Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) discussed curriculum, gifted education services, athletics and more Monday evening during the State of the District address at the Historic Washington Auditorium.
Following the introduction of the presentation by WCHCS Superintendent Tom Bailey, curriculum instructors Dianna Wayne and Stacy Forby discussed several additions over the last few years including the implementation of the Inspiration Academy. According to Wayne, the academy allows teachers who have hobbies or passions the chance to share these interests with students. How the process works is simple, a teacher has an idea of something they want to share and then they bring it to Wayne or their principal. The administration will consider if the topic could provide an enriching experience and will decide if it is a worthwhile endeavour. Wayne explained that this is an incredible chance for the students to find some role models within the schools and help them build meaningful relationships.
“So far we have about 30 clubs and 300 students participating in one or more of them,” Wayne said during the presentation Monday. “There are already a lot of clubs with offerings such as the Fishing Club, Tennis Club, Washington Middle School Newspaper, the Chess Club, Enrichment – Reading and Brain Games, and an elementary Yarn and Needle club. One of our most popular offerings though has been the LEGO League and Robotics.”
The two also discussed the “Gifted Education Services” being offered within the schools to the advanced students within the district. At Cherry Hill Primary and Belle Aire Intermediate the staff is aiming to ensure that gifted students are assisted as early as possible with a Gifted Intervention Specialist in each building. Additionally, Cherry Hill has started to offer student enrichment services and Belle Aire has begun Cluster Groupings and has special Resource Room services that allow gifted children the chance to succeed.
At the Washington Middle School, advanced language arts classes for sixth through eighth grade are offered as well as Algebra One. These combined with acceleration services allow kids who work hard a chance to earn some high school credit in middle school. Finally at the high school, on top of the acceleration services offered, advanced placement or “AP” classes are also offered and give gifted students a chance to begin taking hard courses that could assist them in college and after. A few other programs were discussed being adopted in the winter of 2020, but one exciting opportunity is the JASON’s Argonaut Program which gives kids the chance to travel the world while incorporating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning.
Next to talk to the crowd about students with disabilities and other exceptionalities was director of Special Education Shannon Caplinger and Student Services Coordinator Laura McNamara. According to these two, out of the roughly 2,200 students, 41 percent are considered exceptional students. Additionally, WCHCS serves about five more students with disabilities than the statewide average of 15.2 per district and out of 13 categories of disabilities (multiple disabilities, hearing impairment, deaf/blind, deafness, vision impairment, emotional disturbance, specific learning disability, autism and more) only two — deaf/blind and orthopedic impairment — are not represented within the district.
The two also explained other students who were assisted through other programs such as Child Find (which is a legal requirement that schools find all children from birth through 21 who have disabilities and need services), the McKinney-Vento Act (which defines homeless children and youths as those who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence), and those students in foster care. These students require specific care and many programs are legal requirements that the duo work with to ensure every student receives an education.
Taking to the podium next was director of the Washington Alumni Association and liaison to military students and families Trevor Patton. He started his presentation by discussing the boost from alumni that homecoming 2019 received. Not only did alumni attend the game, but several took time to serve as cheerleaders, talk to the football players prior to the game, and even participate in the halftime show. Patton said having a strong alumni is great and showed gratitude to have them come back to participate.
Another recent aspect of his job is helping Washington alumni with the Historic Assets Preservation Fund. This fund was established as a place to collect donations and money to find and restore old statues and busts from the Historic Washington Middle School. The goal of the fund is to find these relics from the schools and tastefully replace them in the current buildings but rededicated by newer alumni. For instance the class of 1958 has already donated $10,000 to restore these one-of-a-kind pieces of art.
Finally, his work with local veterans and students going into the military has increased over the last year. In 2018 students took time around Veterans Day to honor the military service with many different programs. From administering the Americanism Test to Belle Aire learning traditions through their own research, and from Cherry Hill presenting a choral program to lunch at the Washington High School, WCHCS has taken time to appreciate and show off their love for local veterans. Through all of this work the WCHCS earned the “Purple Star” award for outstanding commitment to serving military students and families and was selected last month as the Ohio Army National Guard Game of the Week for honoring military service members and veterans.
Ending the presentation was WCHCS Athletic Director Mark Bihl who talked about how they approach education based athletics. First he thanked all of the presenters on Monday and said that without them what he was about to share is not possible, and he then explained the purpose of Blue Lion athletics for those in attendance.
“We coach to provide student athletes the opportunity to be industrious, altruistic men and women of integrity through the challenges of education based athletics,” Bihl said. “That’s our purpose, but our goal is simple: win, but we always tell the coaches and students that our purpose is greater than our goal.”
Bihl then took time to explain how the current seasons are going for various teams around the district, and shared some stats about participation. At the schools there are approximately 22 Blue Lion teams and 14 OHSAA sanctioned sports offered with anywhere from approximately 200-300 kids participating. These numbers have slowly increased and based on a graph from Bihl, the fall sports have more participants than the other two seasons.
Another aspect of athletics Bihl was proud to share was the facility improvements to the Washington High School Track and Field. Thanks to calls from various sources as well as participating in a Miami Trace auction recently, Bihl has been able to get new bleachers at prices near 10 percent of the cost of a new set. Additionally, one set was purchased for $1,000 and after maybe another $1,500 in work, the schools will have a set of seats valued at around $45,000 according to Bihl.
Finally, the athletic director highlighted some of the students and teams. He showed off the collective GPA of the Lady Lions Tennis team (3.59) and the Lady Lions Basketball team (3.38) to show how important education is to the programs. Before passing it back to Bailey for the final comment, Bihl also talked about the benefit of multi-sport athletes, and showed off several multi-sport participants who are now in college, the Marines and more.
This is the final part of three covering the Washington Court House City Schools recent “State of the District” address. The other two parts can be read at www.recordherald.com.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.