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