Last week was the annual Ohio School Board Association conference. One of the “hot topics” was whether or not the Ohio legislature would be passing “alternative pathways” for students in the Class of 2019 to graduate.
A few years ago, as legislators worked to increase rigor in K-12 schools, new graduation requirements were implemented. However, several classes of students were caught in the middle of the old requirements and the new, and many across the state found they could not meet the new requirements to graduate.
To address this, “alternative pathways” were adopted that allowed students different requirement options to receive their diplomas. However, these options are not available this year, so the Class of 2019 seniors do not have those options.
Early in the school year, Milford’s administrators recognized that, if the legislators did not implement any “alternative pathways,” we would have seniors who were not able to graduate because they did not have the proper combination of certifications and points. This was not acceptable, and Director of Secondary Curriculum & Instruction Paul Daniels and Director of Special Education Jennie Berkley worked to find another option.
They identified a retail hospitality certification program that would not only allow our students who were caught in this situation to earn enough points to graduate, but that teaches strong, valuable skills that will make them attractive employees immediately upon graduation. Jeff Wright, Miami Township Administrator, told me recently that this program is “just right” for our local employment needs – it is a program designed to help our local students graduate and gain employment right here in town.
At the conference, there was much discussion about the legislature passing alternative pathways in their “lame duck” session (which is now). This was a huge concern as many other school districts have apparently not put contingency plans in place for their seniors – and since this is basically the end of the first semester, these students will not have a fall-back plan if legislation is not passed.
Hearing how other districts were waiting to see what happened in Columbus made me appreciate our Milford administrators even more. They did not wait with fingers crossed – they saw a potential issue and addressed it proactively. In the process, they identified and implemented a program that is not just designed to help students reach graduation, but that will be valuable to students throughout the years.
I have seen this type of commitment time and again with our team during my nine years as a school board member. Just one other example: when the Tangible Personal Property tax (which used to provide Milford with a significant amount of annual funding) was being phased out, we did not wait to reflect this in our forecast and make changes accordingly. We assumed the worst case – no more TPP funding – and planned for it. When the final year came, many districts had not prepared, and some faced significant financial issues. As it turned out, the state delayed the full phase-out, which meant Milford received funds we had not planned for – a boon instead of a problem.
These conservative and proactive approaches allow the district to take our fate into our own hands as much as possible. Kudos to our administrative team for their responsibility and foresight in running our district.