From the Superintendent's desk

Little Miami Local Schools

A chance to let your voice be heard

Recently, a public school deregulation bill, Senate Bill 216, was introduced in our Ohio State Senate. Both the Southwest Greater Cincinnati School Advocacy Network and the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network (Superintendent groups of which I am a member) are advocating for passage. Passage of this bill would return local control and reduce may unfunded mandates and enable our district to focus its resources on supporting our students.

Below is a summary of the items contained in this bill. At the end of this summary is an email template that may be sent to our local lawmakers. Please consider contacting our elected officials to encourage their support of the bill.

Teacher Licensure and Aide Permits

  • Eliminate the long-term substitute license [ORC 3319.226]
  • Establish a single substitute license [ORC 3319.226]
  • No criteria on college degree
  • No restriction on number of days that can be worked
  • Consolidate all teacher licenses into two grade bands: K-8; 6-12 [ORC 3319.22(A)(1)(d)]
  • Require permits only for aides working in federally funded programs [3319.088]
  • Permit automatically issued once applicant passes FBI/BCI background check [ORC 3319.088(A)]
  • Eliminate permit requirement for substitute aides and monitors [ORC3319.088(D)]
  • Allow district superintendents to waive licensure requirements for teacher already holding a license that would be right fit for an assignment outside the scope of their current licensure [ORC 3319.361]
  • Lengthen service time to achieve tenure for non-teaching employees to 7 years [ORC 3319.081(A)]
  • Remove requirement for 30 hours annual professional development for teachers teaching gifted children
  • [ORC 3324.12]

Ohio Teacher Evaluation Systems [ORC 331.80, 3319.075(H), 3319.111, 3319.112]

  • Remove Student Growth Measure from teacher evaluation
  • Implement recommendations of Educator Standards Board

State Testing/Student Assessment

  • Maintain N-size of 30 for subgroup inclusion in accountability and reporting
  • Eliminate state mandated diagnostic for kindergarten (keeping grades 1 and 2) and K-3 literacy for all districts with an 80% or higher pass rate on the third grade reading guarantee [ORC 3301.079(D)(1), 3301.0715, 3302.03(B)(1)(g), 3302.03(C)(1)(g)]
  • Require districts that are lower than 80% to establish a local plan of improvement with support of reading specialists. Plan must be approved by the local board of education—no state approval required
  • [ORC 3301.0715(F)]
  • Allow option for use of paper tests on all state assessments for students in grades 3, 4, and 5 [3301.0711(G)(4)
  • Option for online or paper tests, for each individual student, is available to all districts
  • Require AIR to provide an item analysis tying questions to standards for all tested subjects [ORC 3301.078(C)]
  • Analyses shall be provided by start of the 2018-19 academic year and for all academic years following
  • Require AIR to provide more information and preparatory materials to all districts on assessments [ORC 3301.078(D)]
  • Examples of such materials are practice tests, study guides, etc.

Student Management and Safety

  • Truancy (chronic absences on the state report card) [ORC 3321.191(C)(1)]
    • Do not count excused absences toward truancy
  • Consolidate reporting requirements of all safety mandates into a single report to be filed annually at the conclusion of each academic year, distributed and monitored by ODE [3301.68(A) and (B)]
    • Report will operate as a “checkbox”
    • School districts check “Yes” if the category was accurately addressed
    • If school district checks “No” on a category, district must provide to the local board of education within 30 days a written explanation for why that safety standard was not met, as well as a written plan of action for accurately and efficiently addressing the problem
    • Report will contain the following Yes/No Items:
      • Restraint and Seclusion  training
      • Bullying prevention/addressing training
      • CPI/CPR/AED training
      • Wellness Committee
      • School Safety Plan established/reviewed
      • Nutritional Standards Report filed

