Plan for Progress Promise

A blog about the Plan for Progress — the roadmap for Pickerington Schools' future

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May blog post by Supt. Chris Briggs

May P4P Blog image

Getting Back to “Normal” Begins With Our Plan for Progress 

It’s hard to believe we’ve been remote learning since the middle of March! As this school year ends, we are looking forward to being back together in the classroom as soon as it is deemed safe. 

Our administrative team and our teachers are all thinking about what school will look like when we return. You and your student probably are, too. And, right now we all have more questions than answers. 

The governor has made it clear that we will not return to school the way we left… there will be big changes. But, those changes are unclear at this time. We don’t know what class or group sizes will look like, will students need masks, will there be temperature checks, will we be able to have sports and band and big events? 

We, like you, want to return to normal. Being in the classroom is vitally important. Participating in clubs, athletics and the arts are an essential part of the Pickerington experience. Our big question to answer is, how can we bring back the things we love and miss in a safe way that aligns with the increased state and local requirements on health and safety.

What we do know without a doubt is that we must continue to follow our Plan for Progress. Our district, alongside our community, developed this plan to keep the focus on our students and what they need to be successful now and in their future. 

The Plan for Progress focuses on three main areas: academic excellence, efficient operations and modern facilities. Because of our commitment to the plan, our staff and students were better equipped to respond quickly to the emergency shift to remote learning. In particular, the Plan for Progress initiated our investment in devices, the incorporation of modern technology with blended and virtual learning in the classroom and a movement to personalized learning. 

Although our district has made significant strides in each of the three main plan areas, we also have some constraints that will affect what our return to school looks like in light of the COVID-19 situation.

One big constraint we are facing as we plan to return to school is our current facilities. Prior to the COVID-19 closures, Ryan Jenkins, our district Treasurer, and I visited a lot of you in our community to discuss the state of the schools. We shared with you that our aging facilities combined with our projected enrollment growth of 1,000 new students by the 2023-24 school year create significant challenges. At the time, we already knew we needed to address overcrowding and create new learning spaces and expand cafeteria and extracurricular space at several of our schools in order to accommodate our current student population, let alone the students we are projected to add due to the continued steady growth of the Pickerington community. 

The constraints our current facilities create is even more prevalent now. We expect social distancing measures to be included in the guidance issued to schools on how to safely reopen. We don’t know the specifics yet but we recognize that our current facilities, some of which were already tight to begin with, will create real challenges as we work through the practicality of social distancing at school. I am confident we will find creative ways to overcome our facility constraints in light of our growing student body and the social distancing requirements, but it will also limit many of our possible solutions.

We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that our return to school will be safe for our students and staff. Every decision we make will be focused on what’s best for our students and aligned with our Plan for Progress. Now, more than ever, it’s important that we remain focused on doing what our students need now and for their future.

 

April blog post by Supt. Chris Briggs


COVID-19 update image

 

Proactive Investments Prepared PLSD for COVID-19 Closure

It goes without saying that no one could have predicted that our district of 10,998 students and more than 700 teachers from 15 buildings would become a virtual school in less than a week. Our entire staff has rallied together to facilitate this transition so that our students can keep learning.

I am proud of how hard our staff has worked to respond quickly and with a constant focus on students and their families. Our community continues to step up and demonstrate what it means to be Pickerington Proud. Thank you to everyone who has expressed their support of our students and staff, your support keeps us going!

Although none of us planned for the situation we find ourselves in today, our district was ready to respond. We were able to make the shift to remote learning because of the investments we have been making in our students and teachers.

In 2016, Pickerington schools invested in a 1:1 technology program so that every student would have a learning device in the classroom. We understood that digital skills are critical to student success and that access to personal devices at school allows students to focus on their digital learning and also allows teachers to utilize online learning platforms. 

At the time, we had no idea our 1:1 device program would be instrumental in our ability to continue student learning in response to a global pandemic. It is confirmation that proactive investment in students and teachers is important. 

There is no way to replace daily interactions in the classroom, physically being together allows teachers opportunities to engage students in hands-on learning and for students to collaborate together. As a result of this shift, our teachers are working harder than ever to plan, prepare and deliver high quality instruction to students virtually without the use of our facilities. 

We have always known that school facilities are important to student growth and learning and while we are finding ways to be creative, we also look forward to welcoming students back into our physical classrooms when it is safe to do so.

I encourage you to follow along on our social media channels to see the creative ways teachers are engaging with students and keeping them safe, learning from home and #PLSDProud. 

