Superintendent's Blog

  • Instructional Excellence Continues in a Pandemic

    Posted by Adam Spina on 1/14/2021 3:20:00 PM

    Even before the pandemic, WCS was a leading district in blended learning methodology. Professional development and a focus on utilizing new tools to enhance traditional instruction have accelerated over the last 10 months. In addition to the adoption of numerous other resources, educators at WCS have demonstrated their proficiency in integrating the Google Suite of educational tools into their instruction. An impressive number of teachers and administrators have achieved either Level 1 or Level 2 Google Certification by passing a timed online assessment that requires the ability to simultaneously manipulate multiple Google tools in the context of various educational settings/scenarios. This is a nationally recognized distinction that will benefit students in Williamston well after the pandemic subsides. The following is a list of WCS educators who have earned Google Educator Certification.    

     

    Level 1 Google Certified Educators:

    Ms. Bollis - WMS

    Mr. Brillantes - WMS

    Ms. Byelich - Explorer

    Mr. Chamberlain - WHS

    Dr. Cook - Central Office

    Mr. Duffey - WHS

    Ms. Eddy - WMS

    Mr. Ellis - WHS

    Ms. Emmons - Discovery

    Mr. Hampton - WMS

    Ms. Heide - Explorer

    Mr. Herek - WHS

    Ms. Hill - WMS

    Ms. Hodgson - Explorer

    Ms. Jones - Explorer 

    Ms. Langhart - WMS

    Ms. Long - Explorer

    Ms. Mitchell - WHSA

    Ms. Norman - Explorer

    Ms. O’Rourke - WHS

    Ms. Pfander - Discovery

    Mr. Rasmus - WHS

    Ms. Roberts - Explorer

    Ms. Scott - Discovery

    Ms. Shannon - Discovery

    Ms. Smith - Discovery

    Dr. Spina - Central Office

    Ms. Wade - WHS

       

     

    Level 2 Google Certified Educators:

    Ms. Allen - WHS

    Mr. Armour - WHS

    Ms. Brummitt - Explorer

    Ms. Cruce - WMS

    Ms. Davidson - WMS

    Dr. Delp - WHS

    Ms. Nolen - WHS

    Ms. Richards - WHS

     

     

    Congratulations to these educators on your achievement and thank you for continuing to invest in your profession for the betterment of our students. 

     

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    Williamston High School will begin its cohort-based instructional plan on Monday, 25 January. This decision was made after observing and validating the middle school plan which was implemented for all applicable grade levels this past week. I am grateful to our staff for their outstanding work. I am also appreciative of our parents for their support with making in-person learning at our secondary buildings a reality by preparing their children for the new safety protocols. 

     

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    Williamston was prioritized for educator vaccinations in Ingham County as we were one of just a few districts to have in-person instruction available to our students. Educators began receiving the first dose of vaccines this past Monday. While this is a significant development, it will not decrease our vigilance in observing safety practices. We are well aware that the vaccine is not yet available to most of our community and we will continue to implement recommended safety measures to protect against community spread. In the meantime, we are working on plans to resume a full-day instructional model. More information will be forthcoming when available. 

     

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    Best of luck to WHS Junior, Gwen, who will be competing for a swimming state championship this weekend in Lake Orion.

    Comments (-1)
  • Welcome 2021!

    Posted by Adam Spina on 1/7/2021 4:05:00 PM

    Happy New Year! 2021 is off to a great start as WCS welcomed back 6th-grade students to in-person learning this week. The Middle School will reopen for 7th and 8th-grade students on Monday, January 11. Students have done an excellent job of abiding by the Covid-19 safety protocols. We continue to appreciate the collaboration with parents which allows our buildings to add more in-person learning opportunities over the course of this school year. As always, if you have any questions about safety guidelines, contact your child’s school office. 

    New Williamston Middle School students attend an orientation session led by the WMS Peer Assistance Leadership and Service (PALS) group before returning for in-person learning this week:

    Middle School orientation

    Additional good news includes the District’s overall financial rating. After completing their most recent assessment, Moody’s upgraded our rating by two positions. WCS has now moved up on Moody’s system three times in the last two years, analysts have remarked that this improvement is “uncommon.” The financial outlook for WCS remains positive and we project continued improvement this year, despite challenges created by the pandemic. Read the Yahoo Finance article on the District’s improving financial outlook here

    Finally, best of luck to our football team, which continues in the state playoffs on Saturday, January 9th -- in what may be the longest high school football season in history. Go Hornets!

    Comments (-1)
  • Winter Holidays and Hybrid Learning Plans in January

    Posted by Adam Spina on 12/18/2020 7:35:00 AM

    To start, I want to wish all our families and community members a very happy holiday season. We have been through a lot this year. I hope the holidays provide opportunities to safely celebrate and rejuvenate. I look forward to better days ahead. 

