Hard work, higher grades take Medina school off state’s Focus list

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 March 2016 at 12:00 am

School district, all 3 buildings now in ‘Good Standing’

Photos by Tom Rivers – A Medina Mustang banner hangs outside at the district campus.

MEDINA – For 4 ½ years, the State Education Department has put the “Focus” school label on Medina. It’s a tag the school district shed on Friday, and is now considered a district in “Good Standing.”

It’s been a lot of work from administrators, teachers, students and parents to raise academic performance.

“I’m extremely proud of all of our buildings for getting off of the list,” said Jeff Evoy, the district superintendent.

The district initially was on the list for low scores in student subgroups for state assessment tests in grades 3 through 8. Those grade levels include Oak Orchard Elementary School (grade 3), Clifford Wise Intermediate/Middle School (grades 4 through 7) and Medina High School (grade 8).

Oak Orchard Elementary and Medina High School were the first to raise their scores and be removed from the list and be considered in good standing. Clifford Wise, which includes four of the targeted grade levels, was the last one to satisfy the state.

Elaine Wendt, principal at the Clifford Wise Intermediate/Middle School, praised teachers, parents and students for raising the academic achievement and learning environment in the school.

Principal Elaine Wendt said student scores are now exceeding the state average. She commended the hard work from so many, from students to parents to staff and teachers, as well as strong leadership from Evoy and Denise Stappenbeck, who was hired as director of curriculum and instruction three years ago.

The district laid off about 30 teachers and staff during a budget crisis in 2010. The loss of those staff hurt student achievement. Some of the positions, including academic support and enrichment, have been added in recent budgets.

Stappenbeck said revisions in curriculum, instruction strategies, and professional development for teachers were part of the turnaround.

“We’ve come at it in a lot of different ways,” she said.

Parents have been more engaged, and there has been a “dramatic drop in bullying,” which has improved the learning atmosphere for students, Wendt said.

Medina staff members are pleased the district no longer has been labeled a “Focus” school in need of improvement by the State Education Department. This group is pictured in the middle school library and includes, from left: Becky Botsford, grades 6 and 7 band teacher; Kristen Phillips, librarian; Jeanette Sheliga, grade 4 and 5 band teacher; Principal Elaine Wendt; Superintendent of Schools Jeff Evoy; Denise Stappenbeck, director of curriculum and instruction; and Joette Oberther, library aide.

Evoy said the multi-pronged approach yielded a higher graduation rate with 85 percent of students in the Class of 2015 graduating with their four-year cohort, about a 10 percent jump in 5 years, Evoy said.

The district added a credit recovery program to help students failing classes to stay on pace for graduation.

“We can’t stay complacent,” Evoy said. “Being a focus school is a label you don’t want to have.”

Evoy shared the news on Tuesday at the Board of Education meeting and handed out Mr. Goodbar chocolate candy bars to everyone in the room.

“All of our schools are in good standing,” Evoy said. “We’ve had so much buy-in from staff. It’s a been a change in culture where everyone is working together.”