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Community Conversation – January 5th

January 1, 2018

Community Conversation

Our winter break runs well into January, so it’s a good time to host a “Community Conversation” meeting. Over the last nine years I have had the opportunity to host numerous “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.

There are a lot of issues we can discuss – screen time for students, social & emotional health, and many more… You bring the topics.  With that said, I would like talk about the issue of economic development and Saline Area Schools.  What role do we play as a school district?  What role should we play?

In an effort to continue this dialogue, I will be making time available on Friday, January 5th from 2:00pm- 3:00pm at Carrigan 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.

Thank you,
Scot Graden


December 31, 2017


no-resolutionI am not typically a person who makes resolutions around the New Year.  However, this year, I feel as though it is a good time for me to make few related to my role within the Saline Area Schools.

I resolve to focus efforts on the SAS Learner Profile.

We have established the learner profile as a guide.  The SAS staff has embraced the “compass,” and we are seeing new and creative lessons focused on the enhancing the students’ pursuits of the eight learner attributes.  For this to create a lasting impact, we need to continue to keep the focus on developing quality learning opportunities for all students.

I resolve to communicate with the staff & community.

Over the years, I have learned that sharing information with, and listening to parents, staff and community members serves to strengthen our district.  It takes time and focused effort to make sure that I am available and open to listening and sharing. I plan to host more Community Conversations and Community Forums.  I will also encourage groups to invite me to attend their meetings and events where I can talk about Saline Area Schools.  You can always use “Let’s Talk” to share a comment, compliment or concern with me directly.

I resolve to model lifelong learning.

As a district, we are focused on developing all students as lifelong learners.  With this in mind, it is essential that we model this as a staff.  I will continue to seek out learning opportunities including reading, attending professional conferences, site-visits to innovative school districts, graduate school courses and learning from my professional learning network.


Early Release Days – Why?

December 29, 2017


As many of you know, Saline Schools is in its second year of the “early release” schedule. On the six designated Wednesdays throughout the school year, students are released from school two hours early. Staff uses the remainder of the time for professional learning.  Some parents and community members question the value of the early release days and have asked about the merit during some of the Community Conversations regarding the proposed pre-Labor Day start to the 2018-2019 school year.  It has become evident that the value of these days related to the Saline Area Schools focus on academic excellence is not fully understood.

The early release days are part of the Saline Area Schools’  professional development strategy.  Saline is proud of its outstanding teachers and staff. As in all businesses, professionals must commit to continuous improvement throughout the life of their careers. In the past, professional learning opportunities took place in the few days before the start of school year.  The result was a tight opening school schedule that did not provide extended time for staff development, deep conversation, and focused study. Moving large-scale professional development away from the start of the school year meant scheduling a full day off for students.

Based on Michigan legislative action in 2015, schools must have a 180-day student schedule commencing with the 2016-2017 school year.  At the time of the statutory change, Saline Area Schools had a 175-day student schedule. Devising a plan to incorporate more school days for students and also include blocks of time for teacher improvement was no small task.

In planning for the 2016-2017 schedule, by adding “Early Release” days, Saline was able to improve the professional learning environment and ensure that the school calendar ended before July 1. These early release days function much like half-days, allowing schools to count them as “school days”  for the students, without extending the school year. For teachers and  the organization, the early release days offer a larger block of time for staff to work collaboratively with colleagues on the strategic work of the District.

The Early Release days provide many benefits to the organization. First, by embedding professional development into the school calendar, we can avoid extending the school year into late June. Second, two-hour blocks of time allow teaching colleagues to work together toward a common goal with vigor and intent. Finally, the message, vision, and purpose of the SAS Strategic Framework and goals are communicated consistently amongst all stakeholders. In that way, students in every building are receiving like-minded, purposeful instruction.

We realize that, unlike other professions, the school schedule impacts families in meaningful ways.  We do try to balance decisions regarding what is optimal for our professional success and what works well for most families.

Have thoughts or questions about early release days or the school calendar? Click here and share thoughts.

Hand and glove… schools and community.

December 19, 2017

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Quality schools thrive in quality communities.  One of the great aspects of Saline and our community is that we have a strong downtown area. Our downtown is in a position to grow even stronger and the Saline Main Street organization focused that effort.  As some of you know, they have been a key partner for Saline Area Schools on our annual Pep Rally and provide numerous volunteer and community collaboration opportunities for our students and staff.

