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Dealing with the Rumor Mill

January 22, 2010

Ever been in a conversation in the stands or on the sidelines of a youth athletic event?

Ever traded comments while shopping at the local grocery store or Target?

People often share their thoughts and opinions about their local schools. Saline is no different.  In speaking to superintendents across the state, our community is no different than theirs when it comes to the rumor mill.

The issue is misinformation and unfounded rumors about the schools tend to take on a life of their own and official information from the school is often not heard.  The issues can be inconsequential to seriously disruptive.  For example, last week I was speaking with a class at the high school and student asked about the pool being “3 inches short” and that all records set in the pool were invalid.  He added that he heard we were going to spend thousands of dollars to fix the issue.  Thankfully, he asked the question.  I was able to clear up this misinformation, letting him know that there was no truth to the rumor and that the pool was the proper length, and that the hard work that went into setting those records was not to be discredited.  Sadly, this was not the first time I had heard the rumor.  Over the past 5 years I have heard the “pool’s too short” rumor.

So how do we combat the rumor mill and inform a community of 5,400 students and 600 employees?  My answer is to provide information that is understandable.  School districts can be a complex organizations even for the most informed community members.  For example, I’m not sure it is widely known that the vast majority of district decisions are based on state and federal regulations, board of education policies and contractual obligations.

The first step is to ask the question.  Like the student in the class last week, ask a school official about what you may have heard.  If they don’t know the answer, they can get it for you.  It may be something that we need to communicate out to a larger group via our email loops or on our website.  Feel free to post a comment/question here or on one of the other blogs for more information.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Kelly Saiya-Cork permalink
    January 22, 2010 4:42 pm

    Yes, misinformation is a terrible thing. Lies are also terrible things. Honesty open dialogue is a necessity.

    Our city’s future is on the line. Currently third graders are sharing social studies books as they do not have enough for every student. Administrators are receiving 6 figure salaries. The budgets are decreasing. Schools are closing out of necessity.

    We can no longer afford to be kept in the dark or misled. Although the public must ask the difficult questions, it is just as important that the deal makers and money balancers must make it simple and easy to acquire the information in the first place.

    During our last election, opponents of the school levy did an excellent job of telling the public why we should vote against the increase. Those supporting the levy sat back and waited for the public to ask questions. The results are telling in which strategy worked.

    We can have no more lies, no more crazy ideas to upset parents and students, and no more games. We are in the final weeks and days of the bargaining of our children’s lives. Yes, that is what we are doing.

    Administrators, teachers and support staff should agree on a salary cap that is the same amount for all three groups. No one in the Saline Area School District should be receiving a 6 figure salary. No one. Reducing those salaries alone would save tens of thousands of dollars. Adding these dollars in savings to those acquired from closing a school or two like Union School and/or Houghton Elementary, and we just might not have to cut teachers or programs.

  2. January 23, 2010 11:37 pm

    I would like to know the purpose of Steve Laatch’s position. On the surface, it appears to be a position that is unnecessary.

  3. January 24, 2010 11:05 am

    Genevieve,

    Mr. Laatsch replaced Ms. Rosen-Leacher who had been the Asst. Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction the previous 3 years. (She is now the Principal at Heritage School, which was Mr. Laatsch’s previous assignment.) Prior to Ms. Rosen-Leacher, Mr. Terry Walters was in the position for 9+ years. I am not aware of any districts over 1,200 total students k-12 that do not have this position. To say it is a key position in Saline (and the vast majority of other districts) in an understatement. Below is the basic job description.

    Job Goal: To lead in the development, implementation, and coordination of the district’s instruction, curriculum, assessment and professional development programs

    Reports to: Superintendent

    Supervises: Staff members as designated by the Superintendent

    Qualifications:
    • Possess valid Michigan teaching certificate
    • Masters degree or above, preferably with emphasis in curriculum and/or educational administration
    • Minimum of five years successful teaching experience
    • Previous administrative experience preferred
    • Earned six graduate credit hours or 18 SB-CEUs within the past 5 years
    • Job experience in staff development, curricular issues, assessment and/or related areas
    • Possesses job experience in group process skills
    • Such alternatives to the above qualifications as the Board may find appropriate and acceptable

    Performance Responsibilities:

    1. Guides development, implementation, and coordination of curriculum and staff development programs
    2. Works with all staff in organizing and coordinating grade level/development meetings to assure horizontal and vertical continuity and articulation of the district’s entire educational program
    3. Interprets the approved curriculum to the staff, community, and Board in conjunction with the Superintendent
    4. Encourages the development, publication, and use of new instructional materials by teaching staff
    5. Ensures understanding and promotes the vision, mission, beliefs, and guiding principles of the district via the curriculum
    6. Coordinates, reviews and evaluates the district’s student testing and assessment
    7. Assists in preparing staff development programs and budgets
    8. Administers federal and state funds when accepted by the district for educational objectives
    9. Administers the district’s responses to P.A. 25, ED Yes, and NCLB
    10. Oversees implementation of school improvement/NCA process
    11. Prepares required reports and proposals for state and federal grants and programs as directed
    12. Attends all Board of Education meetings unless otherwise directed

    The above statements are intended to describe the general purpose and responsibilities assigned to this job and are not intended to represent an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills required.

  4. Peter Kudlak permalink
    January 25, 2010 11:15 am

    I agree with Superintendent Graden. It is imperative to have strong leadership in the Curriculum and Instruction Department. Mr. Laatsch has a huge job. He has to navigate through the federal and state ever-changing regulations while still providing the unique learning experience that the students (and parents) of Saline Area Schools have become accustomed. Providing a top-notch education for our children starts with Mr. Laatsch as he pushes the entire teaching staff in the same direction.

    It is not a position that should be eliminated in a district of our size. I plan to see the positive successes for my children as other parents, before me, have had here in Saline.

  5. