Looking back at 2018, I am finding it difficult to sum up my feelings in one or two words. Successful? Exciting? Moving Forward? Positive Momentum? When you stop to think about it, it is all this and more.
In May, we celebrated the first TPS student to be accepted to Harvard University. Zoe Flores took courses exclusively at The University of Toledo while she was both a senior in high school and a junior at the university. Zoe spent her freshman year of high school at Toledo Technology Academy. Before she started 10th grade, she found out about Toledo Public Schools’ College Credit program, she was able to take college courses at UT. Because of her stellar academic achievements, Zoe was one of the 2,037 applicants accepted from a pool of 39,506 students who applied to Harvard.
The 2018-19 school year started with the opening of the Aerospace & Natural Science Academy of Toledo. Students from across the region are now taking classes that focus on growing industries such as aviation and aeronautics, animal science and management, urban agriculture and agribusiness and environmental sustainability and wildlife management. The school boasts a contemporary look and feel that encourages project-based, cross-curricular learning in a high-tech environment. Students will have the opportunity to earn college credit, industrial credentials and meaningful employment after graduation.
We also celebrated the rebranding of three of our schools. Jones Leadership Academy added Business to its name and students are taking courses related to marketing, finance and other business courses. Two of our elementary schools adopted a STEMM-focus. Students at Marshall and McKinley are now taking classes that revolve around science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. An early introduction to these areas of study will help students be better prepared for the jobs of the future.
The State Report Card, released in mid-September, showed progress continues to be made across the district. Highlights include: our graduation rate has climbed from 63.1 percent in 2010 to a projected 79.17 percent for 2018; students attending a TPS thematic/magnet school had a 98 percent graduation rate; the number of students earning Honors diplomas, as well as taking the ACT/SAT and Advanced Placement courses, increased for the second straight year. For more details about the State Report Card, click on this link.
The Ohio Board of Education named Mona Al-Hayani, a beloved history teacher at Toledo Early College, as the 2019 Teacher of the Year. In addition to her teaching duties, Ms. Al-Hayani is the vice president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers and advises the National Honor Society and Young Women for Change, a student-led group at her school. A two-time U.S. Department of Education Fulbright-Hays awardee, Ms. Al-Hayani has traveled the world as a teacher leader and researcher. She will represent Ohio in the 2019 National Teacher of the Year selection sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Career Technology programs continued to be popular among students. Currently, TPS offers more than 30 programs that allow students to plan a career path directly after high school. More and more students are taking advantage of internships with local businesses that in many cases lead to jobs upon graduation. Such internships are only one example of how Toledo Public Schools continues to build strong relationships with community partners who want to see our students succeed.
In November, both levy renewals — Issues 5 and 6 — won by the largest voter approval ratings in the district’s history. Both won by a 3-to-1 margin and the monies generated from the levies are earmarked for operations across the district. Many thanks to those who volunteered their time in support of our levy efforts or made a financial contribution to the campaign. The overwhelming response from voters is a true testament that our community believes in public education and the course we are taking to ensure our students become college and career ready graduates.
The list goes on-and-on but my focus now is where do we go from here? I’ve turned my attention toward the future and find myself wondering what our school district will look like a year from now…five years from now. The immediate plans include introducing new academic programs for our students and implementing best practices when it comes to our operations. We will also continue researching the option of a new medical-focused high school and expanding our community partnerships to assist in making these dreams a reality.
In closing, I want to thank you all – our students, families, staff members and supporters – for being TPS Proud. As 2018 comes to a close, we have much to celebrate but even more to look forward to.
Dear TPS Families:
I am excited to be writing to you in my first-ever blog, a feature that I will be updating monthly to bring you the exciting news happening at Toledo Public Schools. I thought I'd use this first column to share some exciting opportunities for your students this summer and to give you some updates for the start of the 2018-2019 school year in case you didn't receive the year-end letters sent to all of our families earlier this month.
