Winton Woods Today

Last Updated: 3/18/2022 6:46 PM
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March 18, 2022


Have a safe, wonderful, and refreshing break! School resumes on Monday, March 28th! Go be great Warriors!





WWCS Programs Spark Student Interest in STEM


PHOTO CAPTION: Winton Woods Middle School students participate in a small parade for the pull toys they created in their robotics class. Photos by Drew Jackson.

It was an exciting day at Winton Woods Middle School when 17 General Electric (GE) employees and volunteers of the GE Next Engineers program made a special visit to the school to speak and spark students' interest in engineering. In 2021, the Next Engineers program was created in hopes of increasing the diversity of young people in engineering. During their visit, students participated in the “Tallest Tower Challenge” where they were tasked with building and designing towers that could support the weight of a golf ball. A group of eight talented and determined eighth graders made a record-breaking tower of fifty-two inches, setting a new city record and surpassing Princeton Middle School from the previous semester by nearly 10 inches.


Over 700 students from schools around the Cincinnati area have participated in the challenge. “Students at Winton Woods have a unique learning experience as the building is modeled after a college campus,” said Abdine A. M. Lewis, Program Coordinator of GE Next Engineers. “The sense of agency that students have in their learning was evidenced in their ability to work productively in teams and create brilliant tower designs and structures. Many students showed courage and persistence as they strove to create a tower design that was tall, sturdy, and creative.”


STEM programs offered at Winton Woods include a GE Engineers summer internship opportunity for high school students, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) Academy for girls in Grades 7-12, Project Lead The Way at the middle and high school, and elective classes such as robotics, computer engineering, and 3-D printing. “According to, we have a STEM problem in the U.S.,” said Winton Woods Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for Grades 7-12 Dr. Tamra Ragland. “The U.S. currently ranks 27th among developed nations in the number of bachelor’s degrees given in science or engineering. This same research says that most Americans believe this issue is due to our education system not having the capacity to provide students with requirements necessary to fill these STEM jobs. At Winton Woods, we provide students with rigor and standards-driven project-based learning as well as innovative combined math and science courses. These courses provide cross-disciplinary projects and student-centered learning strategies which are evidence of a systemic change toward personalized, competency-based learning. This is translating to better outcomes and preparedness for our students in STEM.”


Recently in a robotics class students held a small parade for pull toys they created as part of a series of projects that will ultimately lead to students being able to write code to automate their projects. For their first project, they took basic mechanisms and connected them to a moving part to create pull toys. The next step will be automation. “The pull toy had to be physically pulled for the parts to move,” said Winton Woods Middle School robotics teacher Carlee Bongiorno. “The final project will require them to use buttons, switches, and sensors along with motors, other electrical components, and they will need to write the code and download the code into the main cortex so that the robot automatically performs the desired behaviors.”


The Girls STEAM Academy offered by Queen City (OH) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, an organization linked in friendship and connected in service, has served Winton Woods Middle School female students in Grades 7-12 for over nine years. The Academy is a dynamic, interactive, 9-month program that exposes participants to interesting, fun, and often unexpected STEAM-related activities and workshops with guest speakers that talk about STEM careers. The group meets virtually once a month on Saturday. Each month the girls receive STEM time kits that contain the activities for the session. President of the Queen City (OH) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated Ruby Crawford-Hemphill says this year they added NSBE Jr. to join their engineering program so they can compete and attend national conferences. “Our aim is to expand the participants’ views of STEAM professions to encourage them to consider STEAM majors and careers when they attend college,” said Crawford-Hemphill. “We also encourage the young ladies to enroll in advanced math and science classes throughout high school.” There are fifty members of the chapter who are dedicated and committed to giving their time and wisdom to these young ladies to see that they are successful in this program and life. Crawford-Hemphill shared they are all very proud of them. 








Josh Amstutz Selected as AFS-USA 2022 Global Educator of the Year


PHOTO CAPTION: Josh Amstutz received the Global Educator of the Year award at the AFS-USA conference. 

