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Dr. Kimberly Pietsch Miller's Blog Page
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Get Along
Posted 8/6/2020 at 1:05:08 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Kenny Chesney released a song in 2018 entitled "Get Along." It was one of my favorite songs that summer, and I sang along every time I heard it on the radio.  In the song, Chesney sings:
 
Get along, on down the road
We've got a long long way to go
Scared to live, scared to die
We ain't perfect but we try
Get along while we can
Always give love the upper hand...can't we all get along
 
I was listening to the song again last night, and it made me think about the current situation that we are in with the reality of COVID-19.
 
I understand that there are many opinions related to everything from how the virus has been managed to how we open schools.  We are stressed and anxious from living in uncertain times.  We are concerned about health and wellness, finances, family members, and friends.  We are wondering when it will end and we can go back to normal, whatever that may be.  
 
The differences of opinion are not only understandable, but they are helpful too.  Diversity of thought is a key ingredient to good problem-solving.  But differences of opinion can also divide us and keep us from rallying together.  And now, we need to rally together for our students.
 
We have debated and considered the guidance of public health officials, local medical experts, parents, and educators.  And whether we agree with what is said or not, it has been decided that we are starting school in distance learning.  Now is the time to focus on making distance learning in Bexley the very best that it can be for each student.
 
We have a vision to provide exceptional education for today and tomorrow.  We have a mission to provide educational experiences that engage, equip, and empower each student.  And we have a Learner Profile that outlines our hopes and aspirations for each Bexley graduate. None of these expectations have changed, and we are holding ourselves accountable to them.
 
It is time to acknowledge that we have different opinions and then "move on down the road" to collaboratively work to deliver exceptional education during the time of distance learning.  We need our teachers, our administrators, our parents, and our entire community to help us to ensure that each of our students has a successful year of learning and development.
 
I am grateful for the community relationships that we already have and for the people in those organizations that are stepping forward to partner with us to support students and families: The Bexley Education Foundation, Bexley Recreation and Parks Department, The City of Bexley, and the Jewish Community Center.
 
I am grateful for the parents and community members who have emailed us with creative ideas for supporting students and families. I am grateful for the staff members who are rethinking how to begin school, build relationships and set routines that will promote learning success.
 
One of the first blogs that I wrote in Bexley was on the strength of our community.  I wrote:
 
But most importantly, we have a common characteristic or interest. That commonality is a fierce commitment to our youth and their growth and development. That commitment plays out in a strong support of education in general and Bexley City Schools specifically.
 
I will never question that everyone in our community cares deeply about our children and their education. We may disagree at times on how best to approach their education, but everyone cares. It is time to draw from that shared love for students so that we can accomplish what at times feels overwhelming. But it is possible when we do it together.
 
As the song goes, "we have a long, long way to go."  We may be scared.  We know we aren't perfect.  But if we give love for our children the upper hand, we can get along and we can be Bexley Bold.
Back to School in 2020 - The Why
Posted 7/17/2020 at 2:03:46 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Last March we were thrown a curve ball that none of us could have imagined.  A world-wide pandemic that brought an abrupt halt to our businesses, our places of worship, our schools, and our daily lives.  We rallied and came together in many ways in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  Our administrators and teachers scrambled to transition to modes of instruction that could happen from a distance.  Our parents restructured their homes to create classroom and office spaces for school and work.  Our district leadership and Board of Education studied the changes in law and developed resolutions that would allow us to operate in ways that we never could have anticipated, but which were needed in this new environment.  And through it, we remained strong, aligned, and committed to educating our students while reducing the spread of COVID-19.
 
And now we are tasked with how to return to school amid new learning about the virus and how it spreads, a clear and appropriate demand to address racial injustice in our society and our organizations, and a vast range of opinions about how all of it should be accomplished.  If we know anything, we know that we don’t all agree on the process.  But I hope that we can all agree to the goal of getting our students back to learning both academically and socially.
 
As we consider the challenges that we face, I would like to provide some of the reasoning behind the decisions.  Also, know that all decisions are being made in collaboration with the Board of Education, the administrative team,  teachers, non-teaching staff, doctors, nurses, and epidemiologists - many of whom are also community members and parents of Bexley students.  Each of these groups are represented on our Reopening Task Force, and all decisions and discussed and informed by the task force.
 
1) Franklin County Public Health officials have advised districts to prepare for three different learning plans, all of which could be used during the 2020-2021 school year.  Therefore, we are planning for an all in plan, a hybrid plan, and a fully distant plan. 
 
With the all in plan, all students will return to school five days a week.  This plan will be in place if the Franklin County alert level is 1 or 2.  In this plan, we will maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance in classrooms and cafeterias, require face coverings of all staff and students, and provide time for frequent hand washing and sanitizing along with enhanced CDC recommended cleaning protocols.  This plan is the one that we are most hopeful to achieve as we know the best place for our students to learn and grow is at school with their teachers and classmates.
 
The second plan is a hybrid plan in which students with last names A-La will attend school in-person on Monday and Tuesday, and students with last names Le-Z  will attend on Thursday and Friday.  If families/households include students with more than one last name, we will work with them to ensure students from the same family or household attend on the same schedule.  All risk-mitigation protocols indicated above will be in place, but additional sanitizing will take place on Wednesdays.  While students will only attend in-person two days a week, the expectation is that students will be learning five days a week.  The hybrid model allows us to maintain at least 6 feet of physical distancing in classrooms.   Adjustments will be made to ensure 6 feet of distance at lunch time.   We do not prefer this model, but if we can keep our students in school and in person with their teachers at least a portion of the week, it is worthwhile.
 
The third plan is a fully distant learning plan.  If Franklin County should move to alert level 4 or local conditions in our community or schools necessitate, we will immediately shift to an all at-home learning plan  because at that level community spread is significant, and we must respond immediately.  All decisions regarding the impact of local conditions will be made in partnership with Franklin County Public Health.
 
For both in-person plans, details regarding how to respond if a student or employee is infected or comes into contact with a COVID-19 positive person are being developed with  health experts.  We also follow CDC guidelines and expect all staff and students to work directly with their personal health care provider.
 
Once again, over the course of the year, we may shift from plan to plan depending on the environment.  We understand the importance of our students returning to our classrooms, athletic venues, and stages.  With the guidance of public health professionals, we will do so when safe.  We will not continue with in-person learning if health care experts advise against it.
 
I am not a health care or public health expert.  I must rely on those who are to guide our actions, and we will continue to do so.
 
 2) We have been asked what options are available to parents who choose to keep their children home from school for very real and important reasons.  Parents may elect to enroll their children in the Bexley E-Learning Academy.  Academic content will be delivered through an online portal and a Bexley staff member will provide weekly support and consultation.  We know that many of you want this option to be delivered fully by our excellent Bexley teachers.  We understand and have researched the possibility of doing so.  However, it is simply not feasible to ask our teachers to teach 20 or more students in-person in the classroom, potentially manage these students’ learning in a hybrid environment at the same time, and also provide fully online instruction to another group of students.  Further, we simply do not have the technological capability to stream lessons across the district to all students at all grade levels and content areas.  In addition, full online learning is not accomplished by listening  to a class via Zoom or Google Meet.  Online learning environments are vastly different than in-person environments, and we cannot expect our teachers to be able to do it all. Finally, this approach is the same as used by a number of school districts in Central Ohio including many with whom we benchmark.  We will ask for a one semester commitment to the online option and will ask parents to make that commitment by August 11.  A form will be emailed to all parents the first week of August when the alert levels are updated for the state.  We will utilize the early August alert level to determine which learning plan we will implement to begin school.
 
Parents may also elect to homeschool their children or enroll them in another school such as an online charter school.  We absolutely do not encourage or want our students to leave us, but I am compelled to inform parents of all their options.
 
3) I recognize that if we must follow a hybrid plan, many families will have childcare challenges.  We are committed to working with our  community partner at Bexley Rec  on how to support those families.  And we will only move to a hybrid or remote plan if we must to protect the health and safety of our students and staff.
 
No matter how we begin school or transition from plan to plan over the course of the year, we must accelerate our work to build  a more inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist school culture where each student and staff member is accepted, valued, and celebrated.  Bexley City Schools will continue its work in diversity, inclusion and antiracism with students and staff; this work is led by Director of Student & Community Engagement, Leisan Smith. District leaders recently met with current and former students involved with the Bexley Anti-Racism Project to discuss how we can address diversity and racism issues in BCSD. We value student insight on improving our learning culture and plan to continue the conversation with members of BARP.
 
This summer we are having honest and hard weekly conversations with our administrators about race and racism and how these issues impact our school district, specifically our students and staff of color. Currently, the team is reading So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Smith is also working with the District-Wide School Climate Committee on specific plans to continue the conversation on antiracism with staff as we near the start of the school year. This work is designed to ensure the district has equitable structures, practices and protocols and cultivates an inclusive student and staff culture.
 
I know how difficult it is to plan for a very uncertain future.  I am feeling it, too.  I want nothing more than to be able to develop a plan that meets the expectations and wishes of each family and staff member.  But because the expectations are all very different, we must work collaboratively considering both the education and health of our staff and students and move forward with the best plan that we can develop.
 
Early in the pandemic, we asked for patience, understanding, and grace. We need it now more than ever.
Better Not Best
Posted 6/11/2020 at 5:14:35 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
In our American culture, we like to be the best.  We are competitive.  We are proud.  And we want to be winners.  We want to be the best.  That is not a negative trait.  But it can have negative consequences if we don't understand that improvement is not about a place or a destination.  We don't arrive at best and then stop.  We can't rest on the successes of the past.  
 
The best organizations constantly and consistently strive to be better. The best teams don't win the National Championship and stop there; they come back to the field, they watch their film and continue to practice for the next season in the hopes of continuing to be the best.
 
A few years back our district's annual theme was a quote from Dr. Carol Dweck. She is a  psychologist whose work on mindset has been utilized worldwide across schools and organizations.  Her work focuses on growth mindset and fostering a culture in which employees and students believe they can learn, grow and overcome challenges.  Our theme from that year was "Becoming is better than being."  In other words, the goal for us is not to be; it is to continuously grow and learn to become the people, school district, and society that we want to be.
 
As we consider the current challenges and issues that face all of us: COVID, social injustice, institutional racism, loss of revenue, and how to return to school, we must not rest on what we were in the past. We must become what we want and need to be now and into the future.  In recent days we have heard from some of our recent graduates. They have spoken passionately and eloquently about their experiences and expectations for a better Bexley. We will continue to listen to our community and strive to be better every day.
 
Best isn't a destination at which we seek to arrive.  Instead, we must choose the path to be better.

The Power of Team
Posted 5/28/2020 at 1:01:09 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]

Staying Focused

When we started this school year, no one could have foreseen that it would unfold and end the way in which it did. Such a statement sounds cliche these days, but it's true. 


What is also true, is that these are the times when it is especially important that organizations focus on their guiding principles. For those of us in Bexley, that means using our Bexley BOLD strategic plan to continue to guide us. This is the plan that will help us to weather the choppy waters that we continue to navigate.


Adhering to the plan is up to each of us. When the school year opened, if you recall, we talked about Leading from Every Seat. This idea is about the power of each individual when we put our talents to work together.  We even had a video that illustrated the concept by showing how lions are uniquely individual but choose to live and work in prides because of the power of team.

 

 

Mother Teresa summarized it best:


You can do what I cannot do.

I can do what you cannot do.

Together, we can do great things.


What we can do individually makes an impact together.

