Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer News and Notes

The 2016-17 School Year Is In the Books

The time between the last day of classes and June 30th are always filled with deadlines and a flurry of business activities.  Honestly, it is not the best part of my job.  However, this year was a bit different.  Last week ended with three pieces of really good news that I wanted to share before July takes ahold of you and school is a distant memory.

1.  The teachers and the Board of Education worked out a two-year calendar for your planning convenience!  The 2017-18 and 2108-19 school calendars will be made available for viewing in the coming week.
2.  $1 Million Dollars! Our fund balance crested the $1,000,000 mark.  I cannot emphasize how incredible this accomplishment is. Very few school districts rebound in the fashion we have. I am proud to be a part of this district and community.
3.  No more Focus School!  I received news this week from the Michigan Department of Education that Whitmore Lake Elementary was released from its status as a Focus School. Congratulations to Mrs. Wanamaker and her staff.

On behalf of the Board of Education and our collective staff, I wish the students of Whitmore Lake Public Schools and their families an enjoyable summer.  Next time you hear from me will be in the Back to School Guide slated to be made available the first week of August.

This is a great summer to be a Trojan!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

News and Notes: 3.28

Top 10 (which turned into 11) from 2016/2017 School Year
We always end the year of News and Notes with a top ten, highlighting what I identify as my favorite stories from the past school year. Believe it or not, this is our 28th post this year for News and Notes, along with six episodes of Facebook Live Fridays, so narrowing it down wasn't easy. Therefore, I'm breaking the mold and going with top 11.  
I've spent the past month in particular reflecting upon the class of 2017 as they wrapped up their time at WLPS. I've been reflecting on the students who will eventually take their place and the need to continue to be creative and innovative with programming. And with the passing of our sinking fund and a variety of other events throughout the year, the support of our community (both within our buildings made up of teachers, staff and parents, along with the Whitmore Lake community at large) and the need to always stay connected with our alumni, our Trojan family, was at the front of my mind. The top 11 listed below are a representation of all that. I hope you enjoy reflecting on the successes of this past school year, as well, and enjoy your summer break.
See you in the fall.
9.   Student Athletes Signing Letters of Intent (3.16 and 3.17)
8.   Visiting Chinese Teachers (3.25)
7.   Community Based Instruction and Community Partnership in the Pool (3.13)
6.   Project Based Learning and the Free Little Library (3.24)
5.   Facebook Live Friday with WLES Kindergarteners
4.   Sinking Fund Success (3.9)
3.   New Programming at WLPS (3.20)
2.   Laura Sanderson's Second Every Day (3.27)
1.   Jump Rope for Heart All-Star, Mackenzie Williams (3.23)

Friday, June 9, 2017

News and Notes 3.27

Happy Friday, all! My name is Laura Sanderson, and as of last Sunday, I am now an official Whitmore Lake High School alumna. After moving to Whitmore Lake from South Lyon in 2013, I started attending WLHS at the beginning of my freshman year. The past four years have been unlike anything I had imagined when I first began my journey here. Even more unexpectedly, they have flown by. Before I knew it, my senior year was snowballing to a bittersweet end. I realized that I was going to miss this school, all the people in it, all the small details, traditions, and even quirks of life in Whitmore Lake.
This is when I saw a Ted Talk about a project called 1 Second Everyday, and knew it was something I wanted to do to further cherish the memories I’ve made this year. For the last fifty days of my high school career, I recorded at least one second of video every day that documented my personal experience as a senior at WLHS. Anything from my morning coffee, or a friend’s laugh, to Quiz Bowl State’s, Senior Skip Day, and more. While I also love to take photos, these videos enrich the memories further by including motion and sound. Even though they may seem simple to an outsider, just one second of video can trigger entire flashbacks to memories that may have otherwise gotten lost in the craziness of my life. I really wish that I would have started doing my 1 Second Everyday project sooner, but I hope that maybe some high schoolers now will start their own. I plan on continuing to record little bits of my life for an entire year, sort of as a video scrapbook. I look forward to not just telling, but also showing my kids what it was like to graduate high school, to go off to college, and more.
This fall, I will be studying at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Though I will only be 15 minutes away, there really is no place like home. Whitmore Lake shaped my identity and goals and led me to the success I have achieved today. I am very thankful to have this little fifty second video to remind me of how lucky I am to have been a part of this community, and I am so happy to share it with you.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to these memories and to the lasting impact that WLHS has had on my character. I know that even as time persists, and my red and white fades to maize and blue, I will still always be a Trojan.
-Laura Sanderson
WLHS, Class of 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

