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Trotwood schools acknowledge takeover fear

Dayton Daily News - 8/26/2018

Aug. 26--Trotwood-Madison leaders acknowledged there is fear in the community over possible state takeover of schools in the coming weeks, but the district is plowing forward with its strategic planning process, including open community meetings Tuesday.

District leaders hope the state report card to be released around Sept. 13 is good enough to avoid takeover, but they acknowledged Friday they have heard nothing about their scores from the Ohio Department of Education in recent weeks.

Preliminary test results received this summer, while better than the previous year, may not be enough to get them over the hump. But the critical student growth calculation is virtually impossible to forecast before the report card is released.

Trotwood has built a detailed draft of its long-term strategic plan, and interim superintendent Tyrone Olverson acknowledged that this planning also positions him better to be named CEO in case the state does take over. That would allow the district to continue the aggressive strategies of the past four months since Olverson was hired, rather than starting from scratch.

Olverson has experience with the state takeover process, having come to Trotwood from Youngstown schools, where he was the chief academic officer working with that district's Academic Distress Commission.

"This is a part of letting me become CEO. We'll have a new plan in place, and that's what the CEO is doing (in a state takeover)," Olverson said. "It's almost like the school board turned this around themselves."

Trotwood schools have been a whirlwind of activity since Olverson's first day April 23, just as Trotwood students were wrapping up state testing. The previous year, the district ranked last in Ohio in performance index on state tests. Trotwood has not hidden from that No. 608 ranking, making their motto "From 608 to Great."

School board President Denise Moore on Friday ran through a laundry list of changes, from 91 new staff including social workers and mental health therapists, to updated libraries, new textbooks and $100,000 worth of training for teachers and staff.

"There is plenty of room for improvement, and we are confident that the systems and staff that we have put in place will significantly raise student achievement," said Moore, who called herself the district's "head cheerleader." We WILL go from 608 to great."

This month, the school board held a two-day retreat with school staff and community leaders to establish goals tied to the new strategic plan. The goals include building a continuous improvement framework, responsiveness to all students, and family engagement, plus providing high-quality staff, academic and other supports for students, and sustainable financial and operations departments.

On Tuesday, the public is invited to attend one-hour stakeholder meetings at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the school board office, 3594 Snyder Road, to discuss the district's vision. Similar meetings will be held for students and school staff at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the high school.

The draft version of the strategic plan is available on the district's website, along with a survey asking residents for changes they'd like to see.

Trotwood-Madison High School senior Natasha Tobler said Friday that teacher involvement has improved in the last year, as some teachers who "weren't really putting forth effort" are no longer there. Fellow senior leader Aliyah Holloway said administrators are checking up on classroom quality, and the hallways have less student "chaos."

They said students do talk about the takeover threat, with Holloway saying she hopes the schools don't have to start over again after the current staff has made good changes. Tobler said some people's image of Trotwood schools as "chaotic and undisciplined" is not accurate. Holloway said the problems are student issues more than school staff problems.

"Something needs to be done to get to the kids who don't care about the tests or don't take the tests seriously. It's not about the teachers or the curriculum, it's about the students wanting to apply themselves and ... look at their futures, because some kids don't care," she said.

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(c)2018 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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