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Friday, August 5, 2016

Vision 2020: Promises Fulfilled to Highlands Class of 2020

Superintendent Gene Kirchner and Highlands Principal Brian Robinson welcome the symbolic class of 2020 to Highlands High School. FTM file. 
The incoming freshmen class at Highlands High School entered the doors as students for the first time yesterday, as they started their freshmen orientation. Two-Hundred and sixty students adorned in different colored tee shirts that lined up with their assigned "team," went through the usual freshmen protocol.

They got a school tour, were assigned upperclassmen mentors, and listened to the usual welcome speeches from teachers and principals.

But the Highlands Class of 2020 is symbolic, according to Superintendent Gene Kirchner.

"The Class of 2020 is very important in what they represent as a class," said Kirchner. "When this group entered kindergarten, the school district made an investment in the futures of all students in this community. Vision 2020. By the time the class of 2020 graduates, we will have transformed the learning experience in Fort Thomas. Students will now receive a world class education, equipped with 21st century skills that will prepare student for their future, not our past."

The Class of 2020 entered the Fort Thomas elementary campuses as kindergartners in 2007.  In 2014 when the group was finishing their first year of middle school, the class was featured in the school-issued Traditions magazine.

Pictures were taken of the class of 2020 as they entered kindergarten in 2007 and then in 2014 as they entered middle school. It was featured in the winter issue of Traditions magazine. Provided. 

"I can see four years where you'll be in this exact same room," said Highlands Principal Brian Robinson, as he addressed the students. "You'll have had a fantastic education and will be benefitting from the experiences that you've had, but that's not today. Today is the start of something very special."

Robinson said that Vision 2020 has multiple meanings to him. 

"When you flip it around, you can read it as 2020 Vision. Or in other words, to see clearly. These upperclassmen will help these incoming freshmen see what it is they are going to need to experience here at Highlands High School. They will give them that vision of how to be fully involved. How to come to 'the nest' and how to do it the 'bluebird way,'" he said. 

Kirchner also gave the group some inspiring words. 

"The community, with the direction of the school board, has made good on that commitment to you of Vision 2020. There is a responsibility that comes with that, because you are the class of 2020. You are the symbol for that commitment. And so what I ask you to do is this: make the very most of that opportunity. We have provided you with a  world-class setting. This is a $40 million high school. The very best of technology. All of us are blessed to be here in this place. When you think of all the places in this world you could be, you're right here. Shine these next four years. Lead by example. Show the rest of the students in the district that the class of 2020 is truly focused on the future and will go out and do great things in the world."

Kirchner, who was hired in 2012, has helped carry the vision originally created by past administrations. 

"It's great to be rich in tradition, and we are in Fort Thomas, but if that's all we were, we wouldn't be doing these kids justice. We also have to focused on the future," he said.  

"We're excited that the community is so interested in this class. The whole concept that the media is here, the Board of Education is here, administrators are here. It's another symbol of how entwined this community is and it's everything that makes Highlands what Highlands is," said Robinson. 

With that, the class of 2020 put on their new Highlands tee-shirt over their multi-colored "team shirt": a white shirt with a big, blue "H." They are now one class. One class that will represent a decade-long vision and investment from the community at large. 

School board members John Weyer, Lisa Duckworth and Karen Allen attended the orientation. FTM file. 

The Class after changing into their "one-color" Highlands shirts. 

Posing again. FTM file.  

FTM file. 


  1. I just hope they take on consideration that not all kids live up to the standards of the no. 1 ranking that Highland is expecting. Because if they do not they are out.

  2. I can post it o Facebook

  3. I was a Board member from 2007-2014, and would share the following. We promoted the curriculum director, John Williamson, who was a very driven, goal oriented individual.

    Working for 5 years then as Superintendent, we called it a policy shift named Vision 20/20. Obvious play on words. The current Super, Gene Kirchner, really took ownership after Williamson left.

    We went around and gave the kindergarten kids Vision 20/20 tshirts and promised them we would build a more progressive district. We have!

    We proceeded to address $80 of $100 million in antiquated facilities and technology.

    The individual PTOS at each elementary raised the money via annual fund raisers for smart boards, etc, now every k-12 class district wide.

    A group of us made sustained noise in Frankfurt to get our legal fair share in building funds that were going elsewhere.

    In the past decade we have addressed $80 of $100 million, Johnson is last, in 60~80 year old facilities. Air Conditioning, electrical, plumbing, windows, etc

    Finally, we started Digital Conversion a couple of years ago allows technology teaching and replaces costly and instantly obsolete text books with laptops, tablets like real world.

    I left some things out, but we were already at or near best in state in performance. As senior Ellie Farley put it at recent dedication, facilities now match abilities.

    Test scores are up from best in state to better. In five years, we've gone from 29% to 69% of seniors pass at least one college course.

    Starting her Junior year my daughter has passed four so far. The top students will enter college having taken their college freshman year at Highlands, but even those who take one without college credit know better what to expect.

    The whole Fort Thomas education experience was top performance in tired, quirky buildings. Now it is personal best for each student in stellar buildings.

    Teachers compensated for a lot of bad buildings in the past. Now, they can really put their best foot forward.

    Besides the role of John Williamson and we past Board Members, including Myself, Nancy Baker and Chuck Thompson in drafting and executing this plan, we must note the role of former Senator KATIE STINE in FRANKFORT and the Fort Thomas Education Foundation in contributing over $10 million toward District improvements.