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Superintendent Message 3-21-17

Testing. Testing. Testing.

It seems like all we do is testing. Why are we testing so much? Simply stated, we test students to determine if they are learning what is being taught to them. Some of the testing is required by law whether from the Federal Government or the State and we often refer to these tests as “High Stakes Tests.” We also test along the way to determine how well we are preparing our students for the required high stakes tests. Testing has been a hot button topic for several years and one that should be carefully watched by all families and educators alike. As your superintendent I have the privilege of representing the USV community at regional and state meetings to learn and discuss our concerns over testing too much. I sit on the Buckeye Association of School Administrators – Committee of Higher Education; the Northwest/West Central Ohio Public School Advocacy Network (which is comprised of 50 superintendents from 12 Northwest Ohio counties); and the Northwest Ohio Association of School Administrators. Recently we have met to express our concerns regarding state requirements and the new federal ESSA plan (Every Student Succeeds Act) and recommendations to members of the State Board of Education and Senator Hite.

This year, USV decided to utilize the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, and to implement Compass Learning, an on-line computer tutoring program as a way to close gaps with our students. The MAP tests students in Reading, Mathematics, and Language Usage. All of the questions are aligned to the Ohio Learning Standards, and are ability based. When a child takes the assessment, it will raise or lower the difficulty of the questions based upon if the child answered correctly. Once we finish testing, the data is fed seamlessly into Compass Learning, which creates a personalized learning portfolio for each child. When the student logs into Compass, the work that is assigned to them is based upon their scores from the MAP assessment. Students are able to work in Reading/Language and also in Mathematics. As the students move within the activities in Compass, they are being quizzed over the material. The data from Compass is readily available to teachers and staff.

As USV completed our Winter testing of MAP in January, we were able to run the data to determine if the use of Compass is effective. The study shows that the students who worked through their personalized growth portfolio between the Fall and Winter testing session grew, on average, between 8-12 RIT points in the Reading! The same children grew between 11-16 RIT points in Mathematics! This is huge growth for our students! More importantly, the students are understanding concepts and closing gaps in their learning-which is the aim of this program. If you have a child in grades K-8, please encourage your student to work on their Compass folders! We are so proud of the growth we are seeing from our students!

Thank you,

Mike Kis

Superintendent Message 11/15/2016

 The board of education, administration, and staff take their jobs seriously. We’ve had a great start to the school year, and we need to share the results of our efforts to date.

We are sharing information you won’t see released by the State Department of Education. What you see in the attached articles, are the results of USV’s efforts to make us a school we can all be proud of.

The First link is USV’s November 14 presentation at the state conference of school board members, the OSBA’s Capital Conference. The other link is a case study being conducted by Pearson Testing and the College Board, featuring USV’s attempt at improving the mathematics proficiency of our students as we prepare them for college or a successful career.

We’ve provided presentation for Northwest Ohio Superintendents group and the National Rural Schools Conference held in Columbus on initiatives we’ve proposed that provide a better picture of what learning is taking place at USV.

Case Study by Pearson Testing and the College Board

OSBA’s 2016 Capital Conference Presentation
From the Desk of the Superintendent - 8/8/2016

Welcome back to the 2016-2017 school year. Upper Scioto Valley has made great effort over the past four years, since I’ve been privileged to serve as superintendent, to provide the best education and to create more opportunities for success for our students.

Schools are placed under scrutiny and need to be accountable to their constituents. In return, the school needs the support of parents and community to continue improving us an institution and as a safe, nurturing environment.

We’ve provided an extended school year this summer for 52 of our students, to help them reinforce their learning and to prevent what is referred to as “summer loss”. This is when some of what was learned the past and forgotten is spent reviewing at the beginning of the school year. This now allows the teacher and students the ability to gain more academic achievement, since review time should be at a minimum.

We’re also replacing the roof, which we’ve needed to do, and this will keep us “dry” while also providing additional insulation, reducing energy costs.

