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 RodrĂ­guez, 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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Owensboro Public Schools Announce Request for Proposals for Future Use of Former Boardwalk Property

The Owensboro Public School District is soliciting proposals from qualified partners representing educational institutions, community non-profit organizations, community development agencies, or residential development groups for programming concepts and conceptual design for the redevelopment of the former Boardwalk/Texas Gas property currently owned by the school district.

In 2012, the Owensboro Board of Education entered into an agreement with Riverfront JAM, LLC to purchase the Boardwalk/Texas Gas property at 3800 Frederica Street.  The rationale of the board that made the decision to purchase the 45-acre property was that is was an opportunity to acquire the largest site available in the land-locked city school district for future school use.  The purchase was also instrumental in helping keep over 200 Boardwalk jobs in Owensboro that relocated to a new downtown office building.  The purchase became final on Sept. 16, 2013. 

The district originally proposed using the existing 163,000 square-foot building for a middle school.  The Kentucky Department of Education rejected those plans under complex state guidelines for schools.  In 2013 under new superintendent Dr. Nick Brake, the district proposed a regional partnership to utilize the building for a career and technical education center.  Key area partners necessary to make the plan work declined to participate forcing OPS to abandon the use of the building for a tech center.

There will be a pre-submittal meeting of any interested parties wishing to submit a proposal on Dec. 9, 2016 at 9 a.m. at the Owensboro Board of Education, 450 Griffith Ave.  The final proposals should be submitted by 4 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2017.  The board anticipates accepting the final proposal by Feb. 15. 

The full request for proposal is available at  The link is located at the bottom of the web page.

Monday, November 21, 2016

November School Board Meeting Highlights

The OPS School Board had a regular meeting on November 17, 2016.  Here are some highlights from the meeting:

Instruction Report

Dr. Matthew Constant started his presentation on English Learners in our district by introducing the wonderful ELL staff who were present for the meeting.  He defined English learners and its various acronyms – EL: English Learners, ELL – English Language Learners, LEP – Limited English Proficiency.  Some English learners are immigrants and some are refugees.  The EL population has grown tremendously in the last 5 years – from 78 students in 2012 to 210 students in 2016, and the number of EL students is expected to continue to grow.  In our district, we have primarily Burmese, Somali, and Hispanic students who benefit from our EL resources. Dr. James Litzey, Site Director for the Owensboro International Center, chimed in from the audience to give a brief overview of what they do and how they partner with the Owensboro Public Schools.  Dr. Litzey said that OPS has been a great partner and are always doing more than expected to meet the needs of these students.  He acknowledged the difficulty of providing the services necessary for the refugee population, but commended OPS for pooling the resources needed to give them the best education possible.  Dr. Constant said the EL budget is a total of $213,139.00 – $152,075.80 from General Fund, $25,000.00 from RSIG (Refugee School Impact Grant), and $36,063.20 from Title III.  He followed up with a video production that Mr. Dave Kirk, OPS Public Information Officer, put together in concert with Ms. Kathryn Dueker, who is the ELL Student Services Coordinator for OPS.  Be on the lookout for this wonderful video to be published on the OPS You Tube channel soon!

Welcome to OPS!
Ashley Welsh, Teacher, OMS – South                          
Megan Coomes, Instructional Assistant, Cravens Elementary        
Markie DeWitt, Instructional Assistant, OMS – South                
Jason Dillow, Intervention Assistant, Foust Elementary                
Larry Douglas, Instructional Assistant, Foust Elementary          
Kathryn Dueker, ELL Student Services Coordinator, District Wide      
William Greer, Custodian, OMS – North                          
Tammy Griffith, Custodian, OHS                                      
Jessica Hopper, Instructional Assistant, Hager Preschool              
McKenzie Noffsinger, Instructional Assistant, Hager Preschool              
Jill Stone, Cook/Baker, OMS – South                                      

Congratulations on your new position!
Helen Cline, now Cook/Baker, Estes Elementary    
Chris Covington, now FRC/YSC, OMS - North                
Eva Davis, now Bus Driver, Transportation            

OPS appreciates and welcomes our substitutes!
Michael Little, Substitute Teacher                                                    
Gena Richardson, Substitute Teacher                                                    
Mandy Ayers, Substitute Childcare                                                  
Jennifer Del Rio, Substitute Cook/Baker                                          
Patricia Frey, Substitute Instructional Assistant                              
Gena Richardson, Substitute Instructional Assistant 

