Parents of Yellow Springs students asked questions and expressed concerns with Superintendent Terri Holden during her first “Coffee Talks with Terri” event at the Emporium Wines & Underdog Cafe Tuesday Nov. 19, 2019. RICHARD WILSON/STAFF

New Yellow Springs school chief begins community coffee sessions

The new superintendent for Yellow Springs schools wants to build on the district’s project-based learning approach, but updating curriculum resources on a tight budget and gauging the community’s views on paying for facility renovations are also high priorities.

Terri Holden recently held court with parents during the first “Coffee Talks with Terri” event at the Emporium Wines & Underdog Café.

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Holden was hired last May at an annual salary of $134,000 and this is her first year leading the Yellow Springs district, which has fewer total students than her former district’s high school, Winton Woods.

“Teaching and learning are my strengths, that includes assessment to instruction to providing appropriate curriculum,” Holden said.

Parents asked many questions and expressed concerns about increased class sizes, transparency and the effectiveness of PBL, which Yellow Springs teachers have been doing for more than eight years.

PBL is a teaching method in which students learn through hands-on experience and working with others on a common goal. Recent projects include “Supporting Service Dog Training for 4 Paws for Ability” at Mills Lawn Elementary and “Beyond the Black Panther: Creating Comic Characters from African Nations” at McKinney Middle School.

Holden was in Winton Woods for 11 years, serving as high school principal and director of curriculum. She took that district’s lead in implementing PBL for all grades and wants to potentially grow the innovative approach as it’s being done in Yellow Springs.

Holden said she’s having discussions with teachers this year to gain their perspectives in potentially changing the district’s PBL programs.

“(Yellow Springs) has been doing PBL for over eight years now. It’s just a natural time to step back and say … How can we take what we’ve learned and really use that information to craft the next path for us with project based learning?” she said. “There are huge qualitative benefits from PBL. I’ve seen kids have such presence and such agency and such communicative skills where they would outshine any adult.”

Holden said among the high priorities for her this year is updating the district’s curriculum and determining a schedule for replacing textbooks and other resources. She said among the greatest curriculum needs this year is getting updated materials for “K-6 literacy.”

Voters rejected a bond issue in the spring 2018, revenue that would have been used to update, renovate and expand the district’s facilities on East Enon Road.

“We need to make sure the correct story gets out there,” Holden said. “But on the flip side, it’s not just our story, but also listening to the community and really understanding why they had issues with the bond.”

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