We want to hear what you have to say!

1-22-2013 11-35-24 AMWe have a lot of things going on in the district, and we want to hear from you.  Here’s a list of the dates and forum topics, ready to print and use.  Community Forum Topics

All meetings will be held at the Administrative Work Center (library area in the high school) from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

An overview of the forum topics and dates is also listed below:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013:  District Finances

Wednesday, January 30, 2013:  Secondary Curriculum

Thursday, February 7, 2013: Communications

Tuesday, February 12, 2013:  Early Childhood Education

Thursday, February 21, 2013:  Elementary Curriculum

Tuesday, February 26, 2013: School Reorganization

Wednesday, February 27, 2013:  Schedules

Tuesday, April 9, 2013: Support Services

Come to one or all of the forums to share in the conversation about moving our district forward!

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Happy New Year

1-1-2013 7-34-06 AMHappy new year to all!  I hope your holiday break is restful and relaxing.  There are still a number of days to recharge!

I spent my holiday thinking about our students and teachers – and how we can continue to move the district forward while getting the district’s financial situation in order.  (I also spent much-needed time with my family and friends.)  I’ve been with the district for approximately 20 weeks or so and thus far our team has accomplished a number of things:

  • Wrote a deficit elimination plan that was approved by the Michigan Department of Education in December.  This was an all-consuming project for our team.
  • Wrote a grant application for Race-to-the-Top, and while it wasn’t funded, we now have the inner workings for other grant opportunities.
  • Reworked our federal grants so the dollars support the current direction of the school district and the priorities of the school board.
  • Began the work of implementing learning centers in our high school – spaces that students can call their own while learning to learn independently.  I am excited about reviewing and refining these centers during the second half of the year.  This is something that will help our students be prepared for college and work.
  • Began the work of setting up protocols for our district, including administrative guidelines that meet the requirements of the Board’s policies.
  • Began the work of revamping the district’s website – keeping the features that work for people and redesigning features where we can do better – all while maintaining the intent of the older website.
  • Met with our employee groups to determine issues in the district.
  • Conducted our first full day of professional development for our teaching staff. (I so wish we had more time in the calendar for this as professional development is key to moving the district forward.)
  • Began the work of reviewing the special education program to determine what we need to do to improve the student achievement of students in the program.
  • Visited each of our schools; most more than once.
  • Met with each faculty group to gather concerns and issues.
  • Met with the POHI team specifically, to gather concerns and issues.
  • Presented information to community groups such as Kiwanis and Rotary.
  • Set up processes to ensure our high school is a calm learning environment.  (I am thrilled with the positive change.)

Looking back is a good practice at this time of the year, but focusing forward is key.  There’s so much more to do – and I’m excited for the challenge.  As we begin the second semester, we’ll focus our work with our school improvement teams as they continue to search for ways to help students achieve.  We will also continue our work to include teachers and other staff in decisions that impact them.

Watch for the announcement of our new community forums which will provide a structured way for parents and community members to provide input into our district.  Ideas abound – and we want to capture every one.

I extend to all my warmest wishes for a happy new year; let’s make this our turnaround year!

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Sandy-Hook Tragedy Reminds Us of School Safety

Safety Matters LogoOver the past number of days, so many of us have had the families and community of Sandy-Hook Elementary in our hearts and prayers.  Times like this remind us all to think about safety in our own schools and communities.  Thus, I want to take a few minutes to let you know what we are doing in the district to ensure the safety of our students.

  1. Beginning December 18, 2012, we will have a security team member at each elementary building. These staff members will be available beginning early into the morning until the last event of the day is completed. So even if a school has a before-school program(6:30 a.m.) and an after-school program (until 6:00 p.m.), we’ll be there.
  2. We will be double checking to ensure that the PA systems are working in all buildings.
  3. We are making sure that each of our elementary schools has a working radio system.
  4. We are double checking to make sure all of our cameras are working.
  5. We will continue to have security staff on each floor in our high school.
  6. At the high school, we will begin holding IEPs downstairs rather than upstairs.
  7. Every door in every school building, including the main entrances, will be locked. The main entrances will be carefully monitored by security staff. We are also checking the buzzer systems in each school to make sure each is working correctly.
  8. Visitors will be asked to show a driver’s license and/or photo ID before being allowed to enter the building. They will be asked to state the purpose of their visit prior to being allowed to go to the main office where they will sign in and be assisted by school personnel. (Our security staff will assist with this.)
  9. Staff members will continue to remain alert and monitor hallways.
  10. We will hold drills after the holidays to ensure teachers and students know the protocols for dealing with an emergency such as what happened at Sandy-Hook Elementary School.
  11. Our staff will continue to remain vigilant throughout the remainder of the school year and will continue to talk with students about incidences such as this.
  12. Our staff will continue to meet the buses to provide adult visibility and ensure that students safely enter our schools.
  13. Our security staff will continue to be coordinated by a retired Macomb County Sheriff Lieutenant and past SWAT commander (Lieutenant Robert Taylor) with decades of training and experience. Our team, including our principals, assistants, technology team, and cabinet members have been great in helping work the details. People have stepped up to the plate to make quick and appropriate decisions.
  14. We have taken suggestions from parents and teachers and incorporated them into making our schools safer.

