Friday, February 24, 2017

News and Notes 3.17

Highlights from a Week Spent in WLPS
Graduation is 99 days away and most soon-to-be graduates are making college selections, identifying careers or firming up plans to serve in the military. Some have signed a letter of intent to continue playing their favorite sport in college. It has been fun to watch Evan Ward (lacrosse); Ryan Kadoguchi (baseball); and Audrey Lama (volleyball) make their choices, and see their talent and effort pay off.

Our elementary school recently completed a survey aimed at improving our learning opportunities. Some good results came out of the work, including college and career readiness. Our BOE will be using these results to plan for continuous improvement. One thing that I noticed over and over again on the survey was the deep care parents felt from all the staff at the school. I could not agree more.

I have heard (literally) that our middle school and high school students are loaded with outstanding choir students. So much talent deserves further development. Mrs. Fixler, our choir teacher, thinks so too. She is starting an A Cappella Club. This group will meet after school, and the interest in it will hopefully grow. Our aim is to meet the needs of our students and families in WL. This club is a great example of programming we are adding to improve the quality of our education and improve the experiences of our students in WLPS.


It is a great day to be a Trojan.

Free Basketball Camp
Last year, thanks to Team Alliance Plastics’ (TAP), Whitmore Lake Community Recreation (WLCR) and the Michigan Pond Hockey Sports Charities (MPHSC), 45 boys and girls in grades third-eighth who weren't heading on vacation for spring break participated in a free basketball camp. And we are excited to welcome the program back for a second year. 


A main sponsor, TAP, was founded in 2000 by Mike Cohen. Cohen played basketball for Iowa State University and continued to dedicate his life to the sport by funding basketball camps all over Michigan until losing a long battle with brain cancer in April, 2012.

In his memory, Cohen’s brother, Sheldon, and son, Matt, have continued to fund basketball camps across Michigan with a couple spring break camps in the works and plans to have more in the coming years. 


At the center of bringing the camp to Whitmore Lake is WLCR Recreation Coordinator and and WLPS Athletic Director, Brad McCormack. McCormack met Cohen years before he passed away when he quickly became one of McCormack’s biggest inspirations. His constant devotion and passion for getting kids involved in sports was something McCormack admired. 

“He was one of the toughest guys I knew, always pushing kids to their limits. But despite all of the long hours of practicing and yelling, Cohen was the nicest guy I’ve ever known,” McCormack shared.

With the mission of providing families financial assistance to help their children participate in youth athletic programs, when McCormack approached Sam Iaquinto, president of the MPHSC with Cohen’s story and the goal of bringing another camp to Whitmore, Iaquinto said helping make that happen was a no-brainer. 


And even though the Pond Hockey Tournament has been cancelled the past two years because of unseasonably warm weather, crippling their fundraising efforts, the group still stays dedicated to the cause, providing enough funding for 80 kids to participate in the camp! 

This year, the camp also welcomes a new sponsor, Brian Bower of Thrivent Financial.

Bower is no stranger to high school athletics or small towns. His dad was an Athletic Director and Varsity Basketball Coach for over 25 years at the small high school he attended in the Upper Peninsula and he played every sport offered to him. Currently he officiates for basketball and football at the high school and collegiate level, in addition to coaching his son's baseball and basketball teams.

"Sports teach so many valuable lessons to young people. Not only do they provide physical activity, but they teach kids about leadership, teamwork and sportsmanship," said Bower. 


Having lived in Whitmore Lake for the past three years and enjoying the small-town feel, similar to where he grew up, Bower was excited to connect with WLPS and give back to the community.

In addition to his work with the Spring Break Basketball Camp, Bower is also sponsoring the WLCR Youth Basketball League banquet, providing the pizza.


Registration opened this week, and we already have 26 kids registered. The deadline for registration is March 24 or until filled. For more information, contact Brad.McCormack@wlps.net. To register click HERE or call 734.449.4461 x3057.

The WLCR department of Whitmore Lake Public Schools would like to sincerely thank TAP and the MPHSC for their generous support, along with their new sponsor Brian Bower of Thriven Financial. 


For more information on the Michigan Pond Hockey Sports Charities, check out their website here: http://www.michiganpondhockey.com/

And for more information Thrivent Financial, check out their website here: www.thrivent.com.

Rounding Up Our Tiny Trojans
Last Sunday a parent of an upcoming kindergartner shared one of the best posts on our Facebook page. I've shared it here. It is of her daughter "gearing up for kindergarten round-up. #TrojanPride." I love it. At a young age, she already knows she is getting ready to join "the school with the spirit" and ready to show off her #TrojanPride.

