A good education begins in the lower grade levels, said Southwest Licking Superintendent Robert Jennell during his annual State of the School address Feb. 4.
Jennell said school board members asked him for his vision for the district, and he had no problem providing it to them.
"I want to be a district where people want to come and stay," Jennell said.
He said it's common for students to move between districts, and he plans to do everything in his power to keep students at Southwest Licking schools from kindergarten to graduation.
"That's better for education," he said.
In the higher grade levels, Jennell said, he wants the curriculum to accommodate students who will be college bound, directly entering the workforce and preparing for military service. He said incorrectly assuming all students are going to college will cause those who don't plan on higher education to drop out of high school before graduation.
Part of Jennell's vision for the district is improvement on the state report card. Previously, the district was rated Excellent with Distinction, but the state's new report card formats, which assign letter grades to various aspects of school districts, included some low marks, including D's and F's.
"A couple years ago, we were saying we were the best thing in the world, and that's how it was interpreted," Jennell said.
The most recent report cards had some sobering reminders that not all is perfect.
"That doesn't say we're horrible," Jennell said. "We just found new things to look at."
Jennell said he strongly is in favor of all-day kindergarten.
"There's nothing more important than getting funding down to that grade level," he said. "When you get kids moving at that level, it simply multiplies up."
He said he wants to expand teaching facilities to where elementary students aren't forced to ride buses to buildings that are not the closest to their homes and create "true K-5 neighborhood schools" that serve the children in the immediate vicinity.
Jennell also wants to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics training for students. Doing so requires "space, equipment and money," but STEM education is extremely important for students to function in the modern world, he said.
Jennell said the district should offer additional Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses, and especially blended-learning opportunities for all students.
"That's not just online instruction," Jennell said. "That's using technology as a tool with a good teacher."
Jennell said his vision for the district is a goal, not a wish list.
"We're committed to it," he said.