We must collectively recommit to Bexley BOLD, to working as a team and moving forward. At times like this, it is easy for organizations to falter, to lose focus and to fall apart. If we do that, then we fail our students, community, and each other. We cannot let that happen.


As we work to Lead from Every Seat, I want us to be patient with each other and to focus on removing barriers and making things happen. I saw the seeds of that recently when we had the difficult task of making changes for next year due to the revenue losses that we are seeing.  As we worked through those changes, we had staff members who were  vocal in saying that they would do whatever it takes for Bexley. No complaining, no finger-pointing, no criticism. 


The saying goes that there is no "I" in team, but there are individuals and how we use our individual strengths to shift and change to meet new challenges is what makes a team powerful. When we emerge from this crisis, and the day will come when that happens, I want it said that when things got tough, that our Bexley teachers and staff and our community partners stepped up and that they led from every seat. 


Now and throughout the summer, we will continue the work of figuring out what the next school year will look like. You will hear more from us as we know more. In the meantime, thank you for leading from your seat and for advocating for Bexley.

To the Parents of the Class of 2020
Posted 5/21/2020 at 1:40:47 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]

Graduation is finally here for the Class of 2020! This is the culminating event that we anticipate at the end of every school year.  Each year, a new class of students steps forward to receive their diplomas and look forward to what is next in their life’s journey.  At this time we focus on the graduates, what got them to this point, and what they will accomplish in the future. Exactly as it should be. 


I also like to take a moment in this season to focus on the parents of the graduates because graduation is about them too.  Of course, the graduate’s life will change, but so will the lives of those who raised these graduates.  The people who sat on tiny chairs at Kindergarten Welcome Night and in the rain at soccer and football games.  The parents who dropped off lunches forgotten on kitchen counters, instruments left in the trunks of cars, cross country spikes left in the garage - graduation is about your world changing too.  For some, the changes are significant.  If the youngest child or only child in the family is moving on, the transition is big.  If it is the first of the children to graduate, the path to a changing family dynamic is beginning.  But no matter the specific situation in each family, a graduate marks a milestone for the parents too.


For all of you who have a graduate in the Class of 2020, thank you!  Thank you for raising young adults who are ready to fly.  Thank you for supporting our teams, choirs, bands, orchestras, theater productions, concession stands, field trips, and all the many ways that we ask you to help us provide a fully rounded educational experience.  Look upon your graduate with pride remembering their first day of kindergarten and all the firsts and lasts since that time.  Anticipate the future that they will build and maybe even shed a tear as you remember how your little one has grown.


And then, pause.  From the time our children are born, we are preparing them to leave us, to be independent.  As the parent of a graduate, you are one big step closer to that goal.  Appreciate all that you have done for your child and all the joy it has brought you, and then recognize their step as an opportunity for you too.


Graduation is a wonderful time, and we love celebrating our students.  But celebrate you too.  You deserve it!

Joy of the Journey
Posted 5/14/2020 at 12:44:09 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;" 
 
We sometimes behave as if life is about destinations.  Places we will eventually go and stay.  What college?  What branch of the military? What job? What house?  What city?  And I sometimes think that all this planning and working to get to a place, a destination, causes us to miss the here and now.  That is not to say that goals and aspirations for achievement, accomplishment, rest, and enjoyment are bad.  But do we ever miss the joy of the journey because we are so busy getting to the destination?
 
Life is really about the journey.  It is marked with a series of rest stops along the way, but it is a road trip.  A long, winding, unpredictable, wonderful road trip.  
 
The first stanza of Robert Frost's poem, The Road Less Traveled, is one that I often recall at the close of the school year.  It is the poem that reminds us that as one road on our journey comes to an end, we are faced with "two roads," choices that decide where we will go next.  Sometimes we would prefer not to make a choice, and we long to "be one traveler."  But the joy of choosing the next path is exciting.
 
As we prepare to close a school year that took a very unpredictable turn in March, I am encouraged by the choices that we have to move forward on our journey.  We are anxiously watching our graduating seniors choose their next step.  We are planning for the adventures we will encounter in the 20-21 school year.  And we are looking forward to welcoming a new kindergarten class to Bexley Schools - the Class of 2033!
 
We have the opportunity to see our current circumstances and the uncertainty that comes with it as guideposts that propel us forward. In our current reality, we are looking down many paths but they are covered with undergrowth - the uncertainty of what the future will look like, the inevitable changes we will have to manage and the lack of guidance from the state about how to keep students safe at school. Still, our teams are facing forward, planning and preparing for next year and beyond. We are all doing what we can to make the journey joyful by focusing not just on the destination but also on the path in front of us.
 
We have the opportunity to see circumstances as the guideposts that propel us to choose what is next.  We have the opportunity to try and turn back to a path that we wished we had or to boldly face forward to the choices we have now.  I believe that facing forward, looking at our options, and then moving forward is the way that we make the journey joyful - less focused on the destination and more aware of the path in front of us.
 
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
-Robert Frost

The Power of Educators
Posted 5/7/2020 at 10:23:01 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Patterson, taught me patience (or tried to).  My first grade teacher Mrs. Krikpride taught me the value of relationships and experiential learning. Mr. Wright, my elementary school custodian, taught me that my mistakes do not define me.  In middle school, Mrs. Evans and Mrs. Matouska taught me that taking time to talk to students about their lives beyond academic learning fuels academic learning. In high school Mr. Shanksy taught me that I have a voice and that I should speak up on behalf of myself and those who can't speak up.  Mrs. Davis, my junior/senior counselor helped me to find education as my pathway, though I didn't realize until a few years after I graduated and, unfortunately, after she passed away.  
 
As we celebrate Educator Appreciation from a distance this week in the United States, I think we all have a greater appreciation for the work that our educators do for our students each day. Whether those educators are teachers in the classroom, secretaries, nurses, custodians, food service workers, or bus drivers, those who have made education their calling make a difference in the lives of so many students each day. Educators see us in ways that no one else does.  These are the people who raised their hands and said, "I want to invest in young people.  I want to help young people to be all that they can."  They took on an often thankless job in which they sometimes never see the impact of their kind word, patience, innovative strategy, or pat on the back. But they do it anyway.
 
And so I reflect this week on some of the educators who were standouts in my K-12 experience.  I don't always remember who helped me to understand the -ei makes a long e sound, or the FOIL method, or that Bismark is the capital of North Dakota; but I remember those educators who made me believe in my ability to learn those things and taught me so much about myself and what is really important. We know from the research on mindset that believing we can learn new information and skills, believing that we can have an impact on our future is the difference between thriving and merely surviving. 
 
I want to thank all the educators who daily promote a growth mindset in their students.  And I want to thank the many educators in my life who fueled my growth mindset.  You are heroes who help each of us to thrive!



Let’s Build Windmills
Posted 4/30/2020 at 10:52:36 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
An ancient Chinese proverb states, "When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills."  Wise words indeed.
 
The winds of change are certainly blowing in this unprecedented time of coronavirus.  We have had to change the way we do business, the business that we do, the way we learn, interact with family and friends, and even shop.  And what have we learned?  We have learned that we can adapt.  We can innovate.  It doesn't necessarily mean that we like the situation.  But we can see the winds of change as opportunities to embrace and harness or as irritants that we have to block.
 
Which of those characteristics do we want to model for our students?
 
In Bexley we have developed a mission, set of values, a strategic plan, and a learner profile that guide our decision-making.  They guide how we approach learning experiences.  They guide how we interact with students.  They guide the opportunities that we seek to provide.  And in this new world, those guideposts have not changed.  But the environment has changed and changed significantly.
 
This change in environment has provided us with an opportunity to be innovative (one of our core values) in how we approach our goals.  We are fostering relationships with students and one another virtually, but we haven't abandoned our belief that relationships are crucial to learning and development.  We are planning for the future and setting annual goals in new ways and for a new time, but we haven't abandoned our belief that setting goals and objectives is key to our students' growth.
 
We are living in a very ambiguous time.  I often tell people that we have to be comfortable with a certain level of ambiguity.  Now we have to be comfortable with a great deal of ambiguity.  Acceptance that we don't have all the answers gives us the space to think creatively and then implement innovation.  When we can't accept the ambiguity that comes with change and uncertain times, our minds can't move forward.  We get stuck.  
 
Of all the ways we teach, modeling is one of the most important.  What are we modeling right now for our kids?  Do we build walls or build windmills?  In Bexley, we are building windmills- big, beautiful, bold windmills!




The Future of School in a COVID World
Posted 4/23/2020 at 9:24:45 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]

On Monday, April 20, Governor DeWine announced that schools would remain closed to students and distance learning would continue for the remainder of the school year.  While not a surprise to us, certainly a disappointment.  We miss our students, and we know that they miss being in school.  But we also know that we must listen to our leaders and do our part to continue the good work that has already taken place in Ohio.


So what now?  What is the plan to complete the current school year?  What is the plan for summer learning?  And what will it look like to reopen our schools in August, if we are able?


Those are the questions that we have been working on since March 11.  But we are taking the actual planning in phases as the situation changes and as new information and guidelines emerge. Phase I was in place from March 30-April 3 when our team focused on preparing and launching remote learning. Then, we learned that we would be closed through May 1. That took us to Phase II where our focus has been to continue to provide quality instruction to students.


Phase III: May 4-May 29

In this phase, we will continue to make learning experiences as effective as possible from a distance.  Our team is finalizing a plan for graduation and to honor our seniors, we want them to have their moment to shine while also ensuring their safety.  Spring sports are officially cancelled, so we will also be sharing a process to return pay-to-participate fees to our spring athletes.  Finally, we are working on a strategy for students to return textbooks and materials to school and gather any of their personal belongings from lockers and classrooms.  As we plan and develop the ways that we will approach each of these objectives, we still have questions that will require additional guidance from public health. 


Phase IV: May 29-August 17 (Summer Break)

Our team has been talking from early on in Phase I about how to continue to support students who may be experiencing academic regression as a result of COVID-19. While our teachers are doing a phenomenal job of providing educational experiences, it is not the same as being in school.  We know that some of our children will need additional learning opportunities to be ready for the next grade and course level.  I have been in conversations with city officials about how we might partner over the summer to provide both recreational, child care and educational experiences this summer.  But again, we still have unanswered questions.  Will gatherings of students be permitted?  What is the number of students who can be together?  Will day camps be allowed?  We can plan for multiple scenarios, but we must wait for guidance from our public health officials before we can share details and put our plans into action.


Phase V: May - August 

We are already working on a plan for how and in what ways we can reopen our schools for the 2020-2021 school year.  We must turn to our Technology Plan adopted by the Board of Education in June 2019, with a sense of urgency.  The opening of school in August will be different from the past. To help our team think through all the details, I will be convening a task force of administrators, teachers, parents, city officials and community members to plan for the opening of school, whether that be in-person, virtually, or a hybrid.  The action steps we develop with this task force will be guided by the advice of our public health agencies and driven by our commitment to provide a safe learning environment that deeply engages students in their learning.  


As we did in all the previous phases, we have unanswered questions.  How many students can be on a bus at a time?  May we serve lunch in our cafeterias?  How many students can be in a classroom at once?  Will students have to attend school in shifts as Governor DeWine referenced in a recent press conference?  Will public gatherings be permitted in the form of concerts and plays?  Will athletics return?  And so it goes.


As we prepare to move through each of the phases above, I again ask for patience and understanding.  As I listened to Tuesday's press conference, Dr. Acton stated that there is no playbook for this situation.  No one could have planned in advance. We are doing the very best that we can to plan and prepare in a world with more questions than answers. We know that our public health officials are doing the same and giving all the guidance they can.  In every phase of this process we are committed to keeping our students at the center of our decisions. It's what we do. 

