Friday, October 2, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: Nelsonville-York’s Confident Community

Brian Boesch

Grades tend to define a student’s worth in school. Every year, the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) does the same for schools, but we found that grades aren't everything.

This year, Nelsonville-York City Schools did not earn a grade that the OGT deemed “adequate.” Of the 10 categories tested, students at Nelsonville-York High School only met four of the required passing rates.

As a result, the school must offer students a chance to go to another school (Wellston High School). But you would never guess this is the case based on the pride and the confidence that faculty and parents alike have for NYHS.

Orange and Brown Pride
Cynthia Winner, the Director of Curriculum at the high school, confidently said that no student will drop the orange and brown of Nelsonville-York for the blue and gold of Wellston. And this wasn’t a wishy-washy, politically correct statement to shield her employer’s problems. She believed in her statement and her school district.

“It's such a strong community,” Winner said. “It's very tight-knit school-community. I think the parents believe in the schools. They know this is a bump in the road that we will rectify.”

Nelsonville-York's Director of Curriculum Cynthia Winner talks about the close community in Buchtel

To Stay or Go?
The story hit home for me. During middle school, I attended a public school in the northeastern part of Ohio, and this school district did not have great test scores. My family and I considered the other options and ultimately decided that a school 45 minutes from my home was better for my future.

However, the standardized test scores did not play into the decision. The reasoning for a new school had to do with the surroundings. I felt like the new school offered more as a community.

That's the difference between my old school and the Nelsonville-York school district. Athens MidDay reporter Max Resnik and I spoke with at least 10 school officials at both the high school and the middle school, and there was no concern about losing students. The main goal ahead for the school is improving the education, no matter who is at the school.

But the true sign of a school community tackling a problem with all hands on deck is support from the parents. Many parents were not willing to solve the problems at my old school, so they (and mine) went elsewhere.

That’s not the case in Buchtel.

Max and I spoke with Melanie Wheeler, a parent of a senior at the high school. She is actively involved with the school community and is an aide at the junior high school. She has been around the community for a long time, and, quite frankly, has very little to gain from defending the district without truly believing it.

"It just seems like the people that I went to school with are still here, and their kids are going to school here," Wheeler said. "I don't think that test scores are going to be something that drives people away."

Athens MidDay reporter Max Resnik talks with Nelsonville-York parent Melanie Wheeler about the tight-knit school community

I have been to the high school for a few sporting events, such as a football and a basketball game. The signs of community jumped out at me during these events.

But the mark of a true educational community is a unified approach during a tough time. Not only does Nelsonville-York have that, but it has its priorities straight. Teachers, administrators and students are going to focus on learning, not test-taking.

In the end, school is not all about standardized tests, multiple choice results, and national percentiles. It’s about the people you encounter and the experiences you face.

I made the right choice seven years ago, and it was to leave. In Buchtel, it looks like Buckeyes want to remain Buckeyes, and I can see why.

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