Friday, July 29, 2016

Special Edition News and Notes: Please Vote on August 2

This News and Notes has a special purpose--sharing information about a couple of very important ballot proposals.  Please give some of your time to learn about the issues; I’ll try to condense them.

“Operating Millage Renewal”
The first proposal is an “Operating Millage Renewal.”  What is it?  This is a renewal tax on businesses and second homes in the district.  Every ten years we have to renew this tax on non-homestead properties. This tax is NOT imposed on your primary residence, but you can vote on it.  

Quick Facts About the Operating Millage:  
  • This renewal comprises approximately 20% of our overall budget.  
  • WLPS voters last approved it in 2007.
  • It is often referred to as the Non-homestead Renewal.
  • Homeowners are exempt from this tax but can still vote on it.

“Sinking Fund Millage”
The second proposal I call the “sinking fund” but the ballot language calls it “Millage Proposal, Building and Site Sinking Fund Tax Levy.”  I like my version better, but tax attorneys tell me otherwise.  What is it?  A 1 mill, 3-year proposed tax which will be used to update and acquire technology, repair facilities and renovate some classrooms.

Quick Facts About the Sinking Fund Millage:
  • The revenue generated will be used immediately to acquire and update the district’s wireless backbone allowing the use of additional devices in the classrooms in addition to using current technology more effectively.
  • Some elementary classrooms will be renovated (e.g. art and music rooms).
  • Athletic facilities will be repaired.
  • The ballot includes language about “purchase of real estate…”  That is required legal language.  WLPS doesn’t have any plans to purchase property.
  • How much will it cost?  Most homeowners will pay less than $100 per year for 3 years.  (1 mill is $1 for every $1000 of taxable home value).
  • How much will 1 mill generate?  Approximately $335,000 a year for 3 years.
  • Why do we need it?  A sinking can only be used for renovation/repair. However, by using sinking fund revenue when appropriate, we can protect our instructional funds (general fund).

You can find more information on these proposals on our Facebook, Website or at the links below.
For additional information on voting poll locations and more, click HERE.

The actual ballot language for each proposal is below. 

Thank you for voting on August 2. 

OPERATING MILLAGE RENEWAL PROPOSAL
This proposal will allow the school district to continue to levy the statutory rate of not to exceed 18 mills on all property, except principal residence and other property exempted by law, required for the school district to receive its revenue per pupil foundation allowance and renews millage that will expire with the 2016 tax levy.

Shall the currently authorized millage rate limitation of 19.4972 mills ($19.4972 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property, except principal residence and other property exempted by law, in Whitmore Lake Public School District, Washtenaw and Livingston Counties, Michigan, be renewed for a period of 10 years, 2017 to 2026, inclusive, to provide funds for operating purposes; the estimate of the revenue the school district will collect if the millage is approved and levied in 2017 is approximately $2,028,912 (this is a renewal of millage that will expire with the 2016 tax levy)?

MILLAGE PROPOSAL, BUILDING AND SITE SINKING FUND TAX LEVY 
Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property in Whitmore Lake Public School District, Washtenaw and Livingston Counties, Michigan, be increased by and the board of education be authorized to levy not to exceed 1 mill ($1.00 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 3 years, 2016, 2017 and 2018, to create a sinking fund for the purchase of real estate for sites for, and the construction or repair of school buildings and all other purposes authorized by law; the estimate of the revenue the school district will collect if the millage is approved and levied in 2016 is approximately $335,428?

Friday, June 10, 2016

News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 33

If there are phrases I hear too often it is "The year flew by,"  or, "It goes so fast. Blink, and you'll miss it.' Admittedly, this year, it did go by at a relatively fast rate. But with graduation last Sunday (which was live streamed on our Facebook page, and you can check out the video in case you missed it) and a ceremony for our 6th grade students yesterday as they wrap up their final year at the elementary school., we are definitely ending the year on a high note. And if I have kept my schedules straight, we are quickly headed for the last day of school on the 15th.

