Monday, November 28, 2016

Holiday Greetings!  

We trust you are transitioning well from Michigan’s beautiful fall season to our soon to be Winter Wonderland.  We’ve had a fine start to the school year thus far and our enrollment is up again this year by about 60 students! In fact, our recently completed Enrollment Projection by Plante Moran CRESA projects our school district will grow by another 264 students in the next five years!  More district information is highlighted through the many informative articles contained in the most recent edition of our Green & White district newsletter.  Our constant goals are to provide safe and nurturing learning environments, build positive relationships of mutual respect, provide our students with a variety of opportunities for growth as they learn and demonstrate new knowledge and skills, and enhance our Culture of Quality for everyone.

New Director of Finance & Operations
As most of you may know by now, Bill Melching, the district’s Director of Finance & Operations for the past 6 years, retired at the end of September.  We have hired Pat Velie, as our new Director of Finance & Operations.  Pat is a former WUS Business Office employee who spent the past 12 years in Massachusetts working for two other school districts out there.  We are pleased to have her back in our school district and she is already making valuable contributions to our district and Business Office!

Strategic Plan Update
Student Achievement remains our primary focus.  Recently released M-STEP results showed good growth for most of our students.  In 14 tested areas at various grade levels, our students were above the state average in 10 of fourteen content areas.  Our Juniors also did relatively well with the new SAT tests which replaced the ACT.  These assessments provide a more immediate feedback to teachers and principals that allow us to set appropriate interventions and enrichments to meet students’ needs.  We use this data to set both grade level and individual student growth targets for the coming school year.  Our focus remains on preparing and assisting all of our students to be College and Career ready upon graduation.  

Communications & Community Engagement is our second goal area.  We are working toward better communications, more community & business partnerships, and enhancing parent/guardian training and involvement – with more opportunities again this school year funded through Grants from the Wayland Union Education Foundation.  Thank you WUEF!  We continue to expand our use of social media and our district website (www.waylandunion.org), plus our Key Communicators Network of parents & citizens, to keep you informed in a relevant and timely manner.  We also are striving to answer the “why” in our communications. Our recent EPIC-MRA survey of 300 district residents regarding our potential bond issue also supplied us with valuable information about areas we can improve our communications – some of which are addressed in the current issue of the Green & White. Thank you to our Key Communicators and the fine two-way communications we’ve established during our first year!    

Finances is a third goal area. This past fiscal year of 2015-2016, we exceeded our goal of increasing the fund balance ½% to 1% (1% = about $280,000) with a budget surplus of over $970,000!  With this surplus, the Board voted to use $331,580 to pay off our loan to purchase 6 new busses two years early (saving the district over $5,000 in future interest costs), and the balance of $638,725 was added to our fund balance.  Our District goal is to reach a minimum 12% fund balance and we are currently just below 10%.  We also received the highest level of an unqualified audit this past summer by Plante Moran.  Our Board of Education and administration take our fiduciary responsibilities seriously to maintain a secure financial future for our school district.  All of this is in addition to the $6.6 million we saved district taxpayers this summer by refinancing bonds (see below)!

Facilities / Learning Environment is our fourth goal area.  As noted previously, we have expanded iPad use to all grades K-12 to successfully enhance student learning.  The district completed a professional Facilities Needs Assessment last fall by Tower Pinkster to maintain safe & healthy learning environments for our students, staff, and parents, plus provide information toward upgrading our schools.  Since last spring, we have held four Citizens’ Advisory Committee meetings and two Public Forums to discuss our facilities’ needs.  These meetings have been facilitated by representatives from our architects, Tower Pinkster, with cost estimates assistance from Triangle Associates, our construction managers.

The two primary reasons for looking at a facilities bond vote are:
1) to address essential and needed upgrades to district facilities as part of normal major maintenance projects over time, plus security & technology upgrades; and
2) to address our growing enrollment and space needs as the district is currently using all available classroom space and has no room for additional enrollment growth.

The Board of Education finalized the scope and proposals of our facilities needs at its Monday, November 14 Regular Meeting, for the various projects that would be included in an anticipated May 2, 2017 bond vote. These decisions are based on the input from our formal Facilities Needs Assessment last fall, concepts developed by our Citizens’ Advisory Committee this past summer and early fall, and the results of our EPIC-MRA survey.  

