- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
The new leader of Middletown Schools told staffers Friday they are not just returning to work when classes start next week — they will be part of a “movement.”
“We are the movement,” Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. told about 600 employees of Middletown Schools during a back-to-school gathering on Miami University Middletown’s campus.
“I’m not speaking to you as a cheerleader, I’m speaking to you from my heart,” Styles told the audience. “We will rise up and you will be the reason.”
And Styles predicted the 6,300-student school system, which has traditionally been one of the lowest performing districts in Southwest Ohio according to annual state report cards, will improve dramatically.
“I think we will be one of the best districts in the state in five years,” he said. “It will be bumpy along the way, but we are stronger together.”
Middletown Schools, which will open classes Tuesday, is undergoing historic changes.
Besides the addition of Styles, who is one of the youngest superintendents in the history of Southwest Ohio schools, the district is entering the final year of a $96 million new middle school building project and renovation of Middletown High School.
During the rally, Styles formally introduced a campaign – the “Middie Modernization Movement” — he launched shortly after taking the top job on Aug. 1, replacing former Superintendent Sam Ison.
It’s a multi-faceted plan to positively impact all aspects of the city school district.
One aspect of the strategy, he said, calls for teachers and other school staffers to become more active on social media in reaching out to the public about Middletown Schools’ successes – already a point of emphasis Styles has applied to himself.
“Social media is something we are doing for a purpose,” he said.
Styles, a former school principal who previously was the executive director of curriculum and instruction for Lakota Schools, said student data will play bigger roles in determining educational strategy under his leadership.
“We need to modernize and we need to become a data-literate culture. We can talk about anything, but if we are not talking about what the data tells us – then shame on us,” he said.
“Technology alone will not raise our test scores, but the power of your instruction will,” said Styles.
Staffers said they found both their new leader and his message encouraging.
Casey Scott, a teacher at Vail Middle School, said, “I like it (the event) and I thought the energy was up.”
“I liked the idea that we have one mission that we are all going towards in this movement,” said Scott.
“And I like celebrating our successes. It’s not often we get to hear about the positive things happening,” she said.