October 31, 2018
MHS Student's Design Offers Solution for Classmates' Locker Challenges
Wayne Zhu

Mason High School Engineering CAD student Wayne Zhu designed a specialty hand tool to assist students who have difficulty opening their lockers. Zhu created an enlarged grip for the tiny key so that students who have limited fine motor skills can now open their lockers independently!

"Wayne created a hand-tool using the Engineering design program and the 3D printer. The design allows the specialty keys to be enclosed in a hand-grip enclosure," explained Applied Technology Department Head David Weiseman. "The prototype gives the student more control when using the key/locks. "

Zhu was presented with the problem that some MHS students with physical disabilities struggled to independently open their lockers due to the fine motor skills that are required to open a locker with a small key. Zhu then designed a 3D printed attachment for the key. He was given certain constraints including designing a part that students can hold, allowing room for the key to fit in the lock, and making sure the lanyard remains attached.

Watch Zhu explain his process, and the many iterations it took to come up with the design that actually worked.

"The engineering CAD elective at the high school provided me the opportunity to make this project," added Zhu. "Students in the class have the opportunity to draw and design objects and turn those ideas into things that we can utilize, and by applying academics to a real-world problem, a simple design can help many students."

MI Coffee Carts Expand Student Life Skills

Cassin_s Coffee and Cookie Cart
Mason Intermediate Intervention Specialist Jessica Cassin's idea to expand student life skills - such as communication, money exchange, and fine motor skills - through "Cassin's Coffee and Cookie Cart" at MI has quickly become a Friday favorite for staff.

"As my students get older and their skills advance, I wanted them to apply what they have learned to a real world scenario," explained Cassin. "Before our Friday cart, we go to Kroger every Wednesday to buy more product to keep our project running.  Students also practice great skills at the grocery. It gives them a sense of ownership to the project as well."

Teachers and staff sign-up online to have the students stop by their room with the coffee cart. Once the spots are full, and they always are within minutes, Cassin divides the rooms and has four students running the carts, two students per cart from 10:00-10:40am.

Currently the carts include coffee and cookies, and there is talk of adding other drinks and seasonal treats to the carts. The students are in charge of pushing the cart, engaging with staff buying treats off the cart, exchanging the money, and giving them the correct amount of change in return.

MI staff also enjoys interacting with the students. It's a way for students to engage with teachers whom they may have never met. The sign up sheet is always full and people are wanting more!  

Focus on Big Rock 1:  Teacher Looking for 360 Reasons to Smile
360 Reasons to Smile

Mason High School Intervention Specialist teacher Bud Strudthoff wants Mason students and the world to see that even the little things in life are worthy of a smile.

The #360smiles social media campaign is the brainchild of Strudthoff and comes from the approximate 180 student contact days of the school year, times two students each day, and staff members on Friday.

"On a day to day basis, I walk into a classroom and introduce myself to the entire class and ask if any of the students have smiled for any reason throughout the day," explained Strudthoff. "I might have to give ideas or prompts, but then usually 1-2 students in the class will share a quick experience that gave them a reason to smile."

Strudthoff decided on the first day of school to document a small cross-section of the student population at MHS as a way to build culture and relationships with students outside of his classroom and caseload.

Mason School Board Approves Five Year Financial Forecast: No Levy Coming in 2019

Decade of Decisions
The Mason City Schools Board of Education recently approved the high-performing school district's five year financial forecast. View Treasurer Shaun Bevan's presentation to the School Board.

The district is currently on stable financial ground and is maintaining a healthy cash reserve balance at the beginning of FY'19. Mason has cash balance available due to cost reductions that have been made since 2010.  However, those cash reserves will be depleted within the next five years and the district will need additional local revenue and/or additional expenditure reductions. The most recent operating levy was passed 13 years ago, in 2005. There will not be an operating levy on the ballot for Mason City Schools in 2019.

"Careful and continued monitoring and planning will be necessary to determine the steps to sustain future success and financial health," said Bevan. "Due to the fact that school districts are a service industry, personnel expenses are the largest portion of the budget.  As such, wages, health insurance renewals, and staffing levels are significant variables for the future. The largest variable into the future is the amount of state funding the district will receive."

Board Vice-President
Kevin Wise reminds that Ohio's elimination of the Tangible Personal Property tax reimbursement has significantly reduced the district's funding -   tangible property tax revenue in 2007 was $14.1 million, or the equivalent of over 8 mills.