We must be the change we want to see. But first one must put in the work. That is true of Winton Woods High School Josh Amstutz who was selected for the 2022 Global Educator of the Year by the AFS-USA program.  “I was so excited,” Amstutz recalled after receiving the news. Last year made a decade of him working in the district’s Global Studies program, six of those being the Coordinator of the Academy of Global Studies (AGS).


At the February board meeting, Superintendent Anthony G. Smith jokingly said his Global Educator of the Year award was one of Josh’s “8,000 awards he’s received at the district”. Although it may not be in the thousands, Amstutz is definitely no stranger to being recognized for his consistent hard work and dedication to his students and community. From being selected as a Fulbright Scholar, to frequently being chosen by Honors Diploma Scholars as their Teacher of the Year. The student body, community, organizations, staff and businesses view him as a valuable asset in and out of the classroom, and now, AFS-USA has joined that list too. “This speaks not only to myself but to the district as a whole,” said Amstutz. “I want to showcase this amazing Global Studies program and what they have been able to accomplish. It is meaningful. Our students love it. I see the results and the outcome with the graduates.” He is glad the district is receiving positive recognition. 


When asked where his passion comes from for global studies, he credited the district in addition to previous experience. When he was hired, he was told he would be perfect for the global studies program. He had not thought of global education up until that point. “I knew going into education I did not want to just teach my students. I wanted to reach a larger population.” Through that outlet and lenses of learning what it means to be globally educated he found it was the perfect fit for his passion for application based learning, languages, travel, and culture. That is what keeps him searching for new opportunities to expand the district’s already existing network of global educators. 


AFS is partnered with 60 other countries, which means there are 60 different chapters, all of them focused on global education and providing opportunities for students. “I see this as another opportunity for us to make those connections, find opportunities for our students and expand.” Amstutz will attend an exclusive invite-only conference on March 11 to 14, in Alexandria, Virginia where he will be honored and receive his award amongst all the AFS volunteers nationwide. He and the Global School of the Year recipient will be on a panel where they will answer questions about global education, how they got started in the community, and how they got support. “The point of the conference is to share ideas of how to expand global education for the students and community,” said Amstutz. “Another cool part is the other countries with AFS will be in attendance and presenting their information as well. I will meet people from Egypt, the Philippines, and people from countries I have never been to before.”


“AFS-USA Program Coordinator Jill Warner really wants to create a network of global educators in the USA to try to make this not just a small community but where we can lean on each other, partner with each other, and learn from each other.”


For those unsure of what AGS is, Amstutz provides a clear picture. “It is a flexible, adaptable program about cultivating leadership in our students. It is centered around two things: number one is our understanding and implementation of sustainable development goals. There are 17 of them that were set forth by the United Nations as a task for humanity and for society to say ‘hey listen, yes, your life might be okay but let's look at the greater picture,’ the bigger picture. How can we use our strengths and our skills for the greater good? The second piece is centered around the four pillars of global education which are to investigate the world, recognize others perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action. It is really about building students' ability to not just be aware of the things that are happening but to be able to make a positive change and impact on the world based upon what they learned in AGS. 


AGS is for high school students. Anytime Amstutz goes to talk to the eighth graders he lets them know it is a choice. “We like to make sure learning does not happen just in the classroom, it happens out of the classroom, '' said Amstutz. “Every year we partner with the world affairs council to have global speakers come talk to our kids about their experiences. Those speakers sometimes are the most meaningful experience to the students years after because it truly impacted them and invoked a sense of change and passion in them. It’s about exposing our kids to multi different backgrounds and being able to help them understand how to rise up.”


But in addition, what the program has to offer is a tremendous community. For AGS there is a student voice committee that meets once a month for students to give feedback on what could make AGS better. There’s a mentor program for freshmen and seniors to partner together every Wednesday to work together, mentor, and learn from each other to build that trust between grade levels. There’s an adult mentoring program every other week to help incorporate the adults who care about our school and community into the students' lives and give them even more options and opportunities. AGS is passionate about making students' passions bigger than themselves. 





