Superintendent's Blog

  • Transportation Vacancies

    Posted by Adam Spina on 1/14/2020 3:25:00 PM

    Happy New Year! As we reach the half-way mark in the school year and close out the first semester, we are happy to welcome 18 new students to the District. 

    The District has been involved in a careful analysis of transportation resources over the last several years. The short and long-term planning involved with this process has been responsible for the majority of the District’s bus fleet being replaced with new vehicles as well as allocating resources to significantly upgrade the transportation garage. This process will continue into the future to include assessments of routes, costs, and ridership.

    District enrollment is now at a point where we can justify adding an additional daily bus route. The benefits of adding a route include a decrease in travel time and more capacity. We are in a somewhat unique position of having enough buses in the current fleet to support an additional route, but we do not have enough bus drivers. We are interested in hiring an additional regular driver and more substitute drivers. The District will pay for all training and licensing expenses. For substitute drivers, there is also a bonus of up to $3,000 based on the number of routes driven. If you know anyone who might be interested in joining our team as either a regular or substitute driver, please have them contact Ms. Pam VanSickler at vansicp@gowcs.net or (517) 655-1011.

    Bus Driver Bonus Flyer

    In addition to bus drivers, we have numerous additional vacancies in the District. These include teaching positions, substitute teaching positions, noon-aides, coaches, food service, and the minute taker for the Board of Education. 

    WCS is also supporting the employment of an additional school crossing guard through the Williamston Police Department. Contact Chief Bob Young at bob.young@williamston-mi.us if interested in learning more.

    Please see our Human Resources page on the website or select the link here for more information.

    Family Activity Fair at Williamston High School, January 25:

    Family Fair Flyer

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  • Happy Holidays

    Posted by Adam Spina on 12/18/2019 7:35:00 AM

    It has been tremendous to again witness the symbiotic relationship between the community and the schools throughout the holiday season. Select the link here to see some examples of our staff and students celebrating with the Williamston Community over the last month.

    The blog and Buzz Updates will restart in mid-January. I wish everyone a safe and joyful holiday season and look forward to a great second half of the school year in 2020!  

    Information on Family Fun Gym Time Hours at Fitness Center:

    Select the link here, for information on gym time for students ages 13 and under over the break at Williamston High School. 

    Scenes from Around the District:

    Williamston High School students participate in archery, part of a new, grant-funded unit in the school’s physical education classes:

    Archery at WHS

    Students are presented with certificates (and bonus Buzz Tickets) as part of the Student of the Month Breakfast at Williamston Middle School:

    Student of the Month at WMS

    State Representative Kara Hope meets with the Williamston High School Inventeam:

    Representative Hope with the WHS Inventeam

    Parent Information Night for the New Williamston Middle School Robotics Team:

    WMS First Robotics Team Flyer

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  • School Bond Loan Fund Refunding

    Posted by Adam Spina on 12/10/2019 5:25:00 PM

    In November, the Board of Education approved the refunding of District issued bonds that refund debt to the State of Michigan’s School Bond Loan Fund (SBLF). The SBLF is a state-operated fund that makes loans to school districts to assist with debt service payments on state qualified bond issues. When the taxes collected are not enough to make bond payments, districts borrow from the SBLF to cover the difference. This is a common practice. 

    WCS has $20,950,000 currently borrowed from the SBLF to cover the difference between debt payments and collected taxes pertaining to previous bonds that the community approved. These include bonds that financed the construction of Discovery Elementary, the addition to Williamston High School, and numerous other large scale renovations to the District. 

    The Board moved quickly to refund the SBLF debt and take advantage of favorable interest rates. By doing so, repayments to the SBLF will be significantly reduced, saving Williamston taxpayers $1,640,000 over the balance of the loan period. The refunding did not extend the period of the loan, debt to the SBLF will be paid off in full by 2030. 

    More information on the SBLF and the rationale for refunding can be assessed in the December District podcast. The podcast is accessible on iTunes, Stitcher, Tune In, or by selecting the link here.

