Pickerington Schools looks to the future
Pickerington Local Schools are taking technology by storm.
The second annual State of the District, which was held at the Performing Arts Center at Pickerington North High School March 22, focused on the future of school district and how technology will play a vital role.
"Companies plan for the future, and so do school districts," Pickerington Local School District Superintendent Karen Mantia said.
The district's focus is on the future and what the district can do to help prepare its students for the 21st Century, she said. This includes a recent purchase of 68 acres of property adjacent to Central High School made by the district.
"If you're looking to the future, timing is everything, especially when the opportunity presents itself," Mantia said.
The property was purchased from permanent improvements funds that are spent only for capital expenditures.
The district also has accepted Ohio Schools Facilities Commission funds that have now arrived, as well as community matching funds to make much needed improvements in five of the oldest school buildings in the district, Central High School, Ridgeview Junior High, Fairfield, Pickerington and Violet Elementaries. The facilities will be renovated and equipped with new security, roofing, plumbing, windows and all the critical upgrades necessary to keep the structures in excellent shape.
"I am happy to say that we will start renovation first at Ridgeview and Central next school year and over the next several years the remaining buildings will be renovated as well," Mantia said.
New buildings were built and opened this current school year to help ease an overcrowding issue, allowing all students to be "inside of a classroom inside of buildings," Mantia said.
"We're a large and growing school district," she said. "That fact alone brings certain challenges."
With district funding from the state decreasing by $2 million under the new formula, district officials are trying to do more with less as the new way of life for businesses and schools.
"Here in Pickerington, we're seriously committed to providing quality education for the students," Mantia said. "We are committed to ensuring that they will compete. On top of that, we're just as committed to being careful stewards of hard-earned tax dollars that locally funds your child's education."
The district has reduced the budget by nearly $4 million in the last several years, but even with all the savings created, it's not enough to cover the expected gap by 2012.
"At some point soon, we're going to have to talk about this," Mantia said.
Some of the future plans must include unfunded mandates coming from both the state and federal levels, including all-day Kindergarten to start by the 2011-2012 school year. In the next few years, the Ohio 10th Grade Graduation Tests are going to be replaced with an end of course exam in core subjects in high school, as well as nationally standardized tests for all students.
"Every school district has its own DNA and school districts' needs are not the same," Mantia said. "Not every mandate, funded or unfunded fits every district. If districts are asked to do more with less, then more unfunded mandates cannot continue to drive the bottom line."
The district goals are to remain competitive and allow for changes in technology to assist them in changes rather than challenge them.
"I think we will (remain competitive), providing that we understand rigor and relevance as early in our education process as we possibly can," Mantia said. "Innovators in the 21st Century will be the trail blazers."
The district is not moving away from reading, writing, arithmetic, recall, memorization and matching - but enhancing them with what Partnership for 21st Century Skills President Ken Kay calls the four C's. Those include Critical thinking and problem solving, Communications, Collaboration and Creative & Critical Thinking.
"The reality is the world is changing," Kay said via Skype from Tucson, Ariz. "We live in a global innovation economy. The three R's as we know them are not enough for students to be ready for the 21st Century."
P-21 is a national organization that pushes for 21st century readiness for students providing tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up with a global economy that is changing constantly.
Kay will visit Pickerington on April 27 in an open forum to discuss which skills are most important to the Pickerington community.
Instructional coaches and teachers are working together to enhance the education Pickerington students already are receiving.
"Coaches help teachers plan for effective lessons," Instructional coach Andrea Baldwin said. "A large part of education in the 21st Century is technology."
Science teacher Doug Forrest admitted to not always being a fan of technology, but learning to not feel threatened by it and using it to help his students in the classroom.
"If I don't keep up, my students are going to leave me in the dust," he said as he demonstrated a smart pen purchased by the Pickerington Education Foundation, a community-based organization that helps fund training and special innovations that teachers can implement in the classroom.
As the 17th largest school district in Ohio, Pickerington is taking the charge for improving student's technology base.
"What we learn here in Pickerington," Mantia said, "we want to share with all the county."