Winton Woods Alum Eric Behrendt Shares Journey of Becoming Black Hawk Pilot

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If you were to ask Winton Woods High School class of 2014 Alum Eric Behrendt what he wanted to be in middle school, he would have said without hesitation a black hawk pilot. Now, 10 years later, his dream has come true. “It was an intense process,” said Behrendt. “It’s definitely something you have to go get.” Time, dedication, and perseverance are just a few of the things it took to achieve this goal, not to mention aviation is extremely competitive. During the beginning of his application process, he visited four programs in different states to prepare for this opportunity. After a comprehensive board interview and an inordinate amount of paperwork, he was accepted into two of the elite programs and he elected to attend Fort Rucker, Alabama to begin training at the US Army Aviation Center of Excellence. 


friendsFirst Lieutenant Behrendt has flown over 80 times and has logged in over 130 hours of flying experience but he wasn’t always in training. In 2019, Eric graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in civil engineering where he was part of the ROTC program for the duration of his college career. His interest to fly started when he was 8 years old after seeing a black hawk helicopter at a base unit where his father worked as a German linguist, first in the army and later the national guard. Believe or not, Eric’s favorite show was M*A*S*H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital), a Korean War comedy. He thought the helicopters used for the medical evaluations in the show were “so cool.” 


During his flight training, he recalls his most exciting and memorable experience was when his Basic Warfighter Skills instructor let him fly through trees. “I’d only been flying for 3 or 4 months,” said Behrendt. “I had their lives in my hands and they trusted me. It was a really great feeling. Everything I’d dreamed of was happening.” When asked why he wanted to be a pilot he mentioned the unlimited freedom. He would often daydream about what it would be like to be in the cockpit maneuvering this remarkable aircraft, and when he obtained his goal, it was everything he imagined. “I had a general idea of what it would be like because I thought about it so much and watched so many videos.


“I think it’s amazing to fly around. To put yourself in a position where you can see the world from a new perspective. In a helicopter you really have to maneuver it well and feel your way around the air. It’s like an extension of yourself,” said Behrendt. “I was always fascinated seeing videos of hurricane efforts with the national guard picking people up out of the water and off of roofs. It’s an amazing thing to have the skills to possibly save someone’s life.”


His graduation ceremony was broadcasted live on the Fort Rucker Facebook page for those unable to attend and family members who wanted to watch. His parents were in attendance. “We knew it was a lifelong dream for him. It was wonderful to see his dreams come true,” said his mother and Winton Woods guidance secretary Diana Behrendt. Lieutenant Behrendt graduated with 30 other pilots who he considered some of his closest friends. “You spend so much time together, you can’t help but become close.” His National Guard duties are one weekend a month and 96 flight hours a year.  


His last remark to his fellow Warriors: “I am super grateful I had that recurring dream young. 

It made it easy to persevere. I encourage everyone to have a goal along with a dream they can hold on to. Having clear goals will keep them on track better than anything else. Never give up. If it’s constantly on your mind, you have to believe there is a way to turn it into reality. Find a way, and go get it. You are just as capable as anyone else. You can do anything, and always remember, you are a Warrior!”


PHOTO CAPTION #1: Eric Behrendt is surrounded by family after receiving his wings. Shown left to right is brother Nicholas Behrendt, mother Diana Behrendt, and father Jeff Behrendt.

PHOTO CAPTION #2: Eric Behrendt flying.

PHOTO CAPTION#3: Eric Behrendt in an airliner at 5 years old. His dreams of flying started young.

PHOTO CAPTION #4: Eric Behrendt and friends during training days stationed in front of a Lakota helicopter. All trainees train with a Lakota helicopter before flying a black hawk helicopter. Shown left to right is Garret Ford, Colton Herfrield, Eric Behrendt, and Maria Chavez.