    Elementary Choir and Art Club Concert:

    2019 Elementary Art and Choir Club Concert

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  • December District Podcast, Spring Break, and Upcoming Events

    Posted by Adam Spina on 12/2/2019 7:05:00 AM

    December District Podcast

    The December District Podcast can be listened to here.

    The Podcast can also be accessed at the following links:

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    Spring Break and Upcoming Events:

    A revision to the dates for spring break was unanimously supported by districts within Ingham County to begin with the 2021-2022 academic year. Spring break, starting in 2022, will be one week earlier. The formula for setting spring break in future common county calendars is below:

    Spring break will be scheduled the last week of March unless March 31 falls on a Saturday or Sunday in which case break will be held the week before March 31.

    For the past two years, the district calendar has included a caveat that the week of spring break might change pending the adoption of a revised county common calendar. By law, local districts are required to adopt the common county calendar which primarily dictates the dates and duration for winter and spring breaks. 

    The Ingham Intermediate School District established a calendar committee to study moving spring break one week earlier. The primary rationale for this proposed change was allowing students to return to school for a full week prior to high stake state assessments, to include the SAT for high school juniors, beginning in April. This allows students to settle back into a comfortable learning environment/routine while also allowing staff more time to prepare logistically for the assessments. This is a change that many other counties, including several in Mid-Michigan, have already made. The timing of a potential change was also an important consideration, ensuring families received adequate time to make appropriate plans for future spring breaks. 

    The district calendar for the 2021-2022 school year has not yet been created, though as noted above, we now know the dates for spring break. A community working group will begin developing a concept for the 2021-2022 district calendar this winter.

    Spring break for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years will remain unchanged. Below is an updated version of the district calendar for both years with a strikethrough of the caveat language indicating the possibility of a spring break change as this is no longer applicable.

    View the 2019-2020 District Calendar here.

    View the 2020-2021 District Calendar here.

    Coffee and Conversation:

    We are experimenting with a new morning time for Coffee and Conversation sessions. As noted on the district calendar, the next date/time for this will be Tuesday, December 3, from 9:00 - 10:30 am at the Williamston Biggby. Please consider stopping by to discuss topics of interest about the district.

    Adolescent Mental Health Conversation:

    A reminder of the upcoming presentation on adolescent mental health being held a McGoff Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, December 4 at 6:30. Please consider attending, it is important that parents be there to hear this message.

    Comments (-1)
  • Adolescent Mental Health

    Posted by Adam Spina on 11/19/2019 6:05:00 PM

    I have written often about our focus on student mental health, particularly what the district is doing to support adolescent learners in this area. The Be Nice initiative at the middle school and the high school is approaching its first anniversary. While still in its initial stages of implementation, I have been impressed by the dedication to getting the Be Nice teams started by our secondary administrators, social workers, counselors, and school psychologist. Our student leaders have been instrumental throughout this first year. I admire their courage and initiative, it is not easy taking on a leadership role with peers regarding such a sensitive issue. We know that for Be Nice to make a cultural difference in our schools, students will need to be out in front and encouraging classmates to Notice, Invite, Challenge, and Empower. This will take time, but thanks to our staff and students, we are off to a strong start.

    Watch Fox 47’s interview about Williamston’s Be Nice program with WHS School Social Worker Caitlin Wilcox here

    To foster open and honest discussions about student mental health, we need parents involved and informed. Lack of parental involvement and awareness was one of the top issues identified by our high school students last year as we began Be Nice. It was disappointing to see the dismal parent attendance at our Be Nice kickoff event last spring, which unfortunately supported the hypothesis of our students.

    We are offering another opportunity to jump-start the conversation in a couple of weeks. WCS will be hosting former University of Michigan football player Will Heininger at McGoff Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, December 4th at 6:30 pm. This will not be a presentation about Be Nice, but rather the issues that Be Nice aims to address. Mr. Heininger will be meeting with WHS students during two special assemblies, but to make his time with us especially meaningful, we need parents to hear his story as well. If nothing else, his talk will create an awareness and potentially open the door for future dialogue both at school and at home. 

