Worthington City Schools Superintendent Trent Bowers used the State of the Schools event Feb. 2 to deliver a message that despite a number of challenges, Worthington is on track "to empower a community of learners to change the world."

The event included live entertainment, videos showing student activities and Bowers' remarks.

Continuing with the theme of empowering learners, "That is our mission," Bowers said. "How we will accomplish that is in our vision statements, which include providing consistent communication, diverse learning opportunities, a safe and comfortable school climate and culture and by being responsible stewards of our school resources."

Taking the stage to showcase their talents were the Thomas Worthington High School Cardinal swing band, Thomas Worthington High School student Megan Hoover singing and playing guitar; the McCord Middle School Drama Club and drummers from Slate Hill Elementary School.

Board President Jennifer Best said she was pleased by the turnout, as parents and community members filled the auditorium of Worthington Kilbourne High School.

"I hope we can keep showcasing our talented students," she said. "Having these (events) every year is a great way to stay connected to the community."

Bowers said that diversity is now a hallmark of the district, which has 550 English Language Learners, or students learning English as a second language; 1,300 students on Individualized Education Plans and 2,500 students qualifying for free or reduced lunches.

"We are proud that we are diverse," he said. "We have 10,000 students and they speak 35 different languages. Our goal is to connect our students with one another and with caring adults."

He showed a video of two eighth-graders, Naya Roebke and Ruth Nodjitan, at Worthingway Middle School. Naya was helping Ruth, who was born in central Africa and immigrated to this country, with math skills.

"Every one of our students is unique," he said.

After the video, he introduced the two girls.

Bowers said an important goal for the district is that students leave high school "college and career ready."

"Ninety-one percent of our students go on to two- or four-year colleges after they graduate," he said. "Our students also earned 2,700 college credits last year, many without leaving our campus. We are now a pre-K through grade 13 (college) school district."

He showed another video, featuring Katherine Poe and Mackenzie Bennett, juniors from Worthington Kilbourne High School who head the Worbots Robotics team, to show how the district is attracting more female students to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

"We know we have super-talented female students, but in engineering, females are still underrepresented," Bowers said.

He said district finances "are solid," but challenges are on the horizon, including the fact the five-year $40 million bond levy approved by voters in 2012 expires this year, and the district is considering how to remodel, replace or repair a number of school buildings built in the 1950s and '60s.

"Our enrollment is also growing," Bowers said. "From 2012 to present day, we gained 877 new students. Projections over the next five years say we could gain 800 more students."

He said aging buildings and enrollment growth mean future financial challenges, although the district would likely stretch the 2012 incremental operating levy to six years.

"We know we have to come back to you," he told parents in the audience, "for another operating levy, probably around 2018."

He said the facilities task force and master-planning process that has been underway has involved parents and community members to help guide facilities spending and enrollment options.

At the end of the evening, Bowers said he hoped people would come away knowing more about the diverse opportunities available to students.

"In Worthington, you can get there from here," he said. "We have 19 schools and 10,000 kids in a community of 60,000 residents.

"If you want to go to an Ivy League school, we have a pathway," he said. "Or if you want to earn college credits while still in high school, we have a pathway for that ... You can get there from here."

A video of the State of Schools event can be seen at worthington.k12.oh.us/Page/3759.

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