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Voice Recognition

Mount Vernon City Schools

Excellence In Education

Archived Messages

Superintendent's Message

A Campfire Perspective
A message from Superintendent, William Seder Jr.

CampfireAutumn’s warm days and cool nights make it the perfect weather for a fall campfire. Can you remember the last time you sat out at a campfire?  Perhaps you reminisce about singing songs, telling stories, or roasting marshmallows only to sandwich it between two graham crackers and some chocolate...Good Times.
It’s in those waning inside that I find myself embracing the warmth of the fire and staring into the colorful, dancing flames reflecting upon my family, current world events, and the many educational issues surrounding us right here at home.
 I have recently enjoyed spending some extended time in several of our elementary buildings.   I’ve seen the countless smiles, boundless enthusiasm, and endless curiosity that is incredibly refreshing. What a wonderful reminder that there’s a sense of hopefulness and optimism in a world that often seems so divided.
Two questions occupy my thoughts:  “What more can we do to foster even greater curiosity, provide more opportunities that would allow our students to reach even higher?” and “How can we best prepare our students for a future of which we can only speculate?”  I put another log on the fire and wonder if someone had asked these same questions when I was in school or when my children were in school.

As I find myself reflecting on our current district report card, I don’t believe all the answers lie in a test.  We spend too much time analyzing and teaching to a test that statistically seems unreliable and unrealistic.  When 80% of the districts in the State of Ohio get failing marks on the testing indicators there seems to me to be a greater problem.  In spite of those problems, the district has improved on 18 of the 24 indicators. We raised the bar on K-3 Literacy from a “D” to a “B” and increased the high school graduation rate from a “C” to an “A”.

We have recently implemented  ‘Second Steps’, a social and emotional learning platform in grades K-8 to better address issues like Respect, Empathy, Problem Solving, Emotion Management, Peer Conflict, and Diversity. These life lessons are important topics that need instructional time for the positive development of our young people, even though they are not mandated on state tests.

Business round-tables tell us that we need graduates who are technologically proficient.  We have implemented 1:1 technology at grades 6-12 and while it can be an excellent teaching and learning tool, we need to instill a sense of responsibility in this new digital age including the appropriate use of social media.  The Governor’s workforce development team continues to emphasize 21st century skills like collaboration, teamwork, creativity, imagination, and critical thinking.  Ironically, we are 17 years into the 21st century, how are we doing?

The dancing flames of the fire have faded leaving only the warm glowing embers.  The stars are brighter than ever and I can’t help but wonder what you think.  What are the views and perspectives of our students, parents, business and community members related to the questions that occupy my thoughts at the campfire?

While I can share my thoughts and vision for an educational future, it is your vision for the future that matters most. We find ourselves at that critical juncture where “WE” need to have those conversations.  In the coming months, we plan to have a series of community meetings so we can develop an educational roadmap to the future you envision for our students.

I look forward to those conversations.  
William Seder Jr.


Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness Graphic
Random Acts of Kindness …
A message from Superintendent Bill Seder
I recently heard a story of a businessman heading to Chicago. As he found his assigned seat and settled in for the three hour flight, ten soldiers boarded the plane and took seats next to him. The man introduced himself to several of the soldiers and one of them said they were heading to Chicago for two weeks of training before heading to Iraq.
Halfway through their flight the stewardess announced over the intercom that they were offering a “Brown Bag lunch” for $5.00. The businessman overheard one of the soldiers ask his buddy if he was going to buy a lunch. “No, that seems like a lot of money for a sack lunch. Probably wouldn’t be worth the five bucks. I’ll wait until we get to Chicago.” None of the soldiers were buying a lunch.
The businessman walked to the back of the plane and handed the stewardess a fifty dollar bill. “Please take a lunch to those soldiers.” The stewardess grabbed his arm with tears in her eyes and said, “My son is a soldier in Iraq; it’s almost like you’re doing it for him…Thank You.”
Picking up the ten sacks, she headed up the aisle and handed a sack lunch to each of the soldiers. She stopped at the seat of the businessman and asked, “Which do you like best – Beef or Chicken?” The businessman perplexed by her question replied “Chicken.” Minutes later the stewardess returned with a dinner plate from first class. “This is yours, thank you.”
When the businessman went to the back of the plane to stretch, a man stopped him. “I saw what you did. I want to be a part of it here, take this.” He handed him twenty dollars. Soon after the Flight Captain came down the aisle and with a smile, held out his hand, and said, “I want to shake your hand.” With a booming voice he said, “I was a soldier too – a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness that I never forgot.”
When the businessman landed in Chicago a woman shook his hand while exiting the plan and put a twenty dollar bill in his palm. Waiting just inside the door, another man put something in the businessman’s shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty dollars!
Upon entering the terminal, the businessman saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. He walked over to the soldiers and handed them the $60.00 that had been given to him and said, “It will take you some time to reach the base and I’m sure you may want another sandwich along the way. Be safe and Godspeed.”
A moment after the businessman left, a voice called out, “Sir!” the man turned to see ten of our nation’s finest standing at attention, looking him straight in his eyes and rendering one of the crispest salutes he had ever seen.
We are living in extraordinary times where it seems our nation is more divided than united. Our children are looking to us to lead the way, to be the example. As you read many of the articles in this newsletter and see first hand the incredible things our students do everyday, maybe...just maybe...we could learn a lesson from their example.
How do we change the world? One Random Act of Kindness at a time…Pass it on!

Holiday Message Aboard the Polar Express …
A message from Superintendent Bill Seder
While the Polar Express may not be as traditional for Christmas as, say, ’Its A Wonderful Life’ or ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, it is quickly becoming a family favorite for our family and many others.

The story takes place on Christmas Eve and centers around four children and a conductor (played by Tom Hanks). In their dreams each child is invited aboard the ‘Polar Express’ and given a golden ticket. Collecting the golden tickets, the conductor punches out several seemingly meaningless letters and returns them to the children.

The journey begins, full of twists and turns and hidden storylines as the ‘Polar Express’ races to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus. In spite of many obstacles, the ‘Polar Express’ reaches the North Pole just in time. Santa tells the children “Christmas is the spirit of the season you can feel it in the air. The bell is a wonderful symbol of the season just as Santa Claus. But remember…the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”
Picture of Polar Express ticket. It’s not until the return trip home that you fully understand the lessons learned aboard the ‘Polar Express’. The conductor punches the return tickets adding letters to each ticket to complete the lesson learned along the way…LEARN…LEAD…RELY ON…BELIEVE.

We must LEARN from our past and always remember that there is always more to learn, not just from books, but from one another.

We must LEAD with strength and compassion to protect us and unite us not divide us. Leadership is not always doing what is easiest or most popular. We must never be afraid to stand for what we believe is right.
Picture of Columbia Elementary students. We must be able to RELY ON each other as neighbors regardless of Race, Gender, or Ethnicity, remembering that in America, we have more things in common than things that separate us.
We must BELIEVE in each other and the ideals that make our schools, our community and our nation great.

We live in exciting, yet challenging times. It is important during this holiday season to reflect upon what has made our country great and what we must do to keep it that way.
If you haven’t seen the Polar Express, I recommend it for entertaining and inspiring messages for the holiday season. Sometimes life’s most meaningful lessons come to us from the most unusual of places…even an animated movie about a magical train ride.
From us at Mount Vernon Schools to our Community
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Feliz Navidad y felices fiestas!
Picture of Team MV Go For The Gold Graphic.
Go For The Gold …
A message from Superintendent Bill Seder

