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Partnerships can make a Difference

March 16, 2018

We often talk about the value of community partnerships and how they can be mutually beneficial. When we are describing them, it can seem very transactional. However, when you get a chance to dig into them or in the case below watch a video, you can see that they (like most great partnerships) are built relationships.

The video below shares the story of one of our community partnerships and the difference it is making on the lives of those involved.

SHS Today takes a look at the Learner Profile

March 9, 2018

The Saline High School Video Production students did an excellent review of our Learner Profile. Thank you to Mr. Bush and the students involved.

Saline Learner Profile from Nathan Bush_SHS Media Teacher on Vimeo.

Where is the rigor?

February 27, 2018

As many of you know, I talk a lot about the Saline Area Schools’ Compass.  I talk about the Student Attributes to students, staff, parents, community members and other educators. It is vital that the Saline community, along with the SAS teachers and students, understand what the Compass means and what it means to be challenged.  

One of the topics that comes up frequently – mostly from staff and parents – is the issue of “rigor.”  I am asked, “Where is the rigor?”  First, this inquiry highlights a general bias that skill development is not rigorous. There is a perception, a preconceived notion, that skill attainment is fundamentally easier or “less rigorous” than developing content knowledge.

I get it… I convinced myself that Listerine worked better than Scope at freshening my breath and killing germs because it tasted worse.  Harder is better – that is perception.  Alka-Seltzer had to work well because it was hard to swallow.  It’s normal to feel like that and to apply that same analogy to learning.

My response to the question of rigor tends to run along these lines: we need to think about difficulty as it relates to the end product and value of the task.   Looking the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (below), you can see the eight student attributes from the SAS Learner Profile/Compass embedded in top three levels – Analyze, Evaluate and Create.  If we focus on instilling the attributes, we are also focusing the most rigorous phases of demonstrating knowledge.

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It can’t happen in Saline…

February 17, 2018

It can’t happen in Saline. That is not a statement any of us can say or an assumption we can make.  That is not a statement any of us should think is accurate.  While we have not suffered a tragedy of the scale of what we all witnessed this week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – that doesn’t mean it can’t.  In fact, in my ten years as superintendent, there have been a handful of situations that I feel, if left undiscovered or unaddressed, could have led to a perilous situation for our students and staff.  

The key was – someone came forward. Someone – a student, a staff member, a parent, a community member – came forward and said something to the administration.  Our administrative team knows that every situation brought to our attention warrants investigation.  Many times the threat is not direct, and we can get help and support for the person involved.  Sometimes it’s a misunderstanding or a comment made in jest or out of a flash of frustration.  But, sometimes it’s more.  Here in Saline, we have had situations where it was more. And we were able to address it.

Throughout the Saline Area Schools, staff and students prepare for emergencies of any kind. Fire drills, weather emergencies, evacuations, and intruder drills are part of the school safety plan. The state requires compliance with a certain number of practice drills each year and those completed drills are posted on each school’s website. The District exceeds the number of drills and required training each year. Nothing is more important than the safety of every child and staff member. Still, it is unlikely that Saline – or any other school – is prepared for an event like a mass school shooting.

I don’t have all the answers for how we, as a society, can address this complex and troubling trend of mass shootings.  However, I do know what we can do in Saline – we can talk to each other about concerns and share it with the administration.

There is youth in every community. We know who those students are, and for the most part, we get them the help that they need. Sometimes, we miss those subtle signs that tell us a student is in crisis. Someone knows. Be that awareness through negative social media posts, a drop in grades, a sense of isolating oneself from peers, an uptick in substance use, we can almost predict the student that is troubled to the point of breaking. Please, speak up. Tell and administrator, teacher, counselor, or social worker. If anonymity is necessary, use the “OK2SAY” app and report what you know. I want to remind everyone in the Saline community that it is “Ok 2 Say” something when you see it, hear it or feel it.


Student Engagement – Is it the key?

February 16, 2018


As a district, we have focused on increasing student engagement as a strategy to enhance and deepen learning.  The premise is that engaged learners not only retain more but also develop an enjoyment related to the learning process.  We feel that the ability to learn is the key to success in life.  The world is moving at such a fast pace that it is unrealistic for educational leaders to assume that we know the challenges students may face,  or the knowledge that our students will need as they grow into adults, seek sustainable employment and navigate their lives.

