A Note from the Superintendent’s Desk – District 203 – October 26, 2016

Dr. Darcy Benway District 203

Dr. Darcy Benway
District 203

On October 18, 2016, OTHS welcomed Dr. Tony Smith, Illinois State Superintendent, to visit and tour OTHS.  When Dr. Smith reached out and requested a tour, we asked him to identify areas of interest that he would like to see in our school.  While time constraints prevented Dr. Smith from seeing the full scope of great things that OTHS has to offer, I would like to share with you some of what Dr. Smith was able to observe as he toured the OTHS Smiley campus.

Excellence in CTE/Vocational Programming:  Highlights included a visit to Mrs. Knutson’s Microsoft Applications classroom and information regarding Microsoft Certification opportunities.  Mrs. Knutson was an Illinois Teacher of the Year finalist.  We shared with Dr. Smith the district’s recent change in CTE course offerings to include healthcare and early childhood programming.  These changes are a direct result of the District’s efforts to meet community workforce demands as new hospitals become part of the O’Fallon landscape.  In addition, OTHS intends to implement a CEO program next fall that will focus on entrepreneurship and the preparation of our next generation of business leaders.

Excellence in Instruction:  Highlights included a visit of Mrs. Merrill’s Chemistry I classroom.  Mrs. Merrill was also an Illinois Teacher of the Year finalist and has implemented online curriculum through the use of technology (One Note) in her instruction.  OTHS also highlighted the 19 dual credit opportunities available at OTHS and the dual-enrollment Running Start program that affords students the opportunity to earn an Associate’s Degree and a high school diploma upon graduation.

Excellence in Alternative Programming/Student Support:  Highlights included a visit to the OTHS Life Management Skills classroom (LMS) co-taught by Mr. Dent and Mr. Crouthers.  The LMS program supports at-risk students and assists them with behavior management, conflict resolution, life choices, and academic preparation.  Statistical data has been tracked since the inception of the program several years ago.  This data overwhelmingly demonstrates the impact the program is having on student academic success and student behaviors.   In addition, OTHS highlighted the RSS and ESS programs that support special education learners and regular education learners that need additional resources to maneuver through the challenges of their academic coursework.  The success of our Academic Assistance Centers which provide tutoring and additional academic guidance for students was also noted.

Excellence in Informational Literacy:  Informational literacy is the main objective of the Smiley Campus Instructional Media Center (IMC).  District IMC Coordinator, Mrs. Lara, shared that according to Gale Cengage Learning, O’Fallon Township High School ranked #2 in Illinois in the Database Search Category during the first semester of the 2015-2106 school year.  Students are acquiring skills in research and data validity.   In addition, the research-based Summer Reading Program provides students with the opportunity to read something they love while developing a student’s commitment to being lifelong readers.  During the fall semester of the 2015-2016 school year, the IMC welcomed over 44,500 individual student visits.

Excellence in World Language:  Highlights included a tour of Mrs. Magee’s Honors Spanish III classroom and discussions regarding the Seal of Biliteracy and Commendations of Biliteracy awarded to OTHS students.  The Seal of Biliteracy is an award and a transcript notation for those students demonstrating proficiency in two or more languages upon high school graduation.  It was also noted that an Honors IV world language course is instructed 100% in the target language, with Honors III world languages courses at approximately 85% in the target language, and world language II courses being taught in approximately 75% of the target language.

Excellence in English Curriculum:  Highlights included a tour of Mrs. Seipp’s Honors British Literature class and the observation of students engaged in an energetic and thoughtful discussion on the novel Jane Eyre.  It was noted that the OTHS English Department was identified as a model and filmed by the Illinois State Board of Education for its Common Core implementation in World Literature.

Excellence in Science/Robotics:  Highlights included a tour of Honors Physics I taught by Mr. Curry, an Illinois Teacher of the Year finalist.  The tour included a visit to the infamous “OTHS Bot Cave” where the award winning robotics program comes to life.

Excellence in Preparation for “Grade 13”:  To conclude the tour, Dr. Smith visited OTHS’s new College and Career Lab in the Guidance Department.  This lab assists students in identifying career interests and college opportunities.  The Guidance Department provides numerous supports for students and families during the journey through high school to “Grade 13” (college, career, or military service), including academic counseling, college application processing, FAFSA support, financial support resources, etc.

High Academic Achievement/Low Cost: During the tour, Board President, Lynda Cozad shared with Dr. Smith that OTHS continues to perform in the top 6% of high schools in the state on the ACT exam while maintaining an instructional expenditure per pupil in the bottom 3% of all high school districts.  OTHS is a high performing district academically that accomplishes its successes with relatively low costs per pupil as compared with other high school districts.

Dr. Smith only had an hour to share with OTHS.  If greater time were allotted, OTHS would have continued its tour of excellence and would have highlighted the numerous other departments, classrooms, opportunities, and supports that make OTHS such an outstanding school.