As the Hilliard City School District embarks on the journey of creating a campus school experience between Britton Elementary and Norwich Elementary it is imperative the facts, intentions, and plans drive our conversation. Our clarity of purpose calms fears, reduces anxiety, and maintains a focus on the mission. When we act with skill and intentionality the outcome is what we desire. When we act with emotion and impulse we fail every time. Our team is committed to discipline action, professional engagement, and educational excellence.
Beginning with the 2020-2021 School Year the Hilliard City School District plans to operate a single school campus incorporating Britton Elementary as a Kindergarten through Second Grade (K-2) Building and Norwich Elementary as a Third Grade through Fifth Grade (3-5) Building. This campus will include only the current students in the Britton and Norwich attendance areas. It has no impact on the other attendance areas for 2020-21.
Is this being done in any other districts?
Yes, several successful, forward-thinking districts in suburban areas have moved to organizing by grade level to take advantage of resources and more efficiently personalize educational experiences for young people. What we are proposing isn’t a wild departure from educational practices. Loveland City Schools, the district I previously served as Superintendent, operates one PK-K Early Childhood Center, a Primary School (1-2), an Elementary School (3-4), an Intermediate School (5-6), a Middle School (7-8), and a High School (9-12). Mason City Schools and Lakota City Schools, both districts of over 10,000 students, organize district elementary schools by grade level – capitalizing on the benefits of shared resources and services.
The Hilliard Way
The neighborhood elementary experience is part of the Hilliard Way. We serve nearly 17,000 students yet still provide a personal experience to each student. Our principals know every student and most families. Historically, neighborhood elementary schools create a greater sense of pride and ownership for school communities. What we do in our current configuration is excellent; there is nothing wrong with a 600 student neighborhood elementary. With that said, where we have an opportunity to both keep neighborhood schools AND capitalize on the opportunity to more efficiently utilize resources it is incumbent of us to act. The distance between Britton and Norwich Elementary is a short Par 3; a campus school environment will not impact any walkers, drivers, or bus routes. A campus school will not increase transportation costs. We can do better, with the facilities and resources we have, by living our district identified value of Passion for Growth. Our journey to elite demands that we keep improving, adapting, and adjusting to the needs of our students. Innovation and improvement is in our DNA here in Hilliard.
Changing World, Changing Schools
Schools are changing. We have more data on both academic and social emotional metrics than ever before in history. We can work to match individual student needs with specific teacher skills. We know more about social emotional needs. We face more challenges with increasing poverty. We are more diverse. The role of schools is no longer simply teaching academics; we are responsible for more and more social functions.
By having 7-8 sections of each grade level together we are able to capitalize on teacher skill. We are better able to maximize and balance class sizes. We will serve both gifted and special education students better; we will better personalize opportunities for all students. From an economic standpoint, this campus approach will make us more efficient with resource allocation. We don’t measure success by state test scores in isolation. Success is personal for each student; we want each student to be the best version of himself/herself. We have a plethora of assessments, both academic and social emotional, to track student performance and improvement. We will never “test” a student out of poverty or into college; we nurture, support, and challenge each student in our care. What worked best in the past, may not be the best for the present and future. We reflect, evaluate, and improve.
Yes, Alton Darby and Darby Creek are next. We are starting at Britton and Norwich because we have three seasoned building leaders on this campus. Mr. Heitzman, Mrs. Borlaza and Mrs. Balduf know these buildings and know Hilliard. We will begin this process in the near future at our other elementary campus – Alton Darby & Darby Creek. These are the only two locations where we can maintain the neighborhood elementary climate and capitalize on combining resources. As we explore future facilities options, we will consider a Primary and Elementary approach as a construction option. The Next X report will include a facilities study; this is certainly a topic for consideration in that report.
Programming and Diversity
One of the greatest attributes of our district is our culture. Each building has a unique internal culture yet maintains the instructional standards of the Hilliard City School District. The instructional materials and curriculum are the same throughout our elementary system. Our district support teams and coaches provide the same in service and resources to all our buildings. Our campus approach simply changes the ability to focus and personalize services.
