Friday, October 21, 2016

News and Notes 3.7

Boss' Day and a Sincere Thank You

It was Boss' Day this week. I'm not big on made up holidays--ask my wife. I do appreciate a sincere thank you, though. This week I got quite a few;  I was humbled at times. We have good employees, and I can't thank them enough. So, when I get a thank you from one of them, it means a lot.

It was a good week to be in charge of Whitmore Lake's schools. As the weekend concluded, news started to spread that our Equestrian Team were runners up in the state championship. I was so happy and proud of them.The actual work week started with a briefing on how WLES art teacher, Tracy Carbary, is incorporating animated video production into her graphic arts classes - very cool stuff for 6th grade students. Then, I learned our cross country team won the conference championship. Later in the week, our volleyball team put itself in a great position to win their conference championship. (You can read more about these accomplishments below).

I am proud to be a part of this organization and look forward to what next week will bring.

Community Scholarship Fund
A group of community members, alumni, retirees and parents gathered in our high school media center last week to discuss their goal for the year. What is it, you ask? To award 20, $1,000 scholarships to the WLHS class of 2017 graduates.

Since 1974 when the Community Scholarship Fund board awarded its first $500 scholarship, this groups has awarded $149,000 to WLHS graduates. That is a staggering number, especially considering the size of our community and the size of our graduating classes. This year alone, 30% of our graduates could head off to their secondary plans with a scholarship from this group.  

You can read more about their cause and how you can get involved in the Whitmore Lake News blog piece HERE. I highly recommend you also "like" their new Facebook page to stay up to date on their fundraising efforts and help spread the word to your network. Simply click the "invite friends to like this page" box on their page. And if you are able, make a tax deductible donation HERE.
Upcoming Community Events
If this Thursday's Scare N' Share event at our Elementary school wasn't enough fun for local families, they still have plenty to choose from. Tomorrow evening from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Whitmore Lake Community Recreation is hosting their 6th annual Boo Bash and Splash. Kids come in costume and get to enjoy carnival games, cupcake decorating, kid-friendly Haunted House courtesy of Elevate Concert Series and then head to the pool for a spooky open swim. Advanced tickets are just $5 per kid, and can be purchased HERE. Adults are free.

Then this Sunday, October 23, is Northfield Townships' Trunk-or-Treat from 2-5 p.m. along with the Ribbon Cutting Celebration to celebrate Northfield Community Park located at the property on Main Street next to the Post Office. You can find more details here:

And to extend the Halloween season, local theater group, Lakeside Performing Arts Company, is hosting a mystery dinner theater, CafĂ© Murder, November 4 and 5. The DIO is catering, and I hear their fried chicken is out of this world. Details on that event can be found HERE.

Have a happy Halloween, Trojans!

Successful fall in Trojan Athletics

Our student-athletes brought it this fall.

After securing first place at Regionals, our Equestrian team came in second place at the state championships last weekend! Their achievement secures them a team and school record for the WLHS Equestrian program.  Co-Coach Audrey Blaszczyk attributes the team's success to all the work the riders put in over the summer. And it certainly paid off as represented by the impressive trophies they will be adding to their case. Coach Blaszczyk anticipates the team will come out even stronger next season, as three riders will be seniors determined to secure that first place trophy and come out as State Champions.

The Equestrian teams includes:
  • Megan Prast (Captain)
  • Samantha Maulbetsch
  • Annoura Miller
  • Emerald Cole
  • Haley Stockwell
  • Co-Coach - Audrey Blaszczyk
  • Co-Coach - Robert Head

Last week we highlighted two of our Cross Country runner's individual accomplishments, including a school record. We are excited to announce the boys team, as a whole, are Tri-County Conference champions with our girls team finishing third.

Trey Cucuro, Colton Seigle, Hunter Fanson and Maddie Vershum were named first team in the TCC. Jordan Craven and Maggie Lustig were named TCC second team with Kevin Lamont receiving honorable mention. They head to the Larry Steeb Invitational tomorrow then compete at Regionals on October 29 with the state finals on November 5.