Whenever we observe individuals who go above and beyond normal efforts and preparation to achieve a goal, we are inspired. Examples of such efforts are certainly those athletes who participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last summer. We enjoyed watching for several weeks as the world’s finest athletes displayed the results of years, often decades, of sacrifice, training and endurance to compete for Olympic Gold.
Only a few days before the culmination of the ’16 Summer Olympics, our staff and students returned to school for the 16-17 school year – perfect timing - which presented us all with some great inspiration for our own goals. Drawing on this inspiration, we chose a "Go for the Gold" theme for the new school year.
Picture of Mount Vernon District banners.
Our opening day ceremony was an imitation of the Parade of Nations as representatives from each building carried banners into the auditorium.  Individuals carried the torch in a relay that ended with our Mount Vernon Yellow Jacket Mascot lighting our version of the Olympic cauldron.  The remainder of the morning events mimicked Olympic events.  Employees participated in balance beam, frisbee discus, noodle fencing, foam ball archery and other activities – competing with opposing teams for district honors.
Picture of staff "archery" event.
When the collegial activities were completed, our focus turned to the serious business of education and became even more sharply centered on the inspiration required to do whatever it takes to make a positive impact on the lives of our students.

This isn’t about being athletic.  This isn’t even about winning a medal or an award.  Going for the Gold in the Mount Vernon School District is really about each of us – teachers, cooks, bus drivers, secretaries, administrators and custodians – every group – looking at the faces of the children who come through our doors every morning and realizing the potential impact we have on their lives.
Picture of student winning the gold medal for reading!
Those faces and those lives will inspire us – even when we’re tired or worn out – even when we’ve had a troubling day or just don’t feel well.   Kind words, encouragement, extra help or perhaps just a smile may lift the spirit of someone who is struggling at the moment.  We never know what significance these actions might have on a student, or a colleague for that matter.

Like Olympic athletes, we know that the inspiration to keep doing our best in spite of the hurdles and the tough times is what will make winners out of all of us.  Most importantly it will make winners of our students!
Students winning the gold for learning the most sight words.
At the conclusion of our Olympic morning, each staff member was given a gold medal. They were encouraged to identify a student each month, who exemplifies the qualities of an Olympian and present them with a gold medal.  Let’s Go for the Gold together in pursuit of educational excellence.

Thoughts and Tweets from the path …
A message from Superintendent Bill Seder
   With the early onset of spring many of us are relishing the opportunity to get outdoors. Lacing up our walking shoes, tuning up our bikes, and getting our golf clubs out of the attic are sure signs that spring is in the air.
Student on Heart of Ohio Trail
   I often enjoy walks along the Heart of Ohio trail and find this time to be great for tuning out the day’s events and enjoying quiet reflection. Recently my granddaughter, Leighton, and I were walking the trail when we discovered an old violin case along the side of the path. Our minds raced as we created scenarios to chronicle its journey and imagine how it ended up on our path. In the midst of this creative adventure, Leighton suddenly proclaimed, “I love music class and my teacher, Mrs. Eaton!”
   And there it is – the link between the experiences we provide for our children in school and the impact on their lives. Here in Mount Vernon, our students have opportunities to perform in the choir, band and orchestra. We also provide outlets for them to express themselves artistically. Our district embraces the value of these special opportunities and celebrates that they extend learning for our students beyond the important core subjects.
   On another day, I passed Columbia Elementary making my way through Foundation Park to the old CA&C train station, where the past has been preserved for future generations of students to appreciate. The revitalization of the Knox Learning Center (West Elementary) continues as we provide an improved facility for the students of Knox County who attend school there.     We are excited that Pleasant Street Elementary will be getting a major and much needed facelift this summer as we are replacing all of the windows! In this process we are respecting the original design of the building while providing for better lighting and increased energy efficiency.

   We continue to update and maintain all of our facilities from the oldest - Wiggin Street built in 1904 to the newest - Twin Oak built in 2005 to ensure student safety and the most efficient environment for academic success.
   We live in such a great time to use technology for sharing our thoughts and images that I often carry my phone and share ideas and observations with those who follow me on my Twitter account.  
Sign stating Mount Vernon one of Ohio's Best Communities.    The image that I chose for my Twitter profile is a sign from the past that states: ‘Building Excellent Schools for Today and the 21st Century’. When it comes to our focus on maintaining excellent schools, the Mount Vernon School District has certainly stepped up to the plate. We couldn’t be more proud of the results of the recently released state report card. The district received an “A” on performance indicators and an “A” on valued added growth for all subgroups. Mount Vernon Middle School and Columbia Elementary dramatically improved academic scores earning an “A” and “B” respectively while other buildings continued their history of earning high marks.

