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Through the Classroom Door: January 2012
Scott McKenzie's Blog Page
Make it happen
Posted 1/31/2012 at 7:42:28 AM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]


With 30 days of 2012 under the belt, is yours getting any looser?


Many people start out a New Year with weight-loss goals in mind and I wonder if you’re tackling your target.

Why am I so curious?

Our children are facing an epidemic with a rise in childhood obesity and diabetes. I believe it is our job to help right the path by modeling healthy lifestyles.

Roughly 18 percent of children in Ohio are obese. According to new data, it’s a rate that has not changed in five years. Just as alarming, more than 30 percent of Ohio’s children are classified as overweight or obese as measured by the Department of Health’s “A Report on the Body Mass Index of Ohio’s Third Graders.”

In Groveport Madison Schools, we believe we can make a difference by leading by example.

The Board of Education asked the administrative staff to make health and wellness a priority. We have become more mindful about incorporating healthy living into what we do each day and make it a regular topic of conversation here in this blog.

Our teachers educate children about the benefits of developing good exercise and eating habits by bringing the discussion to the classroom. We encourage physical activity in our schools and seek creative opportunities to get children involved in exercise such as this Dance Day at Madison Elementary. We’ve also made changes to our school menus to ensure the selections are appealing and healthful.

Dr. Theodore Wymyslo, Ohio’s director of health, says childhood obesity can be the tip of an iceberg.

Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are more prevalent in children with the disease, and obese children are more likely to suffer from depression. Overweight children can struggle academically when compared to healthy peers and can miss up to 4 times as much school as normal weight kids.

We owe it to our youth to chart a stronger course.

Whether a New Year’s resolution to lose weight or a goal to live more healthfully, we will cheer you to victory for the well being of our own Cruisers!
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On pace to make a big mark
Posted 1/26/2012 at 7:49:20 AM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]


We are in the middle of a race that everyone in Groveport Madison Schools will win.


As part of our efforts to reduce achievement gaps, raise high school graduation rates and increase college enrollment, Groveport Madison is setting the pace to make big changes.

In fact, our entire community is going to win. The district was recently awarded almost $1 million in federal grant money and has just put in place a 10-person “transformation team” to ensure all of the commitments are met.

Groveport Madison will receive $979,268 over the course of four years in federal school aid through the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top stimulus initiative. The dollars will not alleviate our financial crisis because spending is strictly stipulated almost entirely for staff training meetings and ends after the term of the grant.

The assistance will, however, help us drive change to boost achievement in Groveport Madison. Our four-year plan will focus on curriculum and instruction, measuring student growth, and strengthening teacher and administrative performance to maintain the District’s “Excellent” status.

The U.S. Department of Education initially awarded about $400 million to schools in Ohio, though some have dropped out of Race to the Top. Our state is one of 11 along with the District of Columbia to receive money and appears to be leading the charge.

Ohio is also one of 44 states to move toward a national standard and the federal dollars will help with the implementation across the state. A major stop on the Race to the Top journey will be 2014 when assessments for the new “Common Core Curriculum” will be phased in.

Groveport Madison will look dramatically different than it does today.

Our transformation -- which can be monitored on our website -- begins with the commitment to recognize that 21st century learning and preparing students to be productive in post-secondary schooling or in the workforce is not restricted to a building, a teacher, or a community. It’s a recognition that education happens through the collaboration of stakeholders committed to providing a system of learning across a variety of settings that engages students for individual achievement in real-world applications.

Our work through the Race to the Top grant will involve partnership planning through an organized host of community, county, state and federal agencies. All will be focused on providing integrated support to parents and students by increasing our capacity to serve their needs.

It is this kind of focus and determination that will drive us and lead us to victory.
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One down, one to go!
Posted 1/23/2012 at 7:23:00 AM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]


It’s official: Second semester is underway and in full swing.


It’s hard to believe it’s here and half of the school year is over. Yet, we still have a long way to go and with the bitter cold of winter yet to come, the end of the year seems a long way off.

Even so, students at the high school, and some at the junior high and middle schools, completed midterm exams last week to mark the semester’s end. Next up: graduation tests and the Ohio Achievement Assessments for grades 3-8.

