Sunday, November 1, 2015

Westerville Immediately Cuts Participation Fee Costs for Families

Based greatly on support from the Westerville City Schools community by way of the successful March 2012 levy, favorable funding outcomes from recent state budgets, and conservative financial practices by the district, Westerville City Schools has begun to to restore and reimagine programs to provide greater benefits to our students.  The last three years have seen the expansion of opportunities to include all-day kindergarten, career exploration courses at the middle schools, the creation of College Credit Plus courses, and the advent of Career Pathway programs in the high schools in Engineering, Health and Business.

At the September 28 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, I made a presentation to the Board outlining the current participation fee structure for athletic programs, co-curricular music programs, club activities and theater programs.  At the direction of the Board, I returned on October 12 to present options that would reduce the participation fees for those activities.  At the October 26 BOE meeting, the Board unanimously approved a resolution to amend the approved 2015-2016 Fee Schedule which resulted in immediate reduced participation fees for those programs.

So What Does That Mean?

To start the school year, the participation fees for Westerville were $240 per sport in high school, $120 per sport in middle school, $50 for marching band, choirs, and orchestra, $50 for each theater production, and $15 for certain non-academic clubs with a supplemental contract - with no family cap.  As a result of the reductions, the new fees, effective immediately, are:

  • Athletics High School: $150 for the 1st sport, $75 for the 2nd sport, the 3rd sport is free
  • Athletics Middle School: $75 for the 1st sport, $50 for the 2nd sport, the 3rd sport is free
  • $50 for co-curricular music programs - this fee will be eliminated beginning with the 2016-2017 school year
  • A ONE-TIME $50 fee for theater productions instead of per-performance - this fee will be eliminated beginning with the 2016-2017 school year
  • Clubs: $15 for non-academic clubs with a supplemental contract - this fee will be eliminated beginning with the 2016-1017 school year
  • The most significant feature of the reductions is the implementation of a total family cap of $300 for these fees.
We are not phasing out the $50 and $15 fees this school year simply because many students have already paid those fees.  Now codified in policy, the Board will annually review and approve our extracurricular and instructional fees.

Even though the new fee schedule became effective on October 26 and is not applicable for the Fall Sports season, the consideration for the the $300 family cap will be retroactive to all participation fees paid to this point of the school year.


  • A single student in a household played a fall high school sport for $240 and will also play a sport in the winter.  Even though the new fee for a 2nd high school sport is $75, with the family cap of $300, the student would only be required to pay $60, which is the amount that would reach the cap.  Incidentally, the student would not pay another participation fee for the remainder of the school year.
  • A household had a student play a fall sport at the middle school level ($120) and a student play a fall sport at the high school level ($240).  The fees at that amount were applicable for the fall season, however with a total payment of $360, the family has now exceeded the new $300 cap and any activities for students in that household in the winter and/or the spring will be free.  There will not be a refund of $60 because the family cap was not in effect in the fall.
Examples like this can be mixed and matched with a variety of scenarios.  Just remember, for this and next school year, a family will not be asked to pay more than $300 in participation fees.  Also note, some activities, such as marching band and cheerleading, have internal program fees in addition to the district's participation fees.  Those fees are not included in the family cap calculation.

The district also authorizes the opportunity for community-based club sports (boys & girls Bowling, Boys Volleyball, Gymnastics, boys & girls Lacrosse) that are not funded by the Westerville Board of Education but are conditionally allowed so that students are able to compete in those activities for their respective high schools.  Since the Board does not financially support those activities or collect any participation fees, the Pay to Participate fees do not apply to them.

Athletic Directors at our middle and high schools have compiled a data base of students and their participation fees paid to this point in the school year.  Please be patient and communicate with our ADs and their staff when further participation fees are required for activities this school year to ensure consistency and accurate financial accountability between our schools and families.

We are excited to be able to provide financial relief for our families with active students, and look forward to watching Westerville students participate in our top quality programs.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Prepare NOW for Life After High School

Greetings Westerville Secondary!  I have been able to visit every secondary school - several of them multiple times - since the beginning of the school year and it appears we are off to a great start!  Even though the year is just under way, it's not too early to begin planning for life after high school.  In my last post, "Welcome Back Westerville Secondary" I talked about the importance of the "dinner table" conversation with students that gets at their interests, strengths and future aspirations.  Ideally, a student's educational programming and experiences should guide and progress them toward those aspirations.  There are generally five broad productive activities that high school graduates will engage in as they start the next phase of their life:  four-year university, two-year college, technical or trade school, the Armed Services, and/or right into the world of work!  Most likely, students will juggle several of these activities simultaneously as they prepare to find their way and fully enter adulthood.  This post is geared to providing resources and information that may help with the very important decisions that students and families must make.  Of course, it's impossible to list everything and the Guidance Counselors at each high school are experts in providing the specific information that fits each student's need.