It also presents us with a great chance for us to remind our Trojans with tiny ones that two important events are coming up: Kindergarten Roundup and Preschool Registration. You can head to the Facebook events for more details or check out the flyers below. And for those who know young families, I encourage you to share that information with them as well. We are a school of choice, so even if they do not live in the district, we welcome them to these events to see the exceptional, personalized education we have to offer.

Next week for our March edition of Facebook Live Friday, I'll be joined on a school bus by a few WLES kindergarteners and our Elementary principal, Sue Wanamaker, to learn what it is like being a kindergartener at WLES. Tune in at 12:30 p.m. to our Facebook page, next Friday, March 3. I can't imagine anything better than chatting with kindergarteners on a live broadcast! It will be a ton of fun!


Friday, February 17, 2017

News and Notes 3.16

This week WLPS lost a couple of its finest after long battles with illnesses, Nancy Lashbrook and Bonnie Carpenter.

Former teacher, Nancy Lashbrook, lost a battle with ALS this past weekend. Although Nancy has been retired for 15 years, her death was deeply felt by staff and former students who fondly remembered her talent and compassion. Nancy moved back to her home state of Illinois after retiring from WLPS, but the distance didn't keep her students from finding her and sharing their successes. Her daughter, Lauren, commented on her mother's death this week. "She left the way she lived--surrounded by her loving family." On behalf of the WLPS Board of Education, staff and students, I express my sympathies to the Lashbrook family (Steve - husband, Dave - brother, Lauren - daughter). And, I extend thanks to Nancy for helping make great a group of Trojans who loved her very much. You can read more about Nancy's life 
HERE
.

More locally, Bonnie Carpenter ended a fight with cancer this week. Bonnie was a long-time supporter of WLPS. She first introduced herself to me over a decade ago as the "popcorn lady." I didn't understand her title completely until I walked into my first Battle of the Bands fundraiser and saw the Carpenters handing out bags of popcorn while the music seemingly was lifting the roof off its rafters. Bonnie was unphased, and her enthusiasm kept me from canceling the event for a noise violation. :) She just looked at me with a big smile and handed me a bag, as if to say, "Go. Enjoy yourself with these beautiful young people."

Bonnie, along with her husband, Will, were on campus so much as their children (Zach, Garrett, Mitchell and Maddie) navigated through school, I was tempted to hand them the keys and tell them to lock up when they were done. After all her children graduated, Bonnie remained active in WLPS by serving on the board of the Community Scholarship Fund with her husband Will. She was dedicated to fundraising for the betterment of children in Whitmore Lake. A Community Scholarship memorial fund has been set up in her honor and donation information is below.

A special service will take place at WLHS on Saturday, February 25 at 9:00 A.M. so friends and family of Bonnie can gather and share the gift of her life. There will, appropriately, be popcorn and a chocolate bar. (If you would like to contribute chocolate, bring your offering on Saturday).
In lieu of flowers, a memorial scholarship has been established and the wishes of Bonnie were for any contributions to be made toward furthering the education of future WLPS students. You can donate online HERE. You can also donate to continue research of her rare form of cancer by clicking on this fundraiser link: https://consano.org.


Board president, Ken Dignan commented, "On behalf of the entire Board of Education, we express our condolences to the Carpenter family. Bonnie was an unwavering supporter of the students and staff of WLPS. Her dedication was truly an inspiration to serve and make our community a place where all children are welcome."
 

Next Level Trojan Pride
This week, our third WLHS athlete this year committed to play a sport at the collegiate level. On Wednesday in the WLHS gym, Ryan Kadoguchi, surrounded by his family, signed his letter of intent to attend and play baseball at Cleary University.


Last season, playing shortstop and pitcher, Ryan threw 26 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched, giving up only 11 earned runs, making his ERA 2.852. From the plate, Kadoguchi had a .304 batting average, with a season total of 31 hits, 27 of which being RBIs. With 15 walks and 31 hits, he had an on-base percentage of .392.

Kadoguchi joins Audrey Lama, who has committed to playing volleyball at Olivet College, and Evan Ward who has committed to play lacrosse at Concordia University Ann Arbor, as Trojans headed to play at the collegiate level next year. Additionally, we anticipate another announcement coming from Spencer Iaquinto who will be playing college football.
Join me in congratulating these student-athletes in taking their Trojan pride to the next level.
































Jump, Jump Around!
If you were around WLES today and Thursday, you would have noticed a whole bunch of students jumping around. No, it wasn't sugar buzzes left over from Valentine's Day candy. It was our annual Jump Rope for Heart event. Students learned to jump rope with individual and long ropes, skip its, jump sticks and hurdles, and participated in limbo and jump rope contests. In addition to learning valuable heart healthy facts, they have raised over $10,000! With a goal of $15,000, the drive continues until February 28th. 


