Wednesday, December 27, 2017

December 2017

Holiday Greetings!
We hope everyone had a marvelous Christmas and you were able to spend quality time with family and friends over the holidays.  These times are usually the best gifts we receive.  Again this year, our staff & students contributed many funds and items to support the needs of area children and families through local drives and our annual Allegan County United Way campaign.  We also encourage you to consider donations to the Wayland Union Education Foundation if you are contemplating year-end giving.
Wayland Union Schools has had an excellent 2017 based in part on improved academic achievements, highlighted by all schools attaining Highly Effective status, plus the recent announcement by the MI Department of Education that Steeby Elementary School (grades 2-4) has been selected as one of only two schools in MI to be designated a National Title I Distinguished School!  Our Steeby staff will be recognized and receive their award in Philadelphia at the National Title I Conference in February.  Congratulations to the Steeby faculty, staff, and Principal Mike Haverdink for their efforts in earning this national award!
Other highlights of 2017 include a continually improving financial status that will likely see the district reach its Five Year Strategic Plan goal of at least a 12% fund balance this spring at the end of just Year 3.  This is due to conservative financial management on the part of all district staff, a continuing increase in our student enrollment (up 47 students this fall to an enrollment of 3,042 students), increases in casino revenues due to their expansion, and over $200,000 in one time additional grants from various sources.    
Perhaps the best news in 2017 was that Our Children are Winners!

Our November 7 bond proposal passed and we greatly appreciate the efforts of our parents, staff, and citizens who worked so hard these past months to guide us toward a successful outcome to upgrade and expand our classrooms and facilities.  Thank You!!

So what happens now?  We have had multiple meetings and conversations with our architects and construction management team to map out a schedule for our projects over the next several years.  We’ve also had one of our faculty Advisory Committee’s tour five area schools just before Christmas break to get ideas from recent construction and renovation projects at those schools that we might incorporate or modify for the new 8th grade wing at our Middle School.  

In general, our next steps will be to take bids from bond underwriters and sell our bonds (likely toward the end of January depending on financial market conditions); begin the schematic design phases of each project by getting staff, Board, and community input; establish an efficient schedule for all projects; solicit bids in stages for all construction projects (tentatively set from April through August of 2018); and then begin construction on the various projects per the established schedule.  Roof work at our elementary schools should be one of our first projects and begin this summer.

Our aggressive goal would be to have the additional wing and classrooms at the Middle School and Pine St. renovations ready to go for students and staff by the start of school in the fall of 2019, as we are already running out of elementary classrooms due to the increased enrollment of recent years (this is the fifth time in the past six years that we’ve seen an enrollment increase), which is projected to continue into the near future.  We could then move 6th grade to the MS and 4th graders into Pine St. to provide additional classroom space in our elementary schools where we’re seeing the greatest increases in enrollment.

Concerning future facility needs or projects not addressed by this bond, our Board of Education and Facilities Committee will likely be reviewing these items as part of our regular facilities and maintenance projects planning process we conduct each spring in conjunction with our budget assumptions.

We appreciate the consistent parental and community support you have shown to us, the students you put in our care each day who are eager to learn, and our dedicated faculty, staff, and administrators who strive daily to Challenge, Inspire, and Contribute to each student’s success in a safe and secure environment.  Working together, Wayland Union Schools will continue to promote a Culture of Learning, Respect, and Quality in all we do!

Let’s remember to be appreciative of our many blessings.  Best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season!  May we all enjoy a blessed and healthy 2018.

Yours in Educational Excellence,

Norman L. Taylor

Superintendent     

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September Greetings!

Our 2017-2018 school year has gotten off to a very smooth start.  Students, families, and staff worked together to bring about a nice transition from summer break to the start of a new school year.  The opportunities and possibilities for success are endless in the months ahead.

As anticipated by our enrollment projections, the district has experienced an increase of approximately 56 students, placing our current district enrollment at 3,047.  Most of this increase is in our lower elementary grades (K-3), plus we’ve seen an increase in pre-school numbers, which would naturally translate in to continued growth in the foreseeable future.  We welcome many new families to our wonderful school district this fall, including 10 foreign exchange students. 

We also welcome 11 new teachers and several other staff (including several WUHS alumni!) to join our fine faculty this year as they dedicate themselves to teaching and nurturing your children.  Four of these new teachers have been added due to continued student enrollment growth and to maintain smaller class sizes.

