Providing Opportunities for Our Students to Explore, Expand and Discover

December 07, 2016

If you have a fifth or sixth grade student in our school district this year or if you know one, chances are you’ve heard about our new Explorations program.

Launched this school year, all district 5th and 6th grade students begin each week with a 90-minute, interest-based course that takes place on Mondays for nine weeks. Courses being offered include Printmaking Palooza, Spanish Theater, Kids that Code, Popular Sports, Golf and many more. The goal of Explorations is to amplify the curriculum and stimulate student interests.

As a parent of a fifth grader, I experienced firsthand the excitement of our students as they selected course options and kicked off the school year with these new opportunities. Cameryn and her friends look forward to Monday mornings every week. She loved honing her artistic skills creating her pet sculpture in the first quarter, and now she’s applying her knowledge of design thinking and skills in problem solving in the course “Design Squad.”

Explorations is part of our Warriors BEyond program. Since the launch of Warriors BEyond last school year, the opportunities we provide our students during and after the school day to explore, expand and discover interests beyond the traditional curriculum have really blossomed at every level. In addition to Explorations, we now have the Master Class series at the high school, a growing Expeditions program at the junior high, student travel opportunities and an even bigger list of after-school enrichment offerings.

The high school Master Class series is an opportunity for students to develop the curriculum. Students are encouraged to tell the instructor what they want to learn during the classes in this series, which, this year, include Rock Band, UTrain, Italian and Shark Tank. The Master Class series is not teacher-mandated work and it’s not graded. The direction of these classes is driven by student ideas and interest.

This year, we’ve also added 18 new courses to the Expeditions program at the junior high to accommodate ever-changing student interests, needs and passions. Students have already logged over 266,880 minutes of ungraded, hands-on experiential learning so far this year!

Additionally, hundreds of our elementary students are participating in after-school enrichment this school year. Our eighth graders will be touring Washington, D.C. in June, and over 40 of our high school students will be traveling internationally in 2017. All thanks to Warriors BEyond!

I want student learning to be enhanced through diverse curricular options and enriching experiences that drive deeper understanding and skill development and support global competency. As a school district, we have put substantial effort into recognizing the changing needs and expectations of our learners to help our students become competent, gracious and empowered global leaders of tomorrow.

Steven Estepp
Superintendent

 

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Thankful for the Parents and Community Members Who Help Create the Mariemont Experience

November 10, 2016

November is always a great month for reflection about and appreciation for all which I have to be thankful. Certainly in my role as superintendent, I have much to be grateful for in the organizations that support our schools.

If it weren't for the many parents and community members who donate countless hours and dollars through our PTOs, Mariemont School Foundation, Arts Association and Athletic Boosters, the Mariemont experience wouldn't be the same for our students. They provide the extras that set Mariemont City Schools apart. Thank you!

And like these school organizations, our community’s local Kiwanis club is also dedicated to improving the experience for our students. If you are not familiar with Kiwanis, this global organization is dedicated to serving the children of the world. Annually, Kiwanis raises more than $100 million and dedicates more than 18.5 million volunteer hours to strengthen communities and serve children.

Locally, our Mariemont Kiwanis club awards thousands of dollars in scholarship money to our graduates every year, donates useful tools to our schools, volunteers countless hours in our classrooms, offers leadership training and skills to our students and helps bring humanitarian opportunities to our community.

Last month, I began my term as president of the Mariemont Kiwanis club. I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to the year ahead. This is a chance for me to give even more to something I am passionate about – our community’s children.

The power of Kiwanis is the opportunity to give, and ultimately, make a lasting difference in the lives of our scholars of today and leaders of tomorrow. Giving itself is very powerful. After all, we never know how giving today will impact us tomorrow.

And so as I look forward to the next year as a Kiwanian, I am challenging myself and all of our club’s members to give even more – whether it's mentoring a child, leading a club, assisting with a fundraiser or awarding a scholarship – there is something for all of us to do.

If you're looking for an opportunity to give and make a difference in the lives of our children through a community organization, I encourage you to consider becoming a part of Kiwanis. Kids Need Kiwanis, and, more importantly for me personally, kids in the Mariemont City School District need Kiwanis.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Steven Estepp
Superintendent

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The Importance of Community Engagement in the High School Facilities Process

October 06, 2016

In 2009, the community participated in the development of a comprehensive Master Facilities Plan. That plan resulted in the construction of nearly all new – and much needed – schools for our district. Left unaddressed in the 2009 plan, however, was the high school facility. Soon, our high school building will be 50 years old, and at some point, the age and design of a building begins to interfere with the education, technology and safety needs of today. We are to that point.

In the summer of 2015, the Mariemont Board of Education reviewed costs totaling almost a half million dollars for recent repairs the district has had to make at the high school facility; the Board also looked at the projected costs of repairs. In response to this information, the Board asked me to develop a multi-year facility community engagement process for the purpose of creating a master facility plan for Mariemont High School. This plan will guide decisions regarding needed repairs, upgrades and/or replacement of the high school facility.

The process officially began in the fall of 2015 with the start of the “assessment phase – part I” and continued over a nine-month period, culminating in June 2016. The purpose of this phase was to create an initial summary of high school facility strengths and weaknesses. Nearly 15 community members, Board members and school district administrators participated in this work. And what they found might not be surprising to many of you. They found that the size and layout of the high school make implementation of present-day and future curriculum needs and teaching techniques as outlined in Destination 2026 very challenging, if not impossible. And they found little to no flexibility for student and staff collaboration within our learning spaces. Security was an issue, due to the layout of the building. There are also many infrastructure needs at the high school – crucial elements like roofing, wiring and plumbing – that are raising more and more concerns and costing more and more money.