Before summer break begins, please take a minute to recap the year with me in my last installment of News and Notes for the 2015/2016 school year. Below are my top stop stories from this school year, which "flew by." Feel free to share with us on social media what your favorite moments from this school year are.

2015/2016 School Year's Top 15 Reasons Why It is a Great Day to be a Trojan
Number 15: NN 2.18, WLPS: We're Kind of a Big Deal
Number 14: NN 2.24, 5 Million in Tax Payers Savings
Number 13: NN 2.29, Super Science Day
Number 12: NN 2.16, Intro to Blue Lion
Number 11: NN 2.7, WLES Student Council
Number 10: NN 2.9; 2.16 and 2.21, Retirement of Jim Vibbart and introduction to new board members Shelli Kritzman and Laura Schwennesen
Number 9: NN 2.14, Aimee Taylor's Bringing Science to Life Award
Number 8: NN 2.24, Map to Khan Academy
Number 7: NN 2.9, Financial Stability
Number 6: NN 2.3, WLES Guitar Class
Number 5: NN 2.2, Summer Literacy Program
Number 4: NN 2.17, Varsity Competitive Cheer Aim for Three-Pete
Number 3: NN 2.6, Trobots in Lansing
Number 2: 2.12, Start of Chromebook Campaign
Number 1: NN 2.29, Teacher Appreciation




Friday, June 3, 2016

News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 32


In recognition of graduation this Sunday, I asked a member of the Class of 2016 to provide a special edition of Friday's News and Notes, highlighting her experiences at WLHS.

Enjoy learning from a student's perspective reasons why it is a great day to be a Trojan.

Tom DeKeyser
WLPS Superintendent
WLMS and WLHS Principal

My Time at WLHS
By Kate Bauer

Kindergarten to 12th grade...13 short years...13 years I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Some say "high school is the best four years of your life," while some cannot wait to graduate and take that next step into the real world. In light of graduation, I have come to realize that high school will be something I will always remember, something I will tell my kids, grandkids, neighbors and friends about until the day comes where the experiences slowly vanish into distant memories.

Get Off the Couch
From the frightening first day of freshman year where I felt like I was being judged by all of the upperclassmen to my last prom with all of my close friends, there is one large life-lesson I will take away from my time at WLHS: get involved. No matter how nice it is to come home from school every day and take a 5-hour nap, you will regret not participating in everything that goes along with high school. I was a 5-hour napper at the beginning of high school (I think everyone is at one point), but then it hit me. Why am I wasting these precious years of my life sitting at home when I could be making memories? After seeing the light at the end of my freshman year, I joined student council, color guard, basketball, marching band, Key Club and National Honor Society (NHS).Through my involvement in these various extracurriculars, I created stories to tell and friends that will always have a spot in my heart.

National Honor Society, Marching Band and More
When I got my letter that I was eligible to be a part of NHS, I was really proud of myself. By being invited into NHS, I was not only being recognized for my academic accomplishments but also my involvement in the school and community. My favorite memories from NHS were collecting cans our school donated and taking them to the local food pantry each year around the holidays. The smiles we received when we were lugging all of the cans in was something I will always remember. I knew they genuinely appreciated each and every donation. I loved NHS because I felt like I was truly making a difference and know I will carry that with me as I leave WLHS and continue to make positive contributions in the world.

Joining marching band was one of the best decisions I made during my time at WLHS. While it was such a valuable experience, the one thing I will remember (all band kids will attest to this) is the woodpecker story from Mr. Kirby, our band teacher. I went to band camp three times, and each time the woodpecker in his story would be described bigger than the last. This is just an example of how Mr. Kirby made band so much fun. From wearing tennis shoes that were so worn out there were holes in the toes to cracking random jokes in the middle of band practice, his sense of humor made the experience one to remember.