Teachers will be working diligently with students in the weeks to come to be sure they are ready for the tests that will be administered this coming spring. The OAAs and the Ohio Graduation Tests (which are offered first to students in grade 10 and must be passed for a diploma) are just one type of yardstick by which the state of Ohio measures the progress of our students.

The scores are compiled on the Local Report Card which is used to grade a district’s performance among other factors. This past year, Groveport Madison Schools earned its first-ever “Excellent” rating.

Our “A” comes from a lot of hard work. Last year, we:
  • Earned our highest ever Performance Index Score of 91.7
  • Scored an "Above" in the state’s Value Added measure (which analyzes progress over the course of a year as opposed to a test, such as the OAA, that gives a “snapshot” in time)
  • Met 13 of the 26 indicators on the Local Report Card; our best percentage ever
Our instructional staff has demonstrated significant commitment to improving teaching practices so our students can make the best academic strides possible. They’ve pushed boundaries and met challenges head on to allow their students to grow their skills and knowledge.

I am eager to celebrate similar accomplishments for the 2011-12 school year, though we have to commit to the process between now and then. The OGTs will be given the week of March 12 and the OAAs do not begin until the end of April.

Our success doesn’t happen without the support of our community and our parents. It’s through these partnerships we are able to work toward our goal of helping every child learn what they need to for success in school and life.

It is critical we stay focused, buckle down as we move through the second half of the 2011-12 school year. One down; one to go!
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The 21st century world on stage
Posted 1/17/2012 at 7:54:53 AM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]


It's called creative license and more than three dozen students at Groveport Madison High School will showcase their ideas front and center when the school’s winter play takes the stage.


In an almost entirely student-run production, they are learning first-hand the heavy lifting it takes to put on a show. The house opens for Romeo and Juliet or The Old You-Know-I-Really-Love-You-But-My-Father-Really-Hates-You Blues at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Groveport Madison High School.

Bound to be a Cruiser classic, the performance is under the direction of senior Kala Szuk who is in charge of the full cast, crew, set design, props and costumes. The show is an adaption of Shakespeare by playwright Nancy Linehan Charles.

We focus on real-life experiences in the Groveport Madison Schools and using a student-focused approach to producing a play supports our efforts of providing a well-rounded education. When we talk about creating a 21st century learning environment and its promotion of the whole child, we mean building a system that fosters academic, emotional, social and physical growth.

Engagement is one of the most critical pieces of providing a 21st century education. Creating opportunities where students are deeply involved in learning and the associated activities is important to the development of their skills.

Allowing students to take charge of the production is also beneficial because it is cross-curricular. They are challenged to apply their knowledge across a broad spectrum of academic subject areas to be successful.

For this particular production, seven students auditioned for the director’s spot. Kala was ultimately selected based on the content/quality of her proposal, selection of script, dependability, conceptual set design and use of costumes.

It should come as no surprise then, with work such as this, that research points to increases in student achievement when the arts are included in schools. Music, art, and the performing arts are the core of developing an education that encourages skills crucial to our global society: abstract thinking, critical analysis and creative problem solving.

It’s left to be seen if our cast will build a bridge between the families of their modern-day Juliet and her Romeo. Regardless, a good story is there to be told.

Groveport Madison students excel because we offer them a way to nurture their creative spirits through opportunities like our winter play. Participating the arts also helps children learn how to interact with others and share ideas in different ways.

This week’s cast and crew will take the stage hand-in-hand and shine the spotlight on their accomplishments. They certainly deserve a round of applause and will maybe earn a standing ovation.
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Healthy minds and hearts
Posted 1/12/2012 at 8:16:10 AM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]


We’ve resolved to make wellness a priority, but not just for the New Year.


The Board of Education challenged district leadership more than a year ago to make healthy living a priority in the Groveport Madison Schools. The challenge was gladly accepted and we have worked hard to ensure the changes we make have an impact.

And it is all in the numbers.
  • Roughly 18 percent of children in Ohio are obese
  • More than 30 percent of Ohio’s children are classified as overweight or obese
  • Approximately 60 percent of our students are eligible for free and reduced lunch
Our schools have engaged in exercise challenges, our staff members encourage each other to stay fit and our menu options have gotten a makeover. We have made a concerted effort to ensure the district’s food service provider offers balanced meals and healthy choices to students for breakfast and lunch.

