"A thankless job." I remember thinking that for several years as I watched an upset parent express displeasure to the Board of Education. I also remember thinking, "Why would anybody sign up for it?" The answer: they care about this community and its children. Whitmore Lake is important to them, and its success is deeply tied to its schools. Amen to that AND thank you.
January is School Board Appreciation Month. And in celebration of that, I want to share a quick list on why I appreciate the WLPS Board of Education:
- Each member puts the schools first. They don't just think about their own children. They think about ALL the children. That is a sign of a good person.
- They don't take credit for successes. They are pleased when a plan works and are quick to thank those who executed it.
- They approach things as a team. They know we are stronger as whole than as individuals. That sends a good message about leadership to our community.
- Professionalism and preparedness are always evident. From last October until January, BOE members took classes on leadership, school finance and facility management, just to name a few. They don't just show up at meetings, listen and vote. They study and learn so they can make informed decisions.
- The future is coming and they know it. Working to maintain is one thing but preparing for the future is completely different. They know change is a part of life, and they don't shy away from the discomfort of planning for it.
We are lucky to have committed community members looking out for the future of WLPS. Take a minute to thank a member of the WLPS BOE.
Ken Dignan, President
Laura Schwennesen, Vice President
Michelle Kritzman, Secretary
Bob Henry, Treasurer
Lee Cole, Trustee
Lisa McCully, Trustee
John Meadows, Trustee
The "Community" part of Community Based Instruction
At WLHS we have a course called Community Based Instruction (CBI) as part of our Special Education department. This class if for students in grades 7-12 who are working to earn a Certificate of Completion as they enter the Young Adult Program, instead of earning a traditional diploma. The teacher, Mrs. Conzelman, teaches the students life skills ranging from using a computer, cooking, budgeting, communication, social etiquette and following directions from a boss. They take trips to the local grocery stores and learn about budgeting their money, following recipes and kitchen safety. The ultimate goal is to teach these students skills to help them become happy adults who live as independently as possible.
A key component to success of this class is the "community" piece--essentially the community is their classroom. One of our students is currently working at Precious Ones Daycare on Main St. and another is volunteering to help in the high school media center and cafeteria. Another great example of this has been the work the students do each Friday in our community pool. They head to the pool during the morning lap swim hours every Friday for some exercise and lessons in water safety with their aide, Yvonne Hayes. Two community members, pool patrons and retired social workers, Terry Bond-Manville and Erica Perry, have been volunteering their time to work with the students every other week.
Terry Bond-Manville worked for 25 years as a school social worker, many of which have been at WLPS. And she is no stranger to the pool either, having worked as a water aerobic and swim lesson instructor at the WL Community Pool. After starting to attend lap swim in 2011 while training for a triathlon, Terry began interacting with the students in CBI as they waded in the shallow end. After determining none of them had learned to swim, she identified a need and went "to work." After retiring from the district in 2014, she took a break under the understanding another instructor would continue to work with the students. But after getting reacquainted with them in 2016, she identified the need for her services once more and started working with the students again, volunteering every other Friday. Recently a potential conflict came up with her teaching schedule at Eastern Michigan University, and upon hearing that she might not be able to work with them in the new year, the students presented her with a cup and hot chocolate and a plea to keep being their swim instructor. Terry is now teaching the students water aerobics. They were quite persuasive. And as Terry put it, "They are funny. They challenge me. They have tenacity. I see them develop nice relationships with one another while doing something fun and important for their overall well-being."
Erica was a renal social worker at University of Michigan Hospitals for 40 years, has lived in Whitmore Lake for 30 years and is currently serving as a planning commissioner for Webster Township. Having been a patron of our Community Pool for three years attending lap swim, she recently heard that another social worker was volunteering to work with the kids, and she quickly volunteered her help. She has been focusing on working with a student who is particularly afraid of the deep end of the pool, but with Erica's support has been quickly gaining courage. Erica indicated at a recent swim, she asked to go to the deep end with the other kids and even wanted her aide to take a picture of her (with Erica by her side for reassurance) to show her mom. "I have been collecting ideas for using noodles and the foam barbells because it seems to me that these kids like direction, like challenges, and feel proud of themselves when they do something they didn't suspect that they could," Erica said. Helping kids gain confidence and work through challenges is nothing new to Erica. While she worked with all ages, she spent a lot of time fundraising for and taking children on dialysis on white water rafting trips and trips all over the country during her time at U of M. She has spoken nationally on her work in this area, sharing how these trips helped these children have more self confidence and dreams for their future.
I sincerely thank these two community members for the generosity and dedication to our students. If you are a community member with a hobby, talent or profession that our students could learn about, please consider volunteering to work with our students in CBI. Whether it is a one time class or repeated month/weekly, we would love to hear from you. Contact our Director of Student Services, Melissa Heuker, at Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org or 734.449.4464 x4013.
Catching the WLCR Wave
While we are on the topic of the pool and our CBI students, I want to give a quick shout out to our Community Recreation swim team, the WLCR Waves. During their first meet of the season against Pinckney Tuesday evening at our pool, they set six team records and came out with a win against Pinckney for the first time since our swim team program began in 2011. The 42 swimmers on this year's team range from 6-years-old to 18-years-old. For more information on the team, and or to register for the season, visit their website or contact Aquatic Programming Supervisor Chas Sloan at email@example.com. And join me in congratulating the Waves on a fantastic start to the season! Go Waves!
(And if you are itching to get some pool time yourself this weekend, WLCR is hosting a Dive-In Movie, featuring Finding Dory. Details can be found HERE.)
Schools of Kindness
At WLPS, one of our main values is higher achievement. The decisions our Board of Education and administration make, fall in line with that value. But what many don't realize is ensuring higher student achievement isn't about the curriculum alone. School culture is also a huge factor. Research shows us again and again that in order for our students to learn optimally, they need to feel safe and accepted with limited distraction. This has been the driving force behind the WLES School of Kindness initiative this year.
Three years ago, WLES adopted the PBIS program (you can read more about that in NN 1.11 and 2.27) to help reinforce student's positive behavior. Then two years ago, a program called Second Step was adopted K-6. Second Step program gives teachers tools to integrate social-emotional learning into their classrooms. Through short weekly lessons, daily activities, interactive songs and games and videos, students learn about empathy, how to cope with emotions so they don't escalate into negative behaviors and solve interpersonal conflicts with peers. (You can learn more about Second Step here: http://www.cfchildren.org/second-step/elementary).
Taking the sentiments from the PBIS and Second Step programs, WLES Principal, Sue Wanamaker, has instituted a School of Kindness movement to keep the momentum going this year. Having met with different groups including teachers, paraprofessionals and kitchen staff, Mrs. Wanamaker has explored and encouraged random acts of kindness among students and adults, ingraining kindness into the day-to-day operation at WLES.
She is looking to take it one step further and now get our WLES parents and community members involved. Partnering with parents so they know what the students are learning while at school helps them reiterate the same messages at home. Join in the conversation and explore ways to help by attending a Parent Forum next Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. at the WLES Media Center. If you can't make it, and would like to help with School of Kindness initiative, contact Mrs. Wanamaker at Sue.Wanamaker@wlps.net. Any and all ideas are welcome.