 If the students reach their goal, our PTA has generously agreed to provide a bounce house for all students to enjoy when the weather gets a little nicer. Now that is some motivation! WLES gym teacher and master-mind behind our super successful JRFH events, Aimee Taylor, share that many students have been getting serious with their fund-raising efforts, having done chores to earn money, donating birthday money and holding bake sales. One family even held an auction at a private gym to raise money for the cause!

Heart Month-based lessons continue throughout the month. Starting next week, students will travel through the four chambers of the heart, pretending they are red blood cells. As they travel through the heart obstacle course, students will learn about the risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, poor nutrition, lack of exercise and family history, in addition to learning about the warning signs of a stroke.

You can check out photos from the event courtesy of Pam Blount and WLES student, Joey Wilson, in the Facebook album HERE.

A special note for WLES families: Please have your students go online at heart.org/jump, register and take the ZooCrew Ecard Heart Challenge and earn their badge by sending at least 10 emails or Ecards. If 50 of our students do so, our school will earn a $100 gift certificate for PE equipment and $300 if 100 students do so!
 

Friday, February 10, 2017

News and Notes 3.15

I get inspired by watching people do kind, unselfish things. This past fall, I watched the Carpenters (Bonnie and Will) put together a Whitmore Lake Cross Country reunion at the Larry Steeb Invitational. The event brought back many alumni, friends, and families. It even brought back the traditional breakfast. Seeing Will Carpenter flipping pancakes filled me with a flood of old memories and reminded me of how many people are truly involved in the education of our students. It is not just teachers, students, moms and dads--it is a much larger group of people. 
 
The sentiment that educating our community's children is best done by a very broad network of supporters was strong motivation to revitalize the Whitmore Lake Foundation of Educational Excellence (wlfee.org) and continue to support the very successful Community Scholarship Fund, of which Bonnie and Will Carpenter serve on the Board.
 
The Whitmore Lake Foundation for Educational Excellence (WLFEE) is run by a board of community members.  Funds are largely generated by employee contributions. The Foundation recently approved funding $5,000 in classroom technology improvements at WLES!  The intent is to expand that amount each year. WLFEE has a couple fundraising opportunities in the coming months. On March 9, they'll be hosting an event at Panera, details coming soon. On May 12, Whitmore Lake Community Recreation is hosting a Zumbathon to benefit WLFEE. Details can be found HERE. Thanks in advance for your support.
 
Community Scholarship Fund's (CSF) letter campaign just started this week. Support from local donors and alumni all over the planet generate thousands of dollars in annual scholarships for WLHS graduates. Last year, graduates from the Class of 2016 received nearly $30,000 from our community alone. Many of these scholarships are in honor of past Trojans, including Larry Steeb, Glenn Bachman and more. This year, the CSF Board of Directors created an additional scholarship to honor Bonnie Carpenter and the contributions she has made to WLPS. You can make a tax-deductible donation to a specific scholarship or to the fund at large by visiting their website, www.wlcommunityscholarship.org.
 
For those people who make it part of their life to keep giving to the students of our community, I say to you, it's a great day to be a Trojan.
 
New Art Teacher
While we are sad to say goodbye to Ms. Rea (if you didn't see last week's Facebook Live Friday with her, make sure to check that out HERE), we are excited to welcome a new Trojan to the team, Sarah Koch, as her replacement. Below is an interview with Ms. Koch to help you get to know her. And I hope you all will join me in welcoming her to Whitmore Lake!
 
On a side note, Ms. Koch has a solo art exhibition opening at Wayne Community College's Brown and Juanita C. Ford Art Gallery at the Downriver Campus starting March 1 that runs through March 23. I encourage you all to go, and check it out!

Q: Where are you from and where do you currently live?
A: I am from Livonia, and I have lived in Livonia my entire life.

Q: Tell us about your family.
A: My family is very tight-knit, and we all like spending time together. My mom is a registered nurse and supervisor and my dad is retired from General Motors. I have an older brother who is a few years older than me who is a musician and plays hockey in his spare time. I am the only one in my family who is an artist and a teacher. Unfortunately, I do not have any pets right now, but I am hoping to get a dog sometime in the future! I love animals, and I have always wanted a pet.

Q: Where did you attend high school, and what was your favorite subject in school?
A: I attended Churchill High School in Livonia. My favorite subject in high school was art which makes sense because I am now both an art teacher and an artist.

Q: Where did you go to college?
A: I attended the College for Creative Studies which is a private art college in Detroit. 

