Ending Class Rank

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.”

Infrequently Answered Questions: Privacy, Graduation Speakers, and School Calendar

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.



Passing the Budget

On June 11, the Board of Education passed its Annual Appropriation Resolution for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018. This is the mechanism required by Ohio law (Chapter 5705 of the Ohio Revised Code) by which the School Board authorizes the Superintendent and Treasurer of the School District to spend the money received by the school district through local taxes, state and federal funding, fees collected and other source.

To support his resolution, the Treasurer prepares an annual budget and presents it to the School Board. You can view last year’s budget on the district website – next year’s budget will be posted soon.

As a member of our district’s Finance Committee, I prepared the following highlights from the budget and presented it to the other Board members (elements of which I read at the meeting):

By approval of this resolution, the Board would be authorizing the Administration to spend $280 million of our neighbors’ tax dollars – collected directly as local property taxes and indirectly through the portion of their state income taxes that comes back as state funding.

Of that, $200 million will be spent on day-to-day operations.

Of that, $171 million (86%) will be invested in the compensation and benefits of our team of teachers, staff and administrators, now numbering over 1,700. We’ll be adding 43 new members to the team next year, with 90% of those joining the instructional and pupil support staff. The average first year investment in a new teacher – just in compensation and benefits – is $66,000.

After a period of stable medical benefits costs, enabling two premium holidays in recent years, medical and especially pharmacy claims have been growing significantly, increasing the expenditure from the self-insurance fund from $22 million in FY15 to a projected $32 million in FY19, an increase of $10 million, or 45%. The Insurance Committee reviews this regularly, and makes adjustments to benefits and contributions as necessary.

We also send over $6 million of our funding to other institutions who provide educational services to students living in our school district, including: $2.2 million to community schools $1.5 million as autism scholarships $1.2 million to schools educating our students with disabilities $700,000 for Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarships $450,000 to STEM schools $280,000 to other school districts who accept Hilliard kids via open enrollment $275,000 to fund tuition paid through College Credit Plus

The Food Service program is projected to run at about break even, serving about 8,500 lunches each day. The program costs about $5.7 million/yr, and the cost is funded by $3.3 million of sales and $2.2 million of federal funding.

Our transportation department brings 7,800 students to school every day, putting 1.2 million miles on our buses in the year, while spending $700,000 on diesel fuel. We put another 200,000 miles on buses every year taking kids to non-public and community schools.

The School Age Child Care program operates at 16 of our buildings and cares for 1,100 kids. This program is self-funding.

Our extracurricular budget is $4 million, 95% of which is for the compensation of ADs, coaches, directors, student advisors and game officials.

We spend $3 million/yr for electricity, natural gas and water.

Our operations team cares for: 2.3 million square feet of indoor building space 300 acres of green space, playgrounds and athletic fields 86 acres of blacktop 15 miles of sidewalks

We currently have about $150 million in outstanding bond debt vs our statutory limit of $250 million. We will be retiring $15 million of principle each of the next three years while paying interest of about $5 million each year. Our bonds are rated AA+/Aa1, which is the second highest rating possible, creating a high demand for our bonds, which lowers our financing costs.

We have $6.8 million left in the Building Fund – money from the last bond levy – but will draw that down to $1 million by the time all the planned projects are completed. This is exactly what we told the voters we would do when the levy was placed on the ballot.

Our current Permanent Improvement Levy funding is $5 million/year. This needs to be reviewed versus our projected periodic capital repair/replacement costs, and will be done as part of a Facilities study that is an element of the Vision Plan update project underway right now.

Darby Musings from a 21 year ‘Graduate’

21 years is a long time to go to high school. But that is how long I have been a part of the Hilliard Darby High School community. As of this year, I am now a graduate from both the personal and professional privilege and honor of a lifetime.