WWCS Welcomes Two New Board Members

welcomeEach year, five devoted members of the community are selected by the community to make up the Winton Woods City Schools Board of Education. This year, the district welcomed two new board members Debra Bryant and Brandon Smith. They joined Winton Woods Board President Viola Johnson, Vice President Jeff Berte, and board member Paula Kuhn. Bryant and Smith were sworn in at the board organizational meeting on January 11. 


After being elected, Ms. Bryant, a twenty-year resident of Forest Park and active member of Forest Park WeThrive, said she felt extremely excited. She further described it as a surreal feeling that the community entrusted her with a position as a member of the board. “I’ve been an active stakeholder in the community for some time. My passion is serving the community,” Bryant said, who is a nurse by profession and is currently a doctoral student at Northern Kentucky University pursuing a Doctor of Educational Leadership. Bryant is a mother of three adult children and a grandmother to two future Winton Woods Warriors. One of the things she hopes to do is get the district health center staffed and up and running. “If children can’t see or can’t hear, they can’t learn or perform at their best ability. Also, making sure we are not only putting our physical health but the mental health of the students at the forefront as well.” Bryant said she looks forward to being able to connect and have more interaction with the community.


While most candidates seek to be elected, Brandon Smith, a thirty-year resident of Forest Park, had a different journey. “People asked me for years and told me ‘you would be a great asset’ and ‘we need someone like you on the board’,” said Smith, a Winton Woods Class of 2002 Alum. As you can guess, he eventually pursued adding his name to the election ballot. He also looks forward to continuing to work with our students. Smith started volunteering with the high school band in 2010 and helps wherever it is needed. “I’ve worked with the English Department and Science Department. I’ve worked with Superintendent Smith for a staff convocation event. Whenever my district calls me, I do it,” Smith said. In 2006, he graduated from Ohio University with a bachelors of science in Communication. He is currently a technology project manager for Duke Energy Corporation. When asked how it felt to be an elected official, he said it did not hit him until he attended a local event where everyone was stopping him to thank and congratulate him. “I’m excited to be a part of the district on another level, and I look forward to what we can do to elevate the district,” said Smith.  The Winton Woods City Schools board of education holds a meeting each month for the public to attend. Dates can be found at the district website and calendar. 


PHOTO CAPTION: This year, the district welcomed two new board members Debra Bryant and Brandon Smith. Photos by Drew Jackson.








WWCS Students Open for Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra at The Redmoor


PHOTO CAPTION: Winton Woods High School Jazz band and Clarity A Cappella open for the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra at the Redmoor. Photos by Drew Jackson. 

What started as a friendship turned into a number of delightful opportunities for Winton Woods High School students, including the Jazz Ensemble and Clarity A Cappella opening for the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (CCJO) at the Redmoor. They played and sang fiery hits like “Sway”, “Swing Thing”, “Watermelon Man”, and “You Belong To Me”. The opportunity came about after Educational Director of the CCJO, Spencer Merk, reached out to longtime friend and WWCS District Jazz Director Jordan Habel to talk about future opportunities. “Spencer has been the true hero in this budding relationship that represents the generosity of the CCJO members and their mission to be ambassadors for jazz education in Cincinnati.”


The opening for the CCJO concert was one of several opportunities Winton Woods students have had with CCJO including a school-wide assembly and a private clinician to work with the group. “I am incredibly proud of our students' hard work,” said Jazz instructor Jordan Habel about their performance. “We played very difficult music and they rose to the occasion. It is a joy and privilege to work with them.” 


“I was so incredibly proud of the way the students represented Winton Woods. I kept hearing them say ‘This is so professional. I feel like a professional musician.’ I was beaming with joy watching the students connect with their city, and explore the music that Cincinnati has to offer,” said the Director of Clarity A Cappella Kelsey Demange. Demange says two students in particular have been “extremely” impacted by their relationship with CCJO. Those students are senior Jayden Potts, who plays the tenor saxophone, and sophomore Surendra Bhandari, who plays the trumpet. They are both part of the High School Jazz Ensemble and Clarity A Cappella. “It felt good to perform under the lights in front of all those people you don’t know and feel confident in what you are playing. We also scheduled a lot of rehearsals to ensure that,” said Potts. 


