New West Carrollton school chief called analytical with ‘laser focus’

8:00 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017 Local
Andrea Townsend began her job as West Carrollton City Schools superintendent on Tuesday, replacing Rusty Clifford. NICK BLIZZARD/STAFF

A new superintendent is on the job in the West Carrollton City School District for the first time in 18 years.

Former New Bremen Superintendent Andrea Townsend began Tuesday as the successor to Rusty Clifford.

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Hired in late March, Townsend was able to gradually transition into the job through the spring and summer, working with Clifford before he departed at the end of July. Clifford closed out his tenure with the district before taking an administrative post with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center.

Being able to work for four months with a predecessor who spent nearly two decades in the job, Townsend said, was a big plus.

“He’s put so many good programs in place,” she said. “And me having the opportunity to overlap with him and learn about those programs was a great advantage for me.”

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Townsend inherits a district that recently approved a levy but has strides to make with state test scores. It is also exploring replacing aging buildings and, Townsend said, looking to become a “hub” for the three communities from which it draws students.

The suburban district of roughly 3,800 students from West Carrollton, Miami Twp. and Moraine received D’s in performance index and early literacy improvement on the most recent state report card. But it got B’s for student progress and graduation rate.

Townsend is a “is a hard-working and hands-on leader,” West Carrollton school board President Roberta Phillips said via email.

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“She has a proven track record of using data to managing budgets and lead effective learning programs,” she added.

Townsend said she plans to rely on those data analyzing skills, “and then using (the) information to move the district forward.”

One of the initial goals, she said, is “create a structure and a process to look at student growth and achievement, and instruction in the classroom.

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“That’s our big focus this year,” she said. “We’re digging into some student data, learning how to use that data effectively to improve what we’re doing.”

District officials said they are working with a state support team – local and regional Ohio educators with a history of school improvement – to help focus on English Language Arts and on attendance. Another emphasis: a new law taking affect this school year tightening truancy guidelines.

“This is not to imply that we are not expecting improvement in all areas,” Phillips said. “But we need to put focused effort into ELA to improve our student learning, testing and scores. Improvements in ELA will also translate to better scores in other areas.”

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Goals are being set, Townsend said, “at the district level, the building level and at the teacher level, so we’re all on the same page and we’re all moving toward a common process.

“So I look at the report card as a starting point for us and a place to grow from,” she added.

The district is in the early stages of working with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to examine the future of its buildings. A meeting set for last week was postponed by the commission, Townsend said.

The state will address West Carrollton’s buildings, issue a report of each one and perform enrollment projects, she said. Earlier, district officials said they expected the process to take a few years.

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In the meantime, Townsend said, she will encourage more community involvement.

“We want to increase participation with the community and our partnerships and become that hub for the area – where folks want to come and support our teams and support our kids,” she said.

The community, Phillips said, “can already feel a change in our communication - our Facebook and Twitter accounts have been re-energized” with Townsend coming on board.

“They can expect a more direct message with a laser focus on the district goals,” she added.

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