Open Forum: Superintendent shares State of Schools

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As we prepare to close out another year and move into 2009, we likely will hear the governor and the president speak about the state of the state and the nation, respectively.  I’d like to address the “state of London City Schools,” from my perspective.

Given the number of new homes built in the past five years, it is a surprise to most residents to learn that district enrollment has remained stable. It has been approximately 2,100 students for a long time. Meanwhile, the physical plant has changed and will change again within the next couple years.

London Elementary School, one of the largest elementaries in Ohio, is now 5 years old. It houses pre-kindergarten through fifth grade with just over 1,000 students. London High School (LHS) has the 1981 original building and the 2003 addition. There are approximately 600 students enrolled at LHS, with 58 attending Tolles Career & Technical Center. The remaining students are at London Middle School in grades six through eight. If all goes as planned, we will have a new middle school across from the high school on State Route 38 within the next two years.

The location of this new school is possible because of the collaboration between the City of London and the school district. We are finalizing the details of an agreement to exchange the district land in town for the city’s land on State Route 38, a good move for both parties. The new school will be completely funded by the Ohio School Facilities Commission. The construction of the school and required renovations at the high school should begin in the summer of 2009.

At the same time, we are doing more with less, particularly at the administrative level. Many may not know that two years ago the district cut the assistant superintendent position, the head custodian/boiler engineer position, head of maintenance/transportation, and a principal position. At the same time, we asked for a staffing analysis from the Ohio Department of Education. Their conclusion is that the district has 13 fewer employees than comparable districts. We are doing more with less. 

How are we doing more? The “No Child Left Behind” Act and subsequent state laws require much more of school districts and individual schools. Just a few years ago, districts created their own curricula, based on research, community expectations and their students’ needs. When the state proficiency tests came along in the 90’s, we tested students in the fourth, sixth, ninth and 12th grades, but those tests were based on unknown state expectations.

Now, students are taking mandatory tests in grades three through 10. Those tests are assessing students’ achievement related to the state standards. There is also mandatory intervention for every student that does not pass those tests. All students are to be tested and are expected to pass the tests.

The district is not concerned with this additional accountability. In fact, we are embracing it and challenging ourselves to improve the learning of every child. This has proven to be a difficult challenge, particularly at the elementary level, because for the past three years the majority of our kindergarten students are entering school without what are generally accepted as “readiness” skills.

The faculty is working hard to align their instruction and assessments with the state standards while meeting the educational needs of every student. We have a state grant that provides assistance, guidance and funds for this work. All of our professional development time is dedicated to these goals. As our test results indicate, we are beginning to see progress because we have quality teachers who care about children and know how to adapt when the environment changes.

Thanks to the residents and businesses in the London City School District and our very dedicated staff, the district is one we continue to point to with pride. Working together to address our challenges, we will be able to continue to improve.

D. Steven Allen
Superintendent, London City Schools

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