This week, the principals of the Washington Court House City School (WCHCS) District contributed to the “State of the District” address by detailing what’s going on at each of the buildings.
First up was Cherry Hill Primary Principal Craig Maddux who started by explaining that his school serves students from 3-years-old to 8-years-old, which is a very important developmental time for these kids. He said with this in mind and to assist student growth, the staff is focusing on three particular areas.
The first of these is ensuring students have a great learning environment. This means making sure the students understand they are in a safe, inviting environment and that they are cared for, according to Maddux. He said Cherry Hill staff is also working to make sure they have caring adults who the students know want them to have academic success and well-being. The staff is taught to welcome the kids each and every day while also working to identify the differences in each student to help them with the exact support they need.
The second is encouraging social and emotional learning to improve attitudes and increase skills at a young age. Working with the students now on this type of learning helps in many areas, Maddux explained, such as self-management, self-awareness and more. The primary way this is taught currently is through the Lions Quest Service Learning projects. These projects help the students to make responsible decisions, allow them to build relationships with teachers and other youth, and overall help them to become more productive members of the community.
The final area — using a tiered instruction which shows how to support students at each level of behavior and academics to ensure intervention is occurring as needed — is curriculum and instruction. Through easy to follow color-coded progress monitoring, staff can determine what areas students need the most help in and can easily ensure growth is occurring with all students.
The second principal to speak about his building was Jeff Conroy at Belle Aire Intermediate. He began by discussing curriculum and explained the school is in its third year of the Lucy Calkins in English Language Arts.
According to its website unitsofstudy.com, Lucy Calkins and her “Teachers College Reading and Writing Project” coauthors aim to prepare students for any reading and writing task they will face and to turn kids into life-long, confident readers and writers who display agency and independence. Lucy and her colleagues have drawn on their more than 30 years of research and work in thousands of schools across the country and around the world to develop powerful curriculum resources, instructional methods, and professional learning opportunities to support teachers as they work together and with their students toward these vitally important goals. Conroy also briefly mentioned that a new math curriculum for students through fifth grade will be coming next school year.
Conroy also praised the time change for their building, which has helped drop overall student tardiness significantly. According to Conroy, the slight change in time has also allowed them to fit in a 10-minute homeroom in the morning so teachers can use this time to prepare themselves to be student focused for their school day. He also said that the building is in its second year for the “Too Good Program,” which focuses on drug awareness and prevention. Conroy said it is never too early to let kids know about these types of subjects, and more awareness now can lead to less abuse in the future. Additionally, several clubs and programs have seen an increase in student involvement, including the LEGO league, the Belle Aire choir and even student council.
Finally, Conroy said they were very excited about their report card again this year as they managed to finish with an “A” in progress for the second year in a row, and their individual overall grade was a “B,” with fourth grade math hitting the state indicator at 80 percent.
Washington Middle School Principal Eric Wayne then took to the podium. The first topic Wayne discussed was the school’s new “Non-Negotiables,” which he said was implemented to give the teachers as high of an expectation as the students. Currently, four non-negotiables are in place: All decisions need to be made in the best interest of the student learning, every child is treated with respect, show compassion without lowering expectations, and when teaching a skill weekly you should know who has mastered the skill and who has not.
Another focus of the building is on building meaningful relationships with high expectations. To explain this, Wayne shared a rubric which helps teachers by informing them of how best to build relationships. Details such as greeting every student when they enter, displaying a strategy for random questioning involving all students, making time for individual interactions, learning an interest or talent of your students and more go a long way helping to build relationships. This is one example of the work the Building Leadership Team has done to help teachers continue to foster relationships with their students.
Wayne also talked about updates to the curriculum, including “Project Lead the Way,” which was a design and modeling program for sixth grade students. After seeing the success they had last year, Wayne wanted to continue to push the students in the seventh and eighth grade by introducing Computer Science for Innovators and Makers. According to Wayne, this new program is like an expansion of Project Lead the Way but for the older students.
Finally, Wayne explained they are proud to have received the Momentum Award for a third year in a row and are hoping to make it a fourth soon. The Momentum Award is presented by the state board of education and recognizes schools for exceeding expectations in student growth for the year. Schools must earn straight As on all Value-Added measures on the state report card. The school or district must have at least two “Value-Added” subgroups of students, which includes gifted, lowest 20 percent in achievement, and students with disabilities.
Washington High School Principal Tracy Rose was the last to speak, and said although they have a lot of work still to do, he is proud of their accomplishments so far. He started by showing off a few of the student-led projects. The first he shared was the “Flip Your Lids” project, which tasks students to collect enough lids to make something, in this case the students want to make a bench with their lids just as another building did in the district. As the students collected the lids, they also realized they should begin recycling the bottles, and soon enough a building-wide recycling effort was also started. The second project is a Peer Tutoring Group. This group has already seen some success within their meetings and has also branched out from helping not only other high school students, but to helping younger students in the district with tutoring.
Another new project the high school has slowly been growing is the Blue Lion Studio, which is currently a YouTube channel named Blue Lion News Team. Though ambitious, the group wants to begin interviewing more administration officials and would even like to become the main source for the daily announcements at the high school. Also successful this year was the fall blood drive, which saw about 30 percent of eligible students participate. Considering student-athletes could not donate and anyone 16 or 17 years of age needed consent from adults, the project was a huge success and the students managed to beat their goal of 40 units, which equaled about 144 lives saved. Also new this year is the School Store. The store is student-created and currently only has a handful of items for sale, but fall and winter decorations are already flying off the shelves. Rose said the students are ambitious, hoping to have it open for the school starting in November and would additionally like to be open for various events to sell their homemade items.
Rose then spoke about the graduation requirement changes and how the high school is currently using other programs such as the WorkKeys Test, Ohio Means Jobs Readiness Seal and the National Incident Management System Industry Recognized Credential as alternative pathways to graduation for some students who need other options. Finally, Rose explained the high school’s gap closing score on the district report card. Over the last few years the score has steadily increased from a 39.4 percent in 2017 to a 50 percent in 2018, which showed that growth has continued in the high school. Rose was proud to share on Monday the 2019 score of 83.5 percent, which is a significant increase from last year.
Stay with the Record-Herald for the final part of the “State of the District” address in a future edition of the paper, which will focus on student services for the disabled, gifted and more as well as Blue Lion athletics.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartTheNewsGuy.