School News

News for Marion Community Schools

Posted: by Patricia Gibson, Communications Director
From the Chronicle-Tribune

Marion High School’s unprecedented turnaround continues to reach new heights.

MHS hit a recorded high with a 91.1 percent graduation rate for the 2011-12 school year.

That rate is a near-10 percent improvement over 2010-11, when the school improved from 68.2 percent to 81.9 percent and finally ended more than five years on academic probation.

“We’re very proud of our graduation rate for the class of 2012. … It’s even an improvement over what we anticipated (90.8 percent),” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Ken Folks, who is filling in for Superintendent Steve Edwards during a medical leave. “I attribute it to so many things … dedication from the students, our staff, our administration, our community. It’s a village. It’s a team effort.

The school achieved a graduation rate of only 58.2 percent as recently as 2005-06, the first year it was calculated using the current system.

Posted: by Patricia Gibson, Communications Director
MARION (Feb. 28, 2013) — Finalized numbers certified by the state have confirmed what leaders at Marion Community Schools had projected: The graduation rate at Marion High School has jumped again and is now higher than the state rate.

For the 2011-12 school year, the MHS graduation rate was 91.1 percent. That’s an 11 percent jump from the previous year’s rate, 81.9. But a slightly longer view reveals a more impressive accomplishment: The 2011-12 rate is a 57 percent increase since 2006-07, when the rate was 58 percent.

2011-12 also marks the first time in many years that the MHS graduation rate has topped the overall state rate, which was 87.9 percent for public schools.

That’s a remarkable stat for a school that just two years ago was on academic probation and facing the possibility of state takeover after years of struggle.

Staff rises to the challenge

Those dark days actually served as a motivating force. An independent evaluation, the Cambridge report, highlighted problem areas, and staff members rose to the challenge.

They took a stand, said MHS Principal Lennon Brown, who arrived in early 2011, after the state urged a change in the school’s administration. In response to the report and the threat of state takeover, he said, the prevailing attitude was: “This is not going to happen to us. We’re better than this.”

That was the kick-start that was needed.

Terry Lakes, chair of the English Department at MHS, agreed.

“Cambridge was eye-opening for us, he said. “From that day forward, we didn’t whine about it, we didn’t gripe about it. We came to the conclusion: What do we need to do to get better?”

A major component of that answer was better data, and better use of that data.

The school committed to following up on students who left MHS, realizing how big of an impact they could still have on the school’s statistics, Brown said. They now work to ensure that record transfers are complete and all needed paperwork is properly filed, so that the graduation rate offers a more accurate picture of their current student population.

The school also has emphasized direct involvement with families of struggling students.

Data drives success

Data plays a critical role in the success of the school’s students and teachers day-to-day too, Lakes said.

From STI testing, which helps evaluate individual students on individual curriculum standards on a continuous basis, to the TAP System, which helps teachers then integrate that test data to tailor their classroom instruction, the whole process is designed to allow teachers and students to take more personal responsibility for their own performance – and to give them the tools to improve.

Lakes has been at MHS since 1985. He was there for the struggle and the painful decline, and now he’s playing an integral role in the rise.

The passage rate for the English 10 end-of-course assessment, one of the tests students must pass to graduate, is up 44 percent since the 2009-10 school year. And that’s largely due to the focus on state standards and how students measure up to them, Lakes said.

On the other ECA students must pass to graduate, the Algebra 1 test, passage rates have risen 87 percent.

Faculty members have worked tirelessly to improve those scores, Lakes said.

But before the new data-based changes, he said, “We were just shooting in the dark.”

Team effort pays off

Now it’s a whole different outlook, with administration and staff collaborating to determine what action to take, Lakes said.

The reliance on data, combined with leadership from Brown, along with Freshman Center Principal James Bragg and Superintendent Steve Edwards, made way for the drastic improvements, Lakes said.

“Once we got the ship righted, we knew what we needed to do,” he said.

The changes started out, Brown said, as simply doing anything to stop the bleeding. But it grew into a whole new way of thinking and dealing with challenges, he said.

The turnaround, said Marion Community Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ken Folks, is a credit to the team effort and the hard work of not only the administrators and teachers, but of the students, school board and community at large as well.

He specifically praised the administration at MHS, though, for their pinpoint focus on the progress of those students in danger of not graduating. Progress is monitored on a weekly basis, and that data is then funneled into the systems in place for student and teacher improvement.

When the school was tumbling, Brown said, the right conversations were not happening.

Now, he said, “We’re on top of what’s happening to us.”

Lakes agreed.

“We know where we’ve been,” he said. “Now we know where we need to go.”
Posted: by Patricia Gibson, Communications Director
More than two dozen students were recognized for academic and artistic successes Feb. 13, 2013, by the Marion Community Schools Board of School Trustees.

Those honored were:

Thao Nguyen and Mitch Diedrich (not pictured), Marion High School art students, were honored for earning recognition in the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's Scholastic Art and Writing competition. Also seen in the picture are Acting Superintendent Dr. Ken Folks, school board members Cathy Moritz, Scott Murphy, Pam Hutchison, Aaron Vermilion, Greg Kitts and Katie Morgan, along with MHS art teacher Debi Shepler. To learn more about these students' art awards, click here.


