Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) Superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey recently discussed the upcoming school year and emphasized a few new additions in the district as well as their “portrait of a Blue Lion.”
“We are going through out first hiring season after the levy passed, but unfortunately we didn’t get a lot of hires, though I think it is a bad reflection this year as we had a few teachers move back to their own hometowns,” Bailey said during an interview recently. “We were able to add new staff because of the levy though, so we added new positions or brought back positions that were cut, some of them not all of them.”
Bailey explained that some of the highlights for positions included bringing back librarians at Belle Aire and Cherry Hill that were cut previously due to lack of funding and a study hall monitor at the high school.
“We added — for the district — three new teachers at the middle school because it had the highest student-teacher ratio in the district,” Bailey said. “So they have three additional teachers at the middle school particularly in the areas of science and social studies and we added a new counselor at the middle school, so there are now two full-time counselors. That is to alleviate some of the burdens with mental health issues and taking care of the kids. Middle school is a tough age and to only have one counselor for a school that size is a lot of work for one person.”
Another addition — for the first time in the history of the district — is a full-time social worker. This individual will be working with the district’s prevention coordinator to help take care of the needs of the students and bridge the gap to build relationships with families so they can receive the resources they need.
“We want the community to know that this is a high priority for us,” Bailey said. “We have now put together a very comprehensive team of people who are going to be really moving our students forward, not just the mental health but also the student services aspect of taking care of their needs other than academic.”
Washington Court House City Schools Director of Marketing and Communication Trevor Patton said the district has also been extremely aggressive with their food programming for the students. Through various avenues the district has been tackling issues of food shortage at home with student-led organizations at the high school and middle school as well as teacher-led programs in the other two buildings. Additionally they have utilized First United Methodist Church for weekend food programming.
“All of those have been going on for years on the food end specifically,” Patton said. “Our kids, especially at the middle school, have led programs that have absolutely flourished and taken care of their classmates. Taking care of the whole student is the job of the 21st century school and (these programs) help us be better prepared to do so.”
Bailey then spoke about furthering the culture of the district and explained that each year they have worked to unite the students behind a common theme or lesson to help them better engage with their community and district. When he started it was about their cultural blueprint and included high expectations for all, togetherness and tools such as the “above the line thinking.”
A part of this is the “Portrait of a Blue Lion,” based on BattelleForKids “Portrait of a Graduate.” According to BattelleForKids, “Locally developed, but globally positioned, the Portrait of a Graduate serves as a North Star for system transformation. Providing strategic direction for the redesign of the overall educational experience for students, this collective vision reinvigorates and re-engages students, teachers, and community stakeholders.”
“So those were kind of tools that we gave our students and our parents to work on,” Bailey said. “Fast forward about two years, we were going to roll out the whole ‘Portrait of a Blue Lion.’ That is a comprehensive piece that we wanted to do for our culture. We had 50 community members, students, teachers, administrators and staff about six months before COVID-19. Right around February of that year just prior to COVID, the board approved the first piece of that which was the ‘Engaged Empathy’ piece, talking about empathy for others. We are going to continue to roll out that piece this year, but we are also going to incorporate the other four foundational competencies of that portrait of a Blue Lion. Our next part we are working on — it all meshes together of course — are our Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) programs.”
The superintendent explained PBIS is not a new concept and that it is a very research-based approach to treat behaviors of students and to build culture in a positive way. Bailey said that when he was a principal the program was much more prevalent in elementary schools, but in the past two years the state of Ohio and other researchers have realized it is very impactful all throughout a district.
“We are really spending a lot of time and energy on implementing strong PBIS programs for all four of our buildings,” Bailey said. “Within that will be our cultural blueprint and portrait of a Blue Lion. It will all be kind of wrapped up together and Trevor is going to be working with our principals on how that package looks for the community. We don’t want people to be confused and we want them to know all of these things we are doing come together in taking care of the whole child. So each year we have a tagline, hashtag and mindset that explains what we are doing. This year it is ‘Others First.’ That really encapsulates the culture we want to build, taking care of others. It doesn’t matter who you are in the district, it is really about putting others first. It really drives home that ‘Engaged Empathy’ piece for our staff and students as well as the community. Everyone can benefit from putting others first.”
High school students at WCHCS are expected to start the school year on Aug. 18 with a staggered start occurring for the other buildings in the district. Washington Middle School will hold pre-scheduled orientations Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Aug. 18-20, with the first day in the classroom for all students at WMS on Monday, Aug. 23.
Belle Aire Intermediate School and Cherry Hill Primary School first and second grade classes will hold pre-scheduled orientations Thursday, Aug 19; Friday, Aug. 20; and Monday, Aug. 23. The first day in the classroom for all students at Belle Aire and Cherry Hill will be on Tuesday, Aug. 24.
Finally, kindergartners at Cherry Hill with last names beginning with “A-M” will attend school on Tuesday, Aug. 24, and “N-Z” students will attend on Wednesday, Aug. 25. All kindergartners will attend together beginning on Thursday, Aug. 26. Specific details regarding how to schedule a meeting/orientation with teachers will be communicated by the buildings.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351.