Departments

Superintendent

John Hamstra Superintendent

Staff

John Hamstra     Superintendent
Corinne Hayes Assistant Superintendent
Corinne Hayes     Assistant Superintendent

Please click here for the most recent edition of "Spotlight on Southwest," a monthly publication for the parents/guardians and local residents sharing good news and updates about our students, staff and the Southwest Local School District:

Superintendent's Message


Spring, 2021

As we welcome in the spring season, it’s hard not to reflect back on the many trials and successes the start and middle of this school year has brought us – as a school district and community. We have worked diligently to keep as much of our day to day ‘normal’ as possible – during a global health pandemic. Fortunately, we have been able to live our mission and core values each week, despite COVID. Approximately 87% of our students (3,679) are receiving face to face instruction currently, with 13% (557) learning via our remote setup. The COVID learning loss stemming from last spring and in some cases, this school year, has been hit hard in the media lately. As a school district, we knew our work would be cut out for us this year and we also understand the importance of face to face instruction as it pertains to both the academic and social growth (our mission) of our students. This said, we continue monitor student progress (weekly) and are working to meet our own district metric of 1.5 years growth each year, despite the pandemic challenges. Along these lines, and for future planning purposes, we do not plan to offer remote learning, as a school district, in grades K – 8, after this school year (2020 / 2021). We will continue to offer our Wildcat Academy to those students at the high school level, that are credit deficient. We move into our new schools this coming August (2021 – 2022 school year).  We appreciate a great deal – the flexibility and support - both our staff and parents have shown this school year. Without everyone jumping in with both feet and the flexibility to get things done, we would not be making up the ground we are… in a very short period.

Our three new elementary schools and new middle school remain on-time and on-budget. The new Harrison and Crosby Elementaries should be substantially complete by the end of March. Miami Whitewater Elementary will hit this benchmark by the end of April and for the new Junior School – by the end of May. Student’s last day of school for this year in our old buildings is May 28. Our staff will work diligently to get moved from our old elementary schools / Junior High to the new schools starting June 1 – 4. Abatement and demo of Harrison El. and Crosby El. will begin June 11. The Junior High will follow this same process after HE / CR are wrapped up. The Miamitown El. Property will be sold and Whitewater Valley Elementary will become both a Pre School (Early Childhood Learning Center) and district offices. Renovations at Whitewater Valley will wrap up by mid-August. We will be auctioning off equipment and items from the old schools in late May / early June. Information regarding this process and items will come out in April. We will also be putting out bricks, etc. in an accessible area for folks to grab - from the old Harrison Elementary and Crosby, once demolition begins. The ribbon cutting ceremony for the new school will take place on August 1 – be on the look out for a “Save the Date” card for this event! All are welcomed to attend!

Lastly, we do plan on having a prom and in-person graduation ceremonies this spring. Prom will take place on May 1 and we will be hosting three separate graduation ceremonies on May 28; one for the Class of 2020, and two for the Class of 2021.

Thank you again for your support and GO CATS!

John C. Hamstra
Superintendent
Southwest Local Schools

Fall, 2020

What a difference a year makes! When looking back at our first week photos from the 2019 – 20 school year vs. the start of this school year, many changes are apparent – beyond the obvious. Despite the challenges that COVID has created, our students, staff, and parents have stepped up and answered the bell! Some of adjustments for this school year:

- Approximately 75% (3,212) of our students will learn in a traditional, face to face setting and 25% (1,070) have chosen to learn virtually this fall. Our total enrollment is nearing 4,300 students!

- Student clearing stations upon arrival – temp checks, hand sanitizing and universal masking take place before students enter the schools each day.

- The “bundling” concept is a major focus: 6 feet of social distancing where / when possible; universal masking; hand hygiene and facility cleaning.

- Our four new schools are being constructed as I type this and are expected to be ready for our grand opening in the fall of 2021! This nearly $100M project is also on budget!

- Our largest privately funded athletic facility renovation ($1.6M) is nearing completion this fall! SLSD is the only public school on the West Side of Cincinnati with TWO turf playing surfaces.