College Credit Plus

  • If same course is offered at both a student’s district school and the corresponding CCP college/university, require the student to take the course at the district school [ORC 3365.03(D)(1)]
  • If CCP course is overenrolled, local superintendent can allow student to enroll in a similar course at the college/university location or online [ORC 3365.03(D)(2)]
  • Parental share of textbook costs [ORC 3365.072]
    • Costs of textbooks for student on CCP will be paid 50% by parent/guardian of student and 50% by district
    • For economically disadvantaged students, district will still pay 100%
    • Home schooled students are responsible for 100% of textbook costs
  • Require ODE to analyze and issue a report regarding the results and cost-effectiveness for students/districts of the CCP program [Temporary Law Section 3)
    • Report should especially address:
      • Are students saving money on college tuition?
      • Are students reducing time to get degrees?
    • Report shall be distributed to the following persons:
      • Each school district superintendent
      • Each ESC superintendent
      • All members of the General Assembly
      • Governor
      • Chancellor of the ODHE
    • Report shall be prepared and issued on or within one year of the legislation’s effective date

Preschool Operating Standards

Establish in law a 1:8 ratio for adult to students for three year old students [ORC 3323.022(D)]

  • Maintain in law 1:12 ratio for four year old students [ORC 3323.022(A])
  • Maintain required pre-K student hours at current 10 hour requirement (not the ESSA recommendation for 12.5 hours) [ORC 3323.022(C)

 

Members of the Ohio Senate Education Committee, whose names and emails appear below:

Senator Peggy Lehner (Chair) – Lehner@ohiosenate.gov
Senator Matt Huffman (Vice Chair) – Huffman@ohiosenate.gov
Senator Vernon Sykes (Ranking Member) – Sykes@ohiosenate.gov
Senator Bill Coley – Coley@ohiosenate.gov
Senator Randy Garnder – Gardner@ohiosenate.gov
Senator Gayle Manning – Manning@ohiosenate.gov
Senator Joe Schiavoni – Schiavoni@ohiosenate.gov
Senator Lou Terhar – Terhar@ohiosenate.gov
Senator Cecil Thomas – Thomas@ohiosenate.gov
Senator Steve Wilson – Wilson@ohiosenate.gov

An email to our Senator, Steve Wilson can be sent along with emails to other members of the Senate Education Committee. A sample letter is provided below:

Dear Senator Wilson:

As a parent/community member in the Little Miami Local School District, I’m emailing to make you aware of my support for Senate Bill 216. This legislation eliminates a number of unnecessary requirements for students and school districts. Senate Bill 216 is a great first step at allowing more decisions to be made at the local level.

We believe in the ability of the high-quality educators in the Little Miami Local School District to prepare our students for their future. We support their efforts along with our local board of education and district leaders.

Sincerely,
[INSERT YOUR NAME]
[INSERT YOUR ADDRESS]

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Netflix series a concern for our students

As you may be aware, the video subscription service Netflix recently released a new series based on the 2007 book by Jay Asher, called “13 Reasons Why.”  It is the story of a high school girl who leaves behind tapes after her suicide, tracing the events that led up to her decision to end her life.

The series graphically depicts the character’s suicide and addresses in graphic detail a number of difficult topics such as bullying and sexual assault.

It is currently one of the most viewed programs on Netflix, and some students have already watched the entire series. Experts including Nationwide Children’s Hospital Behavioral Health and JED Foundation have concerns that this series could do more harm than good, especially for youth who may be isolated or vulnerable to suggestive images and story lines.

We would like to encourage families to use the resources below to help in having conversations with your child(ren).

JED: 13 Reasons Why: Talking Points for Viewing & Discussing the Netflix Series
Nationwide Children’s: 13 Reasons Why: Should Parents Be Concerned About This Netflix Series?

We hope this information provides an opportunity to remind your children about the importance of seeking support from you and from other caring adults in their lives when they are feeling overwhelmed.

Information About Suicide Risk Warning Signs

  • Always take warning signs seriously, and never promise to keep them secret. Common signs include: Suicide threats, both direct (“I am going to kill myself.” “I need life to stop.”) and indirect (“I need it to stop.” “I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up.”). Threats can be verbal or written, and they are often found in online postings.
  • Giving away prized possessions.
  • Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media.
  • Changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings. This can include someone who is typically sad who suddenly becomes extremely happy.
  • Emotional distress.

