The changing face of Oldham County Schools

WillWells100Superintendent's Column: November 2014

We are entering a time of change here in Oldham County Schools. Our commitment to excellence and to ensuring the learning of every child remains constant, but who those children are continues to change.

This summer, I shared some of these changing demographics with principals to prepare for the school year. Many of us see these changes on a small scale — in our child’s school or in our neighborhood, perhaps — but never get to see the big picture.

For instance, did you know the district’s minority enrollment has grown to 11.9 percent? Ten years ago it was just 6.5 percent. Nearly 5 percent of our students are Hispanic or Latino; 2.5 percent are African-American. Our student body is much more diverse, ethnically and culturally, than it was a decade ago. Students in our district speak about 25 languages.

How about the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch? The state average is 53 percent. Here in Oldham County it has risen to 20.75 percent, up from 15.2 percent in 2003. However, it has dropped slightly over the past three years, which I hope reflects more economic stability for our families following the recession.

Enrollment in our specialized academic programs might also surprise you — about 13 percent receive special education services. Another 8.9 percent are engaged in the gifted and talented program.

Our district’s administration also looks much different, with many new faces in the central office administration and 11 principals who started their positions in the past three years. Many of our assistant principals are also within their first three years in their positions — not a surprise since many of our principals serve as assistants before moving into a school’s top role.

The fact that our student achievement continues to soar, as determined by every assessment our students take and compared to students across the state and nation, speaks to the strong culture we have in our district. We have a culture of focusing on the needs of each student, investing in the professional growth of our administrators and teachers, and aligning all resources strategically to support our classrooms.

One thing that is not changing — at least not as much as it was in previous years — is the size of our district.

Many people remember the big growth boom in Oldham County — when many of us moved here. Between 1996 and 2005, the school districted gained 4,000 students. Since then, we’ve only grown by 1,600. And, this year appears to be the first time in many years that we will actually lose students compared to the previous year. Granted, it’s only by two students, but we have predicted for several years that enrollment will decline for the next 10 years.

Of course, these are projections. We review them annually, and we look at data including the number of live births in the county. That peaked in 2003. Those students entered kindergarten in 2008 or 2009 and are now in 5th or 6th grade. Since then, the number of live births has fallen. This year, we have 100 fewer kindergarteners than we did last year, reflecting that trend. We anticipate our incoming kindergarten classes will continue to decrease.

There are changes that could impact enrollment, like the opening of the east end bridge, and we continue to monitor those and adjust our projections and plans as necessary.

These enrollment trends also greatly influence our property and facility decisions, about which the board of education has ongoing discussions. Currently, almost all our middle and high schools are nearing capacity. But with the decrease in upcoming classes, we can see those schools will likely have room available soon.

While our enrollment may not be growing at the high rates to which many of us were accustomed, I am excited to see a diverse and dynamic student population continuing to push our district to new heights. It’s an exciting time in Oldham County Schools and I hope you share my enthusiasm for seeing what the future holds.

- Dr. Will Wells, Superintendent

Goshen 5th Graders "Choose Kind"

5th graders at Goshen Elementary have a special message to send to the rest of the school: choose kind. To get that message across, 5th graders, as part of their legacy gift to the school, will build a special library with books based on kindness and acceptance. 

The idea for the "Choose Kind Library" was introduced by Goshen parent, Taryn Skees. Her 1st grader, Aiden, has a craniofacial condition. Skees got the idea from the book WonderWonder is about a boy with a craniofacial deformity who attends school for the first time and addresses the challenges of being socially accepted.

5th graders are responsible for fundraising and designing the new section of the library. In addition, the class will also build a “Choose Kind Library” at Cartmell Elementary School in Carrollton. 

Click here to watch a video on the project.


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