News and Notes: 3.26

No. I didn't mistake a comma for a period. This is the amount in scholarship money offered to the Whitmore Lake High School Class of 2017. That is a lot of incentives that colleges and universities across the country have put in front of the young men and women who are graduating from WLHS on June 4. In fact, it the highest dollar amount I can remember in my 15 years as principal. 
The amount was revealed at last night's Senior Awards Night.  It was the 31st consecutive time our school has presented the seniors with formal recognition of achievement, scholarship and community service.  It is, by far, my favorite night of the year.  Why?  It is the perfect blend of honoring the seniors who put a good deal of effort into making themselves better prepared for their next venture AND introducing them to a whole community of adults working both in and out of our schools to make sure those efforts are rewarded.   
Below is a listing of students honored and the award/scholarship received
A huge thank you to our Community Scholarship Fund for their efforts in helping so many students get financial support for college. Their board is made up of retired and current WLPS staff, parents, community members and alumni. Because of them, half of this year's graduates received a scholarship!  Amazing. You can find out more about their mission and how you can support it on their website
We'll continue to celebrate the Class of 2017 with a brunch and College Decision Day/Step Up assembly next Thursday morning along with baccalaureate in the evening. And then we'll all join together for graduation on June 4 at 2 p.m. We'll be broadcasting graduation live on our Facebook page, so if you have or are a loved one who can't make it, they can tune in there instead.
Congratulations, again, to the Class of 2017.
What a great day to be a Trojan.

Taking #TrojanPride Locally, State and Worldwide
Remember that scene in Mary Poppins where with a simple count of 1, 2...and a jump, she and the cast stepped into the chalk drawing on the sidewalk. Whether our students are learning about the physics of roller coasters, forts on Mackinaw Island or how long it took Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, I imagine many a-teacher has wished they had the powers to count 1..2.. and jump into the textbooks to really show the students what they are learning about. Luckily, at WLPS, we are intentional about providing opportunities for our students to get into the thick of what they are learning about.
Within the past two months, our 5th graders headed to Howell Nature Center for the long-standing tradition of 5th grade camp (Ms. Matovski took some great pictures which are posted on our Facebook page HERE). Seventh and 8th graders trekked to Washington D.C. (If you haven't viewed the video showcasing a highlight of the trip, you should check it out HERE); A group of juniors and seniors explored London, Paris and Barcelona. Ms. Lemons took her Physics class to Cedar Point, and the list goes on.
Knowing the benefit of experience what they are learning about first-hand, along with the camaraderie and independence gained from an overnight trip, Ms. Otterman presented to the board a proposal to take next year's 3rd and 4th graders on an overnight trip to Mackinaw Island to compliment their Michigan History curriculum. It was approved unanimously by our Board of Education. And a fun side-note, is a district parent, Caro Uhlemann-Short from Bob Rogers Travel will be coordinating the trip.
On their itinerary includes but is not limited to visit to the Historic Mill Creek Discover Park including a Zip Line Adventure Tour. They will explore Colonial Michilimackinac and Fort Mackinac along with a carriage ride around the island.
I'm excited to hear about our students' experiences and encourage 3rd and 4th grade parents to keep an eye out for more information coming your way soon.
Our current 9th and 10th graders have an opportunity to head to the Swiss Alps, Italy (including Venice, Florence and Rome, and the French Riviera) for the WLHS Trip Club 2019 Spring Break Trip. Students will dive into geography, history and culture of Europe.

As I mentioned above, over this year's Spring Break, twenty-four of our WLHS students traveled to Europe to visit iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye, tour Stonehenge and the English countryside, and relax on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona. Students on the trip did a Twitter takeover of the @wlschools twitter account. Check out the tweets in April to get a glimpse of the amazing experience the students had.
Parents of current 9th and 10th graders interested in the trip need to attend the parent meeting coming up on Thursday, June 1 at 6:30 PM in room A105. At the meeting they will learn more details about the itinerary, discuss cost and payment options and review enrollment procedures. 
If you can't make it to the meeting but are interested in learning more, please contact Jill Henry ( and Candy Huddleston ( ASAP.
Blue Out for Kindness
Helping reinforce WLES' commitment to cultivating a culture of kindness within their building and the Whitmore Lake community, yesterday they hosted a Blue out for Kindness. WLES PTA sold shirts for the day (which also served as a fundraiser for the upcoming June Field Day) and encouraged all students and staff to wear blue. Another great reason (though, do we really need more) to shout Go Blue! Check out the full album of pictures HERE.
Class of 2030
The end of the year is full of celebrations, including our Early Childhood Center Preschool graduation! Here are a few pictures of the members of the Class of 2030 to help kick off your Memorial Day weekend with an extra dose of adorable.