Q: What made you want to teach in Whitmore Lake?
A: I attended a small college which has a very tight-knit community where all of the instructors and students know each other very well. I was looking for that same experience as a teacher, and I felt that Whitmore Lake had a similar setting to my college experience.

Q: With less than a week under your belt, what would you say your favorite part has been?
A: My favorite part has been getting to know the staff, faculty, and students. I have received an overwhelmingly positive and supportive reception from everyone at Whitmore Lake. I am looking forward to what the future will hold as a faculty member at Whitmore Lake.

Q: What do you look forward to the most?
A: I look forward to helping students grow and develop as creative thinkers, problem solvers, and artists. I am very passionate about both art and education and I am excited to pass on my art knowledge to my students.

Q: Is there something about you that would surprise others about you?
A: I have a black belt in Martial Arts.

Q: Name one of your favorite books?
A: The Outsiders

Q: And, important stuff here, what is your favorite food?
A: I would have to say pizza is my favorite food; it's a classic.

Q:Anything else to add?
A: I am very happy and excited to be here at Whitmore Lake! I can't wait to meet more of the staff, faculty, and students.
 
WLHS Quiz Bowl
It is official. After winning their division in the Tri-County Quiz Bowl league, The WLHS Varsity Quiz Bowl team has qualified to head to the state finals at Michigan State University coming up in April! Having made it to states two out of the three past seasons, they hope to place high in this state tournament with many returning players on the team this year.

On this year's team are Caleb Henning, Gabrielle Angel, Laura Sanderson, Lydia Rogers, Justin Florkowski, Mallory Bolda, Danielle Corrie, Cole Griffin, and Hunter Fanson.

They gathered together this past Wednesday, with their family and friends, for an end of season banquet to celebrate their strong season, going 5-1 in their division and 8-2 in their league. Varsity coach LuAnn Easlick and Junior Varsity coach Julie Fleury awarded Varsity players with their letters, two or three year pins and/or four year certificates, and gave all players participation certificates and individual awards.

And the team has a lot to celebrate, considering the regular season goes from October to February. Both Varsity and Junior Varsity have weekly meets and practices twice a week. Varsity will continue to practice until the state finals, with a Varsity vs. Faculty meet in the works to motivate the team to stay sharp.
Junior Varsity had a great year as well. They won the red division title with a 6-0 record in division matches and finished with an overall season record of 9-1. Congratulations to the team, which includes Abbigail Fraga, Marissa Kyle, Kohl Majesky, Claire Schwennesen, Christina Smith, Carissa Stanley and Matt Schwennesen.
Congratulations to the coaches and students on another successful season, and best of luck to the varsity team as they prepare and head to the state competition. Go Trojans!  

100th Day of School
Though the official 100th day of school isn't until Valentine's Day, our Kindergarten classes celebrated it a few days early to give some space between the festivities.

Each month Ms. Matovski's 5th grade class partners with our kindergarten classes for "Buddies" time where the older students have an opportunity to help the younger students with a project, craft, or learning how to read. Today they celebrated the 100th day of school together, making gum ball projects along with counting 100 gum balls! We also had some special "100-year-old" visitors come to Kindergarten today to join the festivities. (I'd like to trade with the one wearing the "Retired and Loving It" hat for a day).

Here is to the next 82 school days left!



Friday, January 27, 2017

News and Notes 3.14

On Monday I attended our retreat with our Board of Education where we explored the things we do well at WLPS. I wanted to share an infographic highlighting those points of Trojan Pride. Enjoy this visual representation of just some of the reason why it is a great day to be a Trojan.

 
College Planning Course
As we wrap up another semester, we are also wrapping up the College Planning Course pilot. WLHS is one of 36 schools in the state to participate in this program, which is a collaboration between the Michigan Department of Education and the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN).
 
As part of the curriculum, students in this elective explored career interests, what they would need to do after high school to pursue that career, created resumes, discussed how to find the right college match or fit, completed college and scholarship applications, the FAFSA, heard presentations from college representatives visiting the class and much more.
 
As a final project this week, seniors in the two sections of the class presented what college they have chosen and why it is a good fit, what their area of study will be (if decided), what steps they have taken in the admissions process and what steps are left, what activities on campus they are interested in and what their housing and meal plan plans will be. From Washtenaw Community College to the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University and beyond, the choices varied. Some students were motivated by price of tuition, particular area of study, chance to compete on an athletic team and proximity to home (whether it be close to home or far, far away).
 
The research team heading up this project provided the district with the curriculum, lesson plans, assignments and training for our teacher, Kris Klump-Ward, along with a small stipend for participating. As part of the pilot, our students, teacher and administration had to complete a variety of surveys, the results of which will be used to evaluate the effects of embedding college advising into the high school curriculum.
 
