By Kevin Kelley
Parents should understand that education for their children today is not the same as they experienced it as students, said Brady Sheets, the principal of Fairview High School and Lewis F. Mayer Middle School.
Education was the topic at the Feb. 12 luncheon meeting of the Fairview Park Chamber of Commerce, held at the Gemini Center.
Sheets, one of three Fairview Park City Schools principals to speak, said education has changed more in the past three years than all of his previous 14 years in the field.
Technology is driving many of the changes, Sheet said. Blended learning, in which lessons are taught through a combination of online work and traditional classroom instruction, is one of those changes, he said.
“If kids are going to be expected to complete online coursework at the college level, then we need to prepare them by providing online coursework at the high school level,” Sheets said.
Desks are no longer placed in rows, Sheets said. Instead, students increasingly sit at tables at which collaboration on projects is encouraged, he explained.
The high school will increase its Advanced Placement courses by 50 percent next year, Sheets said.
The ultimate goal, Sheets said, is for students to advance academically based on their ability, not necessarily by their age.
“So a 12-year-old doesn’t equate to sixth-grader,” Sheet said. “We’ve got to get beyond those numbers, and we need to promote students by their ability and not just because they have a birthday.”
Sheets said a future challenge for the district is to perform additional renovation work at the high school building, which dates to 1928.
“We want to keep that building,” the high school principal said. “We think it’s a prize of the community.”
Superintendent Brion Deitsch said $8 million to $9 million in renovation work is needed at the high school. That amount of money, Deitsch said, would ensure the building would last another 30 years, the same length of life expected for new school buildings.
Deitsch said the district has come a long way from where it was when he arrived as superintendent, when it was on the verge of being declared in academic and fiscal watch by the state. The district will not need to seek a new operating levy before 2016-2017, the superintendent said.
Deitsch said parents and community leaders need to trust principals and administrators and allow them to be educational leaders. He also advised the district not to become complacent and forget the adversity it has overcome.
“I am so proud of the Fairview Park City Schools and this community and the way they’ve embraced their schools,” Deitsch said. “When I came here 10 years ago, nine years ago, I didn’t think people felt like they had a choice. You know what? You can come to Mags or you can go to Joe’s or you can go to Ed’s or you can go to Ignatius, or you can go to the Fairview Park City Schools, and I put them all on the same level. And I don’t think you could have said that nine years ago.”
Deitsch, who will retire at the end of July, was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Chamber of Commerce at the luncheon.
Barb Brady, principal of Gilles-Sweet Elementary School, said technology is changing so rapidly that schools today are educating students for jobs that do not yet exist.
At her building, which houses classes in grades one through five, first- and second-graders are using iPads in their lessons, she said.
Connie Obrycki, principal of the district’s Early Education Center, said the goal is to give preschoolers and kindergarten students there a strong foundation in reading, writing and math.
“Because we serve a variety of children by age and by need, we strive to customize programming to meet the needs of each and every child,” Obrycki said.