But, business didn't stop happening in our schools on Monday. Many departments functioned like no snow had fallen at all. And, we even held a Board Meeting. At that meeting, like many others before it, we did business. We honored a couple of former coaches (Bob Henry, Phil Davison, Ron Bender, and Cindi Lees) with lifetime passes to sporting events. We made financial transactions. We listened to student reports. New BOE members, John Meadows and Lee Cole were introduced. And, we said goodbye to two extremely dedicated members: Rita LaForest and Lynn Slagle.
Rita and Lynn, I said it on Monday but not enough people heard it. Thank you for helping lead this district for many years. We have excellent facilities, produce high-quality graduates, honor dozens of these graduates with scholarships, and do it all in a safe, nurturing environment because all those things are important to both of you. Your "kids first" approach to Board level leadership will be missed, but you certainly left your mark. Below you can enjoy some parting thoughts Rita and Lynn shared as they reflected on their time serving on the board.
And Rita and Lynn, enjoy your free Monday nights.
(Special shout to Serenity Woodworking out of South Lyon for constructing a few more of our special retirement gifts, and WLHS alumni, Alex Ellsworth, for adding the WL emblem).
Interview with Lynn Slagle
Q: How long did you serve on the WLPS Board of Education
A: I have served on the WLPS Board of Education for over 13 years.
Q: Why did you run for office 13 years ago?
A: It has always been a belief to give back to my community. Education is very important to me. Public schools allow everyone an equal chance to learn regardless of race, religion, socio-economic status, etc. I wanted to be a part of the team to keep educational opportunities alive in Whitmore Lake.
Q: What have been some of your proudest moments as a BOE member?
A: There are so many proud moments; personally my proudest moments were handling both of my children their diplomas when they graduated. Building the new high school was also a personal favorite. The proposed annexation with Ann Arbor Public Schools may have failed at the polls, but I had the opportunity to work with a fantastic group of people. The project brought our community together--students, parents, business owners, senior citizens and community members united in a way that only a small community can. I am proud to be a Trojan.
Q: What lead to you not running for an additional term?
A: It was an honor to be given the opportunity by the voters to serve this district. I have teamed with some great people to make things happen over the years. It is time now for someone else to have that opportunity.
Q: What are your plans in the near future?
A: We welcomed our first grandchild in 2015, and we plan on spending time with him and our family as much as possible.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of WLPS?
A: In these trying times, with everything in constant change mode, I hope that WLPS will continue to hold high standards for the students and staff. People can, will, and have risen to the occasion for our students.
Q: Any words of wisdom, encouragement, parting words for the remaining board members?
A: Always do what you feel in your heart is "right for the kids of WLPS."
Q: What makes WLPS such a special place, in your opinion?
A: The people.
Q: Anything else to add?
A: Thank you to those who elected me. It is a very humbling experience to have so many people put their faith in you, especially where their children are concerned.
Interview with Rita LaForest
Q: How long have you served on the BOE at Whitmore Lake Public School?
A: Six Years
Q: What lead you to join the BOE in the first place?
A: To serve the students and community of Whitmore Lake.
Q: What have been some of our proudest moments as a BOE member?
A: We did not go into deficit spending and due to our wonderful teachers and staff, were able to give students a stellar education.
Q: What lead to you not run for an additional term?
A: There are health issues in my immediate family that have to be my priority. I will still be serving on the Community Scholarship Fund board, volunteering in the high school media center on Wednesdays, Feeding His Sheep and Listening Friends.
Q: What are your plans in the near future?
A: I would like to take my grandson on some great adventures. I would also like to visit my children and family members who live out of state.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of WLPS?
A: I hope that we can continue to educate our students to be able to do wonderful things in their futures. I have always loved the small school district where we all know each other.
Q: What words of wisdom/encouragement do you have for remaining board members?
A: Keep up the good work. Do not get discouraged even when you have to make tough decisions. It has its rewards.
Q: What advice would you give to parents and community members who are looking for ways to support Whitmore Lake Public Schools?
A: There are many opportunities to support the school district for parents and community members by attending student programs in athletics, music, theatre, Robotics and Quiz Bowl competitions, serving on committees like Community Scholarship Fund, Feeding His Sheep, Parent/Teacher Associations, and Athletic Associations for all age levels are some of the ways to become involved. For those with less time, Listening Friends at the elementary school or donations to specific organizations are always appreciated.