#Hope
Posted 4/16/2020 at 10:59:21 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Every June the Bexley Schools administrative team gathers for a retreat.  We review our progress toward goals from the previous year and set our goals for the upcoming year.  In June 2019, I began our retreat by asking each administrator to set forth a phrase or word that was going to guide them in the next school year.  I asked them to create their 2019-2020 hashtag.  Mine was #Hope.
 
As I anticipated this school year and all that we planned to accomplish, I had a great sense of hope.  Hope (noun) is defined by Merriam Webster as a  "desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment."   As we began the second year being guided by our Bexley Blueprint, I had a strong belief that we would fulfill our goals.  I believed that the team that we have developed, our high-performing team, would be successful in accomplishing goals.  I believed that our Board would provide the oversight, support, and direction that our staff would need to stay on course. I believed that our parents and community would support us. And I believed that our students would learn and achieve in ways that inspire us and make us proud.
 
And so it has been.
 
We have utilized our new instructional coaches to further our instructional goals.  We have worked collaboratively on curriculum development, elementary scheduling, expanded experiential learning, and  implemented our technology plan.  We engaged our parents and community in Bexley Be Well in order to protect the mental health and wellness of our students.  And our staff has embraced various opportunities to learn and grow professionally.
 
Our board has led us to a  new way of doing business by making decisions that allowed us to organize our structure to be more aligned to our goals specifically in the area of technology and student services.
 
Our community supported our goals by passing a nine mill operating levy with a 68% approval rating.
 
And our students.  The ones for whom all the work is done have embraced experiential learning opportunities, earned state and national recognition for their work, won athletic contests, and most importantly, care for one another each day.And now we are distanced for what may be the remainder of the school year.  But my hope has not diminished.  In fact, I am more hopeful than ever as I see the efforts made by staff, students, parents, and our community as a whole.  As teachers find ways to shift their instructional practices, parents figure out how to work from home and manage their families simultaneously, and students find the best ways to keep focused and learning, I am reminded that a belief in fulfillment is critical to actually accomplishing the goals.  It is one of the reasons that our Bexley Learner Profile includes that characteristic of hope.  Hope doesn't accomplish goals; it fuels the desire to take action to accomplish goals.  And so, I hope, and it is my sincere wish that you will as well.
Better Together
Posted 4/9/2020 at 10:39:50 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]

The other evening I had a virtual meeting at 7:00 P.M.  It was a test call, so I expected it to last no more than 15-20 minutes. As these things go, the call went a little longer.  Meanwhile, my husband and daughter were making dinner and planning to eat at 7:30. At 7:15, my husband began entering my office (what used to be my dining room) to point to his imaginary watch. This went on for 15 minutes until the call ended.


As we sat down to dinner, I teased him about his impatience.  He said, “I was patient. We waited for you to eat.” I laughed and pointed out that patience is not having to wait. It’s how you wait. 


I have been so impressed by the work of our teachers, our administrators and our students.  They are working hard to maintain learning experiences and they are committed to making it meaningful for students. But we know this transition has come with its frustrations for you, your students and our teachers. 


None of us knew this was coming.  None of us took Pandemic 101 in college or graduate school and it wasn’t in your student’s syllabus this August to prepare you.  None of us could have imagined that we would have an extended school closure that could last over two months!  


But here we are, and our students and team of teachers and administrators are all doing our best. There is no fault and there is no blame; we are all in this together.  I can assure you that we are doing the best we can with the most positive of intentions.


Let’s all continue to extend understanding and grace to each other, including to yourself, your students at home and our teachers and principals. We all have other stressors beyond school. Many of you are balancing work while trying to assist your students in their learning and we understand the stress of that situation. 


Many of our teachers and principals are in the same boat as you and are trying to figure out how to maintain their virtual classrooms while also assisting their own children or balancing a baby on one knee with a laptop on the other or checking in daily on aging parents or grandparents whom they cannot visit. 


This situation is tough on all of us.  No one has the playbook; it doesn't exist.


So, have patience with yourself. Have patience with your student, their teachers and everyone else you interact with. We are all doing our best.  If we can be patient, we can use this experience to grow.


Let’s be better together!

Bexley Bold For Such a Time as This
Posted 4/2/2020 at 8:39:24 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]

Every year I share a theme for the year with our staff at our annual convocation in August.  In 2017, my first year in Bexley, our theme was to be bold...Bexley Bold. It was developed from a quote by Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist who focused his work on mental health and human potential.  The quote was this:


"In any given moment we have two options: To step forward into growth or to step back into safety."


I used that quote to inspire our staff to continue to search for growth opportunities that would make each of us, in our respective roles, more knowledgeable, more effective, more successful.  At the time, I talked about the rapid changes in the world and that to meet the needs of our students, we would have to bold and step forward. We could not remain in our comfort zones doing things the way we had in the past because that would not work for our students.


Over the past three years, we have done a great deal of stepping forward.  We have implemented new systems and structures, repurposed roles, learned new ways of engaging students, and so much more.  I am so appreciative of those who have embraced growth and taken leaps of faith. They may have experienced some temporary failure, but they pushed forward.  I am thankful for those who have been so willing to try.


And now, we need this skill, this mindset, this "can do" attitude even more.  We are now forced to rethink how we engage students, how we support families and each other.  We are forced to be bold. And while the reason for these changes is one that I wish we could have avoided, it has provided us with the opportunity to see that we can adjust, change, grow, and be better for it.  


Our Bexley Learner Profile outlines what we want for all Bexley students to develop and includes the following skills and dispositions:

  • Collaborates
  • Empathizes
  • Cares for self and others
  • Problem-solves
  • Demonstrates flexibility
  • Sets and meets goals in the face of obstacles
  • Has hope

These are certainly the skills and dispositions that we all need right now.  These are the skills and dispositions that we acquire when we "step forward into growth." It is bold...Bexley Bold!


Be Well

Distance Learning Update From Dr. Miller
Posted 3/26/2020 at 9:27:08 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]

A Sense of Urgency
Posted 2/27/2020 at 10:22:34 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with a group of high school students who volunteer to serve as my Superintendent's Student Advisory Council. They are invaluable to me in providing the student perspective on various topics and issues that we face both locally and in public education beyond Bexley.

At a recent meeting, we were talking about stress and pressure, specifically the pressure that they feel to "do it all" in the pursuit of getting into the "right college."  This topic has been one that has come up multiple times this year with this group.  These are great kids.  They love their school and their community.  They know they are fortunate to be in a community where education is valued and supported.  But they are feeling pressure that most adults did not feel in high school.

The purpose in talking about this particular topic was not to vent, but these students offered ideas of how we could make it better.  And they are so smart about it.  They know that there isn't an easy fix or one variable that we need to shift.  They recognize a local culture of high expectations, an American culture of high expectations, pressure on parents for their kids to succeed, stress on teachers to deliver high test scores, and the peer pressure they put on one another.  

But they are also looking to the adults to help to make it better.  They are looking at us to do something.  And that is where the sense of urgency comes in.

At the end of the meeting, one of the students said this:  "I appreciate that you are listening.  But, I am a sophomore.  Will I get to experience some of the changes before I graduate?  Will I get to see the progress?"  My answer was that if he doesn't get to see it, knowing that change is slow, I will feel a sense of failure.  

I believe that we are at a crossroad in education.  We know that suicide is on the rise.  We know that mental health and wellness are growing concerns across our country.  And we know that pressure to perform is out of control.  We also know that it is difficult for us to make changes because someone will not like it.  Someone will want to hold on to what makes them comfortable even if it doesn't put students at the center of our decision-making.  But our fear cannot stop us from making changes that allow us to positively impact the development of each of our students.  Our students are counting on us.  And I feel a sense of urgency for that student who asked me for help with all the hope that I...that we could provide it.  

So what can we do?  First, encourage students to take courses that they have a passion to study.  They don't need a full day of AP courses to be successful.   Let's stop telling students to do things because "it will look good on their college applications."  Let's encourage experiences that develop their interests and spark their curiosities.  We should also teach students how to solve problems instead of solving problems for them. Maybe even let them fail. Facing challenges and learning to carry on will build the grit needed to navigate the multitude of life's challenges that they will inevitably face because it is life.

Finally, let's let our kids know that it's ok to take some downtime.  Everything in life is not about getting to the next rung on the ladder.  Sometimes it's ok to just be a kid.
It’s Not a Zero Sum Game
Posted 2/13/2020 at 10:10:28 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Bexley City Schools has developed the Bexley Learner Profile to guide our decision-making.  A learner profile clarifies who we want our students to become by the time they graduate from high school.  Our learner profile is tied directly to our mission statement: to provide educational experiences that engage, equip, and empower each student.  We believe that if we design learning experiences across academic areas, extra-curricular activities, co-curricular programming and include social and emotional learning, we will see our graduates step into their futures engaged, equipped, and empowered.

What does it mean to be engaged, equipped, and empowered?  It means that our graduates possess communication skills, and those skills include the ability to listen to diverse views and reflect upon them.  It means that our students value cultural diversity.  We want our students to be able to think critically - about content and the larger world of which they are a citizen.  We want our graduates to leave us able to manage goals, obstacles, and their own behaviors and choices.  Finally, we want our students to have hope, a belief that they can make a positive difference in our world.

But while I am very optimistic that we can accomplish these goals for our students, I am concerned about a world that is making it harder and harder.  When adults don’t model the types of skills and attributes that we want our young people to develop, it becomes much more difficult for them.  The old mantra, “Do as I say, not as I do” simply does not work.

If we take to social media to bash people’s ideas, then how do we teach our students to be critical thinkers and consider ideas different from their own?

If we can’t respect others if for no other reason than they are human beings, then how do we teach our students to have empathy and civic and cultural competency?

If we feel the need to offer our judgments of people, their ideas, and how they live, then how do we teach our students to be inclusive?

I have become increasingly concerned about the mental health of our young people, and I can’t help but wonder how the unkind, critical, judgemental world that seems to surround us is impacting the wellness of our kids.  The Centers for Disease Control released statistics that showed a 56% increase in suicide in 10-24 year olds from 2007 to 2017!  Why?  And what are we going to do about it?

First, we have to stop thinking that life is a zero-sum game.  If I win, you have to lose.  As we work to engage, equip, and empower our students, please know that we are expecting each child to benefit.  When we increase services for one group of students, we are not taking services from another group.  When we add a role that will help us address a new challenge, we are not taking resources from another role. At times we repurpose funds if we no longer have a need.  But it is not zero-sum in the sense that someone has to lose if someone else gains.  

I believe that fear is a powerful driver that can take us down paths that are not necessarily positive.  Perhaps we need to voice our fear so that it doesn’t control us.  Perhaps we need to slow down and think so that we can move from problem identification to problem solving.  Then, we can focus on the wonderful and amazing things that we want for our kids, and model the best of us for them.  They can all be winners.  And so can we.
The Power of Partnerships
Posted 1/30/2020 at 10:11:05 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
-Helen Keller

No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you're playing a solo game, you'll always lose out to a team.
-Reid Hoffman

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, working togethers is success.
-Henry Ford


It has been made clear over and over again that there is power in partnerships.  In fact, researcher Shawn Achor's latest book, Big Potential, is all about the power of collaboration and the ability to accomplish more together than alone.  The bottom line: we need each other!

