We’re already into the second month of the 2018-2019 school year, which has generally gotten off to a very good start. Parent-Teacher conference are occurring this time of October and provide a good opportunity to improve the communication and bond between the school and home to promote success for our students. Our opportunities and possibilities for success are endless in the months ahead.
One of the opportunities presented to us is to continue impressing upon our students the need to be more respectful and tolerant, especially with diversity and racial sensitivity. Inappropriate words and behaviors have no place in our schools or in our society. Although we currently teach many positive character traits, life lessons, and expectations to all of our students in an age appropriate manner, we will be doing more in the weeks ahead (a comprehensive list of current programs was included in the letter I sent to staff and parents, and posted on our website, on September 28, 2018). We are also working to bring other relevant speakers and messages to our students in the coming months.
During the week of October 8-12, the MI Attorney General’s Office once again presented their OK2SAY program to all of our students throughout the school district. This age appropriate program has a strong respect and anti-bullying message, including cyberbullying, and encourages students that if they “See Something, Say Something”. In other words, speak up if you see anyone bullying another individual or treating them in a disrespectful way – similar to the concept of bystander intervention. For our younger students, the program teaches about keeping yourself safe and safe Internet usage – don’t share personal information!
The program also encourages students to report any possible threats directed toward a school or an individual, including efforts to harm oneself, to an anonymous statewide tip line staffed by trained professionals 24/7. These tips are then forwarded to the respective local school administration and area law enforcement for the appropriate intervention to prevent any harm and ensure safety for everyone. Our district also has a separate, internal Tip Line students may access as well. Both OK2SAY and our Tip Line have links on our district website and app.
We are also working to bring speakers into our schools to address students and staff on respect, tolerance, diversity, and racial sensitivity. Some of our students have limited exposure to a larger, diverse population and have not yet gained the experience and maturity to accept and appreciate different ethnic and racial cultures. We live in, and our students will have careers in, a global economy. We must learn to work and act appropriately in a diverse society. We also ask that parents and our citizens partner with us to teach and model respect and tolerance toward all individuals.
As partially anticipated by our enrollment projections, the district has experienced an increase of approximately 22 students this fall, placing our current district enrollment at 3,060. Most of this increase is in our elementary and middle school grades (K-8), plus we’ve seen an increase in preschool numbers, which would naturally translate into continued growth in the foreseeable future. We welcome many new families to our wonderful school district this fall, including 14 foreign exchange students.
Many school and athletic events are in full swing. These school events and activities may be seen on district website at www.waylandunion.org, the district or individual schools’ Facebook pages, or our athletic website at www.waylandathletics.com
Strategic Plan Update: Our Strategic Plan Goals & Objectives are moving forward in the areas of Student Achievement, Finance, Facilities/Learning Environments, and Communication/Community Engagement. This year we begin Year 4 of our Five-Year Strategic Plan process (2015-2020) and we are running ahead of schedule in most categories of the Plan (!). We will be holding a “refresher / update” Strategic Plan session with our four Committees sometime in November (date and time to be determined) which parents, staff, students, and community members are welcome to attend. Please be on the lookout for further information in the near future as we finalize our plans.
Academically, all 6 of our schools continue to show improvement, with each school achieving above the state average. Three of our schools achieved Effective status and 3 achieved Highly Effective status this past school year, which is very commendable. In addition, our WUHS SAT composite test scores improved markedly this past year to also be above the state average. We just received our M-STEP state assessment results and are above the state average in all assessed areas. NWEA assessments and the new state mandated Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) have been completed and will provide us with data to determine instructional strategies and interventions to sustain success for our students’ academic growth.
Financially, Wayland Union Schools finished the 2017-2018 fiscal year in good shape adding to the district’s fund balance per our Strategic Plan goals. Our auditors have finished their annual audit of district funds and will report to the Board at the October 29 Board of Education Work Session to be held at the Administration Office at 6:00 PM that evening. We remain fiscally responsible and conservative.
Facilities/Bond Projects – Thanks to the support of our communities with the passage of last November’s bond proposal, we have had a busy summer and fall working on numerous projects to upgrade and expand our facilities as a growing school district. The projects include restroom renovations at our elementary schools, roof work at Baker and the High School (along with metal fascia replacement), 12 new tennis courts on the site of the former HS courts which are scheduled to be completed toward the end of this month and ready to use next spring, and an upgraded student parking lot with improved drainage.
