Superintendent's Blog

  • 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

    Comments (-1)
  • 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

    Comments (-1)
  • 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

    Comments (-1)
  • 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

    Comments (-1)
  • 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)
  • WCS to Start School Later Beginning in 2020-2021

    Posted by Adam Spina on 10/8/2019 4:50:00 PM

    In keeping with increasing evidence that later start times will foster better academic outcomes, school attendance, and mental health in adolescents, WCS will be making a ten-minute adjustment to the start times of its buildings beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. 

    New Start and Ending Times, Beginning 2020-2021:

    Williamston High School: 8:15 am - 3:05 pm

    Williamston Middle School: 8:20 am - 3:10 pm

    Discovery and Explorer Elementary: 8:30 am - 3:30 pm

     

    View the complete 2020-2021 District Calendar here.

     

    The gradual shift toward later start times puts the high school just 15 minutes shy of the research recommended start time of 8:30 am, one of the latest high school starts in the area. During the 2020-2021 school year, the district will assess the ten-minute adjustment, looking at its impact on transportation, co-curricular activities, student safety, and student attendance (the high school amassed 2,297 first hour tardies during the 2018-2019 school year). Future adjustments will be considered based on the collected data. 

    The later start times complement district efforts to improve academic outcomes and address student mental health. It is our hope that by communicating the change in school start times this far in advance, families will have time to make appropriate plans before next August.  

    Below are links to research on school start times:

    Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Schools Start Too Early

    American Psychological Association, Later Start Times Promote Adolescent Well-Being

    ________________________________________

    Health Hero Free Flu Vaccination Clinic:

    WCS will host a Health Hero Flu Vaccination Clinic at each school on October 21, 2019. Any student who has turned in the consent form may receive the vaccine a no cost, regardless of insurance coverage. All vaccines given are preservative-free, Mercury-free, and Thimerosal-free and administered by state-licensed nurses. See the Health Hero Website for more details.


    Download the consent form here.

    Comments (-1)
  • Homecoming 2019

    Posted by Adam Spina on 10/3/2019 7:25:00 PM

    Despite the rain, school spirit has been in full effect throughout Homecoming Week. Numerous special events and spirit days at each building will culminate in the Homecoming Parade on Friday at 6:00 pm in downtown Williamston. The weather looks promising for both the parade and the game on Friday. On behalf of our students and staff, I cordially invite all alumni and community members to join us in celebrating Williamston Community Schools on Friday evening. It will be a great day to be a Hornet!

    Scenes from Around the District:

    NIESA visits Little Hornets Preschool to discuss fire safety and demonstrate some of their equipment.

    NIESA and Little Hornets

    Students learn archery at fifth-grade camp:

    Archery at 5th-grade Camp

    Walk to school day at Explorer and Discovery Elementary Schools:

    Walk to School 2019

    “Awesomeness Day” at Williamston Middle School:

    "Awesomeness Day" at WMS

    _____________________________________________

    Parent Informational Letter Regarding Vaping:

    Read the informational letter on vaping communicated to high school families this week here.

    Comments (-1)
  • Work at WCS, Homecoming Details, and More

    Posted by Adam Spina on 9/27/2019 9:25:00 AM

    Work at WCS:

    As we move into the second month of the school year there remain a number of vacant positions within the district. We are looking for candidates who are motivated to be a positive influence in the lives of our students and actively contribute to the success of the district and community. Openings are listed below along with links to more information as well as the appropriate point of contact.