 

February blog post by Supt. Dr. Chris Briggs

Explaining PLSD’s “Portrait of a Graduate”

The classrooms of today, both look and feel different than they used to — and they should! Our students will be entering a workforce that relies heavily on technology, remote work and global collaboration. Just as life after school has changed, our understanding of education has also changed.  

Our team developed and released a Portrait of a Graduate with our Plan for Progress last August to paint a picture of what our students need in order to be successful in our growing and changing economy. After months of research, feedback and brainstorming sessions, the team landed on seven characteristics. 

A successful graduate at Pickerington will be an Engaged Learner, a Digital Citizen, a Knowledge Constructor, an Innovation Designer, a Computational Thinker, a Creative Communicator and a Global Collaborator. I encourage you to read about each of these in the graphic below from our Plan for Progress (click on the image to enlarge it in a new window).  One common theme that ties all of these qualities together is the ability to constantly be learning, adapting and applying knowledge or skills. 

Plan for Progress Portrait of a Graduate image
In order to achieve these goals, we have implemented personalized learning in our schools. Teachers utilize and adapt the tools, resources and learning environments available to meet the needs of their students. Technology plays a big role in our ability to measure and meet our students needs. 

Learning spaces also play a large role in personalizing learning and for that reason our facilities need to be able to meet the needs of our students now and into the future. This may look like an open classroom environment that incorporates space for movement, or it may look like a modern workspace, exposing students to what they may encounter after graduation. In addition, we want our learning environments to inspire students to be engaged and enthusiastic about their learning. We also want students to feel safe, healthy, supported and secure at school. 

Our teachers are already engaged in this work with our students. They are cultivating safe and engaging learning environments where students are comfortable to ask questions and learn and apply new skills. Teachers are implementing research-based strategies to personalize each student’s educational experience and are providing authentic experiences that are connected to the world outside of their classroom. 

In the coming weeks and months, we will be sharing more about how we plan to continue to improve our learning spaces to match the quality of personalized learning in our classrooms. There will be opportunities for you to share your thoughts with us as well so stay tuned!

For more on our Plan for Progress, including an in-depth breakdown of our Portrait of a Graduate core competencies, please visit our Plan for Progress webpage. The Portrait of a Graduate core competencies are detailed on pages 16-20 of the Plan for Progress Finalized Report.

 

January blog post by Supt. Dr. Chris Briggs

School Board Members holding potted plants image
 

Thanks Board Members for “Planting the Seeds of Success” for PLSD Students

This month we welcomed two familiar faces back to the Pickerington Local Schools Board of Education, Keith Kristoff and Cathy Olshefski. They were elected in November 2019 and began their new terms this month. Both have previously served  terms on the board. They will serve alongside Lori Sanders, Board President, Clay Lopez and Vanessa Niekamp. Pickerington Schools would not be the same without the hundreds of hours that each of our five board members volunteer to help guide, direct and govern our school district to continue providing an exceptional learning experience to all of our Pickerington students.

In honor of School Board Recognition Month, we gifted board members with “Thank you for helping students grow” potted plants, a poster signed with personalized messages from staff and  Heritage Elementary students, certificates from the the Ohio School Boards Association, and a performance from Pickerington High School Central’s Class A saxophone quartet. This year’s School Board Recognition Month theme is “Planting the Seeds of Success,” so the potted plants were the perfect way to recognize our dedicated board members!

Also, during this School Board Recognition month, I would like to share a glimpse into the valuable work of our board members. 

Each month, board members hold a public meeting and discussion about topics relating to our district. The decisions made at these meetings affect our children in big ways — what they learn, who will teach them and what kinds of facilities will house their classrooms. The policies and procedures our board establishes provide the framework for our district. 

Our board members are elected by you and they work hard to represent the interests of our community and all of our students. In addition to the work they do locally, our board members spend countless hours trying to learn more about education so that they can better serve our community. Each of them values and respects their role and responsibility to our students and our community, and for that I am grateful. 

It’s easy to take their hard work and dedication for granted because so much of their work happens behind the scenes. I hope you will join me in sincerely thanking them for their time, their energy and their passion for our schools, students and staff. 

Thank you, Lori, Clay, Vanessa, Keith, and Cathy! You make it possible for our community to provide input about the quality of education we provide at Pickerington Schools. Your dedication and civic responsibility are honorable and a great example to our students of what it means to be an engaged citizen. I applaud you for sharing your vision and voice to help shape the future of Pickerington Schools.

