Year in Review 2014: Village School
- Published: January 8, 2015
Teachers hone in on PBL
In January, half-way through the first year of the district’s commitment to at least nine weeks of project-based learning for every teacher K–12, the schools held the first PBL Exhibition Night to share evidence of their curricular transition with the community. In May, the district held two more exhibition nights, one for Mills Lawn, featuring a Project Peace drum circle and a second grade map of all the trees on the school campus, and one at the high school, featuring a survey by seniors Eizo Lang-Ezekiel and Morgan Beard on project-based learning itself.
Halfway through the year, several high school students also debated the effectiveness of PBL as a learning and teaching model, with some saying it encourages creativity and student engagement, and others saying it lowers academic rigor and stymies those with higher aptitude.
Class schedule conforms to PBL
Led by student opinion and the Student Review Board, in the spring Yellow Springs High School replaced its unpopular weekly “flex period” (a biproduct of the hybrid block schedule), with interest-led workshops including rocket modeling, yoga, beading crafts, bicycling and playing in a rock band.
At the request of a teacher review board, in September the district began late-start Wednesdays, scheduled two-hour delays to accommodate teacher planning for project-based learning.
Schools okay private fund
In March the school board committed to helping Yellow Springs Capital Endowment to raise $440,000, the estimate needed to fund the curricular transformation in the district’s strategic plan through the year 2020. Most of the YSCAPE funds would support teacher training for project-based learning.
Schools pull for testing waiver
In May the district began investigating a standardized testing waiver that would exempt K–12 students in Yellow Springs from having to take the federal and state mandated standardized tests. As a member of the Ohio Innovative Learning Network, Yellow Springs is one of 15 districts out of 615 in Ohio that are eligible to apply for exemption from tests. Superintendent Mario Basora also spent time lobbying politicians to add the waiver to the state’s education bill — which was approved by the legislature this year.
By December, Basora was leading a group of ILN schools to vet a bank of alternative student assessments to use in the waiver applications that are due to the state in the spring 2015.
Open enrollment growing
In November the district noted its enrollment of 743 students was the highest since 1984. However, 23 percent of the students are open enrollment students from other districts and account for most of the schools’ growth in the last decade. The district caps its open enrollment at 33 percent.
Schools consider extending levies
The district superintendent and treasurer recommended that the board extend the duration of two of its emergency operating levies from five years to 10 years at the current tax rate to reduce “levy fatigue” for both district administrators and community members. The board considered other options but accepted the recommendation and planned to vote on the issue in January 2015 in order to get the first of the operating levy renewals on the ballot in May.
School board member Angela Wright retired in January after 20 years in that role, counseling future boards to be inclusive of non-school-community members in their bid for project-based learning, use digital learning sparingly and equitably, and pursue college readiness for every graduate.
The harsh 2014 winter, which brought 45 inches of snow to Dayton, 28 inches more than normal and twice as much as the previous year, forced eight days of local school closings and six delays, a situation which extended the school year by two days.
Heads of the class
In May the school recognized Class of 2014 valedictorian Rachel Zendlovitz Meyer, salutatorian Zoey McKinley and others at the annual scholarship awards ceremony.
Other village schools
Children’s Center falters
In late August, three months after Children’s Center Director Marlin Newell celebrated 25 years at the center, the board of trustees severed her contract. During her tenure Newell was committed to making daycare available to low-income families, however during her watch, enrollment dropped 40 percent from 2012 to 2014, and the Center slid into three years of deficit spending. By August, the center was heading toward bankruptcy and closure.
In early September, a corporation of parents, empowered by the center’s bylaws, reversed the board’s decision, voting to reseat Newell. All nine members of the sitting board immediately resigned, and within two weeks, a new board of parents convened and began a campaign to resuscitate the school. The new board sought advice from early childhood educators in the region, and secured emergency financial support from local residents Maureen Lynch and Richard Lapedes, which they hoped to use to secure additional funds and grants. The board also oversaw Newell’s retirement in December, rehired teachers who had previously left, and planned to identify a “champion” consultant to help them create a strategic plan for the center’s revival.
Montessori co-op moves
The Children’s Montessori Cooperative, the village’s second Montessori program for young children, moved this year from a private home to the Sontag-Fels building at Antioch College.
Early learning gets a boost
This year Greene County Educational Service Center began implementing a $2 million four-year grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to promote early childhood social and emotional development in their schools, which in Yellow Springs includes the Friends Preschool program at Friends Care Center.