We’ve been beneficiaries of a 21st Century Grant, Straight A Grants, and a Martha Holden Jennings Foundation grant, to provide broadened student exposure for careers, schooling, and social opportunities. What is most exciting is that these grants are awarded to schools, based on the possibilities of achieving excellence, and are highly competitive. Less than 10% of applicants achieve these, and USV, by promoting excellence through these creative opportunities, now has created greater chances of success for our youngsters.

Along with all of this, with the continued efforts of our teachers and support staff, I believe we will have a productive school year.

We return our administrative team of treasurer, Ms. Gratz, MS/HS principal Mr. Hurley, and elementary Mr. Schneider, along with Ms. Hopton in curriculum through the ESC, Mr. Snow with custodial and maintenance, Ms. Lasure in Transportation, and Mrs. Daring as Cafeteria supervisor and food service director. Mrs. Moots will again be our full time EMIS coordinator, and Kalee Shepherd will assist Mrs. Gratz on a part time basis. Jane Shepherd is the superintendent’s administrative assistant, and we are transitioning Mr. Mike Kis (pronounced Kish) from associate superintendent, to superintendent, effective February 1, 2017 at which time I’ll be retiring. This is Mr. Kis’s first superintendency and he is eager to learn and will be a welcome addition to USV.

Again welcome to the 2016-17 school year and I look forward to USV continuing our role as an educational leader.

Superintendent Message 2/11/2016

USV Community,

Upper Scioto Valley receives federal funds to support student learning and to improve academic opportunities and academic success for our children.

This past fiscal year, we spent these federal funds, called Title Funds, on the following:

IDEA-B (516) – Special Education

IDEA (587) - Early Childhood Special Education

These funds are spent on our behalf by the Midwest Regional Educational Service Center as part of a consortium to serve Upper Scioto Valley and other local district students.

As our administration and staff plan for next year’s use of these funds, if you have any ideas regarding their use, please contact elementary principal Mr. Schneider, 7-12 principal Mr. Hurley, or myself to give us your opinion. We will also have public input at our Monday, February 22, 2016 Board of Education Meeting.

Dennis Recker

From the Desk of the Superintendent - 10/27/2015

Technology Coordinator Drew Snow has informed me that we currently have 280 families enrolled in DRUND, which provides family members a view of what individual classes are engaged in during the school day. This is twice the number of last year’s membership.

The purpose of DRUND is to create a closer working relationship between families and the classroom teacher in a positive manner. This will then lead to higher performance levels on the part of individual students, classrooms, and the entire district.

USV has made significant improvements, thanks to students, teachers, and families supporting our efforts of developing great students. To any family members not enrolled in the DRUND community, please consider doing so. The more we can get everyone engaged in improving student performance in a positive way, the better the educational experience will be.

From the Desk of the Superintendent

Welcome to the 2015-16 school year.  We look forward to an exciting year of learning, and to continue the trajectory of higher student performance in our academics and extra-curricular endeavors.

USV schools, thanks to the performance of our students, the instruction of our teachers, and the academic leadership of our local and Educational Service Center administrative team, have really gained the attention of others regarding our rising status.

While we are proud of our successes over the past three years, we cannot “rest on our laurels”, but have to do even more to make sure our children meet the legislative goal of “career/college ready”.

Thank you for your support, in terms of financial support and in supporting our mission of creating “successful, respectful, and responsible citizens”, for all our students.

From the Desk of the Superintendent

USV students, Staff, and Community,

We are completing our first round of PARCC testing, and all of you are to be congratulated on your tenacity and effort to show the state of Ohio that we are a school district that takes pride in our academic improvement as students, as teachers, as a school district, and as a local community.

Beginning today, Monday March 16th we begin another round of testing with the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, which is the most “telling” of all our examinations. This is because we will see how much we have “grown” academically over the past school year as individuals and as a district. None of the other tests can give us this information, and that is why the Iowa tests are so important.

Again, thank you for your hard work in the past, and for your continued strong effort. Even with all our cancelations and delays, let’s show our strength as a school district, and that our huge gains the past two years are typical for a school that has “RAM PRIDE”.