    Your help is essential. Please join us on December 4th for this important conversation.

    Learn more about Will Heininger here.

    Mental Health Conversation at McGoff, 4 DEC 2019 Flyer

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  • Technology Integration Initiative:

    Posted by Adam Spina on 11/14/2019 7:35:00 AM

    One of the district’s instructional improvement priorities is developing new and more meaningful methods for incorporating technology as a tool to enhance (or transform) student learning. To assist with this initiative, WCS has provided targeted professional development opportunities for faculty as well as constructing a more robust support structure to both troubleshoot issues and collaborate on innovative ideas. Progress on this goal to date includes the following:

    • The district received an estimated $300,000 investment toward district professional development through a partnership with Michigan Virtual University (MVU), we were one of only a handful of districts in the state to be selected for this level of support
    • A full-time technology support specialist was added to the technology department
    • Teachers in each building volunteered to serve as blended-learning coaches and provide integrated instructional support to colleagues
    • Williamston Schools Foundation funded a grant for the installation of the LanSchool instructional support system
    • Fourteen faculty members have earned Google Certified Educator status
    • Teachers in select classrooms had mobile technology installed allowing them to interact freely with instructional materials and students while removing the traditional single “point of instruction”

    It is important to emphasize that this initiative is not focused on adding additional “screen time,” purchasing more devices (though we have been able to add capabilities through a number of grants and donations), or replacing instructional practices that have proven themselves to be effective. Instead, we are moving forward by combining evidence-based instructional strategies and new technology capabilities. Integrated instruction must be purposeful and engaging while providing timely, quality feedback to students. By doing so, the district will maintain relevant pedagogy and develop more customized tools to meet the needs of all students.

    Technology Integration Diagram

    Ref: https://sylviaduckworth.com/

    More information on how each building is implementing this initiative may be found on their respective School Improvement Plans. These are located under the “Academics” tab on each school’s website.

    Scenes from Around the District:

    First Grade Artwork on Display at Discovery Elementary:

    First Grade Art On Display

    WHS Senior Jacob was selected at the Williamston Sunrise Rotary Student of the Quarter/Murphy Award Winner:

    Murphy Award Winner, 2019

    The finale of Mary Poppins at McGoff Performing Arts Center:

    Mary Poppins, 2019

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  • District Finance Update

    Posted by Adam Spina on 11/6/2019 7:25:00 AM

    This week the review of the district’s 2018-2019 financial statements was completed by a third party auditing firm. The completion of the audit finalized the district’s financial position through the end of the 2018-2019 school year. 

    The district has set a goal of increasing its fund balance to above 5% of revenues. This is important for three reasons. First, much like a savings account in a household budget, the fund balance represents financial stability and a source of contingency dollars should unexpected expenses arise. Secondly, a stronger fund balance portrays the district as a more financially secure entity. WCS has already seen a mild improvement to its overall rating by Moody’s, a trend we anticipate will continue over the next couple of years. Finally, adding to the fund balance decreases the amount of money the district needs to borrow to cover expenses between the start of the fiscal year and when it receives its first state aid payment. This year, WCS borrowed 1 million dollars less than the previous year, resulting in a substantial amount of interest savings. As we continue to invest in growing the fund balance, our interest payments will continue to decrease, resulting in more dollars that can be put back into the classroom. 

    A strong fund balance is not the sole indicator of a successful district. In fact, many places in Michigan have improved their fund balance at the expense of instruction, staff, facilities, and programming. We have taken a different approach through marketing the district, establishing numerous partnerships/collaborations, and aggressively seeking grants and new revenue streams. The district has made positive contributions to its fund balance over the last four years.  During this time we have simultaneously added programming, student support services/resources, and educators while investing in facilities and transportation. 

    The graph below represents the district’s fund balance in total dollars since the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. As a percentage of revenues, the fund balance was at a low point of 1.07% in 2014-2015. At the end of 2018-2019, the fund balance was at 6.82%. By the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year, we project the fund balance to be at 8% of revenues. 