While some students entered the class already having their minds made up, for many of our students having time during the school day for guidance to make educated decisions was very beneficial.  In addition, students didn't miss other classes for college visits, as all admission reps came during the College Planning course. Plus students were exposed to colleges they might not have normally considered. As example, Ms. Klump-Ward indicated a few of our students plan on attending Adrian even though it wasn't on their initial list of colleges they were considering.  
 
This course was a great addition to the already existing efforts of growing the college-going culture of WLPS, helping the statewide initiative of increasing the percentage of Michigan residents with high quality degrees or credential to 60% by 2025. We look forward to running the second year of the pilot with the Class of 2018.
 
Snowcoming 2017
 
Believe it or not, Snowcoming is next week, though I'm not sure Michigan got the memo. Either way, below is a reminder of spirit days celebrated both by at the elementary and secondary level. I encourage you all to come out to the high school next Friday to support our boys teams at the Snowcoming game as well as enjoy the court celebration between the JV and Varsity games. And a friendly reminder to students, the dance will be on Saturday, February 4, 7:30 p.m. Admission is $10 or you can get in free by helping the Student Council decorate Saturday morning starting at 9 a.m. Dress is semi-formal so no jeans are allowed. The doors will be closed and locked at 9 p.m. and no one will be allowed to enter after that time. Students bringing someone who is a non-WLPS student must get a guest pass from the office. Feel free to tweet any Snowcoming questions to our WLHS Student Council @WLHSstuco.
 
Facebook Live Friday Next Week
In lieu of News and Notes, on the first Friday of every month, I've been doing what we call "Facebook Live Fridays" where I invite a special guest to join me on a bus ride to highlight different things happening in our community and school district. Next week I will have the pleasure of sitting down with our beloved art teacher Mrs. Rea on her very last day at WLHS. Mrs. Rea is heading for retirement, so make sure to tune in next Friday at noon, and join me in showering her with appreciation and well wishes!
 

Friday, January 20, 2017

News and Notes 3.13

Let's Hear it for the Board!
 
"A thankless job." I remember thinking that for several years as I watched an upset parent express displeasure to the Board of Education. I also remember thinking, "Why would anybody sign up for it?" The answer: they care about this community and its children.  Whitmore Lake is important to them, and its success is deeply tied to its schools. Amen to that AND thank you. 

January is School Board Appreciation Month. And in celebration of that, I want to share a quick list on why I appreciate the WLPS Board of Education:
  • Each member puts the schools first. They don't just think about their own children. They think about ALL the children. That is a sign of a good person.
  • They don't take credit for successes. They are pleased when a plan works and are quick to thank those who executed it.  
  • They approach things as a team. They know we are stronger as whole than as individuals. That sends a good message about leadership to our community. 
  • Professionalism and preparedness are always evident. From last October until January, BOE members took classes on leadership, school finance and facility management, just to name a few. They don't just show up at meetings, listen and vote.  They study and learn so they can make informed decisions.
  • The future is coming and they know it. Working to maintain is one thing but preparing for the future is completely different.  They know change is a part of life, and they don't shy away from the discomfort of planning for it.
We are lucky to have committed community members looking out for the future of WLPS.  Take a minute to thank a member of the WLPS BOE.
 
Ken Dignan, President
Laura Schwennesen, Vice President
Michelle Kritzman, Secretary
Bob Henry, Treasurer
Lee Cole, Trustee
Lisa McCully, Trustee
John Meadows, Trustee

The "Community" part of Community Based Instruction
At WLHS we have a course called Community Based Instruction (CBI) as part of our Special Education department. This class if for students in grades 7-12 who are working to earn a Certificate of Completion as they enter the Young Adult Program, instead of earning a traditional diploma. The teacher, Mrs. Conzelman, teaches the students life skills ranging from using a computer, cooking, budgeting, communication, social etiquette and following directions from a boss. They take trips to the local grocery stores and learn about budgeting their money, following recipes and kitchen safety. The ultimate goal is to teach these students skills to help them become happy adults who live as independently as possible.

A key component to success of this class is the "community" piece--essentially the community is their classroom. One of our students is currently working at Precious Ones Daycare on Main St. and another is volunteering to help in the high school media center and cafeteria. Another great example of this has been the work the students do each Friday in our community pool. They head to the pool during the morning lap swim hours every Friday for some exercise and lessons in water safety with their aide, Yvonne Hayes. Two community members, pool patrons and retired social workers, Terry Bond-Manville and Erica Perry, have been volunteering their time to work with the students every other week.

