Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nominate your favorite bus driver

This school year, the Vermilion schools welcomed a new transportation supervisor, David Johnson. Johnson has been working in the transportation department since 1986, and was very excited to take on the new role. One of the first things he mentioned he would like to do is create a program to recognize drivers for their hard work, focus on safety, and dedication to the children they transport.

With that in mind, he has created a “Driver of the Month” program. Each month, one of the district’s bus drivers will be recognized for the work they do. This will include recognition in the Vermilion Photojournal and a goodie bag with small gifts provided by local businesses that support this recognition effort.

Johnson has requested input from the community and parents. He wants to hear from parents; who is your child’s favorite bus driver? How has your child’s bus driver gone above and beyond? This can be specific incidents or an overall level of care. He wants to hear all of it. For community members without children on the busses, have you witnessed a bus driver being exceptional? He wants to hear from you too.

Johnson can be reached at 440-204-1700 ext 141 or at

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Students Help Focus on the Positive

It has been a true blessing to have been in the education business for 30 years.  The adage that ‘you won’t work a day in your life if you truly love what you do’ has certainly meant more to me than just a mere cliché.
Being around young people and witnessing their optimism and pure joy for life is something I get to enjoy every single day.  Not everyone gets this opportunity, and it has been a pleasure and honor to be part of the lives of these students.  I sincerely thank the Vermilion community for this privilege. 
A recent conversation at a football game with sophomore student Devan DeWitt reminded me of how fortunate I am to be around young people who have so much enthusiasm for life and already have some of the most important qualities and virtues that will make them exceptional.  Devan is an example of what is great about our city and country.   He told me that he loves history and has a passion for reading, researching and studying the subject.  He said his love for history was inspired by teachers Mr. Duray and Mrs. Lutz, but he enjoys all of his other teachers as well.  Because of their example he has a goal of becoming a teacher himself.  When he made that statement I could tell he was speaking from the bottom of his heart.  I couldn’t help but feel pride in the job our staff is doing to make Devan feel and believe this way about the possibility of becoming a teacher. 
As the conversation continued we talked about the steps Devan would take to accomplish his objective.  He told me the plans he has to reach his goals and I have no doubt that he will make it, because he believes he can.  I am sure that he will also have countless teachers, staff and community members who will be there to help him realize his dream. 
Devan also talked about our city.  If anyone could be appointed ambassador for Vermilion he would certainly be on top of the list of candidates.  His exact words were, “Vermilion is the best place on the planet to live! I would never want to live anywhere else! It would be my dream to get my teaching degree and come back to teach in the town I love.”  He has evidently captured some of the inspiration and “service above self” mentality that is so unique to Vermilion. 
Devan has been a team manager for the basketball team since 7th grade.   He takes on this job with enthusiasm and a determination to be helpful.  Head basketball coach Kurt Habermehl described Devan as “one of the most positive people” he ever met.  Coach Habermehl said that Devan takes his job seriously.  He comes prepared for each and every practice and game.  He makes it hard for all the coaches and players to stay down after a loss because he always has a smile on his face.  He reminds them, “Don’t worry, you did your best and it will be better next time.”  Coach Habermehl looked at me and said, “How can you be upset when you have someone like him around?”  He also said that Devan’s team members are fiercely protective of him because of what his positive influence means to them as a team. 
This was not my first conversation with Devan, and without exception I have found him to be positive and kind.  Each time I observe him from a distance he displays these qualities.  It is not just an act he puts on only for adults.  He is sincerely kind and polite with everyone he meets.  It is a terrific benefit of my job to be associated with students like Devan.  It is also comforting to know that he, like many of our other students, has a positive outlook and is focusing on the things that really matter. 
Prior to publishing this article I thought it would be appropriate to call Devan’s home for permission to share my thoughts about him.  The conversation with his grandmother left a deep impression, as I could feel the love and respect that she has for her grandchild.  She told me that Devan and his grandfather, who died of cancer last year, had a very special relationship.  Devan was always the “co-pilot” when they traveled in the car, and was a great help to his grandfather.  It is inspiring that, even with the difficult experience of losing a loving grandparent, Devan still remains positive and looks forward to a bright future. 
At this time of year, when we have a presidential election that seems to focus on negativity, it is encouraging to know that there is good teaching going on by our valuable teachers, and learning exists not only in core subjects, but also in the values that are equally important in life. After having conversations like this with students I believe there is reason for optimism that our country is still in good hands.  I invite you to witness this for yourself by visiting our schools for a tour, joining students for lunch, or attending any of our special and extra-curricular events.  You will see that your support of public schools is money well spent.  You help teachers, staff and students who are working hard. The lessons learned in our schools are not just the fundamentals of science, math and English, but also positive life skills that will stay with our students as they become the future leaders and lifelong learners of our community.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Fire Explorer Program to be Offered to VHS Students

Sunday, October 9, the Vermilion Fire Department will have an open house from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at both stations in town. At these open houses, students interested in the new fire explorers program will be able to pick up information and learn more about the program.

The explorer program is under the umbrella of Boy Scouts, but is run as a separate program. Interested students would need to apply to the program and be accepted.

            Qualification include:
·        Open to male and female students
·        Students in grades 9  through 12
·        Be able to follow directions in stressful situations
·        Good physical condition
·        Willing and able to attend at least 50% of all scheduled meetings and training
·        Maintain at least a “C” average
·        Written permission from a legal guardian

The program will be limited to 10 students. This makes the group manageable and provides for more intense training. There will be a waiting list available for students that are interested but don’t get in the first round.

The program will in no way interfere with school, and the safety of the explorers will be the highest importance throughout training. There are a wide range of rules and regulations regarding explorer involvement in training and emergency situations.

Explorers will go through different levels of involvement starting with a probation period of three months and on up to a Level 3 Explorer, who are allowed to participate in exterior fire suppression. Each explorer level the students go through involves intense training and study. They will learn all the traits and skills of a firefighter.

All volunteers will have completed youth protection training. It is a co-ed program, and if female students are in the explorers, female advisors will be provided. The first year, there will be a cost of $24 per student for them to be included under the Boy Scout’s insurance. There is also a $40 charter fee for the group. Financial assistant will be available for student for any student that would have a hardship with the financial requirement. The Vermilion Local School District wants to ensure any student with an interest has the opportunity. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

District Teachers Awarded VEF Grants

The Vermilion Education Foundation was founded in 1986 by a group of parents and community leaders concerned about the possible loss of valuable programs due to ever tightening school budgets.  The original foundation members began this endeavor believing it was important to fund art opportunities, cultural events, field trips, and projects that would enhance the traditional curriculum.  This fundamental philosophy, belief and commitment has continued to grow stronger over the last 30 years. 
Each year teachers from Vermilion Schools and St. Mary’s Elementary are invited to submit grant applications for projects or materials that will enhance and supplement learning opportunities for students.  While the VEF committee can fund a limited number of grants each year, they provide an additional opportunity for grants to be funded through their annual fundraising dinner.  The event provides attendees with the opportunity to learn more about grant applications, and choose to donate to projects of their choosing.  Many additional grants are funded through the generosity of our local community members.  
Since coming to the Vermilion School District in 2008 I have been impressed by the diligence and volunteerism displayed by this group.  It is indicative of the type of community we have.  Volunteers from all walks of life come together to support children and education each year.  We are proud to say that many former teachers and administrators continue to support education through their membership on the Vermilion Education Foundation Board. 
To the entire VEF Board and volunteer committee, we thank you for your service to our community.  To the donors, both past and present, we thank you for your generous donation and your belief in our children and teachers.  We look forward to future years of working together to offer supplemental learning opportunities for all Vermilion students.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Check out what Sailorway is doing on Youtube

Although Sailorway Middle School has had a Youtube channel for some time, it hasn’t been fully utilized until recently. Parents can now subscribe to the Youtube channel in order to get updated videos as they are made available.

Principal Brian Zeller had the idea to use the channel this year to leverage their technology to share with parents the great work being done at SMS throughout the week. The goal is to post new video newsletters on the first day of each week.

Principal Zeller shared, “We also felt that recording informative videos for open house would allow our parents who couldn’t be there to get information. For any parents who did miss the open house, those videos remain available and are filled with helpful information.”

As of now, the videos are not student driven. Mrs. Bartlome and Mr Zeller take the photos as they circulate the building.  “While I am the primary person who has done the videos, I have a lot of help from Mrs. Bartlome and Mr. Caudill in making the video newsletter happen. We also had a ton of help in making the PBIS video with our staff taking on the role of people not meeting our expectations” Principal Zeller stated.

 You may recall that Mr Caudillreceived that Innovative Educator Award from WVIZ/PBS Ideastream last school after creating a green screen recording room accessible to students at the middle school. The ability to create videos has been integrated into a wide range of different lessons throughout the science curriculum.

Click on SALORWAY YOUTUBE CHANNEL to check out the videos posted so far and to subscribe, so you can be updated as new videos are posted.

Principal Zeller is up to some amazing things over at Sailorway Middle School

Thursday, September 29, 2016

With a Little Help from Our Friends…

I’m sure you’ve all heard about it and most of you have probably already seen the new scoreboard at the Vermilion High School football stadium, and this is a little late coming, but I wanted to take a moment to thank some area businesses that helped to make the new scoreboard possible.

Pat O’ Brien Chevrolet donated the cost of the scoreboard.

Sattelight Electric donated a generous portion of their services towards the installation of the scoreboard.

Hull Builders Supply donated material towards the installation of the scoreboard.

The support we receive from local businesses and residents helps us to provide the very best for our students.

The new scoreboard was certainly needed as the old scoreboard had intermittent electrical problems, which made it highly unreliable and hard to read during games. However, the new scoreboard also opens up advertising opportunities for the athletic department that can bring more revenue into the district.

If you have not had the opportunity to see the new scoreboard, please do. It is impressive to say the least. Also, please support these businesses that have done so much to support us. 

