Friday, February 19, 2016

News and Notes: Volume 2, Number 21

This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of turning over my principal reigns to WLHS student Trey Cucuro who won The Trojournal "Principal for a Day" contest. I want to thank Mr. Cucuro for helping me out with my principal duties, specifically for endorsing a community event that funds scholarships for WLHS graduating seniors. Check out the video below for details on Mr. Cucuro's challenge to fellow students. Details on the Chilly Dip can be found HERE. I look forward to seeing many of you there. 

Summer Literacy Program Coming this Summer to WLES
Our staff are constantly looking for alternative and creative ways to provide more for our students. Often our biggest hurdle to doing more is having the resources. Recently we received a Targeted Literacy and Instruction and Interventions grant for $12,705 from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) thanks to the hard work of Student Services Director, Melissa Heuker, and WLES teacher, Heidi Roy-Borland.

This grant is to help provide additional learning opportunities for students in grades K-3 who have been identified as needing additional support to reach the appropriate reading level and will help the district meet our goal of having every child reading at a proficient level by the time s/he enters 4th grade. Knowing that research proves that students, especially those at-risk, tend to lose multiple months of learning over the summer, WLES opted to apply for the grant to fund a four-week reading instruction summer program.  WLES students will be invited to participate based on need and availability. The grant will cover the cost of an intervention coordinator to run the program, three teachers and two paraprofessionals to provide instruction to the students during the summer, as well as books for participating students to take home and practice. Additionally, the grant will be used to provide professional development this spring for all WLES K-3 teachers. Led by a literacy specialist at the WISD, the training will focus on using data to improve early literacy skills.

To receive the grant, Mrs. Heuker and Mrs. Roy-Borland had to demonstrate to the MDE that our teachers at the elementary school currently use a Multi-Tiered System of Supports to identify when a child isn't making adequate progress. Our teachers use research-based instruction and interventions to help each child based on her/his needs including SRA reading curriculum, Riggs intervention strategies, Fountas & Pinnel curriculum, leveled literacy strategies, sight word interventions and targeted phonemic strategies with Zoo Phonics. Unless you are immersed in education, all that jargon probably does not mean much to you. But for us, and the MDE, it demonstrates that we are using a variety of tools proven to work to make sure every student gets the support s/he needs to enter 4th-grade at a proficient reading level.

This summer learning program will complement the current effort and excellent work our classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, teacher consultants and Title I staff do to provide additional support to students in need during the regular school year. Our staff genuinely believe every child is important and go out of their way to learn new skills to bring back to their classrooms for the betterment of their students. It isn't uncommon for our staff to spend their own time and money to provide additional help to their students, even during the summer break. I commend Mrs. Hueker and Mrs. Roy-Borland for securing state funds to implement a formal program to further support our students, another shining example of how we continue, as a district, to provide exceptional, personalized education.

 Meet our Newest Board of Education Member: Laura Schwennesen
Laura Schwennesen, the newest member of the WLPS Board of Education, was sworn in earlier this month after being selected to replace Jeff Vega following his resignation last month. Please join me in welcoming Laura to the BOE and take some time to read her interview below to learn a little bit more about her, her family and motivation for serving on the WLPS BOE. 
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I graduated from Fenton High School in 1989, just up the road from Whitmore Lake. I then attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo and earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science in 1993. I've also taken coursework towards a Masters in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University.  

Q: What do you do professionally?
A: I work at Altarum Institute, an Ann Arbor-based non-profit where I serve as Director of Contracts. Altarum's mission is to serve the public good by providing solutions to complex issues. Our main client is the federal government, to which we provide a variety of consulting, research and technical assistance programs. I've been with the organization for just shy of 20 years. As Director of Contracts, I'm responsible for the submission of over 200 proposals annually, including budget development and then contract/grant management. I really enjoy my work because it's never the same! I like the challenges that each day brings and the problems to be solved.

Q: Tell us about your family.  
A: My husband, Jeff, and I will celebrate 19 years of marriage later this year. Wow. We are a pretty active family and like to kayak, hike and enjoy nature as much as possible throughout the year. We have two great kids in the district: Matt, who is 14 and a freshman, and Claire, who is 13 and in 8th grade. We support all the opportunities that WLPS offers our kids--athletics, marching band, robotics, quiz bowl, drama and honor society.

Q: How long have you lived in Whitmore Lake? What brought you to the area?
A: We've lived in Whitmore Lake for 18 years. Both Jeff and I grew up in smaller towns, and we liked the close feel of the community back then, which is still true today.   

Q: What motivated you to apply to fill the vacant spot on the WLPS Board of Education (BOE)?
A: I want to give back to our community and schools by bringing my enthusiasm and work experience to the Board. The BOE has the challenging job of setting aspirational goals that guide our district going forward and then working to turn them into reality. I'm energized to continue to share all the great things about WL and get started on our on-going challenges. I'm ready to make this commitment. I appreciate the opportunity to give back.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about serving the Whitmore Lake community? Anything you are nervous or anxious about? 
A: Whitmore Lake, as a community, deserves a fiscally-sound school district with attractive programs, abundant educational opportunity and engaging activities. If we can maintain these things, we will be on the right road.

I have a learning curve for sure with BOE procedure and rules and much more to understand in the financial area, but I'm committed to getting over these hurdles.

Congratulations to WLHS 1st Semester Honor Roll Students
Students who earned a 3.3 GPA or above earn their spot on the WLHS Honor Roll. Congratulations on a job well done to the students listed below.



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