As we have done for the past couple of summers, we are again putting on outreach events at a number of LMHA communities. These are fun afternoons where you and your students (and potential students) can visit with other families and TPS staff, as well as get a free hot dog meal with all of the trimmings. Plus, there will be free books your children can take home - and they can have their faces painted by talented volunteer artists who work at TPS. Here are the dates so you can get them on your calendar:
- Ravine Park Village: - Tuesday, July 17 (1:00 to 2:30 p.m.)
- Northern Heights: Wednesday, July 18 (1:00 to 2:30 p.m.)
- McClinton-Nunn: Thursday, July 19 (1:00 to 2:30 p.m.)
- Elmdale-Mercer- Tuesday, July 24 (1:00-2:30 p.m.)
- Weiler Homes: Wednesday, July 25 (1:00 to 2:30 p.m.)
- Birmingham Terrace: Saturday, August 11 (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.)
Also, Toledo Public Schools has once again partnered with Summer Meal Partners of NW Ohio to have several local agencies offer nutritious meals this summer, along with educational and enrichment activities for students. The meals are open to anyone 18 and under through Friday, August 10. (All locations will be closed on Wednesday, July 4). For more information about programming or summer meals, call 2-1-1 or visit www.partnerstoledo.org and see the section on Summer Meal Partners. The district is also supporting the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s Summer Reading Challenge. We are encouraging all students to read at least one book per week this summer. Enroll your children for the Summer Reading Challenge at the library in your neighborhood - they will have fun and they can earn prizes and rewards. Visit www.toledolibrary.org for more information.
And now, I hate to do it to you, but I have to talk briefly about the start of the 2018-2019 school year. Because of a district-wide Professional Development Day that has been scheduled for Friday, August 17, we are moving the start of school to that following Monday, August 20. Important dates for you to remember:
Start of School:
• Thursday, August 16: Elementary Open Houses in the evening
• Friday, August 17: Staff Professional Development Day – no students
• Monday, August 20: First Day of School
o High School – Freshmen only – full day
o Elementary – 1st – 8th grade only - half day
• Tuesday, August 21: All students report – full day
• Thursday, August 24: Kindergarten students report
Vaccinations Required: A note from the district’s coordinator of health services: Make sure that your child has the vaccinations required by Ohio law. Kindergartners need their shots updated, 7th graders need a Tdap booster and 7th and 12th graders need a meningitis vaccine. Call your child’s doctor or visit a Shots 4 Tots and Teens immunization clinic. Call 419-213-4121 or visit www.lucascountyhealth.com for information about Shots 4 Tots and Teens. Children can be excluded from school for not having their shots up-to-date so remember: the longer you wait, the longer the lines!
Delayed Starts: The only two-hour delayed starts for the 2018-19 school year will be at the end of the first and third quarters and they will be only for elementary students. Those delayed starts will be on Friday, October 12, 2018 (the end of the first quarter) and on Friday, March 15, 2019 (at the end of the third quarter). High school students will follow their regular schedule on these days.
Days Off for Students: Along with the traditional days off, please remember that students also have no school on the following dates:
• Tuesday, November 6, 2018 - Election Day - Teacher In-Service Day
• Wednesday, November 21 – Friday, November 23, 2018 – Thanksgiving break
• Monday, January 7, 2019 - Teacher In-Service Day
• Tuesday, January 8, 2019 – Students return to school from winter break
• Friday, February 15 – Monday, February 18, 2019: Presidents Day holiday
New for the 2018-19 School Year: During summer break, administrators will be working on two key initiatives:
• Tobacco-Free School District – Earlier this year, the Board of Education approved a resolution that declares TPS will become a tobacco-free school district as of August
1, 2018. This means the use of any tobacco product will be strictly prohibited on any district property by students, staff members, parents, volunteers and visitors. More information will be shared about this at the beginning of the school year.
• Safety and Security – Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will be reminding students, staff members and parents about the importance of following all district security procedures. This is key as we continue to strive to provide a safe learning and work environment for both students and staff members.
I hope all of our students and their families are having a wonderful summer and please check this space each month for new blog posts that will keep you up-to-date about exciting initiatives we will be implementing this coming school year.
Dr. Romules Durant