Facts About the State Report Card

Numerous letters and articles have been released by school superintendents statewide disputing the results of the recently released State Report Cards.  We would like to take this opportunity to inform our community about the way these scores are generated and reported. 

One of the most challenging mandates handed to us in recent years by State and Federal authorities is the increased focus on testing.  Our Board of Education, administrative team and staff believe that we must be held accountable for the success of our students, but we feel strongly that the tests mandated by the State of Ohio do not portray an accurate picture of student achievement in Vermilion. 

In August we received our first report of the AIR test scores from tests that were administered in February and March 2016 to students in grades 3 through 11. The AIR test replaced the troubled PARCC test that was required in 2015.  As we evaluated the AIR scores, many seemed to have glaring inconsistencies.  For example, the English II scores for high school students were reported at a 60% passage rate on the AIR test.  The PARCC scores from the previous year showed a 75.3% passage rate for the same group of students.  How are we, as a community, to believe that scores could vary by such a large margin, especially when we were assured the AIR test was a much less rigorous test?  The same question came up as we looked at scores for social studies and math at all grade levels. 

Other examples of results that raised questions and concerns about the scoring methods are:

  • ·        The majority of our special needs students (those with an IEP) did not pass the math exam. Social studies scores for special needs students were much higher on the AIR test than on the previous year PARCC tests.                                                   
  • ·        The Report Card score includes a penalty for any student who did not take the test because the parent chose to “opt out”.  The State permits parents to “opt out”, but the school district is penalized on the Report Card grade for students who did not take the test.                                                                                               
  • ·        The new “Prepared for Success” measure looks at students over a two year period.  In late June, the state made a change in how the second year data was to be reported, but districts were not permitted to update data derived from the first year.  As a result, improvements made by districts, such as adding additional college-level courses, are not considered or included in this year’s score.                           
  • ·        The Achievement metric measures how well students performed on state tests. Federal guidelines have expanded testing, adding nine additional tests in all content area, and Ohio has changed test types three times in as many years. This passage rate will change for the 4th time in the spring of 2017.  This is analogous to an architect changing the building plans for a high rise every time the builders start a new floor.  Imagine how confusing and difficult this would be for the building inspectors. There is no consistent measure of excellence.  In other words, while teaching and learning standards have remained constant in local districts, assessment requirements have repeatedly changed, making it very difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate and improve instruction methods.                                                   
  • ·        The K-3 Literacy Rate compares the results of a student’s preliminary reading assessment to their proficiency on the Grade 3 test.  However, the new AIR test incorporates reading and writing.  This Report Card measure is flawed in that it compares a rate based on a reading score to one based on a reading AND writing score.  As a result, the calculated score does not reflect actual literacy attainment.  The target for achievement will change again next year to an even higher passage rate.                                                                                                                    

Tests are given only one day of the year and are not a true measure of a student’s ability.  However, they are used as the basis of the State Report Card grade for districts statewide.  Since all public school districts are provided with only final test scores, which are returned to us months after testing, our teachers and administrators cannot use the results to accurately evaluate student performance or to improve instruction.  The present method required by the State is a violation of everything we know about effective teaching and evaluation techniques.  

In Vermilion we have used the MAP test in Kindergarten to grade 8 to inform instruction.  The MAP test measures academic progress of each student.  The results are returned to us very quickly, allowing our team of teachers and administrators to identify areas of strength and weakness and make instructional adjustments at a grade level, specific subject area or for individual students.  The MAP results give us a true picture of whether or not students have achieved one year of growth for one year of instruction.

State required AIR and PARCC tests are given only at the end of the school year.  The results are not returned to us until months later, and therefore, are not useful to inform instruction for subject levels or individual students.  We are given no information about the way the tests are scored, or how each student performed.  In order to evaluate and learn from testing, it is important to see every student’s test to evaluate his/her strengths and weaknesses.  For example, we find it difficult to improve third grade writing scores when we have no information about how the state test was evaluated or scored.  The data used to create the State Report Card is therefore flawed and unreliable.  The State of Ohio’s approach to assessing student achievement is in direct conflict with all of the educational research on evaluating and improving instruction.  This method of testing one subject, on a single day, defies all best practice teaching methods.

The Plain Dealer recently used the statewide Report Card scores to rank schools from a 4.0 to 0.0 grade point average.  Vermilion was 176 out of 608 schools ranked in this study.  We are not citing these statistics to say that we are better than other districts, but merely to demonstrate that there is something wrong with a reporting system that grades only 205 schools at 2.0 GPA or better (the equivalent of a “C” average).  When this many grades are average or below, educators know that they have to evaluate the test itself, not the test takers. 

This is the first time Vermilion educators have spoken out about this issue.  We do not wish to appear to be making excuses by sharing this information with the community.  We know very well that we must be accountable to our parents and taxpayers.  We continue to work hard, on a daily basis, to provide the very best education we can to all of our students.  However, we also believe that we have reached a tipping point with State and Federal authorities through their unreasonable demands.  At this time we will be joining forces with public school educators statewide to make our thoughts known to the Ohio Department of Education and the Governor’s office.  We will keep you informed about this important discussion.