Friday, May 19, 2017

News and Notes 3.25

The Best School in the Country
It was during the second day of a four-day visit from a group of teachers from China when one of them told me, "Your schools are the best we've seen in this country!"  I, honestly, sometimes think that very thought, but it's a bold proclamation and hard to quantify.  So, I asked the teacher why?  Why do you think our schools are the best?  "Your schools look like and act like a family." She said. Adding, "Everybody works together and works with the kids.  It is how education should be, and this is the first place we've seen [it] so pronounced."  
I admit, that statement endeared me to our ten guests. But beyond that, it was their willingness to "jump right in and help" as 3rd-grade teacher, Carolyn Otterman put it that earned my respect.  Also, I found their insatiable curiosity about all aspects of our educational processes really uplifting. They care about the entire education of a child, yet, they got really excited when they got to talk "shop" with content-specific teachers--very much like us.
So, why were they here? WLPS is adding a Chinese language program in our Early Childhood Center and Elementary School next year.  We will introduce the language and the culture to our students. As such, I wanted to better understand it. I also wanted the individuals who will work with our students and our staff to better understand the community of Whitmore Lake. Thus, a partnership was formed. Our district arranged to provide mentor teachers. I told my staff, the mentorship could be as easy as simply letting the guests from China watch you work.  Or, it could be as complex as the friendships you form with your peers at WLPS. Turned out to be the latter.
The visit ended on Thursday evening; they were my guests at our band concert.  Our students from grades 5 through 12 put on a great show. The guest teachers kept commenting to me how instrumental band is not taught in schools in China and how talented our teachers and staff were. Then, when Alaina DiDio sang "Moon River" with our WLHS band accompanying her, they were beside themselves. She performed a wonderful version, and it was a fitting end to time well spent.
I started my visit with these teachers telling them how proud I was to be a "Trojan."  After that performance they were telling me I hit the nail on the head (one of several idioms they learned from my staff.)
I'm looking forward to continuing this partnership and would love to introduce more of our students to a new culture--especially one that is so respectful of the needs of children. 
Indeed, it is another great day to be a Trojan.
You can enjoy more photos from the visit HERE.

Friday, May 12, 2017

News and Notes 3.24

Red & White at the Maize & Blue
Spring sports are great - when the sun shines and the temperature rises above 50 degrees that is.  This season has seen it's share of foul weather, but our Trojans are making the best of it.  We have a competitive Track and Field team at both the middle and high school level.  Our Lacrosse team is also competitive, despite being bumped up to Division 1 this year.  Golf is pushing the other teams in the area and is currently in 2nd place in our conference (Tri-County Conference).  

This past Monday our baseball and softball teams played games, as usual.  However, the venue hosting the games was unique.  Both teams were invited to play at the University of Michigan fields.  This was a great opportunity for our athletes to get some exposure at one of the nation's premiere sports complexes.  It was especially nice because both teams have seen success this season.  Softball's Alaina DiDio is coming off a no-hitter at Sand Creek and is leading our young team to a bright future.  Our baseball team is 10-4 and would love a post season run like they had in 2015.  So, getting a chance to display their collective talents at UM Softball's Alumni Field and UM Baseball's Fisher Stadium the words of WLHS Varisty Softball Coach, Patti Kobeck, "Pretty awesome!"  (Coach Kobeck did mention the experience would have been better if was at MSU.)

Our athletic department recognizes that sports play a significant role in the lives of many of our students.  Taking advantage of our proximity to these venues is important as it broadens the experiences of our students and gives them a chance to do things they may never do a again, or, as our district's vision statement professes, " individuals the inspiration to dream..."  WLHS student-athletes enjoyed the opportunity so much, we are trying to make it an annual event.  
Head to the album on Facebook HERE to enjoy pictures from the event.
What a great day to be a Trojan.

