Superintendent's Message

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.


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


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: 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


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:

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


John C. Hamstra


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:

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


John C. Hamstra


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:

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
Southwest Local Schools 


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:

John Hamstra Superintendent


John Hamstra     Superintendent
Corinne Hayes Assistant Superintendent
Corinne Hayes     Assistant Superintendent