 

December blog post by Supt. Dr. Chris Briggs

Ridgeview students during Make a Difference Day pictures
 

Service Learning Permeates Pickerington Schools

Creating a culture that promotes unity and collaboration is a top priority throughout the Pickerington Local School District. We believe the best way to foster a sense of community is through authentic experiences. Such experiences for students create deep and meaningful learning experiences that last beyond the test; connecting learning to community impact.

Service learning has multiple benefits. It incorporates value-based education in a way that bridges the gap between learning in the classroom and applying skills in the real world.

Community service is an integral part of social development. Through providing assistance to others, our students are building empathy. This is important for developing the whole child. This skill will resonate beyond the walls of our schools. Our students are learning what it means to be a good citizen.

Service is a form of experiential learning that can be a powerful way to engage students in their interests and what they are learning in the classroom. Through intentional service project selection, our teachers are able to incorporate skills such as math, reading, writing, and social justice. Service learning provides a platform where critical thinking skills are necessary – encouraging students to use problem solving and creativity in addition to skills learned in the classroom. Students are also given opportunities to use their unique interests and talents to bring their service learning to life.

Just a few examples of service learning that have already happened or are coming up in Pickerington Schools this school year include:

  • Toll Gate Elementary recently collected and gave over 1000 boxes of pasta to the Driven organization, and they are currently collecting toys for the Violet Township Firefighters Toy Drive. Last year, the Violet Township Fire Department Toy Drive helped more than 2,000 kids, raised more than $14,000 in gift cards and cash and handed out more than 8,000 toys to more than 300 families.
  • Toll Gate Middle School raised $5400 for fire department to purchase anything they need. As an ongoing initiative, TGMS also works with Pickerington Food Pantry to collect unused food from the cafeteria to help feed the needy. Students and staff also collected hats and gloves for the Harmony Project and participated in the February Kindness Campaign, performing random acts of kindness around the community.
  • Harmon Middle School continued their annual fundraising event where students play dodgeball against their teachers and Violet Township firefighters. They also participate in the Violet Township Fire Department’s Toy Drive, and the school actually began that partnership 16 years ago, which has now expanded to the whole district.
  • Violet Elementary donated items to the Van Buren Homeless Shelter and the Violet Township Fire Department Toy Drive. They also collected and donated playdough for Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
  • Tussing Elementary held a Quarter Drive which took place during the OSU/Michigan game. All the money collected went to families in need during the holidays. For Veterans Day, students wrote cards and sent candy to soldiers who are stationed overseas.
  • Pickerington Elementary students created baggies for the children at a domestic violence shelter and baby baggies for teen moms in need. They also hand-made holiday cards for local firefighters, as well as bus driver appreciation gifts.
  • Pickerington High School North competed against Pickerington High School Central to see which school would collect the most cans (donated to the Pickerington Food Pantry) and cash for the United Way of Fairfield County.
  • In May, Ridgeview Junior High School students, staff, and parents go into the community and surrounding communities and do volunteer work. Some of their volunteer efforts include yard work and cleaning windows for the elderly, preparing Meals on Wheels for LifeCare Alliance, washing cruisers and service vehicles for the police and fire departments, and much more.

During this holiday season, I’d like to say a special thank you to all of our teachers, staff and students who so generously give the gift of their time and energy in so many ways throughout the school year and beyond. You are truly making an impact in our schools and community and I could not be more #PLSDProud of you.

Dr. Chris Briggs

 

November blog post by Supt. Dr. Chris Briggs

Introducing the Plan for Progress Promise Blog!

With the school year well underway, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about a new way we plan to keep the community informed about the progress happening in our schools — the Plan for Progress Promise blog!

I gave it this name because I see the Plan for Progress (P4P) as Pickerington Schools’ promise to its community, staff and students that the district will continue to progressively move forward with educating for tomorrow using a well-defined, strategic roadmap that focuses on three goals: Academic Excellence, Efficient Operations and Modern Facilities.

The stories featured in this blog will come from a variety of sources including myself, other administrators and staff, where we will share with you directly how our work is helping students realize their full potential. You will also see our students and staff in action through videos throughout the school year. 

We will also share long-term strategies we are planning in anticipation of some of our challenges ahead, including ensuring our students have the classroom space and staff needed to keep up with our growing enrollment.

We are #PLSDProud! Please stay updated on school events and news by visiting this website. You can also follow me on Twitter @plsdsupt. I know I’ll have plenty to share!

Dr. Chris Briggs