In addition to my time involved in extracurriculars, a moment in high school I will not forget was when our football team went to playoffs my sophomore year. I remember the whole school was full of spirit. Everyone made signs, decorated the school, wore their gear, the whole nine yards (pun intended). As we took the packed fan bus to Clinton, people from the community were lined up all through town to cheer on the team as they made their way through town. I loved the feeling of the whole thing. It was almost as if for a second, everyone from Whitmore Lake was one big family.

Moving On
I am excited to take all I have learned at WLHS as I attend Eastern Michigan University in the fall. While my major is not yet decided, I am leaning towards pursuing a degree in Spanish. With this degree, I would enjoy any job where I'd get to possibly travel, learn more about the Spanish culture or simply just speak or write it. In the meantime, I will be applying for jobs as a flight attendant. If an opportunity comes with that career, I will take it. I value traveling and learning about new cultures so much, and know I would enjoy any career that lends itself to those experiences. And given the tools I’ve gained at WLHS, I know all these are options before me. I just need to make it happen.

Part of me will always be in Whitmore Lake no matter where life takes me. This small town has been very influential, helping me become the person I am today--stronger, independent, hardworking and appreciative. For that, I would like to thank the teachers, staff and anyone else who has made this high school and community the way it is. Despite how much I hear my classmates say they can't wait to finish high school, I know each and every one of them will grow to miss the simplicity of life we had here. To my classmates, I wish you all the best in these next years of your life. I thank you for the good, bad, and the ugly; you all mean the world to me. To my mom and dad, thank you for supporting me and pushing me so hard in school; it really has paid off. Even though I might not have recognized the value of what seemed like constant nagging, I admire the compassion and love you both showed me and the drive you instilled in me.

Friday, May 20, 2016

News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 31

Sinking Fund
At the May 9 Board of Education meeting, a proposal was supported unanimously to ask voters of the Whitmore Lake Public Schools to support a 1 mill increase for a three year sinking fund. Voters will see this proposal on the August 2, 2016 ballot.

In the coming weeks, I will be preparing question and answer sessions along with materials delineating what it is we will do with the revenue this fund generates. Right out of the gate, I can tell you our top priority is addressing technology needs. We plan on rebuilding our wireless infrastructure which will allow us to bring in more devices for student use. We started down this road in the fall with our Chromebook campaign, and we want to continue to bring in the best resources for our students. A sinking fund allows WLPS to fix many of our biggest technology issues while preserving our general fund, which just adds to our financial stability.

In addition to technology, investment in our facilities comes at a critical time. We need to maintain our properties, and we need to keep pace with ever-increasing technology demands. We are a much stronger district today than we were a few years ago; and I know, with our community's support, I will make that same claim a year from now.

As always, today is a great day to be a Trojan!


New Guitar Class' First Concert
Our new guitar class at WLES had their very first concert performances last week and this week. Our 5th and 6th graders took to the stage to showcase the skills they have learned this year. This is the first year we have offered the course, (see NN 2.3) and it is safe to say it has been a hit. While all the students in the class are enjoying learning something new, many have developed a strong interest in playing the guitar as well. A good indication of that is when the school year began, we only had one student bringing a guitar from home. Now we have 12.

WLES music teacher, Lisa Shanks, said teaching this class have been one of the most fulfilling experiences of her teaching career. Trying something new and working with small class sizes (the largest class having 14 students in it) she has the opportunity to get to know the students better as individuals, and they just have a blast!

Ms. Shanks has already begun developing an advanced guitar curriculum to offer to our 6th graders next year. We look forward to watching the program grow.


WLES continues to accept donations of guitars or monetary donations to assist in the purchase of ideally 15-25 new guitars over the next few years. In order to optimize student learning, it would be best for each student to use a guitar during guitar class instead of sharing, which is a possibility as interest in the class continues to grow.

If are you interested in supporting the program, contact Ms. Shanks at lisa.shanks@wlps.net.






























Book Bingo Coming this June 

While teachers at WLES wrap up the school year celebrating the strides their students have made, they are simultaneously thinking about ways to keep their kids learning during summer break so all the progress is not lost. In NN 2.21, I highlighted a grant we received to run an early literacy summer school this year.

Our staff is taking that concept one step further and have created an event to provide EVERY student at WLES with at least ten books for him or her to keep and read over the summer in and effort to curb summer learning loss. Details on Book Bingo can be found in the flyer HERE.

Support for the event has been strong within the community already. The Pinckney American Legion donated $1,000 (member Tom Kaiser is pictured below awarding WLES teacher Heidi Roy-Borland with a check), the Greater Whitmore Lake Area Kiwanis donated $500 and the Kiwanis of Whitmore Lake donated $200 to purchase new books. In addition, WLES staff, families and community members have donated an additional $600 to date along with GoFundMe donating $100 as a thank you gift during Teacher Appreciation week. In total, we have received $2,400 in monetary donations, at least 300 books and a gift card to Barnes & Noble as a raffle prize. 
But there is still a need. If you would like to support this event, here are some ways you can help:
  • Donate new or gently used books by Tuesday, May 31 in the bin in the lobby of WLES.
  • Donate funds here gofundme.com/234mguc.
  • Volunteer and help sort books, set up on June 6 (beginning at 4:00PM) and/or help at the event.
  • Solicit or donate additional prizes for raffle related to reading (ex: beanbag chairs, lamp, gift cards to Barnes & Noble, special book sets, etc.)
  • Promote event on social media.
  • Recommend authors or book series for purchase
Since this is slated to be an annual event, as you clean out your bookshelves throughout the year, donations to WLES to support this cause are welcomed year-round!
 
Special kudos to sponsoring staff members Caroline Semrau, Heidi Roy-Borland and Deb Moran for serving on the Book Bingo committee and making this powerful event happen for students and families in Whitmore Lake!

The new www.wlps.net
We are excited to announce the release of our brand new website! In redesigning the site, we kept our parents and community members in mind, making sure it is user friendly and with important information as easy to find as possible. We also wanted to make sure the website accurately captures the high-quality education we provide, making as strong of a first impressions as walking in one of our buildings would.

Keep in mind this is just the first phase; some content is still available only on the old site, as we will continue to move everything to the new one. But I encourage you to check it out, click around and send any feedback to info@wlps.net. With it going live just today, as the DNS propagation continues, you might see an "under construction" message or be referred back to the old site. Just give it a little bit more time and check back throughout the weekend.

New Math Curriculum
By Jill Henry
Instructional Data Coach and 
AP U.S. Government and Politics Teacher
Whitmore Lake Public Schools


Everyday Mathematics has been approved by the Board of Education for implementation at Whitmore Lake Elementary School beginning with the 2016-2017 school year.

Everyday Mathematics was developed by educators at the University of Chicago and is already in use throughout much of Washtenaw County. The program is a research-based and field tested curriculum aimed at developing students into mathematical thinkers. Everyday Mathematics emphasizes the use of real-life examples, repeated exposures to mathematical concepts, regular practice of basic computation skills and a variety of problem-solving strategies.
 
Everyday Mathematics spreads out the learning by revisiting content throughout the school year and across grade levels. This approach leads to better long-term mastery of math facts and concepts and is effective for all types of students, including students who may struggle with math. The program incorporates the Standards for Mathematical Practice which are aligned to current curriculum benchmarks and assessments. These standards encourage students to think mathematically by looking for patterns and connections, showing their thinking, and persevering in solving problems. Games are also an important feature of Everyday Mathematics. Games are integrated into the curriculum to satisfy lesson objectives and reinforce key ideas.
 
Our teachers will have instructional materials by the end of the May and will participate in professional development beginning this summer. We believe the use of Everyday Mathematics from Kindergarten through 6th grade and the additional time and training focused on the teaching and learning of math, all combined with the exceptional, personalized education already provided by the dedicated staff of Whitmore Lake Elementary will lead to higher student achievement.


