Friday, January 29, 2016

News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 19

The Status of Our Charter
For the past several months the WLPS Board of Education has been researching, reviewing, discussing and, eventually, authorizing a contract to develop a cyber charter academy. The idea itself was the result of discussions on how to find unique forms of revenue, expanding beyond our borders to meet the needs of students in this region, all the while looking at different delivery systems for education. Getting from the "idea" phase to the "contract" phase, though, is more about meeting the requirements spelled out in pages and pages of law.

In August of 2015, our board locked in and decided the law would permit WLPS to look for an organization to deliver education with online components. An important caveat of this law is that the organization/school cannot be located within our district boundaries; however, the organization must have an office within the district boundaries. Figuring those two criteria could be met, our board reviewed a draft of a potential contract that identified WLPS as a fiscal agent for a charter organization. If enrollment projections are accurate, the revenue in year one of this project will be in the range of $70,000 to $80,000. The board decided to forge ahead.

Throughout November applications were accepted. In December the board reviewed the potential of working with an organization called Livingston Classical Cyber Academy (LCCA), not to be confused with Livingston Christian School, which we currently have a lease agreement with to use portions of our middle school building. These are two completely different entities. A careful analysis of associated liabilities was conducted by district attorneys; subsequently, the board authorized the contract and a resolution to appoint a board of directors for LCCA in January.

So, what is the status now? Our contracts and documents (a pile of papers almost two feet high) go to the Michigan Department of Education. We expect the state superintendent to endorse the school within the next few months. In the meantime, WLPS has leased office space to LCCA and is working on consultation agreements with them to train their administrators. LCCA must secure a building outside the WLPS district boundaries and hire teaching staff and train them. Lots of work still lies ahead, but it is unique and serves as another example of WLPS doing something few school districts have even thought about...yet another reason why today is a great day to be a Trojan.

FAFSA: Easy as Pie
When one thinks of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) you might not immediately think cherry pie--maybe apple, coconut crème or french silk falls more in line with your vision. But thanks to the WLHS Counseling Office, WLHS Post-Secondary Advisory Council (PAC) and Cleary University, when you think FAFSA, you'll think "easy as pie!"

On Wednesday, February 24, from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., seniors and their parents are invited to join our counseling staff and representatives from Cleary University for FAFSA: Easy as Pie event where parents and/or students complete the FAFSA with assistance from Cleary financial aid officers all while enjoying a delicious piece of pie. 

The WLHS goal this year is to have 85% of the Class of 2016 fill out the FAFSA by the March 1 deadline. By filling out the FAFSA, students qualify for financial aid to help further their education. Additionally, each student will receive a certificate for 8 free boneless wings from our friends at Buffalo Wild Wings and be entered in a raffle to win a variety of prizes. Furthermore, if the district goal is reached, each senior who fills out the FAFSA will get to throw a pie in the face of the WLPS staff member of his/her choice at the school-wide celebration assembly on Pi-Day, March 14. (I'm starting a #smackthemack campaign on twitter against our Athletic Coordinator, Brad McCormack, in hopes of avoiding all 60 pies in my face and sending some his way. Do me a favor, and spread the word.)

All this is made possible by the Reach Higher Grant WLHS Counselor Kathy DeKeyser was awarded by the Michigan College Access Network, securing $5,000 this year and $5,000 for next year to help increase and maintain a college-going culture across the whole district, K-12. As part of the grant, WLHS must participate in three annual events: College Application Week, which takes place in the fall; College Cash Campaign, which kicks off February 1; and Decision Day, which will take place in the spring. College is defined as post-secondary credentials beyond high school, including professional/technical certificates and academic degrees. As part of the grant, the PAC was created to support these efforts and is made up of WLPS staff, students, parents and community members. Currently, the PAC includes Carrie Betz, Maria Carter-Ewald, Kathy DeKeyser, Alivia Foster, Trisha Fountain, Jill Henry, Kelly Klump and myself.

I look forward to seeing the exciting opportunities available to all our students thanks to the Reach Higher Grant, the effort of our WLHS Counseling Office and the members of the PAC, and the impact it has on our students' outlook on their plans once they graduate from WLHS.

To fill out the FAFSA, click HERE.

And for common myths about FAFSA and Financial Aid, check out the following articles:

Firsthand learning in First Grade
WLES first-graders will be heading to Potter Park Zoo in Lansing early June thanks to Target's Field Trip Grant and resourceful WLES teacher Mrs. Gustafson. Mrs. Gustafson learned of the grant in early September and decided to give it a try. She was surprised to receive the full amount she requested, $400, which will cover admission and transportation to and from the zoo for both her class and Mrs. Semrau's first-grade class.

Her determination to provide valuable outside classroom learning experiences did not end there. Mrs. Gustafson also applied for a scholarship for the first grade to attend a planetarium show at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History and was awarded a half-off rate of admission for all students. I can't think of a better place to kick off their sun, moon and stars unit! Can you?

Having been teaching in WLPS since January of 1992, teaching preschool, kindergarten and first grade, Mrs. Gustafson's passion for teaching our young students is apparent, providing them with every opportunity for exceptional, personalized education while also lightening the burden we often place on parents to either contribute or fundraise to make these type of programs possible for our students. Join me in sending some kudos her way!

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