Dear Families and Community Members,
Welcome to the Ottumwa Community School District. We are fortunate to serve the children and families of our community. Our District serves approximately 4,800 students and comprises one preschool, six elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools. As we prepare to start the school year, I’m reminded daily of why Ottumwa Schools is truly the best. What does it mean to Be The Best? It means having the best faculty, the best staff, the best community. And of course, the very best students.
I would now like to share with you the district’s vision of excellence to become the best school district in the state. This initiative started last fall following the review of survey results provided to us by our staff, students, parents, and community. In listening to our stakeholders, it became clear that our school improvement efforts needed to focus on providing our students and staff with the support and resources they need and thus removing barriers and impediments to student success.
With the focus on removing barriers to success, the district increased staffing resources which have dramatically reduced the student-teacher ratio in identified programs and special student populations. Since January, we have added 11 elementary and 18 secondary positions in areas covering counseling, ELL, Special Education, Title 1, instructional coaching, diversity advocates, and music. The additional guidance positions will allow each elementary school to have a full-time counselor and enable us to better meet the academic and social-emotional needs of students at the elementary and secondary levels.
We also have added staffing to reduce class sizes and support individual learning needs. We are trying to keep our K-2 class sizes at 20 or below. We currently have an overall elementary class size of 19.3. At the middle school, our average core class sizes are 22.47 and our high school average core class sizes are 22.54. We will continue to be proactive and vigilant to keep class sizes low.
We are also implementing new state-of-the-art programs to advance academic achievement! This year we will offer a new Dyslexia program that will allow us to provide dyslexia services to our students. We also added 3 teachers to enhance our 6th-grade language arts program to allow for a more personalized learning experience. The middle school in Language Arts and Math will also be offering Pre-Advanced placement classes to ensure we meet the academic needs of all our students. Additionally, we expanded our high school Career and Technical Education programming with the opening of Career Campus.
To be the best, we also added curriculum and instructional resources: This past school year we designated an additional $300,000 for staff to get much-needed curriculum and instructional resources. I am excited to announce that we are allocating an additional $300,000 to staff to ensure they have the resources they need for this school year.
We have also recommitted to upgrading our learning environments for teachers and students. Over the next two years, the district will invest $21 million in facility upgrades. Part of the upgrades will be centered on preserving and remodeling our small neighborhood schools on the northside of our district. Additionally, we are making significant facility upgrades in both our middle and high schools.
Our staff and students deserve the best facilities and learning environments in the state. I assure you during my tenure that we will always do things the right way and in a first-class manner. Our staff and students deserve nothing less.
Additionally, we are focused on improving the school lunch experience for both students and staff, with the hopes this will lead to higher academic achievement, and decrease social and emotional issues.
Even with the significant amount of spending we are committing to Being the Best, we are in great financial shape and will be for the foreseeable future. It is a priority of mine to be a good financial steward of our moines, so we can continue our quest to become the best.
I urge everyone if you are excited about the things happening in our district and the direction our district is going, let people know! Our stakeholders are without question our greatest marketing asset, people go to you for information and they believe and trust what you say. So please shout your excitement from the rooftops.
I hope I have clearly conveyed through my comments that we are listening to our stakeholders and that we are willing to provide whatever resources or support you need to be successful with students. What excites me the most is that if we eradicate barriers to learning, the academic performance of our students will skyrocket, which will ultimately lead to our district becoming the best in the state!
As we begin the 2022-23 school year, we are also excited to announce additional following points of pride:
Pickwick Early Childhood Center - After opening the facility in 2018, we recently completed and opened our new addition to the building. Currently, we have over 400 three and four-year-olds at our state-of-the-art preschool. We are also excited about our early childhood data and the improvements we are seeing as well as the retention of students within the Ottumwa District.
1:1 Initiative - Every student has access to a Chromebook for their use at school and home with a focus on incorporating technology into quality instructional practices.
Career Campus - We expanded this project-based experience that connects teams of students with local businesses and organizations to solve real-world problems. We also offer many new Career and Technical opportunities to our students through Career Campus course offerings. This state of art programming located in downtown Ottumwa provides value-added options for students and the opportunity to give back to our community while at the same time preparing students for their future.
School Safety - The district is working to ensure that every one of our buildings has a secure entrance including new doors, buzzer systems, and additionally new cameras have been recently installed in all our buildings. To ensure student safety we also update building emergency plans annually, have safety teams in every building, and building doors are numbered and marked to align with emergency response recommendations.
School Improvements - The district continues to support effective literacy instruction by providing high-quality reading materials, MTSS practices, and productive standards-based collaborative teamwork through the Friday PLC structure.
Our district offers unique opportunities such as orchestra, trap shooting, archery, LEGO League, bowling, tennis, swimming and so much more. We also offer over 30 dual enrollment courses in partnership with Indian Hills and pride ourselves on building relationships and making connections.
At Ottumwa, we are committed to our core beliefs. Every student matters, data drives our decision-making, and building relationships are the foundation of success. We are deeply committed to building strong partnerships with families to support student learning. We look forward to continuing to partner with you to provide the best opportunities for your child.