We believe that partnerships empower others to  accomplish goals in Bexley City Schools.  In fact, our Bexley Blueprint has identified leveraging and growing vital community relationships as a key component of achieving our mission to engage, equip, and empower each student.  This year, we have seen the power of partnerships in our Bexley Be Well initiative designed to bring awareness and resources to support the mental health and well-being of our students, our staff, and our community.  Bexley Connect is proving to be a powerful tool to connect Central Ohio professionals and experts to our students.  And our partnership with Nationwide Children's Hospital has brought resources to our students in the areas of mental health and athletics.

But perhaps no partnership is more important than the one that we have with our parents.  The African proverb which states, "It takes a village to raise a child" could not be more true.  While raising children is definitely the role of parents, we know that all of us who interact with children are part of the process.  We are the village.  And one of the ways that we work together is through shared learning.  Parents know their children best and provide educators with insight, history, and details that help us to develop learning experiences that support each child.  

But the schools have a role to support parents as well.  One of the programs that I am most proud of is our Bexley Parent Institute.  Designed to support parents through education and resources,  the Parent Institute was launched in March 2019 as an important way for us to partner with parents.  This school year, we have held a number of sessions for parents including two conference-style events in September and January.  Our next Parent Institute conference-style event with multiple sessions to choose from is Saturday, March 7, from 1:00-4:00 PM.  We appreciate the more than 500 community members who have attended one or more parent learning events this year.  And we invite parents, grandparents, and community members to join us in March or at other sessions where our guest speakers and staff will share knowledge and resources  to engage, equip, and empower each of us.  Because it really does take a village, and villages that partner together are powerful indeed
Roar Into a Good Book
Posted 1/16/2020 at 8:19:13 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
When you think of the Roaring Twenties, F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby comes to mind.  But what about the 2020s?  What great read might you consider as we roar into the Twenties once again?

We are living in a time of exponential change in many areas so I often seek out books that provide direction and also a sense of optimism.  Here are some of my top reads from the past and a couple that I plan to read in the coming year.
 

      -The Happiness Advantage - Shawn Achor
      -Big Potential - Shawn Achor
      -Barking Up the Wrong Tree - Eric Barker
      -A More Beautiful Question - Warren Berger
      -Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World - Stephen Epstein
      -Passion Capital: The Worlds' Most Valuable Asset - Paul Alofs
      -Thank You For Being Late - Thomas Friedman
      -Passion Capital -  Paul Alofs
      -Above the Line - Urban Meyer and Wayne Coffey
      -When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing - Daniel Pink
      -Noble Warrior: The Story of Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret.),  Medal of Honor - James Livingston

Currently on my bookshelf to read next...
      -The Infinite Game - Simon Sinek
      -Loonshots: How to Nurture Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries - Safi Bahcall

I hope that you will check out a few of my recommendations and send me some of yours.  Most every book on my list was a recommendation - the best way to find a good book.

Happy Reading and make 2020 a great year!

Twas the Day Before Break
Posted 12/19/2019 at 8:19:44 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Twas the day before winter break, and all through the schools,
Students were ready for a break, and the teachers were too.
The high school students took all their exams with care,
In hopes that great grades they would be sure to snare.

The elementary kiddos were sure in their heads
That the week would soon end and fun was ahead.
Middle school students  were making their plans
For winter break activities of which they would be fans.

When the last hour of the semester finally arrived,
All sprang to the doors  as their energy revived.
Away to their cars and homes they flew like a flash,
Knowing that break would definitely not last.

The stretch of two weeks that all had awaited
Had finally arrived with their breath that was bated.
Activities, travel, and holidays so bright
Were now in reach and ready to make right.

The promise of rest, family, and fun.
I knew that all of us needed it, each and everyone.
Learning is critical every single day,
But so is a break and some time for us to play.

Now Cassingham!  Now Maryland!
Now Montrose and Middle!
The High School,  Maintenance, Transportation,
Food Service and Custodial.
From the Central Office workers to Board of Education
Dash away, dash away all!

Enjoy winter break. You deserve it each one.
Take time for family, friends, and fun.
And I hope you'll exclaim when you return for 2020, 

"Happy New Year to all, and Peace to the many!"

Have a wonderful, restful, and beautiful winter break!

December Learning is an Experience
Posted 12/5/2019 at 12:30:46 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
The arrival of December always brings a flurry of activity in Bexley Schools.  Over the next three weeks, our community will have the opportunity to see experiential learning up close and personal.
 
There are multiple definitions of experiential learning, but most include the notion that learning is done through personal experience, not through listening or reading.  When a student produces a piece of art, they are involved in experiential learning.  When a student programs a robot to perform a task, they are involved in experiential learning.
 
This month, our community members are invited to attend the last concerts of 2019 and see students at all levels demonstrate what they have learned so far this year.  Check out our district calendar for dates, times, and locations. In addition, community members can attend the Montrose Festival of the Arts on December 7, where the results of experiential learning cannot only be seen but purchased!
 
I hope that you will take the time to attend one or more of the showcases of our student learning in the arts this month.  You will not be disappointed, and you will be reinforcing a key core value in our district: investment.

Have a happy, safe, and artful December!

 
Thanksgiving Traditions
Posted 11/21/2019 at 10:38:33 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday in the Miller family.  When my children were small, they loved to kick off the Thanksgiving season by watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving as soon as Halloween ended.  Their favorite part of the show was when Peppermint Patty, upon being served a Thanksgiving meal of popcorn, jelly beans, pretzels, and toast, demanded to know…

"Where's the turkey?  Where's the mashed potatoes?  Where's the pumpkin pie?"

In fact, every year this quote makes it to our own Thanksgiving dinner.  And I have yet to serve popcorn and toast!

It's a funny scene, and we all know that Peppermint Patty was being rude to poor Chuck, who had done his best to make a Thanksgiving meal for his friends.  And of course, Linus gets everyone back on track with the real meaning of Thanksgiving and all ends well.

As we approach Thanksgiving this year, I want to wish you a holiday of peace and rest.  Whether you are the host or the guest, eat turkey or toast, watch football or movies.  Whatever Thanksgiving is for you, I hope this year will be one of your best ever.  

Happy Thanksgiving!
Creating a Culture of Thinking
Posted 10/24/2019 at 10:38:55 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Have you ever said, "Just give me a minute to think"?  

We say this because we know that in order to think deeply about a problem we need to devote time, energy and attention to the act of thinking. Thinking critically is a skill and we are working to cultivate a thinking culture in our schools.

Critical thinking must be taught and nurtured. It's one of the abilities that we want each of our Bexley graduates to have. Our K-12 staff had the opportunity on Tuesday, October 15 to participate in a learning session with Dr. Fred Burton on the work of Harvard's Project Zero. This work is focused on intentionally teaching and eliciting thinking for specific purposes using research based strategies. 

Why is this work so important?  

The United States developed an achievement culture that I believe has become out of control. This culture started as a result of accountability measures back in the 1970s and 80s amid concerns that America was not competing globally. Accountability to standardized achievement tests was the "fix" that both state and national elected officials believed we needed. Fueled by competitiveness and desire to be the best, schools and districts have been sorted and ranked based upon standardized test scores ever since. That same competitiveness for achievement has evolved from a focus on schools and districts to individual students. As a result, quantifiable test data and scores like grade point averages, AP scores, ACT/SAT scores, number of credits earned, school ability scores (e.g. IQ) have been equated with student success.

And all of this success comes at a pace that is accelerating at higher and higher rates.  Consider this statement from one of our own students at Bexley High School (published in a recent edition of The Torch):

"Knowing that I have so many tests and so much homework due every single night, it weighs on me because I know that I can't always get it all done. I always feel like I have somewhere to be even if I don't because I'm so used to being on the go all of the time." 

Anxiety and depression are on the rise right along with the grades and scores. We have to wonder if our kids are happy and if they can manage the immense pressure to achieve. And what happens when they don't achieve at a level that has been set by them or our society?

It has been well documented that anxiety and stress activate the amygdala, the portion of the brain that signals our emotions. When the amygdala is activated, the prefrontal cortex, is shut down. That is the portion of the brain that controls complex functions such as critical thinking.  When we are stressed and rapidly chasing after the next event and accomplishment, our ability to think deeply and critically diminishes. Thinking requires us to pause; it requires us to slow down. Ponder, reflect, consider, ruminate, deliberate, contemplate, muse. All synonyms for think. But you can't do any of those things in a rush or under pressure.  

We value thinking in Bexley Schools. We value the thinking of our students. And we want them to be able to develop the ability to do it well. We want them to value their own insights and their ability to solve problems. It is for these reasons that we have decided that one way we will measure success is through our students' ability to think critically.

It's a shift we must make if we truly care about our students. 
Understand More, Fear Less
Posted 10/10/2019 at 12:03:11 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." -Marie Curie, Nobel Prize-winning chemist and physicist (1867-1934).

These timeless words could easily have been spoken today.

Curie's words are simple, yet profound. When we understand our current situation or challenges, we have less to fear. And when we have less fear, we are able to grow and embrace what is necessary to succeed. 

Our staff at Bexley City Schools is on a mission to engage, equip, and empower our students for success in the rapidly changing world in which we live. We currently have a team of teachers and administrators who are seeking to understand the needs of today's students and society as part of a network of school districts from around Ohio. This team is also working to ensure our educational strategies and programs meet the needs of our students. The work is difficult because it requires us to consider how we can evolve as an educational organization. It requires us to understand education on a new level with new ways of teaching and serving students and families. It requires change.

The concept of change is sometimes met with resistance. Change can be difficult and uncomfortable. Change sometimes makes us feel that we are being judged and criticized for how we have done things in the past. Change can make us fearful. But change is inevitable.

Thomas Friedman's recent book, Thank You for Being Late, takes a look at the change that has taken place in our society since 2007. Friedman addresses the acceleration of the rate of change and interconnectedness and interdependence of the changes that we are experiencing in our world. He states, "...when the rate of change eventually exceeds the ability to adapt you get ‘dislocation.' Dislocation is when the whole environment is being altered so quickly that everyone starts to feel they can't keep up."

And when we feel we can't keep up, we can become fearful and resistant to change that might be very helpful. So what can we do?

Like Curie said nearly 100 years ago, we must seek to understand so that we do not have to fear.

One of the ways that we can understand and eliminate potential fear is to participate in dialogue with others about the changes in our world, what that means for us as parents, educators, and a community that values our young people. Starting in January, we will begin holding community engagement sessions designed to begin the dialogue about changes that affect our students. The sessions will be held with small groups but will be ongoing. I hope to have these sessions with parents, students, staff members, and community members. 

We have begun the work to understand with our Bexley Be Well initiative, and these community engagement sessions will be an extension of that initiative. If you are interested in participating in one of the sessions, please complete the form linked below. And together we can understand.
 
The Importance of Play
Posted 9/26/2019 at 3:24:53 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development, said that "play is the work of childhood." Mr. Rogers further noted, "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning."

Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver recently conducted a study of six-year-olds on how less-structured and more-structured activities may impact the development of executive functioning skills. Less-structured play, also called "free play" is defined as activities in which children play without the supervision and structure of adults. More-structured play would include music lessons and organized sports where adults are directing the activities. The researchers found a positive correlation between more time in less-structured play and the development of executive functioning (self-regulation) skills. 

Why does this matter?

According to the researchers, "self-directed executive function develops mostly during childhood...and it includes any mental processes that help us work toward achieving goals—like planning, decision making, manipulating information, switching between tasks, and inhibiting unwanted thoughts and feelings. It is an early indicator of school readiness and academic performance, according to previous research cited in the study, and it even predicts success into adulthood."

