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'Change is hard and it's messy'

Zoe Greszler • Sep 21, 2018 at 4:00 AM

COLLINS — The Western Reserve school board is looking at ways to improve following the release of the district’s grade card reports from the state

“We are making progress,” Superintendent Rodge Wilson said. “We have areas that we need to improve on and a lot of areas that we’ve made a lot of progress in.”

In the elementary school, Principal Jennifer Cornelison said “everyone’s getting settled in well” with the new school year as the classes focus on language arts.

“We’re going to look at ways to improve specifically our achievement grade, which was a ‘D,’ and improving at-risk (kindergarten through third-grade) readers, which was formerly the K-3 literacy grade, which we had an ‘F’ in,” she added. “And then we’re also going to look at ways to replicate areas where we saw some success.”

The principal said the report card grades, while seemingly low, were where she “expected them to be,” but the school has plans in place to improve those scores.

“Our goals are in math and literacy,” Cornelison said.

Beyond academics, the teachers also are looking at helping students improve themselves and the overall school atmosphere. 

“Our building goal this year has to do with behavior and reducing referrals,” Cornelison said, referring to the way the elementary school reports poor behaviors and incidents. “We’re focusing on the concepts of kindness and appreciation, using the story ‘Have You Filled a Bucket?’ Our goal is for adults to have three positive interactions for every one referral. Currently we have 87 positive reports. That far outweighs our office referrals and bus referrals so far.”

In the Roughriders’ middle and high school, Principal Lisa Border said the academic focus is on preparing students for their future, a category in which the school received an “F.”

“In a nutshell, we saw some improvements, especially in the middle school, but we still have an ‘F’ (in preparedness courses) which is troubling,” she said.

“Even though plans in place to improve, for example, the number of kids who take the ACT, the number of kids who score a three or higher on the (advanced placement) test or the number of kids who earn their credentials at EHOVE (Career Center), it’s going to take years for those changes to affect that score, because it’s a couple of different cohorts figured in there.”

The past few years the high school has focused on making sure the students graduated, having accomplished one of the “three Es” — employed in work that will “support their family or lifestyle,” enrolled in continuing education or enlisted in a military branch. 

Border said the school worked out a system that will help the few students who don’t know which of those paths they wish to take, a program that Wilson said has inspired other districts. 

“We’ve really tried to hit career coaching hard this year. Our most able kids leave us and go to (take college courses through the College Credit Plus program) and the others go to EHOVE,” Border said. “Then we have the seniors (who) don’t know what they want to do. Those are the kids we want to hit with career coaching. ... We feel like we’re blazing some trails there and are very proud of that project.”

Wilson concurred.

“You know the career coach is very big right now,” he said. “It’s inspiring other districts to do that as well.”

Regarding the road of improvement ahead for the district, Border said “change is hard and it’s messy,” but she was confident it could make the difference for the students.

“We’re really excited about the changes that we’re making,” the principal said.

In other happenings, the board heard:

• The Ohio Department of Education report card identified the middle/high school as having “gifted” students who weren’t provided all the proper services that could be offered. Border has a plan though.

“I understand that’s a fairly easy fix — that’s going to involve sending some teachers to training,” she said.

• Wilson said Western intends to sell the old preschool building, which remains empty since the preschool moved to the main campus. The district recently replaced the roof and most of the windows in the four-room building, which it hopes to have sold in four months.

“As soon as things quite down, we’ll move forward with getting rid of the building,” he said. “We know what (Huron County Auditor Roland Tkach) thinks it’s worth and we’ve reached out to community schools; they get first dibs on that — then we’ll put it up for sale.”

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