    Post winter break, we are continuing the cohorted PreK-5 in-person learning opportunities. Additionally, we will begin our in-person cohorts at Williamston Middle School. If you are the parent of a WMS student interested in having your child attend an in-person cohort, carefully review recent and upcoming correspondence from that school. You will find information regarding schedules, safety protocols, transportation, and other important details. 

    View the Williamston Middle School Welcome Back 2021 Screencast here.

    Williamston High School will potentially begin in-person cohorted groups at the end of January. Decisions for starting will be based on a number of factors. High school parents have received communication detailing the criteria to commence in-person cohorts. A link to the parent letter is here. Until then, the high school will continue to offer a robust in-person support schedule accessible to students based on need or upon request. 

    In order to continue to offer in-person learning options for families in this Covid-19 environment, we need to maintain open lines of communication. These have been successfully established; your ongoing commitment is vital. If your family is exposed to a high-risk circumstance or has a known exposure/close contact with a person who is confirmed positive during the holidays, please err on the side of caution. Wait to return your child to school until the quarantine period has ended. Similarly, if applicable symptoms occur in your household, delay returning your child to in-person learning until Covid has been ruled out. For those traveling over the holidays, CDC guidance on safe travel can be found at the link here. As always, contact your child’s school office with any questions. 

    Thank you for the ongoing partnership and collaboration. Wishing all of Williamston a safe and healthy 2021.

    Comments (-1)
  • 2020-2021 School Cancelation Process

    Posted by Adam Spina on 12/10/2020 9:15:00 AM

    Williamston Community Schools has revised the rationale for weather-related school cancellation this year. This change comes from our capability to provide remote instruction and increased flexibility for instruction provided by the state.

    Effective immediately, the district will transition to remote learning when inclement weather precludes the safe operation of school buses or creates an unacceptable risk for teenage drivers (instances commonly referred to as “snow days”). The timeline for making an announcement will be identical to school cancellation decisions in previous years. We strive to have a decision made no later than 6:00 am. 

    Transition to remote learning on inclement weather days will be announced via SchoolMessenger. The information will be broadcast district-wide even if any buildings are already closed to regular in-person instruction. Please note that a similar timeline and process could be used if a school or the entire district is impacted by Covid-19. In a Covid related scenario, transition announcements may occur with short notice when circumstances affect the time we have to respond and communicate.

    Short notice transitions to remote learning will vary by building. Details for instruction will be provided in follow-up communications from building administrators. This information will highlight instructional expectations, the availability of support services, and any requisite logistical arrangements.

    Instruction of any kind may still be canceled on certain days this year due to a variety of factors. Reasons may include, but are not limited to, a wide-spread power or internet outage, a weather-related state of emergency, or other “force majeure” scenarios. Announcements for these situations will also be communicated via SchoolMessenger. 

    School status announcements will be more nuanced this year, it will be important to read or listen to the messages in their entirety.   

    We hope to maximize educational opportunities on inclement weather days. Thus, Williamston Community Schools can maintain instructional continuity and appropriately cover the required curriculum for every class/grade level during this exceptionally unique academic year.

    Comments (-1)
  • District Calendar and Meal Plan Update

    Posted by Adam Spina on 12/3/2020 4:35:00 PM

    A few brief updates this week. 

    First, there has been a slight modification to the district calendar in January. Friday, January 22 will now be a full-day records day with no classes (remote or in-person) for students across the district. Previously this was an AM only half-day. 

    For families with high school students: First-semester high school exams will be moved up one day, now taking place Tuesday, January 19 - Thursday, January 21. Those days will continue to be half-days for the high school only unless otherwise announced by the school administration. 

    The updated 2020-2021 school calendar can be found at the link here, as well as on the district homepage and the Calendar tab on the district website. 

    Secondly, the food service department has finalized the meal service plan over the upcoming winter break as illustrated in the flyer below.

    Winter Break Meal Plan

    Lastly, if you missed the district podcast released just before Thanksgiving, it can be accessed at the link here.

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  • November/December District Podcast

    Posted by Adam Spina on 11/23/2020 7:15:00 AM

    November/December District Podcast

    Listen to the District Podcast here.