Dominic Johnson, Garrett Treadwell, Emon Jones, Lea Richard, CorDeddria Wingate, Yasmine McGee, and Amanda Jackson (not pictured), Marion High School students, were honored for earning Martin Luther King Jr. scholarships from the Marion Baptist Ministerial Alliance. Also seen in the picture are MHS graduation coach the Rev. Larry Batchelor, Acting Superintendent Dr. Ken Folks, school board members Cathy Moritz, Scott Murphy, Pam Hutchison, Aaron Vermilion, Greg Kitts and Katie Morgan. To learn more about the students' scholarships, click here.


Ryan Gandee, Nick Toy, Nick Spitzer, Micah Hoeksema, Stacia Tyson, Claire Earley, Megan Griffin, and (not pictured) Caleb Rutan, Lindsey Ngo, and Elizabeth Wuertley, McCulloch Junior High School band students, were honored for their performance at the annual Solo and Ensemble competition. Also seen in the picture are McCulloch band teacher Ron Ways, Acting Superintendent Dr. Ken Folks, school board members Cathy Moritz, Scott Murphy, Pam Hutchison, Aaron Vermilion, Greg Kitts and Katie Morgan. To learn more about these students' music awards, click here.

Grace Graham, Arrington Kohn, Stacia Tyson, Nigel Clement, Madeline Spence, Sierra Williams, Savannah Roy, Nikeela Edwards, Jennifer McAbee-Reher, and (not pictured) Elizabeth Wuertley, Chelsea Townsend, and Caleb Rigney, McCulloch Junior High School choir students, were honored for their performance at the annual Solo and Ensemble competition. Also seen in the picture are McCulloch choral teacher Christina Huff, Acting Superintendent Dr. Ken Folks, school board members Cathy Moritz, Scott Murphy, Pam Hutchison, Aaron Vermilion, Greg Kitts and Katie Morgan. To learn more about these students' music awards, click here.
Posted: by Patricia Gibson, Communications Director
MARION (Feb. 8, 2013) — Starting next week, Marion students will be competing for a chance to face off with other students from around the county with an eye toward a trip to Washington, D.C., for the National Spelling Bee.

After a round of classroom-level bees, every Marion Community Schools elementary school, along with Justice Intermediate School and McCulloch Junior High School, will be holding school spelling bees this month. Each school will send a winner and runner up in each grade level competing - fourth through eighth - to compete in the county-wide bee, set for 1 p.m. March 19 at College Wesleyan Church, 200 E. 38th St.

The winner of the county bee will receive an all-expenses-paid trip (with a parent or guardian) to Washington, D.C., where he or she will compete in the National Spelling Bee, set for May 28-30.

The MCS school spelling bee schedule is:
  • Justice Intermediate School, fifth grade: 1:45 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11
  • Justice Intermediate School, sixth grade: 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12
  • Frances Slocum Elementary School, fourth grade: 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13
  • McCulloch Junior High, seventh and eighth grade: 1:10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15
  • Allen Elementary School, fourth grade: 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 21
  • Kendall Elementary School, fourth grade: 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22
  • Riverview Elementary School, fourth grade: 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27
City Council member (and voice of the Marion Giants) Jim Brunner will be the pronouncer at the Justice spelling bees. Dr. Ken Folks, assistant superintendent for instruction of MCS, will be the pronouncer at the bees for Kendall, Frances Slocum, and Riverview. Kristi Phillippe, MCS's TAP coordinator, will be the pronouncer for the Allen bee.
Posted: by Patricia Gibson, Communications Director
MARION (Jan. 18, 2013) — For the second year straight, Marion Community Schools is one of a select group of Indiana school corporations awarded Excellence in Performance grants in recognition of outstanding teacher improvement efforts.

The state Department of Education awarded $10 million total to MCS and 39 other school corporations this year to help them reward their best teachers. Marion’s grant is $183,000. Fewer than a third of the 124 corporations that applied were awarded grants.
“Marion Community Schools is excited to be a recipient of the Excellence in Performance grant. It speaks to the good work that our teachers, administrators and staff are doing in implementing the TAP school improvement model,” said MCS Superintendent Steve Edwards.
The 40 districts selected this year to receive the grants are implementing fair, comprehensive evaluation and compensation policies that aim to develop all teachers and keep the finest in the profession, outgoing state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said before his term ended.
The Excellence in Performance grant was established by the Indiana General Assembly during the 2011 legislative session in an effort to help Indiana school districts recruit and retain effective teachers.
MCS implemented the System for Teacher and Student Advancement - better known within the school system as the TAP program – in fall 2011. The program provides teachers with rigorous performance evaluations and performance-based compensation. It also offers teachers ongoing, on-site professional development and the means to advance in their careers by becoming “mentor” or “master” teachers, which also allows for higher salaries.
Last year, MCS was awarded $104,375 and was one of 28 school corporations to split $6 million from the state.

Edwards credited the TAP system in part for the school system’s second consecutive successful application for Excellence in Performance grants.
“The TAP system’s evaluation and compensation models are no doubt some of the reasons why MCS continues to receive this grant in a very competitive field of school districts vying for the funding,” he said.
The grant funds will be used to increase incentive pay for teachers.