Office of the Superintendent
Odds and EndsPosted by Adam Spina on 2/26/2020 12:35:00 PM
A Great Employment Opportunity for Families Who Do Student Drop-off or Pick-up:
The Williamston Police Department is seeking a responsible adult to assist with crossing guard duties at the corner of Riverside and Highland across from the elementary campus. If you are a parent who drops students off in the morning or picks students up in the afternoon, you might be interested in making some extra money for a short amount of work. We can assist you by providing a safe place for your child to wait. The morning shift is from 8:00-8:30 and the afternoon shift is from 3:00-3:30. For more information, contact Chief Bob Young at email@example.com.
Join us for Kindergarten Orientation on Tuesday, March 3 at Discovery Elementary:
Snow Day Petitions:
Of all the creative ways students (and some adults) have petitioned me for a snow day this winter, these might be my favorites:
Scenes from Around the District:
Set building at Williamston High School for the upcoming production of The Little Mermaid on March 6 and 7 at 7:00 pm:
Elephant Poster Parade by Young 5s students at Discovery Elementary:
The 2020 Education Wins Raffle Draw. Congratulations to the winners of the combined total of $9,000 and thanks to all who contributed to the Williamston Schools Foundation in support of this event:
Be Nice Student Mental Health PresentationPosted by Adam Spina on 2/18/2020 4:35:00 PM
I invite all Williamston Community members to attend our Be Nice Student Mental Health event on Friday, February 21 during the home varsity basketball games. The evening will include several events including the annual Williamston Schools Foundation Raffle Drawing and the last home game of the season for our basketball teams. Williamston is teaming up with Haslett High School, a fellow Be Nice school, to break through the stigma and send a message of support to students from both schools who might be struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health matters. Students from the WHS Be Nice committee will conduct a presentation on student mental health between games, at approximately 7:30 pm. Be Nice committee members will also be available in the athletic wing lobby with information about how they are supporting the District’s student mental health initiative throughout the evening.
During the past two years, WCS has invested considerable resources in professional development for staff as well as community outreach regarding this topic. This has included efforts such as the implementation of a student trauma working group and partnering with numerous state and national mental health experts to share information with staff, students, and parents.
Pictured below, WCS hosts educators from throughout Ingham County for a seminar on student trauma, presented by Dr. Stephanie Grant:
One of the most impactful initiatives, however, is the student-led Be Nice program at our middle and high school buildings. The program gives students the opportunity to assume a high profile leadership role while developing innovative strategies to spread the message of Notice, Invite, Challenge, and Empower.
View the video here to learn more about the tenets of the Be Nice program at Williamston High School.
I look forward to seeing you for what will be an informative (and fun) evening. Thank you in advance for your support of this important initiative.
If you are unable to attend the event February 21, our Be Nice faculty advisors will be presenting the Board of Education with an update on the initiative at their regular meeting scheduled for 7:00 pm on Monday, March 2.
Scenes from Around the District:
The Williamston Wrestling Team celebrates winning the district championship:
Children's author Kelly DiPucchio presents to students at Explorer Elementary, an enrichment experience funded by the elementary PTSA:
Williamston High School students participated in Teen Court where they deliberated on six different cases as part of a Restorative Justice opportunity for teenagers who have committed a crime:
County School Safety Parent LetterPosted by Adam Spina on 2/12/2020 12:35:00 PM
School safety is the top priority both here in Williamston and for districts across the county. The letter below represents a joint message from the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, all Ingham Law Enforcement Officials, and District Superintendents. The main goal of the letter is to encourage parents to have age-appropriate conversations with their children regarding school safety, particularly around the use of social media. It might also be a reminder to check in on your child’s social media accounts and ensure their online interactions are appropriate and safe. As I have noted in the past, school safety is a team effort. Our parents, community members, and first responders are essential to maintaining a positive and productive learning environment for our students. The message from the prosecutor’s office is clear, threats will not be considered “jokes,” and students will be held accountable. Reports regarding school safety can be made to school administration, local law enforcement, or anonymously via Okay2Say.
The letter has been mailed to the parents of Williamston students and posted to the Announcements tab on the District homepage.
Scenes from Around the District:
The undefeated boys’ swim team competes during a home meet:
Fifth-grade students from Explorer Elementary visit the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University:
The girls and boys basketball teams recognize members of the community who are fighting cancer during the 2020 Coaches vs. Cancer game:
Upcoming Be Nice Event:
Leaders in STEAM and February District PodcastPosted by Adam Spina on 2/4/2020 4:05:00 PM
February District Podcast:
The February District Podcast can be listened to here.