Of course, this is just one study. But it, along with previous studies on the importance of play, should give us pause. Do we allow our children enough time to play? Do we let them get bored so that they have to use their imaginations and create something to do? I know that can be scary.  My older brother and I once got our youngest brother stuck in a laundry chute when we had some free time on our hands and thought, "What would happen if…?" (Getting him unstuck is what really required creativity!)

What if the lack of free play is even more serious than hindering creativity and planning skills? According to Peter Gray, professor of psychology at Boston University, "Over the past half-century, in the United States and other developed nations, children's free play with other children has declined sharply. Over the same period, anxiety, depression, suicide, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism have increased sharply in children, adolescents, and young adults." While we don't know the exact relationship between these two trends, it is sobering information to consider.

These observations are some of the reasons that we are making the mental health and well-being of our children a priority. We have increased school counselor time at our elementary schools, implemented an assessment to measure our students' emotional well-being and launched our community-wide initiative, Bexley Be Well: A Community Conversation about Wellness. 

But what else can we do? Perhaps one small step is to provide more unstructured playtime for your kids of all ages. Let them manage some of their free time. Let them get bored. Let them have the time to figure things out on their own. It just might empower them to grow into the self-directed adults that we want them to be.  And it might give you a little much-needed free time too!
 

Next Steps:

  1. Read What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan (available at The Gramercy and Bexley Public Library)
  2. Attend a presentation and Q and A with author Kate Fagan on Sunday, October 6, at 5:30 p.m. in the Schottenstein Theater

     

    References:

    Wexeler, E. (July 2, 2014). Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children's Executive Functioning. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2014/07/study_too_many_structured_activities_hinder_childrens_executive_functioning.html

    Gray, P. (2011). The decline of play and the rise of psychopathology in children and adolescents. American Journal of Play. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/1195/ajp-decline-play-published.pdf

We Are Lions
Posted 9/12/2019 at 9:18:50 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
A number of years ago I was an elementary assistant principal in Lakota Local Schools in the Cincinnati area. I have often said that experience was one of the most profound in my leadership journey because I was able to work with and learn from an outstanding educational leader,  Linda French.  I learned so many meaningful lessons from Linda -- one of them being the power of messages.

Each year, Linda had a sticker for our staff. It was the message or theme for our year.  Those stickers were displayed in each classroom, and they guided our work. This is a concept that I carried on when I became a principal and superintendent. These themes are intended to guide and inspire us each day. I ask our staff to hang the theme cards in their classrooms, offices, workspaces, or buses. Making them visible serves as a constant reminder of the goal and mission we share. 

This year's theme is Bexley Schools: Leading From Every Seat. In order for us to truly achieve our mission to engage, equip, and empower each student, we must all be leaders. Leaders are problem-solvers; leaders see the vision and help others; leaders seek continuous growth; leaders are courageous. As part of our message at this year's convocation, we also shared a video that we created about the very nature and leadership of lions.  

Lions are the King of the Jungle. Why?

They are courageous and bold.
They face challenges no matter how big.
They are individuals and unique yet seek the companionship of the pride.
They are risk-takers and don't let fear stop them.

As we consider our November 5th operating levy, we know that we are at a critical time when it is important for all of us to lead. Our students will be engaged, equipped and empowered to grow today and define their own success for tomorrow when our community of neighbors, staff, parents, and students choose to be courageous, face potential challenges together, take risks, and work collaboratively to accomplish our shared goals. 

We will need to lead from every seat.  And we can.

We are Lions!
 
Video to accompany today's blog:
Be Well
Posted 8/29/2019 at 12:10:09 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]

August 29, 2019


The light tone of Madisons’ texts camouflaged a truth only a handful of people knew: she dreaded returning to Penn for spring semester. But she was going back. She was continuing to put one foot in front of the other, trying to believe that maybe with the next step she would finally feel solid ground, some semblance of the equilibrium she had known before. At the same time, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something had shifted dramatically -- something she couldn’t quite name. And whatever it was had fundamentally changed how she processed the world.


What was happening to Madison was the inverse of what had happened to her iPhone. She was breaking on the inside (What Made Maddy Run, 2017, pp. 6-7).


On Wednesday, September 4, we will launch an important initiative, Bexley Be Well: A Community Conversation about Wellness. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, mental illness impacts one in five children. That means that mental illness is impacting our families, our schools, and our communities. This issue is of critical importance for all of us, especially our children. 


This year we have increased the availability of counselors to our students and we are implementing a new tool to identify students who may need help and areas our schools can build a better culture of wellness. We will continue to look for ways to empower students proactively with the skills they need to withstand pressure, stress, and anxiety and will step in when a child needs help. But we know this issue can’t simply be addressed at school. Experts agree that the best way to cultivate a culture of wellness for our youth is to address the issue collaboratively. We must first talk about the issues our students are facing and then continue the dialogue necessary to find effective support for our children.


As a parent, educator, and advocate for children, I have observed that so often our kids are able to put on their armor and make the world think that everything is okay. But like Madison Halloran, from the excerpt above, they are not okay. Many are breaking on the inside. 


Of course not all of our children are dealing with a mental illness, and we have happy children. But we must be clear. Our kids are living in a world that my generation never imagined. Technology is not the enemy. But technology allows our kids live very public lives online, lives in which “likes” and comments are evidence of worth; this makes their childhood experience different from ours and it adds a level of stress and anxiety that previous generations have not had to endure. Researchers are just now starting to explore the depths that this has on our youth.


I do not have the answers to this issue. But I believe that as a community of caring and loving parents, grandparents, friends, and family members, we can find ways to support our children and hopefully see a decrease in this silent threat to our young people.


Please join us in our efforts to make Bexley Be Well. Your participation is urgently needed.


Related reading:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/


Oh The Places We'll Go
Posted 8/15/2019 at 11:48:24 AM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
Dr. Seuss wrote a wonderful book entitled, Oh, The Places You'll Go. It's a tale of life's journey through adventures, successes, failures, mountains, valleys, and everything in between. It's a book that is often given as a graduation present. In fact, both of my children received a copy when they graduated from high school.

But I don't think the great places we'll go are only in the future...after graduation. I think that the journey is now.

"Congratulations!  
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose."

This week we began the 19-20 academic year with anticipation of a great year of learning for our students...  And that learning will take us to so many places.

We will read and travel to Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression. We will study history and walk the beaches of Normandy and witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We will experiment and understand chemical reactions. We will sing and play music that tells a story and exposes emotion. We will paint, mold, and draw revealing thoughts, ideas, and feelings that take us to real and imagined places. We will solve problems with mathematical concepts that allow us to walk the Golden Gate bridge.  

We will sometimes have questions, and we will sometimes get confused.
But...
We will learn, and we will grow.
And oh, the places we'll go!

Have a great year!
Work-Life Balance
Posted 8/1/2019 at 2:42:54 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]
I wrote my last blog about some of the lessons put forth in Eric Barker's book, Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong.  I finished the book while on vacation recently, and the last chapter was on the topic of work-life balance. Perfect timing as we prepare to enter a new school year and leave our summer schedules behind!

Barker reviews the extreme dedication to the career and success of people such as Ted Williams, Albert Einstein, and Mozart. While they were hugely successful in their fields, their relationships not only suffered but in some cases, were non-existent.

He goes on to cite studies of how overwork not only robs us of quality relationships with those we love, but it also robs us of our happiness and our health. Part of the challenge today is that our work is with us 24/7 in the form of our smartphones. And while those phones are wonderful in many ways, they are also a distraction. Every time we look away from the person with whom we are talking to look at our phones, we are not fully in the moment.  

Finally, the authors of the book Just Enough conducted a study that identified four metrics that matter most for our mental, social, and personal well-being:
Happiness = Enjoying
Achievement = Winning
Significance = Counting (to others)
Legacy = Extending

When one of these metrics takes control, life can get out of balance.

So what does this mean for the start of the school year?  Before we get into the busy times of homework, plays, athletics, and events, take time as a family to determine what is just enough for you.  What will make your family work best? What balance allows your children to enjoy learning and growing without producing unrealistic levels of anxiety.

I know that we offer many opportunities and events in our district. But you don't have to do them all. Yes, the superintendent said that. Sometimes a game night at home is more important for your work and school-life balance.  Believe it or not, your kids (and yes, your teenagers) want and need to spend time with you talking, playing, and relating.  

You will have to plan to have balance in your family.  And you may have times when things are out of balance. But keep at it. You will be a model for your children that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Have a great start to the school year!

Barker, E. (2017) Barking up the wrong tree: The surprising science behind why everything you learned about success is mostly wrong. New Yor, NY: Harper One.

Nash, L. & Stevenson, H. (2004). Just enough: Tools for creating success in your work and life. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 



What Makes a Success?
Posted 7/18/2019 at 2:44:49 PM by Tyler Trill [staff member]

I have been reading a book recommended to me by one of our Bexley parents.  The title is Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker - yes that is his name.  And yes, that is quite the title.  


The basic premise of the book is that often what we are told is required to be successful really isn't supported by evidence.  For example, we are told to never quit. But sometimes when you quit the thing that isn't working or you don't like, you get to focus more on the area that you love or in which you have great skill.  And you actually achieve more! It's not quitting because it's hard; it's quitting because it isn't yielding the results you want. Makes sense. Many professional athletes were multi-sport participants in high school, but almost all elite athletes eventually focus on just one sport.  


The ideas and research presented in the book are so compelling that I bought the book for each of my own kids as they are both just beginning their careers. Barking Up the Wrong Tree has also caused me to think about how we help students determine how to be successful. Do we present traditional views about getting ahead, such as taking more AP classes and building a resume of diverse experiences, even if these experiences don't inspire them? Do we teach our students to learn deeply? Or to check boxes, so they can get to the next thing, whatever it may be?


As we prepare to embark on a new school year, it makes sense for us to pause and think about the advice that we give to our students, whether they are six or sixteen.  Perhaps the best advice for success is some of what Barker presents, and probably our moms taught us.  


Make a friend by being a friend. Take care of yourself emotionally and physically; rest and time away are important. Surround yourself with positive people because it makes you a better version of yourself. 


This year we are beginning a very exciting chapter in the history of Bexley City Schools.  We are going to engage each student through experiences that help them to become more aware of themselves and others.  We are going to equip each student through the intentional teaching of critical thinking skills.  And we are going to empower students by helping them to be problem-solvers and giving them the ability to be self-directed learners.  


We are going to support each child in defining their success and then do our part to help them achieve it.


Barker, E. (2017). Barking up the wrong tree: The surprising science behind why everything you learned about success is (mostly) wrong. New York, NY: Harper One.


Our Optimistic Nature
Posted 7/3/2019 at 2:57:38 PM by Gianna Harrison [System User]
Today we celebrate America. We celebrate freedom. We celebrate independence.
And in Bexley, we really know how to celebrate the Fourth!

Of course, we know that the journey to freedom is difficult and comes at a high cost. From facing ridicule and persecution to losing one’s life, the pursuit of freedom is not for the weak. It is for the bold.

John F. Kennedy said, “The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor, and a builder who builds best when called up to build greatly.”

It is this optimistic nature that led our founding fathers to believe in a future where ordinary people could do extraordinary things, lead their own communities, states and nation and exercise their right to vote. It is this optimistic nature that led abolitionists and civil rights activists to fight for freedom for each person in our country. It is our optimistic nature that has caused us to continually look for ways that we can grow, reinvent, and build a better future for our children. We want to build greatly!

