Typically, change in a school district is like turning an aircraft carrier, it is slow, strategic, and calculated. However, I compare the work you did this year and the changes we had made, like turning a ski boat. It was fast, it was precise, it caused wakes in the water, but it eventually found its way back on its path.
As this year comes to a close, we need to take time to reflect on where the year started and where we are right now. Think about the last year and what has happened! We close on March 6th, we cancel all spring instruction, activities, prom, graduation, etc. It was the lost quarter that we will never get back, especially those seniors. But we rebounded, we responded, and while not normal, we did get to have most of those celebrations we were missing. Without each of you, this journey could have been more difficult.
This letter first appeared in the Spring 2021 Discoveries!
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However, the work is not completed. In November, we broke ground for the new Kramer Early Childhood Center on the site of the old Middle School and Kramer Building. We continue to work on this project, and not for the lack of materials, we could be moving faster. With the limits on materials like steel and lumber, it will push our project back approximately another six months. But we will get there. We are managing the project as a district. This project is being led by Leonard Kwapnioski and Mike Grutsch, who both have many years of experience in the construction field, and we are in good hands.
We continued the conversation with Proficiency Reporting. We have been in committees and meetings galore in shifting to answer the following four questions: What is it we want students to know and be able to do? (Learning Goals). How will we know they have learned the material? (Common Assessments). What will we do if they have not? (MTSS). What will we do if they have? (Honors, AP, etc.) Proficiency Reporting is a more accurate measure of what we want students to know and be able to do.
Our first step is to remove student behavior both positive and negative out of academic achievement. A true measure of student achievement is taking out the raising or lowering of grades due to behavioral issues. Those behavioral issues are being vetted by teachers and administrators from all levels. Our first step is to separate behaviors from academic achievement this upcoming school year. That’s it, academic reporting will begin 2022-2023.
We know challenges still lie ahead of us. Nothing is a given each and every day. But we are better prepared. We created our return to school plan and have relied on it for the past 10 months. We will be better prepared if this continues or something else happens. That is why we are committed to doing everything we can to start the next school year like a normal fall opening.
I hope and pray that we are not wearing masks, we don’t miss any school, we reduce the number of staff and student absences and quarantines. We will all need to do our part. We will be starting to make masks optional for all summer activities, except summer school in class instruction. We will continue to monitor our community, health district, and state numbers to make the best decisions we can when the fall semester comes around.
We have all made the sacrifices to ensure the health, safety, and educational experiences for each other, our families and your students. As Superintendent of Columbus Public Schools, I have never been more proud of our organization than I have this year. You have kept students and their academics and activities at the forefront of everything you have done. You have been community leaders, and in my opinion, have done the impossible. We have had school every day we could. When you look at the east and west coast, I believe had they followed our lead, they too may have been able to have students in person. Many districts still have not had students in their schools.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Columbus Public Schools Board of Education and their commitment to the health and safety of all of us. They make difficult decisions on the best data we can provide. They continue to maintain their focus on student learning and providing the necessary things needed to provide a high quality education for the students in our community. I hope all of you are able to get away this summer to your happy place and get the rest you all deserve.
However, the work will never be done and when the fall comes around, you will answer the bell for the next round because of your commitment to the youth in our community.
Please, please have a slow paced, relaxing, and memory filled summer.