Leaders in STEAM:
When WCS began its K-12 STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) initiative four years ago, we had several goals we were looking to achieve. Those objectives included:
- Establish/market the District as a progressive and relevant leader in STEAM education
- Increase STEAM-related integration opportunities throughout the District
- Close the gender gap at our high school regarding enrollment in STEAM-related courses
- Add evidence-based educational opportunities for all students at our elementary and secondary buildings
Through the commitment of our staff and the support of the community much has been accomplished. The following are some of the highlights of the initiative thus far:
- Adoption of the Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles Course at WHS, winner of the 2019 College Board Computer Science Female Diversity Award
WHS math and computer science teacher Ray Herek monitors student work in class:
- Creation of the Elementary Campus STEAM Lab, winner of the 2019 MASB/SET SEG Education Excellence Award
Students explore coding in the Elementary STEAM lab:
- Revitalization of the District Spring Arts Showcase
- Addition of two Code.org elective classes at WMS
A Williamston Middle School student engages with a coding lesson:
- Initiating the District’s high school and middle school First Robotics Teams
First Robotics Team vehicle under construction in the Robotics Lab at Williamston High School:
- Constructing the WMS Innovation Labs
- Designing the WHS Robotics Lab
- Full alignment to the new Michigan Science Standards, the first area district to do so
- One of four Districts in Michigan selected to partner with Michigan Virtual University on implementing blended instruction
- Begin the redesign of classroom spaces to include flexible seating and interactive technologies that remove the traditional “point of instruction”
These new opportunities were added to a firm STEAM foundation already in place within the District. Examples of long-standing student opportunities include elementary arts integration, Project Lead the Way Design and Modeling at Williamston Middle School, and the Math/Science Academy, InvenTeam, and Innovative Vehicle Design team at Williamston High School.
More work remains to be done, but the District has made significant progress on its pledge to be a leader in STEAM education. I look forward to sharing more about this initiative in the future.
Scenes from Around the District:
Student artwork on display at the 2020 MSUFCU Art Exhibition:
WCS Track Coach Mitch Lutzke is inducted into the MITCA Hall of Fame:
WCS Board of Education Members are Recognized with Williamston Schools Foundation Hornet Awards:
The Educator Shortage in MichiganPosted by Adam Spina on 1/28/2020 7:05:00 PM
Over winter break the following editorial was published in the Lansing State Journal, written by Ingham County Superintendent Jason Mellema. The piece focuses on the labor market for educators in Michigan and the growing concern of a teacher shortage in our state. With permission, I am relaying this article as the issues it discusses are beginning to impact even very successful districts such as ours. While the solutions are indeed complex and multifaceted, I feel Mr. Mellema’s article provides appropriate situational awareness regarding the issues we face when trying to attract and retain the very best educators and administrators to serve our students here in Williamston.
Keep reading after the conclusion of the article for a unique way to recognize an educator at WCS who has been influential in the education of your child or has contributed in other ways to the success of the District and the Williamston Community.
Teacher Shortage Creates Problems; Let's Focus on Solutions
With the economy roaring and unemployment at historic lows, many industry sectors are struggling to find great employees. The education community has been hit with the same challenges. In addition, the pipeline for future educators – teacher preparation programs – have seen a dramatic decrease in student enrollment. Data from the U.S. Department of Education, shows Michigan has had an over 70% decrease in enrollment in teacher preparation programs between the 2008-09 and 2016-17 school years. To be blunt, we have a teacher shortage problem.
In a 2017 white paper published by the Michigan Department of Education, Trends in Michigan Teacher Certification, 9,964 initial certificates were issued for teachers during the peak school year of 2003-04. By 2015-16, the number of initial certificates had dropped 62% to 3,696. According to count data on MISchoolData.org, the student population dropped approximately 11% during the same time period. This has led to a significant increase in long-term substitutes in the classroom with a cost to the quality of education for students. A recent long-term substitute study by Bridge Magazine reports that, “more than 2,500 Michigan classrooms were led by long-term substitutes who weren’t certified teachers in the 2018-19 school year – a stunning tenfold increase in just five years.” Many of these long-term subs aren’t highly qualified or certified, but rather people who are interested in helping kids. This makes a difference in the quality of education our students are receiving.
Unlike the private sector, education does not have the ability to increase pay by producing more widgets, nor raise prices on our product – the student and their families – to reflect high demand. Rather, funding is tied to the per-pupil aid determined by our legislators and the number of students we are serving.
Further complicating the matter are changes our legislators made to overall benefits, restrictions on school retirees entering the classroom, approximately 100 new public school academies/charters since 2003-04, competition between districts for staff and those educators that have left the profession. Noting the challenges impacting the ecosystem, waiting for the dust to settle seems like professional malpractice as current students are stuck.
So how do we solve this?
