Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy Holidays from the Owensboro Public Schools

As I reflect this year, I am most thankful to be a part of a great school system in a great community. Never have the blessings that we share been more apparent that over the past several weeks as we have witnessed such pain and hardship with the tumultuous events at home and abroad.  

The Christmas story is about a baby born to two humble people denied refuge on a dark night in an era of oppression and cruelty.  Hanukkah, too, focuses on light prevailing against darkness in a time of conflict.  The two stories are instructive in our current age.  In a time where we witness so much hopelessness from so many, we celebrate this Christmas the hope that OPS teachers and staff provide to the students in our schools through kindness, generosity, and hard work.   I believe the work we do day-to-day in our schools provides hope as a defiant act to confront the shadows of terrorism and inhumanity.   My prayer this Christmas is rooted in the belief that the work we do as educators through the heroic love we offer in serving the students--no matter their background, race, or creed—will make our community and our world a better place.  

Happy Holidays!

Nick Brake

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Increasing number of OPS students entering kindergarten not ready to learn

An increasing number of students entering the Owensboro Public Schools are at a disadvantage for learning before they even start school, according to latest data released by the Kentucky Department of Education.  But early childhood programs like Hager Preschool and the Estes Early Learning Academy make a positive difference.

Only about one-third of students entering kindergarten in an OPS elementary schools in 2015-16 were ready for kindergarten.  The data is based on the Brigance K Screener used in all 173 school districts in the Commonwealth.  The average at the state level was 50.1 percent.

"The steady increase in the number of students coming to us not ready to learn is staggering," said Owensboro Public School Superintendent Dr. Nick Brake.  "This is more than just a school problem, this is a community and societal problem."

Brake said the data  further illustrates the need continue to promote access to high quality early childhood education and daycare programs, like Hager Preschool or the Estes Early Learning Academy.   Students coming from a prior setting in daycare or preschool perform better than those coming straight from the home to kindergarten.

"We cannot let this opportunity gap determine the future for these students," he said pointing out that at the other end of the educational spectrum OPS send two-thirds of students to postsecondary education and graduates two out of three college and/or career ready.  "We are successful in narrowing that gap, but we still have a lot of work to do."

Kindergarten readiness by school: Cravens 27.9 percent;  Estes, 26.8 percent; Foust, 29.3 percent; Newton Parrish, 50.6 percent; Sutton, 56.3 percent; OPS district average, 37.9 percent.

Monday, December 14, 2015

OPS students participate in Hour of Code

Students from the Owensboro Public Schools joined thousands of Kentucky students computer coding starting last week during Computer Science Education Week. As part of the effort, students, teachers, parents and policymakers are encouraged to participate in an Hour of Code, a worldwide, hands-on experience in learning to write computer code.

Engineering students from OMS-N in Lora Wellman's
class participating in an Hour of Code
Owensboro Middle School was one of more than 750 Kentucky schools, businesses and organizations have signed up to participate in the third year of the event.  In 2013, the event’s first year, Kentucky hosted just 30 events. This year there are more than 172,000 events registered worldwide. Since its inception, more than 100 million students in 180 countries have participated in Hour of Code events.

“The Hour of Code is a great way to introduce students to computer science,” Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said. “Coding not only teaches students technical skills, but also fosters creativity and problem-solving skills that students will need in any future career.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that occupations related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022, an increase of about 1 million jobs over 2012 employment levels. By 2020 there will be one million more computer programming jobs than students graduating from college with this skill, according to, a national, non-profit organization, which sponsors the Hour of Code.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Owensboro Board of Education Passes Resolution Supporting Teacher Retirement System

The Owensboro Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution supporting a long-term solution for the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System (KTRS).

The resolution, passed at the November regular meeting of the Board on Thursday, stated that "members of the Owensboro Independent Board of Education wish to support Kentucky educators in their efforts to secure a viable funding plan that will ensure the KTRS pension system will provide for teachers during their retirement years."

Members of the Board agree that a sound pension system is critical for the district to recruit and retain quality teachers in the future.   Furthermore, the Board supports the efforts of the Governor's bipartisan task force working working to develop long-term solutions for the financial soundness of the retirement system.

The full resolution can be found at the following link:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

OPS Expanding Career Pathways Options through new Tech Center Space

The Owensboro Public Schools will add several new career pathway programs for high school students in the district next year.  The new OPS Tech Center will house electrical and building construction programs in space that will be leased adjacent to the Centre for Business and Research on Allen Street.

“We are trying to provide every option possible to enable students to graduate college and career ready,” Owensboro High School Principal John DeLacey told the Owensboro Board of Education last 
week. “These hands-on programs will greatly benefit our students.”

The Owensboro Board of Education will consider the expanded space in a lease with the Malcolm Bryant Corporation early next year.