And while they still have two conference games left and a run at districts, I want to mention the impressive season our Varsity girls volleyball team has had. Lead by Varsity Coach, Kathy Coleman, the team is currently 10-2 in conference play. They have two more conference games left, Summerfield and Whiteford, and then start districts October 31. If you haven't caught one of their games, check out the Athletic calendar on our website HERE to get the event details.

Join me in congratulating all our student-athletes and their coaches on their accomplishments! They exemplify Trojan pride at its finest!

It is a great day to be a Trojan!

Friday, October 14, 2016

News and Notes: 3.6

The Night the Lights Went Out: A Sinking Fund Update

This is a quick story about an unexpected facility problem. Many of you lost power this week during the height of a rain storm, which somehow did not affect WLPS. However, if you were at the high school campus early in the week (to attend National Honor Society inductions as an example, which is a pretty cool event), you likely experienced a dark parking lot. That was a WLPS problem.

At the root of the problem was an underground cable. The line provided power to perimeter lights and the athletic fields. Repairing it quickly was a high priority. The costs to fix the problem came from the district's general fund or instructional fund. If a building and site fund, or sinking fund, was in place, the problem could have been fixed without affecting our  instructional fund. In the scheme of a year, this repair isn't a huge expense; however, adding a few of them together over the course of a year is.

This example is important because is represents how our school board will use a portion of the revenue collected if the tax proposal passes on November 8. I have identified a few projects that are necessities and will remain top priorities: technology improvements, classroom modifications, HVAC systems and athletic field repairs as examples. But covering the unexpected is a part of the usage plan as well. It is a challenge to communicate, though, and hard to quantify. I have estimated that 1% of our budget is dedicated to these unexpected but necessary facility repairs.

Now, the lights are on. And the district is in a healthy place financially. Our student count is slightly above predicted levels and our fund balance keeps climbing. Continuing to let high-quality programs in our schools which directly benefit our students is now a main goal. Please make sure your voting is informed on November 8.

Cross Country: Breaking School Records
If you haven't checked out the footage from last week's Homecoming game as featured on Game of the Week, head to our twitter page: While there was a ton of excitement involving the parade, game and dance, the achievements of our Cross Country teams might have been the most exciting by far. Last Saturday at the Portage Invitational Junior Colton Siegel set a new personal best of 17:16 finishing 47th out of 308 runners. If that wasn't enough, Trey Cucuro set a new school record with 15:51 and finished 4th out of 308 runners! Our boys team is now ranked 23rd in the entire state in division 3 and is first place in the Tri-County Conference (TCC). And our girls are third in the TCC!
Last spring the team decided they no longer wanted to be just an average CC team; so with hard work, dedication and a ton of miles put in this summer and fall, along with the Blue Lion workouts, they are far from average.
You can head to Hudson Mills this Saturday at 8:45 a.m. to see the team in action. And if you can't make that, catch them on October 22, Huron Meadows at 9:30 a.m.

Grants and Crowdfunding
We have very resourceful teachers who seek out creative ways to bring new and exciting things into our classrooms for our students. At the end of September our 5th-8th graders had a visit from the Ann Arbor Hands on Museum during science class for a wind energy workshop. During this workshop students built a desktop wind turbine, experimented with blade design and other components to figure out what would be the most efficient design for a wind power generator. Touching on concepts ranging from potential and kinetic energy to energy transformation, the lesson really came alive with this workshop which normally costs $1,200. But thanks to Mr. Kobeck's resourcefulness, he secured a grant from DTE to cover the cost entirely. Mr. Kobeck also received a $100 "Back-to-School" grant from the Meemic Foundation and this summer to help with supplies for his classroom. 

During the summer Elementary teacher Mrs. Matovski used a crowd funding program called DonorChoose to secure nearly $1,000 in flexible seating options (as seen to the left) for her classroom such as Hokki stools and wobble cushions. After getting wind that Target was granting up to $1,000 per proposal aimed at improving physical health/exercising, she put a proposal together. After fundraising around $300 from friends and family, Target picked up the project and covered near $600 of the costs. Now her classroom is almost fully based on a flexible seating concept, and so far the students are responding very positively to the new options.

