November 27, 2014

Elyria
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Open Door head settling into new role

ELYRIA – New Open Door Christian School President Dr. Jonathon Burton sometimes jokingly updates his Facebook page with, “You know you’re not in California when … ”

But he has only been in Ohio for three months, and his friends are quick to remind him that he hasn’t seen anything yet.

Burton spent 14 years at Valley Christian High School in California before accepting the position at Open Door Christian School. While at Valley Christian, Burton taught math and chemistry and served as the school’s guidance counselor before becoming the academic principal.

He regarded the chance to be president at Open Door as a unique opportunity.

“There are a lot of schools doing wonderful work, I was particularly impressed with Open Door and the high standards it had for its students and the high standards it had for itself,” he said.

Burton said that the school had already been doing a wonderful job, but he wanted to do more.

“I have a vision for the future, and the school has shown a willingness to go there,” he said.

One opportunity that Burton is considering is online classes. He did his dissertation on online education in helping schools survey their students about what type of courses they would want to take online.

His research also focused on what strategies to use and analyzing hype versus reality. Burton says that online education is a “key component in education that is here to stay.” However, he found that it was difficult to find an objective opinion.

“Most of the really exciting press generated was from those that had a financial interest,” he said, adding that in his work, he sought to “dig deeper to do some authentic research.”

Burton said that he is an advocate of the hybrid system of online education, in which some of the content is available online but students still meet occasionally. He feels that younger students benefit from not only the face-to-face instruction but also from the daily interaction with other students and teachers, as well as the chance to experience extracurricular school activities.

Burton said he realizes that online education can be a hot topic with parents, but he’s found that the system can work under the right circumstances.

“Parents are excited if their children are excited; it offers more opportunities for their children,” he said. But, “if a student struggles, parents think that the online course is the problem. Some students think that an online course will be easier, but if they have bad academic habits, they will actually do worse. And if a student has struggled with structure, they may completely self-destruct.”

Another academic issue that Burton is passionate about is working with students with learning challenges.

“I was blessed to be a very successful student but realized fairly late in life, while working on my master’s and a taking a class on learning disabilities, that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I was speaking with a student who was voicing frustration with ADHD, and realized through his perspective what I had gone though as a student, I had to work as a student in a nontraditional way.”

This perspective has influenced his approach today as schools work across a spectrum of students.

“I view most students with learning disabilities not in the light as being less capable, I look more at the school which plays to a narrow band of learning; it’s how the schools typically teach,” he said.

Schools should not look to change their programs for students but instead consider what they need to be successful.

“Many students are quite capable of being successful in the right environment,” he said. “It is not changing the curriculum but determining how students can be successful.”

Even though he’ll soon be letting his Facebook friends know how cold it is in the winter in Ohio, Burton said the community has given him and his family a warm welcome.

“The community has been very welcoming, even those not associated with the school,” he said, “I’ve been so impressed with the local community. I am very excited to be here.”

Contact Rob Swindell at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.