    Full-Time:

    Great Start Readiness Program, Little Hornets Preschool, Lead Teacher, Full-Time. Contact for more information: Betsy Rueckert, rueckee@gowcs.net

    Part-Time:

    After School Caregiver, Kids’ Corner. Part-Time. Contact for more information: Betsy Rueckert, rueckee@gowcs.net

    Meeting Minute Taker, Board of Education. Part-Time. Contact for more information: Janet Eidt, eidtj@gowcs.net

    Food Service, Williamston High School. Part-Time. Contact for more information: Lynna Hassenger, hassenl@gowcs.net

    Noon Supervisor, Elementary Campus. Part-Time. Contact for more information: Kelly Campbell, campbek@gowcs.net

    Substitute Bus Driver, Transportation Department. Part-Time. Contact for more information: Pam VanSickler, vansicp@gowcs.net

    *** WCS now offers among the highest substitute bus driver rates in the area as well as reimbursement for all training and licensing fees. Candidates may also be eligible for additional financial incentives.

    More information on positions within the district can be found on the Human Resources page on the District website or by selecting the link here.

    ______________________________________________________________

    Homecoming 2019:


    Looking forward to a great homecoming week. Go Hornets!

    Homecoming 2019

    _______________________________________________________

    Alternative Morning Drop-off Location Pilot Survey:

    For families with students in 2nd - 5th grades who are not already assigned a bus route for the 2019 - 2020 school year.

    View the survey here.

    _______________________________________________________

    Scenes From Around the District:

    Williamston High School hangs its 2019 Best High Schools Banner:

    WHS Best High Schools Banner

    Students explore the relationship between mass, force, and acceleration in middle school science class:

    Mass, Force, and, Acceleration Experiment at WMS

    The Williamston Soccer Complex at dusk:

    Williamston Soccer Complex

    Comments (-1)
  • Academically Related Curriculum (ARC)

    Posted by Adam Spina on 9/19/2019 5:05:00 PM

    WCS has strived to offer a wide variety of learning experiences for students at our elementary schools. Academically Related Curriculum (ARC) courses are an excellent representation of progressive and relevant programming that provide creative outlets for students, develop 21st Century Skill Sets, and enhance learning taking place in the core content areas.

    Kindergarten classes use scarves to explore patterns, rhythm, and counting concepts in music class:

    Elementary Music 2019

    Starting this year, the time allotted to  ARC classes at the elementary schools was increased to provide 50 minutes of instructional time per class, per day. The additional time will allow for more integration opportunities in the ARC classes which will deepen comprehension both in the ARC classrooms and in core academic subjects. Blended learning and arts integration are among the district's top instructional priorities.

    Students apply what they have learned about coding and circuitry to compose music during a lesson in the Elementary STEAM Lab:

    Elementary STEAM 2019

    Michigan currently only credits elementary schools on the state scorecard for offering music and physical education. Williamston offers music and two sections of Fit For Life (held in two different gymnasiums to take advantage of the unique spaces and materials available in each). We continue to believe that offering a diverse array of ARC classes is essential to achieving our educational goals and significantly beneficial in the academic development of our students, even though our expanded offerings are not reflected by the state on the overall evaluation that our elementary schools receive annually. Three years ago WCS added elementary Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) as an ARC class, and as noted previously, returned Spanish for all elementary students this year. 

    ARC classes at WCS are another example of the District executing its vision of providing Relevant, Educationally Progressive, and Evidence-Based learning opportunities for all students.

    I invite blog readers to review our ARC Brochure to learn more. It can be found on our website or by selecting the link here.

    Students use pedometers during Fit For Life class to track their activity levels. Later in the year, students will convert those data into different measures, applying what they learn in mathematics to assess the fitness benefits of various activities:

    Fit For Life 2019

    Fit For Life 2019

    Homecoming Parade Participation:

    Information on how to submit an application to enter a float and/or walk in the 2019 Homecoming Parade can be found here. The submission deadline is Friday, September 27. Additional information regarding Homecoming 2019 can be found on the Williamston High School website.

    State of the District Slide Deck:

    View the presentation for the 2019-2020 State of the District Presentation here.

    Community Awards Nominations:

    Select the link here to nominate a local business or community member for the 2019 Williamston Area Chamber of Commerce Community Awards.

    Comments (-1)

Executive Assistant

Mrs. Janet Eidt

Phone: (517) 655-4361

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mrs. Janet Eidt