Many school and athletic events have just begun as we gear up for a new school year.  These school events and activities may be seen on district website at www.waylandunion.org, the district or individual schools’ Facebook pages, or the Athletic website at www.waylandunionwildcats.com

Strategic Plan Update:  Our Strategic Plan Goals & Objectives are moving forward in the areas of Student Achievement, Finance, Facilities/Learning Environments, and Communication/Community Engagement.  This year we begin Year 3 of our Five Year Strategic Plan process and we are running ahead of schedule in most categories of the Plan.

Academically, all 6 of our schools achieved Highly Effective status this past school year, which is fantastic!  We just received our M-STEP state assessment results and will be analyzing these in the days ahead to adjust our instructional strategies and intervention programs.  NWEA and DIBELS assessments will also take place this month to provide us with data to determine instructional strategies and interventions to provide success for our students’ academic growth.

Financially, we had a larger than anticipated surplus this past fiscal year.  We recently paid off the loan two years early (!) on the iPads we purchased several years ago.  Our auditors have finished their annual audit of district funds and will report to the Board at the October 16 Board of Education meeting to be held at Steeby Elementary School at 7:00 PM.  We remain fiscally responsible and conservative, and continue building up our fund balance in accordance with the Strategic Plan goals as the state’s economic forecast in the coming years may not be as positive as recent years.

Facilities/Bond Proposal - We still have many facilities needs and will be putting a single bond proposal on the November 7, 2017 ballot that will result in a Zero millage increase to homeowners.  This $19.25 million proposal, reduced in scope to one third (1/3) of the proposals you voted on last May, would address Security, Safety, Technology and Infrastructure needs at all schools; additional classroom space (to address our need for more classrooms due to significant enrollment growth – we have 56 additional students at this time!) with a new wing of twelve classrooms and two large group instructional rooms, secure entrance, and renovations at the Middle School; and 12 new tennis courts to replace the 8 unusable courts near the soccer field.  

We will be providing detailed information on our website and Facebook pages, plus there will be ample opportunities at school events and bond information nights for you to get information and have your questions answered.  Please don’t hesitate to review this information.  The Voter Registration deadline for this election is October 10 and we encourage all district residents to get registered to vote if you are not and vote in the November 7 election.  Voter Registration and Absentee Voter information are available at the Secretary of State’s Michigan Voter Information Center website at https://webapps.sos.state.mi.us/MVIC/.

Upcoming Bond Information Nights scheduled thus far are:
Monday, September 18, 7:00-8:00 PM at the Middle School Media Center
Wednesday, September 27, 7:00-8:00 PM at Pine St. Elementary Media Center

You are always welcome to contact Superintendent Norman Taylor at (269) 792-2181 (ext. 3010) or by email at taylorn@waylandunion.org with any bond or school questions.

This summer’s maintenance projects are drawing to a successful close, with many of these upgrades funded by our Public Improvement Fund from casino monies.  These include general maintenance, upkeep, power washing & painting; playground inspections and new fill at all elementary schools; a new fire panel at WUHS; new HVAC controls across the district; voluntary water testing (a results letter will soon be on the transparency page of our website); prepping all athletic facilities for the fall athletic seasons; moving several offices to accommodate our enrollment growth; and a new VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone system to comply with enhanced 911 regulations (installation to be completed later this fall).  We also just took delivery of two new 77 passenger busses, including one with undercarriage storage compartments, which allow for music instruments or athletic equipment to be stored there and provide for increased safety for our students when traveling to events.  Our Fun-tastic Summer Meals program and summer school have been a huge success again this year with excellent participation of over 10,000 meals and snacks served!

Safety and Security:  As you may already know from this past spring’s news, the district received $99,000 as part of a MI State Police Safety grant.  Over the summer, these funds were used to purchase new wide-range two-way Motorola radios to enhance communications, especially in critical situations, installation of window safety film, and secure access entry systems at all school entrances.  These systems, inside the entrance vestibules at all schools except the Middle School (which is still outside on the brick pillar), provide both a visual video picture and audio to the office secretaries who can activate our new electronic door locks to allow parents and visitors access to the office and school.  Please remember to “push the button” and state your name and purpose when visiting any of our schools!

