Over the last few years, we started a conversation in Saline that would begin to transform the way we think about teaching and learning for our students. I shouldn’t be surprised, but in reflecting on where we are at as a school district we have already come so far.
Before I tell you a bit about the exciting work I’ve seen happening here recently, I wanted to make a brief announcement and send a “thank you”. Our administrative team decided from the outset of this year that we wanted to give our district’s new direction a name that we could all rally behind and be proud of. Moving forward, you’ll be seeing “Student Led… Future Focused” on communication from our district offices, and will notice it pop up on our social media. This term is replacing “Next Gen” for us. It articulates our interest in student voice & choice in their learning and our push for constant progress. We focused on the our compass-themed Learner Profile for inspiration. For you Twitter users, I encourage you to keep the conversation going using the hashtag #sascompass. Celebrate your students’ victories with 4-C’s instruction, or the successes you’re seeing while breaking down the walls of your classroom with that hashtag, and occasionally do a search for it to see the good news that will be rolling in.
And now, a quick story from a recent visit to Mrs. Ledford’s classroom at Woodland Meadows. I saw students working on projects that had chosen, collaborating and leveraging the technology tools in their classroom. Students were free to find the spaces in the room that worked best for them. I took the picture below as I was leaving the students were recording their thoughts.
Finally, I want to thank every one of you reading this for your enduring commitment to our kids in this time of exciting changes. Change can be hard. We knew this work would come with several challenges, but we also knew that we had the right people to meet those challenges head on and overcome them. So far, I can’t express how exciting it is for me to see everyone’s hard work starting to be reflected in our classrooms. Thank you so much for reminding me so many times on a daily basis of the amazing things you are all doing for our students!
The concept of a “delayed start” has long been debated in Saline Area Schools. Nearly 35% of the SAS students are transported to and from school each day on a tiered schedule. That is about 2400 riders per day. The tiered schedule accommodates both the secondary students’ bell schedule and the elementary buildings start times. Historically, Saline Area Schools has been one of the most cost-effective districts in the county with regard to transporting students. That fiscal responsibility is important, but also tied to the fact that each bus tackles multiple runs each day.
What is not as evident to the casual observer are the number of additional runs that each bus makes every day beyond arrival and dismissal. South West Washtenaw Consortium students are transported to job and work sites, students receiving Special Education services are transported based on programming, several secondary students are transported to job sites and programming throughout the city.
Scheduling of the numerous opportunities afforded to Saline Area Schools’ students makes transportation a complex matter. Timing of the runs is at best, difficult, yet the Operations department works tirelessly to ensure that all students arrive safely at their destinations.
Give that we are a district that does not have an issue with seasonal fog issues, starting school two hours late is not practical, timely, or cost effective for the Saline Area Schools. Most parents of young children do not have respite or temporary child care arranged to accommodate a delayed start to the school day. As noted today, Monroe & Lenawee County schools called for “2 hour delays” and shortly thereafter moved to full closure.
We do not take the decision to close Saline Area Schools lightly. However, when we do close the District, we want to do so in a manner that affords the safest option for all of our students.
I have posted this before – but since many families in our community are giving gifts to their children (our students) over the next couple weeks – here is my shameless plug to consider items that support our learning targets.
- Books – You can never go wrong with books. Consider non-fiction titles like biographies, autobiographies, travel/geography, how-to, and science/technology options. (Magazine subscriptions can also be a good fit for non-fiction reading.)
- e-Readers – Same as above but in Kindle, iPad, iPad Mini or Surface format.
- Legos – Always popular and great for creativity. They can also help build dexterity and develop math and pattern skills. They also have a product called “Chain Reactions” that involve design and build activities.
- Osmos – They are fun game that goes with an iPad and supports learning in key areas such as: creative problem solving, art, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
- Technology – This area can be pricey, however, we are encouraging our students at many grade levels to bring their laptop, tablets, and smartphones to class to use as a learning tool. Google Chromebooks are a relatively inexpensive option for laptop and they work well on our network.
- Hornet Gear – Okay, not educational – but kids and adults alike look good in Saline Hornet apparel. Stop by 104 E. Michigan at the Edge Too – until 6:00pm on December 22nd. If you can’t make it there – check out www.salinespirit.com.\
Feel free to comment with other educational gift ideas.
How do you explain the “4-C’s” to people? When I share that we want our students to be strong communicators, collaborators, critical thinkers and to be creative – I often get supportive head nods… but I am not sure that they understand what that looks like in our classrooms.
Frankly, I have a hard time explaining it. We decided to use video to help us share the story of what our vision for learning looks like in Saline. Below are the videos that were created to help our community understand where we are heading as a community of learners.
Please take a look and share your thoughts.
(A special thank you to Chase Stanton for his work pulling these together.)
In this month’s edition of Educational Leadership, author Marc Tucker looks at the impact that globalization, automation, and the improved skills of workers in other countries are having on the United States economy. Tucker’s piece, “Globally Ready or Not?” explains how the world has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Businesses in the 1970s that did not adapt to the changing global climate went out of business. As one can imagine, the overall impact does not bode well for students that graduate without a “21st Century” skill set. Re-thinking education to produce students that are ready for the challenges of this new global society is a direction that we have felt for some time in Southeast Michigan and one that as a district, we have worked to address over the last 5+ years.