Representative Donna Lasinski Visits WLHS
This past Monday we had the pleasure of welcoming Michigan Representative Donna Lasinski at the high school. Ms. Ward’s first ever Advanced Placement Government class and Ms. Henry’s last Advanced Placement Government class met together to hear from Rep. Lasinski about her experiences in state public service.

Mrs. Lasinski began her work in government out of a deep interest in her own kids’ education. After serving on the Ann Arbor Public Schools School Board, Lasinski gained valuable experience and bipartisan support that led her to win a seat for her first term in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Since the AP Government class focuses more on the federal level of government, Rep. Lasinski's knowledge was a nice new perspective. She discussed how taxes are collected and spent, crunching some numbers regarding how Michigan public schools are now funded under the current state budget.

In response to student questions, Lasinski discussed her two main goals for education. First, to gain $1,200 more per student. Lasinski explained how, according to an evaluation of the state public education system, the Michigan state government is spending $1,200 less per student than is needed to adequately educate our kids. In fact, special education and "at-risk" students are in need of 30% more funding on top of that.
The Michigan Education Finance Study, conducted by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates of Colorado found that 90% of Michigan school districts are not adequately funded to be "notably successful."
Secondly, Lasinski expressed her desire for more consistency in state mandated testing. "Pick one and stick with it," she said. At the mention of the recent switch from the mandatory ACT to the SAT, students across the room nodded their heads in agreement, as they are the ones who have experienced that change firsthand.

We appreciate Rep. Lasinski coming to speak with our students, taking the time to connect with her future constituents.  
Project Based Learning Little Free Library
You might hear a term used a lot, particularly in our elementary grades, called Project Based Learning or PBL. Essentially PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. . Students do this by identifying a local or global real-world problem researching that issue, developing a solution using evidence to support their claim and then presenting and executing a solution through multimedia, and 21st-century tools.
When you think of a project, you might think about those old state reports many of us remember doing. You know, finding a profile of a state in the almanac, writing all those facts on the poster board highlighting imports, exports, population, terrain, etc. PBL projects are nothing like that.
To give you a perfect example of how a PBL project evolves, we look to last year's WLES 2nd graders.
While studying communities in social studies, they learned about their own community and those around them. This was taking place during the start of the Flint water crisis, which resonated with the students. Through their research on the subject, they learned how being read to can help curb a lot of the negative effects lead poisoning has on younger children. This lead to the students running a book drive for the children of Flint in partnership with United Way. They donated 2,016 books.
The discussion then became localized to their own community. Knowing through their research how important reading in early childhood is, students considered what their own community does to help encourage reading and how they could contribute.
The students began making posters promoting reading to young children, put out book collection boxes and brainstormed ways to take it even further.
Their answer? Bringing a library closer to where a lot of the students live. Becoming familiar with the Little Free Library project and identifying that their Elementary school was surrounded by neighborhoods, they determined the school was a perfect location.
The students coordinated a letter writing campaign, with help from Ms. Bakker,  mailing a letter soliciting donations for their project to local businesses. They received donations from 11 local businesses, and before they knew it their project was fully funded.
With a plan in hand, they commissioned a student's grandfather, Robert Alexander, to build their library. Using a little creative freedom, he built a beautiful structure. WLES teacher Ms. Roy-Borland then used her artistic skills, donating her time to transform the raw wood into what is pictured below--Little Free Library #52379.
The little library was installed a little over a week ago. The now third grade class are deemed the caretakers of the library. In conjunction with their teachers, they have planned a ribbon cutting ceremony for next Friday, 2:30 p.m. Members of the community, our school board and the businesses who donated have been invited to join. Attendees are in store for lots of fun surprises, as I hear both Ms. Schneider and Ms. Baitinger are putting their baking skills to the test for some fun book-themed desserts  to make the ceremony extra special.
We can use our "teacher speak" to communicate the approaches we take to providing your students with exceptional, personalized education all day long (well at least until your eyes glaze over.) But being able to share a specific example of Project Based Learning like this fully demonstrates the innovation, team building, problem solving and empowerment that is happening in our classrooms every day.
Congratulations to the staff involved and the successful completion of their project, start to finish. And thanks to Mr. Alexander and Ms. Roy-Borland for lending their artistic skills to the project. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for pictures of the ceremony next Friday. 
Thanks also to the business who donated:
Polly's Market
Diversified Docks
AlDente Pasta
Best Western
Little Friends
Van's Archery
National Staffing and Home Care
Val's Service
SLM Trailers LLC