We are planning a parent night for next fall for Elementary parents to learn more about Everyday Mathematics, so keep an eye out for additional information.

 

Friday, May 13, 2016

News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 30

This week our Instructional Data Coach and AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher, Jill Henry, is joining us as a guest blogger to introduce this week's News and Notes. Since 2009, 101 of her students have passed the AP U.S. Government and Politics test. She is an expert on the topic, and I thought a perfect person to speak to changes in our Advanced Placement courses at WLHS.

Tom DeKeyser
Middle and High School Principal
Superintendent

Advancing Student Learning with Advanced Placement Courses
By Jill Henry
Instructional Data Coach and
AP U.S. Government and Politics Teacher
Whitmore Lake Public Schools

This week 60 Whitmore Lake High School students joined more than 2.4 million other students at more than 20,000 schools nationwide to take an Advanced Placement (AP) exam. Sponsored by the College Board, the AP program allows high school students to participate in college-level coursework, and potentially earn college credit, while still in high school. At WLHS we offer AP U.S. Government and Politics and AP English Literature and Composition, and increased our AP class offerings for 10th to 12th-grade students to include AP Statistics and AP English Language and Composition for the 2015/2016 school year.

There are many benefits for students who enroll in AP courses. Students have an immediate advantage in the college admissions process. The AP designation on a transcript sends the message that a student understands the rigors of college classes and doesn’t shy away from a challenge. The ability to earn college credits not only saves time and money but increases the likelihood students will finish a bachelor’s degree in 4 years. It also allows some students the flexibility to study abroad or secure a second major. Perhaps most importantly, with the support of their AP teachers, students are able to develop critical thinking, time management and problem-solving skills that will prepare them for life beyond the classroom. In fact, the benefits are so numerous, and the connections to college and career success so strong, that next year all of juniors at WLHS will be enrolled in AP Language and Composition.


Congratulations to the hardworking students who participated in our AP program this year. We look forward to sharing the results of the AP exams and celebrating their continued success.

College 101
Six WLHS students will be heading off to the University of Michigan for the 2016 College 101 Program this June. From June 19-June 22, next year's 10th and 11th graders from around Michigan will participate in this four-day program exploring topics of career exploration, college access, academic enrichment and cultural awareness. They will stay on campus in a college dorm and attend a variety of academic presentations and informative programs during the day along with social activities to give them a taste for life on a college campus in the evening.

At WLHS, we strive to create a college-going culture from Preschool on up, and programs like this, in conjunction with our efforts, are invaluable.  This program is particularly beneficial to students who will be the first in their family to attend college as they don't necessarily know what to expect. Programs like this help them gain a greater understanding of what it is actually like to go to college.

Join me in congratulating Izaak Angel, Carissa Hurst, Kristina Lovely, Taylor Ray, Savannah Spangler and Nikki Thomas for admittance into the program.

For students and parents looking for additional information on how to participate in the program next year, visit the website here:
http://ceo.umich.edu/college101/

47th Annual America and Me Essay Contest Winner: Halie Pechette
Founded by the Farm Bureau Insurance in 1968, the America and Me essay contest encourages kids in Michigan to explore their roles in America's future. Over the past 47 years, over a half-million Michigan eighth graders have participated in the contest. And Halie Pechette, a student in Mr. Stidham's eight-grade Language Arts class, was named this year's local winner! Written based on the topic "My Personal Michigan Hero", all entries highlighted someone who has encouraged and inspired the writer to want to live better and achieve more.

Halie's entry will now move on to the state-wide competition where she will compete against over 4,000 entries from nearly 400 Michigan students. Statewide winners, which should be named soon, will receive a plaque, medallion and a cash award of $1,000 at an awards banquet in Lansing on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. In addition, the finalists will meet with state government leaders, be honored at Cooley Law School Stadium as special guests at a Lansing Lugnuts minor league baseball game, and enjoy a luncheon cruise aboard the Michigan Princess Riverboat on the Grand River.

