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Dr. Kimberly Pietsch Miller's Blog Page
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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.