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!