When asked how they were impacted by CCJO, Potts said the first time he saw them was at a winter concert. “I did not think it was going to be anything special because I have seen a lot of musicians perform. Then I saw it. It was the first time I was exposed to something like that. When they played, they played together, and it sounded so good. The soloists did not use sheet music, they performed off the top of their head and it flowed so well. Jazz is really special, perfecting it at that level is really impressive, and to see that first hand was incredible.”


Bhandari said CCJO will practice once or twice before performing. “It blew my mind. To get that good of a sound from only two rehearsals. For us,” they both looked at each other and laughed, “Let’s just say it took us a lot of work,” said Bhandari. “Watching them allowed me to see that anything is possible. I can do that too.” The Jazz Ensemble and Clarity A Cappella will both perform at the spotlight event of the year - the Night of Freedom, on March 17 at the North Campus. This exciting evening dedicated to student exhibitions, performances, and art centered on the topic of freedom is not an event you will want to miss. For more information, please visit the district website.






Winton Woods Education: Evolving With The Times


PHOTO CAPTION: Winton Woods Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for Grades PreK-6 Dr. Adrienne Martin speaking with vendors at the Future of Technology Conference. Photos by Drew Jackson. 


Winton Woods City Schools (WWCS) knows preparation for the real world begins in the classroom. That is why WWCS administrators attended the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), one of the largest education technology conferences in the nation for top-quality education technology professional development. In a world that is constantly changing, education must too. Some of the top districts from around the nation joined together for an intensive, highly collaborative exploration of new technologies, best practices, and pressing issues. 


Director of Technology Rhonda Hobbs attended impactful cybersecurity sessions that included a table-top exercise where they investigated a cybersecurity incident as it unfolded and discussed considerations and responses. She also was able to perform a cyber risk audit together with the district’s Executive Director of Business Affairs to identify the district’s strengths and weaknesses in order to update the cybersecurity plan. 


Dr. Adrienne Martin, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for PreK-6, said attending the Future of Technology Education Conference enabled her to connect with various technological resources that teachers could use to enhance the learning experiences of our students. “Combining educational technology with quality enriched content will allow our students to adjust and engage in the world,” said Dr. Martin. “The conference allowed me to collaborate with other academic professionals while learning about various technological platforms. It was exciting to see that our district currently utilizes many of the innovative resources presented at the conference.” As a New Tech Network district, Winton Woods City Schools provides 21st-century centered teaching and learning through project and problem-based learning that develops critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills that help students thrive in solving issues of everyday life and succeeding as leaders beyond Warrior halls.


Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for Grades 7-12 Dr. Tamra Ragland said the most beneficial thing she took away from the conference was that technology can level the playing field and create access and opportunity for all students in the way of personalized learning. “This access provides what Ken Shelton, an FETC Conference speaker, described as Techquity. Techquity is ‘merging the effective use of educational technologies with culturally responsive and relevant learning experiences to support learner development of essential skills.’ This then allows all students to learn and achieve when provided the right conditions, culture, support and resources.”


“It was important because the District was affirmed in the fact that a lot of the technology we saw at the conference is already in use in our district. So we know we are leaders in K-12 education with some of the most innovative technology in our classrooms available to students and teachers right now,” said Dr. Ragland. “Also, we were able to see and find additional technology solutions to address productivity, personalized learning, and creating a culture of learning environments that sustain equity and access.” 







Winton Woods Community Collaborative Effort Provides “Care Box” 

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PHOTO CAPTION: Winton Woods community came together to create care box for the district. Photos by Drew Jackson. 

At some point, we have all known what it is like to be without something. Businesses and organizations of the Winton Woods community came together to limit those situations with a care box that will be filled each week with toiletries and food for anyone in the community. A dedication ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to announce the opening of the box with local stakeholders including the Winton Woods City Schools Superintendent and Forest Park City Manager. This brilliant idea was a collaborative effort done by individuals from the Cobalt Queenz, Forest Park’s WeThrive, Forest Park Fire Department, Home Depot, and Winton Woods City Schools. The box is located outside of the Forest Park Fire Department building. 