We live in an increasingly diverse community. When we create a campus learning environment we naturally balance diversity between the buildings. This is intentional and provides additional opportunities for teaching empathy and appreciation. We are proud of the life-lessons we provide students in the school setting. Hilliard students are well prepared for a diverse, global world and economy.
What do the experts say?
We have some of the most talented, skilled experts in public education in the Hilliard City Schools. Our community is blessed to be served by many educational experts. I have served in many districts, I’m a member of several state and national organizations, and I interact with educators from all over the country; we have a team of educational leaders that is second to none. Our Board attends both state and national conferences; they understand Hilliard’s place on the national scene. We are proud to be leaders in the educational arena. From the Innovative Learning Center to our One-2-One rollout, from our Social Emotional work to our commitment to Student Wellness, Hilliard’s team is a national model. We partner with the best – Apple, The Ohio State University, Panorama, CSCC, Amazon, Focus 3, Naviance, Worthington Industries, Fanning/Howey to name a few partners. Our team is collaborative, skilled, and experienced.
What can I do?
While our purpose is clear, the next year will provide many opportunities to iron out the details. We have identified many questions; you can help us by asking questions of your own. There will be parent committees to discuss process and practice. We need to talk about drop-off and pick-up, SACC, siblings, PTO funds, conferences, music programs, playgrounds, transitions, and many other issues. We have begun this journey, we have a destination, but our path is far from cleared of obstacles. It is going to take us working as a school community to best serve our children.
I can tell you with the utmost confidence what is counterproductive. When we permit emotions, the fear of change, to control our behavior no one wins. When we resort to vitriolic or bullying behavior – often on social media outlets – no one benefits. When we share suppositions as if they are facts, no one wins. My hope is that we can have intentional, skilled conversations about this transition. By doing so we model the behavior, the very behavior we teach the students in our classrooms, through our actions. We will stay “above the line” and act with discipline and purpose.
If you have specific questions about the plan and process, please contact your building principal or Mr. Herb Higginbotham, Director of Elementary Education. We will continue to post information about future meetings in the coming months. The 2019-20 school year will provide numerous planning, sharing, and engagement events for this emerging campus family.
Students at Davidson high school have been given a tall order: Design a set of low-cost air quality monitors for installation on their school buildings to transmit data that will be used for curriculum and by the general public.
The assignment came from two Ohio State professors — with a promise to provide expertise and assistance.
Andy May in civil, environmental and geodetic engineering and Ayaz Hyder in environmental health sciences in 2016 received a grant from the National Science Foundation to deploy low-cost air quality sensors that provide high-quality data for better estimates of personal exposure to air pollutants. A unique facet of the project is that the professors work with a team of citizen scientists: the high school seniors and their engineering teacher, who also will help develop teaching materials using the sensor data.
The Ohio State air quality monitoring is one of 13 capstone projects for the seniors, who are studying an engineering curriculum called Project Lead the Way.
“The students in the Ohio State project are learning electronics, programming, sensors, information technology, project management, documentation, logistics and communications,” says Rusty Herring, engineering teacher at Davidson. He is an Ohio State alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in welding engineering and a master’s degree in education, which he obtained after working in project management engineering for 10 years with Procter & Gamble Co.
Now in its third year, the air quality project is growing to incorporate two more school districts and the city of Columbus Public Health department. May and Hyder meet regularly with the Hilliard students and their teacher as mentors.
“From an educational aspect,” May says, “it’s been pretty amazing so far.”
Hilliard Davidson student Emma Wood explains that she and her two teammates have distinct roles working on the monitors.
“Our strengths make the project move forward more efficiently,” she says. “I’m the project manager. I help everyone stay on track.”
Zach Augustine calls himself the technical expert. “I’ve taken a lot of design courses and learned CAD to work on the 3-D modeling,” he says, noting that he’s designing the sensor enclosures. Ben Charlson works on the air quality monitors’ internal wiring and components that will collect data on gases, particulate matter, temperature and humidity.
May, whose research interest is the fate and transport of atmospheric pollutants, explains that the sensors, an extension of previous research he conducted by placing sensors on campus buses, will monitor carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and temperature and humidity in the air.
The Hilliard students are exploring ways to make the sensors wireless and powered by solar panels. They are running connections from the sensors to a computer program that reads the values and will send them to a website.