Our faculty, staff, and administration also received a half day of Critical Incident Management training on August 30 as part of our back to school Professional Development.  This training was led by our district’s Security Consultant, Thomas Mynsberge of CIM, and included practical tips on dealing with a variety of critical situations that might occur in our schools.  We concluded our morning with Active Shooter drill scenarios in cooperation with three area law enforcement agencies – MI State Police, Allegan County Sheriff’s Dept., and Wayland City Police.

The district will also be implementing updated safety and security procedures, protocols, and terminology to assist in keeping our students, staff, and visitors as safe as possible.  If there is an internal threat, we will continue to use the term “Lockdown” and exercise those protocols as we have done in the past. Schools in MI are mandated to hold at least 3 Lockdown drills per school year.  If there is a potential external threat (such as a bank robbery in the area or convicts on the loose), the schools will invoke “Secure Mode”, which is essentially keeping all students inside the school and generally going about our classes as usual, while monitoring the situation in the area.  Throughout the day, all school doors remain locked from the outside and all entry is monitored as described above through only the main entrance into the office.

Communications:  We continue to use a variety of means to communicate with our school district’s families and residents.  These include our website, Facebook, Peachjar announcements, Infinite Campus messages (email, text, and/or voice) to families signed up for those messages, the Green & White quarterly district newsletter, postcards or other specific mailings, media press releases, information from the respective schools, teachers, and teams, PTO and Board meetings, and even this Superintendent’s Blog.  We will also be meeting again soon with our Key Communicators Network of individuals who help us spread the word and provide us feedback in their respective circles – social, civic, business, and personal.

We anticipate you will continue your excellent participation with our students throughout this school year.  Please support and encourage them academically, athletically, and in their many displays of practical, performing, and fine arts.  We have an extremely dedicated, experienced, and caring staff instructing many inquisitive students with a variety of interests, skills, and talents.   These continually need to be guided and nurtured by the positive parental/adult role models and mentors in their lives – including you.  Remember to check out our website at www.waylandunion.org, including my periodic Superintendent’s Blog which may be viewed from the Administrative page of our website, plus school & district Facebook pages on a regular basis to stay current about all school events, athletics, student activities, and bond information.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this September edition of my Superintendent’s Blog.   Again this school year, I will continue with my twice weekly Community Office Hours.  These are scheduled on school days for Monday afternoons from 1:30-2:30 PM and Wednesday mornings from 7:30-9:30 AM for parents or community members to drop in and share any ideas, thoughts, or concerns with me in person.  (Please note that in September, my Wednesday morning times will only be 7:30-8:30 AM on 9-27, and I will be out of the office at a superintendents’ conference on 9-20-17, so no office hours that day).

Once again, Thank You so much for your continued support of educational excellence as we strive to enhance our Culture of Quality at Wayland Union Schools.  Please contact us with any thoughts, concerns, or suggestions you may have to make Wayland Union Schools the best schools possible as we work to Challenge – Inspire – Contribute.

Best Wishes for a pleasant fall and a very successful school year for all of our students, families, and staff!

Yours in Wildcat Pride,

Norman L. Taylor

Superintendent

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer Greetings & Welcome Back-to-School!
Our 2017-2018 school year will begin Tuesday, September 5 and we’re extremely excited about our many positive initiatives to promote student opportunities and success.  At Wayland Union Schools, we promote literacy, positive relationships, student success, and a broad assortment of fine arts / athletic / extra-curricular activities, plus enhanced academic and technology opportunities throughout the district with our K-12 1:1 iPad initiative.  

We welcome many new families to our wonderful school district this fall, including at least 10 foreign exchange students.  If you have any questions about enrollment, registration, or programs, please contact one of our schools or offices for more information (phone numbers and email addresses are on our website at www.waylandunion.org). We also welcome 11 new teachers and several other staff (including several WUHS alumni!) to join our fine faculty this year as they dedicate themselves to teaching and nurturing your children.  Four of these new teachers have been added due to continued student enrollment growth and to maintain smaller class sizes.

As a reminder to parents of returning students, if you have not gone online to the Parent Portal to register and update information on each of your students, please do so at your earliest convenience (MS and HS students must be registered before they can receive their iPad).