And that comes in all shapes and sizes... from the conversations we have, the actions we make and the food we provide. From kindergarten to high school, offering a square meal is a top priority.

Connecting health back to school is in the numbers. Data show in general, the fitter a child the better the performance on tests and exams. Concentration levels and attention span also tend to be better. Children who are overweight children tend to miss school 4 times as much as normal weight kids.

And, speaking of numbers, we’ve increased whole grains in breads and decreased fats and oils. We’ve eliminated sugary beverages and only offer 1-percent or non-fat milk.

As part of the HeathierUS School Challenge, we promote dark veggies three times a week because calorie for calorie they pack the most nutrients. And, on the flip side, zero fried foods are available in our cafeterias.

Pizza? We still offer the all-time favorite, but the dough is made from whole grains. Salad and fruit bars are available in all of our schools and they always draw a crowd.

I’m proud to say many of our students even like the hummus that’s served. Not surprisingly, children adapt pretty quickly and demonstrate a flexibility to change adults should embody.

Our efforts are respectable and will make a difference. As we teach and build healthy minds, we’re also making healthy hearts.
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Fruit Bar
Posted 2/3/2012 at 1:44:36 PM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]
The specific fruit & vegetable "bars" are at the elementary schools only. I should have said fruit and salads are available. Besides providing a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for the children, the bars serve to expose the younger students to a wider variety of fresh foods than might be their experience. We have generally found that the older students tend to prefer packaged salads or limited fresh vegetables and dip that is "grab & go."
salad bars
Posted 1/18/2012 at 4:17:52 PM by [anonymous visitor]
the fruit and salad bars are not at Middle school south. why is that.
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A step in the right direction
Posted 1/9/2012 at 7:34:04 AM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]

Taking a stand sometimes means taking charge.


When it comes to bullying, that is just what we intend to do. We have a zero-tolerance policy in the Groveport Madison Schools but we want to take actions a step further.

Students who mistreat one another face serious consequence and are disciplined appropriately for violating our code of conduct. Yet, simply put, if a child spends time away from school for bullying, he or she is likely to return with the same attitude.

So, we created the L.E.A.R.N. Family Workshop to teach students and their parents about the impact of the hurtful behaviors. L.E.A.R.N. stands for leadership, empathy, awareness, respect and negotiation.

The Educational Council, a consortium of 12 Franklin County school districts, has joined us in the effort and will oversee the initiative. The Consortium’s Board, superintendents of member districts, is eager to support a program that can dramatically change how school systems respond to bullying.

Starting in February, families of referred students can attend Saturday school classes over the course of three weeks to reduce the punishment. The goal is to curb bullying by equipping the families with tools to diffuse potentially harmful situations.

We are obligated to punish those who hurt others, and I would argue there is a moral obligation to help those who are so hurtful. Bullies often cry out for help from their own pain through their actions and are not able to express their needs appropriately.

To start, the anti-bullying classes will be offered to first-time offenders on a voluntary basis. The participants will look closely at their aggressive behaviors, learn to take responsibility for their actions and build an understanding of the implications -- emotional, social and legal -- both short- and long-term.

More than eight million bullying cases were reported in the United States in 2010.

In Groveport Madison, we have spent a great deal of time addressing the issue in terms of prevention and response. We’ve hosted seminars for students and forums for families.

Bullying is not a topic we take lightly and one we will meet head on. We are deeply committed to providing safe, nurturing environments that promote student success and achievement.

We want to make a change so are willing to take a stand.
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Dear Concerned Parent
Posted 2/3/2012 at 7:28:09 AM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]
To the parent who posted a comment on Feb. 1 about a specific bullying issue, please contact my office. We would like to discuss this issue with you. Many thanks, Scott
Bullying workshop
Posted 1/9/2012 at 8:12:35 AM by [anonymous visitor]
What a great idea! Do you happen to know what curriculum they are using? What grades of students may participate? Thanks! Tori Vazquez
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Walking in a winter wonderland
Posted 1/6/2012 at 7:59:55 AM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]


With colder temperatures locking hold, Metro Parks has found reason to celebrate.


The 39th season of “Winter Hikes” kicks off this weekend with a 10 a.m. Saturday walk through Blacklick Woods. Participants can choose between a 2- or 4-mile journey.