Terry Bond-Manville worked for 25 years as a school social worker, many of which have been at WLPS. And she is no stranger to the pool either, having worked as a water aerobic and swim lesson instructor at the WL Community Pool. After starting to attend lap swim in 2011 while training for a triathlon, Terry began interacting with the students in CBI as they waded in the shallow end. After determining none of them had learned to swim, she identified a need and went "to work." After retiring from the district in 2014, she took a break under the understanding another instructor would continue to work with the students. But after getting reacquainted with them in 2016, she identified the need for her services once more and started working with the students again, volunteering every other Friday. Recently a potential conflict came up with her teaching schedule at Eastern Michigan University, and upon hearing that she might not be able to work with them in the new year, the students presented her with a cup and hot chocolate and a plea to keep being their swim instructor. Terry is now teaching the students water aerobics. They were quite persuasive. And as Terry put it, "They are funny.  They challenge me.  They have tenacity.  I see them develop nice relationships with one another while doing something fun and important for their overall well-being."
 
Erica was a renal social worker at University of Michigan Hospitals for 40 years, has lived in Whitmore Lake for 30 years and is currently serving as a planning commissioner for Webster Township. Having been a patron of our Community Pool for three years attending lap swim, she recently heard that another social worker was volunteering to work with the kids, and she quickly volunteered her help. She has been focusing on working with a student who is particularly afraid of the deep end of the pool, but with Erica's support has been quickly gaining courage. Erica indicated at a recent swim, she asked to go to the deep end with the other kids and even wanted her aide to take a picture of her (with Erica by her side for reassurance) to show her mom. "I have been collecting ideas for using noodles and the foam barbells because it seems to me that these kids like direction, like challenges, and feel proud of themselves when they do something they didn't suspect that they could," Erica said. Helping kids gain confidence and work through challenges is nothing new to Erica. While she worked with all ages, she spent a lot of time fundraising for and taking children on dialysis on white water rafting trips and trips all over the country during her time at U of M. She has spoken nationally on her work in this area, sharing how these trips helped these children have more self confidence and dreams for their future.

I sincerely thank these two community members for the generosity and dedication to our students. If you are a community member with a hobby, talent or profession that our students could learn about, please consider volunteering to work with our students in CBI. Whether it is a one time class or repeated month/weekly, we would love to hear from you. Contact our Director of Student Services, Melissa Heuker, at Melissa.heuker@wlps.net or 734.449.4464 x4013.

Catching the WLCR Wave
While we are on the topic of the pool and our CBI students, I want to give a quick shout out to our Community Recreation swim team, the WLCR Waves. During their first meet of the season against Pinckney Tuesday evening at our pool, they set six team records and came out with a win against Pinckney for the first time since our swim team program began in 2011. The 42 swimmers on this year's team range from 6-years-old to 18-years-old. For more information on the team, and or to register for the season, visit their website or contact Aquatic Programming Supervisor Chas Sloan at chas.sloan@wlps.net. And join me in congratulating the Waves on a fantastic start to the season! Go Waves!

(And if you are itching to get some pool time yourself this weekend, WLCR is hosting a Dive-In Movie, featuring Finding Dory. Details can be found HERE.)

Schools of Kindness
At WLPS, one of our main values is higher achievement. The decisions our Board of Education and administration make, fall in line with that value. But what many don't realize is ensuring higher student achievement isn't about the curriculum alone. School culture is also a huge factor. Research shows us again and again that in order for our students to learn optimally, they need to feel safe and accepted with limited distraction. This has been the driving force behind the WLES School of Kindness initiative this year.
 
Three years ago, WLES adopted the PBIS program (you can read more about that in NN 1.11 and 2.27) to help reinforce student's positive behavior. Then two years ago, a program called Second Step was adopted K-6. Second Step program gives teachers tools to integrate social-emotional learning into their classrooms. Through short weekly lessons, daily activities, interactive songs and games and videos, students learn about empathy, how to cope with emotions so they don't escalate into negative behaviors and solve interpersonal conflicts with peers. (You can learn more about Second Step here: http://www.cfchildren.org/second-step/elementary).
 
Taking the sentiments from the PBIS and Second Step programs, WLES Principal, Sue Wanamaker, has instituted a School of Kindness movement to keep the momentum going this year. Having met with different groups including teachers, paraprofessionals and kitchen staff, Mrs. Wanamaker has explored and encouraged random acts of kindness among students and adults, ingraining kindness into the day-to-day operation at WLES.
 
She is looking to take it one step further and now get our WLES parents and community members involved. Partnering with parents so they know what the students are learning while at school helps them reiterate the same messages at home. Join in the conversation and explore ways to help by attending a Parent Forum next Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. at the WLES Media Center. If you can't make it, and would like to help with School of Kindness initiative, contact Mrs. Wanamaker at Sue.Wanamaker@wlps.net. Any and all ideas are welcome.

