Olentangy Valley News

State of the Schools

Staff: Academic, financial feats highlight year

Opportunities abound for staff, students, say district leaders; optimism marks staff predictions

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Olentangy Local School District Superintendent Wade Lucas touted top test scores, high student achievement and diverse educational opportunities in his State of the Schools address last week.

Lucas and other officials reviewed the district's successes through the 2011-12 school year during a meeting of the school board last Thursday, Nov. 29.

Lucas reiterated the district's performance on the annual state report card, which dubbed Olentangy "Excellent with Distinction," the highest possible rating. It's the ninth straight year the district has been rated "Excellent" or better.

It also exceeded Adequate Yearly Progress standards on the new report card, which is a measure of academic growth from year to year.

"That means the average student that walked into Olentangy received more than a year's worth of education that year," Lucas said. "That means our staff is doing one heck of a job."

Director of Secondary Learning Mark Raiff pointed out the success of the Olentangy Professional Development Academy, an in-house program that saved the district money and offered more programs for teachers than ever before in 2011-12.

During the year, teachers had 153 opportunities to take 34 separate professional-development courses.

Raiff said students have more opportunities than ever to earn college credit. The district offers 28 Advanced Placement courses and recently relaxed the requirements for enrollment.

"We're of the mindset that if students are interested in taking the advanced coursework, we want them to take that coursework and challenge themselves as much as possible," Raiff said.

He said teachers currently are busy preparing for the imminent transition to the Common Core curriculum standards, which will include more-rigorous testing for students.

Raiff said he's optimistic about the result.

"The prediction is that overall (Ohio) scores will go down 35 percent, but I'm going to throw this out there right now: not here," he said.

A variety of individual student achievements got the spotlight during the address. During the 2011-12 school year, eight students earned a perfect score on the Ohio Graduation Test; 50 were perfect on the Ohio Achievement Test; and the district boasted seven National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

Financially, Treasurer Becky Jenkins said better-than-expected revenue totals in 2012 kept the district on track to stretch the current levy through the end of the 2014-15 school year.

"We think unless the state does something bad with our foundation (funding) that we'll probably be able to stay off the ballot for at least four years," she said.

She said the district will see increasing savings as it slowly relaxes its goals for student-teacher ratios.

Lucas also highlighted recent successes by Olentangy student athletes during his report to the school board. In 2012, the Liberty High School boys' soccer players became state champions, and the Olentangy High School football team had a strong playoff run.

"When people say 'What do you want out of Olentangy?' I have a simple answer: I want to be the best at whatever we're doing -- I don't care if it's academics, band, football or the school play."

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