By Wayne Gates –
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will be visiting Georgetown schools on March 17 to get a firsthand look at a program that is improving academics and discipline issues in the district.
The 40 Developmental Assets program is working so well that six common pleas judges from southern Ohio gathered at the Brown County courthouse on February 17 to hear about it.
The gathering of judges was hosted by Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Gusweiler and included Judge Brent Spencer from Adams County, Judge Rocky Coss from Highland County, Judge Steven Bethard from Fayette County, Judge William Cooper from Lawrence County and Judge Howard Harcha, III from Scioto County.
What the judges heard made a big impression.
“Judge Cooper from Lawrence County called the Attorney General’s office and now they are interested in coming down and seeing what we are doing here,” said Gusweiler.
The 40 Developmental Assets program looks at how the lives of children can be improved by making sure they have every chance they can to succeed.
The program lists 40 positive qualities that help children become productive adults and how to help children who don’t have as many of the assets in their lives as others.
Gusweiler invited three representatives from the Georgetown Exempted School District to explain to the judges how the program was working in their schools.
Superintendent Chris-topher Burrows, Juni-or/Senior High School Principal Jerry Underwood and teacher Chad McKibben shared details and some positive statistics with the judges.
Burrows said that since the implementation of the program two years ago, which includes peer mentoring from other students in the district, out of school suspensions have dropped 75 percent in the district.
Burrows said the academic failure rate has dropped from 18 percent to four percent, and the graduation rate has risen from 86 percent to 98 percent.
“It went better than I could have expected. They were all excited when we ended the meeting,” Gusweiler said about his fellow judges.
“I’m just so proud of all the teachers in this county that have embraced this. I’m so impressed with them. They are the ones on the line that are doing all the work,” he continued.
Burrows expressed similar feelings.
“I am extremely proud of our staff that has taken this vision of the district and run with it. I am very proud in (Judge Gusweiler’s) confidence in calling and asking us to speak,” Burrows said.
He went on to emphasize that the program would not be working in his district without the commitment of his staff.
“It’s never about the program. It’s always about the people. I absolutely love our entire staff and the passion that they have for teaching the whole child. I think that’s why we’ve made so much traction with the 40 developmental assets.”
Gusweiler said his counterparts were struck by the results of the program over the past two years.
“They were excited by some of the statistics and excited by some of the results that the school system has been obtaining. It gave them a more imaginative approach to the issue as opposed to just being a judge and responding to issues instead of thinking about prevention,” Gusweiler said.
Becky Cropper from the Brown County Educational Service Center is in charge of the program. She said she is pleased that DeWine is coming to check things out.
“It’s very exciting. Hopefully the Attorney General can see how we are trying to be proactive by working with students, the community, friends and family,” she said.
“It’s exciting to see Georgetown showcased, but every single district in this county is putting in a lot of time and effort towards the 40 Developmental Assets process.”
Gusweiler also praised everyone in the county that is involved in the program in some way.
“This doesn’t happen with just one person, this happens because we are a team. I just can’t say enough about the people who are part of this and helping kids in this county,” he said.
“There is so much potential in this county and so many good people. If we all get together and do a little bit, by the time you add all of that up, it can be magical.”