Principals highlight programs at State of the Schools presentation

by Laura Bednar

Principals from the six schools in the Nordonia Hills City School District spoke about student programs, successes and changes in education at the State of the Schools presentation.

Dr. Jacqueline O’Mara from Rushwood Elementary emphasized social emotional learning. Children in grades K-4 have “class huddles” in which they explore seven mindsets including “anything is possible,” “we are connected,” “an attitude of gratitude,” “passion first,” “100% accountable,” “live to give” and “the time is now.”

Ledgeview Elementary Principal Kristen Cottrell said teachers participated in 18 hours of state-provided training on how to recognize and help students with dyslexia.

“All three elementary schools had already started new pilot programs aligned with the dyslexia law requirements and the science of reading in the 2021-22 school year,” said Cottrell, adding that a short screening assessment for K-3 students determines who is at risk for word-learning difficulties.

Marc Kaminicki, principal at Northfield Elementary, addressed how students can regulate their emotions. He noted that the Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2021, four in 10 school-age children felt persistently sad and helpless. He added that millions of students nationwide have been diagnosed with anxiety, ADHD, depression or behavioral issues, and schools need to address those concerns.

“Education has changed,” said Kaminicki. He said part of the curriculum called “Zones of regulation” teaches students to foster self-regulation and emotional control.

Carol Tonsing, principal at Lee Eaton Intermediate School, said students are learning how to advocate for themselves and resolve issues in unstructured areas like the hallways and cafeteria.

The school continues to add STEM classes, such as design and modeling. Outside the classroom, Lee Eaton has an intramural program with six choices of physical activities. Tonsing said 100 new students joined the bowling program last year and 113 students were in band. In Knights of the Round Table, “students recognize their peers as leaders possessing strong character traits” according to Tonsing.

In a partnership between the PTA and student council, a walkathon raised $60,000 for the Lee Eaton community.

Nordonia Middle School Principal Bryan Seward noted several achievements, including the Science Olympiad and Power of the Pen teams qualifying for state competitions, and the seventh and eighth grade bands earning a “superior” rating at the Ohio Music Education Association competition.

In academics, students met or exceeded proficiency ratings in five of the seven state testing categories. The middle school scored 22.3 points over the state’s expected performance target in English and Language Arts and 26 points higher than expected in math.

“Over 65% of our eighth-grade class were able to earn high school credit before attending Nordonia High School,” said Seward.

The school’s content staff meets three times a week to review what students are learning and if they are absorbing information. Seward said the state calculated that NMS exceeded student academic growth expectations in eighth-grade ELA, overall in math, geometry, eighth-grade science, algebra I and overall performance.

Louise Terringo, Nordonia High School principal, said 85% of NHS graduates in 2023 attend a two- or four-year college or completed requirements for professions in the trades and 2% enlisted in the armed services. She said the high school focuses on four “A’s:” academics, athletics, art and activities.

Associate Principal at NHS, Jessica Archer, talked about ensuring that students “feel they belong at NHS,” which includes the option of participating in one of 30 clubs. Over 60 student leaders of the clubs attended leadership training over the summer.

To expand recognition, the process for nominating Homecoming court members was revised, and ­58 qualified for court in contrast to 10 last year.

Anthony Buckler, associate principal for NHS, outlined accomplishments in the arts. The school’s production of “The Little Mermaid” was nominated for two Playhouse Square Dazzle Awards. The wind ensemble and concert bands performed at Severance Hall, and a cappella group Synergy opened for the band Foreigner at Blossom Music Center.

Terringo said the 747 students who participated in a sport last year averaged a GPA of 3.787. The girls bowling team won the school’s first-ever team state championship, and four wrestlers were state qualifiers. Several other athletic teams advanced past the regular season.

Interim Superintendent Casey Wright said the goal of the district is to “help our students accomplish their dreams.” He added that there may be differences in the community, but a student’s future inspires people to overcome those differences. He said the district plans to build on connections with the business community, offer mentorship programs and internship opportunities.

Board member Jason Tidmore echoed this message saying, “We will oftentimes have situations that have the potential to divide us; my only call … is to make sure that we keep the kids first in everything we do.”

He also said for students to continue their success, he wants to see the district offer “better learning conditions” in “comfortable buildings.” ∞