At WLPS we do not sit around waiting for things to come to us. We make things happen for our kids, for our families and for our community. And these two projects are perfect examples. Join me in congratulating them on a job well done.

Friday, October 7, 2016

News and Notes: 3.5

Special Edition - Homecoming 2016!
Hall marches by the band, dress up days, pep assemblies, float building...oh, and we still have school. This is Homecoming week!

I like seeing the participation in all the events associated with this week. Especially rewarding is seeing the participation rates and school spirit build in the kids. Even our Early Childhood Center and Elementary staff and students get into it. It is especially cool to see freshmen getting involved. Their class sponsor, Ms. Betz, instills the traditions of WLHS into the whole week. I was in a class full of freshmen when some Spirit Week participation results were read over the PA. The freshmen, the Class of 2020, were winning! And, they were proud. They started to cheer, and their teacher did her best to change the focus back to academics...though her big smile gave her real feelings away. Their excitement was contagious, and she had caught it.

Of course, if your sons and/or daughters are in high school, you probably experienced float building stories. Special thanks to the Tetreau, Stefanovski, Leach and Tanner families for giving up their garages for a week while our students plugged away at the floats, which will be displayed proudly during the parade today and tonight at the game. Our Homecoming Dance is open to all WLHS students on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Please promote the importance of getting involved with all school has to offer, but also promote safety and good decision making.

This is a really exciting week. Take some to time to see the efforts our students and staff put into your community. The WLHS Equestrian Team, District and Regional Champions, compete for a state title this week in Midland. Volleyball and Cross Country are building their hopes for post-season competition with good senior leadership. They compete on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Our football team hosts Madison on Friday night at 7 p.m.

The fact that we were voted as “Leo’s Coney Island High School Game of the Week” will make this week that much more exciting. Brad Galli from 7 Action News will be broadcasting live from the game along with Joey Radio from Channel 955. We look forward to having students, staff, community members and alumni come out to help spotlight why it continues to be a great day to be a Trojan.

College Month: Saddle Up for College
At WLPS we are dedicated to creating a college-going culture. We define college as credentials beyond a high school diploma. Last year I highlighted our PAC’s (Post-Secondary Advisory Council) efforts and wanted to again speak to it as there are some new and exciting things happening. The biggest is now that the FAFSA can be filled out starting on October 1 rather than January 1, October has been declared College Month. Throughout the month, our seniors will be focused on completing three tasks, all before October 31.

1) Complete the FAFSA
We assist them in achieving this goal by providing Open Lab time every Friday this month from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in B201. In addition, we are hosting a FAFSA filing night for seniors and their parents titled Round Up Some Do-Si-Dough for College next Wednesday evening. See details on the event HERE.

2) Complete at least one College Application
Seniors can complete this task during the Open Lab times as well. In addition, this month is littered with colleges visiting WLHS; some are even waiving the application fee. And, if that isn't enough, seniors can visit three college campuses throughout the month. They'll be heading to Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College on October 12 and to Central Michigan University on October 24.

3) Complete a Scholarship Application
Again, this can easily be completed during the Open Labs. Additionally, college representatives and other community members specializing in scholarships and essays will be on hand to provide feedback and help. We have all the bases covered.

To add to the fun, every Monday this month is Mascot Mondays, where students and staff can sport college gear. Every Wednesday is Western/Wisdom Wednesday, where we all channel our inner John Wayne with our wardrobe and staff shares college-related wisdom with their students.

As students complete each task for the month, they receive accessories for their own “College Corral,” as pictured below. And, when students get accepted to colleges, the respective mascots will be "corralled". Additionally, students will earn raffle tickets for completing each of their tasks, and they'll be entered in a weekly raffle for fun college-related prizes.

For students who complete ALL THREE tasks by October 31, there is a rather exciting western-themed celebration in store for them. I’ve heard rumblings of a mechanical bull coming to these parts, so I assure seniors they will not want to miss out.

Our Elementary is even joining in on College Month, participating in Mascot Mondays and teachers displaying their degrees in their classroom. We hope to increase the involvement even more for next year’s College Month to strengthen our college-going culture, K-12.

