September 2, 2008

‘New Day for Learning’ in Wooster District



Staff Writer

WOOSTER DISTRICT -- As the staff of Wooster City Schools convened for convocation in the Performing Arts Center early Thursday morning, some of the pupils-to-be also were preparing for school.

Communitywide, free developmental screenings of children birth to age 6 were being completed at the Gault Family Learning Center on Beall Avenue -- compliments of Help Me Grow and Tri-County Educational Service Center -- Mary Shumar, Success by 6 coordinator, told the crowd of about 600 meeting at the high school.

The goal was to identify children with possible developmental delays or disabilities and to refer their families to the appropriate intervention services.

"The vision of Success by 6 is that all children will be ready for school," Shumar said.

"Go, Generals," board President Mike Baus said. "It is my pleasure to welcome you back to another school year."

Baus spoke of the "immensely overwhelming" initiatives facing educators, noting Wooster students are in good hands.

Wooster Education Association President Peter Larrousse reminded teachers and administrators they might be nurturing an astronaut, CEO or even a president.

Many politicians have lost sight of their critical role in the educational process and must be held accountable, Larrousse added.

The keynote speaker was Superintendent Michael Tefs, who proclaimed "how fortunate I am to fill at 39 years of age the position I've always wanted."

The husband of Gretchen Tefs and father of daughters, Julia, 8, and Anna, 3, Tefs said he earned a bachelor of science and a master of arts in education from Baldwin-Wallace College and is "all but dissertated" on his way to a doctorate -- an objective he hopes to hit before his retirement, he quipped.

While he wanted to introduce himself to the district, his main focus was education.

If asked, each individual might have an opinion on what needs to be done to improve public education, Tefs said, but in a way, "it's a trick question."

There are no silver bullets, he said, but a key component is "great teachers doing great teaching. The quality of an educational system cannot exceed the quality of its teaching."

The district earned an "Effective" rating from the state for the second year in a row, Tefs said, although official data will not be released until Monday.

One of the truly outstanding results on the report card was the Opportunity School's "perfect 100 percent in reading on the (Ohio Graduation Test)," he said.

With the help of the new value-added factor, the district met adequate yearly progress, Tefs said. Last year, the district earned 27 out of 30 state indicators. And this year, the district met 28 out of 30.

"We are one indicator away from an excellent designation," he said.

Tefs also discussed the Ohio Public-Private Collaborative Commission, which he described as the "single most powerful commission on education."

Tefs said the commission is "reshaping the delivery system ... and thinking outside the box."

He recognized Lincoln Way Elementary School Principal Michael Mann for state level leadership in his membership on the commission, which Mann later said recently completed its work and submitted a report called "Supporting Student Success: A New Learning Day in Ohio."

"We have the dubious task of preparing kids for jobs not even created yet," Tefs said, and working to align the "growing mismatch" between reality and preparation.

"Incremental change in our school system is not getting the job done," he said, nor is "tinkering" with it.

"It is a new day for learning in Ohio and the Wooster City Schools," he said. While implementing initiatives will be expensive, not embracing them would be even more costly.

Matt Long introduced the Outstanding Teacher of the Year -- Edgewood Middle School English teacher Rose Jolliff.

The unrestricted $5,000 cash stipend, awarded annually by the Ralph R. and Grace B. Jones Foundation, rewards teachers "whose performance inside and outside the classroom" is recognized and goes above and beyond expectations.

Ralph Jones -- who is 92 years old and "still goes to work every day" at Wooster Glass, the company he and his late wife, Grace, founded, Long said -- is the grandfather of Long, and he is "one of my most important teachers in my life," Long said.

Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230, or e-mail [email protected]

Originally published by By LINDA HALL Staff Writer.

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