MCS Remains Committed to Delivering Value
The district spends 71 percent of the budget on direct classroom instruction, and remains watchful of how much financial responsibility is borne by local taxpayers. This year, the district is making strategic investments in mental wellness initiatives and staffing, security personnel and infrastructure, and culture, equity and inclusion professional development for all staff.
MECC Students Kick Off 40 Day Sophia Kindness Challenge

Sophia_s Challenge
Students at Mason Early Childhood Center stood in a heart formation and kicked off the 40 Day Sophia Kindness Challenge on October 9.
Both the AM and PM kindergartners launched balloons in memory of Sophia Grace Smallwood, the niece of MECC first grade teacher BJ Smallwood (whose students also participated). Sophia Smallwood was born premature with heart defects and passed away on November 10, 2010.

From October 9-November 17, the kindergartners are taking on the Sophia Smallwood 40 Day Challenge - a challenge to do random acts of kindness for others for 40 days to spread love and compassion.
"This year, all the students are being given 'Kindness Cards' that will attach to small items to give out to people in our community, explained MECC Kindergarten teacher Michelle Hastings. "For example, it could be placed on a water bottle for the mail carrier, on a bottle of detergent at the laundromat, on a treat for a neighbor, or even on a gumball machine with quarters attached!"

If you want to join the challenge or read more about it, visit the   Sophia's 40 Day Challenge: Pay It Forward Facebook page.
MHS's Volpenhein Aces ACT

Luke Volpenhein
Practice paid off for Luke Volpenhein.

The Mason High School junior recently scored a perfect 36 on his ACT test.  Fewer than 0.2 percent of test-takers earned a perfect score on the college entrance exam in 2018.

Luke had a good score when he took the ACT the first time. But he thought he had a chance to do better.

"Coming in, I knew how important it was to get a good score. My sisters had pretty great scores and I saw the opportunities they had. So, I put in as much work as possible and it paid off," said Volpenhein.

After taking the ACT during his sophomore year, Volpenhein enrolled in a program with Huntington and took about 15 classes which gave him the opportunity to study and work on practice problems.

He also credits several MHS educators with preparing him well."Ms. Nally, Mrs. Hansen, Mrs. Paxton, and Mrs. [Jere] Clark really provided me with the tools that were necessary for my success and have supported me along the way," Volpenhein said.

29 MHS Seniors Named National Merit Commended Students: 
Mason's Commended Scholars, 28 Semi-Finalists, 4 Hispanic Scholars Honored During School Board Meeting  

Ten percent of the Mason High School Class of 2019 has been recognized by the College Board. MHS's National Merit commended scholars,
28 semi-finalists, and four Hispanic scholars
were recently honored during a special Board of Education meeting . 

Twenty-nine Mason High School seniors have been named Commended Students in the National Merit® Scholarship Program: Shabib Ahmed, Catherine Berry, Calista Busch, Lonnie Chien, Arnav Divekar, Brogan Doran, Cindy Gu, Alan Guo, Yuxuan Guo, Torey Hilbert, Soumya Jaiswal, Taylor Kling, Michael Luo, Cameron Madden, Sophia Mi, Matthew Minick, Jessica Nelson, Ria Parikh, Aditi Rajgopal, Ryan Stocker, Gavin Tan, Allan Tian, Karson Walker, Victoria Wang, Annie Wang, Allison Winterhalter, Fiona Xie, Daniel Xu and Aneesh Zutshi. 

Watch the presentation that includes videos of the National Merit Students sharing fun facts about themselves and what they hope to be doing in 10 years.  

"All of these students are extremely talented and hard working," said MHS principal Bobby Dodd. "We are so very proud of all of our National Merit students and can't wait to watch what these well-rounded leaders accomplish next!"

Four MHS Students Recognized as National Hispanic Scholars

Congratulations to Mason High School seniors
Stefano Di Loreto, Abril Maldonado, Santiago Tinoco and Juliana Zacher who were selected as National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars. This year, the program recognized roughly 5,000 outstanding Hispanic/Latino students of the 250,000 who take the test nationwide. Qualifications for recognition were based on critical reading, mathematics and writing scores on the 2017 PSAT and a minimum GPA of 3.5. In addition, recipients of this honor must be Hispanic or Latino in origin.

"We are proud of the these students for being named as scholars in this prestigious program," says Bobby Dodd, MHS principal. "These students are outstanding representatives of Mason High School and our community, and we know that they will continue to make us proud."
These National Hispanic Recognition Program scholars were honored during the October 23 school board meeting.
Students, Seniors' Recycling Results in New Bench

Mason Early Childhood Center second grade students have partnered with a local senior center, Cottingham Retirement Community, over the last year to save plastic lids. This past summer, over 400 pounds of saved lids were transported to a specialized recycling center, Green Tree Plastics. Green Tree melted the lids and turned them into a new bench for the MECC second grade playground.
"We now have a six foot bench with a back for our second grade playground," shared MECC second grade STEAM teacher Kim Peters .

