Friday, November 18, 2016

News and Notes: 3.10

I received a nice compliment this week on our sinking fund passing. The parent was really supportive of our schools. The conversation quickly turned to the value of conferencing with teachers (WLES Parent Conferences are next Monday and Tuesday). "My kid is doing great. Should I go?" the parent asked. "Yes!" I replied.  I couldn't have said it fast enough.

First, elementary teachers will teach every parent something new about his or her children. Second, the teachers are incredible. After each visit I make to a classroom, I leave impressed with their dedication, knowledge and caring. They move fast and efficiently but never miss a chance to compliment and encourage.

I also encourage you to take time to enjoy your family next week. Take a cue from our elementary and never miss a chance to compliment and encourage kids. The effort they put into school pays off in many ways.

I am most thankful to be a part of this staff.
2016 Volleyball Season: Interview with Coach Coleman
While the winter sport season is underway, I want to take some time to recap a successful fall girls volleyball season. How successful was it? Well as a point of reference, last year the varsity team finished 9-29-1, 0-14 in the Tri-County Conference. This year? This year they were 29-10-1, 12-2 in the TCC. That is quite a turnaround.
Maria Carter-Ewald, Community Relations and Recreation Director, had a chance to interview head Varsity coach, Kathy Coleman, on the season and her hopes for next year. Join me in congratulating them on a wonderful season. We can't wait to see what next year brings.
Q: Your team achieved A LOT this season! Competed in the district finals this year, finished 2nd in the TCC, won the Hudson Tournament and even got honorable mention in Class C rankings as you headed into district playoffs. What do those accomplishments mean to you and to the team?
A: The girls really worked  hard. Many of the girls had never had a winning season in any of their sports. This season they really saw positive results for all their hard work. It also gives us great building blocks for continued success in the future.

Our JV team had a good season as well, finishing 21-10-1 (11-3 in the TCC) under head coach Jamie (LaBram) Jackson, former WLHS volleyball  player and member of the class of 2005.

Q: What do you think lead to the Class C honorable mention? 
A: We had a good enough season to get noticed. We won some big matches: we beat Clinton twice (they are historically a good team/program.) We beat Lincoln, Belleville, Melvindale--all class A schools. Class A schools are much bigger than we are thus having a bigger pool of kids to make up their teams. And we were 9-0 in conference until late October.

Q: To what do attribute this season's success?
A: I wish I knew exactly to what I should attribute our success--then I could repeat it every game!

I think that the girls are really good friends and that is a big component, surely the commitment to volleyball through the summer and fall is a major part. We spend 10-20 hours in the gym every week. I also think that our new strength and conditioning program, Blue Lion, has really helped. The girls are so much stronger physically and mentally than they were previously. Since last January the volleyball players have participated 3 times a week in conditioning. It really gave them confidence and tenacity that I hadn't seen in them previously.

Q: How many seniors are you losing, and how will that affect next year?
A: Varsity is losing seven seniors--that's a ton. The make up of our team will surely be different, but that's part of the "gig." We will absolutely have some holes to fill next season, but I have no doubt the girls will work hard to compete for those and the other positions as well. Our team really wants to put a plaque on the championship board. We came close this year. We're working hard to use this as a stepping stone to get there.

Q: Anything else to add?
A:  It was a really fun season--time flew by. I enjoyed watching the girls have fun playing and winning volleyball. They really haven't had that experience much so it was great to see the joy they got out of a game that I love so much.

Chrysler LeBaron "Groovy"fied

If you see a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron around town that looks "groovy" you are witnessing the artwork of WLHS students in Artists and Techniques class taught by Krisanne Rae. Owner of the car and community member, David Gibbons, bought it 6 months ago and set out to transform it into a "hippy car." He began by painting a white peace sign on the hood and some red stripes. After realizing he was sticking true to Trojan colors and realizing the limits to his painting abilities, he had the idea of contacting WLHS to see if any students would be interested in helping him complete the art work. And the school project was born.

