Visionary school leader turns district around

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) – Dr. David Estrop, the visionary superintendent of Springfield schools, will be retiring at the end of next school year.

He will be a hard man to replace. When he took the job five years ago, the district had just emerged from fiscal emergency and four years of state supervision, but Estrop has led a remarkable turnaround.

Mark Allan: “Clearly you knew this coming in. You must be a guy who likes a challenge. Why did you take this on?”

Dr. Estrop: “For those reasons. That’s what my wife and I are both about. This is likely my last superintendency and I wanted to take all that I had learned over the years and apply it in a situation where we could make a difference.”

Dr. David Estrop, Superintendent of Springfield Schools.  (WDTN Photo)
Dr. David Estrop, Superintendent of Springfield Schools. (WDTN Photo)

And that he has. The sparkling new buildings are impressive, but Dave Estrop’s biggest accomplishment is what now happens inside of them. He has completely changed the culture of Springfield schools despite some initial opposition.

“Well, you know we’ve got these poor kids and they come from poor families. I grew up poor but that didn’t stop me. If anything, it motivated me to try harder. So, we no longer let those excuses stand in our way. We’ve got work to do, let’s get about it. It’s all about the spirit and achievement and people believing they can do it.”

And the numbers back him up. Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which is now in effect, says students who score below a certain level on the state reading test cannot be promoted to fourth grade. Estrop began preparing his kids a year early and the latest testing shows, out of 564 Springfield students, only 18 won’t be moving on and the state value added rankings show year to year improvement. Out of 825 Ohio school districts, Springfield is number 28. The districts they beat may surprise you.

“Yeah, we beat Beavercreek and Oakwood and Centerville, our kids made more progress. Now, do they have some distance to travel on performance? Yes. But are they catching up? Absolutely.”

Value Added Rankings searchable database.
Value Added Rankings searchable database.

The amazing turnaround has earned Estrop national attention, including an invitation to the White House in 2011. Unlike many other districts, Springfield is passing renewal levies and bond issues and even did away with pay to play fees. The community is buying in. 700 volunteers now come into the schools to work with the students at no cost to the district.

“This is called the cafetorium its a combination auditorium and cafeteria.”

It’s a new way of thinking and learning and it has changed the students, the district and even the way a city thinks about itself, but, the man the kids call “Doctor E” is about to leave some big shoes to fill.

“Next year will be my last year as superintendent. I’ll be retiring, but the fun’s just started here in Springfield. What’s happening is we’re rebuilding schools, neighborhoods and ultimately, this community.”

Estrop’s retirement will be effective in June 2015.

 

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