We look forward to having a College Corral filled with filed FAFSA’s, completed applications, and students on the path to successful post-secondary plans. I commend our Counseling Department and PAC for all their efforts and energy to make this campaign a success.

Friday, September 30, 2016

News and Notes: 3.4

Diverging from taxes and facilities this week.  Here are some highlights from our schools making me proud to call myself a Trojan.

Equestrian Team 
Our equestrian team became winners of another District Title last weekend.  This weekend, the team led by veterans Emerald Cole, Megan Prast, and Annoura Miller,  will be competing for a Regional crown in Corunna at the Shiawassee County Fairgrounds.  Members of this team train year-round, and their competitions start in August before many students even think about starting school again.  They are supported by dedicated parents who cart their large, four-legged friends back and forth to equestrian venues.  The coaches (Robert Head and Audrey Blaszczyk) put in long days this time of year and are working hard to bring home a state championship.  Good luck to you, Trojans and your Trojan horses!

Early Childhood Center
The big day at the ECC this week was Thursday--the ice cream social.  The staff at the ECC has had a high-energy start to their year, and these preschool children have been showing their skills - one young lady was particularly proud to recite, without a single mistake, the Pledge of Allegiance!  Such good work deserves ice cream in my opinion. We love having these future graduates working with our teachers in the Early Childhood Center.

Varsity Volleyball
The team has been on a win streak and is tearing through conference play.  Coach Coleman is keeping the team focused as they approach next Thursday when they host Clinton to kick off Homecoming week's athletic events.  If you haven't seen any of our Trojan teams compete yet this year, put this one on your calendar.  The student section will be making some noise.  I hope you join us.

The WLHS Robotics team, TroBots, started a handful of years ago with only a few members.  We added a middle school team about four years ago, called the Titanium Trojans.  Both teams have done well and competed at the state championships.  One year, the TroBots even went to the national championship.  Excitement has been growing and so has interest among our student body.  What once required me, personally, to heavily recruit members, is now a popular club.  It is so big this year at WLHS, a second team has been added!  This is a great team experience.  I encourage all students to get involved with something. If you have a son or daughter who has been looking for an afterschool activity - you can't beat this.

Friday, September 23, 2016

News and Notes: 3.3

You can't turn on any television, radio, podcast, you name it, without hearing about the upcoming presidential election on November 8. And with an important vote on a sinking fund for the district, not a day goes by that we don't think about the local elections up for vote as well.

If you haven't familiarized yourself with the sinking fund proposal by checking out the documents on our website, or if you are looking for additional information in a quick and easy way, we have a great event coming up.  Next Tuesday, September 27, 6:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m., simply visit our Facebook page from the comfort of your own home, at your kids soccer practice, or anywhere you choose for a Facebook Live! Question and Answer session with me on the upcoming vote. I'll be answering questions submitted in advance HERE; and, if time allows, I will take questions posted in the comments of the video as well. Can't listen at that time? Just check out the page at your convenience, as the video will be posted for later viewing.

I hope you will tune in.

Trojan Pride
I want to take some time to recognize a few alumni and past staff members who continue to make WLPS proud. We shared this information on our Facebook page, already, but I found it important to highlight it here as well. Dan Houghton, Class of 2002, was promoted to Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy on Saturday, September 17 at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. We shared Dan's military story in our special series honoring WLHS service men and women last year. You can read more about his impressive military experience here. We humbly thank him, and his family, for his continued service to our country, and congratulate him on such an impressive accomplishment.

Two recent graduates, Zac Bowen and Arthur Sutherland (pictured to the left), Class of 2016, kicked off their military career by graduating from boot camp this past weekend as well, becoming the newest members of the United States Marine Corp. Join me in congratulating them on their accomplishment and thanking them for their commitment to our country.

And last but not least, past Whitmore Lake Middle School science teacher, Mike Krebill, best known to students for his dandelion donuts and sumac tea and engaging lessons, is sharing his knowledge world-wide with the release of his upcoming book. The Scouts Guide to Wild Edibles is set to release November 15, 2016 and is available for pre-order on Amazon, so make sure to reserve your copy! We congratulate him on this accomplishment, another feather to add to his pretty full cap.