It has taken students 4-5 days to complete the 70s theme, covering the car in flowers, butterflies, peace signs and a variety of sayings. Most of the artwork is done by permanent marker that Mr. Gibbons plans on covering with a spray enamel to do his best in preserving the student's work. The car is equipped with its own "hitch-hiker" named Zork, a smiley face emoticon in the passenger seat.
This is just one of many unique art projects students have in the works. The ceiling of the art room will soon be adorned with 2"x2" squares painted by students. Before Thanksgiving the hall will display a paper weaving project along with a CD project completed by our middle school art students. And next time  you are in the media center check out the cardboard sculptures done in the style of young German artist, Bartek Elsner. So far students have created a lamp, cupcake, record player and toaster. They will be on display along with some incredible acrylic landscape paintings students are finishing up.
College Month Celebration
We featured College Month activities in News and Notes 3.5. Today was the celebration of all our students' accomplishments. Jumping off the "Saddle Up for College" western theme, the celebration included a pizza party, personalized boots filled with jolly "ranchers", Texas sheet cake and a mechanical bull from Xtreme Play N Go Party Rentals in Ypsilanti. Students who completed all three College Month tasks (a college application, the FAFSA and a college scholarship application) were entered in a drawing to win one of three mini fridges! We are proud of the class of 2017 and the bright futures they have ahead of them. Check out the videos and photos from today's event on our Facebook page.

Friday, November 11, 2016

News and Notes 3.9

In Tuesday’s, Nov. 8 election Whitmore Lake voters passed our sinking fund request with nearly 55 percent support. I send you all a big thank you on behalf of the students who use these facilities on a daily basis.

The three-year, 1-mill tax passed with 2,312 votes of support and 1,917 votes of opposition. Generating around $335,428 a year for three years, the millage will allow us to address facility updates while protecting our instructional budget.

We’ve worked hard to improve our fiscal stability and increase our community’s support for our schools. Having the sinking fund pass shows us that our community is confident in what we are doing and willing to invest in the future of WLPS.

Upgrading our wireless Internet network infrastructure will be at the top of the list of things WLPS will address with the fund, followed by resurfacing the high school track, updating heating and cooling equipment, remodeling some elementary classrooms to accommodate art and music classes as well as fixing drainage issues on some athletic fields.

After the first year of work, WLPS will develop another priority list for the remaining years of the fund.

Tuesday’s election also brought with it some new Board of Education members. Incumbents Michelle Kritzman and Laura Schwennesen and new member John Meadows Jr. were elected for six-year terms. Write in candidates for the partial term are being verified by Washtenaw County. Join me in congratulating all and thanking them for their service to our district.

And again, thank you for helping make Tuesday a great day to be a Trojan.

Top Grades on Annual Audit
The sinking fund victory comes shortly after another victory—an “A” report card on our annual audit.

During our October 24 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, we received commendation from auditors Maner Costerisan for the financial stability we have achieved this past year. They pointed out specifically that increasing our fund balance from less than one percent to over seven percent in two years is worthy of high praise. The auditors reinforced that the Michigan Department of Treasury has indicated school districts need to maintain a minimum of a 5 percent fund balance, which we currently exceed.

It is almost unheard of to have school districts Increase their fund balances while experiencing reduced funding from the state along with decreasing enrollment. But those people obviously haven't heard of Whitmore Lake Public Schools and all that we have achieved.

Needless to say, we were proud to have our hard work and accomplishments affirmed from an outside source.

We will continue to work together to push forward.

7-12 grade. 58 Houses. A whole lot of leaves.
Today was the annual Rake N Run service project at Whitmore Lake Middle and High School. This event sponsored by our Junior and National Honor Societies involves our student body, grades 7-12, spending the day out in the town, cleaning up the yards of community members. I encourage you to check out the photo album posted on our Facebook page HERE (thanks to Pam Blount for the great photos). This day is always a valuable opportunity for our students to learn the importance of serving their community.

And I also want to give a special shout-out to the Whitmore Lake Tavern who provided quite a lunch spread for our senior class today, free of charge.