Q: What makes Whitmore Lake Public Schools such a special place, in your opinion?
A: I have been employed by Whitmore Lake Public Schools for 26 years and on the school board for six years. I went to a high school in Detroit (Denby) where there were 3,000 students in grades 10-12. Students got lost in the numbers. At Whitmore Lake Public Schools, we know the students and families because of our small size. This is a real plus.
Students that have graduated from here are successful. They work as doctors, lawyers, teachers, administrators, veterinarians, artists, musicians, in the trades and the military to name a few. This district and community care about our students and encourage them to follow their dreams.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: We have a wonderful staff, great students and an innovative administration that leads our students to success. It has been a privilege to have served our school district.
Titanium Trojan Pride
Today one of our middle school robotics teams is headed to Lakeview High School in Battle Creek to compete in the FIRST in Michigan FIRST Tech Challenge State Championships! And you read that right--ONE of our teams. There has been so much interest from grades 5th-8th this year we had to start a second team so no students were turned away. Our existing team is #8492, Titanium Trojans (or T2) and our new team is #11679, Titanium Trojans Too (or T3).
With so many students on the team coming from grades 5th-6th and new to the sport, the season started with a bit of a learning curve. At their first competition, Team 8492 was in 16th place and Team 11679 was in 28th. Neither team was chosen for an alliance for the semi-finals. At our second competition, Team 8492 was ranked 25th and Team 11679 was ranked 10th. Team 8492 was chosen for an alliance for the semi-finals and that alliance went on to win the competition and qualify for the State Championship. While Team 11679 didn’t qualify for States, many of the students on that team have been actively helping Team 8492 get ready and some will even be joining them in Battle Creek.
Business mentor for the two teams, Kelly Shew, explained the unique circumstances which lead to T2 heading to the championships:
"T3 was actually ranked in 10th place going into the alliance selection and T2 was in 25th-ish place. We were thinking that T3 had a good chance of being selected. However, earlier in the day, one of T2’s alliance partner’s robot had a specific thing it couldn't do in the autonomous section of the competition (when the robot navigates and acts only using the programming, with no human interaction) and they were looking for a robot that was able to stay out of their way while accomplishing another task or two. The T2 robot couldn’t do that at the time, but a student and mentor were able to change the programming of the robot before their match, so that both robots could be successful during that portion of the competition. We later heard from the other team that T2 was picked to be on their alliance for the semi-finals because of their willingness and ability to change the program on the fly, " Shew explained.
This year their robots needed to be able to pick up and shoot balls through an elevated target, push items into a designated "storage" area, identify beacon coloring and switch it to the color representing their alliance and obtain, raise and place a large yoga ball in a designated area, all while trying to keep opponents from doing the same thing.
The benefits our students take away from participating in this STEM-heavy program are endless. Beyond getting hands-on experience designing, building, and problem-solving, our students get to connect and learn from other students with similar interests, learn about logistics, project deadlines, and the list goes on.
"Past students of WL Robotics who have graduated from WLHS have gotten internships in engineering firms before even starting college, and have gone on to become engineers," Shew said.
But these programs are not cheap. On average, a single middle school robotics team requires between four to five thousand dollars per season. Program-wide (both middle and high school teams), the program costs thirty to thirty-five thousand dollars, all of which is raised through fundraising, grants, and donations from generous supporters ranging from family members of the teammates, local businesses, employers and community members or organizations.
Even more so with managing two teams, none of this would be possible without our team of mentors. In addition to Shew as the business mentor, Jeff Schwennesen is lead mentor. Dave Fanson, Paul Grzesik, Scott Shew, Matthew Goodrich, Kristin Poole and Natalie Jewell are mentors as well. And we thank them for all the time, effort and support they give our students, allowing them to pursue participating in robotics. While that is a good-sized list of mentors, the program is always in need of more.
"We've heard time and again how kids can't wait to be old enough to join one of our robotics teams. There are options available for younger students, but we could need adults to help run the programs," said Shew. "The great thing is you DON'T need to have designing, building or programming experiences to be a successful mentor! This is my ninth year involved and I have yet to actually touch any of the robots," she added.
If you are interested in mentoring or sponsoring robotics, contact Kelly Shew at email@example.com.
And for those who can head to cheer on Titanium Trojans Too, opening ceremonies will begin at , with the competition starting at 11. Parking and admission is free. The matches will be available to stream online HERE.