At Bexley City Schools we embrace this optimistic nature as well. We encourage our teachers and students to experiment, invent, and boldly build their future. I am looking forward to the growth our students and staff will experience this year as they boldly pursue new opportunities.

As you celebrate this Fourth of July with family and friends, take a moment to reflect on those bold, optimistic, and brave Americans who have toiled to make today the special day that it is. Consider how we can continue to honor their legacy by building a great future for our children and making our voices heard. And most importantly, express a thank you for the many brave Americans who have given their lives in the pursuit of freedom.

Happy Fourth of July!
Finding our Big Potential
Posted 6/20/2019 at 12:03:43 PM by Gianna Harrison [System User]

Potential: something that can develop or become actual (Merriam Webster).  

So much of education is about developing students to reach their potential. To realize what they are capable of becoming. We recently celebrated with our 2019 graduates; we celebrated what they had become and now look forward to their next season of growth.

Potential. It’s a belief. It is hope that with the right nurturing, learning, and supporting, a person can become ____.  Fill in the blank. As educators, we strive daily to ensure that each child develops the knowledge, skills, and mindsets that will help them to be successful both in school and in life. But what will success in life look like?  

A colleague recommended a book to me recently. Big Potential by Shawn Achor. The full title is Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being. Achor writes about difference between small potential, that which we can accomplish individually and Big Potential, that which we accomplish collaboratively. Achor sites examples and research that shows when we work together, surround ourselves with positive influences, and support the development of others, we can do immeasurably more than we could alone. And we are happier and more satisfied as a result.

For our students, achieving their Big Potential is about more than academic success, it’s about connecting their knowledge with their skills and passions and putting them into practice. An example of this is our Bexley Middle School students who each year apply their knowledge and skills to bring awareness about South Sudan and use their creativity to develop fundraisers in order to support relief in a war-torn country. Together and with the Bexley community, they raise thousands of dollars and achieve more than they could on their own.

As I think about the future of Bexley City Schools, I am filled with hope and belief that we are positioned to achieve our Big Potential. Why? Because we are a community dedicated to providing each of our students a high-quality education, we support one another and “we work to become better together” (Achor, 2018, p. 45). This is life success. Working, learning, and growing together.  

Stay Off the Summer Slide
Posted 5/23/2019 at 11:01:05 AM by Gianna Harrison [System User]
Most kids love the sliding board. You go up. You come down and get a tickle in your belly. And summer brings more time for enjoying that slide. But there is one slide that we want to avoid this summer. It’s the “summer slide” or a decline of academic skills and/or the focus on learning. Summer is a great time for students and parents to relax and rest from the pace of the school year. But it is not a time for learning and practice to stop. So how do you help your child keep skills sharp without fighting about review? You make learning fun.  (Psst! It should always be fun).

There are many ways to incorporate review into your child’s day without it being obvious. I would like to provide just a few tips here. If you have others, please share them with me or post on our Facebook Page. You can also Tweet them with the hashtag #BexleyBold.

If your child loves to read and does so for pleasure, awesome! But make sure to challenge him/her to try new genres. Getting your child to try a new genre can be like sneaking in vegetables, so be creative. Buy a subscription or a few issues of a magazine on a topic of interest.  For every three books your child chooses, you get to suggest one. Also, if you are traveling this summer, have your child read about your destination or spots of interest along the way. If you travel by car, have your child pick up some brochures at the rest area and read them. Then have your child summarize the information for the family. They will have to read informational text (a challenge genre for many students), summarize by identifying main ideas and important details, and retell to the family. It’s like hiding carrots in the pasta sauce!

What about math? Make it real world. Many students have trouble with fractions and measurement. How do you practice that without a sheet of problems? Let them bake or cook.  Have your child bake a double or half batch of a favorite cookie or other dish. They will have to use fractions, add, divide, multiply, and consider ratios. Doing any redecorating? Have your child determine how much paint or carpet you need. Think about the ways you use math in your daily home life, and then have your child get started on the work too.

If you have an older child, I encourage you to read the same books they may have for summer reading. You can talk about the book, the characters, the meaning. It’s like a family book club. You can also help your teen to plan when to read the books. Trust me, many an honors student is reading three books in August because they put it off. If your child works, have them set up a checking account and begin budgeting and saving their earnings. Ask them to set a goal for something they want to purchase and plan how much they have to work to earn it. Be sure they understand their paycheck and the percentages that they pay in taxes. Again, make it real!

These are just a few tips. I look forward to hearing your ideas, too. And have a wonderful summer!
Graduation Day
Posted 5/9/2019 at 2:33:03 PM by Gianna Harrison [System User]
Graduation days. I have experienced many in my life. My own high school graduation way back in the day! Ohio State, University of Cincinnati, and Miami University – all great graduations for me. But honestly, the most significant graduations for me were those of my children.  My son graduated from Lakota East High School in 2013, and Navy Basic Training in August 2016. My daughter graduated from Lakota East in 2014 and from the University of Cincinnati just one year ago. Each of their graduations impacted me because it was a step toward growth and change for them and for me as well.

As we prepare for our upcoming graduation of the Class of 2019, we appropriately focus on the graduates and what their futures hold. Whether they will go to college, the military, or enter the work force, they are beginning a new chapter in their lives. The week before my daughter graduated from high school she asked me why she was feeling so stressed. She had finished classes. The graduation dress was purchased and hanging in the closet. The announcements had been mailed. She was ready. But she was stressed. "Why?" she asked. I explained that it was normal. After all, for 13 years she has done essentially the same thing. Go to school. Yes, buildings had changed, and we even moved to a new district before her third grade year, but life was basically the same. Now everything was different. She was going to college. She was moving out. She wouldn't see us every day. She truly had to be more independent. That is a big change, and big changes bring stress. But it's not a bad stress. And she adjusted as I knew she would. 

But what about us parents on graduation day? If you are like me, you have pulled out the old pictures for a scrapbook or video. You have planned a party or other celebration. You have made reservations, cooked, baked, ordered, cleaned, and prepared. But you might not have prepared for the change that you are about to encounter. When we bring our children into the world, we prepare for nine months. We attend classes and buy all the paraphernalia. But when we get ready to launch our child into the world, we often don't think about how we will have to change. Even if you have raised fiercely independent children, and you are looking forward to a smaller grocery bill and less laundry to do, you are in for a change. 

Take time to reflect on the wonderful child that you have brought to this point. Enjoy graduation day. But take time to think about how you are going to be different. It's time to let them go and discover. And you get to as well.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."    
--Mark Twain
It’s Not What, But Who
Posted 4/25/2019 at 12:58:38 PM by Gianna Harrison [System User]
In a recent meeting with a group of parents, we were discussing the mental health and well-being of our young people. Our society has become increasingly stressful and that stress is not just impacting adults, but our youth also feel the anxiety and pressure to perform and make significant future decisions all under the intense spotlight of social media.

One of the parents and fellow educators shared an article that really hit home for me as a parent. My children are out of the house. One a college graduate working in Cincinnati and one serving our country in the U.S. Navy. But still, they feel that pressure, and I sometimes struggle with how to support them. In a recent conversation with my son, the wisdom of the article guided me as he and I discussed his life and career choices.

The article is entitled Stop Asking Kids What They Want to Be When They Grow Up.  The key point is that asking kids what they want to be creates stress because it asks them to define themselves in terms of a career, and we are more than our careers.  And, as the article indicates, work alone doesn’t always fulfill us and bring us joy.  

I was fortunate to meet with a group of parents and community members at an in-home coffee last week. I began the evening asking parents what kind of adults they wanted their children to be. Answers included the following: confident, independent, kind, considerate, happy. No one gave me a career or cited that they wanted their child to memorize the Periodic Table (and that is not a bad thing.) The point is that when we think about our children, we have big, bold dreams for them that usually relate to the kind of people we want them to be. That is something that we can support our children in becoming.  

So, don’t ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What do you want to major in?” Instead, let’s ask our kids what kinds of challenges they enjoy and what kinds of things they would like to experience. It takes the stress off of them and you!
Tipping Point
Posted 4/11/2019 at 10:53:53 AM by Gianna Harrison [System User]

The online Merriam Webster dictionary defines a tipping point as “the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect of change takes place.”

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book entitled The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. In his book, Gladwell outlines how organizations across industries and cities can create significant and unstoppable change through three characteristics – contagiousness, little things can have big effects, and change can happen dramatically.

I think that we are at a tipping point in Bexley City Schools, and the significant effect is going to be powerful for our students.

Anyone who has recently asked me how things are going have heard me say, “Great!”   I know that we are on the verge of seeing huge impact from the work that we have done this year.

  • We have spent a year aligning curriculum and instruction in elementary math and reading.  
  • We have completed comprehensive curriculum review and revision in business, health, and science in order to support the K-12 development of our students.
  • We have defined the scope of an instructional coach and had three exceptional Bexley teachers step up to act as our first instructional coaches beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.  
  • We have recognized that the social and emotional needs of our youngest learners require the support and expertise of full-time school counselors, and we will have those counselors next year.
  • We have identified a tool and partners to help us to assess the social and emotional literacies of our students and ensure that we have prevention, intervention, and post-vention strategies in place to support students and families.
  • We have improved the physical safety of our buildings and conducted comprehensive reviews of our practices in order to implement even stronger plans for next year.
  • We have identified a new and innovative role, Coordinator of Experiential Learning, who will begin working in the 2019-2020 academic year to bring real-world experiences to our classrooms and connect our older students to internship opportunities outside our schools.


I could go on, but suffice it to say that we have had a year or assessing, identifying, and preparing.  And now we are at a tipping point.  We are there, and we are unstoppable.  Great things are happening in Bexley Schools!  

Change is Happening: And It's Good!
Posted 3/28/2019 at 2:34:52 PM by Gianna Harrison [System User]
Over Spring Break, we officially turned the page from winter to spring! For those cold weather, snow lovers, it may have been bittersweet. But for folks like me who crave warm temperatures and sunshine, the end of winter never comes soon enough.

While we haven’t completely reached the balmy temperatures that I love, signs of spring are all around. Forsythia are starting to bloom, and as I drive into the office, I see the beginnings of tulips pushing through the ground. Change is happening right before our eyes!

Sometimes changes are dramatic and easy to see, and sometimes they take place so slowly that we barely notice until one day a significant transformation is right before our eyes. I thought of this as my husband and I visited our daughter in Cincinnati over the weekend. She is one year out of college and into her professional life. The changes that have taken place in her 22 years of life have not always been noticed in the day-to-day, but as we visited and talked about her life, it hit me - she is all grown up! Wow! I am not always certain how it happened, but I am so glad that she has had a life of growth.

As I reflect upon the changes in my life and in the lives of my children, I can’t help but be thankful that change does happen. The seasons change, the calendar pages turn, and our children grow. That is what we want for our children.

And that is why Bexley City Schools must grow, change, and evolve as well. We cannot parent our 17-year olds the way we did our 17-month olds. And we have to educate our students differently than we did yesterday if we are to engage, equip, and empower them for life. Our teaching staff took time this past Monday to engage in new learning that will allow them to create the types of classroom experiences that will make a difference for our students. From diving into Harvard’s Project Zero training on visible thinking, which is a strategy to teach students deep critical thinking skills, to reflecting on our Bexley Learner Profile that addresses potential barriers to success and how to overcome them, our staff is learning in order to grow and change.