- We have added nearly 600 new students this summer / fall, with 304 being Kindergartners.

- Extra-curricular activities are in full swing, despite the precautions necessitated by the pandemic.

Despite the challenges we face daily, our mission remains our focus. Our staff works relentlessly to make sure that ALL students grow academically, each and every day. Metrics, including grades and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) are used to monitor progress towards this area of our mission. The other side of our mission deals with the social growth of our students. Patience, persistence, and finishing with excellence will be the push this fall. Our students have been incredible in handling the adversity presented by the multiple issues outside of their control. From properly masking to distancing and maintaining a relentless attitude in the classroom – it has been inspiring to see our kids across the spectrum, from Kindergarten through 12th grade handling our new reality this fall. We also extremely appreciative of our parents supporting both our “bundling” approach to safety as well as our mission. When we work together, our outcome is positive and success is the result.

Thank you again and GO CATS!

John C. Hamstra
Superintendent
Southwest Local Schools

Summer, 2020

Dear SLSD Parents / Guardians:                                                                                                        

It's been another awesome, and at times, crazy school year here in SLSD! We finished hand-delivering diplomas to the Class of 2020 late last week and all student belongings have been picked up and teachers are wrapping up this year with final grading and room clean out. Administratively, we will meet next week to reflect on this school year's successes and challenges and gauge progress towards our goals for the year – despite a very “non-traditional” finish.

With the ending of another school year here in SLSD, I just wanted to send a quick note of thanks for sending us great kids and for your patience with the remote learning phase, Zoom meetings, and the last few weeks of school. I fully understand the challenges – both as a parent of three school age kids and as an educator. In difficult times, leaning on one another and maintaining a positive outlook is essential. We do not take our partnership with parents for granted – ever. This co-dependency is critical to our success as a school district.

Our summer planning has taken on a whole new meaning as we start to think about next school year.  As a district we are closely monitoring the Governor's comments and expect that guidance documents will be released soon from the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Health as to how schools will operate.  Our desire is to be full-go, face to face, this fall. Current large group gathering / social distancing restrictions would hinder that ability a great deal. We feel confident in our ability to handle either extreme – traditional, face to face school, or remote learning. Planning for a hybrid of these options is where things get a bit trickier. Until then, we will stick to the guidance provided and make plans that adhere to both the health regulations in place as well as what makes the most sense for our students. Expect periodic updates throughout the summer as we learn more and develop our plans for next school year.  Please know that our updates will not be as immediate as our Governor or timed exactly alongside media outlets sharing the guidelines.   We are working through a process that will take us time to discern the implications for what it looks like here in SLSD. Thank you in advance for your patience!

Summer also brings a chance for many of our teachers to recharge and retool instructional strategies that support creative ways to engage students.  We will have numerous staff members working throughout the summer on curriculum and instructional improvements for next school year.  In addition, our three new elementary schools and new middle school, along with the new turf practice and game fields, continue to evolve! All projects are both ON TIME and ON BUDGET! The turf fields will be complete and ready for use this summer (practice field first, then game field later this summer) and the ribbon-cutting for our new schools will be August 1, 2021! For information on the new school construction process, visit: southwestschools.org/facilities

We also have several upgrades happening to the High School this summer and our current District Office (located at 230 S. Elm Street) will be demolished this June. Central registration and our District Office administration team members are now located in the High School and two Junior School modular classrooms. Our phone number (513.367.4139) and individual email addresses are the same.

Lastly, while it seems like we've already had a lot of family time, please don't take these summer days for granted and make some wonderful memories as a family.  Our graduating senior parents will tell you it happens in a the blink of an eye. Whatever you are able to do, cherish the time and know that your investment is worth it. Great families, a great community, and great schools are the key ingredients that make our school district special.

Go Cats!

 

John C. Hamstra
Superintendent
Southwest Local Schools

Early Spring, 2020

Greetings all!

