In our great country we have the opportunity to make many choices in life. On March 15, we will cast our votes in the 2016 primary election in support of the candidates of our choice in several hotly contested races. This election “whittles down” the number of candidates and allows us to vote for those who best represent our beliefs at the national, state, county, and/or city level. In our upcoming primary we have multiple candidates from which to choose for many offices. In several races, the picks may be obvious. As for the presidential race, this column is not the place for such a debate.
An important choice our state government affords us is the opportunity to select how we would like our children to be educated. We have a plethora of options from which to choose: traditional public schools, charter schools, private/parochial schools, home schooling, and digital/virtual schools (online). All of these options have positives and negatives and I respect parents’ decisions on their personal choice. However, as one may expect, my preferred choice is public education, and one through Sidney City Schools. As the principal of Sidney High School, I want to share a snapshot of great things happening in the district, specifically at Sidney High School, and why we are a great educational choice … and brag on our students a little.
There are many reasons I believe in the value of public education and the advantages of our Sidney City Schools, and the quality of our teaching staff is one of them. One hundred percent of the teachers at Sidney High School are “highly qualified” in the academic subjects they teach based on state credentialing. A majority of our staff holds an advanced degree or additional coursework in their subject areas. Our teachers are involved with our students outside the regular classroom, with more than 75 percent of our teachers serving as coaches of teams or club/group advisers. This dedication to our students has a rippling effect in classroom success and school climate.
Due to the advanced academic credentials held by our staff, Sidney High School offers a vast number of Advanced Placement (AP) and College Credit Plus (CCP) courses. Many of our students will find themselves only a few credit hours shy of an associate’s degree when they graduate high school. A number of them will even have the advantage of starting college as second-semester freshmen or as sophomores. As a result of the number of AP and CCP classes we offer, students and parents can see incredible savings in college costs.
The numerous activities in which students may participate are an additional advantage of Sidney High School. We have approximately 70 teams, clubs and groups available for student involvement with opportunities ranging from athletic, to social, to academic.
We emphasize and celebrate academics with the support and recognition of our Academia team, Mock Trial team, and American Legion Americanism and Government Test participation. The elaborate success of our Academia team is something of which we are incredibly proud of — SHS Academia has won the Shelby County title eight consecutive years and 12 times in the last 20 years. Also winning the GWOC North title a handful of times since the inception of Academia as a GWOC sport, our Academia team is ranked second in the state and in the top 25 in the U.S. SHS Mock Trial traveled to the Montgomery County Courthouse in January and walked away with several first-place finishes for the roles portrayed during the trial. The success our students have found with the Americanism and Government Test is staggering. We had four of the 18 state winners this year — four state winners out of the 50,000-plus students who take the test statewide. Add these four students to the three state winners from SHS from last year, and this equates to SHS being home to one in five state winners over the past two years; there have been 28 state winners from SHS since 1970.
Sidney High School has social groups which are open for all students to join including: SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), a peer support group which shares information and activities to help students make good choices; Key Club, the student partner of the Kiwanis, which focuses on philanthropic and service projects; and LinkCrew, a newly organized group which focuses on freshman orientation and support.
All districts go through cycles where the number of great students and great athletes ebb and flow through the halls of a school. Currently, we are blessed with both exceptionally intelligent students and incredibly gifted athletes. In many cases our great athletes are also academically strong, like our girls basketball team, which finished its season 24-1 and had a cumulative team GPA over 3.75.
Our recent athletic successes have been well-documented in printed and digital media and we are very proud of our teams and their accomplishments. Given the publicity our sports teams receive, discussion of athletic opportunities will be limited by sharing we have over 30 athletic teams which students can join.
By choosing a public education for your child, they will gain greater life experience beyond what can be taught in a classroom by exposure to diversity and learning about tolerance. In the Sidney City Schools we find students of every race, creed, and religion. Per the 2014 Cupp Report, 83 percent of our students are white, 4 percent are African-American, with the remaining identified as bi- or multi-racial, Hispanic, Asian, etc. We have students from every socio-economic group from poverty-stricken to wealthy. Our students live in homes with two parents, one parent, and in some cases, no parent. You might ask how this diversity can be an advantage. Tolerance is the answer. When our students graduate we want them to handle any situation they face. They learn to be tolerant of differences to survive in our society. We need them to understand, “different doesn’t mean wrong; different means different.” Our students will encounter many diverse people in their lives. Accepting that someone is different is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of understanding; understanding and knowledge bring strength and unity — the world might be a better place if we all were more understanding and accepting.
Diversity in our course offerings is another advantage. While we have a plethora of upper-level, core academic classes, we also have options for students who may not be traditional learners. SCOLA (our online component), Opportunity (Opp) School (a night-school partnership with MRESC) and Sidney Alternative School provide opportunities for students who face educational hurdles to find success. We also offer elective classes from which students can choose to receive a well-rounded educational experience including: Spanish, German, family and consumer sciences, vocational agriculture, marketing, STEM, SEED, computer programming, computer science, earth science, fine art, TV/digital media productions, choir, band, and orchestra. Sidney High School has also joined with local business interests, Work Force Partnership of Shelby County and Ross Casting and Innovations, to create classes focused on teaching students to become great employees for local businesses and contributing members of our community. This partnership has allowed us to learn, firsthand, the needs of local employers and give us direction on preparing our students for future employment endeavors.
The final reason I believe a public education with Sidney City Schools is a great choice is a personal reason. I was born and raised a Yellow Jacket. Soon after graduation I realized my education from Sidney High School was second to none and had prepared me for life’s adventures and hardships. My wife,’79; father, ’58; in-laws, ’55, ’56, ’76; siblings, ’83, ’86, ’89; and three of our children, ’07, ’12, ’15, are all products of this district and have also felt the benefits of the quality education they received. (Our oldest son will graduate magna cum laude in May from the University of Toledo — thank you, teachers!)
Life is full of choices — from elections, to education, to what we buy at B & K Root Beer — we use the tools we learned in school to make the best and most educated choices. I am lucky to have grown up in Sidney and to have attended the Sidney City Schools. I’m glad I made the choice to come back home nine years ago. Life’s length will never allow me to pay back all this school district has done for me from 1968 to the present. Each day I am humbled in being blessed with the role of principal of Sidney High School … I pray future graduates feel likewise and make the right choice. Now, who do you choose?
The writer is principal of Sidney High School.