Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) presented the “State of the District” on Monday evening which began with WCHCS Superintendent Tom Bailey discussing progress in the district over the last year.
Starting in 2018, Bailey decided on a new way to meet with the public and showcase all of the exciting work being done for the students. This idea culminated in the creation of the State of the District address, where administrators from around the district can take time to share what is happening in their building or in their department with the community.
The presentation at the Historic Washington Auditorium began with Bailey welcoming and thanking the crowd for attending the address before going into detail about the school district. According to Bailey, the schools serve 2,213 students as of a head count on Monday. Individually, Washington High School has the most students at 624 and Belle Aire Intermediate has the least students at 493. To the Ohio Department of Education, WCHCS is ranked 547 out of 609 in median income and 542 out of 609 in assessed valuation, which puts the district near the bottom 15 percent of the school districts in the state in these two categories.
Additionally, Bailey said 58 percent of students are categorized as,”Economically disadvantaged,” and as of Monday the largest class is the eighth grade with 182 and the smallest is the class of 2020 with 139.
Another aspect of the district that has found traction since Bailey took over as superintendent is the “Cultural Blueprint” that has been a guide for a transition within the schools. The process started with the core belief of “High Expectations for All,” which — through engaging in a child’s learning, finishing strong in everything they do and striving to get better every day — would result in growth from the students and faculty. This transitioned into “Together We Have Purpose,” which focused on building meaningful relationships, valuing everyone’s work and helping each other succeed with the outcome being a growth of community pride. Finally, Bailey said they have been working on the final portion of the blueprint over the last year, which is, “Inspire Excellence.” Through setting goals, leading by example and making a positive difference, Bailey is expecting the culture of the schools to continue to make this shift.
Bailey also discussed an initiative that is moving to phase two, “Portrait of a Graduate.” This particular effort was created with three questions in mind: “What are the hopes, aspirations, and dreams that our community has for our young people?” “What are the skills and habits of mind that our children need for success in this rapidly changing and complex world?” Finally, “What are the implications for the design of the learning experiences – and equitable access to those experiences – we provide in our school systems?” Overall he said they are excited to be moving to the point where they can “Activate the Design Team,” and are looking forward to seeing more progress.
Next up for discussion was a highlight of the Ohio Department of Education district report card. Bailey showed the past four years of report cards and explained how they have — as a district — steadily increased their scores. This includes a great gap closing score that shows how well the schools are meeting the performance expectations for its most vulnerable populations of students in English language arts, math and graduation. It also measures how schools are doing in helping English learners to become proficient in English which doesn’t apply at each building, but there are a few students within WCHCS who are learning English.
“There are many more pieces to the school than the report card, but we are still seeing steady growth across the district,” Bailey said. “We are moving up in the levels and I am proud to say we have met three of the state indicators, something we haven’t done since 2015. So we are moving along really well.”
Bailey moved on to talk about the work on the Historic Washington Auditorium over several work days and a combined 250 man hours, and how he is proud of the work so far in preserving the auditorium for the future of the district. Between cleaning and painting, much work has been done, but it is far from over, and Bailey said they have been busy working on a new bathroom for the auditorium. The bathroom — which is replacing some old classrooms nearby — will be handicap-accessible and will provide the auditorium with facility upgrades he believes it desperately needs to help it remain a jewel for the WCHCS. All of this work is being completed by grants, donations and volunteers.
The superintendent then said that anyone in the community who wants a “no-cost” way to help the district with these renovations can write a letter to representatives of the state legislature. According to Bailey, approximately $1.5 million is available from the OFCC Cultural Facilities Grant and it could be used to fund the partial renovation of the auditorium, but to ensure that the schools have a chance to receive the money he is asking the community to write two letters of support. The first letter should be addressed to Senator Bob Peterson and the second to Representative Gary Scherer, and they may be typed or hand written.
“Our grand performance hall can be partially renovated through the fiscal year 2020 state appropriations bill with no cost to the WCHCS,” a recent letter circulated by the district said.
Letters should be returned to Bailey at the WCHCS District Office, 306 Highland Ave., Washington Court House, Ohio 43160. The superintendent also said that these letters should be at the office by Dec. 2, and offered a few items to stress in these letters including that the auditorium is in need of renovation, how important it is as the “Urban Core” of our community, how the renovation would allow concerts and additional entertainment in Fayette County, and how the auditorium is the largest performing arts venue in the multi-county region with seating for up to nearly 1,000 people.
Finally, Bailey discussed a new organization just in the planning stages that is dedicated to supporting the arts within the city, the Washington Court House Encore Foundation. He said this foundation’s first goal would be the renovation of the auditorium and facilities with future goals of holding possible Broadway-style shows on stage for the community to enjoy.
“We have a lot to celebrate and be proud of here at Washington Court House City Schools,” Bailey said.
Stay with the Record-Herald for part two of the Washington Court House City Schools State of the District address in the Thursday, Oct. 24 edition, which will feature reports from all schools within the district, information on curriculum changes and more.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.