Monday, February 6, 2017

January 2017 Board Meeting Highlights 


The Board of Education recognized Mary Meyer for her significant commitment to improve and support educational services in the Owensboro Public Schools by awarding her with the Tom Maddox Outstanding Achievement Award.  Mary has worked in our district for 21 years.  Having previously served as School Secretary at Sutton Elementary, she now serves as the central office receptionist. Her bright smile and positive attitude are something to be modeled after in the Owensboro Public Schools.  She exemplifies the spirit of the Tom Maddox award and has contributed greatly to our district.

The Board of Education recognized the Outstanding Achievement in School Information Services award recipients as follows:
 • Fine Arts Coordinator Tom Stites scored Proficient in the Special Events Category for the 2016 Fine Arts Festival program.
• Nathan Seaton and Dave Kirk scored Distinguished in the new category called Innovations in Communications for their work on implementing Tie Txt, the district’s mobile communication text messaging system.
• Dave Kirk also scored Distinguished in the field of press releases and took home the highest score in the state for the release, “No More Sitting Quietly At Your Desks at OPS”, a piece focused on pedal desks in the classroom.
• Dave Kirk also scored Distinguished and had the highest score in the state in feature photography for an entry called “Idea” and for a video selection called “A Surprise for Mrs. Baber.”

Congratulations to our 2017 Kentucky All-State Choir, Orchestra and Band students. These students are selected through a rigorous audition process that requires months of preparation and years of training to succeed. They compete first in our local district and then in a state-wide process that allows them to compete with students from across Kentucky for this honor. A small percentage of the 1000's of students who begin the audition actually attain this honor with many of them identified for college music scholarship offers as a result. Our large number of KMEA All-State members this year rivals or surpasses that of many 5-A schools in our state and is the result of our outstanding students’ individual effort and the support by our dedicated teachers.  Each student will be rehearsing for three days and performing as part of the 2017 KMEA Conference in Louisville, KY February 8-11. 2017

All State Chorus – Junior High Division:  Kaitlyn Cooper, Ja Seng Pauhkum, Randi Smith, Olivia Swenson, Nolia Williams, John Brink, Morgan Garrity, Jessie Hibbs, Eli Ochoa-Kennedy

All State Chorus – High School Division: Austin Adams, Mitchell Douglas, Chancelor Horne, Katie Kellems, Adalei Miller, Thomas Smith, Caleb Wiggins

All State Orchestra: Ben Sexton, Caleb Wiggins

All State Band:  Andrew Gilliam, Nathan Munster


The Board of Education elected Mr. Dan Griffith as Board Chair and Mr. Jeremy Edge as Vice Chair. Additionally, they appointed Dr. Nick Brake as Board Secretary, Mrs. Paula Roberts as Board Treasurer, and Mr. William Wilson as Board Attorney.


Welcome to OPS! 
Hannah Stephen, Health Science Instructor, OHS
Hunter Hinton, Intervention Assistant, Cravens Elementary
Steven Latzo, Intervention Assistant, OMS – North
Paul Payne III, Computer Lab Tech, Foust Elementary
Betty Sweeney, Bus Driver, Transportation
David Vanover, Custodian, Hager Preschool

Congratulations on your new position! 
Randy Bryant, now Administrative Intern, OMS-North & South
Barbara Evans, now LBD Teacher, Newton Parrish/Sutton
Amanda Sosh, LBD Teacher, Foust

OPS appreciates and welcomes our substitutes! 
Jennifer Brumley, Substitute Teacher
Joanne Gary, Substitute Teacher
Ashley Prewitt, Substitute Teacher
Char Rhoads, Substitute Teacher & Secretary
Ashley Roberts, Substitute Teacher
Sarah Tennant, Substitute Teacher
Joanne Gary, Substitute Cook/Baker, Instr. Assistant & Secretary

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Kids in Schools with Me

Social studies teacher at Owensboro High School, Beth Ewing, sent the following Langston Hughes poem to me.   She discovered while studying the 1920s for her U.S. history class.

The lessons from the arts, culture, and history from nearly a century ago ring true today, especially as it relates to the topic of immigration and the importance of public education.

The ideas presented are a primary goal of our school district.  Regardless of political obstacles that confront us, it will continue to be our focus until it is fully realised.

"The Kids in School with Me"

When I studied my A-B-C's
And learned arithmetic,
I also learned in public school
What makes America tick:
The kid in front
And the kid behind
And the kid across the aisle,
The Italian kid
And the Polish kid
And the girl with the Irish smile,
The colored kid
And the Spanish kid
And the Russian kid my size,
The Jewish kid
And the Grecian kid
And the girl with the Chinese eyes--
We were a regular Noah's ark,
Every race beneath the sun,
But our motto for graduation was:
One for All and All for One!
The kid in front
And the kid behind
And the kid across from me--
Just American kids together

The kids in school with me.

