Middletown school leader talks state report card with business leaders

While last week’s state report card on Middletown Schools left some in the district disappointed, the school system is making significant progress in some areas, Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. told business and community leaders.

The quarterly community outreach forum was the first for Styles and is part of his proactive campaign to engage the Butler County city’s various segments as stakeholders in improving local schools.

Styles, who started in August, told the invited audience of more than 60 at the school system’s downtown office, “we want you at the table” as the district reforms toward improvement.

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“If you are willing to sit in on the game, then please know the door will always be open,” he told the audience after a presentation highlighting some of the better parts of the district’s latest state report card.

Weaving closer ties with the city’s business community is a critical part of any improvement in the city schools, said Styles, who described it as a “big stitch in our fabric.”

“It’s something we really want to just not talk about it, but also invest in as well,” he said.

The Ohio Department of Education’s annual report card on the state’s 609 public school systems — based on the 2016-2017 school year student testing — showed Middletown earning three Fs, a D, C and B.

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Styles hour-long presentation, which included taking questions from the audience, highlighted some areas of improvement behind the major category grades.

The district’s four-year graduation rate improved from a C to a B, and since earning a 78.6 percent rate in 2012, improved to a 90 percent last year.

“That is huge and the (student) data indicates the investment we are making as a community is paying off,” said Styles, who previously was a top district official with the Lakota School system.

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He also pointed to the district’s kindergarten through 3rd grade literacy rate improvement from a D to C grade as another area of progress to build on and a source of optimism for the future of the 6,400-student school system. Moreover, the state measurement of “performance index” improved from 67.4 to 71.4 percent in the last school year.

Rick Pearce, president of the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, said Styles was impressive and his message persuasive.

“This was Marlon’s opportunity to share with us and the community what the test scores are but also … show we’re improving in these other areas as we dive deep down into it (report card),” said Pearce.

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Pearce said his group will now try to get the business community involved in the local schools “to see how we can be part of that solution.”

Marc Bellisario, president and CEO of Primary Health Solutions, said “it was great meeting and important to reach out to the community and let everyone know what is going on.”

“The new superintendent is really trying to get the word out and I was very impressed because there are a lot of good things happening for Middletown schools,” said Bellisario.

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