Fall 2015 Superintendent's Message
Greetings from the Ross-Pike ESC! It’s funny how a change in season can trigger memories but every Fall I’m reminded of my days as an under grad student at Ohio University. And when I think of Ohio University I’m reminded of my favorite professor Dr. George Wood. The course that he taught was Education and Society and I recall thinking after our first class together that Dr. Wood and I were going to be kindred spirits. Ironically enough Dr. Wood left full time teaching at OU to take the Superintendents position at Federal Hocking Local School District a few years after I graduated and remains in that position yet today. 30 years later I still consider him one of the best college professors I ever had and oh and by the way we are still kindred spirits as I was reminded of today when I dug up an article the Dr. Wood wrote a couple of years ago dealing with the unfairness of how we treat our special needs students when it comes to assessments. I trust you will enjoy the article and that you too will be reminded that one size fits all thinking isn’t usually fair and doesn’t work for anyone especially our students with special needs.
More Than a Doghouse
October 10, 2013 – The Forum
At most high schools, fall means football, homecoming and writing college application essays. Add a fourth task at our high school: getting your Senior Project approved. We take seriously our charge to get young people ready for life after school. Since the Class of 2001, we have required all candidates for graduation to plan and carry out a Senior Project. The project has multiple parts – chose and area of interest, develop a proposal including any funding, and find a resource person outside of school to mentor you, carry the project out, and present it to a panel for review and approval.
All of these are needed in the world outside of school. When so much of school is now driven by mandated curriculum and tests, students have very little opportunity to learn on their own and to manage their own work. And from what we are told by our graduates, our senior projects prepare them for work at college, on the job and in their communities.
While I was picking up lunch today in the cafeteria, I had a chance to chat with “Joe” one of our seniors. I asked him about his project, which is the design and building of a doghouse. He has found a local carpenter to help him. He has put together a budget and presented it for funding to the neighbor for whom he is building it. He has written the proposal and found a shop where he can work. He is excited about his project, and has already asked if his project can have a particular spot in the gym when we set up the annual Senior Project Showcase.
What makes this more than a doghouse is that Joe is a student in our multiple handicapped (MH) classroom. Birth trauma, as well as other issues left him with the cognitive level of a child much younger than his 18 years. And when he first started here, he could barely look you in the eye and mumble “hello”. In fact, that was all he said, that and “fine, fine” when asked how he was doing.
Today he supervises one of the cafeteria lines with two other students and, just like every other senior, will do a Senior Project and Graduation Portfolio. Joe will benefit from the fact that we expect a lot of every graduate, even if we differentiate expectations for young people who are intellectually challenged. He will do a project, stand and deliver a portfolio, and engage with his peers in intellectually challenging work. Will he go to college or take Advance Placement courses? Probably not. But will he be prepared for a job interview, work on community projects, and be a productive member of his community? In fact, he is already ready – if the community is ready for him.
I believe our school has provided a safe but challenging environment for Joe. It’s an environment where he has grown beyond anyone’s expectations because his teachers, as well as his classmates, have made it possible for him to partake in what school is all about. And I know that given a chance, he will hold down a job and make a contribution.
What I also know is that in spite of this, our school will suffer on state report card when it comes to students with disabilities and their achievement. All that system reports is how young people like Joe do on tests and state roll outs. As if it mattered. What really matters is that we provide Joe with an environment that met him where he was and moved him on to where he can be.
We won’t get any credit for that. But I know today’s lunch tasted just a little bit better thinking about that doghouse.