   Our students, parents and staff are all to be congratulated on our success! In fact, the entire community shares in this achievement since, without community support, we would not have the resources to provide our current high level of education for our kids.

   As warmer weather arrives, I hope you are all able to take time out of your busy schedules to enjoy all that our community has to offer. We invite you to attend our Spring school activities. Our High School and Middle School Spring athletic teams are in full swing. Many students at all grade levels will participate in music or drama performances as the school year winds down. Come and watch our kids demonstrate their talents and skills. Enjoy their enthusiasm and energy. You will leave these events with great optimism about the future of our community and our country.

   As we reflect upon the good times of the past and the present, we must not forget to focus on the future, always striving for ‘Excellence”.

…See you on the trail!
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Educational Lessons Down on the Farm
A message from Superintendent Bill Seder
We recently took our granddaughters, Leighton and Ava, to a good old fashioned farm festival. Television and computer games were replaced for the day with feeding farm animals and meandering through a giant straw obstacle course. The girls launched potatoes in a spud slinger, slid down a corn crib chute, and played in a giant bed of shelled corn.
One of the highlights of our trip was navigating our way through a giant corn maze. After several wrong turns and numerous dead ends, we found ourselves in the middle of the maze with the opportunity to climb to an observation stand. From there we could see the entire maze and were able to analyze where we were, where we wanted to go, and what we needed to do to get there.
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The maze reminded me of how our education system often works. We look for solutions by heading in new directions and by seeking out innovative ideas, often only to find ourselves at a dead end or back to where we started. We tried the PARCC and Common Core trail, which led to new teacher and principal evaluation systems. Along the way we added the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, Rimp plans, College Credit Plus and more.
Some of these paths lead us to a better place and some don’t, but in spite of the mandates that lead us to the quest for a new path or better way, Mount Vernon City Schools remain focused on the basics and ask: "where are we?, where do we want to be?, and what we need to do to get there?."
We have invested in building the foundation for our own type of observation stand by implementing all-day/everyday kindergarten and adding elementary reading tutors to improve literacy. We have targeted our resources towards new textbooks in the crucial subject areas of English and Math. We strengthened our commitment to gifted education, and kept our focus on Quality Instruction. We are in the process of securing the skills and expertise of elementary school social workers to help meet the needs of the whole child.
As we left the farm, we let each of our granddaughters choose a pumpkin to take home. It was fun to notice that they each selected very different pumpkins. One was short and plump with a small stem while the other was tall and skinny with distinct markings. Seen through the eyes of each little girl, her pumpkin was beautiful!
Just as we each see things through our own lens, we also learn in different ways. Trying to teach every child by using the same methods doesn’t work. It is up to us to find out how we can best reach each student. We may need to adapt and offer new and unique ways for our kids if we are going to help them succeed.
The Mount Vernon School District is on a mission to make learning more relevant for every student and to improve our graduation rates. We are only successful when all of our students, enjoy the benefits of a quality education. The future of our district depends on us being able to find new and innovative ways to provide greater educational opportunities for all students. And we will.
Take Care...Bill

Thank You For Keeping Us Free

A message from Superintendent Bill Seder

It is so very true, the cost of freedom is never free, and I personally would like to thank all veterans for their service and sacrifice to our nation, in order to keep us safe at home.  This morning I attended the Veterans Day celebration at the square and was inspired by a message given by two young students from Wiggin Street School.  Their words express more pride and gratitude than I would be able to, in writing this message. Enjoy their tribute.
Also, enjoy the music as the Mount Vernon High School Band performs a tribute medley to all veterans.

Finally, Columbia Elementary students pay honor to family members and staff of Columbia Elementary who have served in the armed forces as well as first responders and public safety officials.

Thanks to all Veterans,