Dear Ada Parents and Students,
We have been made aware that a national movement is in the works that is encouraging high school students to stage walk-outs in support of gun control. While we understand that the issue of guns is prevalent in the minds of students, this type of action poses some problems for the district.
While we understand students’ passion on the topic, if the school were to sanction or bless a walk-out for this political issue, we set a precedent that would require us to allow walk-outs for all political and/or social issues that come up. Surely, you can see how this is a slippery slope. Secondly, students walking out poses some safety and supervision issues. And finally, I worry that students will be caught up in the walk-out while not really understanding all aspects of the issue, and I feel strongly that no national group should be exploiting our students to support their causes.
Students who participate in a walk-out during school hours will be in conflict with student code of conduct that prohibits cutting or skipping class. As such, any student who chooses to participate in a walk-out will have consequences for that infraction, most likely an extended detention. If a student has already had an infraction of this rule, the consequences will be more severe and progressive in nature with each infraction, as with any repeated rule infraction.
However, we think that this is a wonderful opportunity for families to have discussions with their children about this topic and to do research on both sides of the argument. If parents or students feel strongly about the topic, one way or the other, we encourage our students to use the provisions that this country allows for having influence on laws and policies, such as writing or calling one’s legislators, writing letters to editors of local papers, etc. This is a great opportunity to learn more about how laws come to be, how laws are changed, and how democracy works.
In my recent blog, I mentioned that safety begins at home. This is also a great time to talk to students about things in their control that may help reduce violence in their schools, including offering kindness and including others who may seem lonely or excluded in our conversations and activities. I am pleased with the efforts of our Navigators group to spread kindness and positivity, and I am proud of the way in which they promoted support of their peers in Florida involved in last week’s tragic school shooting. They encouraged faculty, staff, and students to wear maroon in those students’ honor/memory. We have shared a message of “Say Something” with middle school and high school students as well, which can make a big difference, as many acts of violence are preceded by hints and clues, often through social media, in which our students are immersed. Please encourage them to report things that seem unsafe for the person posting them and/or for others.
Thank you for all the kind words and support we have received over this week, as we help our students and staff process this latest tragedy, while trying to maintain structure and “normalcy” in their school environment. It is a colossal task, and we couldn’t do it without the support of our amazing community.
Mrs. Skilliter, Superintendent
Dear Bulldog Community,
It is with heavy heart that I write this blog today. The events in Florida are difficult to watch, and I try to do so in moderation. We have posted on social media and also placed a link at the top of our school web page with some advice for helping your children process these events. We hope you’ll find them helpful.
When I have been on social media, I have seen many different people asking what their school districts are doing to keep students and staffs safe. Many of my colleagues have said they have received calls asking the same thing. Mr. Lee even received a call asking this. As such, I thought I would share what we are doing in the Ada Exempted Village Schools. This is a bulleted list of things I came up with yesterday. I have to believe there are other things I didn’t think of. I also think that our administrators, teachers, counselors and our other staff really work to get to know students and know which students need extra love and attention, etc. When I spoke to our Student Aspirations group a couple of weeks ago, and I asked them what do we do well at Ada, they mentioned that our staff takes the time to get to know everyone, and they are in the halls talking to them and encouraging them. All of this helps as well. Here are some of the things we do.
A.L.I.C.E. Training (Alert, Lock Down, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), which is active shooter training, was provided to staff a few years ago, Threat Assessment Management training was offered to the internal and external teams (school folks, Sheriff, Ada PD, Hardin County EMA, and Mental Health), Threat Assessment Training was then taught to all staff, and a Threat Assessment Management policy was adopted just last year. Our recently updated (in collaboration with outside resources such as public safety) crisis plan was assessed and found to meet all of the new, more rigorous requirements set forth by the state.
We have a buzz in system and protocol. Some of our key staff were trained in Non Violent Crisis Intervention (NVCI) which includes prevention, learning triggers and signs, and implementing de-escalation techniques prior to a student becoming violent. We have cameras throughout the building and on the grounds (and are in the process of getting bids for some replacements that will go from analog to digital in nature, and additional cameras to put visuals on areas that might be out of range).