As a superintendent new to this district, please know that overall I am pleased with the measures that were already in place.  If something is on the list above, it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist; it just means that we’re going to check to make sure everything is working properly and running smoothly.

I appreciate that our fine principals are on top of school safety.  Please remember to call the school principal if you have a specific suggestion or concern for a school.

High School/Middle School – Mike Bruce:  586-461-3300 (Candice Ross, secretary)

King Academy: Lisa Boike (teacher leader): 586-461-3700 (Deb Pierson, secretary)

Seminole Elementary: Jan Hooks: 586-461-3900 (Jill Foley, secretary)

Washington Elementary: Pam Bilbrew: 586-461-3800 (Teresa Wilson, secretary)

Let’s all continue to work together to create the safest environment possible for our children.

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What I have learned so far

I’ve been on the job a bit over 90 days now and I want to share with you some of the things  I have learned.  I’ve listed them in no particular order – it’s just a hodgepodge of things I’ve noted as I’ve walked through our schools and worked with our staff members.  So here goes:

  • We have incredibly dedicated teachers.  They have shown up everywhere – at events before school opened in August, at parent-teacher conferences, and community events in individual schools.
  • One of our finest, Kristie Nickels, is the teacher of the year for Macomb County.  How cool is that?  I had a chance to meet Kristie and see her in action in 2010 – and she is an amazing teacher.
  • Our custodial team works as hard as anyone.  And our fine men and women most always do this with big smiles.  Our employees and students deserve to work in a nice environment – and our custodial team makes that happen.  Thanks to Willie Andrews for his leadership in this area.
  • Under the watchful eye of Louis Hood, our maintenance team takes care of things.  We so appreciate him and his team for keeping things running smoothly throughout the district.
  • Brian Mull takes care of over 1,100 computers in our district.  How does he do it?
  • Our school board president, Earl Rickman, has recently served as the president of the National School Boards Association.
  • Our principals have done a terrific job of opening schools and ensuring they run smoothly.  Kudos to Pam Bilbrew (Washington Elementary), Jan Hooks (Seminole Elementary), Lisa Boike (King Academy), and Mike Bruce (Mount Clemens Junior and Senior High Schools).
  • We completed the district’s first writing assessment, K-12.  We will soon know how well every student in the district writes.  Thanks to all teachers for making this happen.
  • We have also completed the district’s first benchmark assessment for grades 7-12.  Kudos to Sarah Mohler for her work in organizing this task.
  • Nancy Coulter continues to work the details on pupil accounting and other things that help ensure we get every penny possible to serve our students.
  • The Bather Boutique is still going strong.  Thanks to Cindy Boedeker for keeping a handle on this wonderful service for our young ladies.
  • We have begun to implement a more student-friendly learning environment for students in our learning centers.  Located in the high school, these centers provide a personal work space and custom courses for our students.  We have some pretty amazing adults working with students in the centers:  Adam May, Anne Henrickson, Danielle Stephens, Jermaine Jackson, and Christina Moneraz.  Also thanks to Alan Dozier for helping with the set up of the Renaissance Center (REN CEN).
  • Our business staff, including Kate Dankovich, Rachael Hallendy, Cassie Gilley, and Josie Meyer are working hard to turn around the process for working the district’s budget.
  • Our two assistant principals at the high school have worked as a team to help ensure the learning environment is safe and engaging.  John Bordeau works with attendance and discipline while James Wagner is working on a comprehensive intervention piece for our students.

There is certainly much more happening and I’ll add information to these posts throughout the year.  This is just a start; there is much more to come.  Please stay tuned.

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