Two former HLS administrators were most instrumental in persuading me to leave Reynoldsburg City Schools and come home to my alma mater in 2005. HLS Superintendent Chris Lester and Director of Teaching and Learning Susan Witten asked me to teach high school math and serve as the district’s math coach—two roles that I love. What I didn’t know beforehand was how closely I would get to work with Dr. Witten. From hiring to evaluation, assessment organization to law and policy, I benefitted from Dr. Witten’s expertise nearly every day, ultimately joining her half a day, each day of her final year. A reality that became obvious was that, through attrition and intentional staff reductions, her office was expected to handle the tasks that are managed by teams of six or more at other districts.
Dr. Witten was tremendous as Hamilton’s curriculum director and those of us who worked directly with her are proud to have supported her work each day. When she retired the Office of Teaching and Learning expanded by just one additional person, but we have been able to add necessary, vital services that were not possible with one person trying to do the work of a half dozen people.
Dr. Witten always wanted a districtwide local assessment system and comprehensive data system. Now we have both. She strongly believed that strong ELL services must be given to all district students whose native language is something other than English. We now have an ELL teacher and a growing program. She wanted to grow a true gifted program from the less than 2 percent of identified students who had been referred and identified. In the last five years, we have worked with our Gifted Coordinator to identify and, though professional development and diligence of our teachers, serve a gifted population that is now over 8 percent of our enrollment.
Two other major developments that we have pushed in the last five years include giving the teachers a voice in curriculum development and instructional practice, and developing a Work Based Learning curriculum.
Teachers now have a clear, consistent voice through monthly vertical alignment team meetings. These meetings are envied by teachers and administrators throughout Central Ohio. Each month building principals and teachers work together to arrange schedules so team members can participate in English, Math, Science, or Social Studies meetings with the Office of Teaching and Learning. Teams are made up of teachers from each building within common subject areas and the special education intervention teachers who support the general education teachers with the same subject. During these meetings teachers review data, learn vital information about impactful issues in teaching and learning, and discuss how they are ensuring that students are being educated in a seamless progression from grade to grade and building to building. All buildings are represented by two or more teachers who share meeting information with their building teams as well as ask for feedback about what was discussed during the meeting. I share meeting notes with all teachers via email.
Dr. Witten was committed to working with teachers and supporting their work. We are proud to be able to expand her work and give the teachers a voice that they never before had at Hamilton Local. We are proud also of creating a real work based learning curriculum that expands the curriculum to include pathways that include all college work, some college work and some work training, or specific work training and credential-building experience.
Our Ranger Pathways program is Hamilton Township High School's career exploration, preparation, and connection program. All HTHS students explore career fields that are consistent with their interests and skills; prepare for college and/or other career-specific training; and connect with businesses or municipalities for internships, apprenticeships, or other valuable work experiences. Our students' path to graduation and career success begins with Ranger Pathways.