COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Education released the preliminary state report cards for the 650-plus Ohio School systems with Southern Local receiving an “Effective” rating. Southern hit 12 of 15 indicators at the elementary level, and 9 of 11 at Southern High School. As a district the Southern Local School District was 21 of 26.
Southern Local Superintendent Tony Deem said, “We are excited about hitting 21 of 26 indicators and being rated “Effective”. We just narrowly missed a couple other indicators and missed one because of a reporting error. Still, we are celebrating this success of our students with great enthusiasm. It’s a sign our students are learning, our teachers are teaching well, and we as an organization are doing the right things. “
“Sure,” Deem added, “We would like to be perfect. But putting things in perspective, we are still a quality school system and we were among the top schools in our region. Comparatively speaking we were ‘Excellent’ last year—it’s the difference between an A-plus and an A; And we will take the A.”
“My expectations were higher,” noted Deem, “But we are continuing a record of success. This is a tremendous tribute to our community, to our parents, our students, and to our school system.”
The superintendent noted that Southern’s performance index dropped slightly because of the “Value Added Component”. He explained, “We’ve maxed out the Value Added piece mainly because we have worked hard for the past five years to achieve student-growth across the testing spans. In many cases over the past few years our teachers achieved more than a year’s academic growth in our students and now many students are ahead of where they should be.
“In other words most of our kids have caught up and are on target. Ultimately, that is what we want.”
Reflected Administrative Assistant, Scott Wolfe, “This means the Value Added piece isn’t as helpful as it once was. When we were behind somewhat (having students below proficient), the growth component was a real boost to the state score. When our students grew, our scores grew. The only way we can move up now is to hit all of the indicators. And that’s our goal.”
Southern missed one indicator by less than five points, and two others by less than eight points at the elementary level. Kent Wolfe is the Elementary Principal and Daniel Otto the high school principal. Both goal-oriented administrators were pleased with the results, but expressed the desire to be 26-26 for the spring 2013 testing.
The administration wishes to express their appreciation for the great job the staff continues to do.
Likewise, students ‘making the grade’ or showing significant improvement over last year’s scores were rewarded with various incentive trips to Kings Island, Party in the Park, Camden Park, Columbus Zoo and Zoombezi Bay, and a trip to a Cincinnati Reds game. Class trips were dependent on grade level. All students proficient or above earned a Meigs County Fair Pass. Tested grades are grades 3 through 12. The funding for these trips came graciously from the Southern PTO organization.
The new version of the state report card was to roll out this fall, but was delayed until next school year. The standards for which schools are evaluated will be tougher, and as a report issued last spring indicated, most schools will drop in ranking according to the more stringent guidelines.
Deem noted that Southern is working toward maintaining an effective rating, noting that the school principals and curriculum director Tricia McNickle have been working hard to implement the new state standards.
“We are well ahead of the game at the implementation stage compared to some schools that are just now starting to roll out the new curriculum. We are also ahead of the game in achieving our goals in “Race to the Top”,” said Deem.
In addition to the many other positive things going on at Southern, the district utilizes a Math Coach (McNickle), Literacy Coach (Meg Guinther), and maintains a full-time parent-resource center operated by Title Secretary and Parent-Coordinator Vicki Northup.
Next year Southern is slated to move into its new High School addition, another exciting development in the community. The state-of-the art building will house grades 9-12 and become part of a more centralized Southern Local Campus all under one roof.
Construction work is “on target” according to Deem, who indicates that the school is slated to be open for the 2013-2014 school year.
“We have a lot of exciting things going on here at Southern. Our board has been supportive of our efforts—it’s truly been a team effort from one end of the spectrum to the other.”
The Southern Board has purchased Electronic Apple iPads with Educational Apps in lieu of buying workbooks grades K-2. Teachers have been training to best utilize these tools in the classroom.
“The kids love them!” noted Kent Wolfe. “This is going to be a great motivational tool and learning experience.”
Otto noted, “We already have two I-pad labs at the high school. They get a lot of use and are a valuable teaching tool.”
Plans are in place to have iPads in all classes over the next five years. The board is also continuing the after-school program and in-school intervention program that helped get Southern to “Excellent” status the past couple years. That comes on the heels of disappearing ARRA Money, ED Gov. monies, and no more 21st Century Grant money at the elementary.
“Two pots of money are no longer available and part of the 21st Century grant rubric is based on how well your school performed. It appears perhaps we did too well in this case,” concluded Wolfe. “Fortunately, our board has seen that our afterschool program is a necessary program, and I praise them for the support they have provided our students.”
“Also, we are still looking for sponsors to get the program operating at the level it once was. We would like to reach a few more kids if we can.”
Brenna Call was recently hired to run the afterschool program, and already has completed the year-end data for last year’s grants.
Deem concluded, “We have had tough times in the past and worked through them; and we will have some more road bumps along the way, I’m sure. But right now we have some very positive things to celebrate. We as a district want to recognize everyone for the positive things they do every day and build upon our success.”