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Oakwood City School District

State of the Schools

Oakwood Schools
State of the Schools
January 13, 2020
Todd Duwel, School Board President

2019 was a year of engagement for Oakwood Schools.  Author and researcher Brené Brown writes “we don’t have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning values with actions” in her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. As curious learners and leaders, we believe transformation occurs when value propositions align with differentiating opportunities and action. Forward moving engagement begins with simple conversations. The following reflects a sampling of how we’ve engaged to advance the interests of our district and community.

·       Our schools have improved websites, social media feeds and newsletters all geared to place the information you want at your fingertips;

·       Shared Resource Center, led by Dan Schall and Tiffany Hiser, is entrenched in the District, helping us better communicate and frame our financial strategy and vision;  

·       Todd Scott, our first Operations Coordinator, is bringing focused attention From the Ground Up, a new blog devoted to operational initiatives and activities;

·       Chrissy Elliott, our new Smith Elementary principal, has brought infectious energy and passion;

·       LumberJill joined LumberJack as a new mascot to rally support around our student athletes;  

·       We continue to partner with the Oakwood Safety Department to assure safety and security always remains a top priority;

·       We meet regularly with local and state legislators to offer a public school’s perspective as they consider and evaluate legislation that impacts our schools and community;

·       We meet regularly with local news media to promote a transparent and accurate capture of topics or events that merit coverage;

·       We invite local businesses, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders to partner with and benefit our schools, staff and students;

·       We benefit from the countless volunteers who bring their expertise and passion to our buildings every day;

·       We pursue visionary speakers like Mary Beth Tinker and present them to our schools and community;

·       We regularly inquire of our alumni, colleges and universities, trades and military, to affirm our educational strategies are preparing our students for their post-secondary pursuits;

·       We remain in constant contact with our teachers’ association to share and understand operational opportunities and concerns;

·       We visit with our local library and city leaders to find common alignment to maximize our community’s tax dollars;   

·       We continue to seek new and exciting synergies with the Oakwood Schools Foundation, Oakwood Alumni Association, Oakwood Athletic Boosters and several private donors to pursue transformative change for our schools and community;   

·       We pursue mental health-focused opportunities through our BOLD campaign, new Health curriculum and affiliation with Hope Squad; 

·       We’ve implemented a multi-phased Master Facilities Plan designed to resolve current needs and accommodate future thinking, which leverages diverse revenue streams including public, private, state and debt-structured investments;

·       We’ve worked hard to listen, learn and provide meaningful action to mitigate barriers around diversity, inclusion and accessibility;

·       We’ve long partnered with local high schools, local and national organizations, and affiliated higher education entities to provide career path opportunities best suited for each of our students;

·       We continue to drive awareness of and speak through our district’s Quality Profile, and deliberately choose not to rely only upon the state’s annual Report Card;

·       We seek opportunities to connect with neighbors and alumni, like our band’s annual performances at the Gray’s Farm, our popular Come Back Lumberjack event during Homecoming, and our First Community Day event;   

·       We welcome and embrace thoughtful inquiry, as evidenced by our forming a diverse mix of educators and community members to evaluate our grading system and philosophies;

·       We develop multi-year core goal and strategies to assure common alignment, clarity of focus and measured investment and outcomes;

·       and much more!

2019 was another great year for Oakwood Schools. Our students, staff and administrators continue to thrive under this community’s continued commitment to education and learning. The trust and support of our co-curricular and extra-curricular programming continues to provide reciprocal benefits and returns for all stakeholders. In 2020, we will continue to pursue new and meaningful opportunities to engage and look forward to meeting you in the arena.

As Theodore Roosevelt offered in his 1910 speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming …”

Stand up and cheer, Oakwood. We have much to be grateful!

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