In 1996, I was asked to be a part of a small but mighty group of teachers and administrators, who would be, literally, building from the ground up the second high school in Hilliard, Ohio. We started with designated freshmen and sophomores in the “old” Hilliard High School, the “new Transition Building”, and spent the year dreaming, designing, and planning for our new Hilliard Darby High School as it was being built. Being a part of an original teaching staff opening a brand new school is an experience not to be replicated. With our students, we made decisions on our school colors, our school mascot, our school fight song, inaugural traditions, and much, much more. We were a small close-knit group, some of us brand new teachers, full of energy and optimism; some of us seasoned, with a sense of commitment and renewed hope. We all had a sense of pride and family within the community we were creating.

When Darby opened its doors in the fall of 1997, I was an intervention specialist, working with students with special needs. I had a unique position of working with my students and families for multiple years. I had the privilege of watching young, struggling children mature into self advocates who knew their strengths and weaknesses. I was with those kids at Darby as they learned hard lessons about themselves, from taking responsibility and ownership for poor choices, to tearful, hard earned, proud Darby Graduation Days. I was and am so grateful be a part of these kids’ lives everyday.

As my teaching career began to evolve into a shared school and district administrative role, the first of my own four boys became a Panther along side me. At Darby, I watched and walked beside him as he had his own share of disappointments and growing pains, finding his passions and sharing his gifts. As all teenagers do, he struggled to find that balance between security and independence. For the past fifteen years, as each Cochran boy, one after another, walked through the halls of Darby High School, I supported and honored their growth, perseverance, achievements, and autonomy. Helping with team meals, chaperoning, fundraising, practicing, tutoring, and cheering, the sense of family and Panther Pride never left me.

My four boys didn’t follow in each other’s footsteps at Darby High School. They each forged their own paths to become the men they are today. Together, we experienced class projects, homework, exams, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, baseball games, cross country meets, volleyball tournaments, high school musicals, drama programs, athletic events for which Cochran Spirit Leaders led the crowds of Panther Nation cheering for one another, and countless orchestra, band, and choir concerts.

The one true love for all four boys was one period each day at Darby, one 47-minute period for 15 years: an inclusive community of voices in Dr. Michael Martin’s class. High school turmoil, stress, drama, and anxiety were erased as harmonious voices joined their hearts and souls together under the direction of Dr. Martin. Throughout the years as I listened to those young voices raised together as one voice, they have never failed to move me. The profound depth to which these musical experiences has impacted and changed each of my boys’ lives can never be measured in time or words.

Hope for our future is walking the hallways of, not only Hilliard Darby High School, but in high schools across our nation. Kids today are kinder, more aware, more resilient, and more responsive than ever before. How grateful and honored am I to have spent nearly half my life, being an integral part of daily living and learning amongst teenagers at home and in the halls of Hilliard Darby High.

“With heart and voice we raise, Our Alma Mater true…Time will not erase our love for Hilliard Darby High.”

I am proud to continue to work in the Hilliard City School District, and I will always keep Darby in a special place in my heart.

Assistant Superintendent Leslie McNaughton to Retire

Leslie Mcnaughton

Hilliard Family,

I started my journey with the Hilliard City School District in August of 1992 as Principal of Ridgewood Elementary. I have had the privilege of serving as Assistant Superintendent since the summer of 2000. Today, it is with mixed emotions that I am announcing my retirement at the end June.

It has been my honor to work with each and every one of you. It’s been an amazing opportunity to serve our students and families through the years. Our District is in such a great place, I know that I am leaving at the perfect time.

This is an exciting time in education. We get to change lives every day. We get to design a personalized education for all students, from the littlest in preschool, to our graduating seniors. Together we are truly preparing these students to be Ready for Tomorrow.

As I reflect on my years in Hilliard, I am most proud of the people and our culture. Hilliard is truly a special place to work and live. My husband Bob and I are looking forward to moving to Texas to spend time with family and do more travelling.

I am extremely proud to also mention, that during the Board of Education meeting on March 12, Dr. Marschhausen will recommend that Mrs. Vicky Clark be named the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. Vicky has been in our District since 1994 and has served as a teacher, Special Education Coordinator, Principal, Student Support Services Director, and presently serves as the Director of Elementary Education. Please join in me in congratulating Vicky on this well-deserved appointment.


Leslie McNaughton

Keeping our Community Safe

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.