Tiffin schools continue tradition of excellence

Four years ago, when I joined the Tiffin City School Board of Education, we held a goal of transforming our district to destination status. This would require our administrators, teachers, and support staff to be directed by a board with vision and leadership. Our first step along that path was to search for and retain a quality superintendent. We needed a superintendent with vision and one who could implement programming that aligned with the Board and community’s goals. We have been very pleased with our choice of Mr. Gary Barber. I would like to inform the Tiffin community of some of the accomplishments for which Mr. Barber, in his two years under the direction of our Board, is responsible.

Mr. Barber brought to our district an ability to motivate our talented and dedicated teaching and support staff. He, in addition, has been able to recruit and successfully integrate additional key players to our administrative team. As all great leaders do, he has been able to recognize existing talent and coach these people to reach their potential. In part, this is accomplished by setting goals which are weekly updated and placed front and center amongst the staff. This includes his WIG, Wildly Important Goals. Through his building principals, he has helped us improve our state of Ohio report card scores from average and poor to good and very good. One example is our B in gap closure from an F, just two years ago.

We have improved our communication and collaboration amongst our grade school teachers despite the separation of our grades by building. Our plan to construct a single PreK-5 building and the state of Ohio 69% match, will facilitate this effort further.

We have been fortunate to have Dr. Jim Lahoski and his team at North Central Ohio Education Service Center (NCOESC) assist us in numerous ways. Most importantly, his team provided us with a very thorough curriculum audit. Using this, we have been able to determine deficient areas and provide us a clearer understanding of an alternative approach to our programs. We have also benefitted from a renewed relationship with the NCOESC for quality professional development and curriculum support.

Our colleagues at Vanguard-Sentinel continue to assist us with high quality skilled trades education. We are partnering with Mr. Greg Edinger and his talented staff in returning Industrial Arts to our Tiffin City Schools curriculum, Initially offering pre-construction trades and maker space “pre-Engineering” for our incoming freshman. On the horizon for next year will be Industrial Trades complementing our STEM program at the middle school.

Our relationship with Tiffin University has expanded as well. In addition to offering College Credit Plus courses, we have developed a Graduate Pathways to Success (GPS) program. This allows freshman students to enroll at Tiffin University in Information Technology, Cybersecurity, and Supply Chain Management courses. Through their four years at TC, they will have an opportunity to achieve up to 36-48 college credits toward a degree in a high demand career field. In our first two years, we have enrolled over 60 eighth grade students in this progressive opportunity.

We have engaged Heidelberg University Education students to assist us with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) education at the elementary level. Our Noble School 4th and 5th grade students and their cooperating teachers are also benefitting from our after-school mentoring program, Budding Genius. This program provides both academic, social, and emotional support to help our students overcome barriers and be successful. This has been funded by a grant through the State Department of Education, which totaled over $400,000.

With the help of Terra State Community College and TU advisers, we are able to offer career and college planning to our high school students without charge. This, in addition to our newly acquired Naviance system, will promote advanced career planning. The Naviance system is a web-based data collection and student-oriented resource of career direction information. This will allow students beginning in 6th grade to build a portfolio of their accomplishments, explore interests, and share their goals. This will assist them, their parents, and teachers to explore post-secondary options and develop a career goal and pathway related toward their passion.

In the ever-changing world of security, we have in place our Navigate system, which heightens security and awareness in all of our buildings. We have partnered with Tiffin City Police Department to hire a resource officer. He has provided a presence in our high school and middle school. This collaboration is the beginning of what we believe will be an expanding initiative toward community safety.

We have addressed the mental health needs of our students through several new services. We now have a district social worker who oversees our students’ behavioral and emotional support needs. She has assisted our efforts to connect our district with community resources. Mircea Handru and the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board have financially supported us with PAX training for our K-5 students. This is a program which employs techniques students learn to develop healthy coping skills. This hopefully provides alternatives to conflict and violence or self-destructive behaviors. We have also added two mental health counselors at our elementary level.

The recent graduating seniors have had an opportunity to be involved in Year 13. This is a mentoring program through which each senior is partnered with a community member who assists the student as they transition through their first year after graduation. This mentor may assist the student with support or advice should the students’ plan change or become impossible to achieve.

The past two years, graduating seniors have been involved in Senior Signing Day. This is quickly becoming one of the most exciting days of the school year at Tiffin Columbian. In early May, each graduating senior, with the presence of the entire student body in the gymnasium stands, is able to officially sign a letter of intent to enroll at their chosen university, military academy or service branch, employment or further work force training program.

Our district has benefitted from the services of Amy Wood who has brought her expertise in grant writing and program implementation to our community. She is responsible for over 2 million dollars in grant funding of programs which augment our students’ experiences. One of these programs will soon put TCS in the center of a national program called Jobs for the Future, Pathways to Prosperity Network. These and other programs have put our district in the sites of Governor DeWine and the Ohio Department of Education as leaders in career education. Mr. Barber has been invited by the governor to represent us at the statewide task force conference on career education. Our Business Advisory Council members have guided us to involvement in the Ohio Means Jobs program. Our students will be able to achieve the Ohio Means Jobs Readiness Seal, which will assist local businesses in their employee selection. Students with this seal will have soft skills training and drug free certification. We have developed work-based learning programs for our special needs seniors who will enter the workforce upon graduation. We will soon open a campus store, Pay It Forward, that will provide clothing and household necessities for individuals in need. This store will provide our BRAG (Bridging Readiness After Graduation) students work-based learning experiences. This was developed in partnership with United Way and funded through National Machinery.

Tiffin City Schools has a rich tradition of high-quality education and achievement. We look forward to enriching the community with educational services designed to reach all students and the community at large. We recognize the vital role in nurturing our young minds and developing our students mentally and physically. We understand the changing demands of our workforce development and our role in enhancing the future of our community by educating our most vital resource, our children.