While the teacher shortage has been exacerbated in recent years, the reality is that it has taken us years to get to this point, and it will take a concerted effort and time to improve. The issue becomes focusing on what we can control. K-12 public school districts have been partnering with higher education institutions and research partners to help with preparation for those coming into the field. Within Ingham Intermediate School District and throughout the state, conversations are happening about how to improve onboarding programs and retention of staff. We continue to reach out and encourage our legislators to help find solutions to allow retirees back into the profession, especially in critical shortage areas like special education and math. Finally, if we can all agree on the goal of our children having a world-class education that allows them to reach their dreams, we must recognize that improving perception around public education is about us – all of us – within our community.
Collectively, we can make a difference. Drop a note of thanks to teachers who work tirelessly, a simple thank you to the staff who work to keep the building and grounds clean, or a handshake to the administration are all ideas to help educators know that you appreciate what they do. Please join me in recognizing the educators who are making a positive impact on students every day.
Ingham Intermediate School District
Despite the very real challenges Mr. Mellema presents, we are fortunate to have a talented and dedicated team of educators at WCS. Join me in recognizing those who are making that “positive impact” right here in Williamston by nominating them for a Hornet Award. Hornet Awards support the Williamston Schools Foundation and are a great way to say “thank you” to a teacher, para-professional, secretary, custodian, bus driver, or any other member of the WCS team who is deserving of such an accolade. Hornet Awards can be ordered online at https://williamstonschoolsfoundation.org/hornet-awards/ or by selecting the link here.
Special Education Headlee RestorationPosted by Adam Spina on 1/23/2020 6:35:00 PM
The Ingham Intermediate School District has proposed a Headlee Restoration which will appear on the March 10, 2020, ballot for all voters who are residents of the Ingham ISD service area. The goal of the proposal is to restore the special education millage originally passed in 1988 which has since eroded due to property value caps set by the Headlee Amendment. If approved, the ballot proposal would restore .2438 mill to fund special education services at the rate originally approved by voters.
During the 2018-2019 school year, Williamston utilized $493,322 out of its general operating budget in order to fully fund special education staffing and programming in the District. If the Headlee Restoration is approved by voters, it would still not fully fund special education at WCS but would significantly offset the number of general fund dollars that are diverted to support special education needs.
Ingham ISD has posted extensive information about the ballot initiative on its website. Resources include additional information about how the Headlee Amendment impacts school funding, information on voting, the potential cost to Ingham County residents, and a Frequently Asked Questions section. There are also flyers on the initiative located at the offices of all school buildings and the enrichment office.
The ballot language for the proposal is listed below in its entirety:
INGHAM INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DISTRICT SPECIAL EDUCATION MILLAGE PROPOSAL
(RESTORATION OF HEADLEE REDUCTION)
This proposal requests additional millage to permit the continued levy by the intermediate school district of the maximum mills for special education previously approved by the electors.
Shall the current charter limitation on the annual property tax rate for the education of students with a disability in Ingham Intermediate School District, Michigan, be increased by 0.2438 mill ($0.2438 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 20 years, 2020 to 2039, inclusive (this increase will allow the intermediate school district to levy the maximum rate of 4.75 mills previously approved by the electors that has been reduced as required by the Michigan Constitution of 1963); the estimate of the revenue the intermediate school district will collect if the millage is approved and levied in 2020 is approximately $2,300,000 from local property taxes authorized herein?
Please see our Human Resources page on the website or select the link here for more information.
WCS is supporting the employment of an additional school crossing guard through the Williamston Police Department. Contact Chief Bob Young at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in learning more.
Scenes from Around the District:
Students and staff wear blue at last week’s basketball game in support of Haslett High School after the loss of their principal, Bart Wegenke:
Students draw prizes for reaching their reading goals from the treasure chest at the Discovery Elementary Library. The incentive program is a new aspect of the elementary “Reading Hall of Fame” and is sponsored by the PTSA and donations from parents:
The National Anthem performed at Williamston High School before the start of the 2020 Mooney Classic:
Transportation VacanciesPosted 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 email@example.com or (517) 655-1011.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in learning more.
Family Activity Fair at Williamston High School, January 25:
Happy HolidaysPosted 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:
Students are presented with certificates (and bonus Buzz Tickets) as part of the Student of the Month Breakfast at Williamston Middle School:
State Representative Kara Hope meets with the Williamston High School Inventeam:
Parent Information Night for the New Williamston Middle School Robotics Team:
School Bond Loan Fund RefundingPosted 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.
Elementary Choir and Art Club Concert:
December District Podcast, Spring Break, and Upcoming EventsPosted 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:
- iTunes - http://bit.ly/wcshornets
- Stitcher - http://bit.ly/wcs-stitcher
- Tune In - http://bit.ly/wcs-tunein
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.
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Phone: (517) 655-4361
Degrees and Certifications: