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