They are in search of a new Executive Director for its nationally accredited Master Level Michigan Main Street program.  If you are interested or know of experienced and skilled individuals who might be interested – please review and share the posting below.

Click here to download the position posting and job description.

Supporting the Saline community supports our schools! 



Community Forum – Labor Day Waiver – January 8th

December 13, 2017

School calendar 18-19-2

SAS Community,

We have recently been notified that our October 12th request to the Michigan Department of Education for a waiver to allow us to begin school prior to Labor Day in 2018 has received initial approval.   With that now in place, we want to collect community feedback prior to making a formal recommendation to the Board of Education related to our first school day for students next fall.

In an effort to provide information and gather feedback we will be conducting a community forum on Monday, January 8th at 6:30pm in the Liberty School Media Center.  The forum will allow us to share information about the two potential school calendars, along with discussing the pros and cons to each.

I look forward to seeing you at the forum. If you can’t make it, feel free to use “Let’s Talk” and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

Blended… what does it look like in Saline?

December 10, 2017

HubThe term “blended instruction” can mean a lot of different things.  According to Wikipedia, Blended learning is an education program (formal or informal) that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student and incorporates digital tools or computerized lessons to enhance, or sometimes replace direct teacher instruction. Students do have some control over when and where to attend class, the path of their learning, and the pace at which they progress through the instructional materials.

Blended learning is merely an instructional design.  The reality is, the instructional design process is not a destination – it’s more of a journey.  Staff learn and refine each year and adapt to changes.  The staff member changes, the students change, society’s ask changes.  Frankly, the world changes.  As the instructional design process has evolved in the early part of the 21st century, it has shown new pathways that give students more choice over their learning time, place and pace.

Over the past several years,  Saline High School has offered a course called the Capstone Experience. It is a year-long class offered to seniors and offered in a “blended” format.  In the Capstone Experience,  students meet with the teacher only two or three times each week.  On the other days, students conduct research, collaborate with peers on the design of a service-related project, and participate in community-based projects. The term “blended instruction” can mean a lot of different things; the Capstone Experience is just one format.

The Saline Alternative High school uses a blended learning format to teach several core classes. Personal Finance, an online course, helps students understand global economics and how to make better-informed decisions about their own finances. Lessons are presented online, supplemented with additional content that the teacher provides, and then students work collaboratively to answer project-based questions about the coursework. Another teacher uses a blended learning format to present the Expository Reading and Writing course. Again, this is an online class, yet the teacher guides the instruction and provides opportunities for small group discussion on a wide range of complex texts. Student writing is enhanced through peer editing and multiple review opportunities.

The majority of courses at the Saline Alternative are presented in a “Flex” model of blended instructional learning. Most of the curriculum is provided through an online curriculum. Teachers are available to provide tutorial, re-teaching, and curricular enhancements as indicated.
As we plan for 2018-2019, we intend to explore further and incorporate blended learning at Saline High School and beyond.  Staff are currently learning about the process, and will shortly begin developing the structure.  Ideally, students will be able to choose the way the instructional format of some of their classes next year – face to face, blended, or entirely online.

Foundations for Positive Social, Emotional and Mental Health

December 2, 2017

Over the last few years, Saline Area School counselors and social workers teamed up to develop a list of positive social, emotional, and mental health foundations. This list encompassed many of the critical attributes that students need to possess in order to be “mentally fit.”

This past year, the Saline Area Schools Wellness Committee felt that it was essential to take this list of foundations and further develop and implement them. The group critiqued the list; added a few and removed others. Next, the Committee established a simple list of techniques that can be used by adults (teachers, parents, community members, etc.) to help students build the proper foundations they need to be “mentally fit.” Seen below is the list of foundations along with the suggested strategies for implementation. The “Saline Area Schools Foundations of Positive Social, Emotional, and Mental Health” cards are in use throughout the District.

As a District, all building Principals, social workers, counselors, and teaching staff are putting greater emphasis on supporting these foundations. Healthier, happier, more socially adjusted, and more resilient youth is the goal of this important initiative.

Foundation Card

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