This year, the second graders are saving lids and working with Matthew 25 Ministry, and once again with Cottingham. The goal? To create another bench for MECC, and to donate a bench to the senior center as well.
Kiwanis funds specialized bike for WR student

When the mother of Mason Intermediate fourth grader Mandi Huggins shared a need for a specialized bike for Mandi to use outside of school, WR third grade teacher Kirstin Szczesny took note.

Szcesny reached out to the Mason Kiwanis about the need, who then came together with Cincinnati Kiwanis and Division 5 Kiwanis, to fully fund a therapy bike for Mandi.

"Mandi is on a development plan and having her own Amtryke to ride around this fall will provide her independence and mobility," shared Kiwanis member Amy Zimmerman. "It can also unlock learning in the brain in ways that cannot always been seen."

A therapy bike for Mandi has been fully funded by the generous local Kiwanis. It was purchased through Greenebucs, a local chapter of Ambucs. There was a celebration for the presentation of the bike to Mandi last month at Western Row.
MECC Kindergartners Collaborate, Create and Code with Launch Pads

Kindergarten students at Mason Early Childhood Center can now experience the purpose of Dream Lab to the fullest.

MECC kindergarten teachers Lori Miller, Ragan Reeves and Krissy Hufnagel secured a $21,800 grant from the Mason Schools Foundation and partnered with School Outfitters' design team to create MECC's first Launch Pad - a shared pod where kindergarteners can collaborate, create and code.

The purpose of the Launch Pad is to develop the "maker mindset" early and prepare children for the essential creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking skills they will need as adults.

The Launch Pad aligns with Mason City School District's vision to progress students' maker skills throughout all grades. More makerspaces are planned throughout the Mason City School District with STEAM staff at every level who will encourage the maker mindset across all grade levels.

Before the Launch Pad, kindergarteners engaged in maker activities in the Dream Lab , a renovated area of the library used by all students at MECC. Half-day kindergarten sessions though created a challenge.

"Long walks and little feet mean that we truly only have about 15-20 minutes twice a month to grow the curiosity we want to spark in our kids Dream Lab," shared Hufnagel. "Because of this, we wanted a way to integrate Dream Lab opportunities into daily learning."

The shared makerspace also promotes greater student responsibility. It encourages children to assume leadership roles, and to be good stewards of the common area.

Big Rock Monthly Look Back: Peak Moments 

Big Rock 1: Culture
  • The District Culture Focus Team completed the first draft of the Mason Culture Playbook.
  • 68 members of the Building Culture Focus Teams attended R-Factor Training with Tim Kight on October 18.

Big Rock 2: Inclusive Excellence
  • On October 15, Inclusive Excellence Focus teams in collaboration with Make It Plain, LLC and Tommie Lewis trained MECC, Western Row, Mason Intermediate School, Mason Middle School, Mason High School, and Transportation staff members on the Dimensions of Diversity.
  • Some members from the Big Rock 2: Inclusive Excellence Focus teams attended a Special Edition CommUNITY Conversation focused on diversity, equity and inclusion  hosted by Diversity Council. Nearly 200 parents, residents with no children in Mason City Schools, students, alumni, business owners and faith leaders joined the CommUNITY Conversation in person or on Facebook Live.  Attendees contributed ideas for recruitment & retention, Diversity & Inclusion ambassadors & cultural training, and cultural celebrations.
Big Rock 3: Personalized Learning
  • Many Building Personalized Learning Teams and Personalized Learning R&D members attended the first Bold Moves Book Study on October 16.
  • On October 29, 61 people participated in a Personalized Learning #MasonEdChat on Twitter. Allison Zmuda, a national expert and author of Learning Personalized and Students at the Center who is helping train our staff, joined the chat. Catch up on all that was discussed.

- Last week was National Bus Safety Week, and we want to thank our Mason bus drivers - safety heroes - for all that they to do safely transport 8,000 of our community's public and private school students to school each day.

- Congratulations to your State Champion Girls Tennis Team and Coach Mike Reid ! This is a two-peat for the Mason Girls. Read the Cincinnati Enquirer's Coverage .

- Thank you to Western Row fourth grader Alexandra Moran and her friends who donated over 500 items for the Make a Difference Month drive.  Alexandra asked for food donations in lieu of birthday gifts. Thank you, Alexandra! #DifferenceMaker

- Grateful for our Students & Community who during the Homecoming Game honored two Comets, Emily Casey & Mary Scheeler , who left us too soon. We continue to be so inspired by them. The sea of yellow at homecoming ensured that it was, indeed, a yay kind of day. Watch WLWT's coverage.  

