BACK TO SCHOOL: We talk with Oberlin’s principals

By Evan Goodenow -






Photos by Evan Goodenow | News-Tribune School resumes Aug. 24 in Oberlin and educators are readying facilities for the arrival of students.

Buses resume rolling Aug. 24 when the 2015-16 school year begins.

Classes resume Aug. 24 and Oberlin Schools staff are preparing.

Classrooms are being cleaned and decorated, lesson plans are being prepared, and teaching strategies discussed. Maintenance includes fixing leaky ceilings and installing new drainpipes in the approximately 1,000-student district.

The school system has five new teachers. Two took advantage of a new incentive program in which the district paid $1,000 in expenses for them to move to Oberlin, said superintendent David Hall.

Also new to the district are assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction John Monteleone and athletic director John Carter.

Monteleone previously worked for the Lorain Schools while Carter comes from the Fairview Park Schools.

Parents and students can visit their buildings Aug. 23 to speak with staff and tour the facilities. To provide parents and students perspective the 2016-17 school year, the News-Tribune spoke with Oberlin’s four school principals.

Oberlin High School

Location: 281 North Pleasant St.

Hours: 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Phone: 440-776-4601

Grades: 9-12

Enrollment: 325 students

Staff: 55 (including 28 teachers)

Principal: William Baylis II

The high school was ranked 27th best in Ohio for the 2015-2016 school year by U.S. News and World Report and it moved from 826th to 697th in the magazine’s annual rankings of the best schools nationally.

While proud of the ranking, principal William Baylis II said staff isn’t satisfied and improving academic achievement continues.

Test scores have been analyzed to see where students need to do better. OHS received a B grade in performance on the 2014-2015 Ohio Department of Education state report card. Baylis said better student engagement is a major goal this academic year.

“Not just delivering content, but how do you really help students get engaged with the material, being hands-on, thinking critically?” he said. “Being a participant in the classroom, not just a receptor.”

As part of a district-wide initiative, more special education teachers will be partnering with general education teachers in general education classes as part of efforts to improve special education. Baylis said about 50 general education students who didn’t pass the Ohio Graduation Test in algebra, geometry, and English attended summer school and did well.

When students aren’t studying, many participate in sports. Baylis said it will be easier for them to train this year. The weight room has been moved from the second floor to a bigger first-floor room.

Another new aspect this year is the elimination of in-school suspensions due to the cutting of a teaching position. The daylong disciplinary measure was for minor offenses such as tardiness. Students now will serve suspensions at home.

Baylis, principal since 2006, said he’s been fortunate to have dedicated staff, enthusiastic students, and supportive parents making educating easier. He said teachers often volunteer their time at the school during the summer and are also involved in planning and professional development.

“Teachers really care about kids. They go the extra mile,” he said. “They’re doing whatever it takes to help kids be successful.”

Langston Middle School

Location: 150 North Pleasant St.

Hours: 8:10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.

Phone: 440-775-7961

Grades: 6-8

Enrollment: 260 students

Staff: 30 (including about 20 teachers)

Principal: Chris Frank

As part of efforts to improve communication, a new parent teacher organization has been formed at Langston.

“I have a lot of a parents that want to be involved,” said principal Chris Frank, who took over in 2014. “That’s the most organized way of getting community and parent involvement.

Also new is having two intervention specialists — certified teachers who work with struggling students — co-teach with general education students. The specialists will co-teach in math, science, and social studies.

“We’re looking at our areas of greatest need,” Frank said of the school, which received a C in performance on the 2014-2015 state report card. “Those are the areas we’re beginning in.”

Frank said there aren’t any new protocols or rules this year. Students are just asked to come to school with a positive attitude and ready to learn.

“Not only do we want to find ways to close our achievement gap, but we also want to make sure we’re stretching our honors students and our top-performing students to perform as high as they can perform,” he said.

Besides improving academics, Frank hopes more students will get involved in sports at the school. “One of the number one factors for kids being successful in schools is being involved in all he activities we offer,” he said.

Prospect Elementary School

Location: 36 South Prospect St.

Hours: 8:20 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Phone: 440-774-4421

Grades: 3-5

Enrollment: 220

Staff: 27 (including 20 teachers)

Principal: Jim Eibel

Changes at Prospect this year include 52 new desktop computers in the building’s lab, replacing seven-year-old computers

The computers cost $15,600 and were paid for with technology levy cash, said district treasurer Angela Dotson. Students use the computers for about 4o minutes a day on individualized math and reading programs in addition to classroom math and reading instruction. “It’s certainly been a worthwhile supplement,” principal Jim Eibel said.

Also new at Prospect — all students will receive free breakfasts and lunches. The change is due to the Community Eligibility Provision, a U.S Department of Agriculture program that provides free meals to schools in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Eibel said the program will reduce stigmas about free meals and allow needy parents to save on food costs.

About 58 percent of students ate meals at free or reduced prices in the last school year. Despite the change, Eibel asked that parents continue to complete applications for free and reduced meals so that the school will be eligible for grants that are based on low-income levels.

The new school year will also mean a greater focus on math in response to low state test scores. The school received a C in performance on the state report card. Teachers previously focused on having small student reading groups to increase reading and writing comprehension.

Teachers will also conduct self-assessments as part of re-certification in the International Baccalaureate program. Re-certification, which includes questionnaires filled out by parents and students, is done every five years. IB programs at Prospect include an initiative in which students create their own nation to better understand governance and laws.

“When they make connections to their learning, it anchors it. It’s not just learning for a test,” said Eibel, principal since 2008. “It’s embedding into their personal knowledge and use.”

Eastwood Elementary School

Location: 198 East College St.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

Phone: 440-775-3473

Grades: PK-2

Enrollment: 270

Staff: 40 (including 20 teachers)

Principal: Susan Alig

Eastwood’s after-school program expands from three days per week to five days per week this year. The program, from 3:20-6 p.m., is run by Oberlin’s recreation department. It includes arts and crafts, a computer lab, homework time, and sports.

Efforts will also continue to improve writing at Eastwood. Two new units of a three-unit writing program that began in March of last year will be used this year, principal Susan Alig said.

The program includes teaching informational, narrative, and opinion writing and involves students comparing the work of different authors. The effort aims to improve thinking and prepare students for state testing. Testing begins in third grade.

Alig said teachers will also continue to promote inquisitiveness in students. Teachers will encourage questioning and dialogue.

“Little children have great minds and have lots of questions,” said Alig, principal since 2013. “We just want to try to capitalize on that and capitalize on their wondering and thinking to drive where instruction’s going.”

Like at Prospect, teachers will also begin self-assessments for re-evaluation for the International Baccalaureate program. Re-evaluation also includes input from parents and students.

Besides complimenting teachers, Alig also praised Eastwood’s custodians for getting the building ready during hot weather. Most of Eastwood, which opened in 1955, lacks air conditioning.

Alig said she’s hopeful the weather will cool off when school begins. “I’m just looking forward to getting the little ones back here and hearing about their summers and what they’ve been reading,” she said.

Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.





Photos by Evan Goodenow | News-Tribune School resumes Aug. 24 in Oberlin and educators are readying facilities for the arrival of students.

Photos by Evan Goodenow | News-Tribune School resumes Aug. 24 in Oberlin and educators are readying facilities for the arrival of students.

Buses resume rolling Aug. 24 when the 2015-16 school year begins. resume rolling Aug. 24 when the 2015-16 school year begins.

By Evan Goodenow