With third quarter wrapping up, we are super excited for spring and the start of the final quarter of the 2019 / 20 school year!  This time of year can become stressful as a result of state testing, which starts up April 1 in grades 3 – 10, but we do our absolute best to weave in community engagement efforts and extra-curricular options for students.

I have attached an important information packet on the COVID-19 (coronavirus) and how our school’s are approaching this potential threat.

Lastly, please find the early Spring, 2020 edition of our Southwest Spotlight – some stories to pay particular attention:

1. New Schools Taking Shape! Our four new schools are all “on time and on budget”! Walls are going up and slabs are being poured. Exiting times for SLSD – for sure!

2. The Whole Child – Mental, physical and social health are all extremely important – for our students and for us, as adults! Keeping all three aspects in mind each day matters a great deal!

3. Athletic Upgrades Ready to Kick Off / Bengals Grant – On Mar. 5 we celebrated the official ground-breaking of the two turf fields being installed this spring / summer in Wildcat Stadium and directly parallel to the stadium. A HUGE thank you to the Cincinnati Bengals for donating $250K towards this project!

4. District Faces Financial Concerns Due to State Funding – We have some significant challenges ahead of us in terms of funding. And we are working to remedy these issues this spring / summer!

*Lastly, our March Podcast can be found here: southwestschools.org/podcast

Here’s to a strong finish to the 2019 / 20 school year!

 

John C. Hamstra

Superintendent

Southwest Local Schools

Winter, 2019

We are nearing the end of 2nd quarter / first semester and we realize we have a great deal to be thankful for this holiday season!  We spend a great deal of time each day focusing on our mission: “Academic and Social Growth for ALL Students, Every Day!" Our motto: “Excellence Through Relationships” and our core values: Trust, Respect, Ownership and Leadership. Couple this with the numerous accomplishments from this fall’s extra-curricular activities and academic achievements and life is good!

 

Attached is the Winter, 2019 edition of our Spotlight on Southwest newsletter  – some stories to pay particular attention:

1. New Construction Progress! Earth work is complete, underground utilities are just about finished and footers are next!

2. Living our Core Values – As adults, it’s important what we model for our students! Living our core values is not a “some of the time” thing… it’s an all of the time endeavor!

3. Financials – Headwinds and tailwinds are impacting our school districts financial picture over the next several years.

 

Here’s to a strong finish to the first semester and a joyous holiday season!

 

John C. Hamstra
Superintendent
Southwest Local Schools 

Fall 2019:  Start Fast!

The start of the school year brings with it a tremendous amount of energy! The kids are excited to see friends they may not have seen over the summer, teachers are excited to get back in the classroom with students, and parents are often relieved to get back into a more normal routine with which the school year tends to bring. The start of this school year was no different!

We had numerous church and civic leaders help our teachers greet students at the door on opening day — turning it in to quite the celebration! Seeing our students faces as they enter the schools on day 1 is always memorable! From Kindergartners taking on their first day of elementary school to seniors walking through the high school doors for their last opening day, it’s a powerful experience!

We want to thank our parents and community at large for their flexibility during the first few weeks of school as we grapple with the tremendous growth and additional students to start the year. We also want to thank the Harrison Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance with traffic flow.

This school year will bring about significant changes in terms of both curriculum and delivery of instruction. We have new instructional materials in English Language Arts for grades K-12 and for Math in grades K-8. Both of these resources are much more rigorous than our past materials, and better align to Ohio’s Learning Standards at each grade level. There are parent tips available for our new math programs, with homework help tips and video tutorials for each grade level on our district website, under DEPARTMENTS, and then CURRICULUM.  The High School also has added a new focus on Industry Credentialing to help prepare students for the workforce.

John C. Hamstra
Superintendent
Southwest Local Schools 

Summer 2019: Rest, Recharge, Reboot!