If you have a WLHS alumni whose accomplishments we should highlight, please submit information HERE. We not only love to share it with our community, but their stories are particularly inspiring for our current students who see a real-life example of the success that comes out of an exceptional, personalized education at WLPS.

Friday, September 16, 2016

News and Notes: 3.2

Let's talk money in this issue. I took some time last week, and again this week, to share with parents information on a tax which will appear on the November ballot (AKA: sinking fund). I handed out information sheets to those looking for more detail but wanted to make sure we covered our bases here as well. In reality, I know people are really busy with all kinds of issues that life tosses at them. So, I am refraining from hitting the information overload button, and instead come at you with some fast facts. 
  • The tax is a 3 year, 1 mill increase.
  • It is called a sinking fund...nobody knows why. I can guarantee you that the buildings are not sinking.
  • The Board's proposal will generate approximately $335,000 annually for 3 years.
  • The average annual cost to homeowners in WL is $75.
  • Sinking funds are better than a bond because they are short term and taxpayer contributions never go to pay interest. The amount of revenue slowly goes down as projects are completed. (Maybe that is why it is called a sinking fund?)
  • High on the priority list, if the proposal passes, are replacement of aging technologies and ventilation systems along with redesigning classroom spaces to best accommodate the learning taking place in them. Our athletic fields at WLHS will also get some much-needed attention.
I am open to discussing this topic with any group. My role is to share information, and I will, proudly, tell you how well we have been managing money in the past few years. For instance, the State of Michigan re-constructed its school loan borrowing fund a few years ago. That action sent tax increases, involuntarily, up to 9.8 mills in this district. We didn't have any control over the increase. However, we reacted to it. The Board has approved two refinancing plans over the past year. That 9.8 mill assessment will be brought down to 8.95 mills this school year, saving the tax payers money! Another example is the WLPS fund balance is climbing each year. We went from less than 0.2% to 6.6% in two years. Our turnaround and our approach to facility management has garnered the attention of many. Recently, I was working with a county superintendent north of here. He commented that only two districts have used a revenue-generating model to pull themselves out of financial stress--WLPS is one of them.
The bottom line is we know the quality of education is critical in this region. We intend on providing the best in the business; but without stability, the gains we make will be slow. More information will be presented to our stakeholders in the coming weeks. We will be updating our web page, Facebook page and Twitter accounts to keep you in the loop. I will also be hosting a Facebook Live Q and A on Tuesday, September 27 from 6:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m. where I'll be answering additional questions voters have on the issue. If you have a particular question, submit it HERE by Friday, September 23. Otherwise, tune in to our Whitmore Lake Public Schools page that Tuesday. It is also the topic of conversation at each Board Meeting, which are open to the public.
Keep the days of education in WL great. We want every day to be a great day to be a Trojan.
New Staff
Join me in welcoming those new to the WLPS staff.

1. Jaylon Sims, WLES Music Teacher
Fun Fact(s): Jaylon did not get his driver's license until he was 21. And while his paternal grandparents had 13 children and his maternal grandparents had 10 children, he is an only child.

2. Mandy McClain, WLPS Occupational Therapist
Fun Fact(s): She has plans to hike the Appalachian Trail one day,and is married with one cat and two hermit crabs.

3. Cara Lawhead, WLES Special Education Teacher
Fun Fact(s): Cara is engaged, and she and her fiancé have a beautiful two-year-old daughter named Dahlia. Her favorite children's book growing up was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

4. Brittany Liss, WLES Paraprofessional, primarily in 6th grade as an academic interventionist
Fun Fact(s): Brittany's favorite food is steak and she has two dogs, which she says she loves and is obsessed with.

5. Lori Dancik, WLES Paraprofessional
Fun Fact(s): Lori has two children attending WLPS and one who graduated last year and is a freshman at Central Michigan University.

6. Meredith Lynn, WLES Title 1 Teacher
Fun Fact(s): She has a puggle named Sadie with her husband of six years, Brandon. She is an avid board game player, owning over 100 games.

7. Amber Masterson, WLPS Social Worker
Fun Fact(s): Amber lives with her husband, two children and a dog named Izzy. She is a Michigan State graduate.