When a student gives signs that they may be considering suicide, take the following actions:

  • Remain calm, be nonjudgmental, and listen. Strive to understand the intolerable emotional pain that has resulted in suicidal thoughts.
  • Avoid statements that might be perceived as minimizing the student’s emotional pain (e.g., “You need to move on.” or “You should get over it.”).
  • Ask the student directly if they are thinking about suicide (i.e., “Are you thinking of suicide?”).
  • Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
  • Reassure the student that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
  • Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the student alone.
  • Without putting yourself in danger, remove means for self-harm, including any weapons the person might find.
  • Get help. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources. Students should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a parent, school psychologist, guidance counselor, administrator, or teacher.

If you have an immediate youth safety/suicide concern, call 911 or the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Psychiatric Intake Response Center at 513-636-4124.

Having our say on graduation requirements: We need your help!

Dear Little Miami Families,

Every Wednesday, a small committee hand-selected by the Ohio Department of Education gathers in Columbus to determine what to do because nearly a third of Ohio’s Class of 2018 students are at risk of not graduating. The committee was established after teachers, principals, parents, and superintendents around the state loudly voiced concerns about the future of these students.

However, I and several other public school superintendents are concerned that this committee, our legislature, and our Governor are not hearing what so many Ohioans are trying to say: Too many Ohio students are at risk of not receiving a high school diploma, not because schools are failing to educate, but because Ohio has mandated over-testing, and testing the wrong things.

At this point in time, according to ODE about 20% of our 11th grade high school students – who were on track to graduate until the new requirements – are now at risk to not graduate. Our staff is continuing to support these students with added interventions so as to improve their chances to meet these high stakes testing mandates.

Little Miami High School, along with every other public high school in Ohio, is required by the state to administer SEVEN high school end-of-course exams. While we believe strongly in accountability for our students and our teachers, we believe that these exams are not a fair and accurate measurement of students’ knowledge and skills. These exams discount the semester length learning experiences and the instructional assessment expertise of our teachers.

We have heard from our business community that students need to be able to think critically, collaborate, and communicate effectively. These tests do not measure the practical application of these skills. We also believe students are over-tested and that the graduation point system is fatally flawed. Eighteen graduation points are required in order to receive a diploma, however in certain situations, earning two points per exam is considered passing. Seven times two does not equal 18.

We believe that there should be different paths for students to show attainment of career skills and talents commensurate with graduation requirements. Not all students go to college. Some enlist in the military, others acquire technical expertise to be able to go to work in an industry with a career credential and others continue preparing for a career path by attending college. Use of the ACT, a nationally normed test used to benchmark college readiness, or use industry-accredited professional certification exams for students interested in vocational trades could be pathway options available to our students. However, neither of these options should be required for graduation. Students are caught in the changing assessments that have morphed three times in three years.

Ohio needs to follow the federal requirements – and give back control to local boards of education.

Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are required to test students annually in math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. Science must be assessed at least once in grades three through five, grades six through nine, and once in grades 10 through 12. We would ask the state to simply follow these federal guidelines.

Over the last 20 years, the state has tightened its grip on public school districts. That trend accelerated when state leaders instituted mandatory end-of-course exams for graduation. The pendulum has swung to the point where local districts have very little say in a student’s education. We can remain hopeful that this latest committee from ODE will “hear” the concerns of its constituency of parents, community stakeholders, and educators however, if past history is any indicator, they have already determine the “correct” answer and are just seeking to fill the square to say they “heard” our concerns.

I would urge you to send an email to our state Board of Education and state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria voicing your concerns about Ohio’s graduation requirements. A template is provided below.

CALL TO ACTION:  Use the template below to send an email to:

Subject: Fix Ohio’s Graduation Crisis

Dear NAME,

I am writing you to voice my concern about the over-testing of students and the lack of local control in K-12 education. The job of educating our children should be up to the local Boards of Education, not the State. I urge you to bring back local control of our schools. I also ask you to fix the current testing system.

Changing the assessment system three times in three years is hurting our students and making them less competitive with students from surrounding states. It is time the state follow the federal guidelines and allow the schools to use the ACT test or industry accredited professional certification exams to assess college and career readiness. I ask you to take a hard look at this system and do what is right for all students across Ohio.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Your ADDRESS
Your City, Zip Code

If your student is at risk of not graduating due to the state’s new graduation requirements, please consider sending this email as well:

Dear NAME,

My child has followed all the rules. However, he is now at risk of not walking across the stage and getting his diploma because the State is once again changing the assessment system and the requirements to graduate.  [Insert any information about your child that you want them to know.]