The electrical program, a partnership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), is currently located on the lower level of the CBR inside the Owensboro Innovation Academy (OIA).  Moving the IBEW program to the new Tech Center will create the space needed at OIA to add the second class of students in 2016, said OPS Superintendent Dr. Nick Brake.

Brake said the construction program would be the result of a partnership with the Carpenters International from Evansville.  “We have looked at the job opportunities for students in many trade-related areas in the regional economy,” said Brake.  “We want to position our students to graduate with industry standard certification in as many career areas as possible,” he said.

In addition to the new pathways at the OPS Tech Center, Owensboro High School offers career pathway programs in aviation, business, communication and media, early childhood education, and health sciences.  Owensboro Public Schools currently partner with surrounding school systems for the Community Campus program, which offers pathway magnet programs in bio-medical science and engineering.

Owensboro Public Schools also participates in the OCTC Discover College Program that offers career pathways for students who meet benchmarks in agriculture, air conditioning technology, business administration, industrial maintenance technology, medical information technology, and welding.

“Our goal is to have every student that enters Owensboro High School enroll in and graduate from one of these pathways, “ said OHS principal DeLacey. 

The district is also working with the Kentucky Department of Education to identify possible pathway options in the performing arts.

Friday, October 30, 2015

OPS releases Annual Report

The results from the Kentucky Unbridled Learning Assessments were released at midnight. 

We need to take the opportunity to celebrate the successes from our results, we also need to step back and evaluate the challenges that are evident in many areas.  These challenges are being met by the problems of practice identified in July for each school.  From the data analysis conducted last week each school is developing strategies to address gap scores and novice reduction at the classroom level.  Most of these problems of practice emphasize learning outcomes focused on increased rigor and deeper learning around 21st century skills for college and career.

Our overall district problem of practice is very clearly aligned with this work: Engage students with innovative teaching so that ALL can graduate with the requisite skills they need to be successful in the postsecondary pathway of their choosing.  

Our work with student success is a marathon and not a sprint.  We will continue to work to identify and communicate pathways for our students to become college and career ready.   The hard work and commitment of our teachers and staff to the students of our district is evident every day.

We have also released an Annual Report about the great things happening in the Owensboro Public Schools each year in conjunction with the release of state assessment data.  The state data is an important and very public barometer of our success, but we remain firm in our commitment to educating the whole child and using multiple methods of monitoring and assessing student performance in our district.  

You can access the OPS Annual Report at the following link: 

If you are interested in further information about Unbridled Learning results, a complete data report is available at:

Postsecondary Education should be an Expectation for ALL Students

In the book, The Race Between Education and Technology, Harvard economists Claudia Golding and Lawrence Katz argue that technological progress has dramatically increased the demand for skilled workers, and that, in recent decades the American educational system is not supplying enough graduates who can carry out the tasks that a high-tech economy requires. 

“Earning a postsecondary degree or credential is no longer just a pathway to opportunity for a talented few,” the White House website states.  “Rather, it is a prerequisite for growing jobs in the
new economy.”

The two-year degree or postsecondary certificate is quickly replacing the high school diploma as the minimum credential required for most jobs and the attainment of a middle class lifestyle.

Workforce development experts at Georgetown University and the Lumina Foundation have projected that during the next decade over 60 percent of all jobs will require some form of post secondary education.  These projections indicate a strong demand for “middle skill” occupations that may not require a four-year bachelor’s degree, but will require postsecondary education. 

This trend is true in the Owensboro-Evansville region.  Currently only about 40 percent of the adult workforce in the combined Evansville and Owensboro MSAs have some form of postsecondary education.  In Owensboro alone, this means an increase of 15,000 new postsecondary credentials to keep pace with the projected demand. 

The implications are significant for K-12 and postsecondary institutions in the Tri-State.  In the Owensboro Public Schools, we are working to blend the last two years of high school with postsecondary education in programs like our early college academy.

As a region we need to be cognizant of the message we send to young people.  Postsecondary education should now be an expectation for ALL students.   Our economic future depends on it.

Friday, August 7, 2015

OPS enrollment nearing the 5,000 mark

The Owensboro Public Schools had a great start this week with enrollment edging up toward the 5,000 mark.  The district has not reached the 5,000 student threshold for nearly three decades.

Enrollment on day one was 4,568 students compared to 4,464 in 2014.  Day two enrollment increased to 4,652, about 200 more than enrolled on day 2 of last year.  By day three enrollment in OPS schools reached 4,689, compared to 4,566 in 2014 and over 200 more than day three in 2013.

Enrollment is expected to continue to grow through the middle of August when the Daviess County Schools begin classes.  Overall enrollment should top 5,000 by August 24 when Hager Preschool student begin classes.

Friday, June 19, 2015

State of the District is "very strong"

Superintendent Dr. Nick Brake delivered the State of the District address to the Owensboro Board of Education on June 18.

The following are highlights from the address:

The state of the district is very strong.