Four-Year University

The annual profiles of our graduating classes indicate that 60-70% of our students, depending on the year, will enter a four-year college or university after graduating from high school.  It's never too early to begin visiting schools and  making preparations for applying and preparing for the financial responsibility of college.  The vast majority of universities use either the American College Test (ACT) or Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) as a key benchmark for deciding whether or not to accept a student into school.

If a student plans on taking the ACT, it is highly recommended that both the student and the parent visit  On that site, the testing and registration dates are available, as well as information about college planning, financial aid and a wealth of other information to help students prepare to be successful on the ACT.  Our high schools also will be providing ACT support by having ACT Boot Camps.  Here is an example of posters that are displayed throughout Westerville South High School:

Westerville South will have their first ACT Boot Camp on September 10, Westerville Central will have their first boot camp on October 12, and Westerville North is still in the process of scheduling their first session.  The cost of the boot camps is generally less than $100.  However, ACT provides complimentary test prep activities, including study guides, test taking tips and practice test questions through their website

If a student plans on taking the SAT, it is highly recommended that both the student and the parent visit   Like the ACT, testing and registration dates, test prep, and tutorials are provided.  The College Board develops the SAT test, but are also known for the college-level curriculum delivered in many high schools across the country - Advanced Placement (AP).  Hundreds of our students take AP courses each year and by scoring a 3 or above on the AP Exam, have the opportunity (depending on the college) to either earn college credit or be placed in a higher level class upon entering college.  The College Board has also recently partnered with Khan Academy to provide free practice opportunities.  Finally, the College Board administers the PSAT test to 10th and 11th grade students.  Westerville will be giving that test on October 14.  The registration deadline for that exam is September 24.  In addition to preparing a student for the SAT and identifying students who are strong candidates for AP courses, scoring well on the PSAT may also lead to scholarship opportunities through the National Merit Scholarship Program.  All of that information is found on the College Board website.

If a student is a prospective NCAA Division 1 or Division 2 athlete, students and parents also need to be familiar with the NCAA Eligibility Center website.  Student-athletes cannot become eligible to participate in NCAA athletics without meeting the requirements of the NCAA Eligibility Center.  You can access the site by clicking here.  Please note that the high school curriculum requirements to become eligible in college have just increased.  Students should consult with their high school guidance counselors to ensure they are taking the proper coursework.

Lastly, it is well known that cost of attending college grows each year.  The high school guidance departments keep a catalog and criteria for dozens of scholarships offered to students each year that typically surpasses $1 million dollars awarded per school annually.  The United States Department of Education also provides opportunities for financial assistance to families paying for college.  Each family with a college-bound student is encouraged to visit the Federal Student Aid website, found by clicking here, and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA).  The application may seem daunting, but again, the high school guidance team can and will be a valuable resource to help parents with this process.

Two-Year Community College

Ohio has a wealth of outstanding two-year community colleges that provide a more affordable and flexible opportunity for students to continue in higher education.  Community colleges, like Columbus State Community College (CSCC), provide students the opportunity to earn an Associates Degree while in many cases also earning an industry-recognized professional credential - making graduates qualified, marketable and employable in high-need industries in the Central Ohio region. Columbus State also has what is called a 2 + 2 program, which is an agreement that CSCC has with schools like The Ohio State University whereby a student who completes certain programs with an Associates Degree will automatically gain entrance to the partnering four-year university at Junior status.  The qualifications to enter a community college vary by school.  You can access information about Columbus State by clicking here.

Trade or Technical Schools

The Central Ohio region also has several options for students to continue their learning though technical or trade schools geared toward specific industries.  From the Central Ohio Technical College to DeVry University, students are able to continue their education by finding their niche in specific industries.  A more encompassing catalog of trade and technical schools in Central Ohio can be accessed by clicking here.

The Armed Services

For several of our graduates, service in the Armed Forces is a viable way for them to serve our country, learn valuable skills that will help them enter the workforce as civilians, and provide unmatched financial advantages when it comes to paying for college or purchasing a home.  Recruiters from each branch of service make themselves available regularly to interested students at each of our high schools.  For more recruiting information for each of our service branches, as well as what is to be expected from a recruiter, please click here.