A little rain couldn't stop the fun of MECC PTO's Trunk or Treat!  Families had a wonderful time, and there were so many creative trunks!!

- MHS Drama's Awesome 80's Prom was all of that and more! No ordinary show, this party, prom and play all in one had theater goers becoming part of the action. The cast and crew were, like, totally awesome!

For 10 years, our Mason Schools Foundation has been helping students and educators go Above & Beyond. Parents, friends and community members have come together, devoting time and treasure to create extraordinary stories and opportunities. Many thanks to the incredible Gala Committee, and all the volunteers who work so hard to create and tell extraordinary stories.

- MMS NJHS students who started their own Post-It Note Kindness campaign for the MMS students located at MI and the MMS students located at MHS. "You should hear the buzz of our students as they walk in and read the messages," said science teacher Alison Sears. Thanks for helping create a positive culture!

MI 6th graders did a great job with their consumer challenge projects.  Many families are rethinking what they buy at the store as a result of the projects!  

- We See You,
Mason Marching Band & Color Guard !  They were crowned the BOA Bowling Green Regional champions, and also awarded best music, best visual, best general effect, and class AAAA Champions. Then they turned around and won best auxiliary, percussion, visual, music, general effect, 1st in open class and Grand Champion at the Centerville Invitational. Can't wait to see you leave it all on the field at Grand Nationals!

MHS said goodbye to Comet Country icon - front desk receptionist Ms. Phyllis Burpo . We are so very grateful for her service, and know she will always proudly wear the Green & White. Watch the Facebook video of the MHS Staff & Choir giving "Front Desk Phyllis" a Mason send-off.
MHS Wind Symphony & Honors Concert Choir Tapped to Perform at Prestigious Event

The Mason High School Wind
Symphony was selected to perform at the prestigious 2019 Music for All National Concert Band Festival, while the MHS Honors Concert Choir will perform for the first time in its history at the 2019 Music For All National Choir Festival at Butler University, March 14-16.

Under the direction of Ed Protzman, the wind symphony ensemble that was chosen by audition, will perform as a featured band, the top level of participation for this event.

The Choir Festival will feature twelve outstanding choirs from across the nation, all blindly selected by a panel of some of the nation's most recognized choral conductors. Mason's choir, under the direction of Jason McKee , will spend two days performing for a panel of adjudicators, participating in master classes, and performing with the other choirs at the end of the festival.

Team Venture Spruces Up Study Area

Team Venture
Mason Intermediate School sixth graders on Team Venture continued their year of volunteering by cleaning the school's Environmental Study Area (ESA) on September 22.

Students and parents spent a Saturday morning trimming, weeding, and mulching the butterfly garden to prepare the area for the school's academic activities to take place throughout the year. The City of Mason provided the mulch from trimmings they pick up in area neighborhoods.  

This marks the eleventh year for the team's community service program. Team Venture teachers created the group called Venture Out! to provide students with service opportunities throughout the year.

Team Venture students are also encouraged to create and complete their own random acts of kindness throughout the school year. "It is exciting to see how many of our students participate in these service projects by the end of the year," said Team Venture teacher Dale Moberly.

Read more about Team Venture's volunteering.
Arthur-Mensah Named Kiwanis October Student of the Month

Mason High School senior Douglas Arthur-Mensah was recognized as The Kiwanis Club of Mason's October Student of the Month. Arthur-Mensah was nominated by MHS MBC advisor Dale Conner.

"Douglas is an incredible young man who is worthy of community recognition. He is a vital member of the inclusion club, a club that works extremely hard to help foster awareness in our school, as well as a member of the HOPE squad. The HOPE squad members were nominated and picked by other students, so it shows how others think so highly of him," Explained Conner. "Douglas is also an anchorman for our MBC broadcast news program at MHS. This young man comes to school with an incredibly positive attitude, is friendly and genuine. There is nothing fake about him. He has a tremendous 'pay it forward' attitude, and is a fine young man and ambassador for everything that is good about MHS."

Arthur-Mensah plans to attend the Ohio State University and major in business analytics. He is also a board member on the Mason Inclusion Club (MIC), was chosen by his peers to serve on the school's first HOPE Squad, and is a member of SIBS. Douglas's impact on his peers, staff and school are particularly remarkable since Douglas moved to Mason as a sophomore.

Mason City Schools  | www.MasonOhioSchools.com
For information, email Tracey Carson at carsont@masonohioschools.com.