    Williamston’s Fund Balance, 2011 - 2020:

    District Fund Balance 2011 - 2020

    The district’s complete 2018-2019 audit can be found under the Transparency Reporting icon on the district homepage or by selecting the link here.

    Scenes from Around the District:

    Student artwork on display at conferences:

    WCS Student Art Nov 2019

    WCS Student Art 2019

    WHS students participate in the Army National Guard Warrior Fit Program in PE class:

    WHS Students in PE Class

    WCS Bus Drivers Ready for Halloween:

    WCS Bus Drivers, Halloween 2019

    Pancakes with Santa:

    Pancakes with Santa 2019

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  • School Cancellation Process, 2019

    Posted by Adam Spina on 10/30/2019 7:50:00 AM

    With the chance of snow predicted in the near future, it is a good opportunity to review our protocol for closing the district in the event of poor weather and/or unsafe driving conditions. The safety of students, parents, and staff is the foremost consideration when evaluating whether a day of school should be canceled. There are several variables that factor into making a final decision. These include the following:

    1. An early morning report from our Director of Facilities and Operations on road conditions in Williamston
    2. Input from law enforcement, the road commission, and staff from neighboring districts
    3. Consultation with Superintendents from all other Ingham County Districts

    School will be canceled automatically if there is a temperature (with or without windchill) of 20 degrees or more below zero.

    Note that each local district in the area makes an independent decision on whether to cancel school. Road conditions in Williamston (to include roads in all parts of our district) may differ greatly from those in other districts. If you disagree with a decision to open school, it is always your right to keep your child at home. If you make this choice, please contact the appropriate school office so we know where your child is and that he or she is safe.

    School cancellations will be broadcast through a variety of means. These include local media outlets, our website, and School Messenger. Remember, you can subscribe to both School Messenger and the RSS feed on the announcements part of the district website to receive an automatic notification to your phone, email, and/or news feed. Our goal is to make a decision to cancel no later than 6:00 am.

    For students attending Wilson Talent Center: In the event the Mason Public Schools have closed their district due to road/weather conditions, the Ingham Intermediate Schools will also be closed. Consequently, the Wilson Talent Center will not be open. If Williamston is open on a day Mason schools are closed, students who attend class at the Wilson Talent Center will have space made available for them to study throughout the full school day at Williamston High School, but will only be required to attend class during their usual hours at WHS. If Williamston is closed and Mason is open, Williamston students will be excused from classes on that day. Questions regarding this arrangement can be directed to the high school office.  

    For students attending Little Hornets Preschool and Kids’ Corner Childcare: Little Hornets Preschool will close when Explorer and Discovery close. Kids’ Corner will remain open unless otherwise noted in the closing announcement. 

    Co-Curricular Events: Performances, competitions, practices, and other similar activities will be addressed on a case-by-case basis depending on an ongoing assessment of weather/road conditions. Updates will be provided as applicable on days the district is otherwise closed.

    Fitness Center, Pool, and Enrichment: These departments will make an independent assessment of weather conditions which will usually be broadcast in the closing announcement. If these departments remain open, hours may be subject to change. Check the respective websites for more information on days the district is closed.

    I hope this provides some perspective on how snow days are determined. Please contact me should you have any questions about our decision-making process or notification mechanisms. Like all of you, I am hoping for an easier winter than last year.

    Mary Poppins, November 7 - 10 at McGoff Auditorium:

    Watch the trailer here.

    Mary Poppins, 2019 Flyer

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  • October 2019 District Podcast and District Enrollment Update

    Posted by Adam Spina on 10/24/2019 12:15:00 PM

    October 2019 District Podcast:

    The October District Podcast can be listened to here.

    The Podcast can also be accessed at the following links:

     __________________________________

    2019 Enrollment Update:

    Williamston’s K-12 enrollment has continued to increase this year based on tentative fall count numbers. Including all programs and partnerships, the total fall student enrollment was 1,908.30. When adding the 105 students currently enrolled in the district’s preschool program, the total number of students associated with the district this fall is 2,013.30. 

