Board updated on achievement of goals

HUBER HEIGHTS –Huber Heights City School District Assistant Superintendent Shelley Hilderbrand shared a number of updates, pertaining to district initiatives that were achieved during the 2014-2015 school year, with board members during Thursday, June 11 school board meeting.

Hilderbrand said school administrators and teachers kicked off the 2014-2015 school year with a celebration at the performing arts center. The event, she explained, provided an opportunity for the group to develop a list of specific goals to achieve during the school year. Administrators and teachers then met again at the end of the 2014-2015 school year to determine what accomplishments were made, and what goals were reached.

“We made sure that everything we did purposely aligned with the district’s strategic plan. So when we looked at attaining academic excellence, a lot of the things we did throughout the year went right back to our action plan,” Hilderbrand said. “We are very proud to be able to say that we have seen some improvements on a lot of the action steps and the goals we set.”

In response to community feedback, school district officials implemented several changes during the course of the school year, including launching a monthly e-newsletter, unveiling a new and improved website, and completing 380 policy reviews.

The assistant superintendent noted that a number of teachers in the school district stepped up and served on a district leadership committee and various sub-committees along with several administrators. The committees worked cooperatively in decision making and in the development of a curriculum that aligned with the district’s strategic plan.

According to Hilderbrand, the RTI (Response to Intervention) Committee completed a district handbook that will be introduced during the 2015-2016 school year. Using new available resources, district officials also adopted a strategy to implement true tier-level instruction designed to meet the diverse needs of all the students.

Hilderbrand reported that the Staff Development Committee worked diligently to develop a professional plan that concentrated on identifying the teachers’ development needs and providing effective tools that would help strengthen their teaching skills.

“The committee worked on what type of professional learning we are going to engage in and how that is going to align with our strategic plan,” said Hilderbrand. “If we are going to make some movement in our district, it comes down to adult learning.”

The Report Card Committee primarily focused on the elementary report card and a more standard-based learning model. Students’ strengths and weaknesses were evaluated in an effort to sustain academic excellence, and ongoing communications between the district and the community were also assessed.

Hilderbrand pointed out that the Discipline Committee consistently reviewed district data and focused on identifying the areas that students experienced the most challenges. The committee also examined the culture and climate in district schools. According to Hilderbrand, implementing peer tutoring and promoting school pride and spirit have helped enhanced a positive learning environment.

The assistant superintendent noted that the Joint Committee, which is comprised of administrators and teachers who come together to address problems and concerns, proved to be a very positive group that brought issues to the table and effectively resolved them during the 2014-2015 school year.

The after-school tutoring program, which is funded through Title I, is part of a comprehensive effort to help close the academic achievement gap and raise the bar for all students in the district. Hilderbrand noted that extending the school day with a supplementary learning program for targeted students had proven to be very popular with many students. The school district also reestablished a summer school program which was implemented this summer.

Hilderbrand reported that a novel Selection Committee evaluated and selected textbooks and instructional materials using a comprehensive process that ensures selection of materials that aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

The K-2 Differentiation Committee conducted a comprehensive assessment of program structures that addressed differentiated instruction in the classrooms of young learners. Hilderbrand said that teachers look at specific tiered instruction that incorporated the learning needs of all students in kindergarten through second grade.

Teachers, who teach advanced-placement (AP) courses, also developed a written education plan (WEP) for gifted students. A gifted task force conducted a review and analysis of the school district’s program for gifted students and developed a set of action steps to help guide future planning and development.

Hilderbrand detailed the Early Readiness Coalition, first annual preschool extravaganza that was held in April at Wayne High School. The school district joined forces with the Huber Heights branch of the Dayton Metro Library and the Montgomery County Child Development Center to create the Early Readiness Coalition.

Students from all five Huber Heights elementary schools and St. Peter School and Weisenborn Junior High School competed in the 2015 Huber Heights District Spelling in January. The school district also held a science fair for all students in February. There was also a STEM Day in the Park in September.

Hilderbrand updated board members on the development of DOK (Depth of Knowledge) training for seventh through 12th grade teachers, the Reading Street Common Core curriculum, and the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). Leadership teams also looked at compacted math courses for advanced learners, an English IV class, and a physical science course.

Wayne High School also participated in a countywide initiative that helped students complete their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) applications. High school seniors were also encouraged to participate in a special signing day for enrollment in two-year and four-year college programs, trade schools, and military service.

Hilderbrand discussed the need to update technology to support student learning. Last year, the school district participated in two pilot programs, including a Chromebook pilot program for junior high students and a laptop pilot program for teachers. As a result, the school district will be using a portion of the “Race to the Top” grant funds, along with other resources to supply a number of Chromebooks for students. The district is also working towards supplying laptop computers to all the teachers in the district.

The assistant superintendent noted that 275 teachers were involved in the different programs and projects throughout the 2014-2015 school year.

“They stepped up and said ‘I am going to make a difference.’ I couldn’t be more proud of our teachers and the work that they have done. Our administrators and teachers worked very well together in a joint effort to improve our district,” Hilderbrand said.

Hilderbrand said a new K-3 Reading Improvement Program, Learning A-Z online teaching resources and student tools, and K-9 Star 360 Discovery online resources will help support instruction and student growth during the 2015-2016 school year.

Ryan Rohrer, supervisor of data assessment, also presented a video presentation of the Discovery Education Techbook, a digital textbook series that supports a comprehensive curriculum. Hilderbrand said the Education Techbook, which includes model lessons, student activities, and assessments, will be used as an aide to the science curriculum in grades three through eight.

Hilderbrand stated that the 2014-2015 school year was the final year the school district would receive funding from the federally-funded “Race to the Top” grant program. However, she noted that the grant funding provided support for five years that effectively increased student achievement and educator effectiveness.

In other business, the board of education unanimously approved the appointment of Susan M. Gunnell as district superintendent with a three-year contract beginning Aug. 1, 2015. Gunnell expressed her appreciation to school board members and noted that it was a privilege to continue to serve as superintendent of the Huber Heights City School District.

“I’ll give you 110 percent effort. I am gratefully humbled for all the support,” Gunnell said.

School Board Member Kelly Bledsoe also expressed his gratitude to Gunnell for her dedication to the school district.

“I am glad that the district has Superintendent Gunnell for three more years. She is an exceptional leader,” said Bledsoe.

School board members also approved an agreement with the Tipp City Exempted Village School District to share the services of Regina M. Helmick who will be replacing District Treasurer Ann Bernardo on July 1.

The school board also approved a long list of items on the meeting agenda, including the high school and junior high school agendas for the 2015-2016 school year, the athletic handbook and code of conduct, preschool and elementary parent and student handbooks, and the transportation staff handbook.

The next regular meeting of the Huber Heights City Schools Board of Education is scheduled for Thursday, July 9 at 6 pm. The meeting will be held in the board room at Studebaker Elementary School, located at 5954 Longford Rd.