WHS superintendent talks changes coming to district


At the Washington Court House City School District’s school board meeting on Monday, superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey shared some of the recent and upcoming changes coming to Washington High School.

“At Washington High School, we are here specifically for increased opportunity for students,” Bailey said. “We have a lot of great things we are getting ready to roll out to give our students more opportunities and to put them on a more level playing field with all of the high school students in the state of Ohio.”

Bailey spoke about the mission statement and the portrait of a Blue Lion.

“Our mission statement that we’ve had since 2017 is ‘engage, inspire, and grow.’ In 2019, we brought together about 50 community members to talk about our portrait of a Blue Lion. We put together our competencies that we wanted our students to have by the time they graduate. These competencies are what a lot of companies and corporations are calling today, durable skills. Engaged empathy is the foundation for that, and the pillars are effective communication, critical thinking, responsibility and integrity, and growth and grit. Very soon after we adopted this, the pandemic hit. We kind of floundered for a few years as most people did, but we’re back on track with our portrait.”

Bailey said that in the summer, a group came together, consisting of the school board and some community members, and they talked about strategic planning goals. He named four areas of strategic planning that were important to them: stewardship, culture of the district, deeper learning, and engagement.

Dr. Bailey then spoke about the plan to merge 21st century skills with rigorous academic content to provide the best learning experience for students.

“We have a great opportunity coming up in 2025, which is the sesquicentennial of Washington High School. Washington High School opened in 1875 as an institution and is the oldest high school in the county. We are going to be celebrating 150 years and we’re really excited about that. Because of that, we’ve been making some changes and we’re going to continue to make some changes to propel our students from the antiquated education system of the 20th century into the 21st century. This is going to be a three-pronged approach to facility enhancements, enrichment opportunities, and academic programming.”

Some of the facility enhancements Bailey mentioned included having more signage throughout the high school, renovating the courtyard, updates to Gardner Park, a new track surface and updated lighting that the track is going to have in the spring, moving the competition soccer field to make better use of the amenities at the track facility, new tennis and pickleball courts, newly reconditioned basketball courts at the high school and the middle school, additional access controls for upgraded safety and security of the facilities, the Blue Lion Innovation Center, improvements to the baseball field, and the renovation of classroom space at the old middle school to move the alternative school there.

“We’ve had a kickoff discussion about a multi-use athletic facility and what that could look like for our future Blue Lion athletes, as well as the addition of agriculture, a greenhouse classroom, and auditorium improvements,” Bailey said.

Bailey highlighted high interest clubs that Washington High School offers or plans to offer, including an athletic leadership council, an e-sports program, robotics, increased internship and mentoring opportunities, and FCA.

“We’re looking forward to starting an FFA program, which we haven’t had since the 1950s,” said Bailey.

Bailey continued, “We are redoing our course catalog to allow more of our students to take high interest electives. We’ve had changes to our course catalog in the past, but this year the changes are more significant than they have been in the past several years. We are going to add a second course to material science and engineering. We have an advanced materials lab, which is a science class. A research history class that was made popular by Paul LaRue, who is a former Blue Lion teacher that’s now the president of the State Board of Education, will be added. We are adding world geography cultures, criminology, advanced art, strength and conditioning, and competition robotics. Some other opportunities that we’re going to add on at the high school level include tier two interventions for students who are struggling or at risk, we’re going to put some more intense interventions into the school day. We are going to expand work study opportunities for our students. We are integrating seventh and eighth graders into high school credit courses, so those students who are ready to move on are going to accelerate through and get their high school credits starting in seventh and eighth grade. We are also adding additional opportunities to earn graduation seals. Graduation seals are great for anyone to get. There are students who struggle to pass all the courses and they rely on the seals to get a diploma from high school. The seals that we offer or will offer include community service, fine and performing arts, student engagement, and technology.”

Moving forward, students will be able to choose a pathway when they get into high school, according to Bailey.

“We’re going to be very aggressive when students come into Washington High School in allowing them to choose a pathway. That doesn’t mean they’re stuck on that pathway, but that means that they have some kind of direction. We can lay out for them exactly what their next four years of courses will look like. So many times, we get to graduation night, and I’ll be talking to students and asking them what they are going to do next year, and there’s a lot of students that will look me in the face and say that they have no clue. So, we are going to try to encourage students to jump on these pathways so that we can get them set up for success in life,” he said.

Some of the ways to set up students for success are STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) offerings.

Bailey said, “Most of these pathways are going to center around STEAM except for our most long-standing pathway that we have here at Washington High School, and that is the business finance pathway. David Penwell features the business program through Great Oaks, and he does an incredible job. We have almost 30 of our DECA students that made it out of regionals and are going to the state championships. Out of those 30 or so students, we will send some on the nationals as we do every year. We’re very proud of this program.”

Bailey concluded by saying, “The next program that we have applied for is an A-3 agriculture program. This is an agriculture program that allows us to do FFA in the schools, however, it’s not your typical agriculture program. It’s designed for students in a little bit more of an urban setting, as we are, and allows us to do something that’s more in tune with the science aspect of agriculture. There are only four other high schools in the state of Ohio that offer this right now and we applied to be the fifth. In the courses that may be offered, we’re looking at Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Science and Technology of Food, Application of Food Science and Safety, and then a capstone internship program. This will fall right in line with several other companies in our area that do a lot of seed genetics, and all those companies that work on the science side of agriculture because this is exactly what it is. We are hoping to hear from the state of Ohio very soon. This program will be offered through Great Oaks as well. Finally, we have an engineering pathway. This is something that we’ve had, but we are redesigning it for next year with a new teacher. This is part of Project Lead the Way, and we are very fortunate to have Anthony Amore at the middle school as he does the Project Lead the Way for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. This is a continuation of that program, and we will offer introduction to engineering design, engineering principles, digital electronics, and the fourth course is aerospace engineering.”

Representatives from the University of Cincinnati gave a presentation during the board meeting about their partnership with Washington High School in bringing an Information Technology pathway to the district. A story on that will be featured in Friday’s edition of the Record-Herald.

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