With these initial findings, the engagement process to develop a master plan now continues over the next two years, and there will be many opportunities for you to be involved and provide input. The entire process will be open and transparent. Just as it was in 2009, community input is critical to the success of this process. Earlier this month, Treasurer Tom Golinar and I hosted two school chats and answered questions about the facility process. We will be hosting more opportunities for dialogue in the future, and I encourage everyone to participate in those as well as attend events like the State of the Schools Address on January 18. After all, it is up to all of us to be involved in analyzing and assessing the future options for the high school.

Please check our website often, watch the Mariemont Minute and listen to the ConnectME podcast to stay informed of the many opportunities to provide input. We have a long way to go and I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

Steven Estepp
Superintendent
 

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A Comprehensive Glimpse Into the Areas of Your School District That Matter Most

September 08, 2016

Beginning next week, look for our Quality Profile in your mailbox. In its fourth year now, the purpose of the Quality Profile is to offer a comprehensive glimpse into the areas of your school district that matter most. Seven areas are highlighted this year: (1) teaching & learning; (2) fiscal stewardship; (3) academics; (4) arts; (5) parent & community involvement; (6) student leadership & activities; and (7) student safety & wellness.

As you read through the Profile, I think you’ll be proud of the tremendous work and accomplishments from our students and staff in the last school year. You’ll learn more about our Warriors BEyond program and the tremendous opportunities it’s creating for our students. You’ll see the places our graduating class of 2016 is continuing its education – 44 institutions across 22 states – with the help of the nearly $7 million dollars in scholarship money awarded. You’ll see that, last year, we had more students take more advanced placement course exams than ever in recent history – a testament to our commitment to a quality, rigorous, college preparatory academic program. This commitment to quality and rigor also includes our arts program, and the Profile shares many of the great accomplishments our students celebrated in both the visual and performing arts.

So much of this success is due to our students’ strong involvement in extracurricular activities and clubs beyond the normal school day. As you’ll read, 80% of our high school students and 86% of our junior high students stay involved in school after the final bell. Our students are volunteers, athletes, entrepreneurs and scientists, just to name a few – and you’ll see all of this in the pages of the Profile. And our commitment to strong fiscal accountability continues to be a primary focus – it’s great to see the Mariemont City School District ranked 10th in the country as a school district that commands top premiums for home values!

Also featured in this year’s Quality Profile is a glimpse into the future and the conversations that we need to begin now about our high school facility. It’s been eight years since our community has talked about facilities. Of course, back then, the decision was made to renovate and expand Mariemont Elementary and Terrace Park Elementary and build Mariemont Junior High School. Left for another day was Mariemont High School, and as this nearly 50-year-old building continues to age, we, as a community, will need to make some decisions about the long-term plan for our school district’s high school. You can learn more about this in the Quality Profile, and I will be sharing much more in the weeks and months to come.

Until then, please spend some time reading the Quality Profile when it arrives at your home. It’s part of my commitment to keep you informed about your school district. We work hard every day to meet and exceed your expectations, and we will continue to do so in the future.


Steven Estepp
Superintendent

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Safety Updates for the 2016-17 School Year

September 01, 2016

You’ve likely heard me talk about how important school safety is to me and how important it is to the success of each and every child in our schools. This is always a focus for our school district and will continue to be this year.

We regularly solicit feedback about many aspects of the experience people have within our schools, including safety. According to our most recent parent survey, 87% of our district parents feel the school environment is caring and supportive, and 90% of parents feel the school district is a safe place for their children. Added to that, 93% of our staff feel they have a safe workplace.

While these numbers are extremely positive, we can always find ways to improve.

For this reason, we organized a Safety Task Force last school year to review district policies and practices on several safety topics. This task force, comprised of staff and parents, identified key findings, developed a variety of options and presented their work to the Board of Education in the spring.

As a result of the task force’s diligence and the school district’s commitment to safety, we are updating some of the safety protocols and procedures in our schools this year.

  • Every visitor to a district school building during school hours must enter through the main entrance and register at the school office. If a visitor plans on visiting any part of the school other than the lobby, the visitor must sign in.
  1. At Mariemont Elementary, Terrace Park Elementary and Mariemont Junior High, every visitor must register his/her name and purpose of visit in a visitor sign-in book. Each visitor will be issued a badge that must be worn for the duration of the visit. Visitors may be asked to show identification.
  2. We are piloting LobbyGuard, which is a self-service kiosk system, at Mariemont High School. LobbyGuard will help us keep track of everyone who enters our doors by running a background check on each visitor. Every visitor will be required to provide a state-issued identification (i.e., driver’s license) to be scanned at the LobbyGuard kiosk in the main office. Each visitor will then be given a visitor badge that must be worn for the duration of the visit.
  • Certain volunteer positions will require a full background check prior to assuming volunteer duties. In general, these are volunteers who may work unsupervised with children or any visitor who is on school property regularly and opts to register for a permanent school volunteer badge.
  • We have launched a School Resource Officer program at Mariemont High School this school year. Our SRO, Terry Zinser, who has 37 years of experience in law enforcement and is retired as the Chief of Police for Union Township, is a uniformed Mariemont police officer assigned as a regular presence on the high school campus to provide security and crime prevention services and also serve as a problem solver, youth advocate, school and community liaison, mentor and positive role model.

For more information about the steps we’re taking to ensure our students, staff and visitors are as safe as possible, please visit the district website’s school safety page.

I consider the matter of school safety everyone’s business, and so I ask you to keep your eyes open and to report any unsafe condition or situation to your child’s principal. I appreciate your cooperation and support as we all get used to these additional safety procedures. Together, we can maintain a school environment that is safe and conducive for growth, work and learning.


Steven Estepp
Superintendent

 

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