Dennis L. Recker

From the Desk of the Superintendent
9/16/14

Board of Education, Staff, and USV Community,

The state report cards were released for Ohio’s schools regarding the 2013-14 school year. As we look into the performance of our children, we need to acknowledge our improvements, yet also take the required actions to improve ourselves even more.

If we create a GPA, or grade point average for Hardin County Schools, giving an equal value to each of the grade card components, we would receive a 2.44, the second highest “GPA” in the county. This is an improvement from last year’s 2.38. What makes this more of a “positive” is that Ohio required a 5% increase in student performance indicator to achieve proficiency, so nearly every school saw their “GPA” decrease, except USV.

One statistic that the state department has been stressing is the “value added” component, which attempts to show the academic growth of children from one year to the next. At USV, we emphasize the use of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills since it allows parents to see how their children grow in terms of years and months. Thankfully we see the positive correlation between the Iowa tests and Value-added.

To give an honest appraisal of how students have grown, the best performance in Hardin County in 2011-2012 was Ada, ranking 177 of 671 school districts. USV ranked 590. Over the past two years, Ada improved 11 positions (bypassing 11 other district), to 166 of 671 this past year, USV improved 278 positions (bypassing 278 other districts), to move to 312 of 671 schools.

We’ve made great strides but we have much more to do. We received a 21st Century grant, but we must focus on getting our children career and college ready, which is an area we must improve upon immediately. While we’ve made these tremendous gains overall, unless we prepare our children for the world that awaits them, we’ve not served them or our community well.

Dennis L. Recker

From the Desk of the Superintendent
2/20/2014


Thank you to the USV residents who were able to sign a petition to Governor Kasich, Senator Hite, Representative Sprague, and the Ohio Budget Commission, seeking 1.75 million dollars to replace our roof. Our elected representatives submitted our request as one of their priorities for funding, so the outcome now rests with the governor and the full legislature.

We’ve provided short term fixes to eliminate the roof leaks, but due to the improper installation, we face the reality of ongoing expenses of repair until we can fully replace the roof. We asked for help twice at the ballot box, and in hind sight, the amount of money we were asking for was not near enough to address the true financial cost of a long term solution. I hope our community request will help the legislature and governor see the need we have as something they will fund. We can only wait and see if they will fund this for us.

We have used twelve calamity days so far this school year, and need to make-up any days used in excess of five. Therefore, Friday, February 14th and Monday, February 17th were our make-up dates. Thank you for your understanding as we try to make-up a lost week of teaching and learning due to the weather. Any future makeup days will be March 27 and then added on to the end of the school calendar, at this point in time, along with our use of blizzard bags. Thank you for relaying how these blizzard bags are working. Our staff needs to know if they are effective.

As you stop in to visit during the school day, you will notice you have to “buzz in” and you have a camera trained on you. This is from the money we received in a state school safety grant we applied for and received to improve school security. We will be upgrading our electronic surveillance with the remaining grant dollars, along with some local dollars.

As we finally move into spring (if we ever get there), please support your children and their teachers, since they will all be tested. The children will be tested as to their levels of academic competency, and their teachers, administrators and the school are also graded on how well the children perform. We have lost nearly three weeks of instruction and learning, when you count missed days and delays and that is unfortunate.

We have seen significant academic improvements this past year because we were able to provide the needed support for our students re-aligning our administrative and curricular roles and having more time to work on how we teach to help students succeed. The result has been some of the greatest academic gains district wide we’ve experienced. We need to continue our improvement.

In a separate article, you’ll see the great job our graduates of 2013 have done in their first semester of their college and university experience. They had an aggregate grade point average just over B level, 3.01, which speaks well of their performance and their level of preparedness. We will need to have more of our students prepared for a future of success as collegians, and as highly skilled employees.