Many school and athletic events have just begun as we gear up for a new school year.  Here is a list of the main activities:

Wayland Union HS Orientation the week of August 21 – Students may get their iPads, make schedule changes, and register their cars to park in the student parking lot according to the following schedule each day from 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM:
Monday, August 21 – Seniors
Tuesday, August 22 – Juniors
Wednesday, August 22 – Sophomores
Thursday, August 24 – Freshmen (includes locker assignments)

Wayland Union Middle School Orientation from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM on Tuesday, August 22.  Students will receive their iPads, may get their pictures taken, and 7th graders will get vision tests.

Back to School Open Houses to visit classrooms & meet teachers
Tuesday, August 29:
Steeby Elementary 5:30-6:30 PM
Middle School 4:00-7:30 PM (Student get iPads, class schedules, and locker assignments)
High School 4:30-7:00 PM
Baker Elementary 5:00-6:00 PM

Wednesday, August 30:
Dorr Elementary 5:00-6:00 PM (Pre-school & K) and 6:00-7:00 PM (1st through 4th grades)
Pine St. Elementary 5:00-6:00 PM

Athletic Events may be seen on the Fall Sports pocket schedules or the Athletic website at www.waylandunionwildcats.com

Here’s an update on of some of our recent activities:  Our Strategic Plan Goals & Objectives are moving forward in the areas of Student Achievement, Finance, Facilities/Learning Environments, and Communication/Community Engagement.  Academically, all 6 of our schools achieved Highly Effective status this past school year, which is fantastic!  Financially, we had a larger than anticipated surplus again this past year and another surplus is anticipated at the end of this coming fiscal year.  We recently paid off the loan two years early (!) on the iPads we purchased several years ago.  

We still have many facilities needs and will be putting a bond proposal on the November 7, 2017 ballot that will result in NO millage increase to our citizens.  This $19.25 million proposal, reduced in scope to one third (1/3) of the proposals you voted on last May, would address Security & Infrastructure needs; additional classroom space with a new wing, secure entrance, and renovations at the Middle School; and 12 new tennis courts to replace the 8 unusable courts near the soccer field.  We will be providing detailed information on our website and Facebook pages, plus there will be ample opportunities at school events and bond information nights for you to get information and have your questions answered.  

Bond Information Nights scheduled thus far are:
Thursday, September 7, 6:15-7:00 PM at Dorr Elementary (prior to Dorr PTO meeting)
Monday, September 18, 7:00-8:00 PM at the Middle School Media Center
Wednesday, September 27, 7:00-8:00 PM at Pine St. Elementary Media Center

You are always welcome to contact Superintendent Norman Taylor at (269) 792-2181 (ext. 3010) or by email at taylorn@waylandunion.org with any bond or school questions.

This summer’s maintenance projects are drawing to a successful close, with many of these upgrades funded by our Public Improvement Fund from casino monies.  These include general maintenance, upkeep, & painting; a new fire panel at WUHS; new HVAC controls across the district; new wide-range two-way Motorola radios to enhance communications, installation of window safety film and secure access entry at all school entrances (all part of our MSP Safety grant); and a new VOIP phone system to comply with enhanced 911 regulations.  We also just took delivery of two new 77 passenger busses, including one with undercarriage storage compartments, which allow for music instruments or athletic equipment to be stored there and provide for increased safety for our students.  Our Fun-tastic Summer Meals program and summer school have been a huge success again this year with excellent participation.  Our last meals will be offered this Saturday, August 26 in the Wayland City Park as part of the Kiwanis Kids’ Day, which runs from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM and includes many fun activities.   

We anticipate you will continue your excellent participation with our students again this school year.  Please support and encourage them academically, athletically, and in their many displays of practical, performing, and fine arts.  We have an extremely dedicated, experienced, and caring staff instructing many inquisitive students with a variety of interests, skills, and talents.   These continually need to be guided and nurtured by the positive parental/adult role models and mentors in their lives – including you.  Remember to check out our website at www.waylandunion.org, including my periodic Superintendent’s Blog which may be viewed from the Administrative page of our website, plus school & district Facebook pages on a regular basis to stay current about all school events, athletics, student activities, and bond information.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this latest edition of my Superintendent’s Blog.   Once again, Thank You so much for your continued support of educational excellence as we strive to enhance our Culture of Quality at Wayland Union Schools.  Please contact us with any thoughts, concerns, or suggestions you may have to make Wayland Union Schools the best schools possible as we work to Challenge – Inspire – Contribute.
Best Wishes for a wonderful and very successful school year for all of our students, families, and staff!
Yours in Wildcat Pride,

Norman L. Taylor

Superintendent