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Photo of superintendent Jeff Brandt

Letter from Superintendent

Dear Highlander Families,

Welcome back for the 2019-2020 school year. I hope that you and your family had a safe and enjoyable summer break and are ready to take advantage of the great opportunities that the new school year will offer. I’m writing to give you a quick update on district progress and our priorities for the year.

Our most important work this summer was choosing the right people for openings on our staff. From a strong pool of candidates, we chose an exceptional group of educators who bring an interesting and diverse set of talents and educational backgrounds to our district.

This year we had several leadership / role changes. Please join me in welcoming these leaders to their new positions / roles: 

Mrs. Janelle Schunk - Oak Hills High School Assistant Principal
Mrs. Megan Spetrino - JF Dulles Elementary School Assistant Principal
Mrs. Rachel Searcy - Director of Student Services
Mrs. Candice Lessing - Associate Director of Student Services
Mrs. Lis Klotz - Associate Director of Student Services
Mrs. Bridgette Smiley - Director of Curriculum, Instructional Innovation, and Assessment

Also, we are excited to welcome the class of 2019 new teachers to the Highlander family:

OHHS: Jonathan DeLotell, Allison Papathanas, Kaitlyn Jacobs, Olivia Lang
BMS: Shelby Fultz, Kayla Worley
DMS: Jacqueline Fabec
RRMS: Robyn Stuhan
COH: Erica Baldrick, Keith Minnery, Sarah Shappelle, Olivia Lang
DEL: Mark Altherr, Dana Beckmeyer, Britney Hashemi, Heather Jones, Monika Wright, Sarah Shappelle
JFD: Penny Abel, Gabriela Acevedo, Katherine McClure, Brandi Norman
OAK: Courtney Geier, Kaitlyn Jacobs, Allison Kampel, Trillo Almagro Tomas

Also, please welcome our new counselor and school psychologists:

OHHS : Hannah Burns
JFD:  Annette Kosmac, Kate Ryder

We are also happy to welcome two new school psych interns on board:

JFD/OHHS: Morgan Mize
OAK/RRMS: Kerry Finley

As in past years, our primary focus is continuing to strengthen curriculum and instruction strategies, and to establish the most supportive learning environments for students and staff. You’ll hear more about what we’re doing in those areas as the year goes on. Meanwhile, I wanted to share a few other important initiatives:

  • Planning for the future. The board of education and district leadership team are eager to begin our strategic planning process. We look forward to partnering with parents, teachers, support staff, community members, board members, and administrators to produce a plan that will set our direction, guide our innovations and shape our future. We’ll work hard to produce a plan that is both visionary and effective.

  • Setting a wise financial course. As we anticipated, this year the district enters deficit spending, the predictable point at which a district spends more on expenditures than it takes in from revenues. It has forced us to make tough decisions, but we have a plan in place for reallocating resources and will keep our focus on serving students and supporting our staff.

    Since one of our goals this year is to better inform our parents and community on our financial situation and how school finance works, I’ll share these basics: Our operating budget is divided among three main categories. About 85% goes to staff salaries and benefits. About 10% goes to fixed costs, such as utilities or special-education services. The remaining 5% is a discretionary fund for curriculum materials, instructional supplies, and equipment. (These percentages are typical for most school districts)

    Our funding comes from two main sources: 40% from state funding; 60% comes from local funding. The largest portion of local funds comes from residential property taxes. A challenge for us has been decreasing property values in our district – a 13% decrease since 2007, with declines in nine of the last 10 years. As we work on reducing costs, we also are looking at every avenue to increase revenues, including grants and other opportunities for state and federal aid.

  • Continuing to strengthen security as well as safety training. District Safety and Security Coordinator Bart West and district safety committees have conducted safety and threat assessments and added innovative safety measures, such as the Raptor System at each building. (Please remember to have your ID when entering any district building.) The district has also partnered with the Grant Us Hope Foundation for an audit of our mental wellness and safety initiatives. The focus is on targeting resources to prevention, intervention, and postvention.

  • Proceeding with facility upgrades and maintenance. Our district facilities plan directs our efforts and includes improvements to roofs, HVC, paving, etc., as well as routine maintenance to buildings and grounds. We anticipate the life cycles of our facilities in our financial forecasts, then align our budgets to those needs. We also greatly appreciate private donations that have allowed us to make upgrades at no taxpayer cost.

That’s a brief look at what’s been going on behind the scenes in our district, but one goal stays front and center: to produce thoughtful, principled, well-prepared young people who will help shape their community and their world. That’s the goal of every employee of the Oak Hills Local School District, and why we invest our lives and our talents here.

Thanks for the opportunity – and privilege – of serving your children and your family. Please visit ohlsd.org and ohlsd.us for district information and helpful resource links, and join us in surrounding your student with a circle of support. May it be our best year ever!

-Jeff Brandt
Superintendent of Oak Hills Schools