Monday, November 7, 2016

October School Board Meeting Highlights

The OPS School Board had a regular meeting on October 27. Here are some highlights from the meeting:

Welcome to OPS!
Katie Blandford, Teacher, OMS-South
Elizabeth Caudill, Teacher, Foust Elementary
Lindsey DeArmond, Instructional Asst., Cravens Elementary         
Tina Hamilton, Cook/Baker, OHS
Stephanie Higdon, Cook/Baker, OHS            
Jonett Howard, Custodian, OHS
Tami Shain, Cook/Baker, OMS – North
Paul Christopher Payne III, Digital Media Artist, OHS
Congratulations on your new position!
Jeff Johnson, now Curriculum Facilitator, Cravens     
Erin Bleemeli, now Cook/Baker, Newton Parrish                       
Catherine Keller, now Cook/Baker, OMS – North                      
Christy Schneider, now Instructional Asst., Estes                               
David Stubbs, now Custodian, Foust

Board Recognitions!
42 seventh grade students at Owensboro Middle School qualified to participate in the 36th Annual Duke University Talent Identification Program.  The students qualified by scoring 95% or higher on one or more specific achievement or aptitude tests in the areas of reading, language, or math. 

Those recognized:
Macy Altstadt, Adrien Askin, Dar Bang, Ava Bouie, Piper Bradfield, Ella Bratcher, DeLaney Brown, John Brown, Ace Collier, Madelyn Cook, Haley Cox, David Del Rio,
Jasmine Ferry, Victoria Garrard, Lauren Garrity, Josephine Gesser, Joshua Head, Matthew Horn, Sabrina Howard, Alexander Jones, Kara Bane Luckett, Madison Martin, Dylan Mather, Noah Miller, Kelton Moorman, Bryton Napier, Teudis Perez, Conner Rhoads, Tyrell Shack, Grace Shields, Marley Simon, Elliot Tines, Matthew Tolson, Abby Warren, Akeela Whitworth, John Wilkins, Sierra Willyard, Gavin Wimsatt, Dylan Blair, Lauren Payne, Judson Coombs, Talyne Payne

Congratulations to our retirees!
We take this opportunity to recognize the many years of dedicated service of our employees who have retired since June 30, 2016 or are retiring this year. 
Karen Schartung – Newton Parrish – 15 years
Jeff Johnson – OMS-N – 19 years
Diane Schindler – OMS-N – 29 years
Martha Bickett – OMS-N – 20 years
Mary Lacks – OMS-S – 22 years
Lisa Tompkins – Foust – 32 years
Carolyn Filzer - Foust – 28 years
Bobbyetta Heady – Hager – 12 years
Melodie Leonard – Hager – 25 years
Sherry Baber – Hager – 19 years

Congratulations to our OPS Business Department for a great audit!
Mr. Jack Sommerville with Myriad CPA Group, presented his findings from the 2016 Audit.  Relative to our government wide financial statements, he reported as of June 30, 2016, we had a total of $75,126,347 in Assets; $49,129.021 in Liabilities; $25,884.972 Net Position.  He said we were in good financial shape.  Relative to the compliance with Kentucky Department of Education Requirements, there were no issues.  As far as the Management letter to continuously improve the accounting practices, they made a couple small recommendations, and Mr. Sommerville said the OPS finance department has already taken corrective action.  There were no significant audit adjustments, no disagreements with management during the audit, they did not have to consult with any other accountants, and they had no difficulty performing the audit.  He said this was a good audit and went very smoothly. 

Dr. Nick Brake thanked Mr. Sommerville for the report and he thanked Mrs. Paula Roberts for all her hard work during the audit and congratulated her on a successful year managing the finances for the district.  Mrs. Roberts acknowledged her team in the business department who helped pull this audit together and for their good work throughout the year.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Congressman and Education Commissioner Highlight OPS-DCPS Cooperation

It is not everyday that you get a visit in your district from a member of Congress.  Nor is it everyday that the state education chief pays a visit.  Last week we were blessed to have both Congressman Brett Guthrie and Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt visit education programs in Owensboro.

What was noteworthy about the visit was not so much the high quality programs they visited.  Our

community and school system have an abundance of quality programs that would have been worth a visit from either or both dignitaries.  The two leaders made the stop in Owensboro to highlight and praise the spirit of cooperation between the Owensboro Public Schools and the Daviess County Public Schools.

