Oakwood State of the Schools address touts progress

Oakwood School Board President Todd Duwel delivered the district’s State of the Schools address on Monday, touting academic progress.
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Oakwood School Board President Todd Duwel delivered the district’s State of the Schools address on Monday, touting academic progress.

Oakwood School Board President Todd Duwel delivered the district’s State of the Schools address on Monday.

In 2019, Oakwood was the only local district and one of 31 in Ohio to earn an “A” on the annual state report card, also ranking third statewide in the state’s Prepared for Success metric.

MORE: How did your district do on the latest state report card?

He noted that 2019 was a year of engagement for Oakwood Schools.

“Author and researcher Brené Brown writes ‘we don’t have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning values with actions,’” Duwel said. “ Forward moving engagement begins with simple conversations.”

The result of several conversations over the past two years with members of the community resulted in voters passing last May a two-part combination school levy, raising $18 million for renovations to the district’s 90-year-old schools, as well as generating funding for day-to-day operating costs.

The bond issue addresses “foundational infrastructure repairs,” and is named Phase 1 of a possible four-phase development. The district recently issued the bonds that will generate $18 million to pay for Phase 1. The bonds were issued at an average interest rate of 3.25 percent school.

MORE: Oakwood earns lone local ‘A,’ Dayton rises to ‘D’ on state report card

“We’ve implemented a multi-phased Master Facilities Plan designed to resolve current needs and accommodate future thinking, which leverages diverse revenue streams including public, private, state and debt-structured investments,” Duwel said.

In September, Oakwood school officials thought the idea of having the Shared Resource Center take over management of the district’s finances was the right choice.

Duwel noted that the SRC, led by Dan Schall and Tiffany Hiser, “is entrenched in the district, helping us better communicate and frame our financial strategy and vision.”

Significant staffing additions were also key to 2019, according to Duwel, as Todd Scott was named the district’s first operations coordinator and Chrissy Elliott was hired as the Smith Elementary principal.

“LumberJill joined LumberJack as a new mascot to rally support around our student athletes,” he added.

MORE: Oakwood hires school district’s first operations coordinator

Oakwood school officials have implemented new procedures and added safety measures to increase protection for all of their buildings.

At the main entrances of all school buildings, new buzzers and cameras were installed. When visitors arrive at these locked entrances, staff members use a short script to ask visitors to identify themselves and state the reason for visiting the school.

“We continue to partner with the Oakwood Safety Department to assure safety and security always remains a top priority,” Duwel said.

School officials say it is important to work with all of the stakeholders involved with education.

“We meet regularly with local and state legislators to offer a public school’s perspective as they consider and evaluate legislation that impacts our schools and community,” Duwel said. “We visit with our local library and city leaders to find common alignment to maximize our community’s tax dollars.”

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Dealing with the mental health needs and the issue of suicide prevention with students has been an important part of the district’s planning.

Oakwood is one of at least seven districts that have formed Hope Squads (a school-based, peer-to-peer, suicide prevention program for students), a new approach designed to train students to help their friends.

The school system is also part of the BOLD (Building Our Lives Drug-free) campaign, which provides community members an opportunity to show they are united in this effort to help students be alcohol and drug-free.

“We pursue mental health-focused opportunities through our BOLD campaign, new health curriculum and affiliation with Hope Squad,” Duwel said.

The district has also worked to bring speakers like Mary Beth Tinker to address students.

Tinker is an American free speech activist known for her role in the 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District Supreme Court case. She was 13 at the time and the court ruled that the district could not punish Tinker for wearing a black armband in school in support of a truce in the Vietnam War.

MORE: 50 years later: Tinker case resonates with students