Friday, December 16, 2016

News and Notes 3.12

Snow days are big news in a community so dedicated to its schools. I mean BIG news. My Twitter stays dormant for months. Then, the temperature drops and a snowflake falls and I'm besieged with Twitter comments, which I believe are called tweets? Everybody is encouraging me to make the "right" decision. In this particular case, closing was the right choice, and I was happy students enjoyed a day off. 

But, business didn't stop happening in our schools on Monday. Many departments functioned like no snow had fallen at all. And, we even held a Board Meeting. At that meeting, like many others before it, we did business. We honored a couple of former coaches (Bob Henry, Phil Davison, Ron Bender, and Cindi Lees) with lifetime passes to sporting events. We made financial transactions. We listened to student reports. New BOE members, John Meadows and Lee Cole were introduced. And, we said goodbye to two extremely dedicated members: Rita LaForest and Lynn Slagle. 


Rita and Lynn, I said it on Monday but not enough people heard it. Thank you for helping lead this district for many years. We have excellent facilities, produce high-quality graduates, honor dozens of these graduates with scholarships, and do it all in a safe, nurturing environment because all those things are important to both of you. Your "kids first" approach to Board level leadership will be missed, but you certainly left your mark. Below you can enjoy some parting thoughts Rita and Lynn shared as they reflected on their time serving on the board. 


And Rita and Lynn, enjoy your free Monday nights.

(Special shout to Serenity Woodworking out of South Lyon for constructing a few more of our special retirement gifts, and WLHS alumni, Alex Ellsworth, for adding the WL emblem).

Interview with Lynn Slagle
Q: How long did you serve on the WLPS Board of Education
A: I have served on the WLPS Board of Education for over 13 years.

Q: Why did you run for office 13 years ago?
A: It has always been a belief to give back to my community. Education is very important to me. Public schools allow everyone an equal chance to learn regardless of race, religion, socio-economic status, etc. I wanted to be a part of the team to keep educational opportunities alive in Whitmore Lake.

Q: What have been some of your proudest moments as a BOE member?
A: There are so many proud moments; personally my proudest moments were handling both of my children their diplomas when they graduated. Building the new high school was also a personal favorite. The proposed annexation with Ann Arbor Public Schools may have failed at the polls, but I had the opportunity to work with a fantastic group of people. The project brought our community together--students, parents, business owners, senior citizens and community members united in a way that only a small community can. I am proud to be a Trojan.

Q: What lead to you not running for an additional term?
A: It was an honor to be given the opportunity by the voters to serve this district. I have teamed with some great people to make things happen over the years. It is time now for someone else to have that opportunity.

Q: What are your plans in the near future?
A: We welcomed our first grandchild in 2015, and we plan on spending time with him and our family as much as possible.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of WLPS?
A: In these trying times, with everything in constant change mode, I hope that WLPS will continue to hold high standards for the students and staff. People can, will, and have risen to  the occasion for our students.

Q: Any words of wisdom, encouragement, parting words for the remaining board members?
A: Always do what you feel in your heart is "right for the kids of WLPS."

Q: What makes WLPS such a special place, in your opinion?
A: The people.

Q: Anything else to add?
A: Thank you to those who elected me. It is a very humbling experience to have so many people put their faith in you, especially where their children are concerned.

Interview with Rita LaForest
Q: How long have you served on the BOE at Whitmore Lake Public School?
A: Six Years
 
Q: What lead you to join the BOE in the first place?
A: To serve the students and community of Whitmore Lake.
 
Q: What have been some of our proudest moments as a BOE member?
A: We did not go into deficit spending and due to our wonderful teachers and staff, were able to give students a stellar education.
 
Q: What lead to you not run for an additional term?
A: There are health issues in my immediate family that have to be my priority. I will still be serving on the Community Scholarship Fund board, volunteering in the high school media center on Wednesdays, Feeding His Sheep and Listening Friends.

Q: What are your plans in the near future?
A: I would like to take my grandson on some great adventures. I would also like to visit my children and family members who live out of state.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of WLPS?
A: I hope that we can continue to educate our students to be able to do wonderful things in their futures. I have always loved the small school district where we all know each other.

Q: What words of wisdom/encouragement do you have for remaining board members?
A: Keep up the good work. Do not get discouraged even when you have to make tough decisions. It has its rewards.
 
Q: What advice would you give to parents and community members who are looking for ways to support Whitmore Lake Public Schools?
A: There are many opportunities to support the school district for parents and community members by attending student programs in athletics, music, theatre, Robotics and Quiz Bowl competitions, serving on committees like Community Scholarship Fund, Feeding His Sheep, Parent/Teacher Associations, and Athletic Associations for all age levels are some of the ways to become involved. For those with less time, Listening Friends at the elementary school or donations to specific organizations are always appreciated.