It is wrong to damage my child’s future due to a failed accountability experiment. Enough is enough. I expect you to remedy this situation, and let teachers get back to teaching and our children get back to learning.

Your Name
Your ADDRESS
Your City, Zip Code

Speech at the Statehouse: What needed to be said

img_4930It has now been almost two weeks since the gathering of hundreds of Ohio educational leaders on the Statehouse steps in Columbus.

News coverage of the event was mixed (see links below), but the fact remains that in my 40 years as an educator, I cannot remember a time when superintendents, board members and citizens from all over Ohio joined together to express their concerns in such a manner.

I was honored to be one of five speakers selected to address the gathering that day. What follows is a copy of the speech I shared that day:

Thanks for coming out this morning to show concern and support for the students of your community. I, like many of you, represent the voices of the children and families of our communities. As educators, we have historically tended to work toward achieving compliance with all the state and federal accountability mandates, however over the last few years as the pace and kind of accountability mandates have accelerated we have all reached our collective breaking point.  Enough is enough!

Many of us have been in the statehouse meeting and communicating our concerns regarding the amount of, and the kind of accountability requirements that have been heaped upon our local schools and our students. We have informed, communicated, and advocated with our elected representatives in regards to these many concerns. In many instances our concerns have been dismissed.

Many of us are here today because in spite of our efforts inside the building that sits on this site, our local communities, our kids, continue to suffer the effects of this over-accountability madness. I believe our local communities deserve to have the kinds of schools they desire. I believe our local communities are the best evaluators of the quality of our schools and I believe it is our local communities and parents who should be making accountability decisions for our schools; not the folks up here at the state level or the federal level.

Many parents feel that they have very little control over what’s happening to their children and that speaking out does nothing as they do not believe that their voices are being heard.

We are here because there is a collective graduation accountability cliff that our kids are being driven over as a result of ill thought out legislation, ill thought out regulation, and ill thought out implementation. 

We are here today to call attention to this because it seems trying to work inside the building on this site hasn’t sufficiently raised our representative’s level of concern. Hopefully our action to bring attention to these accountability concerns along with our continuing to engage our representatives will result in needed change.

We are here today seeking:

  • changes to the graduation point system that was created by the State Board of Education.
  • reductions in state mandated assessments which result in over-emphasis on standardized testing which negatively impacts our students and classroom instruction.
  • more local control and autonomy related to school accountability.

Thank you for attending today. It’s time for all of us to collectively hold our representatives at all levels accountable.

Links to media coverage of the event

Taking our case to the Statehouse

There comes a time when writing is not enough and it is time to take action.

As I have stated on this blog many times, it is imperative that our state lawmakers take a hard look at excessive testing, the current graduation point system, and many other educational issues that challenge public school districts like Little Miami.

On Nov. 15, I will be joining with approximately 200 public school superintendents and other local educational leaders representing over 70 Ohio counties in gathering on the Ohio Capitol Steps as a sign of our commitment to help close the gap between what many of Ohio’s citizens want and the statewide education policies that are currently in place. This event is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. on the West Plaza facing High Street.

In a recent press release, Superintendent of Shadyside Local Schools John Haswell said “the current high school graduation point system that was developed by the Ohio Board of Education is having a negative impact on a large percentage of our high school students.” He said that, “approximately 40 percent of the students that took the state mandated end-of-year exams last year in Shadyside are in jeopardy of not graduating in 2018 and 2019. The emphasis given to these standardized tests will have a negative impact on children throughout Ohio in the near future. A score on a single exam has more weight than 180 days of classroom instruction.”

Another one of my fellow superintendents, Dr. Jim Lloyd of Olmsted Falls City Schools, had this to say: “As public school superintendents, we see every day how our current statewide education policies are impacting our staff, students and communities. With the reality of these policies in clear view, we can serve as a linchpin to bring our staff, our students, the citizens of our communities and our state policymakers together in a positive spirit of mutual trust, respect and cooperation to address everyone’s concerns.”

Two years ago, Ohio’s public school superintendents kicked off a grassroots initiative to return local control to their public schools by providing their citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy. Their voice is the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network. One of the initial actions of this statewide grassroots network was to ask many of Ohio’s citizens how they view education reform and its impact upon their local schools.