For some students, moving into the workforce is the best option for them right out of high school.  In fact, research suggests that more and more students each year are also working while attending institutions of higher education of any level.  To meet the needs of our employers, schools are increasing the exposure and experience of secondary students to authentic work opportunities.  Westerville City Schools are partnered with the Career & Technical schools of Columbus City Schools (Downtown High School & Fort Hayes Career Center) and the Delaware Area Career Center to provide students technical and industry-based training to better prepare them not only for the workforce, but for higher education.  Westerville is also working with Otterbein University and the Westerville Chamber of Commerce to develop partnerships which will allow our students and teachers to have experiences with local businesses to better prepare students for life beyond high school.  The State of Ohio has also developed a comprehensive website called Ohio Means Jobs.  It is a site developed for individuals and employers that provide resources for K-12 students, college students and adults changing industries.  For high school students, the site provides resources for career planning, resume writing, job fair information, and connects students by industry to actual employers in Ohio who are seeking highly skilled workers.  Students and parents are encouraged to visit the K-12 area of Ohio Means Jobs by clicking here.

This post contained quite a bit of information, but it by no means scratches the surface of what is available to support students and families in their efforts to prepare for life after high school.  Please do not wait to begin this process when a student is entering his or her senior year.  Even middle school students and parents can benefit greatly by getting familiar with the processes and procedures, as well as the "who,what, and where" you can find help.  Westerville is fortunate to have outstanding Guidance Counselors who are valuable resources for our community to help students and parents navigate these very critical choices.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Welcome Back Westerville Secondary!

Welcome back!  We are eager to welcome students, staff, parents and the Westerville community to the 2015-2016 school year.  The start of the year is always an exciting time full of limitless possibilities.  For parents and students, I thought I'd pass along a few tips to help get the year started on the right foot.

I am very fortunate to work along side incredibly talented teachers and dedicated staff members.  I'm also very pleased that the entire administrative team in each secondary school will return in tact this school year!  That's critical for continuity of leadership and comfort in familiarity with students, teachers and parents.  The principals of our middle and high schools are:

Blendon Middle School - Kendall Harris

Genoa Middle School - Carrie Trusley

Heritage Middle School - Joe Kacsandi

Walnut Springs Middle School - Becca Yanni

Westerville Central High School - Todd Spinner

Westerville North High School - Kurt Yancey

Westerville South High School - Steve Andersson

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Each school's website can be accessed by clicking on the corresponding links above.  It's critical to establish communication with teachers, administrators, counselors and support staff right from the start of the year.  Our websites offer a wealth of information designed to assist and enhance your experience with your student's school.  There are many added links on each site that will take visitors to different departments, forms and information, handbooks, schedules, etc.  Each staff member has an email address accessible from the websites and most have established web pages to further ease communication with students and parents.  Many of our school buildings and teachers communicate through newsletter subscriptions, Twitter, Facebook and other media outlets to ensure parents are always up-to-date with what's happening.  Another great tool that many teachers use to communicate with students and parents is "Remind" (formerly Remind 101).  It's a great way to receive regular text messages from teachers about assignments and upcoming class events.

All A's 

When I was a principal, I used to talk to students about the "All A's" of school: Academics, Arts, Athletics, Activities, Attendance, Attitude (which collectively create a great Atmosphere!).  First and foremost with Academics - early in the school year, each school will have a "Curriculum Night" where parents can meet teachers and get summary information on the objectives and activities of each course on their student's schedule - and how to stay connected.  Another critical piece is the Parent Portal.  Through the Parent Portal, parents can view students grades and assignments online.  If your Parent Portal account is not yet set up, or access information is forgotten, that information can be retrieved or an account can be set up from the student's school office.  It is also well researched and documented that when a student is involved in the Arts (visual and performing), Activities (such as clubs, volunteering, and other student groups), and/or Athletics - Attendance is higher, Attitudes toward school are more positive, which together results in greater Academic success!  So make sure students get involved!

Parent Tips

Right from the start, whether your student is just starting his or her secondary experience in grade 6, or is a senior with an eye on the future beyond high school, it's important to establish productive routines for students to be ready to learn each school day.  This is nothing new, but adequate sleep and nutrition, as well as regular homework patterns, are vital to ensure students are at their best.  Having both an active middle and high school student myself, I know how hectic each day can be!  Equally important are the many "dinner table" conversations about the hopes and dreams of your student.  I know that may sound whimsical, but those conversations go a long way in helping you guide your student toward appropriate coursework and experiences over time that very well may result in your child spending his or her life in a rewarding career that fulfills the very dreams you discussed.  Don't underestimate those conversations!

Lastly, the United States Department of Education has a handy month-by-month parent tool kit and resource guide to help you get through the year!  You can access that by clicking Countdown to School Success.

