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