We had an exciting finish to the 2018 / 19 school year – with numerous music performances, art shows and athletic accomplishments, from grades K – 12! Our teachers and students also really stepped up with both their preparation and performance on the state assessments that spanned a six-week period this spring. The results of these assessments will be shared out later this summer. Our year, was and is, defined by our mission “academic and social growth for ALL students, every day!” In terms of academic growth – our goal is 1.5 years gain with just 9 months of instruction. Our teachers take this challenge on with each of their students, from day 1 of the school year. Both our fall to spring MAP assessments and the state tests provide us with data to help support progress towards this goal. In terms of social growth – we look at both student participation rates in extra-curricular activities (both school and community sponsored) as well as student discipline data each quarter. We know that when students are involved, they learn to handle adversity, success and challenge in a different way – than when they are not involved. Numerous clubs were created this school year, from the elementary schools up through the high school. Seeing our students participate in these endeavors was powerful! I appreciate our teachers stepping up to provide these extended learning opportunities for our students this school year and ideas are already being generated for new clubs next school year!

Now that summer 2019 is here – it’s time to rest, recharge and reboot! On the last day of each school year – we celebrate with a great home cooked meal and talk with each of our kids on what enjoyed most about the school year, the least and what they would do different – if they could start over. We also talk about summer goals and eventually – a Summer Bucket list is formed. We keep bucket lists of past summers as well, and reminisce on fond memories and travels. Several of the items we conjure up deal with travel, or Kings Island or Red’s games. Others are more focused on building in to the community – like serving at Matthew 25 Ministries once per week, or playing board games with senior citizens at a local nursing home. It’s good to balance both giving back, as well as enjoying family events on the recreation side. If there’s one thing I have learned over the years – it’s that time with our kids flies by! I started working here in SLSD the summer my oldest son was born and he will be driving in two years! Kids grow up fast. Really look to limit screen time and push books. With freedom, comes responsibility. Work, before play. Relax and look to build in to others in the community. Relationships matter. Build a summer bucket list – and create memories for a lifetime, big or small!

The first day of school for students is August 20, 2019! We will see you all then – if not sooner!

 

John C. Hamstra

Superintendent

Southwest Local Schools

Spring 2019

Greetings all! Spring has arrived!                                                                                         

The fourth and final quarter of the school year started last week and March Madness is in full-effect! Finishing the year stronger than we started is our goal – and we will need heavy parent support to make this happen!

In the state of Ohio, public schools are getting ready to administer the 2019 Ohio State Tests in grades 3-8 to show evidence of what students know and can do in English Language Arts and Mathematics, and in Science in grades 5 and 8.  Additionally, at the secondary level, students enrolled in English 9, English 10, Algebra 1, Geometry, United States History, American Government, and Biology are also preparing to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of content on these Ohio high school End of Course assessments. 

State testing is very important for school districts, as our evaluation from the Ohio Department of Education, as measured by the State Report Card, is largely based upon the results from our students’ performance on these tests.  In grade 3 and in the High School End of Course areas, testing is considered “high-stakes,” as there are consequences for students if they don’t demonstrate adequate levels of proficiency on these tests.  For third graders, if they do not meet the promotion score required on the Grade 3 English Language Arts assessment, they can be retained under the guidelines set forth in Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee.  For secondary students, earning enough points (18) on End of Course assessments is a graduation requirement.  For these reasons, it is critical that students and parents realize the importance of state testing.

In Southwest Local Schools, we will begin our state testing right after Spring Break, starting April 2 with English Language Arts, and continuing through the Math, Science and Social Studies window that begins April 16.  State testing should wrap up by May 7, just in time for the high school Advanced Placement exams, which begin on May 6. What can you do as a parent or guardian to help make your child or children successful on their state tests?  There are a few ways that you can help!  First, make sure that your student is in attendance on state testing days.  Please delay any vacations until after the school year is over.  Second, make sure your child or children get a good night’s sleep before their tests so that they can perform at their best.  Finally, ensure that your child eats a good breakfast before their tests.  Our teachers have been working hard all year with students to make sure that they are academically prepared for their state tests, and these simple suggestions above are ways that parents or guardians can do their part to ensure our students are set up for success on state testing.

