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Focus on future not past

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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
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    Posted: Mar 30 2016 at 7:17pm

Posted: 5:20 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, 2016

MIDDLETOWN

Middletown school board president: Focus on future not past

By Michael D. Clark

Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN The leader of Middletown’s school board says don’t focus at where the district has been at the expense of seeing where it’s going.

Middletown Schools are about to launch major and historic initiatives, including next week’s ground breaking for a new school, public outreach for a new strategic plan, bolstered school security and refinancing of district bonds that could save taxpayers $1 million.

The aggressive plans were delivered this week by first-year Middletown Board of Education President Chris Urso during the city’s “state of the city” event.

“The center of a community is its schools, and it is our schools that can lead the way to a more optimistic Middletown,” said Urso, who was invited by Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan Jr. to speak at Tuesday’s event.

Middletown Schools have been buffeted in recent months with the latest rounds of low scores on the state’s annual report card and a state audit earlier this month that criticized a handful of the school district’s finance procedures but found no missing money.

But Urso, who is one of four recently elected members of the five-person school board, said residents of the Butler County city have much to be optimistic about but they also share in creating a better future for their public schools.

“We are fighting against a history of people being pessimistic, but I’m really optimistic as along as the community is involved,” Urso said Wednesday.

A major key will be a new strategic plan to be developed after a public outreach campaign starting in April - dates have yet to be scheduled - with a series of opinion-gathering meetings, he said.

“You have to have the community buy in. We want to find out what people are thinking (about the schools) and gauge the community,” said Urso.

On Monday, Urso and other school officials will join local business and community leaders at a ground-breaking ceremony for the district’s new middle school and extensive renovation of Middletown High School.

The school construction stems from residents in 2014 barely approving a tax increase of $95 million for the projects.

Urso said the recent state audit aside, in which most of the district’s procedural mistakes have already been corrected, Middletown Schools’ “general fund revenues have exceeded expenditures for each of the last two years and are expected to do the same this current year and upcoming years as well.”

“Currently, we are exploring an opportunity to refinance the district’s 2007 construction bonds that will substantially save our taxpayers future interest costs for these refinanced bonds,” he said, adding the district could save $1 million or more “if the markets continue to work in our favor.”

The district’s annual operating budget is $85 million.

Middletown Superintendent Sam Ison said, “This is an exciting time for the schools.”

“We are in the beginning stages of the renovation and construction of our last two educational facilities. This means, that by the fall of 2018, all 10 of our district buildings will be new, or newly renovated within a span of 12 years, from 2006 to 2018.

“With the new buildings,” said Ison, “I believe our district is standing on the precipice of hope.”

 

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VietVet View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 31 2016 at 6:09am
So, we just wipe the slate clean and start over as what happened before shouldn't count with Urso? We still have what has transpired before in place. We still have the same problems that we had before the Urso era. Don't we have to fix the existing problems before we have a "do over". The old numbers are still on the books. The poor school image is still intact. The past still exists until it is repaired and we move on to the future, right?

"Middletown Superintendent Sam Ison said, “This is an exciting time for the schools.”"

Why sure Sam. Very exciting reading about the D's and F's on the last report. It is what it is gentlemen and no glitter talk, no deflection comments will change what it is. Face the facts and fix it. Then deflection tactics and blatant softening of the truth won't be needed.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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acclaro View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote acclaro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 31 2016 at 7:58am
The two words front and center within the Middletownian lexicon are "hope", and "plan." One might add "revitalization."

Only a fool would take solace in the hopeless performance of MCSD, then cheer the waste of over $100 Mm in buildings, and a "plan" which exists only as a shell it needs to get better, without delineating any detailed action nor tasks required to accomplish the plan, albeit MCSD or city hall.

Hopeless, not hopeful.

Turn the lights out. 
'An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.' - Winston Churchill
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spiderjohn View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote spiderjohn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 31 2016 at 9:00am
sigh
It is never over--we all realize that fact
A shame that business as usual like nothing is out of synch continued for so long in the schools and city
we finally have a breakthrough with new school board members
hopefully next Council election will lead to two new game-changing faces

It is never easy trying to re-build a deteriorated entity, but it is being done in many places. the challenges here are real, but far from unique. It will be done to some degree by those willing and able, no doubt.

might as well get on board and contribute---no other rational option other than to vacate. and no argument with those choosing to do just that. Most criticisms are valid imo.
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Factguy View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Factguy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 31 2016 at 9:22am
One of the best posts ever made, Journal News, by a local teacher aka screen name.