Here is what is included in each of the two proposals:

Proposal 1 would be approximately $33.6 M and includes:
  • Facility infrastructure needs - including health & safety upgrades; academic/instructional needs; mechanical, technology, and roof upgrades; and improvements to parking lots, drives, and drainage
  • Adding a new wing at WUMS to accommodate 6th grade
  • Constructing a new grades 4-5 upper elementary school to accommodate approximately 500 students

Proposal 2 would be approximately $20.8 M and include:
  • A new 10 lane swimming pool to replace our aging 40 year old current pool (anticipated to be built at WUHS adjacent to the Fitness Center and including locker rooms for public use)
  • Converting the current pool space for potentially a new Auto Body & Robotics classroom
  • Converting the current Auto Body space into a new Band/Orchestra classroom / rehearsal space (these music programs are growing as well)
  • Building 12 new tennis courts at the site of the current 8 courts by the soccer field along Wildcat Dr. (we would abandon the 6 current tennis courts by the football field and convert that space to needed additional parking)
  • Renovate the excessive crown and drainage at the football field and replace the grass with a new turf field (the Committee researched previous health concerns with turf fields and found that not to be a concern with current turf fields - they are safe)

We chose the grades 4-5 upper elementary school as a better solution to our needs for a variety of reasons:  a more concise curriculum, greater grade level teacher collaboration, focused intervention & enrichment programming, grouping upper elementary students together, the ability to better balance class sizes, and it would not require us to re-district our current boundaries, which we would need to do if we went with multiple K-5 schools.

We realize this is a lot of information and there is obviously more detail behind each of these needs and how these decisions came about.  The Facilities Needs Assessment report and information from all of our Public Forums and Citizens' Advisory Committee meetings is available on our district website at www.waylandunion.org (under the District tab, Facility Needs).  We are currently working on some FAQs, by topic, which we will definitely share with our staff, parents, and communities in the coming weeks, once we get official Treasury approval in January, 2017, on the scope and proposals.  We'll also be visiting with each school staff, holding more public informational meetings, placing the FAQs and bond information on our website, and meeting with various community and civic groups to explain our proposals and answer questions.  In the meantime, I would be more than happy to discuss any of these topics in more detail with anyone (realizing we still need Treasury approval).  Just contact me.

The District closed on the sale of the Moline School building and 5.6 acres of the property to a local business, and the remaining 3 acres with a softball field to Leighton Township on October 7.  This is a win-win situation for all involved.   Proceeds from the sales will be used to pay down part of the remaining bond debt on the Moline property.

More information on our specific Strategic Plan Goals & Objectives can be found on the district website at www.waylandunion.org.  

Bond Refunding
This summer, the district had a highly successful refunding of previously issued bonds (this is similar to the refinancing of one’s home mortgage).  Our financial advisors’ initial forecast of savings for our district’s taxpayers was approximately $4.6 million.  Due to favorable economic conditions, our improving fund balance, and a strong financial outlook with an A+ Standard & Poor’s rating for the district, our total refunding savings to our taxpayers was $6.6 million!  Generally, it is worth refunding bonds if a district can garner at least a 3% savings, however, our savings was approximately 11.7%.  This is a fantastic outcome and will result in a significant tax savings over the 12 year life of our refunded bonds.

Substitutes
We are always looking for good substitute teachers, aides, bus drivers, and food service help – occasionally on a long term basis.  In fact, we recently increased our substitute teacher pay to $80/day, with additional pay incentives for working 10 or 15 days per month, plus we now offer a free adult lunch to our substitutes!  Substitute information is available on our district website www.wayland.union.org (click on Departments at the top of the page, and then click Human Resources, and click on EDUStaff Substitute Positions towards the bottom of the page). Interested individuals may also contact EDUStaff or apply directly at www.EDUStaff.org or by calling 877-974-6338.   

Employee Contract Extensions
Also at our November 14 Board meeting, the Board approved a one year contract extension with our teachers for the 2017-2018 school year.  This included full step increases, a 1% increase on all steps, and remaining as an 80/20 district for employee health insurance premiums.

