What 4 Butler County school leaders are doing to better educate your child

The world is calling for more educated young people, and the leaders of some of Butler County’s school systems said they are rapidly installing reforms to answer that call.

Superintendents from Middletown, Monroe, Madison and Edgewood schools — with a combined enrollment of more than 14,000 area students — updated local business and community officials Thursday during a Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton event.

“We are challenging each other to be bold,” Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. told the audience of more than 80 at The Windamere hall downtown during the event that was also sponsored by the Journal-News.

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Styles said his school system — and the other three districts — are making reforms “because our kids deserve it.”

New computer software coding and development classes are already a focus for eighth-graders in the 6,100-student Middletown district, said Styles.

“We are modernizing our course offerings. This fall we are introducing a virtually reality augmented course — this is a course that will leverage the skill sets down the road that our students have mastered,” he said.

“Our job as an academic institution is to create the opportunities for them,” said Styles, who in his first year as district leader has launched numerous academic reforms to better prepare graduates to prosper in local businesses as well as move on to college.

Curtis Philpot, superintendent of Madison Schools, said “a lot of great things are going on now at Madison Schools.”

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“Our elementary school has received the Momentum Award,” from the Ohio State School Board in honor of exceeding expectations in student growth for the year, said Philpot of the distinction given to schools earning straight A’s on all Value-Added measures on the state’s annual report card.

Russ Fussnecker, superintendent of Edgewood Schools, told the crowd not all school improvements are measurable by state-ordered testing.

“The skill set a lot of our young people are missing is the ability to understand themselves and have empathy for others,” said Fussnecker.

That idea of looking out for one another is also the responsibility of Edgewood Schools, he said, and that’s one of the reasons the district is now a leader in the region after announcing last week armed school resource officers (SROs) are now in all five of the district’s schools.

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We are doing it, said Fussnecker, because “students are scared.”

“How do you focus,” he said, on school work if students are concerned about their personal safety at school?

Monroe Schools Superintendent Phil Cagwin said he hopes to improve both security and learning in his district by improving and expanding the number of classrooms available to students in the rapidly growing district.

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Monroe officials plan to build a new elementary school in the coming years — with funding from the state and the passage of a local school building tax — but in the mean time “we have to continue to improve.”

“We are crowded to the point of having used every space we have in our buildings,” said Cagwin.

Regardless, learning continues and improves in Monroe Schools and he said the area districts share a key goal.

“We want our students to gainfully employed in whatever they want to do and we need to give them the skill sets to get them ready and we need to talk to our businesses on how we can best do it,” he said.

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