For those looking for the most up-to-date information on the new school design process and high school renovation, please visit our website at: southwestschools.org and click on the Facilities for the Future tab, which is located just under scrolling pictures.

Attached is the March / April 2019 edition of our Spotlight on Southwest – some stories to pay particular attention:

1. SLSD Community Outreach and over $25K donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society!

2. Student Mental Health

3. Bridging the Old with the New – Pride Walls take shape in the new schools!

Here’s to a great finish to the 2018 / 19 school year!

 

John C. Hamstra

Superintendent

Southwest Local Schools

Winter 2018-2019

Greetings all! Winter has finally made its presence felt!

Second semester has started strong and our students, all 4,150 of them, have jumped right back in to the normal school routine. Thank you for partnering with us as we look to provide both academic and social for all students every day!

A quick word on weather delays / or cancellations – our #1 goal is student and staff safety, not just in words… but actions as well. When weather hits or there is a potential for severe weather, we have many factors to consider in making the call to delay or cancel school. The weather models often change rapidly and weather can be tough to predict, even for those that do it for a living. Our bus drivers arrive at the bus compound around 5:40 AM and the earliest bus is on the road by 6 AM. The last bus is off the road by 9:15 AM each morning. When varying weather models present themselves, we have to make the call by 5:45 AM and consider the impact of the precipitation from 6 – 9 AM, the time we have students and buses on the roads. One final challenge with the weather related calls – is our geographic reach. The entire school district is 68 square miles and there are times where we have rain in Elizabethtown / Hooven, mixed precipitation in downtown Harrison and snow in Okeana. All this to say, the decision is never easy and if we are going to error, we will do so on the side of caution.

This and next quarter students are assessed more frequently than in the fall and early winter. Winter MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) is happening both this week and next, the ACT – issued to all Juniors at the High School is taking place February 20. State assessments in grades 3 – 10 will start April 2. The state tests are summative in nature and gauge progress for the entire school year. Classroom tests given by teachers are more formative in nature and measure specific standards.

Attached is the January / February 2019 edition of our Southwest Spotlight – some stories to pay particular attention:

1. SLSD and Individual schools win numerous state awards! SLSD was again awarded the State of Ohio Momentum Award, for third year in row! This award goes to districts / schools that earn all “A’s” on their value added measures or how they grow all students academically! Just 2 school districts in Hamilton Co. have accomplished this feat – SLSD and Mariemont! Miamitown Elementary also earned the Momentum Award and was also deemed a “High Progress School of Honor”! Crosby, Harrison Elementary and Whitewater Valley all earned the “Overall A” Award for earning a summative grade of A for their state test results. This is great news for our school district!

2. The importance of balance in our lives. It’s easy to get lost in the business of life. With school, work, homework, athletics, clubs, social media, tech use, etc. – it’s tough to establish quality family time in today’s world. Finding ways to make this happen is more important now – than ever!

3. Athletic Facility Upgrade on the horizon! Our athletic facilities are looking to keep pace with our academic improvements and begin working to secure the necessary funds for the upgrades. ALL ATHLETIC IMPROVEMENTS will be privately raised. NO TAX DOLLARS WILL BE USED FOR THIS PROJECT!

*Lastly, our January Podcast can be found here: http://southwestschools.org/podcast

Here’s to a great winter season! What we think about – we become!

 

John C. Hamstra

Superintendent

Southwest Local Schools

Fall 2018 

Greetings all! Fall is finally here!

Good luck to our Co-SWOC Champions / Varsity Football team as they travel to TROY for round 1 of the playoffs tonight! Best of luck to our Marching Band as they travel to Miamisburg for their Championships tomorrow! We have crowned four fall league championship teams this year – out of 9 possible (Girls golf, Boys Golf, Football and Volleyball). We have also had numerous individual award winners this fall!  And finally, our collective fall sport student athlete’s GPA averaged 3.6! Exciting times to be a Wildcat!