Superintendent Availability
I am available to meet with you at any time to discuss questions or thoughts.  I keep regular weekly office hours when I am available in my office if you wish to stop in and discuss a topic of interest.  Those weekly days and times are:  Monday afternoons from 1:30-2:30 PM and Wednesday mornings from 7:30-9:30 AM.

Thank you for taking the time to stay informed of our district events and activities by reading my Blogs, and reviewing our website or our social media sites.  This blog is part of my efforts to increase the ways we communicate with our parents, staff, and citizens.  


Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Spring Greetings!
We trust you are enjoying the onset of warmer weather and outdoor activities.  May is an extremely busy month in the school calendar with a variety of end of the year assessments to gauge the academic growth of our students, class field trips, school plays, music concerts, award & recognition events, spring athletic contests, and culminating with the graduation of the Class of 2016 on May 26 at 7:00 PM.
 
Strategic Plan Update
On Saturday, March 12, our Board of Education and Administrative Office hosted the first year update of our five year Strategic Plan with our Citizens’ Committee, facilitated by Rod Green, our MASB  consultant, as we continue to work together to move our district forward and upward in the four major goal areas: 
 
 
 Student Achievement remains our primary focus.  Currently, our students in grades 3-8 and 11th grade are taking the online M-STEP – MI-Student Test of Educational Progress that replaced the MEAP last year, plus the PSAT & SAT have replaced the Explore/ACT assessments for 8-11 grade students this spring.  Students will also take the third installment of the NWEA assessments that our teachers find very useful (and there is talk in Lansing that this assessment may eventually replace the M-STEP tests).  These assessments provide a more immediate feedback to teachers and principals that allow us to set appropriate interventions and enrichments to meet students’ needs, plus we can more effectively monitor student growth in these areas with fall, winter, and spring assessments.  Our focus remains on preparing and assisting all of our students to be College and Career ready upon graduation. 
 In May, our K-6 students begin the spring cycle of DIBELS.  DIBELS stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills and measures reading fluency, phonics, and comprehension.
 
 
Communications & Community Engagement is our second goal area.  We are working toward better communications, more community & business partnerships, and enhancing parent/guardian training and involvement – with some new opportunities this year funded through Administrator Grants from the Wayland Union Education Foundation.  Thank you WUEF!  We have expanded our use of our district website and social media, plus our Key Communicators Network of parents & citizens, to keep you informed more fully and sooner.  We also are striving to answer the “why” in our communications.  Thank you to our Key Communicators and the fine two-way communications we’ve established this year!    
 
 
Finances is a third goal area. This fiscal year, we are exceeding our goal of increasing the fund balance ½% to 1% with an anticipated budget surplus much larger than originally budgeted. Our District goal is to reach a minimum 12% fund balance.  We are currently approaching the 9% level with this year’s budget.  This is good as financial news out of Lansing for next year’s budget shows many pressures on state expenditures for roads, the Detroit Public Schools bailout, and the Flint water situation.  Our Board of Education and administration take our fiduciary responsibilities seriously to maintain a secure financial future for our district. 
We have appreciated the public input we recently received at our two public forums on annual casino fund spending – another Finance area goal that has been met.  Based on a review of all input, the Board will continue this next year with the same casino funding of items as the current year, which may be viewed on the district website at www.wayland.union.org.  These funded items will be reviewed annually and future consideration may be given to new ideas presented, such as allowing parents of student-athletes free admission when their children are participating in a particular sport or activity, increasing scholarship support to graduating seniors (currently $5,000 annually), and increasing the amounts from casino funds used to subsidize class field trips.
 
