MT school principals talk educational services


By Martin Graham - mgraham@recordherald.com



Editor’s note: This is the third part of a series covering the Miami Trace Local School District’s annual “State of the District” address.

Miami Trace Local Schools held its second-annual “State of the District” address online Monday, during which the building principals had the opportunity to share important updates on their respective schools.

Starting off the building presentations was Miami Trace High School Principal Bryan Sheets to talk about the high school and its various educational offerings.

“Miami Trace High School offers students a wide range of opportunities both academically and extracurricular,” Sheets said. “Some of the extracurricular activities at Miami Trace High School that students participate in include marching band, jazz band, fall play, musicals, student government, art shows and Miami Trace Greats Oaks/FFA judging teams. Band and choir members perform in festivals and parades around the area and perform seasonal concerts.”

Sheets said one area of focus the administrative team has been working on is the implementation of the individualized graduation career plan. This plan — Sheets said — is a key part of the district’s strategic plan focused on students having the opportunity to identify career field connections.

“Starting with the class of 2024, students will meet with their guidance counselors to review the individualized graduation career plan to assist in developing a plan for each student in the freshman class,” Sheets said during his presentation. “This plan will be a working document that we at Miami Trace High School hope to have both student and parent involvement with. This document will have items such as career field interests — which is what the student really wants to do, post-high school goals (the aspirations following the students’ time at Miami Trace), supports needed — which is what Miami Trace can do to help meet the goal while students are going to the district, required credits (so they can be tracked by the students), necessary assessment scores and expectations, a demonstration of the students’ competency and readiness, as well as grade point average and class rank to assist students in applying for colleges or scholarships.”

Sheets said the high school is focused on assisting every student on achieving their individualized post-high school goal. To finish his presentation, Sheets thanked everyone for their continued support of the Miami Trace community.

“We truly appreciate the opportunity to work with children of this district and the resources we can offer to assist in meeting the demands of the future,” Sheets said.

Next to speak was Miami Trace Middle School Principal Jason Binegar, who shared some of the work that is going into the social and emotional needs of students, among other important updates.

“I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the Miami Trace strategic planning committee,” Binegar said. “I know Mrs.(Kim) Pittser (Miami Trace superintendent) and many other administrators have referenced this plan, but I wanted to communicate how Miami Trace Middle School has continued to work to support our students’ social, emotional and mental health needs as well as support student success through attendance and participation. Both of these areas are an emphasis of the district’s strategic plan.”

Binegar said that one of the goals going forward is to create awareness and knowledge of social and emotional standards for all staff while creating and utilizing appropriate programs to meet the needs of the students. He said that staff members participate in training through support of the curriculum and special education departments and that the school uses a variety of programs to meet the needs of students.

“None of these programs would be possible without the support of the Miami Trace Middle School’s administrative team and the middle school staff,” Binegar said.

The first program Binegar referenced is “Signs of Suicide.” The Signs of Suicide program works with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to screen students and offer preventative counseling and support for students who may be depressed or thinking of harming themselves. The next program is “Say Something,” which is presented to students to assist them to communicate and simply talk to a trusted adult if they are struggling or see others struggling.

“We also have multiple guest speakers,” Binegar said. “Speakers talk about risky behaviors, bullying, motivation and resiliency. We also have a partnership with Eastway and the Counseling Source. Outside counseling organizations offer specific counseling and trauma-informed care to students who have serious problems or simply need someone other than school staff members to talk to.”

Finally, Binegar talked about the Panther Circle program. The Panther Circle program is an engaging way to build a strong school community and support the mental health needs of students. Binegar said that everyone wants students to have a sense of belonging.

“We have eight large houses in our building and multiple packs in each house,” Binegar said. “Our houses are traits that spell out ‘Panthers.’ We have perseverance, accomplishment, nobility, trustworthiness, humility, empathy, responsibility and service. Students participate in various activities, competitions and lessons to strengthen these traits and students are rewarded for displaying them. Every family has to have time to communicate and build unity, which is what we are trying to do at the building level as part of this program. We have an amazing community and Miami Trace team, and it is the people who make Miami Trace a special place.”

The last principal to speak was Miami Trace Elementary School Principal Justin Lanman, who began by sharing some stats about the building.

“Miami Trace Elementary is home to over 1,200 students and 140 staff members,” Lanman said. “It is the eighth largest public elementary school in the state of Ohio. We are proud to be a part of the Fayette County community. Since opening in 2008 we have had overwhelming community support which has been displayed in the form of gift giving, volunteers, donations, programs, field trips, sponsorships, pen pals, mentorships and many more partnerships. This year our staff, families and community members have made some tremendous adjustments to assist the school in providing high quality, positive learning opportunities for our students.”

Lanman said that one of the strategies for the district’s strategic plan is based on social/emotional learning, specifically supporting social/emotional and mental health needs of the students.

“At MTES we have a robust Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program,” Lanman said. “Through this program we recognize and emphasize the importance of positive behaviors, relationships and decision making. Students receive merit-based incentives that encourage them to embrace what it means to be a positive role model and member of society.”

Examples of these incentives include “Pizza with the Principal” where students are selected randomly to eat pizza and watch a movie with the principals during their lunch period, “Panther Bucks” which are given to students so they may draw for rewards, and “Quarterly Incentives” which are based on a larger focus and reward behavior such as good bus behavior, work completion or general good daily behavior.

“It is our hope that students are encouraged to embrace our T.E.A.M. philosophy,” Lanman said. “Treating others as you want to be treated. Every day come prepared to learn. Always be respectful. Make good choices. This is the backbone of everything we do at Miami Trace Elementary. In addition to our emphasis on positive behavior, we are committed to providing for the mental health of our students. We have partnered with several agencies in order to accomplish this: Eastway, Maxim and The Counseling Source. These partnerships allow us to have a behavior analyst, counselors and therapists within our building. In closing I would like to say thank you to our community members, families, staff and students. This year has presented unique challenges, and thanks to all of you it has been a positive and successful experience for everyone at Miami Trace Elementary School.”

Stay with the Record-Herald for the final part of the State of the District address in a future edition of the paper.

Reach Martin Graham at (740) 463-9684 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.

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By Martin Graham

mgraham@recordherald.com