Canal Winchester Local Schools administrators and teachers are preparing to meet stringent new standards by which the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) rates school districts, Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith reported at the board of education's March 19 meeting.

Canal Winchester Local Schools administrators and teachers are preparing to meet stringent new standards by which the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) rates school districts, Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith reported at the board of education's March 19 meeting.

On Feb. 29, the ODE announced a proposal that moves Ohio from its current rating system of excellent with distinction through academic emergency for districts and individual schools and replaces it with traditional A through F letter grades. The new system is scheduled to take effect in August, when the ODE issues ratings for the 2011-12 school year.

Under the new system, the excellent with distinction rating that Canal Winchester received for the 2010-11 school year would translate to a B.

"We are really trying to gear up and be prepared because the bar is set very, very high," Miller-Smith said. "It's going to take some very concentrated effort and some strong leadership from our administrative team to be able to move the district in a way that our citizens are accustomed to and the manner in which our students deserve."

The changes are part of the state's application to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) for a waiver of key portions of the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The USDOE has invited states to request waivers from portions of No Child Left Behind in return for creating rigorous plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps and improve the quality of education.

"Our current accountability system is based on minimum standards that no longer make sense in a global economy, where good-paying jobs require higher skills than are currently being expected of our students," State Superintendent of Schools Stan Heffner said in a news release. "I am confident that students and educators can rise to meet the challenge."

Under the ODE's proposal, districts and schools will receive an overall letter grade, along with subgrades that measure how well they meet expected performance levels, how much academic growth students demonstrate and how much the achievement gaps among various student groups are closed.

The new rating system also replaces the adequate yearly progress (AYP) measure (which had a goal of 100 percent proficiency for reading and mathematics for every student in every demographic group) with rigorous objectives that aim to cut the achievement gap in reading and mathematics by half over six years, while requiring higher performance from all students.

Canal Winchester has already begun preparing teachers and students for the new standards, Miller-Smith said.

"We're working as efficiently as possible," she said. "Our teachers are really putting a lot of effort into it. Our administrators are really trying to lead this charge."

The USDOE is currently reviewing Ohio's waiver proposal, with a decision expected in the next few months.

"We should know by June if this waiver was passed and what our new grade cards will look like," Miller-Smith said.

In other business Monday night, the Canal Winchester Board of Education approved the resignation of five certified staff members: two third-grade teachers, a fifth-grade teacher, a high school intervention specialist and an industrial technology teacher. The district will save an estimated $276,179.44 in the 2012-13 school year by leaving four of the five positions vacant, Miller-Smith said.

"Because of our projected enrollment decline, we do not anticipate replacing four of the five positions," she said.

The board also unanimously approved Kirk Henderson as interim principal of Canal Winchester High School for the remainder of the 2011-12 school year at a salary of $97,365. Henderson, a former assistant principal at the high school, was promoted to principal in late January when Lynn Landis left to become the superintendent of the Bloom-Carroll school district in Fairfield County. District treasurer Joyce Boyer said Landis' annual salary as high school principal was $111,886.