The article does offer some suggestions about what we, The Saline Area Schools, can do to help prepare students to compete in a global economy. Interestingly, the points that Tucker makes are consistent with the Strategic Framework and Learner Profile for Saline Area Schools. Here are a few of the points:
- Integrate academic and technical learning. Tucker notes, “The curriculum that students need must create a constant interplay between academics and application; problems that arise in the course of application give rise to the questions addressed in the academics, and the constructs learned in the academics are explored in application.”
- Focus on continuous, deep learning. Developing students that are lifelong learners and critical thinkers is essential. “Being able to analyze and synthesize will require students to know a lot about the material they’re analyzing and synthesizing.” says Tucker.
- Integrate academic and technical learning. Deep, well structured and authentic project-based learning experiences can help in this area. We need true projects that push our students, not just “activities”.
- Develop ethics. We need to think of ourselves as being responsible for the development of each student in a process owned by the entire staff. Students need to be able to do the right thing when nobody’s watching and experience leadership first-hand.
- Cultural competence. Saline graduates need to be able to work and interact effectively with people of all cultures. Cultural competence involves understanding and appropriately responding to the many nuances that define “culture,” including cultural variables—including ability, intellect, age, ethnicity, experience, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
Students develop and hone these skills over time, meaning that educators, parents, and community members must adopt and value these attributes. Developing the best prepared, academically competent, technologically proficient, and globally astute workers will take a monumental effort from all of us; this generation will fill jobs that do not yet exist. What a fascinating time for all of us! Saline students will lead the way.
Saline Area School Community,
With the school year well underway, I would like to schedule the first “Community Conversation” meeting of the 2016-2017 school year. Over the last eight years I have had the opportunity to host several “Community Conversation” events to learn more about what interested community members see as the strengths of Saline Area Schools, and what areas they felt we needed to focus attention on for improvement. Through these conversations and other opportunities, I have learned a great deal about how many of you see our district and it has helped guide me, along with the Board of Education, as we move forward.
In an effort to continue this dialogue, I will be making time available on Thursday, December 8th from 9:15am- 11:00am at Carrigan’s Cafe, 107 S. Ann Arbor Street. Please stop by, say hello and bring any thoughts about the district you feel I should know.
If you can’t make it, feel free to use “Let’s Talk” and let me know your thoughts.
Earlier today, I had the chance to share my thoughts on the coming Thanksgiving holiday with the Saline Area Schools staff. Below is the message I shared…
This Thursday marks Thanksgiving and means Americans gather around the dinner table to celebrate and be thankful. It is simply an American holiday, where people across our nation gather with friends and family for festive food, fun and for some, football.
For many of us, it is a holiday ripe with tradition, starting with watching the parades in the morning, running in a Turkey Trot, or gathering our lists to start shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday.
It is also a holiday full of reflection, and constant reminders as to why we are thankful. We are thankful for our family and friends, for our health and for our good fortune.
While I am personally thankful for the opportunity to serve as the Superintendent of the Saline Area Schools, I am truly grateful to represent 5,235 students along with hundreds of teachers, administrators, para-educators and support staff. Working with you every day reminds me about what makes our country great – it is that we are all dedicated to the pursuit of excellence by ensuring our children receive a quality education, reinforced by a great team and strong community around them.
I am also thankful for the parents of our students and to our entire community. Our district serves four extremely diverse communities. Each community has it own unique style, yet it is the Saline Area Schools that binds our communities together.
While I may be Superintendent of the district, I am also a member of this community. This is where I live, eat, shop and play. While I don’t expect to get invited to your Thanksgiving table this week, I do expect that as neighbors and friends, we will look after each other. That we will take time to get to know our neighbors, become more interested in the people around us and find ways to get engaged in the community.
- Now, more than ever, we need you to be present in your children’s lives. Ask them questions about what they are learning in school, who they are hanging out with, what they are watching or doing on their phones or computers. In this fast-paced world, it is essential for them to know that you are watching them and care about what they are doing.
- Now, more than ever, our children need role models. I hope you will become mentors and invite students onto your farm, into your factory, store or office.
- Now, more than ever, we need to stand up and speak out for one another, teach tolerance and acceptance. To learn about one another and respect each other for our own beliefs and traditions.
- Now, more than ever, we need to be a constant presence in our community. Think about volunteering in our schools, speak before a class, coach a team or give up a weekend or evening to support a local non-profit.
- Now, more than ever, our children need to feel safe. They need your support as parents, they need your care as a community and they need to know that they have people on their side.
With the last of the leaves changing, Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the holiday season. For this nation and for our community, the holidays could not have come at a better time. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you will join me in thinking about what you are thankful for. As we beginning the season of giving, I am hopeful that we as a community will continue to thrive.
The season of giving is upon us and we have a lot to celebrate together.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving! & Go Hornets!