Providing a Positive Environment for All Students

February 15, 2017

In my work as superintendent, I have many priorities to ensure we’re creating the best experience for all of our students. One of these priorities centers on the social and emotional well being of the children we serve.

I want every child in Mariemont City Schools to succeed academically, socially, behaviorally and emotionally. To make this goal a reality, we make a variety of support programs and services available to all of our district students.

At the elementary level, we use the OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Program, a nationally renowned, whole-school bullying curriculum aimed at grades K-6 on a school, classroom and individual level. At both of our elementary schools, we implement a number of programs and activities to educate our students about standing up for themselves and for each other. Each month, the schools focus on an anti-bullying-related theme associated with a piece of children’s literature that is read and discussed at all grade levels. The counseling staff also creates a monthly calendar related to the theme, with daily suggestions on how the students can demonstrate the theme.

Starting this month, each teacher will show a video clip during a class meeting to generate discussion around empowering their students to stand up when they see bullying. There are ongoing class meetings with students, as well as staff meetings related to bullying prevention topics and planning; and in each building, the Student Kindness Committee organizes activities throughout the year. Additionally, both schools participate in the Great Kindness Challenge each year and all 5th grade students participate in a Kindness Retreat, which aims at empowering our kids to include and be respectful of others.

At the junior high and high school levels, we maintain the lessons and themes from OLWEUS and use the knowledge and insight that students at this age can give to continue to guide the program. For example, at the high school, Campus Life is an inclusive group that students can join at any time and the club works to plan fun events and activities for students. And at the junior high, Climate Council provides treats with personalized notes for occasions such as Halloween, exam week and Valentine's Day. Studies show that as student stress levels decrease, so does the frequency of bullying.

It is my hope that, by putting programs in place and raising awareness about this issue, we can strategically ensure that bullying prevention is a major area of focus district-wide, and, in turn, provide the most positive learning environments possible in our schools. I encourage you to listen to our next ConnectME podcast to learn more about this important work.

As parents, community members, teachers and administrators, we all share a common goal of wanting our students to feel safe and supported. Teaching our children positive life habits and that it’s OK to ask for and offer help is just another way we are guiding them to become better Leaders of Tomorrow.


Steven Estepp
Superintendent
 

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Engaging Our Community and Raising Excitement

January 24, 2017

Last week, we hosted our district’s 7th Annual State of the Schools Address, in which I discussed our schools – our accomplishments, our success stories, our challenges and our future. The goal of the address was to inform as well as engage our community and to raise excitement and pride for the work our students and staff are doing every day.

This event included a few firsts for us – we streamed the address and over 120 people watched the address live from the comfort of their homes, we engaged the audience using Menti.com to gather immediate and direct feedback, and we provided engagement guides for the audience to follow along and jot down notes, if they felt so inclined.

Below are a few of the key messages I shared during the address:

  • Space matters. Eight years ago, this school district embarked on a project to replace and renovate three of its four buildings – and the same reason why we have started a similar conversation about our high school facility.
  • Destination 2026, the instructional blueprint and strategic plan for our work, is a vision that celebrates and expands the tradition and innovation that has long defined our school system.
  • Today’s students are different; technology is different; colleges and employers expect different; and the world outside of school is different.


If you did not have the chance to attend or stream this event live, I encourage you to take time to watch the address, participate in the menti.com questions throughout the address and then take the post-event survey. Your involvement is critical to the ongoing conversation we are having about the Mariemont High School Master Facility Plan.

We have six in-home chats scheduled beginning next week to continue this important conversation and hear from you. If you’re interested in attending a chat, give us a call for more information. The only thing I ask is that you please watch the address prior to attending the event, so you feel informed and ready to engage in the next step. You can view the dates on the district calendar.

Also, everyone is invited to join the Building Team this spring and participate in design workshops, where we will discuss possible solutions for the challenges we know we face with our high school facility.

I hope that, by this stage in the process, you feel energized about the work ahead of us as we ensure our children at all grade levels, abilities and interests are getting the best educational experience possible.


Steven Estepp
Superintendent

 

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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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