 
Facilities / Learning Environment is our fourth goal area.  As noted previously, we have expanded iPad use to all grades K-12 to successfully enhance student learning.  The district has completed a Facilities Needs Assessment to maintain safe & healthy learning environments for our students, staff, and parents, plus provide information toward upgrading our schools.  We have had a few preliminary meetings with our architects from Tower Pinkster and our construction management firm, Triangle, to discuss our needs.  We are currently in the process of gathering estimated pricing on a variety of options for the Board, staff, parents and citizens to consider. 
In conjunction with other goal areas, we will again be seeking community input in the weeks ahead to help guide our direction.  Our first public forum to provide an opportunity for parents & citizens to hear the initial results of the Facilities Needs Assessment from Tower Pinkster will be held on Wednesday, June 8, 2016 from 6:30-8:30 PM in the WUMS Cafeteria.  This will be the first of several public opportunities to hear about the Assessment, ask questions, and provide feedback.  We will also be looking to add individuals to our Facilities / Learning Environments Committee to assist our planning this summer and into the fall, when we will begin refining our facilities’ needs.  Please let me know if you might have an interest in serving on this Committee.
 The Board of Education has approved the sale of the Moline School building and 5.6 acres of the property to a local business, and the remaining 3 acres with a softball field to Leighton Township.  This is a win-win situation for all involved.  We anticipate closing on the properties by the end of June once the rezoning process is complete.  Proceeds from the sales will be used to pay down part of the remaining bond debt on the Moline property.
 In other news, we have installed a new backstop on the Varsity Baseball field due to some structural deficiencies of our old backstop.  We have once again had to close our pool temporarily as the boiler that helped provide warm water to the pool and some restrooms has failed and we are in the process of making upgrades.  We hope to be able to re-open the pool as soon as possible.  When we discuss our future facilities needs in the coming months, the age and condition of our pool will need to be a major topic of discussion as it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain due to its 40 year of service, along with the cost of frequent repairs and the inability at times to find replacement parts.
 More information on our specific Strategic Plan Goals & Objectives can be found on the district website at www.waylandunion.org. 
 
 
Bond Refunding
Recently, the district had a highly successful refunding of previously issued bonds (this is similar to the refinancing of one’s home mortgage).  Our financial advisors’ initial forecast of savings for our district’s taxpayers was approximately $4.6 million.  Due to favorable economic conditions, our improving fund balance, and a strong financial outlook with an A+ Standard & Poor’s rating for the district, our total refunding savings to our taxpayers was $6.278 million!  Generally, it is worth refunding bonds if a district can garner at least a 3% savings, however, our savings was approximately 11.7%.  This is a fantastic outcome and will result in a significant tax savings over the 12 year life of our refunded bonds.
 
 
Summer Meals Program
After a highly successful free summer meals program last summer, we have started planning our program for this summer’s meals events.  This federally funded program is open to all youth 18 years and younger, including preschoolers.  We will once again offer free lunches at Steeby Elementary in conjunction with our summer school, plus various sites throughout our school district.  Although not complete at this time, our other confirmed sites on various days include the United Church of Wayland (next to Steeby), Windsor Woods, and Sawmill Estates.  The program will run weekdays from Monday, June 13 through the end of August, including a free lunch during the Kiwanis Kids’ Day activities at the Wayland City Park on Saturday, August 27, 2016.  Again this year, through the continued generosity of our corporate & local sponsors, we will host a number of special events for our students.  Events include a Bounce Party, Flying Aces- a Pro Flying Disc Team, Audacious Hoops, a Comedy Magic Show, and a BMX Stunt Show.  More information on these free meals, including specific event locations, times, and our generous sponsors, will also be found on our website or the posters that will be displayed soon in multiple businesses.
 
 
Substitutes
We are always looking for good substitute teachers, aides, bus drivers, and food service help – occasionally on a long term basis.  Substitute information is available on our district website www.wayland.union.org (click on Departments at the top of the page, and then click Human Resources, and click on EDUStaff Substitute Positions towards the bottom of the page). Interested individuals may also contact EDUStaff or apply directly at www.EDUStaff.org or by calling 877-974-6338.  
 
 
Superintendent Availability
I am available to meet with you at any time to discuss questions or thoughts.  I keep regular weekly office hours when I am available in my office if you wish to stop in and discuss a topic of interest.  Those weekly days and times are:  Monday afternoons from 1:30-2:30 PM and Wednesday mornings from 7:30-9:30 AM.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed of our district events and activities by reading my Blogs, and reviewing our website or our social media sites.  This blog is part of my efforts to increase the ways we communicate with our parents, staff, and citizens. 

 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Winter Greetings!

I hope you are staying warm the best you can and being safe in West Michigan’s Winter Wonderland.  I appreciate those of you who have read my Blogs, our quarterly Green & White district newsletter, our website, or our social media sites to stay current on school activities.  As you know, this blog is another attempt on my part to increase the ways we communicate with our parents, staff, and citizens.  