 Enrollment has climbed by over 800 students since 2009, with an increase of 300 students in OPS elementary schools, 300 at the two middle school campuses and 200 at Owensboro High School.  

The district continues to focus on a three-fold strategy of engaging the whole child, innovation in teaching and learning, and organizational excellence.  

The "whole child" continuum begins with access and readiness at the pre-k level.  The district is working to expand access to Hager Preschool.  Estes Elementary is also piloting a blended preschool and kindergarten classroom this fall.  

Elementary schools have had a sharp focus on literacy and numeracy.  The Owensboro Reads project has garnered national attention with two awards.  The project is focusing intensive effort breaking the summer slide through reading camps and the 30 minute a day reading pledge.  Looking forward, the district will be launching a new program targeted at pre-k and early elementary students through an out of school devise-based reading platform called Footsteps-2-Brilliance.  

The middle school is adding a Pre-Advanced Placement program to significantly raise the overall rigor of the curriculum.  

The end of the P-12 continuum has been enhanced through the development of six new career and technical programs for high school students, including partnerships with the Owensboro Community and Technical College and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  Dual credit numbers have nearly doubled, including 10 students that were part of the inaugural Early College Academy.  

The Fine Arts programs continue to be a major draw for students in the district.  Over 90 percent of students in grades 5-12 are fully engaged in a fine or performing arts curriculum and program. 

The district has been very successful engaging families and the community in the education of students.  Over 36 businesses, agencies and organizations had meaningful partnerships with the district last year. 

OPS is proud to be one of the seven Districts of Innovation in Kentucky.  The Owensboro Innovation Academy will open its doors this fall with 100 freshman as the state's first New Tech Network school.  

To foster the growth of innovative teaching and learning, the district distributed over $400,000 in iGrants to teachers and schools looking to use technology and more individualized instruction.  

Owensboro High School is at the forefront of working to develop an innovative new diploma that will be a part of the Kentucky Rising effort to make education more globally competitive. 

The district is focusing sharply on innovative teaching and learning by developing a strong culture of teachers working collaboratively focusing on the instructional core to engage students.   District finances have shifted with more funding to support school level instruction from 58 percent in 2012 to 68 percent in 2015. 

As an organization, OPS is focusing intensive efforts on attracting, developing and retaining the highest caliber workforce.  Teacher retention is very high district wide, especially at the elementary level.  The overall quality of applicants for teaching positions in OPS is very strong. 

OPS is focusing on leadership development of teacher leaders and aspiring administrators through the Leadership OPS program and a new partnership with Western Kentucky University to offer graduate courses in teacher leaders and school administration jointly with OPS leadership. 

Two management and operational areas have been and will continue to be a focus of the district.  Facility upgrades and renovations at elementary schools kicked off this year with the Sutton project.  The district is also looking to improve in the area of energy management.  OPS currently ranks 141 out of 173 district is energy utilization.  The district energy management team is looking to improve this area as a way of realizing cost savings.  If the district reaches the average level of energy use of those districts with energy management programs, the annual savings would be over $175,000 per year. 

The financial health of the district is very strong, with a fund balance that is the envy of many districts in the state.  Faced with increasing costs of energy combined with maintaining competitive salaries and providing support for technology, the arts, and expanding career and technical programs means that the district will have to look at ways to cut costs without cutting quality.  

Workforce engagement is very high as well.  The recently released TELL survey indicate that 95 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that the district is a great place to work.  The response rate of the survey is a further indication of workforce engagement with a 92 percent response rate, compared to a 68 percent response two years ago.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Early College Academy Success Continues for OPS

Last year, Owensboro Public Schools partnered with the Owensboro Community and Technical College to form a program called the Early College Academy.  OPS is pleased to announce that five Owensboro High School students have qualified to enter year two of the program and nine students will enter the program in Fall 2015.  The program allows high school students to graduate both with their high school diploma and their associate degree. 

“It’s opportunities like this one that allows OPS students to be ahead of the game in our ever-changing world.  We are so thankful to OCTC for this incredible partnership,” said Dr. Nick Brake, OPS Superintendent.

Students take both high school classes at OHS and college classes at OCTC.  The classes are free to students, paid for by the Owensboro Public School district. 

“It’s a new approach to learning.  I’ll be able to apply what I learn through ECA to my future goals,” said Carter Stovall, OHS Student

“I’ve worked hard and I’m determined to succeed.  I’m so happy to be one of the few people chosen to participate in this program,” said Aliyah Burden, OHS Student.

“I’ve decided to continue with the Early College Academy because it is very rewarding and will benefit me in the future,” said Gabrielle Epperson, OHS Student.

Congratulations to our Early College Academy students:

First Year Students
Aliyah Burden
Kathryn Feldpausch
Leah Fulkerson
Brooklyn Girten
James Howard
Edward Smith

Second Year Students
Gabby Epperson
Taylor Donovan
William Litsey
Emily Ruplinger
Charles Walker