Thursday, October 15, 2015

 Fall Greetings!

Our 2015-2016 school year is off to a fantastic start! Students, faculty, and staff have returned very enthused and ready for the challenges and opportunities that come with a new school year. Our district enrollment appears unofficially to be about 2915, up slightly from where we were last year, yet we are seeing some growth in our elementary schools.

A major focus on our continual monitoring of students’ academic success and our school improvement process is periodic assessments. We recently completed the fall cycle of DIBELS and NWEA testing. DIBELS stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills and measures reading fluency, phonics, and comprehension. NWEA (North West Evaluation Association) 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 a 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.

In an effort to continually improve our communications, we have introduced some new areas of communication that I made reference to in my previous Blog. First, we have our new and dynamic Wayland Union Schools district website in place and fully operational. Please check it out at We hope you find it very user friendly, especially when accessing it from smartphones and tablets. We are continually adding new content and information, so check it out often, as well as our district Facebook page. Our other new avenue to enhance communications is our Key Communicators Network comprised of approximately 30 individuals throughout our school district, representing parents, businesses, civic & municipal organizations, seniors, clergy, and citizens in general. We had our initial kick-off meeting with this group on September 22 and anticipate improved two-way communications in the months ahead.

Our Facilities Needs Assessment is still on-going throughout our school district as the architectural firm Tower Pinkster reviews the physical condition and mechanical status of all district buildings and grounds. We anticipate this review will be completed during October with a subsequent report given to the Board and our communities. We will advertise any public forums held to review the Facilities Needs Assessment once the report is complete and reviewed by the Board of Education. Please note, NO decisions have been made yet regarding how or when the district might address any facilities needs brought out by the pending assessment report from our architects. Any such discussions and decisions would be made at public forums and Board of Education meetings.

Speaking of facilities, the school district has also been approached regarding the potential sale of the Moline School building and property to an area business owner to expand his business. Talks have been on-going between the potential buyer, the school district, and Leighton Township officials. The district still has some outstanding bonds on the school from a previous bond issue, however, we are able to sell the property and continue paying down the bonds on the current schedule. Any funds received from the sale of the property would likely be used to pay down the bonds, which would be a savings to our taxpayers.

I also want to update you about some upcoming district events during October. During the week of October 19-23, we will have school assemblies from the Attorney General’s OK2SAY program, while a Community Forum will be held at 7:00 PM the evening of Wednesday, October 21 in the Fine Arts Center (FAC). Interested parents and citizens are encouraged to attend. Light refreshments and child care will be provided.   

This evening presentation will cover what the students see in their respective presentations, as well as what OK2SAY is, and how it works. The goal of OK2SAY is to stop harmful behavior before it occurs by encouraging students to report threatening behavior to caring adult authorities who can help. OK2SAY is a program designed to empower Michigan students, parents, school personnel, community mental health service programs, and law enforcement to share and respond to student safety threats. The Community Forum provides practical tools including internet safety tips and how to: 1) access the Michigan Sex Offender Registry; 2) understand the impact of digital footprints; 3) appreciate the risk of sharing photos with embedded location information; 4) recognize the potential dangers and legal ramification of sexting; and 5) identify cyberbullying warning signs and develop a plan of action. We encourage you to attend the October 21 evening presentation to learn more about OK2SAY.

 All of these efforts listed above fall within the goals and objectives of our district’s Strategic Plan – information that is also available in more detail on our district website. As part of our continuous work to keep Wayland Union Schools moving forward, we have set the morning of Saturday, March 12, 2016 as the date for our Strategic Plan Year 1 Annual Review and Progress Report to our communities. More information and details will be made available closer to that date.

Thank you for your continued support of our students, faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Education trustees as we work together to create a Culture of Quality at Wayland Union Schools.

Please have a beautiful fall season and you are welcome to contact me anytime with questions. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer Greetings!

We trust your summer is going well, that you are staying cool the best you can, and enjoying the many wonderful summer amenities available to us in West Michigan.  I appreciate those of you who have read my first Blog.  This blog is another attempt on my part to increase the ways we communicate with our parents, staff, and citizens.  You will see more about improving communications in the coming months as Communication/Community Engagement is one of the four Goal areas of our new Strategic Plan (the other Goal areas are Student Achievement, Facilities/Learning Environment, and Finance).

