Friday, September 25, 2015

News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 3

September is traditionally the month when Michigan superintendents get together for an annual convention.  I was able to spend a couple of days with them this year. Here are some quick "takeaways" from my interactions:
  • Michigan has approximately 550 public school districts, each with a superintendent.  Over 70 of them have new superintendents this year.
  • Many school districts in Michigan are the same size as WLPS--enrollments between 500 and 1000 students. Superintendents in these districts almost always serve dual positions ranging from superintendent/principal to superintendent/athletic director; the combinations are pretty diverse and dependent on the skill set of the individual.  
My point in sharing this information? WLPS has a good deal in common with the rest of the districts in the state.  And, WLPS has some things that clearly set it apart. One thing that was strikingly clear--our teachers and their willingness to work through district level problems. They don’t just think outside the box; they break that box down and turn it into an origami swan--that is the level of creativity and dedication we are working with. How vested our transportation and maintenance departments are also sets us apart.  And finally, the supporters in our community who constantly “pound the drum” in support of our district. Collectively, we all work together in WLPS. I’m tempted to make Team WLPS jerseys for all of us to wear because that is what we are, a team.   

I left feeling proud of our small school with a realization that our partnerships with each other, and the broader communities, make us a special place. Continue reading for other reasons why it is a great day to be a Trojan.
Voice of Trojan Football
Fans who have been out to a football game this year might have heard a new voice coming from the announcer booth. Simon Kaufman, a senior at the University of Michigan, is the new “Voice of Trojan Football.” Studying communications and political science, Kaufman hopes to start a career in broadcast journalism, specifically sports media, after graduating this Spring. A graduate of Denver Jewish Day School in Colorado, Simon ended up at WLHS after Athletic Coordinator, Brad McCormack, reached out to the Communications Department at U of M looking for a broadcasting student interested in a hands-on (or voice, rather) learning experience. “I’ve loved getting to meet some of the fans and all the people that help make the games run smoothly behind the scenes,” Kaufman said. “Getting to be a part of the high school football on a Friday night, under the lights--it doesn’t get any better!” he added. Having a university like U of M so close provides great resources and partnership opportunities, and we are happy to have Kaufman be a part of the Trojan Football team.
To hear him in action, come out next Friday for our Homecoming game at 7 p.m.
Strumming a New Tune: Guitar Class at WLES
When we can combine our resources with a teacher’s passion to provide a new program for our students, something great happens. At WLES, 65 of our 5th and 6th graders, not enrolled in band, are now learning beginner's level guitar skills in small groups as part of our general music class with Mrs. Shanks.

These small classes (8-13 students) allows for individualized instruction.  Meeting on an average of twice a week with the rotating specials schedule, these students not only learn a new instrument, but they are exposed to new music. On Tuesday, as they started to learn the chords for a song by none other than John Lennon and Paul McCartney, called “Eleanor Rigby”, one student proudly raised his hand declaring this song was by The Beatles! If we have 5th and 6th graders who know about The Beatles, we are definitely doing something right! (Even better is the video below of the students having fun playing a little Bob Marley.)
The students clearly mirror their teacher’s enthusiasm for this instrument. Mrs. Shanks took a semester of guitar class in college and spent this past summer designing a year-long guitar curriculum in her Music Curriculum and Methodology class as part of her master’s program at Michigan State University.

Mrs. Shanks was able to restring guitars that have been stored at our Middle School for nearly ten years thanks to the support of our WLES PTA. Between what the district provides and guitars students bring from home, we have just enough for each student to have her/his own guitar to use during class.

The music department is accepting used or new 3/4 sized acoustic or classical guitars and/or guitar cases. If you are interested in donating to support this new program, allowing it to reach more students, contact
Tom DeKeyser
Superintendent, Whitmore Lake Public Schools
Principal, Whitmore Lake High School

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