From January 2014 through April 2016, four in‐depth public opinion surveys were conducted in 18 Ohio counties which have a combined population of 3,052,416 (U.S. Census, 2013). The results from these surveys indicate that a majority of citizens believe their public schools are doing a good job of preparing children for their future and they want their boards of education to be in control of their local schools.

Through a recently conducted statewide survey of Ohio’s public school superintendents, the top rated concerns were:

  • The current graduation point system created by the Ohio Department of Education will arbitrarily lower the graduation rates of the Class of 2018 and any class after them.
  • The continual expansion of Ohio’s educational assessment system has led to an over‐emphasis on standardized testing for our students which negatively impacts the focus of classroom instruction.
  • The inconsistent and unreliable fluctuations on achievement and value‐added/student growth measures included in Ohio’s Report Card reporting system needs to be addressed.

The group of district leaders indicated, “We want to roll our collective sleeves up and work with our stakeholders, constituent groups and Ohio’s elected officials to fix a graduation and State reporting system that is currently in great need of repair. Our students and our citizens deserve a reporting system they can trust.”

That’s why I’ll be on the steps of the Statehouse on Nov. 15.

GCSAN members send letter to DeMaria

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Little Miami is joining with dozens of other districts in the state of Ohio in sending a message to our state legislators regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

A local coalition of superintendents, called the Greater Cincinnati School Advocacy Network (of which I am a member), recently sent a letter to Ohio’s Superintendent of Instruction Paolo DeMaria making some very specific requests regarding assessments, the state’s teacher evaluation system and the local report card.

The letter was written to make certain that Mr. DeMaria knew that feedback gathered during the local ESSA public hearings was clear. The letter is below, and I welcome your comments.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-3-26-21-pmScreen Shot 2016-10-19 at 3.26.54 PM.png

 

A chance to make a change: ESSA and local control

 

It is no secret that I am a proponent of local control for Ohio’s school districts. I have been quoted in stories on our website and in the media on numerous local control issues including our state’s burdensome amount of required tests. At the heart of my views on local control is the simple fact that communities themselves should decide what they want their schools to be, not the kind of schools the State and the Feds want.

That’s why Little Miami is joining with several other districts in the state of Ohio in sending a message to our state legislators regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 10, 2015 and replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.

ESSA has shifted broad authority from the federal government to state and local agencies, providing them with greater flexibility and decision-making power. A key component of the new law emphasizes the return of more local control to our school districts.

Ohio must submit its plan to comply with ESSA to the federal government. It appears that Ohio will be submitting its plan in January or February of 2017, with a minimum of input from school districts themselves. I’d like to change that.

Locally, the Ohio Dept. of Education will be gathering public input on Sept. 29 at a public hearing on Ohio’s ESSA Plan.  The hearing will be held at the Hamilton County Action Agency. Event info here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cincinnati-essa-stakeholder-meeting-registration-26762080102

I encourage everyone to take the time to contact our legislative representatives regarding our desire for more local control, less testing, less unfunded state mandates. Below is a copy of a letter I recently sent to our State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria regarding Ohio’s ESSA Plan.

