Saturday, Apr 29, 2017
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Education

SYLVANIA SCHOOLS

Staff endeavors to better meet students’ needs

Teachers, administrators, and support staff from Sylvania Schools are developing a plan for each of the district’s 12 schools to better meet the needs of minority students and those who face economic hardship.

About 80 representatives from the district last week participated in a three-day training on cultural competency. They heard stories about Arab students struggling to learn English and impoverished students who don’t have access to computers or the Internet to complete assignments.

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Teachers, administrators, and support staff from Sylvania Schools are developing a plan for each school to better meet the needs of minority students and those who face economic hardship.

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Much of the training revolved around ways to make education more equitable, school board President Julie Hoffman said.

In the end, representatives from each building and the central offices were tasked with recognizing diversity within the district and making sure all students’ needs are met, regardless of race, religion, culture, or socio-economic background.

“It was a profound experience,” Ms. Hoffman said. “I’m blessed to be in this community and to be part of this district that is willing to learn new things and respond to the needs of our students, and the needs of our students are changing.”

Adam Fineske, the district’s executive director of teaching and learning, said the makeup of Sylvania Schools’ roughly 7,500 students has changed in the past decade, both culturally and economically. He said there are more students who speak English as a second language, and of the district’s ESL students 120 speak Arabic as their primary language. There are also more students who qualify for free and reduced lunches, he said, particularly on the district’s east side.

As the district’s dynamics shift, so then must its approach to education, Mr. Fineske said. He’s hopeful the cultural competency training will help shape that process.

“The teachers are needing this, they need some support,” he said. “And how do we respond to help all the kids? It’s not what we did 10 years ago. It has to be different.”

The training tied in with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education law that calls for input from local districts and their communities when it comes to educating students. A $12,000 grant from the National Education Association made the training possible, and facilitators from both the NEA and the Ohio Education Association ran it.

Sylvania Education Association President and high school English teacher Dan Greenberg said he believes Sylvania Schools is the first district in Ohio to hold such a training, and he hopes to see other schools in the are replicate it.

“We are far ahead of the curve in that way, and I’m really proud of it,” he said.

Mr. Greenberg said he hopes to put on a community forum in the coming months to further gather public input on the district’s growing diversity and keep community members in the loop on the work that’s being done.

“I don’t see it as one and done,” he said of the training. “I see it as a springboard for future activities that are really going to benefit our students.”

Contact Sarah Elms at: selms@theblade.com or 419-724-6103 or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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