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.
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.
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. (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.
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.