Dear Dr. DeMaria:
As Superintendent of the Little Miami Local School District, I am writing to express my recommendations regarding Ohio’s plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Along with hundreds of other public school superintendents around the state, I am committed to the following beliefs:
  • Public education is a critical component of an informed democracy.
  • Public education serves each and every one of our students who represent the diversity of our communities.
  • Locally controlled public education with governmental support is valued over public education dominated by government regulations.
  • The principle architects of the locally controlled education system in Ohio should be community members – including parents, principals, teachers, students, school board members and superintendents.
Regarding the assessment framework under the new ESSA regulations, states have to test students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school in math and reading, plus science in certain grade spans. I advise that Ohio’s new ESSA implementation plan reflect meeting the Federal minimum. In fact, I am supportive of an assessment framework which gives local control of the assessment process back to each district. Working collaboratively with each school district, the state should create an assessment framework which permits districts to create their own assessment process which meets the Federal minimums.
In reference to the State Report Card, the A-F format is not required under the new ESSA regulations. I believe that this is a great opportunity for the state to again work in a collaborative manner with its local stakeholders to create a “Quality Profile” framework that is reflective of the local control mandates of Federal ESSA law and regulations. Again, I emphasize support for meeting the minimum requirements of this Federal regulation. In addition, flexibility around additional qualities which are of value to the local community should be incorporated in this profile. This profile should be concise and simple for parents and stakeholders to comprehend. In the context of our current State Report Card, there are so many “moving parts” which parents and constituents cannot easily understand. Additionally, the current framework does not lend itself to proper focus on improved student learning. I further submit that the current framework focuses on improved student test-taking not real student learning. Continued high stakes assessment focus will only increase the weight of an assessment bureaucracy on our already economically burdened public school systems. I believe if this focus continues that this will become the next big equity issue that the state and federal governments face.
There are also opportunities to make appropriate changes to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) and the Ohio Principal Evaluation System (OPES) under new ESSA regulations. The OTES and OPES rubric framework should remain in place as a local district option and the State should permit more alternative evaluation frameworks which meet the same requirements as this rubric. The value added student growth data should be removed as a component tied to individual evaluations with each district having the option to create a student performance framework reflective of the whole student. I am firmly convinced that our students can demonstrate evidence of deeper learning outside of and beyond the current high stakes assessment framework. It is my belief this inequitable over testing emphasis unduly impacts the learning opportunities of all of our students. Local districts in collaboration with the State should work to create this more holistic picture of student learning.
I am representing the voice of my community, parents and teachers by recommending that Ohio should not enact any legislation or regulations in addition to the federal minimum requirements of ESSA.  We must use this opportunity presented by the change in federal legislation to restore local control to our schools and communities.  I will be advocating and working diligently to help the citizens of my community make their voices heard on this important issue.
Sincerely,
Greg Power, Superintendent
Little Miami Local Schools

Welcome back!

This is the first full week of school for 4,700 Little Miami Local School District students, including the first day of school for our preschoolers. During the first three days last week most things went very well — and a few things did not go perfectly. Some students were guided to the incorrect classes, many buses ran behind, and no doubt almost every student, parent and teacher had something not go right.

In regards to transportation, our performance was unsatisfactory. It is important that our families understand that our transportation department is working diligently to correct any problems, and by the end of this first week, we believe you will see a marked improvement.

But what about the other side of the story? What went right?

  • About 3/4ths of our 4,700 students ride a Little Miami bus. All of them had a safe bus ride to and from school. Our 60 buses cover an average of 5,000 miles each day (our district is a big one – 98 sq. miles).
  • Hundreds of students ate breakfast, lunch, or both at school. There were healthy choices available (although more than a few French fries were eaten, too). For some students these were the best meals of their day. For some students these were the only meals of the day. Our cooks are amazing!
  • Our more than 300 teachers, principals and other professional staff greeted students, helped them find their classes, began the teaching process and in general did an exceptional job. This did not happen by accident. Most teachers spend much of their summer preparing for the next school year so that things get off to a great start.
  • Schools were clean and grounds were manicured. Little Miami’s maintenance and custodians spent the summer making sure all of our schools were school-ready: walls were painted, bathrooms were cleaned, floors were waxed, and more.
  • Secretaries and other office staff greeted students, and we all know that as the year goes along, these people will handle thousands of jobs and virtually every one of those jobs will in some way impact students. Little Miami is proud of its hardworking employees!
  • District administrators, principals and school board members spent much of their time making sure the district is focused on doing what is right for students. The coordination of 4,700 plus students, 300 plus staff and six school buildings does not happen by accident, and it won’t happen at all if someone is not paying attention to detail.

Please feel free to share “what went right” with our communication office from time to time. When teachers do a great job — tell them (this goes for all of us: parents, colleagues, bosses, etc.). When your kids experience success — celebrate! When you see something that needs to be improved – tell those involved, and be part of the solution.

Here’s to a great 2016-2017 school year!

Elementary grade changes coming for the 2016-2017 school year

As we come to the end of another wintry day of learning, I think it important to share some information with you regarding our planning for next school year and beyond.