The world is different than it was yesterday, and we have to stay focused on what it means to develop students and graduates who are engaged, equipped, and empowered. I am so thankful that we have educators in Bexley schools who are always growing and developing in order to improve the learning experiences of our students.

The tulips are popping through the ground. The temperatures are inching up. And the days are getting longer. Change is happening, and it is good!
 
Enjoy the Moment!
Posted 3/14/2019 at 10:38:59 AM by Gianna Harrison [System User]
Over the past few weeks I have encountered a number of individuals who are stressed and feeling the pressure to make a decision that could have long-term impact. I can understand that stress. In our lives we make thousands of significant decisions about our futures. This truth is especially evident in schools at this time of year. 

How do you feel about going to middle school? What classes are you going to take next year?  What is your pathway after graduation?  

We spend lots of time focused on what is coming next. And that is not all bad, but what if it is robbing us of the joy of today? Do we miss living in the moment because we are so focused on the future?

As we prepare to take a week off school for Spring Break, I encourage you to find some time to enjoy the moment.  Whether you are fortunate to be traveling or staying home, and even for those who are working next week, try to find a day, an evening or an hour to live in the moment. 

Try not to think about the past or wonder about the future. Put your phone away, don’t take a picture to post on social media and turn off the tv. Fully enjoy your children, your family, your own quiet time.  

This type of living in the moment is not just a good idea, it actually makes us healthier emotionally. It also sets a good example for our children, they need to know that focusing on our mental and emotional health is important. These quiet moments recharge us and give our minds and bodies opportunities to rest so that we can continue to grow big dreams and have the energy to chase them.

So, take some time off from school, worry, stress, and anxiety - if only for an hour.  You might just find some of that peace and clarity that we so often seek.

Have a wonderful Spring Break!
Aligning to Our Strategic Plan
Posted 2/28/2019 at 12:24:03 PM by Gianna Harrison [System User]
If you have been reading my blog over the last year, you already know many of the details of the Bold Strategic Plan we have set for Bexley City Schools. The strategic plan is a guide as we work to engage, equip, and empower each student to succeed while here in Bexley City Schools and when they graduate.

As we have embarked on our journey to implement this bold plan, we have found ways that we can target our spending on staffing, tools and resources, and professional development to increase our effectiveness at reaching our strategic goals.

We are in the process of hiring a student-centered Coordinator of Experiential Learning. This new member of our team will work with our middle and high school students to provide internships, service opportunities and real-world connections. These opportunities will engage our students in their passions and help them determine career choices, equip them to enter the workforce after high school or college and empower them to make decisions and impact their community through work and service.  This new coordinator will also work with teachers across K-12 to bring experiential learning into the classroom.

We are also targeting our spending on tools and resource.  We are implementing a new tool to assess social and emotional wellness along with resources to support students and create a safe school culture for everyone. Our team has already implemented our comprehensive K-12 curriculum review in the areas of business, science, and health and will be implementing changes with new instructional resources in the coming school year that better align with our strategic goals to individualize learning and equip students for success today and tomorrow.

New professional development opportunities that align with our strategic plan are already in place and will continue to expand in the coming years. As educators, we never stop learning new techniques and strategies to teach. Another way we will be supporting teachers in 2019-2020 is by adding Instructional Coaches to the staff in place of Teacher Leaders. Instructional Coaches will be experienced teachers who are able to support our teaching staff as they work to implement new research-based strategies of learning in their classroom.

All of these efforts are already in process for the 2019-2020 school year; but this is just the beginning! We plan to continue improving our ability to provide an engaging and individualized learning experience to each student. As we move forward, we will be faced with the need for more operating funds to be able update technology, continue providing necessary resources for our students to learn in the 21st century and keep up with professional development and support for our staff.

Through all of these current and upcoming changes, I can assure you that everything we do and every decision we make at Bexley City Schools is focused on engaging, equipping and empowering our students to succeed in our schools and beyond. We want students to “Grow Big Dreams” and have the power to achieve them.  
Grow Big Dreams!
Posted 2/14/2019 at 12:23:36 PM by Gianna Harrison [System User]
I have a sign in my office that reads, “Grow Big Dreams.”  It was a gift from a colleague a number of years ago, and I have kept it with me because it really speaks to what we must do as parents, educators, and advocates for students. We must grow big dreams!

Growing big dreams means we must first recognize that each of us has unique dreams and second be willing to do things differently. Students today have unlimited possibilities ahead. But if our students are to be engaged, equipped and empowered to succeed in the future, they need us to lean in to developing our school district to be more innovative, flexible, and bold!

John Dewey, a noted educational reformer who lived from 1859 to 1952 is credited with the following statement: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

So true! Our students need educational leaders, teachers, parents, and a community who put what they need first! That could mean some uncomfortable changes for us adults as we explore new and innovative ways of teaching and learning. But it will be worth it when our students are engaged in deeper learning, equipped to handle any challenge they face, and empowered to make a difference in the world around them.

Each year we ask our students to be uncomfortable and try new things: new teachers, new classrooms, new courses, new ways of grading, new expectations in these new settings, new content and new assignments.

As educators we should constantly be in pursuit of new ways of learning that can enhance our understanding of education, even if it makes us uncomfortable, And as parents and community members, we should seek out new information that can lead us to a deeper understanding of the people and world around us.

So, let’s do what our students need. Let’s be innovative with our instructional practices. Let’s find new ways of doing business. Let’s step out of our comfort zones to design an exceptional educational experience for students today and tomorrow. Let’s be bold in our pursuit of learning!

Let’s Grow Big Dreams!
 
Bexley's Bold Strategic Plan Mid-Year Update
Posted 1/31/2019 at 2:08:23 PM by Gianna Harrison [System User]

On August 20, 2018, the Bexley City Schools Board of Education approved a bold new strategic plan: Our Bexley Blueprint!  The Blueprint is a three-year plan for achieving our vision of providing an exceptional education for today and tomorrow and our mission to engage, equip, and empower each student.   

This plan is built upon four themes:
Build upon a student-centered learning culture 
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities 
Leverage and grow vital community relationships 
Develop a high-performing team 

We utilized the input of students, staff, parents and community members, researched the most effective educational practices, and gathered data via program evaluations and assessments to develop our plan.  Each theme has a three-year objective, annual goals, and detailed strategies to achieve the goals.   

So, how are we doing half way through our first year?  

I am pleased to report that we are in progress on all ten annual goals for 2018-2019.  Below are some examples of our progress by theme.

Build upon a student-centered learning culture 

  • Implemented consistent, aligned district-wide instructional goals and introduced ongoing professional development to teachers to support those goals.
  • Identified a tool to assess our students’ social and emotional well-being, a proven indicator of student success and achievement. 
  • Improved safety and security procedures with the input of a security consultant. 

Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities

  • Revised science curriculum will be completed on schedule Spring 2019.
  • Launched the Principal Council to develop instructional leadership skills of all building principals.
  • Convened a technology task force to develop a tech plan that will support innovative teaching and learning. 
  • Participated in professional development with Harvard’s Project Zero. 

Leverage and grow vital community relationships

  • Identified specific areas for support from the Bexley Education Foundation.
  • Developed a job-description for a Coordinator of Experiential Learning who will facilitate real-word experiences for students both in and out of the classroom 
  • Created a plan to assess counseling capacity to ensure each student is prepared for post-high school. 

Develop a high-performing team 

  • Hosted a Blueprint roll-out in October, a Deeper Dive into the strategic plan, and in-home coffees in order to communicate vision, mission, and values to our community and provide a forum for feedback to the district. 
  • Designed a Parent Institute, launching in this Spring, to provide support and resources to the community. 
  • Established district-wide instructional goals to create an aligned and collaborative team.

To learn more, please follow this link to watch our latest videos in which staff explain how the Bexley Blueprint is impacting their daily work and to see a visual of progress on each of our ten goals.

Bexley’s Bold Strategic Plan Continues
Posted 12/20/2018 at 1:51:06 PM by James Harless [staff member]
Over the past two months, I have written about the four themes upon which our Bexley Blueprint is built. The four themes that guide our work are as follows:

Build upon a student-centered learning culture
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities
Leverage and grow vital community relationships
Develop a high-performing team

We are just four months into implementing our strategic plan or Bexley Blueprint, but we are making definite progress on implementation.  What have we completed so far?

After the Board of Education adopted the strategic plan by a 5-0 vote on August 20, we got to work organizing the plan in order to ensure and monitor implementation.

The Blueprint is organized around the four themes, three-year objectives, indicators of progress, and annual goals. In order to achieve those first-year goals on the way to three- year objectives, we had to organize the plan into a format that would spell out clearly what each administrator had to accomplish with their staffs toward the plan. These are the steps that we took begin implementation:

  • The District Leadership Team (with input from staff) identified specific strategies for each annual goal.
  • The District Leadership  Team identified the administrators who are responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed for each strategy.
  • The superintendent met individually with each administrator to identify specific action steps for each strategy for which they are responsible or accountable.  These action steps are carried out in their respective buildings and departments in order to achieve the plan.
  • The superintendent and director of technology organized the objectives, indicators, goals, strategies and action steps into a tool, Airtable, to manage and monitor implementation. 
  • District leaders and staff began implementing action steps.

By the end of business on December 19, 255+ action steps have been implemented across the district. These action steps are examples of the daily work that our staff is doing to implement our plan in order to achieve our vision to provide an exceptional education today and tomorrow that will engage, equip, and empower each of our students for learning today and success in the future. That is Bexley Bold!!  

In January the District Leadership Team will meet to do a mid-year analysis of progress toward each of the ten annual goals that we identified for this year. We will post progress for each goal on our website in late January or early February. 

https://www.bexleyschools.org/Strategy.aspx

Bexley's Bold Strategic Plan
Posted 12/6/2018 at 2:37:42 PM by James Harless [staff member]

Over the past few weeks, I have written about the three of the four themes upon which our Bexley Blueprint is built.  The four themes that guide our work are as follows:

Build upon a student-centered learning culture
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities
Leverage and grow vital community relationships
Develop a high-performing team

Today, I am pleased to address our fourth, and perhaps most foundational, theme: Develop a high-performing team.    Relationships and service to students are at the heart of education; therefore, a high-performing team is foundational to achieving the goals and objectives set forth on our strategic plan.   How do we develop a high-performing team?  We invest in our people. 

We have set an objective to achieve the optimal Bexley culture over the next three years?  We will meet that objective when we have consistently aligned our team to common vision, mission, and values across the district.  We will collectively work to deliver an exceptional K-12 experience that will lead to students who are engaged, equipped, and empowered for their future. 

A second indicator of our progress toward the optimal Bexley culture is a learning environment in which staff and parents are knowledgeable of 21st Century learning in order to support student learning goals.  Once again, common goals and common understanding among the team is foundational to achieving the goals that we have for our students.

We have identified four strategies that we will implement this year in order to move toward developing our high-performing team.  Those strategies are as follows:

1.     Consistently communicate vision, mission, and values to staff, students, parents, and community via multiple formats. 

2.     Administrators participate in specific leadership development programs.

3.     Implement a Parent Institute.

4.     Implement district-wide instructional goals that confirm the Bexley learning philosophy. 

I can report that we are well on our way to implementing these strategies and moving toward our goals and objectives.  We have taken steps to improve professional learning experiences for staff and administrators aligned to our instructional goals.  We have begun the steps to launch our Parent Institute in early 2019.  And we have begun establishing structures to support teachers in understanding and implementing instructional goals based upon student data.  All of our work will help all of us work together in supporting our drive to be Bexley Bold.

