OHS school officials committed to building relationships, being intentional in progress

October 15, 2021 | 12:09 am

Updated October 14, 2021 | 10:47 pm

Photo by Ryan Richardson

Principal Jennifer Luttrell said that much of Owensboro High School’s approach to education this year revolves around two ideals: being more student-centered and intentional. She said much of that comes down to building relationships and striving to keep moving forward as a school.

“If we can bring everything back to being student-centered and doing everything with intentionality, we feel like we can move mountains here at OHS,” Luttrell said Thursday during a presentation at the Owensboro Public Schools Board of Education luncheon.

“We’ve also kind of developed a catchphrase, and we use it a lot here: All in for OHS. We just ask our staff to be all in for OHS in everything that they do — their teaching, their commitment to doing extracurriculars, their professionalism.”

Luttrell said school officials also landed on three big rocks (or goals) this year.

“Everything we do, we want them to come back to our big rocks: to have effective relationships with our students, families and staff; to create a climate and environment that is positive, encouraging, and supports teaching and learning; and to exit ATSI status (low-performing subgroup in the state’s accountability system),” she said.

In part of their effort to foster a positive environment, Luttrell said OHS has been boosting its social media presence highlighting all aspects of the school, including academics and athletics achievements as well as the information and other events students and staff should be aware of.

Tara Howard, OHS dean of instruction, joined Luttrell for Thursday’s presentation. Howard said the social media piece is very intentional. 

“We are very aware that the message about Owensboro High School comes from within these walls,” Howard said. “We have to create our own story or other people fill in the blanks and write their own stories. And some of those stories aren’t very flattering, we hear that. So we are doubling down on that effort to get our story and the wonderful things that are happening in this building.”

Howard further noted that she talked to the Board in December about how to move forward as a school, and those ideas matched up with the rocks that were developed for this academic year.

Regarding relationships (rock No. 1), OHS has worked on monitoring, mindframes, and culturally responsive practices. 

“We really focused on relationships with our students, relationships with our families and relationships with one other,” Luttrell said.

Luttrell highlighted their parent-teacher conference on Sept. 15, noting they held 702 conferences. District officials were excited by that number, with Superintendent Matthew Constant saying that could be a record turnout.

“That gives me chill bumps,” Luttrell said. “We were really excited about that. We pushed it really hard and our faculty worked really hard that night. We want parents to feel like they can contact our teachers and come here if they need anything.”

Howard said they also are addressing social-emotional issues. For example, when faculty check in electronically to meetings they can also answer a question about how they are feeling.

“That gives us a very good read on the room and the individuals,” she said. “We don’t really care which of those (options for social-emotional feelings) that push, but at the end of the day if we see that several of them are on the red face, we know we probably need to check on them the next day and see what kind of supports we can provide to help.”

Regarding systems and process (rock No. 2), OHS has worked on variable curriculum, teacher clarity, PLC structure, assessment analysis, scheduling, and interventions. 

For example, last year when school was in person, some spaces such as the library were dedicated as study hall rooms because of scheduling issues and not having enough places to put the students. Howard said this year there are no study hall rooms, and the small handful of students still “scattered about” are participating in “academic internships.” Those are students who came forward after not being able to get into a required class, but instead of a study hall they are working with teachers to create their own syllabus to help and still learn.

School officials have also held meetings and created documents to help explain to teachers and staff how decisions are being made. Howard said they are trying to follow the same basic format for any meeting that takes place — even those with students — to help everyone stay on the same page and bring clarity to every situation. 

OHS has also revamped their assessments on the instructional side, as all of their walkthroughs are now summarized on one consolidated form that continues to build over time. 

“That data is building and it gives us a good track on what time of day we’re visiting classes, how often teachers have been visited,” Howard said. “It all gives us data on our main success criteria and learning intentions. For our September data, when we compare that to August, everything was up. We’re very excited about the progress we’re seeing with that and the kind of information that’s giving teachers.”

Regarding achievement (rock No. 3), OHS has worked on individual growth and successful post-secondary transition. 

Howard said OHS is working on instilling a set of core dispositions into their learning methods to help make sure students are not only on track to graduate, but be ready for life after high school. Those dispositions include communicate, wonder, embrace, challenge, persevere and take ownership. 

“If we can instill those things in our students, we feel like they will be ready to tackle the world after high school. We are building that into their academic expectations as well,” Howard said.

Luttrell said providing concise and understandable information to staff and students is key for reading students for postsecondary life. 

“There is an intentional focus on knowing where each and every one of our students are in their journey to be postsecondary readiness, and making sure that every student, and every staff member in this building knows how to become postsecondary ready,” she said. “You can be academic ready, you could be career ready. All their courses are in one document, their pathway is in one document. Now we can have a conversation with them. They know what it takes.”

October 15, 2021 | 12:09 am

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