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State of the Schools

January 14, 2019
State of the Oakwood City Schools

Jim Valvano once famously said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” In 2018, there’s little doubt Oakwood had a heck of a year. We laughed often, whether it was enjoying our kindergartners’ first day at Lange, celebrating our graduates’ last day of high school, or somewhere else along the way.  We thought hard about our school facilities and allowed ourselves to be challenged and to consider uncomfortable possibilities. We are all better for the engagement. And, we cried together. Too many times, and for too many people. We will never forget those we lost, and we will work hard to ensure their legacies are deeply rooted.

As we turn the page, 2019 offers a great opportunity. In the coming weeks, we plan to introduce our new CFO/Treasurer. This individual will be asked to technically account for every penny every day, lead and develop an engaging, efficient, forward-thinking department, strategically vision and plan for our future, conduct feasibility studies around alternative revenue streams for operational expenses and economic development potential, drive charitable and planned giving, and partner with anyone, anywhere who shares our commitment to the value of an Oakwood education and continuous learning and growth. Easy job, right? Your support is invited and welcomed.  

We also plan to be on this May’s ballot and ask for our community’s continued support in favor of a combination levy. Our ask will be made in one request, with two distinct parts: a 4.99-mill operating levy, and a bond valued at approximately 2.7 mills. Each of these parts is critical and equally important. The operating levy ensures our ability to provide the quality education our community has long valued. The bond will pay for Phase I of the Master Facilities Plan. Phase I is focused on prioritized, foundational infrastructure at the Junior and Senior High buildings, and targeted infrastructure at Smith and Harman to address critical upgrades. Detailed rationale is available on our website, and specifically within the September 4, 2018 Technical Building Assessment Report. We look forward to discussing this combination request with our community during the next four months.

Finally, our core objective is to educate students in a safe and nurturing environment, preparing them for their post-secondary pursuits. Opportunities and challenges swirl around us every day, and we remain passionate about our mission to develop the 2,000 students who pass through our doors daily. We look beyond state report cards, trade publications and other rank-and-sort efforts.  Our goal is to connect with each student, understanding their unique needs and delivering an education that yields meaningful value to them. If we achieve that, we have been successful. 

On behalf of the Board of Education, we are humbled to serve the Oakwood Schools district and Oakwood community. We enjoy our partnership with our students, staff, parents and stakeholders, and remain committed to delivering an excellent educational experience. In a world of constant change, some things never do: like the value of an Oakwood education.     

Todd Duwel
Oakwood City Schools Board of Education             

January 8, 2018
State of the Oakwood City Schools

On behalf of the Oakwood Board of Education and the Oakwood City Schools, it is my privilege to report on the continued growth and commitment of our school district. Our students, community, staff, and administration continue to confront obstacles, exceed expectations, and crash through glass ceilings. This past year, our high school earned the highest performance index score in the state. We also ranked first in the “Prepared for Success” category on the state report card; a fitting punctuation for our district’s vision to have every student prepared for their post-secondary pursuits, and poised to lead and serve. We are grateful such praise consistently finds us, and seek always to receive it with humility. We are good, but we can be better.

No public school district can be everything to everyone. That statement is as difficult to hear, as it is to acknowledge. We are a district and community surrounded by talent. Together, we are #OneOakwood. We operate at our collective best when we invite and allow our talents to come together for a greater good. Asking for help, receiving that help, and then bending it into manageable constructs is messy. Let’s go there anyway. Our continued growth will depend on our willingness and ability to solve the “how” and not lament the “if.”

If you were given 24 crayons, could you paint your masterpiece? Drift back to a time when everything seemed possible, when imagination soared, and when 24 crayons could deliver anything you dreamed. Within that box, we used crayons that were sharp and ready, others dull from overuse; some peeling away, baring their true color, while others were wrapped tightly, as if hiding something. We held crayons standing tall, and others hiding within their sleeve. We played with fractured crayons. Our set was individually tactical, and collectively transformative. There was a time not long ago when all we needed was a set of crayons, precious time, and a blank sheet of paper.

This past year, we took that blank sheet of paper, and a leap of faith, to examine what our district wanted, needed, or could do with a #OneOakwood mindset and a finite amount of resources, or #24Crayons. We learned we can do all that is necessary to meaningfully achieve our district’s vision. How we get there may look different than you would expect. It’s far more than books, tests, teachers and students. It’s more than late nights studying, summer lesson planning, and IEPs.

We asked architects, engineers, curriculum auditors and drug dogs to roam our buildings. We asked local, state and federal leaders how we could help improve K-12 education. We consulted with public safety officials to assure student safety is always top of mind. We worked with our teachers to modify our insurance program to transition to high-deductible plans to further wellness and ensure fiscal stewardship. We asked accessibility and nutrition experts about best practices to develop greater insight. We partnered with neighboring school districts and alternative career paths to find fits for every student. We invested in our branding and communications strategies to help us share our ever-developing story. We partnered with alumni near and far, young and old, to continually measure the value of our Oakwood education. We looked inward at off-site retreats and learned to laugh and cry together. We grew as a staff through a myriad of professional development initiatives. We engaged first-time and long-time residents to determine where the rough edges are formed. We worked with military, special needs, and in-need families to support their unique challenges. We looked at how every dollar is spent; why every dollar is requested; and how every dollar is received, and whether there are better ways for all of it. We explored charitable giving and estate planning to seek alternative funding solutions. We have grown.

Growth and commitment will always guide our district. As with any high performing school district, no meaningful objective can be achieved without both. We have worked hard to challenge our presumptions, affirm our commitments, and identify areas of growth potential. The process reaffirmed our interest in excellence, but also renewed our interest in what it means to be excellent, how it is achieved, and what is required for it to be meaningful. We intend for our district’s greatest aspirations to be supported by a strong foundation; one that both sustains legacy and builds new traditions. The obvious synergies between the Oakwood Athletic Project, the Lane family, and the many donors who participated in the Lane Stadium initiative remain a wonderful example of such intention. The outcome has been excellent. The relationships, process, collaboration, and engagement have been even more fulfilling.

We remain curious learners. We remain active listeners. And, we remain imperfect. We have taken deliberate steps forward, but know we have more steps to take. Find your color, share your talent, and join us in our commitment to continue serving the best interests of our students and staff. We look forward to the journey and meeting each of you somewhere along the way. Our school district and community is an array of 24 crayons. We are red and brown and black and green, with plenty of grey to go around. We are decidedly blue and yellow. And, together, we are undeniably #OneOakwood. Our shared masterpiece.

Todd Duwel
Oakwood City Schools Board of Education