When asked about expectations for coming year in the Worthington schools, Superintendent Thomas Tucker first must address the issues that have been most on his mind in recent weeks.
"When you start to look into the future in the business of educating students, the conversation begins and ends with safety and security," he said during an interview Dec. 28.
He is grateful, he said, that the committee already set up to address those issues met immediately following the tragedy in Sandy Hook, Conn., and he's grateful to the community for passing a $40 million bond issue in November to help pay for any security improvements that the committee might recommend.
A study of the climate and culture of each building will be used in decisions about how to improve each school in the district. Improvements expected to be made include cameras, universal locking systems and better lighting.
Results of last year's climate and culture study also will be used to improve the learning environment in each school, Tucker said.
Learning still is the main purpose of the district, which last year began teaching according to the national common core standards and, within the next year or two, will administer annual exams based on those standards.
Ohio is one of 46 states to adopt common core standards, which are to impart a universal, clear understanding of what students across the country are to learn to prepare them for careers or college.
How do common core standards differ from the former curriculum in the schools?
Tucker said common core standards are deeper and richer, with an emphasis on listening, speaking and writing skills.
Worthington teachers were ahead of the curve in implementing the core standards, beginning last year, and Worthington students are expected to be prepared for the end-of-year exams to be administered in 10 subjects to students in grades 3-10.
The exams will begin in either 2013 or 2014.
Results of the exams will be compared to not only other districts in Ohio but also to other states in the country.
Also in the coming year, Slate Hill Elementary School is expected to join Worthington Kilbourne High School as the district's second International Baccalaureate school, and eight more high school classes will be digitized, allowing students to access lectures through technology.
"We're looking at students and our community as consumers," Tucker said. "We need to meet the needs of our consumers."
The district also is bracing for more retirements at the end of the year as new Ohio Public Employee Retirement System rules go into effect. The new rules, which require teachers to have 35 years of experiences to retire instead of 30, spiked the number of retirees in Worthington to 47 last school year.
That record is expected to be met or exceeded in 2013, Tucker said.
Also during the 2013-14 school year, annual teacher evaluations will be required by the state. Fifty percent of each evaluation will be based on student growth, he said.
"Our goal is to ensure that each student acquires at least a year's worth of growth every year," Tucker said.