BTW, focus groups will never turn around the city, nor the school district.

----------------------------

I beg to differ with that not looking back comment.

If by looking back, the Board says it wants to junk the mindset of the last 20 years, that's fine. In fact, it's about time.

But ironically, if you look back a bit further, Middletown had a credible school system. And I will always argue that the reason is so simple. Middletown enforced discipline once upon a time.

Some twisted reasoning came into focus in this district that students can't be held to the same conduct standards as were commonplace a generation ago. The results have been predictable.

Students engage in recreational misbehaviors. Actually, you've got to give the students credit for their cognitive analysis. They certainly figured out that teachers were not going to get much in the way of support. It was fun for them to disrupt without real consequences

Ten years ago, teachers had their office referral totals tallied and used as criticism from the very administrators that ignored and/or reinforced the misbehaviors of the students in the first place. I can't help but to wonder if that's not still the practice.

So board, please don't embarrass yourself, as past leadership has. by assuming there's some sort of advanced curriculum guide or lesson planning strategy that will turn this ship around. That's like Officers of the Titanic rearranging deck chairs in response to the iceberg collision.

Make discipline your simple strategy. Enforce high conduct standards without exception and without apology. If that means an uptick in suspensions or expulsions, so be it. You owe that to the students who are trying to learn....not to mention their parents who are paying taxes.

It worked just fine in the not so distant past. It works fine in surrounding districts today....just ask the many former Middletown teachers who now thrive in surrounding communities.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cooper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 31 2016 at 9:44am
Below is the definition of HOPE. I hope to win the lottery with a pot of $500 Million. My odds are 5 to 1 better than the lottery, than the district improving its grade. Hope is a wish. Wishing is a dream. Dreams rarely come true.

hope
hōp/< height="14" ="" width="14">
noun
noun: hope; plural noun: hopes
1.
a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
"he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information"
synonyms:aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, design; 
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processor View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote processor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 31 2016 at 10:12am
I wish our schools well and hope that they are successful.  My only concern is that a new strategic plan is only part of the solution.  There have been good plans in the past that have not produced significant improvement, not because the plan wasn't good, but because the implementation wasn't.  This has been the issue with MCSD for years.  Lots of good, productive talk, but when it becomes time to implement and people's behavior, actions, rewards have to change they freeze and don't follow through. Hopefully the board realizes this and holds firm, holds people accountable, fires those who don't follow through, rewards those who follow, change and get results.  Otherwise this is just an academic exercise with no lasting impact and no positive change for our students.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote acclaro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 31 2016 at 5:32pm
The main problem processor as we know it to be, is MCSD is saddled with and overabundance of impoverished children. Until there is a complete makeover of the manner these students are taught and motivated, or the demographics change (this isn't going to occur), the problem and scores, remain the same. The perpetual reign of F.

Plans cannot repair nor alter grade performance without a specific target of teachers that have experience in low income demographics and teach to them with a desire to motivate. To alter the demographics, Middletown's problems are so severe, the slow drip, slow drip in, is overcome by the fast faucet of impoverished youth.

Adding to this problem is teachers are paid bonuses on the performance in the classroom and district. As the performance is anemic, good teachers leave, to go to good districts that have ratings. High ratings mean more pay for the teachers. Thus, the revolving door of the best teachers leaving the district for better districts paying more. Then, attrition, lack of stability, collides with the problems at home for the students, and their instability at home met with instability and lack of continuity at school.

The perpetual problem. Good teachers follow the money. They go to better districts. Higher demographics follow better school districts and reputations, as its cheaper to pay tax in Oakwood than send a kid to Miami Valley School. Low income demographics are driven to lower cost of housing.

Expect to see many years of F until the above changes, but the circuitous route of demise is quicksand. Rather hard to pull oneself up, when being pulled downward. 

 
'An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.' - Winston Churchill
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote spiderjohn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 31 2016 at 6:10pm
Am pretty much on the same direction as fact Guy's post and the first paragraph as that of acclaro. Pride in having an education, preparation, attendance and punctuality from day 1. Full understanding of those responsibilities from student to parent, with adults held legally responsible. Building that foundation makes the rest much easier.
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