Our Board of Education, administrative team, faculty, & staff continue to work together to move our district forward and upward in the four major goal areas of our five year Strategic Plan.  For those of you who were involved in the initial Strategic Plan goal setting session in November of 2014, we will reconvene on the morning of Saturday, March 12, 2016 for an update and report on year one accomplishments with MASB facilitator Rod Green (more information will be sent out later).  Here’s a currentupdate:  

Student Achievement naturally remains our primary focus.  We continue to enhance our Professional Learning Communities (PLC) process to positively impact quality instruction with appropriate interventions for all students.  Teachers also strive to answer the four key questions of the PLC process listed below.

Our Commitment to Learning for All Students:
1. What is it we expect them to learn?
2. How will we know when they have learned it?
3. How will we respond when they don’t learn?
4. How will we respond when they already know it?

Our faculty review data and work on aligning their instructional practices & interventions by grade level and department frequently, either before or after school, plus this is the purpose for our five half days throughout the school year on Wednesdays.  By the way, our next half day for teachers’ professional development on PLCs is Wednesday, February 3, 2016 and then again on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 (student dismissal times are 4 hours earlier than normal).

We are adjusting to the new online M-STEP – MI-Student Test of Educational Progress that replaced the MEAP this past spring, plus the SAT will replace the ACT for juniors this springWe will use recently released data to further adjust and improve our instructional practices. Our focus remains to make all of our students College and Career readyupon graduation.

Last week, we began the winter cycle of DIBELS and NWEA’s MAP testing.  DIBELS stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills and measures reading fluency, phonics, and comprehension.   NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) is a nationally normed assessment used to measure math & reading in grades K-1, while grades 2-8 use the NWEA to assess math, reading, and language usage.  These assessments provide more immediate feedback to teachers and principals that allow us to set appropriate interventions to meet students’ needs, plus we can more effectively monitor student growth in these areas with fall, winter, and spring assessments.

Communications & Community Engagement is a second goal area.  We are working toward better communications, more community & business partnerships, and enhanced parent/guardian training and involvement, such as the Equipping Parent workshop series, technology information nights held at WUMS, our OK2SAY parent session, Math Nights, and other related events. We have expanded our use of our district website and social media, plus our Key Communicators Network of parents & citizens, to keep you informed more fully and sooner.  Likewise, I am also available to meet with you at any time to discuss questions or ideas.  I keep regular weekly office hours when I am available in my office if you wish to stop in and discuss a topic of interest.  Those weekly days and times are:  Monday afternoons from 1:30-2:30 PM and Wednesday mornings from 7:30-9:30 AM (occasionally these times are modified due to other obligations I may have - please check the website for that information).  Also, stay tuned for upcoming public discussions on our budget process, facilities, and our Strategic Plan.

Finances is a third goal area. This fiscal year, we are exceeding our goal of increasing the fund balance ½% to 1% with an anticipated budget surplus larger than originally budgeted. Our District goal is to reach a minimum fund balance of 12%.  We are currently approaching the 9% level with this year’s budget.  This is good as financial news out of Lansing for next year’s school aid budget shows many pressures on state expenditures for roads, the Detroit Public Schools bailout, and the Flint water situation, so we anticipate no new revenues for 2016-2017.  Please express your opinions and support for adequate school funding to both our legislators and the Governor’s Office. Their contact information is located at the end of this Blog.  Our Board of Education and administration take our fiduciary responsibilities seriously and we will be working in the coming months, with opportunities for your input, to maintain a secure financial future for our district.

Environment & Facilities is our fourth goal area.  As noted previously, we have expanded iPad use to all grades K-12.  The district is in the midst of a Facilities Needs Assessment to maintain safe & healthy learning environments and upgrade our schools.  We have had a few preliminary meetings with our architects from Tower Pinkster and our construction management firm, Triangle, to discuss our needs.  We are currently in theprocess of gathering estimated pricing on a variety of options for the Board, staff, parents, and citizens to consider.  In conjunction with other goal areas, we will be seeking community input in the weeks ahead to help guide our direction.