So while I’m on the topic, here’s a summer update on our Strategic Plan.  The administrative co-chairs of our four goal committees and I met for 3 hours on Friday, July 10 with our new MI Association of School Boards (MASB) rep Rod Green.  The goal of this meeting was to begin developing administrative Action Plans for each of the respective objectives under each goal.  The Action Plans include specific efforts & plans, who is responsible for follow up, a timeline of achievement, and a measure or criteria of success to evaluate our progress.  These are almost complete and will be finalized in early August when all the administrators return from their summer break.  Once finalized, they will be presented to the Board of Education to review and shared with all staff as we work in harmony to achieve our goals.  More information on our specific Strategic Plan Goals & Objectives can be found on the district website at 

Speaking of our website, we are currently working this summer on a new, improved, and more user friendly website that will fully adapt to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.  This is a daunting task in setting up the new format and converting much information into the new website.  We appreciate the efforts of Teresa Fulk & Laurie Zywiczynski in taking on this project and anticipate rolling the new website out in early September around the start of the new school year. Stay tuned for that announcement later this summer!

One of the Strategic Plan’s Facilities/Learning Environment goals involves the district hiring an architectural firm to do a Facilities Needs Assessment this summer and early fall.  The purpose of this Assessment is to guide the district’s short and long-term maintenance and facilities upgrade projects.  We have many fine facilities yet also have others that are showing their age.  One of the areas we already know that is a major concern is our aging pool.  It is over 40 years old and some of the mechanical systems or “pool pack” are 30 years old and a source of many repairs in recent years.  We anticipate the Assessment being completed early this fall and a report with recommendations presented to the Board, staff, and community.

One of the greatest assets in our district (besides our wonderful students, parents, and community support!), is our caring and dedicated staff.  We have had a few individuals change positions already this summer due to some retirements.  As you may have already read or heard, Pam Coleman, our Executive Administrative Assistant, retired at the end of June.  Our new Executive Administrative Assistant is Dawn Stein, the longtime Secretary to the WUHS Principal, Mr. Cutler.  Dawn’s replacement at WUHS is Joyce Steffes, longtime Counseling Secretary, and our new Counseling Secretary is Kathleen Lehnertz, who held the same position at Kelloggsville HS.

We’ve also learned recently of the pending retirement at the end of August of Deanna Hayes, a veteran district administrator and the current Director of Instruction.  Interviews were recently held and we have selected Teresa Fulk, our current Technology Director, to become the new Director of Instruction.  She will work with Deanna to transition into this new position through August.  In the meantime, we are in the process of selecting a new Technology Director.  It’s always wonderful when we can promote quality individuals from within our school district!

Our summer meals program continues to be a huge success as we tie it in with our summer school and other enrichment programs, both at Steeby Elementary and various site throughout our school district.  More information on these free meals, including locations, times, and our generous sponsors, may also be found on our website or posters displayed in multiple businesses.

As a wrap up from this past spring, we want to wish our 219 WUHS & CCA graduates all the best as they prepare for careers, college, or service to our nation in our armed forces.  The parental, community, and staff support provided to these students should serve them well in the years ahead, and it has been rewarding to hear many positive comments to that affect this year.

Financially, the district anticipates finishing the 2014-2015 fiscal year that ended on June 30 with a larger than anticipated surplus – a credit to responsible management of our limited resources on the part of many individuals.  Final figures will be known later in the fall at the conclusion of our annual district audit.  The 2015-2016 General Fund budget adopted by the Board of Education on June 22 also has an anticipated surplus as we work toward another of our district’s Strategic Plan goals of adding .5% to 1% of revenues to our fund balance annually to build up this fund and minimize future borrowing needs.