Congratulations to Halie on a job well done! To read her entry honoring her aunt, click HERE.


"The Generic Sci-Fi Movie" Trailer Release
Last week we introduced you to the stars of an upcoming movie during an "E" Whitmore Lake High School exclusive interview. We are excited to announce the trailer for that movie has been released, and you are seeing it here first. Ladies and gentleman, we give you "The Generic Sci-Fi Movie" trailer.




Friday, May 6, 2016

News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 29

Multimedia Students' "E" Whitmore Lake Exclusive Interview
In a galaxy, not so far away, just on Whitmore Lake Rd. in fact, a group of seniors and freshman in Ms. Gordon's multimedia class teamed up to create a video project of epic proportion. The stars were able to take some time out of their busy schedules to sit down with our Community Relations and Recreation Director, Maria Carter-Ewald, for a special "E" Whitmore Lake exclusive interview.
 
Thanks to seniors Max Shew and Nathan Roman and freshman Nathan Shew, Matt Schwennesen, Travis Wilson and Kevin LaMont for giving WLPS the exclusive coverage. Keep an eye out for the upcoming trailer, release date TBD.
 

Super Science Day at WLPS
Biology, ecology, physics, chemistry, math, you name it, our students experienced hands-on activities exploring each of those subjects during a special assembly yesterday courtesy of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Broken up into 4 different sections, 5th-8th traveled from table to table in the WLHS gym in one hour, each table containing an engaging science-related activity facilitated by a WLHS Key Club member or Kiwanis volunteer. Some stations which stood out as students' favorites included oobleck, building a boat, poking pencils through a bag of water and making things explode. You can see all these activities in action in the assembly photo album HERE.
 
Thanks to the support of the Whitmore Lake Kiwanis and a $200 grant from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, this engaging and beneficial program was at very little cost to the district. Eric Kobeck, WLHS teacher who coordinated bringing the program to the district and received the grant, said programs like this are invaluable because they give our students opportunities to have experiences we might not have the classroom time to dedicate to or the equipment or funding to make possible.

Thank you to Mr. Kobeck for his efforts in making the Super Science Day possible, to Whitmore Lake Kiwanis and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum for their support and our Key Club students for volunteering. We look forward to bringing this program back year after year for our students.

Teacher Appreciation Week
This week, in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, we highlighted some testimonials from students, past and present, expressing appreciation for our staff. In case you didn't catch them all on our Facebook page, I wanted to share a few here. I know our teaching staff is the best. But to be able to hear it from our students too, is an extra-special treat. 

Our teachers...another reason why it is a great day to be a Trojan.







Monday, May 2, 2016

Special Edition News and Notes

Please take some time tomorrow to vote in regards to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District's Special Education Millage.  
 
Whitmore Lake Public School's Board recently gave a special presentation to the public reviewing the ballot and the benefits students in Whitmore Lake would receive if it passes.  You can see the presentation in its entirety HERE. Below is a summary:
  • The WISD's 1.5 mill request will help offset the costs of educating Whitmore Lake's students who have special needs.
  • This is a ten-year request.
  • Many of the costs associated with educating students with special needs are covered by the WISD but WLPS still spends between $400,000 and $500,000 of its general fund to cover costs not covered by the WISD. This millage increase will close that gap.
Anybody who lives in the Whitmore Lake Public School district and is a registered voter is eligible to vote tomorrow.  

Voting locations:
Northfield Twp :
Precincts 1 and 3
Northfield Public Safety Building
8350 Main St
Precinct 2
Northfield Fire Station #2
2727 E. North Territorial
Green Oak Twp:
Precincts 3 and 8 will be combined for this vote
Green Oak Methodist Church
10111 Fieldcrest Drive
 
Polls close at 8:00 P.M.  
 
Again, please take the time to vote tomorrow.