“How was school today?”
I would be willing to bet that all of us had to answer this question when we were kids. For those of us who work in education, we find ourselves in a unique position. Not only were we asked this question repeatedly while growing up, but now as adults, we happen to work in the profession that shapes every child’s answer to that question each and every day.
This year, in our annual convocation video for staff, I issued somewhat of a challenge. I asked our employees to think about what they can do this year, each and every day, to help kids answer “How was school today?” with a positive response. There are lots of ways to accomplish this goal directly and indirectly.
As we continue to work on our long-range facilities plan, one highlight will be safety and security upgrades throughout the district. A few of those initiatives include improving the coverage and quality of security cameras, automating facility and systems alerts, enhancing notification systems, and improving our ability to monitor main doorways and other access points of our schools.
Improving the security of our schools must be done in a manner that maintains welcoming environments and positive school climates. If that positive school climate is disrupted, we have an amazing team ready to respond and provide additional support at a moment’s notice. For the coming school year, we have strengthened that team by adding a mental health specialist at the high school level and two counselors at the elementary level. These new hires greatly expand our ability to support the social-emotional needs of our school populations.
Our staff, community and students continue to collaborate on initiatives that make our district better. These efforts help shape innovative programs and practices that are developed to support student growth and success. For example, this year the district’s Middle School Redesign Team begins the next phase of its work to develop a world-class middle school model for our district. And, thanks to the continuing efforts of our elementary staff, our new math program is off to a strong start following its successful launch last year. Our youngest learners continue to gain confidence in their use of technology in the classroom, while staff members continually seek new and exciting opportunities for students to explore interests and develop their talents.
Of the many factors that strengthen a community’s trust and confidence in its schools, perhaps the most important is operational transparency. We have involved our community in recent efforts to develop our Strategic Plan, study and recommend improvements to our facilities, and implement strategies to stretch and stabilize our finances. These collective efforts to keep our schools on a path toward future success are appreciated and have been recognized by entities outside of the district. In fact, Moody’s Investors Service recently upgraded our district to the second highest possible ranking they offer, which means we are in the top 10 percent of the highest ratings in the state with Moody’s.
WCSD is an integral part of our community’s rich and storied history. I believe that is because our schools, our staff, always seem to embrace things in a positive way. It is easy to grasp and celebrate the good things that happen for us, but even in the most difficult times or under the most unenviable circumstances, we rise to the occasion. Our schools have always been, and will remain, a point of pride within our community. When our community receives national acclaim, such as when Forbes magazine says Westerville is one of America’s friendliest towns, or when a national real estate blog says Westerville is the best suburb in the country, our schools play an important part in achieving those accolades.
So, how was school today? I have asked our staff to maintain an important perspective about what we do to shape the answer to this question. For many students, school is the highlight of their day. Every day gives us hundreds, perhaps thousands, of opportunities to make a child’s day special. When students are asked that one question, we want their answer to be, “It was a great day at school.” On behalf of the Board of Education and leadership team, welcome to the 2018-19 school year!
John R. Kellogg, Ed.D.