New Locations, New Programs, Same Commitment

 New Locations, New Programs, Same Commitment

Montgomery County Educational Service Center continues to serve area students

While the recent global pandemic may have slowed down educational services for students in countries around the world, Montgomery County Educational Service Center is on the move and expanding, with a number of new locations, new buildings and new programs making their debut this year.

“We like to say that we serve so that students can be successful,” says Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, or MCESC.

While most people are familiar with Ohio’s public school system, many residents may not be quite as familiar with the state’s 52 Educational Service Centers, or ESCs, and what their function is.

“The ESC is exactly that—an educational service center,” says Cox. “We provide educational services in all kinds of capacities to any school district in our county and region, all across the state.”

The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to make the MCESC’s already challenging job even more difficult. When Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered all schools to be closed on Tuesday, March 17, many parents wondered how their children’s education would be impacted.

The MCESC had already been involved in helping local school districts plan for the disruption, working with districts to ensure that, while educational and nutritional needs of the students were being met, the health and safety of both those students and the educators who teach them were given top priority. Electronic, telephone and online resources, and support for a host of programs, teachers and administrators was provided by the local ESC during those crucial weeks when classes were first cancelled.

According to the Ohio ESC Association website, the state’s Educational Service Centers are dedicated to providing school districts with professional development, technology, support, planning and administrative services that help improve student learning, enhance the quality of instruction, expand equitable access to resources and maximize operating and fiscal efficiencies. Services the MCESC provides to Montgomery County’s local school systems range from special education-related services to truancy officers and conveners of like roles—for instance, the MCESC convenes principals on a quarterly basis, and superintendents on a monthly basis, as a way to make certain that those roles in school districts have a networked system in order to help do their jobs more efficiently.

The MCESC also operates a number of schools in Montgomery County that specialize in teaching children whose education is governed by an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and who might be struggling to succeed in a traditional school environment. MCESC offers smaller class sizes with a low student-teacher ratio, speech therapy, occupational therapy, group and individual counseling, sensory integration, behavioral instruction and a school-based psychiatrist.

And while the most recent academic year saw a number of challenges that arose due to the coronavirus pandemic, the coming academic year will see a number of more positive changes for the MCESC, as well.

“We’ve just recently started moving. For the 2000/2021 school year, we’re going to be opening Learning Center North, which is a renovated building that used to be Northridge High School,” continues Cox.

Starting in the fall, the ESC’s seventh grade through 12th grade programs will be held at Learning Center Northridge, located on Timber Lane in Harrison Township’s Northridge area. The Learning Center West building, located on Kettering Boulevard in Dayton, will begin housing the MCESC’s K-6 students, who formerly attended classes at Learning Center East, on Wilmington Pike in Kettering. That building will be the new home for the ESC’s planned trauma-informed preschool and hearing-impaired programs. The goal is to have the new preschool program, which will focus on supporting children in foster care, children who need kinship care, and students who have been adopted, up and running by January of 2021.

In addition to moving and adding new facilities, the MCESC has also been busy expanding its curriculum and providing a number of unique new programs and opportunities to its students over the past year.

In 2019, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Jewel announced that she would be partnering with MCESC to help promote the new Social Emotional Learning Language Arts curriculum (SELLA), which was designed to help teachers deliver English and writing instruction to students in grades 4-6, while at the same time addressing behavioral concepts. ESC officials stated that the new program would cover all Ohio and national writing standards, as well as a number of other standards in the language arts. SELLA has six learning modules for each grade level and addresses academic skills through journal writing and social-emotional skills through a number of techniques, including breathing techniques, to enable students to better control their behavior.

Earlier this year, just prior to the pandemic, MCESC was preparing to launch another new program, one that aimed to connect hundreds of graduating Montgomery County seniors to job opportunities and employers in the Miami Valley. The North Dayton Regional Job Fair, which was to be hosted by MCESC, was created by Bryan Stewart, workforce director for MCESC.

“The event is on pause for the moment,” says Stewart. “But the need is still there and interest continues to grow with schools, businesses and parents.”

The event is far from dead, with an increasing number of employers signing up—PSA Airlines, Speedway, Five Rivers MetroParks and the Ohio Department of Transportation among them—and many are offering incentives for graduates ranging from tuition reimbursement to apprenticeship opportunities.

With so many schools and events still on hold, and with all the doubt hovering over the upcoming academic year, Montgomery County residents can rest assured that Shannon Cox and the rest of the MCESC staff are prepared and ready to help Dayton’s students meet any challenge they might face.

“I think it’s important,” says Cox when asked about her organization’s mission. “Because I think that sometimes people think that each school district is left to their own devices, and that that’s it, that’s where the end of the road goes. But really there’s just a lot of folks out there in the educational space that are always really willing to help.”