If you were able to be a spectator at our winter events, you were able to see athletic excellence and hear a pep band that has grown in numbers and improving daily. What we need to remember, though, is these are extensions of our academic programs. Our 25 high school boys basketball team members had 22 on the honor roll, which is 88% of the athletes, and our girls had 17 of the 19 team members on the honor roll, which is 89.5% of the athletes.

Again, the community should be proud of the school’s improvements, and thank you for your support.

Respectfully,

Dennis L. Recker

From the Desk of the Superintendent
11/19/2013

As we move to the holiday season, we should reflect on the meaning of the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and how we use these moments to not just as a reason for celebration, but as a reminder of our duty to those who we are obligated to serve.  In the past 20 months, as I’ve been honored to serve USV, the following has been accomplished to benefit the children and our community.

Realize that in the past 20 months, the following has been accomplished:

            1. A 3.1 mil renewal levy.  When you see that no additional money for school operation has been voted by our tax payers in 18 years, and your last renewal prior to the 3.1 mil issue failed, and had to be re-submitted at a lower level, this was a great “win” for the school district.

            2. We completed two negotiated agreements with a zero base increase in 2013-2014 school year, and a 1% increase in 2014-2015 school year to offset employee retirement contributions to stabilize our financial situation, which was a true team effort on the part of Treasurer Gratz, Board Members Barry Campbell, Nancy Osborn, David Holbrook, Board Attorney Lisa Burleson, and the unions’ leadership. The end result will be an additional 1.3 million dollars we can add to our reserves, after we were “on the ropes” just over 20 months ago, with less than seven days cash revenue.

            3. We moved from a junior high school on “alert” status, the second lowest performance possible, to a high school award of School of Promise, the highest level possible, and moved from the lowest Hardin County academic performer to the second highest.

            4. We experienced a 1 year 7 month level of student academic growth in grades 3-8 on the national Form A Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.

            5. We conducted individual performance evaluations of every classified and certified staff member, which had not been done before, with the purpose of improving our individual and collective performance.

            6. We re-aligned staff direct reporting protocol, to eliminate any spector of nepotism.

            7. We established curriculum support internally, with a curriculum coordinator and District Leadership Team (DLT) chair.

            8. We re-configured our administrative structure by recapturing ESC expenditures, so as to not increase administrative costs.

            9. We will have our roof temporarily secure by Thanksgiving to prevent leaks and to prevent any scarier health hazards, i.e. mold.

            10.  We improved student/staff safety with security upgrades of camera additions and buzzer entry.  We need to do more in this area yet.

            11.  We are seeking closure (on our part) of the Wind Energy Academy, to remove any potential financial liability on our part.

            12. We had two lawsuits dismissed and/or settled, which were “hanging” over us.

            13. We exhibited community leadership in producing favorable energy exploration leasing arrangements for our area farmers, as well as ourselves.

            14. We have been asked to participate as a presenter for the College Board in an upcoming February state conference on the topic of career/college level preparedness, which now begins to showcase USV as an “up and coming” academic institution.

            15. We achieved the highest overall state school grade card Performance Index in the school’s history. 

 This shows just a few more than the 2-3 initiatives that would normally be the goal for a school district’s “work year”.  Also, thanks to all our students and staff, we were successful (understatement) in nearly everything we attempted to accomplish.

I think that, after introspection, that is why I was distraught after our small 1.8 mill levy request failed.  I guess 20 months of improved and high performance wasn’t enough to affect the past 18 years of “no” voting overnight.  It also makes me wonder why we haven’t yet “turned the corner” with what I had hoped to be over-whelming community support at the polls.

Upper Scioto Valley has made great strides.  The community has been open with me when    clarification of a decision has been needed. The community has supported the board of education and that speaks volumes to the concept of integrity.

However, going forward, we need to be aware the following:

            1) How to continue our improvement and the need for quality instruction and to maintain the administrative oversight and support which has been instrumental in getting us to this point.

            2) How do we eliminate our current debts of early retirement incentive costs (plus interest), field house debt, and the Alger facility costs?

            3) How do we prepare for continuous roof repair this next 5 years and major replacement costs, possibly within 5-7 years?