We are still hoping to finalize the sale of the Moline School building and 5.9 acres of the property to a potential business, and the remaining 3 acres with a softball field to Leighton Township.

In other news, we completed major renovations to the Fr/JV Baseball field behind the Middle School.  We are at the mercy of fall and spring weather as far as how it contributes to the growing season for the grass and when it will be ready to use for practices and games.  It will be a benefit to our own teams and summer programs once it is playable, plus having another quality baseball field on our campus.

More information on our specific Strategic Plan Goals & Objectives can be found on the district website at www.waylandunion.org.  You will also read about the many achievements of our students on our website and in the upcoming edition of our district newsletter, Green & White.

Staff News
One of the greatest assets in our district (besides our wonderful students, parents, and community support!), is our caring and dedicated staff. They work daily to Challenge, Inspire, and Contribute to the success of each and every child.  We have had several staff this year who have generously been awarded grants from our Wayland Union Education Foundation(WUEF) to attend National Teacher Conferences.  Those teachers are Katrina Brown of Baker Elementary for a Reading Conference in Chicago and Nikkia Robinson & Rebecca Thebo of WUMS to attend a Theatre Conference in Greensboro, NC.  We greatly appreciate the continued support of the WUEF to our students and staff, including their grants for National Teacher Conference opportunities, plus their innovation grants to teachers and administrators to enhance student learning and success. Thank you!

Also, our Varsity Softball Coach and WUMS Physical Education teacher, Cheri Ritz, has received several coaching honors in recent weeks.  Earlier this fall, Coach Ritz was honored as the MI HS Athletic Coaches Association’s Softball Coach of the Year.  That selection has led to her being named one of 8 finalists for the National HS Athletic Coaches Association’s Softball Coach of the Year, which will be announced this summer at their conference in Louisville, Kentucky. She has also been recently selected as the National Softball Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations.  Coach Ritz has served as our Softball coach for over 20 years and recently led our team to its second state championship.  Congratulations Coach Ritz and good luck this summer at the NHSACA awards banquet!

Early Childhood Nights
We will soon be holding our annual Early Childhood Nights to provide enrollment information for our pre-school and Kindergarten programs at both Dorr and Baker Elementary Schools for the 2016-2017 school year.  These information and enrollment sessions with be held at Dorr Elementary on Tuesday, February 16 from 6:00 – 7:30 PM and the next night, Wednesday, February 17 at Baker Elementary, also from 6:00-7:30 PM.

The district operates pre-school programs for 3 and 4 year olds (of age by September 1, 2016) with various options for days of the week and hours.  Parents may also have options for Head Start (federal), Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP - state), or district pre-school programs.  The district operates full day Young Fives and Kindergarten programs at both schools, plus Baker Elementary also has an all-girls and an all-boys classroom option for parents.  Please see our website for more information.

Summer Meals Program
After a highly successful 2015 summer meals program this past summer, we have begun planning our program for this summer’s meals events.  More information on these free meals, including locations, times, and affiliated programs or special fun activitieswill be publicized later this spring once all details are finalized.

Substitutes
You may have seen signs in front of our office and the various schoolssoliciting for substitutes during the school year.  We are always looking for good substitute teachers, aides, bus drivers, and food service help – occasionally on a long term basis.  This school year, Allegan County schools, including Wayland Union, have transitioned from using PESG to EDUStaff as the provider of our substitutes.  Substitute information is available on our district website www.waylandunion.org (click on Departments at the top of the page, and then click Human Resources, and click on EDUStaff Substitute Positions towards the bottom of the page). Interested individuals may also contact EDUStaff or apply directly at EDUStaff.org or by calling 877-974-6338.  

Again, thank you for taking the time to be stay informed about yourWayland Union Schools.  We always welcome your thoughts and feedback on ways to enhance and continuously improve the opportunities we provide for students’ success.  Please have a safe & warm remainder of this winter!

Norman L. Taylor, Superintendent




Governmental leaders contact information:

72nd State House Representative, Ken Yonker -- 517-373-0840888-347-8072, or KenYonker@house.mi.gov

26th State Senator, Tonya Schuitmaker - 517-373-0793866-305-2120, or SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com/contact

Governor Rick Snyder – 517-373-3400