Public education is incredibly complex.
As a system, we are in the people business. We are in the business of partnering with families to prepare young people to be successful adults.
From the 3- and 4-year-olds in our preschool program, through the change and confusion of the middle school years, and culminating with conferral of diplomas at graduation, educating children isn't easy.
Each child is unique; each child requires personal instruction and encouragement. Our diversity is a strength and we celebrate it.
The diversity we embrace is multifaceted with differences in economic status, religious beliefs, cultural values, countries of origin, sexual orientation and a myriad of other factors.
Our diversity makes us a microcosm of the very world in which we are preparing our students for success.
There is nothing easy about success: It takes hard work and it is complex.
Our lawmakers have tried for several decades to create a simple, easy-to-read state report card that holds public schools accountable. They want to create a simple, one-page document so community members can "grade" their school district.
In all honesty, this is not possible. There is no simple way to compare districts that is fair or accurate.
Comparing the performance of a small, high-wealth homogenous district to a low-income rural district simply is inaccurate. Comparing the challenges facing a large urban district to the expectations of a suburban district isn't simple; it is complex.
Let's be true to our communities and accountable to our taxpayers. Let's embrace the complexity of school accountability.
Yes, we must use standardized assessments as part of any accountability system, but we must do so balancing all of the factors that contribute to student growth and learning.
We must engage our communities in honest discussions about what is required of today's students to be tomorrow's work force.
We are obligated to include business leaders and educational pioneers in this work. Tomorrow's workforce is going to demand different skills; it is going to necessitate a growth mindset.
This is a prerequisite of any educational accountability system.
Let's face it: No one likes paying taxes.
Public schools, under current Ohio law, are in a position that we must return to our taxpayers for revenue increases.
Although our expenses, which are 85 percent salary and benefits, naturally increase from year to year, our revenue is flat unless the voters approve even inflationary gains.
At the same time, we know from polling data that our community has a high opinion and great value for the work done by our teachers.
Hilliard recently was recognized as one of the 10 hottest housing markets in the United States, due in large part to the strong public schools.
As we strive to balance corporate and residential revenue, we also understand the complexity of enticing prospective business and industry to the community.
The competition is fierce and communities compete with incentive packages to lure new commercial opportunities to town.
There is no simple solution. We must engage in active conversation with our constituents. In 2018, when we are not on the ballot, we will be holding focus groups and open discussions about an earned-income tax as an option to generate revenue in the future.
Funding schools is not a simple conversation; we must embrace the complexity and engage the community.
Communication and engagement
We strive to communicate with residents "where they are."
We are proud to be able to publish this monthly column in the This Week Hilliard Northwest News.
We continue to enhance and improve our district website. Just last fall, we improved our layout; we are committed to a new story, highlighting the great things taking place in our buildings, each school day.
We have added a video series on our Ready for Tomorrow initiative and we will present a series on school funding in early 2018. We utilize our electronic newsletter on a weekly basis, and we maintain presence on Twitter and Facebook. We aim to get you the information you want in the format you want it.
Although we continually work to engage our community, we still have parents say, "I didn't know that was happening."
At the same time, I've had parents say directly to me, "We pay a lot in taxes. We are busy and want you to do your jobs."
Again, communication and engagement isn't easy. There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to getting information to our constituents.
Partnering and inspiring confidence in the community is a complex, challenging undertaking. We are proud to embrace the complexity and continue this journey together.
We know students can't learn if they aren't fed, safe and healthy.
Schools no longer can provide education. As we focus on the "whole child," we also accept the complexity of ensuring that children are prepared to learn. This isn't easy: it requires district personnel and resources. Schools are a connector for students, their families and social services.
Many of our students get two meals – breakfast and lunch – in our buildings. We also continue to expand nursing, mental-health and counseling services to our students.
The work we do to make sure students are prepared to learn is complex.
There are no easy solutions; we aren't returning to a time when we could abdicate this responsibility. We embrace the role of the schools as a real partner in a larger system. This is complex because the challenges are immense.
Our district leaders embrace the complexity of the mission to serve our students as we strive to provide an elite opportunity for each child in our care.
Hilliard Superintendent John Marschhausen writes the Hilliard Schools Connection guest column for the ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News.