Friday, September 18, 2015

News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 2

Week two is in the books, which, coincidentally, is where your sons and daughters should have their eyes. I write that with a sincere degree of empathy as I know how hard it is to pry eyes off an iPad or other electronic devices. But, grades are starting to be stored, and it is a good idea for students at any level to get off to a good start.

It is a good idea for our district to establish a good start, as well. By most measures, the start of the 2015/2016 school year has been a successful one. Our staffing levels were managed well throughout the summer, and the result are healthy class sizes. This is especially true in grades K - 3, which average 22 students per classroom. That is a good number for parents to hear. In those important grades where reading and literacy skills are strongly embedded in young students, small class sizes can play an important role.

One area we need to make some immediate improvements in is putting technology in the hands of these young learners. Literacy skills once were thought of only in the context of reading. This is no longer the only type of literacy upon which we should focus. Using technology to access information and create ideas is in itself a type of literacy. We should not shortchange our students in this area. In fact, building literacy skills in this area will likely improve literacy in other subject areas, so its development is really important to me and I am sure to most parents.

Teachers. administrators and the WLPS Board of Education have been creating partnerships to improve the amount of technology we have available to our students. For example, a set of tablets recently were purchased through the creative work of our high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) staff in partnership with our phone provider, InaComp. These were sorely needed, and we were able to meet the need without using our general fund savings. We will continue to explore creative ways to meet the technology needs of our students and welcome your support. We are off to a good start, and we expect to finish strong. 

Student Success Team
The phrase “exceptional, personalized education” is part of who we are and what we do best. Simply put, we know your kids. We know what they are good at, what they enjoy, where they could improve, when they are having a good day and when they might need a little extra support. Our invested staff stays connected and collaborates to best serve our students as a team, making sure no student falls through the cracks. These efforts at the high school are lead by our Student Success Team (SST).

Students who are facing academic, personal, family or any challenge(s) that are affecting their ability to succeed at WLHS, who are not being served by our special education department, are referred to the Student Success Team by a classroom teacher. At their weekly meetings, this team (which includes Kathy DeKeyser, School Counselor; Linda Lupi, Dean of Students; Rachel Sheidt, Social Worker; Melissa Heuker, Director of Student Services; Erin Osgood, Special Education teacher, and Diane Jackson, Student Services Paraprofessional) then go to work developing a plan. A point person from the group follows up with the referring teacher to talk about how they plan on helping the student. A general report indicating which students are being served by the Student Success Team is sent out to staff at large to keep everyone in the loop, should another staff member have more information that could be useful in best serving the student. 

Beyond addressing individual needs, SST also coordinates workshops, trainings and speakers to cover topics like cyber bullying, drug and alcohol prevention, distracted driving or mental health to proactively address many of the issues today’s students face.

We often highlight the great things happening in our classrooms here, but the behind the scenes work done to make sure we do everything we can to give every student the support s/he needs to succeed is just as exceptional, that much more personalized and essential to the high quality education we provide at WLPS. I commend the SST and our staff for their hard work.

Summer Learning
Summer break, while it is a well-deserved recess from day-to-day school schedules, it shouldn’t be void of learning. Students, especially those with learning difficulties, often lose the momentum they build during the school year over the summer, which is referred to as summer learning loss. Our speech-language teacher, Jenni Winstanley, led the charge at WLES to curb summer learning loss by challenging students to keep track of their summer learning, rewarding them with a celebration and recognition in the Elementary newsletter, Elementary Express, and at a school assembly. Students turned in their hours of summer learning where they used workbooks such as Bridge Books, participated in a summer reading programs, tutoring and more. They all gathered today during lunch to play games and enjoy a healthy sweet treat to commend their efforts. To give them some extra recognition for a job well done, below is a list of their names. 

Mark your calendars to watch the Elementary Express this Spring for more information and resources to join the Summer Learning Challenge. Congratulations to the students and families for their work this summer, and thank you to Ms. Winstanley for bringing this program to WLES.

Summer Learning Students
Santino Gentile
Shawn Schumacher
Sydnee Short
Chris Restorick
Dylan Otterman
Brady Otterman
Jesse Stinson
Kendall Everard
Gina St. Charles
Russell Hollister
Gavin Wallace
Logan Martin
Declan Mainz
Ellie Mainz
Lukas Lopez
Logan Lopez
Taylor Stephens
Soleil Weaver
Wrigley May

Tom DeKeyser
Superintendent, Whitmore Lake Public Schools

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