The hike offers a great way to take charge of cabin fever with an energizing breath of fresh air. Even better, it gives those with health-related New Year’s resolutions an alternative to exercising at home or going to potentially crowded gyms or fitness classes.  

Metro Parks will host 13 Winter Hikes over the course of the next eight weekends at locations throughout the county. The guided and self-guided walks vary in length from 1 to 7 miles and refreshments are provided after every hike. Those who complete seven or more hikes will be rewarded with a special decorative patch.

Walking is a great way to stay fit and active because it is a low-impact aerobic activity and children can tag along. In fact, brisk walking can produce the same benefits of more strenuous activity and can serve as a springboard to higher-level fitness regimens for those eager to build intensity.

Similar to the Walk with a Superintendent initiative I have hosted in the past at Cruiser Stadium, the Winter Hikes provide a wonderful opportunity for meeting new people and building relationships. Plus, group exercise is a fantastic accountability system for those who need a little nudge to stick to an exercise routine.

No matter the activity, exercise is key to overall health and a hot topic in the Groveport Madison Schools. The Board of Education has encouraged district leadership and staff to talk with students and parents about the benefits of physical fitness.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States and we want to do our part to equip our students with the knowledge and tools to be successful in all walks of life. It’s to that end, we want them to develop a deep understanding of just how exercise can prevent depression, curb weight gain, serve as an antidote to diabetes and increase achievement in the classroom.

The Board’s charge is precisely why I started our Walk with the Superintendent. It’s also the reason so many of our schools have engaged in exercise challenges or created special clubs and programs.

However, if walking is not up your alley, the Metro Parks offer far more active pursuits such as sledding, ice skating or cross-country skiing for those ready to celebrate winter with their family ... and child at heart.
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Off with a bang!
Posted 1/3/2012 at 7:29:24 AM by Scott McKenzie [staff member]
A new year brings a freshened spirit, and we are eager to push ahead in the Groveport Madison Schools.

We started out of the gate strong as the school year got under way when the state announced our district was rated as excellent based on our performance on the Local Report Card. With the second half of the year squarely upon us, we look forward to a similar finish.

Yet, there is much work to be done, so we will focus our efforts on the following areas:

Student Success
Most of the assessments upon which the district is measured are given in the spring. Faculty and staff will work diligently with students in the weeks to come to ensure they are fully prepared. The tests are just one measure of student success but they provide significant insight into how we deliver education. The results enable us to develop courses of study, instructional practices and intervention models that best meet the diverse needs of our diverse body of students. We are committed to helping every child learn the skills essential for success in school and life.

Communication

Open communication is critical to our success. We pledge to continue an open dialogue with our parents and community through a number ways. We will hold forums, host meetings, conduct surveys, share building and district newsletters, work with local media and post information on our website to keep you informed about what’s happening in our district. We will also send important announcements home with students and I will continue my blog here.

Research points to the positive relationship between student achievement and an informed community. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts, questions and concerns with us.

Facilities
The school district has recently embarked on an energy-saving project through House Bill 264. Under the guidelines, Groveport Madison is permitted to use savings from utility bills and the reduction in maintenance costs to acquire bonds authorized by the state of Ohio to purchase new energy-saving equipment.

We have begun the work to replace or repair old heating and air-conditioning equipment, install air-conditioning systems in three buildings that have none, and make other improvements that are designed to pay for themselves in energy savings over a 15-year timespan.

Other energy-saving measures include new lighting motion detectors in each building, automatic flush systems in most of the school system's restrooms, and new lighting in the high school cafeteria and the gymnasiums in Asbury, Dunloe, Sedalia and Glendening elementary schools.

Lighting improvements will also be made to the high school auditorium and football field. The school district also anticipates a potential $150,000 rebate from AEP as a result of the implementation of the savings from lighting energy. Work on these measures began in December with the majority of the work expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

Fiscal Accountability
The failure of last November's levy places the district in a financially challenging situation. The district must now look at implementing major cost-saving measures in order to maintain a balanced budget for the 2012-13 school year. Soon, the board will discuss some of the different scenarios that might save our district the funds to make up the needed shortfall, but the challenge will be to find a solution that least impacts our ability to move the district forward educationally.

It’s been a busy year with much more to come. My thanks to you for your continued support as we forge ahead.
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