-Langston Hughes

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dan Griffith selected new chair of Owensboro Board of Education

Dan Griffith has been selected the new chair of the Owensboro Board of Education.  Griffith was elected by the other members of the board in a special called meeting on January 23, 2017.  Griffith was serve a one-year term as chair.

Griffith has served on the board since 2013 and was reelected to a new four-year term last fall.  He is the Chief Executive Officer of the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra.  Griffith holds a bachelor degree from Georgetown College and a master of public administration from Western Kentucky University.

Jeremy Edge was elected vice-chair at the same meeting.

I am honored to be able to continue to serve as OPS superintendent

The following news release was issued this afternoon regarding the new contract that the Owensboro Board of Education offered to me to continue service as superintendent.

Brake Receives Four-Year Contract

Owensboro Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Nick Brake has been awarded a new four-year contract by the OPS Board of Education to be the superintendent of Owensboro Public Schools.  Brake will complete his current four-year contract in June. 

“Dr. Brake is both a leader and visionary in every sense of those words.  Thanks to his hard work, our enrollment is climbing, test scores are up and OPS’ culture and momentum is perhaps at an all-time high,” said Dan Griffith, board chair.

The new contract will start in July of this year and will run through June of 2021. Brake signed the contract during the special called January board meeting.

“I’m humbled to get to serve in, what is in my opinion, the best school district in the state of Kentucky.  I’m thankful to get to work with some of the most incredible students and staff anywhere.  The guidance of the OPS Board of Education allows our school district to flourish.  I’d also like to thank my wife Candance, my two children Anna Caroline and Nicholas and the rest of my family for their support,” said Dr. Nick Brake, OPS superintendent.

“It’s not just the belief of the OPS Board of Education that Owensboro Public Schools are thriving under Dr. Brake’s leadership.  Recently, there was an article in the Messenger-Inquirer where the president of the Greater Owensboro Realtor’s Association was quoted saying, ‘There's a lot of enthusiasm about Owensboro Public Schools now.  People really like their arts program and the Owensboro Innovation Academy.  They want to live in that area,’” added Griffith.

Dr. Brake says he’s looking forward to his future with OPS.

“My priorities remain to work for better compensation for our staff, to continue to put a large focus on literacy for our students and to provide as many options to our secondary students as possible so they succeed in the careers of not only the present, but also the future,” said Brake.

Last year, Brake was one of 24 superintendents in the nation to receive the National School Public Relation’s Association’s “Superintendents To Watch” award.  Brake’s full contract is listed on the Owensboro Public Schools’ website under the Superintendent page. 

Big Thanks to School Board Members in Honor of School Board Recognition Month

Every year in January we celebrate and thank our local citizens that serve the students of this and every district as a member of the board of education.

While the month of recognition is a great place holder to honor and remember the contribution they
make to education in local communities, truthfully they should be thanked more often than one month of the year.  I make it a point to thank them every week when I send regular correspondence to them.  I do not think we can thank them often enough for their willingness to take on such as awesome responsibility.

The greatest resource of any community is its people.  From that resource comes an element vital to the community's future-- the education of its children.   Key players in a well-operated, effective public school system are the community representatives who are elected to the board of education.

The Owensboro Public Schools have been blessed to have very committed and dedicated individuals serve on the board of education.    I urge all citizens to honor and thank the current members of our board of education: John Blaney, Melissa Decker, Jeremy Edge, Nancy Eskridge, and Dan Griffith for their devotion to the shared goal of a better life for our children and our future leaders.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How new federal ESSA law will affect accountability in Kentucky

The role of the federal government in education is changing with the implementation of the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was passed by Congress and signed into law a little more than a year ago.  The US Department of Education has spent the last year rulemaking to determine how the law will be implemented.  One of the biggest changes compared to ESSA's predecessor No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is that more authority will now rest with the states. Education leaders in Kentucky have been working through task forces formed by Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt to begin to develop a model for the new accountability system that is part of ESSA.

Kentucky will have a lot more say in what the accountability model looks like, as opposed to the federal government.  It is important to recognize that assessment and accountability are NOT synonyms; assessment is just one component of accountability, and all assessments do not factor into accountability.  Accountability will be composed of multiple measures, only one of which will be a state summative test.  Accountability will also include measures of social and emotional wellness, work and life essential skills, and preparation of students for successful transition to post-secondary
Given the above, Kentucky is still working to put together a model that will work, be understandable, be equitable, and meet the requirements of ESSA, which include:

Each state’s accountability system must “meaningfully differentiate” schools into at least 3 distinct categories, which could be as simple as:
·       Comprehensive support and improvement (see item 5)
·       Targeted support and improvement (see item 5)
·       All other schools
Kentucky has tentatively proposed an overall rating based on 1-5 stars, where more stars = better performance.  There will be more of a focus on multiple measures instead of a single test score. The overall rating would be determined by combined performance on all of the areas/indicators (see #6).  