Q: What makes Whitmore Lake Public Schools such a special place, in your opinion?
A: I have been employed by Whitmore Lake Public Schools for 26 years and on the school board for six years. I went to a high school in Detroit (Denby) where there were 3,000 students in grades 10-12. Students got lost in the numbers. At Whitmore Lake Public Schools, we know the students and families because of our small size. This is a real plus.
 
Students that have graduated from here are successful. They work as doctors, lawyers, teachers, administrators, veterinarians, artists, musicians, in the trades and the military to name a few. This district and community care about our students and encourage them to follow their dreams.
 
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: We have a wonderful staff, great students and an innovative administration that leads our students to success. It has been a privilege to have served our school district.

Titanium Trojan Pride


Today one of our middle school robotics teams is headed to Lakeview High School in Battle Creek to compete in the FIRST in Michigan FIRST Tech Challenge State Championships! And you read that right--ONE of our teams. There has been so much interest from grades 5th-8th this year we had to start a second team so no students were turned away. Our existing team is #8492, Titanium Trojans (or T2) and our new team is #11679, Titanium Trojans Too (or T3).

With so many students on the team coming from grades 5th-6th and new to the sport, the season started with a bit of a learning curve.  At their first competition, Team 8492 was in 16th place and Team 11679 was in 28th.  Neither team was chosen for an alliance for the semi-finals.  At our second competition, Team 8492 was ranked 25th and Team 11679 was ranked 10th.  Team 8492 was chosen for an alliance for the semi-finals and that alliance went on to win the competition and qualify for the State Championship.  While Team 11679 didn’t qualify for States, many of the students on that team have been actively helping Team 8492 get ready and some will even be joining them in Battle Creek.

 

Business mentor for the two teams, Kelly Shew, explained the unique circumstances which lead to T2 heading to the championships:

 

"T3 was actually ranked in 10th place going into the alliance selection and T2 was in 25th-ish place.  We were thinking that T3 had a good chance of being selected.  However, earlier in the day, one of T2’s alliance partner’s robot had a specific thing it couldn't do in the autonomous section of the competition (when the robot navigates and acts only using the programming, with no human interaction) and they were looking for a robot that was able to stay out of their way while accomplishing another task or two.  The T2 robot couldn’t do that at the time, but a student and mentor were able to change the programming of the robot before their match, so that both robots could be successful during that portion of the competition.  We later heard from the other team that T2 was picked to be on their alliance for the semi-finals because of their willingness and ability to change the program on the fly, " Shew explained. 

 
This year their robots needed to be able to pick up and shoot balls through an elevated target, push items into a designated "storage" area, identify beacon coloring and switch it to the color representing their alliance and obtain, raise and place a large yoga ball in a designated area, all while trying to keep opponents from doing the same thing.  
 
The benefits our students take away from participating in this STEM-heavy program are endless. Beyond getting hands-on experience designing, building, and problem-solving, our students get to connect and learn from other students with similar interests, learn about logistics, project deadlines, and the list goes on.
 
"Past students of WL Robotics who have graduated from WLHS have gotten internships in engineering firms before even starting college, and have gone on to become engineers," Shew said.
 
But these programs are not cheap. On average, a single middle school robotics team requires between four to five thousand dollars per season. Program-wide (both middle and high school teams), the program costs thirty to thirty-five thousand dollars, all of which is raised through fundraising, grants, and donations from generous supporters ranging from family members of the teammates, local businesses, employers and community members or organizations.
 
Even more so with managing two teams, none of this would be possible without our team of mentors. In addition to Shew as the business mentor, Jeff Schwennesen is lead mentor. Dave Fanson, Paul Grzesik, Scott Shew, Matthew Goodrich, Kristin Poole and Natalie Jewell are mentors as well. And we thank them for all the time, effort and support they give our students, allowing them to pursue participating in robotics. While that is a good-sized list of mentors, the program is always in need of more.
 
"We've heard time and again how kids can't wait to be old enough to join one of our robotics teams. There are options available for younger students, but we could need adults to help run the programs," said Shew. "The great thing is you DON'T need to have designing, building or programming experiences to be a successful mentor! This is my ninth year involved and I have yet to actually touch any of the robots," she added.
 
If you are interested in mentoring or sponsoring robotics, contact Kelly Shew at kelly.shew@uprightrhombus.com.
 
And for those who can head to cheer on Titanium Trojans Too, opening ceremonies will begin at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, with the competition starting at 11.  Parking and admission is free. The matches will be available to stream online HERE.