What the state schools chief means when he tells local teachers to focus on the ‘whole child.’

Xenia energizes staff with band, video and NFL star.

Ohio is launching its new strategic plan for schools, and state education superintendent Paolo DeMaria on Thursday visited Xenia schools, where the district is starting its own “visioning” process to shape the future of the school district.

DeMaria worked to energize hundreds of Xenia teachers and staff at their kickoff event before students return Monday. He focused on the state’s vision statement about challenging, preparing and empowering all students.

RELATED: State strategic plan sets new school priorities

“Keep challenging students,” DeMaria said. “I think so many times we underestimate what students can do. Our hearts tell us to be a little more protective – I’m not sure they can reach that level or handle that kind of work. But time and time again as I go across the state talking to teachers, I find that their socks are blown off because kids always are able to exceed even the highest expectations we set.”

The state strategic plan surprised some earlier this year by putting development of social skills, creativity and leadership on equal footing with literacy, math and other traditional academics. The focus is on the “whole child,” including physical, social, emotional and intellectual aspects.

Second-year Xenia Superintendent Gabriel Lofton said there’s been an increase in teacher training in recent years on those “social-emotional” skills, but he argued the “whole child” focus will not require much adjustment.

2017 STORY: Xenia voters turn down school bond issue again

2013 STORY: New elementary schools from ‘09 bond issue open

“It’s really not new. Teachers teach those skills every day,” Lofton said. “Every lesson that they present, they’re teaching leadership, they’re teaching creativity, they’re worried about the whole child.”

DeMaria said Xenia’s Visioning Committee is a great step. Lofton said starting with an Aug. 23 meeting, a committee of teachers, parents, business leaders, administrators and others will examine how to provide the best 21st century education.

“The purpose is twofold – to look at the academic side of the school house and develop a strategic road map related to academics, but also look at the operational side of the school house, so we’re going to look at facilities and finances and see what we need,” Lofton said. “We’re excited about that.”

There was plenty of excitement Thursday, as Xenia went all-out to fire up staff —- in addition to DeMaria, district leaders brought in cheerleaders and part of the marching band, and they showed a new video of parents, students and educators talking about the district. The event ended with a motivational speech from pro football hall of famer and former Bengal Anthony Munoz.

RELATED: Photos and bios of area’s top Class of 2018 graduates

Munoz, who runs a youth foundation of his own, told the hundreds of assembled school staff about mentors who shaped him when he was a child, adding, “I see a room full of mentors here.”

Asked whether the state’s call to improve students’ leadership and social skills would be too much to ask of educators already balancing many academic demands, DeMaria said no.

“Some people think this has to be more additional hard work, but it actually makes the work you do more effective,” he said. “If we can show people what that looks like, I think teachers … can see how that works. You have to try, and it’s not going to be perfect every time, but you learn it and you can make it happen.”

DeMaria said the state plan calls equity of opportunity for students a top priority. Again, that has both academic and non-academic meanings.

RELATED: Schools get creative in communicating with families

“We need somebody who loves that student, who cares about that student – not simply about whether they’re doing well in English class or math class, but cares deeply enough to know when there’s something wrong and they need a little bit of help, or attention or support,” DeMaria said. “They need someone to be with them and advocate for them. That’s a role that is challenging for us, but that we will step up to do because it is so essential … to helping students learn.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

These machines could change Montgomery County voting for years to come, so they got a test drive today
These machines could change Montgomery County voting for years to come, so they got a test drive today

Montgomery County held a mock election Tuesday during which residents tested voting machines that could be in place as soon as next May and serve the county for 15 years or more. Whichever system is selected to replace more than 2,000 voting machines will be a new experience for voters, said Jan Kelly, Montgomery County Board of Elections director...
Wright-Patt would be central to proposed Air Force expansion
Wright-Patt would be central to proposed Air Force expansion

Military leaders want to grow the Air Force dramatically by 2030 to tackle increasing international threats and that could mean more jobs and investment at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The high cost of upping the Air Force’s air power may force it to turn to Wright-Patterson for its technical and security expertise to keep costs down, an...
JUST IN: Local vacant Elder-Beerman attracts new At Home store
JUST IN: Local vacant Elder-Beerman attracts new At Home store

Home decor store At Home has plans to open a store inside the vacant Elder-Beerman location in Huber Heights sometime in early 2019, a city councilman confirmed today. Councilman Richard Shaw said the store has submitted plans to the Huber Heights planning commission for the store at 8221 Old Troy Pike. Shaw said he met with councilman Glenn Otto and...
Trial set in lawsuit by fired Butler County airport manager
Trial set in lawsuit by fired Butler County airport manager

A jury trial has been scheduled for next September in the lawsuit by fired Butler County airport manager Ron Davis, who wants his $94,000 job back. Davis, who worked for Butler County for 18 years, sued in April, saying he was terminated from his $93,710 job because he complained about alleged Federal Aviation Administration rules violations. He says...
Robbery victim shot after online date set him up, police say
Robbery victim shot after online date set him up, police say

A man was shot multiple times Tuesday morning in Atlanta when his online date set him up to be robbed, according to police.  An Atlanta police officer was flagged down just before 1:30 a.m. after the man drove to a gas station seeking help. He had several gunshot wounds to the chest, police spokesman Officer Jarius Daugherty told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution...
More Stories