Little Miami’s student enrollment has never been larger than it is today. Our current enrollment is 4,482 students. Just a few years ago, in 2012, our enrollment was 3,823 students. Enrollment trends show that we are growing by about 200 students per year, and with new homes once again being built in the district, we do not expect that trend to change in the near future.

Where are our new students coming from? Below is a breakdown of the 442 new students enrolled for this school year, from June 9, 2015 through Jan. 31, 2016 (grades 1-12):

  • Private school: 65
  • Warren County schools: 88
  • Other Ohio Counties: 149
  • Out of State: 83
  • Homeschool: 17
  • Online school: 29
  • Out of Country: 11

Along with booming enrollment comes a concerning reality: In our current district facilities, we have a capacity of 4,950 seats.

With enrollment around 4,500, a capacity of 4,950 and growth of at least 200 students per year, one can see that within a very short time, our district will face the challenge of needing additional space.

Recently we completed an analysis as to how we can most efficiently utilize our existing class space. Growth has been occurring across all of our grade levels and this past year, we saw unprecedented growth at our high school where we welcomed more than 70 new students.

Where we currently have capacity is unfortunately not where we have the greatest need. We have space in our newer buildings where grades 5-12 are housed, but we have the greatest space challenges beginning to occur at our PreK-4 levels.

With this in mind, our administrators have assessed how possible reconfiguration at the PreK-2 levels might better support learning for our students while also gaining the most efficient use of our existing space. A recommendation was made to our Board of Education that we reconfigure our PreK-2 grade levels in the following manner:

  • Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, all PreK-K grade levels will be centralized at Salem Township Elementary.
  • Harlan-Butlerville and Hamilton-Maineville will house all of the district’s first and second grade students.
  • All other grades will remain as they currently are.

This recommendation received approval at the Jan. 19  Board of Education meeting.

This reconfiguration will result in several changes that will affect our students, but we are working very hard to minimize these effects. We are currently re-assessing attendance zones for our Butlerville and Maineville sites and will be communicating with our families who will be affected by this change.

We are also refining our bus transportation tiers for next year. High school students will be transported on one tier, grades 5-8 on another tier and PreK-4 on a third tier. This new transportation framework will result in slight modifications of school starting and ending times. This change will be communicated through our website by the end of this school year.

In addition to these changes in the short term, the district is currently working to create a communication process to include our community in a dialogue about our long-term classroom space needs. Look for more information on public engagement sessions in the coming weeks.

A sincere thank you to our community

It has been nearly two weeks since the Little Miami community voted to renew our district’s operating levy. As the dust has settled from campaign work, canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts, I have had some time to reflect on what has been accomplished.

There are many who dedicated their time, talent and treasure to this campaign and for their dedication, I would like to extend my sincere thanks.

To Little Miami parent David Griggs and his team of volunteers, who worked tirelessly to get the word out to our voters about the need for this renewal, I think I can speak on behalf of our board and staff when I say we cannot say thank you enough for the hundreds of hours you dedicated to our schools.

To the Fosters Pointe and Heritage at Miami Bluffs communities, for hosting candidates nights and inviting Treasurer Terry Gonda and myself to speak about the renewal request, I thank you for asking us in.

And to the residents of our community who voted to approve our request by a significant margin, I am humbled by your support. I take from this a message of hope: Our community has seen the effects of fiscal crisis and is ready to put those days behind us. It is truly a new day at Little Miami.

Now, the hard work begins. Our staff is currently engaged in strategic planning meetings that will set the course for our district for next year and beyond. This is a slow and methodical process of prioritizing what we are able to do both short and long term.

Even though the levy strengthens Little Miami’s financial position there are still economic uncertainties that require us to take a disciplined approach towards programs and services. As we do this, we will be looking for input from our stakeholders. Our Business Advisory Council is already engaged in taking a renewed look at our financial health, and will serve as a sounding board for our Board of Education as we look at staffing, services and expenditures. We will be communicating with our community as we move forward to keep you informed of our progress.

As I knocked on doors during our campaign’s canvassing efforts, I spoke with many residents. Many were overwhelmingly supportive of our schools; some were not. From these exchanges, I was reminded once again how integral schools are to the fabric of a community. I am proud to be the superintendent of Little Miami Local Schools and I am excited to be part of this district’s next chapter.