What a great day to be in Whitmore Lake, and another great week to be a Trojan.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Facebook Live Friday

In lieu of News and Notes, on the first Friday of every month, I'll be doing something new. We call it Facebook Live Fridays! Essentially, a special guest will be joining me for a one-on-one interview while riding a school bus. We will discuss important issues and highlight exciting things happening in the district and community.

You can check out the very first Facebook Live Friday from earlier today on our Facebook page. I was joined by Trey Cucuro, WLHS Senior and cross country superstar, as he, Colton Seigle and Jordan Craven head to the state cross country meet tomorrow at Michigan International Speedway. Join me in wishing them good luck!

And I'll leave you with a reminder to get out and vote next Tuesday. Voters can find more information on the WLPS sinking fund proposal on our Facebook, website or at the links below.
For additional information on voting poll locations and more, click HERE.

Friday, October 28, 2016

News and Notes 3.8

Special Edition: Meet the Candidates

We are less than two weeks away from an election that is not only HUGE [read in a Donald Trump voice] for the nation, but is pretty important at our local level as well. We have our sinking fund millage up for vote. This millage will allow us to take care of some important updates to our district facilities. This includes a new wireless network that is currently severely outdated, limiting our ability to use technology in the classroom to the fullest, along with some much needed maintenance to athletic facilities and classrooms we have been putting off as we focused on stabilizing the district financially. You can find more information to read and share with other voters HERE.

We also have some Board of Education seats to fill. Three seats with six-year terms and one seat for a partial term are up for grabs. We have four candidates, Eliza Bivins-Fink; incumbent Michelle Kritzman; John Meadows Jr. and incumbent Laura Schwennesen running for the three six-year terms. No one is running for the partial term that would end in 2020, therefore the Board of Education would appoint someone for that position.

We wanted to help you inform your vote, so below you will find interviews with each of the candidates. Thank you for getting out and voting on November 8.

Eliza Bivins-Fink
Site Coordinator, EMU Bright Futures after school programming at Ypsilanti Community High School

Q: Tell us about your family.
My husband, Howard Fink, and I have one son, Elliot who is a year and half.

Q: What is your education background?
I graduated from Grand Rapids Union High School in 1996. I completed my Bachelor's Degree in English Language and Literature from Grand Valley State University in 2001. I earned my Masters of Arts in Education with Secondary Teaching Certification (content area: ELA) from the University of Michigan in 2013.

Q: What community organizations or causes are you dedicated to?
I am a strong supporter of community arts, health and education. I am not currently volunteering with any organizations.

Q: Why are you running for WLPS school board, and what makes you unique as a candidate?
I have a background in education and now that my family has settled in the district I want to get more involved. I believe strongly in the public education system and want to contribute to its health and longevity. I think I am a unique candidate because I have professional experience in many aspects of education. I was an admissions officer at a private school in Chicago, an Assistant Director of Fundraising and Development for an adult education program in Evanston, IL, and Director of Student Records at a Seminary in Chicago. I am also very passionate about equitable access to high quality education and educational programming for the whole community.

Michelle Kritzman
Nuclear Medical Physicist, Medical Physics Consultant

Q: Tell us about your family.
A: Jim and I have been married 19 years. We have three children, Mark (14-years-old in 9th grade) Luke (12-years-old in 7th grade) and Joey (6-years-old in 1st grade). Mark plays in the WLHS marching band and is my running buddy. We have completed multiple half marathons, and we just completed our second full marathon in September! Luke is participating in the MS drama club’s production of Sally Cotter and the Prisoner of Ala Katraz. I’m super excited to see the play on December 2-4. He also participates in robotics and the community recreation soccer league. Joey is enjoying being in first grade and participating in community recreation soccer. To round out the family, we have two Labrador retrievers, Moose and Higgins.