All staff were trained in Mental Health First Aid (for Youth) during this school year. Middle School and High School students were presented with Project Sandy Hook program “Say Something,” talking to them about what signs they might see, especially with their saturation in social media apps, the difference between tattling and telling, how to tell and who to tell. Elementary students are working on a program called, “Start with Hello” which emphasizes the ideas of kindness and inclusion. The elementary also has “community meetings” where they talk about and learn social and emotional issues at their developmental level.
We have a new group in the high school based on a program called “Gatekeepers.” The program is an evidence based program for helping students contribute to a positive climate, erase the stigma around mental health issues, and raise awareness of mental health issues including suicide. The group is guided by a trained specialist out of the Partnership for Violence Free Families (PVFF) and is supervised by Nurse Vermillion. The Ada group calls itself, “Ada Mental Health Alliance.” They put positive notes of encouragement on every locker one day. They organized a “wear burgundy and or silver day” in honor and in memory of those affected by the Florida school shooting.
A mental health Navigator is available from Family Resource Center through the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin Counties. She is shared among five Hardin County schools. The Navigator is readily available when there is a student at risk or in crisis, and serves as a liaison between the school and/or family and a multitude of services, resources, and/or programs to help manage that child’s crisis. A counselor from Family Resource Center is on campus to bring FRC’s counseling services closer to Ada, for ease of students accessing counseling services when needed.
We are compliant with all drills required of the district. This year, though, we did a virtual or table/top drill, where we gathered members of our internal and external crisis and threat assessment teams, and we walked through a scenario and what each person, department, and agency would be doing throughout that event. We were blessed to have the Ada Police Chief, the Hardin County Sheriff, the Hardin County EMA Director, and Mental Health agencies all at the table with our internal team.
We are using new curriculum to talk to students about drug misuse and abuse and informing them about the dangers of misuse and abuse, including the serious addiction crisis we have going on in our state and country right now. This is now a requirement for all schools to offer something like this.
We offer Teen Screen, an assessment that screens kids for potential issues that may not have been discovered or diagnosed. With the screen results, parents then receive a contact and a person to talk to about options, resources, etc., if the screen suggests further assessment and our some type of treatment might be necessary. We wish we had better participation on this screener, but that is a topic for another day. Parents must sign a permission form for their students to participate in Teen Screen.
The CISM Team of Western Ohio provides support, resources, and response after a crisis, but they also provided training to our key people in crisis response and have done preincident education for area schools.
We have been in the planning stages to do more security upgrades during the summer before the next school year, so we are always asking ourselves what are we doing and what more can we do? I am sure the list above is missing some things that have slipped my mind, as our administration, Board, teachers, and staff take school safety extremely seriously.
I believe that not all acts of violence can be eliminated, but many can, and many more can be minimized or mitigated with good plans in place. I ALSO believe that safety begins in the home. If we could all hold ourselves responsible to teach our students to be kind in all situations, and model that in all of our adult interactions, we could improve this world infinitely.
Yours in education,
Mrs. Skilliter, Superintendent
Dear Ada Schools Stakeholders,
On behalf of the School Board, administration, staff, and students of the Ada Exempted Village School District, let me THANK YOU for your overwhelming passage of our RENEWAL levy this month. This community is so supportive of school activities in so many ways, and we are enormously grateful for that support.
Recently, we hosted the Music Booster’s annual Music Feast competition, and I was reminded just how much this community embraces our mission of “Aspiring to excel in all aspects of the school experience,” as we were able to host such an event in such state of the art, beautiful facilities, including the fully community funded auditorium where our guest performers were blessed to perform. I was such a proud Superintendent that day (and am every day).
I am nearing my one year anniversary with this fine district, and my entire family has felt nothing but warmly welcomed and included. As we count our blessings this Thanksgiving, we will count being Bulldogs near the top of our list.
Thank you again,
Mrs. Meri Skilliter, Superintendent
Frequently Asked Questions About Tuesday's Levy
As Election Day is Tuesday already (where does the time go?), I wanted to share answers to the most frequently asked questions I have received from citizens over the last month or so. I hope these are helpful as you consider your vote. If you have other questions, please don’t hesitate to call my office at (419) 634-6421.
WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF THIS LEVY?
This levy is ¾ of one percent of your taxable income to be renewed for a period of five years, and it will NOT raise your taxes. If passed, it will go into effect on January 1, 2018.
IS THIS A NEW OR AN ADDITIONAL LEVY?
This is NOT A NEW LEVY, but rather a RENEWAL. It was first passed back in 1992, the last renewal was 2012, and we are asking to renew it at the same rate (3/4 of one percent). The current levy expires December 31, 2017. This will be the fifth RENEWAL.
WHAT IS THIS MONEY TO BE USED FOR?
The purpose of the tax is to provide revenue for general operating expenses, which include personnel services (wages), retirement and insurance benefits, supplies and materials, purchased services, and capital outlay.
WHAT IS AN INCOME TAX?
The income tax is a separate tax from federal, state, and city income taxes and is earmarked specifically to support school district operations. Residents pay the tax through employer withholding, individual quarterly estimates, and/or annual returns.
School district income tax is based solely upon the residence of the individual, not the place of employment.
HOW MUCH OF THE SCHOOL’S INCOME IS GENERATED BY THIS LEVY?
The current tax rate is an estimated 9.25% of Ada School’s General Fund Revenue Budget.
WASN’T THIS LEVY SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE BALLOT IN MAY?
Yes, the Board of Education passed a resolution to put it on the ballot in May. However, when it was informed that there would be no other issues or races on the ballot, they were also informed that they would have to pay for a special election to put it before voters in May. The Board of Education decided NOT to do this, in order to save taxpayer money, an estimated savings of $8,416.
We are grateful for all the ways this community shows its support to us. If you have any questions about this, or any district topic, please free to call or email me.
Mrs. Meri Skilliter, Superintendent
Hello! Welcome to my first blog post as your Superintendent. I believe the Ada Icon and Ada Herald published biographical information about me, so I won’t bore you with all of that. However, I thought in this first post I would tell you what I’ve learned about the Ada Exempted Village School District, the community that makes up the district, and even about Hardin County in terms of education.
The first people I met in the Ada district were your Board members. Your Board members are a diverse group of individuals, which is helpful when decisions need to be made. They took the work of selecting a superintendent very seriously, but were warm, professional, and welcoming throughout the process. They provided a great deal of information about the district, and asked well prepared, varied, and challenging questions. They even asked candidates to prepare a presentation analyzing some provided data. The interviews were comprehensive and thorough. This Board has been supportive in my first months, but has high expectations for their superintendent and other employees. That speaks volumes about your district as well.
From the moment I signed my contract, I was greeted by community members who were warm and welcoming. I’ve been invited to various groups and events, and always feel welcome. On January 3, I officially started in the office. The staff in the central office were so kind and patient, and continue to be amazing people with which to work. You have a great treasurer, assistant treasurer, and executive assistant in this district. That’s extremely important for a district to thrive. On January 4, the teachers and students came back from Christmas break. I immediately noticed the climate in the buildings. The staff is friendly and helpful, and they have fun doing what they do. When members of the staff have life challenges, the staff rallies around them to encourage, support, and provide whatever assistance they can. Ada students took no time at all to greet me, introduce themselves to me, and also make me feel at home.
Sometime in the first two weeks, I had my first meeting with supervisors and administrators in the building. Over the last two months I’ve worked with all of these leaders, and I impressed with each one of them. Not only is each leader well suited to his/her position and possesses strong knowledge and skills fitted to his/her position, but each one is also so student centered in their approach to their daily work decision making. Your school nurse, transportation and maintenance supervisor, your principal and assistant principals, and your cafeteria supervisor are all quality individuals with great character and heart.
The risk in listing people or thanking a variety of people is always in inadvertently leaving someone off of that list. However, I couldn’t wait anymore to thank everyone who has reached out, introduced themselves, welcomed my family and me, etc. Obviously I was nervous coming to a new school and community, from a district and community I had grown to love, but I can definitely say I am extraordinarily glad I was selected, and that I accepted this position, and I will do my best to serve these children in a way that makes you all glad, too.
Until next time,
Mrs. Meri Skilliter
725 West North Avenue
Ada, Ohio 45810 [map]