Worthington Schools team members wrestle with this material, read about it, discuss it, and reflect on it, we’ll help make our written statements come alive with a unified focus for our students.

By focusing on our mission, vision and shared expectations everyday, we are working to create a “Focus 3” culture in Worthington Schools that drives the behavior that will produce results that enable our students to leave our school district prepared to change the world.  If everyone moves just one step forward, the organization takes a giant leap.

That’s really what I do all-day!

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