The visit included stops at the Life Science Academy,  part of the multi-district Community Campus program that has been focused on providing opportunities for students from five area high schools in high need workforce areas aligned to the Owensboro economy.  The second stop was at the Owensboro Innovation Academy, Kentucky's only New Tech Network high school that is a collaboration between the two districts.   Both programs also include significant collaboration with regional employers and postsecondary institutions, such as Owensboro Health and the Owensboro Community and Technical College in the case of the Life Science Academy and the Centre for Business and Research, the community business incubator at the Innovation Academy.

In an era where many independent and county school districts find themselves in open and, at times, hostile competition with each other, the Owensboro Public Schools and Daviess County Public Schools have provided multiple models for collaboration paving the way for student and community success.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

OPS benefiting from redevelopment in Owensboro

The month of August in Kentucky brings the return of students to classrooms in area schools, but it also brings the decision many local boards of education and local government leaders dread, making a decision about property tax rates. 
Our community and board of education have a long standing commitment to provide a high level   As such, the community has been supportive when our board has to raise taxes.  And for that we are thankful. 
education that focuses on the whole child regardless of the cost.

That said, this year was our lucky year.   Despite lower levels of state funding for programs like preschool, our board did not have to raise taxes.  In fact, for the first time in a very long time our district is seeing significantly increased revenues while keeping the tax rate the same.  And luck had very little to do with it.  Our increased revenues are a result of a more than decade long commitment by business, civic and community leaders in Owensboro to revitalize the downtown and invest in the core neighborhoods in the city. 

Our community is reaping the benefits of more than $270 million of public and private investment in downtown Owensboro, a stable housing market in the core of the city and a decade-long commitment to neighborhood development that has invested $21 million and has constructed and renovated over 250 homes in blighted areas since 1999. 

Our city leaders made the very difficult decision to invest in itself through a tax increase during the recession.  Now, nearly 10 years later the fruit of this investment in paying dividends with our businesses, schools, and community overall. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Why we come to work every day at OPS!

The theme of our Opening Day Convocation at the Owensboro Public Schools was “why do I go to work every day?” The answer to this question given by many OPS teachers is found in a very touching video tribute. You can watch the video on our district You Tube channel or at this link. The answers in the video are a testament to the great people associated with our district.    

For me, as superintendent, there are two primary motivators as I come to work every day. First, I come to work to support the outstanding staff of this school district.  I hope to serve our staff by providing resources and removing barriers so that they can better do their job of serving the students that we just saw in the video.  I appreciate that they come to work every day to change the lives of our students.

I believe in the core values of our school system- educating the whole child.  Our tradition of excellence regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status and family background.  These values shine through everything we do as a learning organization.  

The second reason I come to work every day is to better affect change in addressing the magnitude of the challenges we face as a school system and a society-- chief among these is poverty.

Nearly 80 percent of our students live in conditions with few educational resources in their homes.  Only one-third of the students that start kindergarten with us are ready to learn.  Their parents face unemployment, underemployment, food insecurity, lack of stable housing and many other obstacles that seriously undermine their children’s opportunity to learn.  
Nationally many of the students that live in the circumstances of our students  do not have the advocates and the support that the student of OPS have-- and for that I am  thankful.
Compelling research from the Centers for Disease Control on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACES provide a way to chronicle and even score incidents of toxic stress and adverse experiences.  Students struggling with this toxic stress are often ill-suited to learn in a traditional educational environment.  As educators we are constantly looking to embrace trauma-informed education practices to help better reach all students considered at risk.
I don't have to tell you the number of students in our schools that fall into this category.  They pose a great challenge to teachers and our district overall.  We play an important role in  providing hope for these students.  It is imperative that we do not give up on them or lower our expectations of them just because of the difficulties they have faced in their young lives.  

Today I am going to focus on three powerful practices as a plan of work that we adults can commit to daily in service of the children of OPS.  Relentless pursuit of these are critical for our school district to take our tradition of excellence to a new level.   

