New year, new initiatives at Tri-State schools

Posted at 5:01 AM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 05:01:44-05

For educators, the beginning of a new year is more than a time for making resolutions. While January marks the middle of the school year, it’s a time for new initiatives.

Springboro Community City School District is starting off 2016 with two new projects. The district will kick off the first, Rachel’s Challenge, Jan. 11–14.

Rachel’s Challenge, which gets its name from Columbine High School shooting victim Rachel Joy Scott, is a nonprofit organization offering programs that encourage kindergartners through 12th-graders to replace bullying and negativity with kindness and respect. “There’s lots of different ways it builds on some of the things that our counselors already do,” said Karen Lane DeRosa, communications coordinator for Springboro Community City Schools.

First- through 12th-grade students in each of Springboro’s six schools will attend Rachel’s Challenge assemblies throughout the week. About 300 sixth- through 12th-graders also will attend a “Friends of Rachel” student training, enabling them to help teachers and administrators with ongoing Rachel’s Challenge activities throughout the school year.

“It’s very interactive,” Lane DeRosa said.

Read a release from Springboro schools here.

Springboro school board members also are developing new goals to reflect the district’s new mission statement, “We engage. We prepare. We inspire. We challenge.” Board members expect to have the new goals written by mid-February to approve at their next meeting.

Boone County Schools rang in the new year with the social media campaign #Boone2020, which highlights their recently implemented five-year strategic plan.

“It (the plan) went into effect this fall,” said Boone County Schools Deputy Superintendent Karen Cheser, “Our goal is to have the plan accomplished by May of 2020. So that’s why it’s #Boone2020.” 

The new strategic plan focuses on 10 elements — all beginning with the letter “C” — students, staff and community members feel represent college, career and life readiness. “We were mostly concerned with what life-ready meant,” Cheser said.

The #Boone2020 campaign is designed to inform community members about the plan via Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangouts and other social-media outlets. From creativity to character and compassion, district officials will focus on sharing different aspects of the plan on social media each month. The hope is to “increase public awareness” of the plan and involve parents and other community members in achieving the district’s five-year goal.

“It’s not just district staff,” Cheser said. “It’s each of the schools, it’s our parents. We’ll be trying to get local businesses to help us.”

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Covington Independent Public Schools officials are focusing on readiness of a different sort with an initiative that went into effect a little before the new year started. The district began offering the Footsteps2Brilliance mobile literacy apps in December.

The bilingual apps are designed for pre-kindergarten through third-grade kids and can be used online or offline from any mobile device or computer. When a school district partners with Footsteps2Brilliance, the apps are made available to anyone within the district’s boundaries.

“Basically any student who has a Covington address or a Covington ZIP code has access to the program,” said Alvin Garrison, superintendent for Covington Independent Schools.

With about 90 percent of the district’s students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, many children have limited access to books outside the school setting.

“About 60 percent of that 90 percent” — more than half the district’s students — “don’t have any access to books in the home,” Garrison said. “If you look at the flip side, most families have some kind of technology available in the home.”

While the apps are geared toward all pre-kindergarten through third-grade students in the city, district officials are particularly hoping to boost kindergarten readiness among children outside Covington Independent’s preschool program.

“The kids we’re targeting with this are in child-care centers or at home prior to kindergarten,” Garrison said. “We want this option to be available to them as well.”

Like Covington Independent, Kings Local Schools got started on new initiatives a little earlier than January. Kings High School introduced two new extracurricular clubs this fall, both of which are building their foundations as the new year begins.

CARE, for Culture, Awareness, Recognition and Ethnicity, is a club created to bring together minority and majority students in the hope of ensuring all kids feel comfortable at school. “We need to do something to make (minority students) feel more comfortable and less isolated,” said CARE adviser Dustin Goldie.

The club, which was created by Goldie and fellow teacher and adviser Wendy Loudermilk, meets once a month. Since the beginning of the school year, students have shared their stories, created a mission statement and even changed the club’s name. In renaming what had been the Diversity Club, they hoped to create a more inclusive environment and encourage membership from students of all backgrounds.

“They thought the ‘Diversity Club’ title would exclude kids who are the majority,” Loudermilk said.

Safe Space, which was in the planning stages as early as the 2014–15 school year, also took off in the fall of 2015. Similar to CARE, Safe Space is a club intended to bring together students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and questioning, together with those in the majority.

“We are trying to do outreach and education,” said Safe Space adviser Jill Pratt. “We’re trying to create a space for a more comfortable environment for students.”

The club meets every other week to talk, listen to outside speakers and eat. Club members expect to break into committees and lay out the rest of the year at a planning meeting this month.