Q: What is your education background?
A: I graduated from Atherton High School (Burton, MI) in 1989. After high school, I attended Central Michigan University for two years before transferring to Ferris State University. I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology in 1993. This included a one year internship at the University of Michigan Medical Center from 1992-1993. In 2000, I completed my Master of Science in Radiological Physics from Wayne State University.

Q: What community organizations or causes are you dedicated to?
A: I have served as the Whitmore Lake parent representative on the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District for over 7 years, coached community recreation soccer for 3-6 year olds for the past two seasons and was appointed to fill a vacated position on the Board of Education in December.  

Q: Why are you running for WLPS school board, and what makes you unique as a candidate?
The Board of Education plays an essential role in the academic success of our children. I am running for this position to support strong educational programming while maintaining fiscal responsibility to ensure a solid district in the future. I bring the experience that I have obtained while serving on the Board this year to make decisions that will continue to benefit WLPS. My greatest asset though is my children. With children in both schools, I am a voice for all of the children, from the young learning the basics to those preparing for success after graduation.

John Meadows Jr.
Crop Consultant and Dispatcher, Crop Production Service

Q: Tell us about your family.
I am married to Ramona, and we have two children, Jamie (12) and Natalie (10).

Q: What is your education background?
I went to WLPS (K-12) and graduated in 1990. I continued on to Michigan State University and earned a Bachelors Degree in Food Systems Economics and Management in 1995.   

Q: What community organizations or causes are you dedicated to?
I have been involved for several years with Whitmore Lake Junior Football and Cheer and have worked on many projects for both the football fields and school grounds. I have also been coaching basketball with the community recreation program for a couple years.

Q: Why are you running for WLPS school board, and what makes you unique as a candidate?
I am running for the WLPS school board for a variety of reasons:
1) To be part of a team of teachers and administrators that are providing an exceptional education to our students. I will work to grow and enhance WLPS.
2) I will help to continue down the path of fiscal responsibility. WLPS has a growing fund balance, and we are not a deficit spending district. With financial strength comes opportunity for our students both academic and extracurricular.
3) Stabilizing and growing our student population is critical to the success of WLPS and will be a top priority for me.
I have lived in this community for over 40 years. I was educated and graduated from WLHS. I understand the value of a small school and a personalized education. 

Whitmore Lake has experienced many highs and lows through the years. We are a community that perseveres. I believe the school is the backbone of our community. The opportunity to be on the WLPS school board will give me the chance to give back to the community that has given me so much. 

Laura Schwennesen
Director of Contracts, Altarum Institute

Q: Tell us about your family.
My husband Jeff and I just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. We have two kids who both attend school in Whitmore Lake. Matt is 15 and a sophomore and Claire is 14 and a freshman. We also have a cute and curly 4 year old labradoodle, Lucy. 

Q: What is your education background?
I graduated from Fenton High School in 1989. I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University. I have also taken courses toward a Masters in Public Adminstration from Eastern Michigan University. 

Q: What community organizations or causes are you dedicated to?
I support Whitmore Lake athletics and am a mentor for the High School Robotics team, the TroBots. I greatly support our community and have volunteered with Northfield Human Services. 

Q: Why are you running for WLPS school board, and what makes you unique as a candidate?
I think the heartbeat of any community is a strong school system--one that offers a personalized education, one that encourages students to reach their full potential, one that has great teachers and staff, one that offers extracurricular activities. Whitmore Lake Public Schools does all of that; and by serving on the Board of Education, I will have a wonderful opportunity to give back to our community and keep our schools strong. Having my children attending schools here gives me a unique perspective, and I am passionate about giving our students the best possible academic programming and offering sports and club activities for everyone. I truly see first hand the benefits of a small district that cares for all. 

Our district, like many others in the state, have faced some tough decisions recently. Our Board, administration and staff have come together to meet the needs of our students while operating in a fiscally responsible environment. That is a true testament to the dedication of everyone involved.

I believe staying engaged with the broader community to showcase all that WLPS has to offer is important for keeping our enrollment stablized and growing. Also maintaining our fiduciary obligations puts us on a good solid footing going forward.