            4) How do we repair the needed trust of a community so shaken by a generation (18 years) of levies being turned down?

            5) How do we prepare financially for the impact of possibly losing the state funding “guarantee” of $600,000 annually beginning the next biennium?

At “first blush”, these issues may seem insurmountable, but if our recent history is an indicator of success, we will be able to trust that this community will, very shortly, step forward to support their school.

From the Desk of the Superintendent
 
 
While we had a "split decision" on our tax issues yesterday, there is more than
dollars on the line. USV has taken a huge step forward in re-gaining its stature
as an educational institution. I believe once the data rolls in from the state
testing and the iTBS results, you will have even more to share with the
community that will show how your hard work, and that of the students and
parents will show as improved academic performance.

Truthfully, as I studied the history of past elections centering on money for the school, one
always needs to keep an eye on the "no" side of the ledger.

Here is why I am so "on a high" right now. We are focusing on instructional improvement,
thanks to your efforts. We are trying to get our "financial house" in order to
create a sustainable system. We were able to reach tentative agreements on our
negotiated agreements, which shows good faith to the community, and you have
ever so faithful to our quest of improving as a school community.

How does this all translate, when we see our election history?

The following are the number of "NO" votes in past elections where we asked for dollars from the community:

Primary 2006 - 676
General 2006 - 888
Primary 2007 - 475
General 2007 - 649
General 2008 - 1103
Primary 2013 - 262

All of these issues are "failed", including the 2013 issue, but the trend is remarkably good, and progress is being made.

Now for "PLAN B" -
I had "banked" on the passage of the PI to be our collateral to borrow money to
fix the building, with us then lobbying for a legislative line item, so I could
ask that the levy not be collected. Because this is now impossible to do, I am
asking that you write a letter to Senator Cliff Hite, Representative Bob
Sprague, and Governor Kasich, asking that the legislature pass a $750,000 line
item, so we can fix this building the way it should be.

This is not "pressure", but is advocacy for our children. I've already corresponded with
these politicians regarding this issue, and they have detailed descriptions of
our needs from an architectural perspective. They now need to hear from you
personally, as they finalize the state budget. Time is short, the stakes are
high, and our need is real.

Thanks for all you've done to date, and hopefully we can clear a few more hurdles over the next year to solidify our gains to date.

Denny
From the Desk of the Superintendent
10/01/2013

USV is asking that the community support a 1.8 mil, four year permanent improvement tax issue.  Our needs are real, and we have a road map to show the community how these funds are expected to be used.

Our current 0.5 mil issue, which generates $32,000 per year, is one tenth of what is expected to even maintain our 32 million dollar facility.  These dollars generated are obligated for the physical plant and maintenance needs of the facility.  None of these dollars are spent on personnel costs.

However, we need to look inward, and decide if the vote we will make in November is based on dollars and the cost which is $63 per $100,000 of property value, or will our vote be based on the principle of our values that have been a part of our lives, and instilled in us by our parents and our communities?

As Americans and as citizens of a local school district, we have principles of social responsibility.  The following should explain the moral responsibility of voting for (or against) the issue, or any issue that affects another human being.

First is the dignity if the human person.  The basic dignity each person possesses makes any type of discrimination wrong.  People take precedence, and our school is meant to serve our students and community.  School supports the concept of elevating the dignity of a human being through education.

Secondly, the child is part of the social community, and therefore we are to help improve the stature of the community and the common good.  This means we must model, as adults and voters, the fulfillment of our personal dignity and promote the same for our children we are educating.

Third, people have basic rights and responsibilities because of their human dignity.  We’ve been taught that these include the basic necessities that provide a high quality of life: food, shelter, health care, education, and employment.  The last two items on this list rest heavily upon the school.  By having a good educational system, we help provide the educational base for better employment, which then supports families providing food and shelter.  Schools act as a catalyst for all of these.

Fourth, we must put the needs of the less fortunate first.  This is a moral test of a society in how it treats its most vulnerable people, which sadly is the majority of the children in Ohio, and in the USV school district.  We can do something about this, and by voting for our children, we actually oppose the structural injustice most children now face.