There has been no determination regarding weighting of various indicators.  There will NOT be any “pass/fail” labels for schools as there were under NCLB.

States will report a school’s overall result alongside performance on each individual indicator through a data dashboard

Subgroups remain a focal point of the federal law; the non-duplicated gap group cannot substitute for individual groups.  However, states have more leeway in setting goals for subgroups and determining how these groups are defined and reported.  For example, currently we use 10 as the minimum number for reporting a subgroup’s performance; it is possible that this number could be raised.  The law also stresses equitable access (to quality programs) for all subgroups in order to address the “opportunity gap” as well as achievement gaps.

Schools needing Targeted Support and Improvement or Comprehensive Support will be identified based on data from 2018-19 at the latest.  Factors used to identify these schools include:
·       Lowest 5% of all Title I schools in the state
·       Graduation rate of less than 67%
·       Title I schools with a consistently underperforming subgroup: the state will define “consistently underperforming”

Accountability System (“Big A”) will include AT LEAST these indicators:
·       Academic achievement
·       Graduation rate
·       Academic progress/growth
·       School quality/student success  (this has not been defined yet)
·       Progress towards achieving English language proficiency (this is a new component)

Other areas (“little a”) will be reported (e.g. yes/no; none/little/some/much) but NOT included in accountability ratings
·       Equitable access
·       Learning environment
·       Systems of support
·       Community/business partnerships

The state will define how to combine measures to generate a result for each indicator

There will be more of an emphasis on improvement and cooperation as opposed to competition and scores/rankings.  The reporting system will be designed to incentivize and reward good practice rather than penalize bad performance.

States may choose one of two dates to submit their plans: April 3, 2017 or Sept 18, 2017.  Kentucky had initially planned to have the new system approved by the state Board of Education in January and February of 2017; that timeline has been relaxed.    As of right now, the new assessment and accountability system should be in place during the 2017-2018 school year.

To read more about ESSA and the work being done in Kentucky to implement the new law visit the Kentucky Department of Education website ESSA page.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

OPS Superintendent participates in White House discussion on Race to the Top program

The following blog post appeared on the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education discussing the gathering at the White House in Washington on the Race to the Top personalized learning efforts. OPS Superintendent Dr. Nick Brake attended as a representative from Kentucky:

Districts Realize the Personalized Learning Vision, See its Future

District superintendents across the country have taken on a range of bold approaches to improving students’ experiences in public education. Across these innovations, districts have embraced the notion that empowering students and their teachers is an effective way to improve student outcomes.

At a Nov. 15 convening, hosted by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) , our nation’s leading district superintendents overwhelmingly expressed an optimistic sense of purpose. Motivated by their successes with personalized learning across schools in their districts, a ringing call to action for these leaders came out of this Washington summit: give more students and educators the opportunity to experience personalized learning.

The Obama administration’s investment in personalized learning resulted from “a vision and drive for improving how we teach and engage our learners” said Roberto Rodríguez, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education. “And we need more of that across the country.”

For superintendents, this means enhancing the efforts seeded by ED’s Race to the Top–District (RTT–D) program, connecting with other district leaders who are implementing personalized learning, and scaling up efforts across districts.

“We have transformed the learning for our students and our districts,” said Dena Cushenberry, superintendent of Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, Indiana.

Since implementing personalized learning, districts and schools have seen rising levels of student engagement, improved graduation and college enrollment rates, reduced discipline rates and greater teacher retention. All these outcomes have moved the needle towards providing an equitable, high-quality public education for students in schools nationwide. Nadya Chinoy Dabby, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, said, ” Personalization presents a unique opportunity for schools to better understand—and meet—each student’s unique learning needs. Equity goes hand-in-hand with personalization.”

Superintendents identified three areas fundamental to scaling success in personalized learning: creating the right infrastructure, providing meaningful professional development and ensuring sustainability of the changes.

Investment in infrastructure can mean building in time and support for teachers and leaders to embrace the new approaches, and practicing a tenet of personalized learning: trust.

Superintendents are looking to maintain their progress. There are several relevant opportunities within the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Also, districts are tapping into their communities’ assets – like local businesses, service providers and teacher colleges – to best meet the needs of their students, families and teachers.

With a strong foundation laid, district and school leaders are positioned to sustain personalized learning and spread this approach across the nation.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” said Katrina Stevens, Deputy Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.  “But one thing that’s clear to me: This work is going to move forward because of the passion and dedication of local leaders.”

Want to learn more? Contact RTT-D Team Lead Andrea Browning, or visit the RTT-D website.

Andrea Browning is the Team Lead for the Race to the Top-District program in ED’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which has invested $500 million in local personalized learning initiatives since 2012.