Have a wonderful start to the year and I look forward to meeting new secondary families and reconnecting with established ones this school year!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Westerville North & South Division II in Football

Every two years as outlined in Bylaw 2 of the OHSAA Bylaws, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) recalculates the enrollment of boys and girls in grades 9, 10, and 11 for the purpose of classification of high schools into divisions for sectional, district and state post-season tournaments.  Based on enrollment numbers received from the Ohio Department of Education and the number of divisions allotted for each OHSAA sponsored sport, schools are then evenly distributed among the divisions for competition.  In the previous two-year classification cycle, a seventh division was added for football, with the 72 largest schools in the state comprising Division I.  In that cycle, as in previous cycles, all three Westerville high schools competed in Division I in all sports.

A scuttle that's quickly gaining media and grassroots attention throughout the state is how OHSAA calculated the enrollment numbers for this cycle, which begins with the Fall 2015 season.  Recent legislation, found in ORC 3313.537 allows students who are home educated, educated in a community (Charter) school, or STEM school to participate in activities in the student's "otherwise assigned" public school.  The premise behind that, I imagine, is that even though the state funding follows the student to the school/district of enrollment (Ohio school funding is tricky!), the property tax dollars of that student's family still support the public school district where that student resides.  As such, the student is not completely excluded and has the ability to participate in activities supported by his or her family's tax dollars.  Again, that's just my guess and on the surface seems logical.  In response to the change in legislation, this enrollment cycle OHSAA included reported community and STEM school students into the enrollment count of the public high schools in the districts where community and STEM schools are located.  Given the fact the vast majority of community and STEM schools are located in Ohio's urban districts, schools in Columbus City, Cleveland Municipal, Toledo City and Cincinnati City, saw the greatest gains in their school's enrollment causing many to move to larger school divisions.  Two recent Columbus Dispatch articles explain this in greater depth.  The article by Steve Blackledge can be found here, and the commentary by Michael Arace can be found here.

The impact of that change is in large part why Westerville North and Westerville South will be competing in Division II this season in football (they stay Division I in all other sports).  The enrollment of the two schools have remained fairly constant at around 1500 total students.  However, in Division I, which again for football is the largest 72 schools, 11 schools moved from Division II to Division I, with seven of those schools coming from the big urban districts.  The largest 72 schools in Ohio have an enrollment range of boys in grades 9-11 from 627 (Parma and North Royalton) to the largest high school in Ohio, Mason, with 1364 boys.  The grades 9-11 boys enrollment of the Westerville high schools are:  Central (706), South (620), and North (601).  Based on those numbers, Westerville Central will continue to compete in Division I (where they've made the state playoffs for the last two seasons), while Westerville North and South were bumped out of D-I and will compete in Division II.

The Wildcats and Warriors will compete in Division II - Region 5, which is comprised of 27 schools in Central and Eastern Ohio.  Westerville South is the largest school in Region 5.  Perennial state playoff contenders Columbus Beechcroft and Columbus Marion-Franklin are also in that region, as well as notables like Zanesville, New Albany, and Massillon Washington (yes, THAT Massillon).  Representatives of the urban districts are reaching out to OHSAA regarding the impact on their schools, but either way, the upcoming season should be full of exciting match-ups.

Monday, July 20, 2015

PE Waiver Now Available for Eligible Westerville High School Students

Greetings Westerville community!  Beginning with the Fall 2015 athletic season, high school students in Westerville will be able to take advantage of the law permitting boards of education in Ohio to adopt a policy which allows students who participate in interscholastic athletics, marching band and/or cheer leading to waive the .5 PE credit requirement for graduation.  Students do not earn credit for those activities and are instead required to replace the .5 PE credit with another elective course.  This spring the Westerville Board of Education approved the PE Waiver provision within the "Graduation Requirements" policy 5460.

Highlights of the policy are that students must successfully complete two full seasons of approved activities in order to waive PE, students are not permitted to count activities completed prior to the policy's beginning (Fall 2015), and students must successfully complete two seasons by the Winter season of their senior year in high school.  A full explanation of guidelines, requirements and procedures can be found in our Physical Education Waiver FAQ.

Families who wish to exercise the PE Waiver can begin the process by completing the PE Waiver Application and submitting a completed and signed copy to the student's high school athletic office.  In the coming days, applications will be posted on the athletic and guidance websites of each high school, and it can also be obtained by clicking here.  Marching band applicants will also submit their application to the athletic office.  From there, the athletic office will keep track of students who have submitted an application, verify with the appropriate coach, director, or adviser that the student successfully completed the season, and notify the student's guidance counselor when the qualifications for the PE Waiver have been met.  It will then be appropriately noted on the student's transcript.

High school guidance counselors and/or athletic directors should be able to answer any remaining questions regarding the PE Waiver.  Also note:  athletes, band members and cheerleaders are not required to participate in the waiver and may still choose to meet the PE graduation requirement by taking PE classes traditionally during the school year, during summer school, or as an approved Credit Flex option.