The number one thing we can do for all students in our district is demand a high level of expectations.  By keeping the expectations high, you reinforce to the students that you believe in their abilities.  You give them the chance to show off what they can do.  You also allow them the opportunity to soar high above the expectation society has for them.  High expectations are the greatest gift we can give our students!
A cornerstone of  our high expectations is in the area of literacy. Teaching children to read is a fundamental part of our mission and is a direct route out of poverty.  But the root of the problem is not our children’s poverty-- it is the poverty of ideas.  Think of it like compound interest: if one kindergartner comes to us having heard 30 million more words than her less fortunate peers, the “interest” on her knowledge and vocabulary allows her to grow far richer compared to less fortunate students.  The gap that is created is the opportunity-to-learn gap.    The most powerful strategy to close this gap is to promote the enjoyment and life long process of reading from a content and knowledge-rich curriculum from the earliest possible moment.  The expectation that ALL students read by the end of primary school is the greatest gift we can give our youngest students!
Literacy is certainly foundational for our students to be successful In our secondary schools.   As students move through middle and toward high school our expectations begin to focus on their readiness to succeed at the next level-- high school and Postsecondary education.   Just like we have the expectation that nearly all students should be able to read as they exit the primary grades, we should also frame our expectations that all graduates be prepared and expected to pursue some form of postsecondary education.  The pursuit of this expectation-- that all of our students advance their education after high school-- is the greatest gift we can give our middle and high school students!

The second powerful practice is to provide all students with rich experiences in and out of the classroom.  The student that comes to us with 30 million more words, also comes to us with the benefit of having traveled, visited museums, attending regular summer camps, and music and dance lessons from an early age.  We do a great job as a district in this area from providing our high school students regular trips to New York and Washington D.C. to the incredible power of the arts that is a hallmark of our district giving our kids the benefit of music and dance lessons through OPS.  It is part of what we mean when we say educate the whole child.  For some of our students it is the experience of having their very own computer, visiting the River Park Center or Rupp Arena, a trip to a bigger city like Louisville, or simply crossing the Ohio River for the very first time.  This all matters a great deal to our students.  They will learn more through this part of their education that will never be captured on a standardized test.  That is why we will continue to place a high priority on exposing all of our students to such experiences.
The third powerful practice focuses on engagement-- of students, families and the community.  One of the most important measures of engagement is attendance of students and staff.  This is an area where we need to improve.  Our student and staff attendance reached a 10-year low.  It is hugely important to have our students in class with their teachers on a regular basis.

Finally, the most powerful and effective way to engage students and families is to offer them love and kindness.  My very first opening day, I focused on the fact that a core strength of our district is our emphasis on loving our students regardless of their background.  All children deserve to feel valued, loved, and safe.  They will not engage with us  in the classroom or through their families until they trust that we love and value them.  This is not as easy as it sounds. I have seen the effects of love delivered by teachers and staff of OPS transform many children we serve.  You form relationships with students and families.  Children who live in generational poverty come to us with their own set of issues and bad experiences, but it our job as educators to make their school experience a positive one.  You can still have a consistent grasp of discipline and high expectations, but make sure that love is a factor when you are trying to help any student who walks through your door.

Outside of the safe and wonderful cocoon that is the Owensboro Public Schools, we have seen many elements of our world turn upside down this summer.  We have seen the antithesis of love.  We cannot help but see the effects of the divisiveness and intolerance creep into our world.  

Part of our message today is to show the world how with a mixture of hard work, a relentless focus on our core values combined with a little love and kindness we can rise above the negative elements gripping our world.  We can do our part to promote the simplicity of these ideas to our community and the families we serve for the sake of unity and understanding.  

We want to celebrate our community, our school system, our police, the leadership of groups like human relations commission, the NAACP,  Girls, Inc. and Neblett Center that help us celebrate our diversity.  At OPS we see diversity as a core strength.   It is who we are, just like our tradition, our nationally recognized arts programs, and our many state championships.  It is embodied in the phrase “We are Owensboro.”  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Owensboro, OPS, DCPS recognized among the best places for K-12 teachers to live and work

The national web-based information company GoodCall has named Owensboro/Daviess County as the 35th best city in the country for teachers to live and work. The ranking is based on affordability, school ratings, job competition and amenities.    

"We are incredibly grateful to be recognized on the national scale,” said Dave Kirk, public information officer for the Owensboro Public Schools district. “This ranking shows why our school systems not only provide a world class education, but also are a great place to work.” 

According to, analysts looked at more than 1,000 metropolitan cities across the country to determine the best places for K-12 teachers to live and work. The Owensboro metropolitan area earned a spot as 35th on the Top 100 list and ranks second highest among cities in Kentucky

"This latest recognition is another example of how our community is breaking away from our peers. It validates our community’s talent recruitment and retention efforts to make any Top 100 list. But, for one directly related to college graduates, what an honor,” said Candance Brake, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce.

"Our community has a tradition of supporting quality education, which is a reflection of quality teachers,” said Owens Saylor, superintendent of the Daviess County Public Schools district. “This report highlights the important relationship that exists when great schools contribute to making a community a great place to live.”

The report about quality communities is posted at