    The Podcast can also be accessed at the following links:

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    Employment Opportunities at WCS:

    Director of Food Service:

    • Joint position with Haslett Public Schools
    • $65,000 + based on experience
    • Comprehensive benefits package
    • Online Application and posting can be found here

     

    Bus Driver:

    • Regular Drivers, includes a $1,000 bonus
    • Substitute Drivers, includes up to a $3,000 bonus
    • To inquire, contact Pam VanSickler at vansicp@gowcs.net

     

    Long-Term Substitute Teaching Positions:

    • Multiple grade levels, learn more here

     

    Early Childhood Education and Child Care:

    • Several positions available, learn more here
    Comments (-1)
  • Thanksgiving and New Deputy Superintendent

    Posted by Adam Spina on 11/19/2020 6:15:00 PM

    As Thanksgiving approaches I want to express some items I am thankful for this year:

    • I am thankful to be back in this position after a long time away and for the continued opportunity to serve our wonderful community. 
    • I am thankful for our incredible parents, who scaled mountains to support the education of their children since last March. Education has always been a collaborative effort, but parents have shouldered a burden unlike any other this year. I want you to know your sacrifices are recognized and appreciated.
    • I am thankful for our dedicated staff who navigated tremendous obstacles and quickly adopted new measures to provide a quality education for our students in the middle of a pandemic. There is no better team of people.
    • I am thankful to the many service organizations and community members who volunteered their time or invested their money to support the district with unforeseen expenses during this period of remote learning. 
    • I am thankful for the many individuals who make anonymous donations or organize initiatives to support children in need, especially this year, when that support is more important than ever.
    • I am thankful for all our Williamston students. They are 1,856 reasons we continue to scale mountains, navigate tremendous obstacles, adopt new measures, invest, and volunteer. 

    Although I know this Thanksgiving is unlike any other, I wish you all a safe and happy holiday. Please, take care of yourselves and be care-filled with others. Again, thank you for your ongoing commitment to our schools and the children of our community.

    Schedule Reminder:

    A reminder that instruction will be entirely remote for all grades from November 30 - December 8. We look forward to welcoming back our PreK - Grade 5 students for in-person learning on December 9. 

    Board of Education Appoints Kelly Campbell as Deputy Superintendent

    This week the Board of Education unanimously approved granting the title of Deputy Superintendent to Mrs. Kelly Campbell. The title was awarded in recognition of Kelly's long-standing contributions to WCS and her demonstrated record of success in numerous instructional and leadership positions. 

    Kelly has served as an educator in Williamston since 1991. Her contributions to the district include teaching at the elementary and middle school, building and district level Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) coordinator, principal, and interim superintendent. Over the past several months, Kelly led our district through one of its most challenging periods. Her knowledge of our systems, staff, and community have been and continue to be invaluable.

    Kelly's primary role will remain as principal of Explorer Elementary but she will assume the responsibilities of superintendent when applicable. This will typically be on occasions when the superintendent is not available. 

    Learn more about the district’s administrative team here.

    Comments (-1)
  • New District Awards and Be Nice Instagram

    Posted by Adam Spina on 11/13/2020 8:40:00 AM

    This week the district successfully completed the next phase of the Hybrid Learning Plan by returning in-person cohorts of students from all the elementary grades and Little Hornets Preschool. Again, I want to compliment our staff and parents for all the preparation that went into making in-person instruction possible. It is a true team effort. 

    Please know that despite all our best efforts Covid might cause a short-notice return to remote learning for some or all of our in-person cohorts. We will continue to communicate accordingly on that topic. 

    New District Awards:

    Although this is an unusual year for so many reasons, Williamston continues to earn recognition for academic achievement. Most recently, the district earned its third consecutive College Success Award from GreatSchools.org. The College Success Award “recognizes and celebrates public high schools that are doing an outstanding job of preparing graduating seniors for postsecondary success.”

    2020 College Success Award

    Additionally, the school evaluation website Niche.com again awarded Williamston Community Schools an overall grade of “A” and named WCS to its best school districts list for 2021. WCS was ranked #28 out of 555 evaluated school districts in Michigan.

    Niche 2021 Best Schools Banner

    Be Nice on Instagram:

    Our WHS Be Nice committee has created an Instagram account. The social media page will be updated with information on Be Nice events, mental health resources, and ways for students and parents to get involved. The goal of our Be Nice program is to remove the stigma around student mental health. It also incorporates anti-bullying and suicide prevention measures and education. 

    The Be Nice Instagram page can be found in the following ways:

    • Select the Instagram icon at the top right of the WCS Homepage
    • Visit via the Internet at https://www.instagram.com/benice.whs/
    • Access with an Instagram account or on the Instagram App at @benice.whs

    Be Nice on Instagram

    Be Nice is one of our most important initiatives. It is also a great leadership opportunity for secondary students. Be Nice is a student-led entity that works closely with peers and staff liaisons to make a positive impact in our schools and community. I encourage families of secondary students to get involved and visit the site often. 