First quarter (2018) And second quarter has started fast! Typically, we see the most gains – both academically and socially – during 2nd and 3rd quarter. Routines become extremely important during these next couple of months as well, especially considering the numerous breaks (Thanksgiving, Christmas, MLK, Presidents Day, etc.). Work before play is a great mantra to live by!

I say to the parents at every board meeting – thank you for supporting our mission here at Southwest Local Schools: “Academic and Social Growth for ALL Students, EVERY DAY!” and thank you for trusting us with your children. We do not take the 7+ hours each day we have them, for granted!

Attached is the November, 2018 edition of our Southwest Spotlight – some stories to pay particular attention:

1. New Schools – Tailwinds and Headwinds. We are approximately 65% of the way through the schematic design phase of the new schools (3 new elementary, new middle school) and we just started work on a “menu” of renovations to the High School. We have experienced both headwinds and tailwinds to date and anticipate this to continue – until the new schools are complete (Aug. 2021).

2. Enrollment Trends - One doesn’t have to look far, to see our school district is growing quickly! We are averaging 10 new students per week! There are still several developments with a lot of room for continued expansion and our job is to make sure we have a plan to absorb the hundreds of new students each year and that we have room for them! It’s a good thing our new schools are being built now!

3. District Financials – While the growth / added enrollment is good, it is putting major stress on our financial budget. It would seem, that with all the new homes, come additional property taxes and earned income… and that’s true. However, it costs on average $9,555 to educate a child each year here in SLSD. We have the 2nd lowest expenditure per pupil in Hamilton County, just $222 from having the lowest expenditure per pupil in the county. And revenue wise, we are not keeping pace, as of now.

*Lastly, our November Podcast can be found here: http://static.theflypod.com/episodes/southwest-local-schools-2/

Here’s to a great / positive middle of the school year! What we think about – we become!

 

John C. Hamstra

Superintendent

Southwest Local Schools

Late Summer 2018

The 2018 / 19 school year is underway! This school year, we look to continue building off of numerous local, state and national accomplishments. Recently, Southwest Local Schools (SLSD), along with 82 other school districts throughout Ohio, released our Quality Profile – which highlights our mission “Academic and Social Growth, for ALL students, every day!” being lived out in many ways and on many stages. Our 2018 graduates earned over $2.5M in scholarship or college credit. Over 96% of our 4,000 students in grades K – 12 took part in at least one of our 28 athletic programs, 55 school affiliated clubs, 28 Advanced Placement courses or numerous community outreach opportunities last school year. Our goal this is year is to have 100% of our students take part in the myriad of academic and social growth opportunities this school year.

As SLSD continues to grow (we are up over 345 new students in the last 12 months) – we want to make sure the number of both academic and social growth opportunities keeps pace with our enrollment. We also want to make sure that our infrastructure (school buildings, transportation, personnel, and programming) is on an upward trajectory. In November 2017, the voters in our 68 square mile school district approved a 6.99 Mill levy, which will generate $71M in local dollars and will be partnered with $26.6M in state contributions, providing just over $96M for three new elementary schools, a new middle school and over $10M in renovations to our current high school. Design work on the new schools, in conjunction with our architect and engineering firm (SHP), our construction company (Skanska – Megan), and members from the state of Ohio (OFCC) has been underway since the summer of 2018. Dirt will start moving in the spring of 2019 and occupancy in the fall of 2021! To date, we have gathered input from hundreds of individuals as we shape what our schools will look like for the next 50 years! Our three major objectives for this project: The schools will reflect the community and be built to last the next 50+ years; the schools will be built on time and on budget! Updates on the facilities project can be found at: https://www.southwestschools.org/departments/facilities-14/

We greatly appreciate the partnership with our parents, our local business community, police, fire, and churches. Without these partnerships, we, as a school district, would not be able to provide the numerous opportunities to our students or focus on our priorities (safety and living our mission) each day. It truly takes a village to do good by our next generation – and we applaud the many that help make our village here special! Here’s to a tremendously successful 2018 / 19 school year! Go Cats!

 

John C. Hamstra
Superintendent
Southwest Local Schools