Fifth, work is as expression of our dignity, and people have a right to decent work, fair wages, and private property.  Again, a good education provides a base for these items.  Our K-12 system must provide an educational background that will provide our graduates the chance to succeed at their next levels of training and/or education.

Sixth, because we realize our dignity, rights, and responsibilities are part of our social fabric, we must continue to build a school and local community that improves our children to fulfill their full human and educational potential. By working toward this goal, we give our kids a chance.  However, this calls for financial support, as well as the moral support of our community.  This is referred to as solidarity in our mission of educating our children.

Finally, all of this is not just a slogan or us seeking to pass an issue or fatten our wallets, but it is a requirement to protect and educate our children.  This is a challenge that has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored, that of educating our children.

If we use the above as basis for voting on this upcoming tax issue, USV will be the first Ohio district in history to have a 100% yes vote for a school tax issue.

Respectfully,

Dennis L. Recker

USV Superintendent

From the Desk of the Superintedent 7/29/13
 
The academic improvement made by the Upper Scioto Valley student body and staff over the 2012-13 school year was remarkable and should instill a sense of pride in the community, as the detailed results are released by the Ohio Department of Education. While we enjoy our improved performances, we still have much to do.

What are some of our initiatives for the 2013-14 school year, and what are the anticipated results of these initiatives?

We are expanding one day a week of gifted education services to provide academic enrichment activities for all our students in grades K-6, to help discover the talents of individual students.

We will hopefully be creating and outfitting an elementary science laboratory in an open classroom to provide a realistic science center to improve elementary student science scores. This will also have our students begin to consider science careers based on these experiences we will now provide at USV.

We are also exploring the possibility of adding Spanish to the curriculum, and teachers are concentrating on getting our students career and college ready. We need to help our students perform better on college entrance exams, which happens when students have greater levels of mastery of the subject areas of English/writing, mathematics, science, social studies and foreign language, as well as applied skills that come from course work found in vocational training.

We are realigning staff to help them teach in their areas where they have the greatest levels of training and college course work. Staff will also be evaluated with a statewide teacher evaluation system which will be based on extensive principal evaluation and upon on the performance of their students. These evaluations are time consuming, requiring extensive administrative training and time conducting the full evaluations. Principals, in turn, will also have required evaluations, based on state standards. All of these are unfunded state mandates, and we will be able to conduct these cost effectively, with grant funds and dollars we’ve “re-captured” from past Educational Service Center service agreements.

Over the past 16 months, we’ve had two Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and CoGat testing sessions for our students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. Not only have we been able to measure how the students performed, but how much they’ve “grown” academically. To grow one year is expected. To grow a year and a half is considered high performing. USV children grew 1 year and 7 months in overall district wide performance.

In addition, we now can predict how well the children will do on their college boards, beginning in 6thgrade. We are also able to understand how each student learns, and this information is part of the teacher’s preparation in their lessons, beginning this school year.

I am asking that this information of how our children learn be shared with the parents as soon as possible, along with the results of the past spring’s testing. This will help the parent gain insight as to how their child learns, and give the parent a resource to help their child achieve at higher levels, working with their child’s teacher.

In today’s world, public education provides opportunity for children. However, with the higher expectations required by the state legislature, the best results can only be attained by parents actively engaged in helping their child learn, and being a “partner” with their child’s teacher.

Sadly, resulting state legislation has pushed for privatization of schools, and given false hope to our citizens by supporting schools that have, for the most part, been a failure to the students they were supposed to help. I believe this is not improving the overall education of Ohio’s children, but is creating a permanent underclass. I will not let this happen to this community.

I’m sharing what USV is truly capable of, and I look forward to a successful school year. Our success can only be attained with community support.

Dennis L. Recker

Superintendent

510 South Courtright PO Box 305 St. McGuffey, Ohio 45859      P 419.757.3231     F 419.757.0135
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