8. Molly Lindeman, WLHS Math Teacher
Fun Fact(s): Another Michigan State graduate, Molly played center for her high school basketball team, even though she is only 5'5".

9. Amy Berg, WLHS Social Worker
Fun Fact(s): Married with three lovely boys, unlike Mrs. Masterson and Mrs. Lindeman, Amy is a graduate of University of Michigan. Go Blue!

10. Mai Huynh, ES and ECC Paraprofessional
Mai is quite a traveler, having lived in Kansas, Texas, Florida and now Michigan. And she is a self-proclaimed lover of any food as long as it is fried!

Friday, September 9, 2016

News and Notes: 3.1

Welcome Back!

The bulk of this week's News and Notes is reintroducing you to communications we use to share very important information. We want our parents and community to be informed, and we employ many types of tools to accomplish this goal.

I want to take this opportunity to also thank all of you for choosing Whitmore Lake Public Schools to educate your children. Our teachers have worked throughout the summer months getting ready to introduce the best teaching strategies and will be using the best curricular materials available to WLPS. We are always looking to improve our instruction, and I can say that nobody is outworking us.

A special thanks has to go to our maintenance, custodial and transportation staff. These people are also committed to your children and make sure our learning spaces are clean and ready for use and that our vehicles are safe. They worked all summer long getting things in proper condition. This is a difficult task given the age of a lot of the equipment with which they are working--but, they got the job done. I am proud of them, as well.

I hoped you enjoyed your first week at WLPS. It has been a great week to be a Trojan.

Keep In the Loop
Below is a brief description of all the tools we have available and the best ways to use them to have a successful school year.
Our website, newly designed, is kind of the end all be all for information. You can find bus schedules, lunch menus, staff contact information and teacher websites along with easy links to our PowerSchool, athletic and community recreation pages and more. One of my favorite new features on the site are the calendars. You can click between calendars specific for each building or department to get a clear idea of what is happening in the district.

Facebook and Twitter
For social media users, if you haven't "liked" our Facebook page or followed us on Twitter, I highly recommend you do. We have extremely active pages which provide daily highlights of the great things happening at WLPS, celebrate alumni accomplishments, remind families about upcoming events and programs as well as provide helpful education-focused tips for parents and students (a highlight from last year was our Dwight Schrute-themed financial aid facts memes. Good stuff.) We monitor it constantly, so if you have a general question and are unsure of who to direct it to, post it on our wall or tweet at us, and we will get you the information you need. This is the first place school closings are posted as well. I would say our most retweeted tweets involve snow days, hands down.

Click HERE for our Facebook page.
Follow us on twitter @WLSchools.

Also check out my twitter handle @WLPSPrincipal. Other twitter pages of interest include @WL_Athletics, @WLHS_Yearbook, @TheTrojournal, @WLHS_Band, @WLHSSpirit, and @WLHSstuco. Also check out WL Community Recreation on Facebook.

In lieu of stacks of papers sent home in backpacks, which pile up on your counters at home, we distribute all flyers digitally thanks to our friends at PeachJar. You will receive flyers in your e-mail daily, so as not to miss anything. This is key when our Whitmore Lake Community Recreation department rolls out a new season of programs because no one likes missing soccer sign up or having to pay the dreaded late fee. If you are not receiving PeachJar e-mails from us, head HERE to register. 

ParentLink App
Now imagine being able to access everything I mentioned above, all in one place. We've got an app for that--literally. With our WLPS app, you can check the calendars to see what is happening in each building, access PowerSchools, browse PeachJar and even read my weekly blog every Friday! When schools are closed or we need to get a message out quick, we send out push notifications through the app as well. If you haven't downloaded it yet, I highly recommend you head to your App Store or Google Play and search for Whitmore Lake Public Schools.

Blackboard Connect E-mail and Phone Notifications
We will continue to send out e-mail blasts and/or phone messages when we have a building or school-wide message to get out. This is how you will be notified of school cancellations, important meetings or issues that need to be addressed, etc.

If you have any questions about the tools above, feel free to contact our Community Relations Director, Maria Carter-Ewald at