To learn more, please visit our website:  https://www.bexleyschools.org/Strategy.aspx

Bexley’s Bold Strategic Plan

Bexley's Bold Strategic Plan
Posted 11/22/2018 at 2:38:10 PM by James Harless [staff member]

November 22, 2018

I have been writing about each of the four themes around which our Bexley Blueprint is built.  The four themes that guide our work are as follows:

Build upon a student-centered learning culture
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities
Leverage and grow vital community relationships
Develop a high-performing team

I would like to take this opportunity to share more detail about what it means to “Leverage and grow vital community relationships.”  We want to collaborate with business, civic, cultural, and philanthropic organizations to create innovative learning experiences for our students.  There is a saying: Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.   The more ways that we can involve students in active learning, the better we will engage, equip, and empower them.  We would like to grow our relationships in order to expand learning experiences to students, and that is why this theme is so important.

It is our objective to achieve vital relationships to dramatically enhance students’ experiences and future opportunities in the next three years.  How will we know that we have met that objective?  We will have developed partnerships for career and college exploration and planning.  We will have created partnerships for diverse learning and service experiences.  And we will have evolved and strengthened our partnership with the Bexley Education Foundation and other community organizations to impact a positive student experience.  

The next question, is what steps will we take to get there?  In the first year of our Bexley Blueprint we are focused on assessing and prioritizing the highest-impact partnership opportunities and build capacity to build and leverage those partnerships.  In order to cultivate the partnership and internship and service learning opportunities for our students, we will identify a role and responsibilities for this work.  Specifically, we will develop a job description for an experiential learning coordinator/coach.  This role may be fulfilled by a current staff member or could be a new role for Bexley Schools.  More study will need to be completed to make that determination.

We are well aware that the knowledge, skills, and mindsets that will help our students to be successful in school and into their futures will require new ways of teaching and partnerships that do more than provide surface relationships.  And we are fortunate to have the opportunity to create those partnerships with those of you who live right here in our community.  With you we will provide that exceptional education for today and tomorrow!

To learn more, please visit our website:  https://www.bexleyschools.org/Strateghttps://www.bexleyschools.org/Strateg

Bexley’s Bold Strategic Plan
Posted 11/8/2018 at 3:04:09 PM by James Harless [staff member]
Two weeks ago, I wrote about one of the four themes around which our Bexley Blueprint is built. The four themes that guide our work are as follows:

Build upon a student-centered learning culture
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities
Leverage and grow vital community relationships
Develop a high-performing team

I would like to take this opportunity to share some more detail about what it means to “Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities. As we plan instruction in order to develop our students for their futures, we must be cognizant of the fact that the world is changing rapidly. If we want our students to be prepared for that new world, we must be flexible, responsive, innovative, and creative while developing those same skills in our students. 

Take a look at this video from Ted Dintersmith’s website entitled, The Future of Work.

https://teddintersmith.com/videos/

That video shows the technology of today! The education that we provide should match what is happening in our world. After all, what will our kindergarten students see when they graduate from Bexley High School in 2031? Now more than ever, our students need a wide range of skills and opportunities.

To meet those needs, our planning and our actions must be intentional. Within the Bexley Blueprint and this specific goal, is the development of a Bexley Student Success Profile. This profile will clearly articulate what we want EACH Bexley student to become by the time they complete high school. We will articulate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes or mind-sets that will propel our student to a future of their choosing. 

In addition, we will be intentional about helping our students to have the educational experiences that allow them to achieve that which we articulate for our Student Success Profile. We have identified three indicators of growth toward our goal that we plan to achieve in the next three years:

1.     Align department academic curriculum K-12.

2.     Select and implement district-wide instructional leadership and instructional coaching practices.

3.     Align and enhance curriculum with innovative teaching models and integrated technology.

To realize these indicators of success, we will implement our new curriculum review and revision process with fidelity. We will invest in instructional leadership and instructional coaching to maximize our knowledge and skills as the adults and lead learners in our District. And we will identify structures to support innovative teaching.

The way that we engage, equip, and empower our students is through clear articulation of our Student Success Profile and investment in instructional programming that helps each student to achieve that profile. 

Implementing the Bexley Blueprint is not the end of our work; It is another marker in the significant work we have ahead. I will continue to communicate with you about our work and progress as we go along.

To learn more, please visit our website: https://www.bexleyschools.org/Strategy.aspx

Bexley’s Bold Strategic Plan
Posted 10/24/2018 at 1:16:52 PM by James Harless [staff member]

After months of gathering input from our students, staff, parents, and community, Bexley Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a strategic plan.  This strategic plan is the first updated strategic work since 2007-2008.  Further, the plan was developed as a result of data gathered from nine focus groups and over 3000 distributed surveys in which stakeholders were asked to respond to questions regarding the strengths of our district and the areas for growth and improvement.  The plan is organized around four, bold themes that emerged from the data gathering:

Build upon a student-centered learning culture
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities
Leverage and grow vital community relationships
Develop a high-performing team

Leading up to winter break, I would like to provide a little more explanation of each theme and the work that will be done around that theme.  I will begin with B – Build upon a student-centered learning culture.

Bexley Schools have always been focused on students and their learning.  But what does a student-centered learning culture look like today and into the future?

At the roll-out of the Bexley Blueprint on October 17, three Bexley teachers shared what this concept looks like at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  It is thinking.  Thinking about problems, thinking about solutions, thinking about ideas. It is solving problems; asking questions and not just giving answers; creativity and innovation; tying, failing, and improving.  It is helping students to see the process of learning and not just the outcome.  It is debate and discussion.  It is messy; it is loud, and it is rigorous.  It is personalized.

What is the point? Our strategic plan is developed to accomplish specific objectives in a three-year time frame.  The objective for the theme of building upon a student-centered learning culture is to “Build and utilize a Student Success Profile as a foundation for learning.”  

How will we know if we get to that objective?  We have identified four indicators of growth.

1.    Cultivate a culture in which we collaborate with students and families to develop a personalized learning and growth plan for EACH Bexley student.

2.    Address opportunity and achievement gaps to include all aspects of student performance (including extra-curricular areas).

3.    Develop social and emotional health literacies K-12 (including in extra-curricular areas).

4.    Create optimal learning environments that promote engaging, innovative, and effective teaching and learning.

We have also set goals to accomplish this year toward our objective.  Please visit our website for those goals and additional information about our process and overall plan.

https://www.bexleyschools.org/Strategy.aspx

When Old Meets New
Posted 9/13/2018 at 1:51:13 PM by James Harless [staff member]
With a new strategic plan, what is the future of the different best practices in the district? The answer to the question lies in the importance of this plan to our schools. The new strategic plan will bring alignment to our academics and also align our entire budget to these resources. Throughout the organization, all resources and work will align to the important work as identified by the community, teachers, staff and students on this plan.

As we prepare to officially launch the plan in October, it is important to remember why our schools engaged in this process. It is simple: The board wished to answer the question, “What is the future that we want for our Bexley City Schools?”  Doing so came at the perfect time. The last strategic plan took place more than 10-years-ago and the educational landscape has changed significantly during that time. In order continue as a successful district we must acknowledge and respond to changes with strategic vision and planning.

In embarking on a new strategic plan, it was important to us that all stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in developing the answer that best represents what we want from our schools. In doing so, we launched an extensive community-based process. Throughout the process we gathered input from the community, teachers and staff and students. Specifically, the following data sources were used:

      • Technology Integration Surveys November ‘17
      • Public Opinion Survey (Fallon Research January ‘18)
      • Teacher surveys regarding curriculum and instruction (Fall ‘17)
      • Formal and informal meetings with students, staff, parents, and community members
      • Board of Education Interviews
      • Focus Groups – over 300 individuals invited to participate in one of nine focus groups 
         (students, staff, parents, community)
      • Over 3000 online surveys distributed to students, staff, parents, and community members
      • External data gathering via the review of similar districts as well as local and national trends

In working through the community process and as our schools aligned more with a common philosophy, it is important to provide alignment with opportunities for students across schools and grade levels.  Along the way, we answered the question, “What does this information mean for the different best practices at each school? Will they go away?”

Focusing Best Practices with our Vision
Bexley City Schools personnel will continue aspects of the different best practices that continue to align with our new vision and mission. The workshop structure at Montrose is a solid structure that allows teachers to meet the individual needs of students, and we will not only keep that structure at Montrose but continue to expand it across all schools and grade levels.  

The work at Montrose is evidence and researched based. 

Maryland aligned to the Effective Schools research of the 1970s.  This research led to a framework for school improvement that promoted quality and equity to lead to high student achievement (Taylor, 1990).  Maryland teachers were supported in this work by two outside consultants.  We will expand this support to all elementary teachers particularly focusing on the development of units of study for our new science curriculum, which is currently being developed.  

Cassingham Elementary became an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school.  The Middle School aligned to the IB Middle Years Programme.   These IB programs include an inquiry-led, transdisciplinary framework that “challenges students to think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning as they explore local and global issues and opportunities in real-life contexts” (International Baccalaureate, 2018). 

We believe so much in an inquiry-based approach to learning that this past summer we supported teachers in learning more about teaching for creativity at the Columbus Museum of Art, problem-based learning with the PAST Foundation, and this year a number of teachers and administrators will participate in professional learning with Harvard’s Project Zero, which focuses on developing the thinking skills of students.  Moving forward we will support the philosophies of IB for students and teachers at all five schools.  

Finally, the High School previously aligned to Advanced Placement courses, from College Board.  Advanced Placement is not a best practice but a set of courses.  We expanded our AP offerings this year to include three additional courses.

Alignment and Opportunities for All Students
In short, if a philosophy, structure, or instructional strategy is a best practice, we believe that EACH student in our schools should benefit from it.  Therefore, while we will no longer align different schools with different practices, we will expand what is beneficial from those practices to all schools.  This decision is based upon the feedback gathered during the strategic planning process.  Our new plan focuses on equity of opportunity for EACH student.  To maintain separate best practices would not be in line with the data that our stakeholders have provided.  

Any time that a new plan is developed, something of the past must change.  One of the greatest challenges in education is the propensity to add to teachers’ and administrators’ responsibilities but never to remove anything.  We cannot implement our new vision and mission if we are unwilling to let some of the old structures go.  As I have indicated above, we will always keep what is effective, but after 15 years of implementing separate best practices, it is time to allocate our time and financial resources to the new strategies that will benefit our students.  We cannot afford to stress our staff or our financial resources to continue work that we have mastered.  

Our strategic plan is our new Bexley Blueprint for engaging, equipping, and empowering each student.  The only way to be responsible to the learning of each student, both today and tomorrow, is to align our strategies, professional development, and support for our students. And that is our commitment to our students, our staff, and our community.

In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. – Abraham Maslow

Becoming is better than being. – Carol Dweck

We are stepping forward to that we can become what our students need us to be.



References
Harvard Graduate School of Education. (2016). Project Zero.  Date retrieved September 12, 2018. http://www.pz.harvard.edu/

International Baccalaureate. (2018). Middle years programme. Date retrieved September 12, 2018. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/

International Baccalaureate. (2018). Primary years programme. Date retrieved September 12, 2018. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/primary-years-programme/

Taylor, B.O., & National Center for Effective Schools Research and Development, M.W. (1990). Case studies in effective schools’ research. 


*For the 2018-19 academic year, Cassingham will continue to be identified with IB as a partner school; however, we will not continue to pay the fee for participation beginning in 2019-20.  The Middle School, with input from the staff, elected to no longer identify as an IB school this year.