    Contact our Be Nice staff liaisons for more information:

    Caitlin Wilcox, wilcoxc@gowcs.net 

    Kaycee Halabicky, halabik@gowcs.net 

    Caitlin Griffes, griffec@gowcs.net

    Comments (-1)
  • In-Person Instruction Resumes

    Posted by Adam Spina on 11/6/2020 7:35:00 AM

    We were delighted to welcome back students to our elementary buildings this week. There is a new energy at our elementary campus with the arrival of the first group of young learners. I want to publicly recognize our staff who worked tirelessly to design the processes which allow for in-person learning to resume in the midst of a pandemic. It is an incredibly complex undertaking that is well implemented. I also want to commend the parents of our Young-Fives, Kindergarten, and Third Grade students. I know there was a lot of anxiety with starting children in a new building or with a new teacher under these conditions. Parents did a phenomenal job of having conversations at home preparing their children for what to expect and how new safety procedures would work. As the school year progresses, this partnership between school and home will be more important than ever. We are off to a great start! 

    Our gradual approach to reopening and the experiences of this week are extremely beneficial as we scale up next week. On Monday, the cohorts of in-person students from all Discovery and Explorer grade levels will return to school. Additionally, Little Hornets Preschool will open for in-person learning. 

    This past Wednesday, the Board of Education approved the purchase of streaming technology for our secondary buildings. These items are a requirement to implement the hybrid learning plan at those schools. The devices are being ordered and installation will begin immediately upon arrival. Updates will be forthcoming from our secondary school leadership teams regarding timelines and other important details.

    While we remain committed to resuming in-person learning for families who prefer that option, we must all be prepared to transition back to remote learning. This could be for a short or long duration of time. It could involve a single classroom or an entire building. Furthermore, the amount of advance of notice our administration is able to provide about a transition might be limited. We might very well experience several starts and stops with in-person learning due to circumstances beyond our control. I know families are already developing contingency plans for this potential situation.  Please accept this additional reminder that it might be necessary to return to remote learning if warranted. Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we navigate continued uncertainty.

    Comments (-1)
  • Hybrid Learning Plan and Board Meetings

    Posted by Adam Spina on 10/30/2020 10:15:00 AM

    The first phase of our hybrid learning plan will begin on Wednesday, November 4 as we welcome back cohorts of Young Fives, Kindergarten and Third Grade students for in-person learning. Substantial progress occurred this week producing handbook addendums which now include updated health and safety protocols as well as new arrival and dismissal procedures. More information on these new systems will be forthcoming via school and district newsletters. Additionally, our communication and reporting processes have been revised to facilitate timely notification to families if the district encounters any unique contingencies this year. These communications include our internal systems for collaborating with the Ingham County Health Department to determine if a classroom or building might need to transition to a fully remote environment. 

    A reminder that there will be no synchronous or asynchronous instruction across the district on Tuesday, November 3. Secondary buildings will be conducting remote conferences and elementary teachers will be finalizing preparations to begin the hybrid learning plan. 

    As more students return to in-person learning, the Board of Education will also begin to transition to more in-person meetings. The board/multi-purpose room located in Williamston Middle School has received numerous upgrades over the last couple of years. New features include a sound system (generously donated by Old Nation) and a camera which will allow for Board meetings to be streamed online. 

    During the regular board meeting on Monday, November 2, we will attempt our first live stream. To view the meeting, navigate to the WCS YouTube page. From there, select the “Live” link which will become active just before the meeting begins.

    YouTube Live Graphic

    We will also attempt to store past board meetings on the WCS YouTube page after they are complete so that community members can watch them at a later time. To receive a notification on your YouTube account when new content is posted, click the “subscribe” button. Reminders for upcoming in-person board meetings can also be programmed by selecting the “set reminder” button.

    YouTube Reminder Graphic

    The capability to stream board meetings has been a goal of the district for some time. While we will undoubtedly need to refine some technical issues, we are well on our way to achieving this objective. 

    A few additional notes on in-person board meetings in a Covid-19 environment:

    • Community members must wear masks to attend and adhere to social distancing 
    • The board/multi-purpose room has very limited seating, but overflow seating will be available in the adjacent Williamston Middle School cafeteria. Live video and audio will be available there.
    • When all members of the Board are physically present for an in-person meeting, community members must also be physically present to address the Board during citizen comment portions of the agenda. Community members who are seated in the overflow section, the cafeteria, are considered to be attending in-person. Conversely, if the entire Board or any member of the Board participates in a meeting remotely, community members will be able to address the board remotely

    Information on how Board meetings will be held can be found on the District Calendar on the WCS Website or under the Upcoming Events section on the District Homepage.

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Executive Assistant

Mrs. Betsy Rueckert

Phone: (517) 655-4361

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mrs. Betsy Rueckert