“Eventually the data will be available to the public,” Wood says. “There will be 15 sensing stations on 15 buildings in the Hilliard City School District.”
The project will demonstrate how engaging with the public can help translate “smart” science to actions of consequence, such as avoiding areas with poor air quality or identifying areas potential solutions, says Hyder, who determines where the monitors will be placed so the collected data can be compared with socioeconomic factors.
“I’ve always struggled with the idea of equity. ‘Smart’ doesn’t just mean better. Are we doing things in an equitable manner?” says Hyder, who was hired at Ohio State as part of the Translational Data Analytics Institute. He points out that air quality has always been studied in public health with a keen awareness that a study in which people at the lowest socioeconomic levels are at the highest risk of exposure and yet also the least equipped to cope with adverse health outcomes associated with poor air quality, such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular events.
“Hilliard is a good case for that, because there is a north-to-south socioeconomic gradient in factors such as household income and employment rate,” he says. “From Dublin on south there is a decline in socioeconomic status. One of the ways we’re trying to capture that is through the placement of these sensors.”
Once the data is collected, May, Hyder and the Hilliard students, with Herring, plan to leverage it beyond the engineering courses to science and math classes in Hilliard high schools and middle schools and then outside of the district. May is working to install two more sensors with Columbus Public Health and teachers at both Worthington-Kilbourne High School and Thomas Worthington High School, who want to use the collected data in biology and environmental science classes. May and Hyder will be integrating the project in Dublin City Schools’ new Emerald Campus, a nontraditional high school innovation that lets students choose from various Career Exploration Academies including biomedical, business, engineering and IT.
“We think we can create a curriculum for grades seven through 12,” Herring says, “with activities that use the project and the data to teach science, air quality, environmental science, math and statistics. It’s all there. It’s all authentic.”
Each year, the students have progressed on the project and successfully passed it along to the next class of their peers. Of the 11 students who have worked with May and Ayaz, six are now attending Ohio State.
Mike Faltas, who is a second-year Buckeye studying mechanical engineering, says working with May and Hyder gave him insight into how real engineering projects work.
“The communication between parties was something I never experienced before, as well as the cooperation towards a solution. The professors were phenomenal resources when we needed guidance and offered up a lot of advice into what we should be doing,” he says, adding that he picked up planning and communication skills along the way.
“For this project, we had to archive everything we did and reach multiple deadlines to work with the professors. In addition to communicating with the professors, we had to communicate with the school district and authority figures within the school buildings,” Faltas says. “Before this project, I had never really communicated in the real world with any sort of responsibility, and now I do it every day.”
By Joan Slattery Wall, The Ohio State Office of Energy and Environment
This Blog was originally posted in the Spring of this year. It has such important information, we wanted to share it once again.
In the Hilliard School District we work to provide our students an education based on academic and social-emotional successes through personalized learning with an emphasis on interests, mindset, and rigorous academics. Listening to our students, with open ears, brought us to the conclusion that we should investigate our current class ranking practices. This spring I had the opportunity to facilitate a Class Rank Task Force comprised of Board of Education members, staff and parents.
Our group reviewed research, examined nearby school district practices, learned what college admission officers are saying, and surveyed our own beliefs. When we were finished, we presented our findings to the Board of Education.
Overwhelmingly, our committee found it best for all students to eliminate class rank. Director of Secondary Curriculum and College Partnerships John Bandow said, “High School courses should be a time for students to explore their interests. Allowing students to take a course or two in an area of personal interest even if it is only on a 4-point scale should not be a detriment to their GPA. It was bothersome when I’d hear students say they can’t take that class because of its GPA. The courses that may see an uptick in student enrollment will be in the arts, music and business departments.”
After reviewing our findings the District Administration has announced that beginning with the Class of 2022, our current 8th grade students, we will no longer calculate Class Rank. Our school profile, most often used by college admission officers, will contain decile ranking. This will place students into a 10% category based on their GPA. We will also move to using Latin Honors at graduation.
Hilliard College Counselor Tom Woodford added, “As students are viewed holistically through the college admissions process, taking rank out of the scenario will help many of our students. We have so many students who have performed well, with over a 4.0 GPA, but their rank hasn’t been helpful. I feel this decision to not rank our students will benefit our students in the long-run.”
“In Hilliard we model our passion for growth through our actions,” Superintendent John Marschhausen said. “The current class rank system is antiquated; it no longer is in alignment with the culture required to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow. We continue to adapt and adjust our practices, to be intentional in our decisions, and to remain focused on preparing students for success in the future.”
This Blog was originally posted earlier this year. It has such important information, we wanted to share it once again.
When I express concerns to school leaders, I demand confidentiality. What is my expectation of privacy when communicating with district leaders?
This is fairly simple. When you talk to school employees about your child you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Emails and letters about a student’s educational experience are protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). If your communications involved the health and safety of your child, or of other children, district employees are mandatory reporters and may require communications with appropriate law enforcement or support agencies.
If you raise the level of communications to the Board of Education, there is no expectation of privacy. When you email or share information with members of the Board of Education, you are knowingly and willingly sharing information with elected officials – with policy makers. Simply by emailing or writing to the Board of Education Members you are creating a public record, which does not receive the same privacy protections.
Per Board of Education Policy, concerns should be directed to the source of the issue before escalating concerns. While people often say, “I’m going straight to the top” when they call my office, our staff is required to refer concerns and/or complaints back to building administration. On our web page we have a page dedicated to letting you know Who to Contact.
Since the district is eliminating class rank, who is going to speak at graduation?
While traditionally the speakers at commencement exercises have been the valedictorian and salutatorian, with the district no longer calculating class ranks beginning with the Class of 2022 each high school will hold auditions to be graduation speakers.
While the process and qualifications to audition have not been finalized, our plan is to phase in this process over the next three years. At the same time, we will begin recognizing students who earn Latin Honors over the next three years as well. Students will be recognized with Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Cum Laude accolades beginning as early as the spring of 2019. These honors will be phased in concurrently with the phasing out of class rank. We will be intentional in our actions and clear with our plans.
Why is Hilliard starting later than neighboring districts in the fall?
First, we intentionally planned to start a little later this year due to construction projects. With the opening of Memorial Middle School, shift of Station Sixth Grade Building, and creation of the Innovative Learning Hub we have a lot going on this summer. We have built flexibility into the calendar to ensure everything is ready when students are scheduled to return to school. Please note . . . we have no control over road construction projects.
School calendars for 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21 are all available and easy to find on the district’s website. These calendars take into account both projects for this summer and graduation dates coordinated with Ohio State University.
The senseless violence and loss of life in Westerville and Parkland, Florida have once again brought the concerns of our own safety, and the safety of our children, to the forefront of local, state, and national attention. As we watch the news and face our own reality, we do so with apprehension, anger, and hopelessness. We hear prognosticators and experts debate hot topic political issues, we engage in personal conversations about what can be done, and we hug our kids just a little longer each day.
As an educational leader, I wish there were a single answer. I pray each night and morning for the safety of our community, of our schools, and of our students. In Hilliard we averted a potential tragedy because we practiced “see something say something” and at that moment prayers were answered. We live each day with both intentional practice and hope. We are empowered to take steps to keep our children safe, but we also live with the stark reality that we can’t guarantee that the unimaginable will never happen in our community.
As your superintendent, I can assure you the district has taken numerous steps over the past several years to enhance our building security and to increase the mental health services we provide to students. Please know the work is never done. There is no finish line and it will never be “good enough.” Our practices and procedures are fluid . . . we live our growth mindset and aim to improve every single day.
There are some steps we’ve taken that are part of our emergency planning with law enforcement and first responders that we simply don’t share with the public. Our emergency plans are purposefully not subject to public record laws – this is for the protection of everyone involved. Let’s make it simple, we don’t want the bad guys to see our plans. There are other steps we’ve taken that are evident through our policies and structure.
Our high schools now employ the same access system that was previously used at other buildings. We strive to limit access points during the school day. We have also added hundreds of additional cameras district wide to provide video access to both the exterior and interior of our buildings. Our partnership with the Hilliard Police and Norwich Fire and Rescue, and when circumstances merit the Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, Columbus Police and State Highway Patrol, is essential in keeping our students safe. I can’t imagine having stronger and more trusted partners than we have in Hilliard.
Starting with the 2018-19 School Year we will be adding an additional professional development day prior to the first student day in August. This day will be dedicated to safety training and drills with our first responders. Our district’s Joint Safety Committee is already at work creating the scenarios and activities for our staff. This is in addition to the building level training exercises. These days both assist us in preventing potential events and prepare us if a situation takes place. Preparing for the unthinkable saves lives, training is essential.
In Hilliard, we are committed to enhancing the mental health services and social emotional work we do in the district. At the State of the Schools in October, we launched our Ready for Tomorrow initiative. We know schools can’t simply teach academics; our work is about the whole child. We are now measuring specific social emotional attributes of our students. We have the opportunity to identify at-risk students; to help students with low self-esteem or belonging issues. We have added licensed social workers over the last two years, with dedicated clinicians at each high school and additional support at all levels. Our partnership with Syntero provides great resources to our school, parents, and community.
While there is no single action that will keep all our young people safe, there are immediate actions each of us can do to be part of the overall effort.
- Listen to the young people in your life. Take the time to engage in active conversations. With teenagers specifically, this can sometimes be a challenge. It requires time. As a family, put away the devices at dinner and listen to what’s taking place. Speak with your children about “See Something, Say Something” and encourage them to reach out if they know someone who needs help.
- Log into your child’s social media accounts, photo stream, and text messages. Your children have no expectation of privacy from their parents – be proactive and make it a priority. In almost every tragedy, there were warning signs. Follow your children’s posts and sign-up for alerts. Follow your children’s friends . . . intentionally know what is happening in their lives.
- If something bothers you, if your gut tells you something is wrong, step-up and do something. Syterno has resources for emergencies – https://www.syntero.org/emergency-information/. Don’t let yourself be talked into a narrative of inaction. If you have knowledge of a specific threat, call the police.
- Finally, if you have concerns about someone else’s child, call them. I know it is uncomfortable; we all know that no one wants to hear bad news. But ask yourself one question, “if someone has concerns about my child’s safety and health, would I want to know?” If you have concerns, make the call. It could save a life.
Young people across America are taking note and finding a voice. Students are talking about the balance between personal liberties and public safety. Adults and parents are asking tough questions. Your district leaders are actively engaged with law enforcement and first responders to provide the safest possible environment. Your district leaders are expanding cybersecurity and monitoring operations at the school and community level. Your district leaders partner with parents, health care professional and mental health professionals to provide services to those in need. There are no easy answers; there is no single tool we can purchase. It takes a village for us to keep young people safe; our Hilliard community will come together, have the tough conversations, and continue to prepare each and every child to be Ready for Tomorrow.
As you may know, our District is building a new middle school near Bradley High School, which will replace the current Memorial Middle School in 2018. The current Station Sixth Grade School will move into the current Memorial, and the Innovative Learning Center will expand programming and open The Hub in what is currently Station.
It is with excitement that I share I have asked Mr. Craig Vroom to become the Principal for the new Innovative Learning Hub beginning in the 2018/19 school year. Mr. Vroom is a highly successful elementary and middle school principal. He is a statewide leader in digital and networking collaboration and was recognized as Ohio Middle Level Principal of the year in 2016. His innovative approach, track record of success in Hilliard, and ability to create connections will be invaluable as we expand the ILC campus.
I am also excited to announce I have asked Mr. Chad Schulte to take over as Principal of Weaver Middle School beginning next year. Mr. Schulte has spent the past five years serving as a Darby High School Assistant Principal. Prior to this role he was Athletic Director at Darby for four years.
Mr. Schulte lives in the Weaver attendance area with his wife and children who will attend Weaver in just a few years. He is happy to get the opportunity to serve the community he calls home.
Our district will continue to seek opportunities for innovation. Expanding our Innovative Learning Center is just one way we will be able to prepare our students to be Ready for Tomorrow. In the next month, we will be sharing more plans and programs that will be housed at the Hub. There is no finish line – we are on a journey. We will continue to lead, not follow, in the area of instruction and innovation.