While we may not yet be aware of what jobs will exist in the next twenty years, we do know what employers value in their employees. Soft skills are as necessary as academic acumen. Therefore, it is critically important that all students develop the essential skills (such as those in the Learner Profile/Compass student attributes) to be successful and productive adults.  At the center of this is the ability to learn. Their ability to see themselves as learners and to enjoy the process is likely to be proportional to the levels of success they will able to achieve.  

So, what are high-impact practices that help engage learners? How do we know when we see an engaged learner? Edutopia suggests that building a sense of community in the classroom helps younger students develop confidence. With that confidence, students are more apt to speak up and show curiosity for the content. Further, carefully planned, intentional lessons serve to engender that curiosity and the desire to know more. Thus, students begin to ask the questions that guide their learning and instill a love of learning.

Throughout the Saline Area Schools, at every grade level, we are focused on this: we want environments where students do most of the talking and thinking. We want ALL student voices heard, not just a select few. We want appropriate levels of enthusiasm for the content and lesson.  In the end, we want our students to have a voice and a choice. All of this is an orchestrated effort to maximize engagement and instill lifelong learning.

Message regarding Safety & Security

February 15, 2018


SAS Families:

As you know, lives were lost yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at the hands of a former student.  Our hearts go out to the victims, families, and everyone affected by this horrible tragedy.

Far too often, school shootings and violence are in the news. The reasons for these senseless acts of violence will continue to be debated. However, it is important that we, as a school community, continue to work together to prevent such incidents from occurring.

At Saline Area Schools, we have worked diligently over the years to provide safeguards for our students and staff in the event that something were to happen.  In addition, we have also worked to prevent something like this from happening at all.

I want to summarize some of the safety and security measures Saline Area Schools has taken recently so you have some talking points to use with students, staff and parents:

  • Provided SAS teachers, administrators, paraeducators and others with ALICE training, (Alert, Lock down, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) in the fall of 2014
  • Provided SAS employees with School Safety Training provided by Secure Education Consultants (which include former Secret Service personnel) in the summer of 2016
    • New employees receive this training each August
  • Modified drill schedules to comply with State law and to provide more realistic scenarios
  • Secured school buildings during school hours and installed secure entries in each school building, (project was completed August of 2017)
  • Modified emergency procedures including the following:
    • Discontinued use of code words and began using common language to describe situations and location of emergency, (ex: “Intruder in the cafeteria” instead of “Code Hornet”).
    • Provided staff with the ability to utilize building all call to facilitate communication in emergency situations
    • Expanded response options beyond traditional lock down
    • Began conducting spontaneous emergency drills (including cardiac emergencies)
  • Monitor internal communication for threats using Gaggle
  • Monitor external social media communication for threats using Social Sentinel

In conclusion, I am taking this occasion to assure you that we will continue our efforts in being proactive to keep our buildings safe and secure. If you want to share your thoughts – please us  “Let’s Talk” .



Scot Graden


I don’t care about your child’s SAT score…

February 8, 2018


I need to be honest with you; I’m less concerned about your (or mine, too) child’s SAT score… or their ACT score…. than I am about the knowledge that he/she acquires by the time they graduate. I know society and the “education industry” says that as a superintendent, I should care more about standardized test scores.  But, I don’t.  I want them to do well; sincerely, I do.  But when we talk about your child – instead of scores, tell me what they are passionate about, what skills you have seen them develop, what challenges they have faced, and how they have worked to overcome them.  Tell me about how they treat others, how hard they work to achieve what is important to them, and how they reach out to help others in need.

Over the last ten years, I have handed out 4,500+ Saline diplomas – a fact that is humbling to me.  When I reflect on all of the students that have walked across that stage, I don’t think about class rank or test scores – I think about the people they are. I share their hopes for happiness and success.

As a school district, we need to comply with state and federal mandates.  Also, it is true that the performance on the SAT/ACT can be the key to opening doors to elite colleges, universities, programs, and even scholarships. However, as a community, we can still focus on what we value as important.  Our student attributes – Collaborative Leader, Ethical & Responsible Citizen, Creative Innovator, Complex Thinker & Problem Solver, Positive Communicator, Globally Connected, Motivated & Self-Directed; these are the characteristics that will allow students to succeed in whatever they choose to pursue after high school.  

Here is the good part…. If we focus on developing students that embody those attributes – they will score just fine on the SAT/ACT.  And even better, these students will be prepared to grow, overcome adversity, and possess the confidence that they will need to thrive in a global society.


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