Several budgetary items related to our new budget adopted by the Board include:
Ø  Purchasing over 1300 new iPads for secondary students as we renew our 1:1 iPad initiative started three years ago using casino funds.  The older iPads are being refreshed and will be used in grades K-6 in either classroom sets or at learning stations in classrooms as teachers work to further differentiate and individualize instruction to maximize each student’s learning & success potential (elementary iPads will remain at the school while secondary students are assigned a specific iPad and may take them home at night).
Ø  Purchasing 6 new school busses to replace older, high mileage busses in our fleet.  These new 77 passenger busses should be delivered by early August and ready to be put in service for the start of the new school year.  They will allow us to maintain our focus on student safety, and being larger than the current 71 passenger busses, also provide more room for student comfort.
Ø  The district has revised how it spends the generous cash-in-lieu of taxes funds from the Gun Lake Casino revenue sharing.  The district will no longer provide free admittance for all Wayland Union fans to athletic events or school plays.  We will return to the previous standard practice of charging $5 for adult admissions.  WUS students with a student ID or accompanied by a parent will still be admitted free.  Athletic pass plans will still be available to economize your family’s attendance and passes may also be earned by working at five athletic events, as we are always looking for workers at athletic events.  More details later in the Back-to-School edition of the district newsletter Green & White, or by contacting the Athletic Office at 269-792-2254.
Ø  The district subsidy for students taking Driver Education classes has been eliminated.  The district is researching a partnership with a commercial program to continue offering Driver Education on site at a reasonable cost.  Information on fall Driver Education sessions and costs will be announced later in August.  Currently, there are no summer Driver Education classes being offered at WUHS.

In other news, work on renovations to the Fr/JV Baseball field continue despite the project getting off to a slow start as we had to wait for the required county & state permits to begin the work.  Thanks to a rebounding economy and construction related projects, requests for permits this summer is very high ad taking longer than normal to process.  We anticipate completing the project this fall yet 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.

You may have seen signs in front of our office and the various schools soliciting for substitutes for this coming school year.  We are always looking for good substitute teachers, aides, bus drivers, and food service help – occasionally on a long term basis.  This summer, 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 (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 or by calling 877-974-6338.  

Please have a great rest of the summer, continue promoting literacy skills with the children in your life, and we’ll see students back at school on Tuesday, September 8, 2015!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spring Greetings!

Welcome to another mode of communicating the many fine things occurring at Wayland Union Schools through my new Superintendent’s Blog!  Although I am out and about at district events and community activities frequently, which provides me many opportunities to converse with parents, staff, and citizens in person, this blog is another means of conveying information and thoughts to promote increased communications.  As always, please feel free to contact me in person, by email, or phone with your ideas, questions, or concerns, that may not be answered through other district channels.  I hope you find my blog beneficial!

We trust your spring is going well as we prepare for fun summer activities.

Another great school year in wrapping up at Wayland Union Schools!  We continue to see academic growth with our students.  Our caring and dedicated administration, faculty, and staff inspire our students through safe and nurturing learning environments to prepare them to be college and career ready.  The many fine arts, athletic, and extra-curricular opportunities we provide have allowed our students to excel and display their abilities and talents in a variety of ways as an extension of the classroom.  Our students continue to gain skills and insights in their learning through the use of technology, including the expansion of our iPad program for all students in grades Young Fives/K-12 this fall.

We offer our very best wishes to the Wayland Union HS Class of 2015 as they move on to the world of college and careers.  The foundation they have received from their families, our staff, and our communities, should serve them well as they become even more independent and begin charting their future.  We are proud of what they have accomplished to date and the positive role models they have been for our younger students.  I continue to be impressed with their maturity, caring attitudes, passion for learning, and the skills they display.

Although summer may be upon us, learning doesn’t end.  At this time of year, I’ll make my annual appeal to keep your children and grandchildren reading and learning through activities and play.  New this year is the district’s Summer Meals Program, offering free breakfasts & lunches to students 18 years and younger, and tied in to our summer school and activities program.  Please see the dates and times information for our Summer Activities & Meals Program on our district website.

Parents have always been a child’s first and best teacher.  When possible, engage the young ones under your care by visiting one of our outstanding local libraries, getting a library card, and being part of a summer reading program.  Many interactive opportunities exist during the summer for creative play, exercise, visiting a museum, park, or zoo.  Family trips and vacations present many new learning experiences.  Learning can be fun and relevant – just use your imagination!

Thank you again for sharing your children with us this past school year and supporting all the many wonderful endeavors involving our students, faculty, and staff.  We appreciate the community support to provide modern schools, technology, and facilities in which to teach and learn.  The high value we place on a quality education is evident throughout the Wayland Union School District.

Please have a safe and relaxing summer and we’ll see you in the fall!