Our other major project that has begun and will proceed through next summer, is the addition of a new wing at the Middle School, which will allow us to move the 6th grade to WUMS, making it a grades 6-8 school beginning with the 2019-2020 school year. This new wing project consists of twelve classrooms and two large group instructional rooms – a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) lab and a new Orchestra room. Renovations will also include a secure entrance, new carpeting, a new boiler and chiller for the entire school to allow us to be Energy Star compliant (!), and kitchen/cooler upgrades. The Pine St. School, which will become grades 4 & 5 (to allow for growth in our elementary grades at both Dorr and Steeby) will see its renovations begin next summer, along with a major upgrade to our WUHS Media Center, plus a continuation of roof work at the HS.
Communications – We continually strive to communicate to all of our families, communities, and staff in a timely and effective manner. To that end, this fall we introduced a new app that is available for your mobile phone via the Apple or Google stores. This app mimics information on our district website and is more convenient for busy individuals on the go. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to download this free app. Search for “Wayland Union Schools” on the Apple Store or Google Play. In addition to our district app and website, please remember to check for information via a variety of means we use to communicate with our school district’s families and residents. These include our website, app, Facebook, Peachjar announcements, Infinite Campus messages (email, text, and/or voice) to families signed up for those messages, the Green & White quarterly district newsletter, postcards or other specific mailings, media press releases, information from the respective schools, teachers, and teams, PTO and Board meetings, and even this Superintendent’s Blog. We will also use our Key Communicators Network of individuals who help us spread the word and provide us feedback in their respective circles – social, civic, business, and personal.
You are always welcome to contact Superintendent Norman Taylor at (269) 792-2181 (ext. 3010) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any construction or school questions.
Safety and Security: As you may already know, the district has incorporated secure access entry systems at all school entrances. These systems, inside the entrance vestibules at all schools except the Middle School (which is still outside on the brick pillar), provide both a visual video picture and audio to the office secretaries who can activate our new electronic door locks to allow parents and visitors access to the office and school. Please remember to “push the button” and state your name and purpose when visiting any of our schools!
Our faculty, staff, and administration also received, again this past August, a half day of safety training as part of our back to school Professional Development. Procedural items were discussed in conjunction with our newly revised Critical Incident Handbooks that have been distributed to all staff by our district Security Officer, Mr. Matt Miller. Mr. Miller and I also attend periodic meetings of the Allegan County Safe Schools committee where updates and information are shared on topics of school safety and security measures. This group is composed of county administrators and area law enforcement officers, plus representatives from the court system and the County Prosecutor. Our next meeting is October 25, 2018 in Allegan.
The district has implemented updated safety and security procedures, protocols, and terminology to assist in keeping our students, staff, and visitors as safe as possible. If there is an internal threat, we will continue to use the term “Lockdown” and exercise those protocols as we have done in the past. Schools in MI are mandated to hold at least 3 Lockdown drills per school year and our district has completed several of these drills already this fall. If there is a potential external threat (such as a bank robbery in the area or convicts on the loose), the schools will invoke “Secure Mode”, which is essentially keeping all students inside the school and generally going about our classes as usual, while monitoring the situation in the area. Throughout the day, all school doors remain locked from the outside and all entry is monitored as described above through only the main entrance into the office. Should there be an external environmental hazard to our schools, we will implement “Shelter in Place” with maintenance staff assigned to each school to assist with any air handling shut offs or other utilities needs that may be warranted.
We anticipate you will continue your excellent participation with our students throughout this school year. Please support and encourage them academically, athletically, and in their many displays of practical, performing, and fine arts. We have an extremely dedicated, experienced, and caring staff instructing many inquisitive students with a variety of interests, skills, and talents. These continually need to be guided and nurtured by the positive parental/adult role models and mentors in their lives – including you. Remember to check out our app, our website at www.waylandunion.org, including my periodic Superintendent’s Blog which may be viewed from the Administrative page of our website, plus school & district Facebook pages on a regular basis to stay current about all school events, athletics, student activities, and construction information.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this October edition of my Superintendent’s Blog. Again this school year, I am continuing with my twice weekly Community Office Hours. These are scheduled on school days for Monday afternoons from 1:30-2:30 PM and Wednesday mornings from 7:30-9:30 AM (except Wed., Oct. 24 & 31 when I’m away at conferences) for parents or community members to drop in and share any ideas, thoughts, or concerns with me in person.
Once again, Thank You so much for your continued support of educational excellence as we strive to enhance our Culture of Quality at Wayland Union Schools. Please contact us with any thoughts, concerns, or suggestions you may have to make Wayland Union Schools the best schools possible as we work to Challenge – Inspire – Contribute. As always, “It’s a great day to be a Wildcat!”
Best Wishes for a pleasant fall, Halloween, and a very successful school year for all of our students, families, and staff!
Yours in Wildcat Pride,
Norman L. Taylor