Friday, September 11, 2015

Welcome Back: News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 1

They're here!

The hallways started to fill early in ALL buildings on Tuesday morning. Much, much earlier, however, staff members were readying buses and offices in preparation for the start of the 2015/2016 school year. It is, from my perspective, a very cool experience. I was so eager to get things rolling that I was meeting kids before they even got into bus stops.

I struck up a conversation with a 3rd-grade student. He was politely answering all my questions about his teachers and lockers and how safe he thought the building was. Finally, he asked me who I was. "Mr. DeKeyser," I said, proudly. "Are you the school's lawyer?" he asked. "...Kind of" I said as I walked back to my car, kicking myself for not telling him who I was before the barrage of questions came. Oh well, I was still happy to see all of them eager to meet their friends and new teachers.

At the high school, I checked in with 7th, 8th, and 9th-grade classrooms. The first day in this building can come with some anxiety, but I didn't see much of that. Rather, there was enthusiasm and good spirits aplenty—even when I suggested all the teachers should assign a big load of homework. At the other end of the building, a majority of our 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade students were in the midst of a class change. The halls were full. "Excellent!" I thought. "Enrollment is up." As I strolled through A Wing a young man saw me and quickly removed his arm which was draped around a girl's shoulder. I nodded with approval, admiring his respect and marched on thinking what a great group of kids we have in our schools.

At Open House and Parent Night, as you and your students got acquainted with teachers, classmates and schedules, you likely learned about some new programs being offered this year that I wanted to highlight. (I must say it is refreshing to start a year adding programs and opportunities for our students as opposed to cutting.) At WLES we are proud to be offering art as a special to all grades. Ms. Carbary is teaching the class, and if you haven’t stopped in to see her classroom, I’ve included pictures below; it is an inspiring place. Band is back at WLES for 5th and 6th graders with our new teacher Ms. Fixler; they can even take guitar lessons as a special. For 5th and 6th graders, we also embraced a student-centered scheduling approach which aims at not limiting our students to the boundaries of being in a certain grade. Instead we take an individualized strategy, allowing them to move between grades based on their learning needs. At our high school, we have added two new Advanced Placement (AP) courses, AP Statistics and AP Language increasing our students’ opportunities to earn college credit by passing AP exams. Mr. O’Connell will be teaching AP Statistics and Ms. Huddleston, AP Language. To take it one step further, in partnership with Schoolcraft Community College, our students have an additional opportunity to earn college credit while in high school called Schoolcraft Edge.

A benefit of being a small school district is we can “bob and weave” to meet the needs of our students. Our size and the expertise of our high-quality staff allows us to get creative and quickly find ways to provide opportunities unique to the students we serve to provide an exceptional, personalized education. 

I’m looking forward to sharing all the reasons why Trojan pride is running rampant in Whitmore Lake with another year of News and Notes. The format is a little different. As you can see, we have officially entered the blogosphere. But I assure you one thing will remain the is going to be a great year to be a Trojan.

Tom DeKeyser
Superintendent, Whitmore Lake Public Schools

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