“This is a proud moment for our sister circle,” said Marsha Watts of the Cobalt Queenz. “This all got started because one of our members saw a television special about a blessing box that was somewhere else in Ohio. She brought it to another one of our members, Debra Bryant, who then pulled together all of the entities to make it happen.” Winton Woods students also participated by painting the box with Warrior colors, Home Depot built the box for free and the City of Forest Park’s Public Works department did the installation. At the ceremony, Forest Park Assistant Fire Chief Jermaine Hill mentioned that this care box will be the first of more to come. Our Warrior community will have access to choose and take what they need and the option to leave some for others.


PHOTO CAPTION: A dedication ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to announce the opening of the care box with local stakeholders including the Winton Woods City Schools Superintendent and Forest Park City Manager. Photo by Drew Jackson. 





Six WWCS Student Athletes Sign Letters of Intent on National Signing Day

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national signing day

PHOTO CAPTION:  Winton Woods High School student athletes sign letters of intent at the athletic signing ceremony. Shown from left to right Will Edwards, Damarion Stone, Quentin Jenkins Jr., Tyrek Spikes, Jay’Ron Gibson, and Andrew Thompson. Photo by Drew Jackson.

Consistent hard work on the field and in the classroom is what inspired six Winton Woods High School student athletes to sign letters of intent on national signing day. Warrior families, friends, peers and staff were present to congratulate and wish them the best on their future endeavors at the ceremony.  “I am so proud of each of you and you know we will always be here for you even when you are no longer a student, however, you will always be a Warrior,” said Head Football Coach Chad Murphy.  


Signing letters of intent for football were Will Edwards for Wayne State University, Quentin Jenkins Jr. for Marian University, Tyrek Spikes for Tiffin University, Jay’ron Gibson for Robert Morris University, Andrew Thompson for Wilmington College, and Damarion Stone for Ashland University.


PHOTO CAPTION: Winton Woods High School student athletes sign letters of intent at athletic signing ceremony. Shown from left to right Will Edwards, Damarion Stone, Quentin Jenkins Jr., Tyrek Spikes, Jay’Ron Gibson, and Andrew Thompson. Photo by Drew Jackson. 





Weekly Warrior Highlights


What a Night of Freedom. Winton Woods City Schools held its Night of Freedom event for its seventh through twelfth graders at its very own North Campus. There was a great turnout as students gave enlightening presentations, beautiful performances and showcased their art all centered on the topic of freedom. #GoWarriors #WWNightOfFreedom






Congratulations to Winton Woods High School junior Tia Griggs who was honored to perform with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. She beautifully recited the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman, while the symphony performed an inspiring arrangement of America the Beautiful. #WarriorMusicians #GoWarriors





Congratulations to Winton Woods High School senior Chance Gray on being selected as the 2021-2022 Gatorade Ohio Girls Basketball Athlete of the Year! The award recognizes the nation’s best student athletes for outstanding athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court. #WarriorStudentAthlete #GoWarriors Photo by: University of Oregon Athletics




Congratulations to #WarriorAlum Cornell Beachem, Jr. who won the NCAA Division III Championship title for wrestling with a 22-0 record! #GoWarriors




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$1000 BONUS for newly hired bus drivers and aides. The position includes but is not limited to paid training, up to 7-hour workdays, and quarterly attendance drawings. For more information, please contact our transportation department at (513) 619-2300. #WintonWoodsBusDrivers

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Join us in creating a Warrior Community Cookbook! Submit your delicious, nutritious and cultural recipes for consideration at

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Winton Woods Today is a weekly (during the school year) email newsletter that reflects the district’s emphasis on global education and project-based learning, as well as staff and student accomplishments. If you would like to subscribe to the Winton Woods Today email newsletter, please email Drew Jackson. For additional articles, visit our website at