    WCS has successfully rebounded from a decade-long enrollment crisis caused by the most recent economic recession. The graph below illustrates the enrollment for both K-12 core/traditional students and K-12 total enrollment (which includes students participating in all additional programming and partnerships). The graph does not factor in preschool enrollment.

    WCS 2019 Enrollment Graph

    An enrollment of around 1,900 students is healthy for the district in its current composition. While capacity remains to add students, it is not equally distributed. We turned away prospective non-resident students this summer in grades K, 4, and 8 in order to maintain small class sizes.

    WCS maintains an excellent reputation throughout Michigan and its long-standing record of success certainly assists with attracting families. However, there remain potential enrollment issues that will be closely monitored moving forward. Like all other entities, the district is subject to fluctuations of the state and national economy. Beyond that, Michigan is experiencing a declining birthrate, a reality that may impact enrollment in future years. More locally, there are significant limitations with affordable housing within the district’s boundaries. Limited housing opportunities for beginning families is perhaps the most notable sustainability challenge the district faces. The influence of these factors will continue to be taken into account when conducting near, short, and long-term planning.

    Despite these constraints, WCS has exceeded its enrollment projections each of the last three years and has its largest total enrollment since 2008. Maintaining accurate budget estimates based on enrollment projections will continue to be an annual challenge, but for the first time in a decade, we are working from a position of strength in this area. 

    Substitute Bus Drivers Wanted:

    2019 Substitute Bus Driver Incentive

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  • 2019 Educator of the Year

    Posted by Adam Spina on 10/17/2019 1:45:00 PM

    Please join me in congratulating WCS Band Director Ms. Lynn Kelsey as the Williamston Area Chamber of Commerce 2019 Educator of the Year. 

    Ms. Kelsey began teaching in Williamston in 2004. Under her leadership, the Williamston Bands have earned the highest accolades at the state level and hold the reputation as one of the best programs in Michigan. She has influenced numerous students to continue to perform in bands or pursue music studies post-graduation. Her oversight of the band program begins when students enter sixth-grade at Williamston Middle School and continue for the majority of those students throughout high school. Ms. Kelsey directs the WMS Symphonic Band, the WHS Marching and Symphonic Bands as well as the WHS Jazz Band. Her outstanding teaching is visible to thousands of people each year at concerts, festivals, football games, and parades. 

    The WHS Marching Band surprised Ms. Kelsey this week with the news she was selected as the 2019 WACC Educator of the Year. Watch the clip here.

    WCS was fortunate to have a second member of our team selected for recognition by the Chamber. Mr. Mitch Lutzke is a Williamston High School social studies teacher as well as an award-winning author and track coach. Mr. Lutzke has written extensively on the history of Williamston and is a sought after speaker who regularly highlights the attributes of Williamston in his presentations. Mr. Lutzke will be conferred with the Hometown Hero Award by the Chamber’s Board of Directors at the awards banquet.

    Students surprised Mr. Lutzke by announcing his award during the recording of their school news during his Broadcasting class this week. Watch the clip here.

    The 2019 Community Awards Banquet will be held on Thursday, November 7th at 7:00 pm at the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Williamston. Visit the Chamber’s website at williamston.org for information on purchasing tickets for the event. The banquet does sell out quickly, please do not wait too long to acquire tickets if interested in attending.

    2019 Community Awards Banquet Flyer

    Once again, congratulations to Ms. Kelsey and Mr. Lutzke!

    Scenes from Around the District:

    Grand Re-Opening of the Williamston CADL Branch:

    Williamston CADL Brand Reopening Ceremony

    Young 5s students participate in bus safety lessons, co-taught by the Williamston Transportation Department:

    Bus Safety Lessons

    The Williamston Swim and Dive Team competes at a recent home meet:

    WHS Swim Meet

     

    Comments (-1)

Executive Assistant

Mrs. Janet Eidt

Phone: (517) 655-4361

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mrs. Janet Eidt