Lakota Holds 2019 State of the Schools

Students Take Center Stage at 2019 State of the Schools
Posted on 03/27/2019
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Lakota Premiers First Installment in Emotional New Video Series

A new twist on Lakota’s second annual “State of the Schools” address had Lakota East High School’s Main Street bustling with activity on March 13.

A school showcase preceded the more formal address from Superintendent Matthew Miller and his guest speakers, putting on display the innovative learning happening throughout Lakota’s 23 schools. From new learning spaces like a student-inspired greenhouse, a culinary center and the early childhood schools’ new Wonder Labs to digital learning through video conferencing, virtual reality and video production - the K-12 Lakota learning experience came alive for hundreds of visitors.

Further amplifying the energy of the showcase was a live performance by the Liberty Junior School jazz band, directed by band teacher Maggie Whaley, and Lakota West vocal ensemble, directed by choir teacher Susan Bauer.

During the hour-long program, Miller detailed current and future efforts to support the four pillars of Lakota’s new strategic plan: WE are Personalized, Future Ready, Fiscally Responsible and In this Together. To exemplify each pillar, staff and students took center stage to share their personal Lakota experiences. “No one tells our story better than the students and staff who live it every day,” Miller said.

State of the Schools speakers pose with Supt. Matt Miller on stageLiberty Junior teacher Moriah Walker was joined by seventh-grader Emily Fuller. Walker provided an overview of her course, “Media Design and Communication,” a new junior school elective designed to develop interpersonal communication skills using digital tools. Fuller shared several real-world projects she completed through the class, including a special passion project that resulted in a school-wide clothing drive generating more than 2,000 items for Reach Out Lakota.

Career Readiness Academy Junior Amber Szpak reflected on her experience with “Project Chaos,” a three-day cohort that put real-world learning into action. Approximately 100 students from Lakota, Loveland, Middletown and Butler Tech worked together to offer solutions on how best to solve the problem of making transportation available to everyone. Szpak described her level of engagement in a project that hit very close to home for her and her family.

Lakota West senior Amitoj Kaur and Lakota East senior Alyssa Longworth shared their unique positions as “the eyes and ears of the school.” The duo gave the audience an inside perspective on being part of their schools’ Hope Squads, a new peer-to-peer suicide prevention program designed to positively change school culture and bring attention and acceptance to mental health illnesses among teens.

Lakota East teacher Kevin Keen zoomed in on his role with Lakota NEXT, a visionary and unconventional group of teachers, administrators, board members and students challenged with reimagining and co-creating the future high school experience at Lakota. He detailed the process that led them to a new bell schedule that will pave the way for more options, opportunities and true real-world learning experiences for high-schoolers.

With a renewed emphasis on empowering students to own their learning, Lakota East senior Grace Phair detailed the recent transformation of a locker bay into a collaborative and flexible student workspace. She was joined by Lakota West freshman Lora Broz who leveraged this philosophy through a passion project in her language arts class. Her research, paired with a personal interest and pride in her school, put student needs and wants at the center of the transformation of the media center into an “Innovation Hub.”

Endeavor Elementary fifth-grader Sam Dragon came center stage to talk about the impact re-introducing daily specials in Lakota’s elementary schools has had on his experience. From the student perspective, he dives into the value he finds in having at least one of Lakota’s new portfolio of specials - art, music, gym, health and wellness, technology and STEAM Lab - weaved into his daily schedule.

As just one example of Lakota’s philanthropic spirit, Plains Junior School eighth-graders Reese Anzalone and Brendan Murphy talked about their voluntary involvement in the school’s “Above the Line” group. An extension of the district’s E+R=O (Event + Response = Outcome) model for behavior, they spend about an hour each day helping their friends with significant disabilities. While they might be assisting their friends with their academics and social skills, they share that they have gained as much, if not more, from the experience.

Miller closed the program with a premiere of “WE are Here for YOU”, the first installment in a new video series that showcases the strength of the teacher-student relationships around Lakota. This series will continue with grade level versions to be released every couple of weeks beginning April 5.

In case you missed it, click here to view Lakota’s 2019 State of the Schools or view the complete photo gallery from the evening on Lakota’s Facebook page.