It's been quite a year for the Akron Public Schools, and the district is dealing with ongoing changes at the state level.
That's one of the messages in APS superintendent David James' 2015 "State of the Schools" address, given today at Akron's Quaker Station.
In his speech, James says "nothing much" has changed about the frustration over changing state rules, though there may be fewer mandated state tests ahead and another new education funding formula.
The Akron school superintendent says the district is reaching out to a former Cleveland Browns star.
Former Brown Tom Cousineau has been tapped to be a community advisor, to bring improvements to the APS Athletic Department.
The arctic blast of winter has cancelled schools all over the region, and that's no different in the Akron Public Schools, who have a host of athletic events and other activities.
Interim athletic director Ron Linger spoke with Sam Bourquin during their live broadcast at TD's Tailgate Grill in Canton.
"It's been a busy time here, and fortunately, tomorrow there's a parent-teacher conference day scheduled for Akron Public Schools, and weather permitting, we'll still have our Boys City Championship tomorrow between Ellet and Buchtel."
That game is scheduled for 7pm, and barring any unforeseen weather events going on in the next 24-48 hours, the game will go on as scheduled at Kenmore High School.
The controversial PARCC standardized tests come to the Akron Public Schools next week, and students across the district are getting ready.
Amy Kirsch, Assessment Specialist for the district, has been going around to the schools to observe test preparations. She says schools are focusing their efforts in a variety of areas including practice tests, test-taking strategies, test day procedure, and training for the computer-based version of the test.
Next week, students will take test each day that are about 75 minutes in length. Kirsch says there is legislation under consideration in Columbus to reduce the amount of time spent on testing.
Reports of parents opting their children out of the tests, which are part of the new Common Core education reforms, have popped up around the state. Kirsch says there have been APS parents who have inquired about opting out of the tests. The law is somewhat vague on whether students can be opted out, so Kirsch tries to stress the importance of taking the tests.
After the retirement of longtime Akron Public Schools athletic director Joe Howard, Ron Linger will be stepping into that role on an interim basis to help grow the APS athletic brand, and look to maintain that standard of excellence.
Linger spoke with WAKR's Sam Bourquin Wednesday to talk about this new opportunity.
"We want to make sure we maintain our accountability with the state of Ohio, and we've done a pretty good job with that."
It's a busy time for the Akron Public Schools on the athletic front, with the Girls Basketball city championship this week, the Boys City Championship next week, the wrestling tournament, and post season play just around the corner.
Linger was a graduate of the Akron Public Schools (East) in 1976, and served as the Athletic Director of East in addition to teaching and coaching within the district for over 30 years.
WARNING graphic language
Another blow for former Firestone High School teacher David Spondike, fired over his racist post of Facebook.
His appeal of his dismissal by the school district was denied by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Tom Teodosio, who found little to agree with from Spondike's legal filing that the firing was unconstitutional. The ruling upholds an earlier ruling by a referee that Spondike's termination was proper for "good and just cause."
In addition to the original Facebook postings, Spondike also took to YouTube in a series of videos where he first denied making the posts and instead attributed them to the son of an acquaintance.
Spondike was a music teacher at Firestone High School.
A .pdf copy of Teodosio's ruling is included for viewing at the link below.
Editor's note: since the original posting remains central to the case, we made the editorial decision to include the graphic on this story for those readers who were not familiar with the case.
Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James joins Ray Horner to talk about school funding. The new budget plan, introduced by Governor John Kasich, will provide more funding to the Akron Public schools. However, some schools will lose some of their state funding.
David James tells Ray Horner that he does not know what the increased dollar amount might be. If the budget passes through legislation, James hints that he would like to improve extracurricular activities for the students. He also says that he would like to boost the curriculum and keep the classrooms up to date on the learning techniques of the twenty-first century.
The Akron Public Schools prides itself on keeping its financial house in order, and new treasurer Ryan Pendleton spoke with Ray Horner about how the district is looking financially heading into the future.
"We're heading into an important time in school finance," Pendleton explained. "We(the Akron Public Schools) try to lobby as much as possible, we just met down in Columbus with the Ohio Urban 8, to define our position paper, asking the Governor (John Kasich) where to align those resources with Ohio schools."
Pendleton has worked with the APS for 6 months, after coming from the Barberton school district, where he worked for nine years as their treasurer.
Enrollment in the APS is a key too, the more enrollment increases, the more dollars from Columbus go to the district, which is something Pendleton understands fully.
"All of our programs are really top-notch in Akron, it's addressing those myths and those perceptions and really promoting what we have," he says.
The Akron Public Schools Athletic Director Joe Howard visits the Ray Horner Morning Show on Friday to talk about the legacy he leaves behind as he heads towards retirement.
Joe has been the athletic director for 12 years and has received wonderful feedback on the job he has done. "Never in my wildest dreams had I even expected to become the Athletic Director at APS. It's been overwhelming, but fun!" - Joe Howard.
Being required to attend weekly athletic meetings, championship games, promoting the district and their student athletes, Joe felt a bit overwhelmed. His relationship with the coaches sounds like something Joe will take with him forever.
It was just a few minutes, but two Akron schools were placed on what the district calls a "School Safety Watch"...over concerns that it possibly wasn't safe outside the schools.
Akron police notified Sam Salem and Rimer CLCs that they were responding to a report of a shots fired call in the neighborhood.
The safety watch was lifted around 12:47 Friday afternoon, about 9 minutes after it started.
All students at both schools are reported to be safe and secure.
What issues come to mind when you look at the future of the Akron Public Schools? Security? Enrollment? Education tools? The January edition of Akron Matters looks at all of these issues and more.
Lisa Mansfield, the Akron School Board President, School Superintendent David James, Akron Education Association President Pat Shipe, and Akron Beacon Journal education reporter Doug Livingston examined these topics, and one of the first that came to mind is how to increase enrollment given the changing landscape of education.
Doug Livingston said the unique challenges the APS is facing are no different in any other urban district in terms of enrollment, discipline, and other issues.
"I think we're starting to see a lot of movement on some of those aspects, and there's still some unanswered questions," Livingston said.
Superintendent David James says being creative with how the district is marketed to both students and parents in an era where there's more education options than ever is key.
"We need to look at how our potential customers and how our existing customers think," James said. "There are a lot of options out there, we're in a very competitive environment."
He spoke about the new way of learning with online schools, and other evolutions in education over the years.
AEA President Pat Shipe called there are many issues, namely enrollment, is one the district needs to take a serious look at.
"If we don't have those bodies in those seats, that impacts all other issues," Shipe explained.
"It's just a matter of discussing the details."
Lisa Mansfield, the APS School Board President spoke about some of the challenges the district faces as well, saying APS has to be progressive and willing to adapt to today's student.
"There's an expectation, there are choices (in terms of education), so we have to compete with those choices," Mansfield said.
"We can't just have you sit in a desk, all day, this is a different generation."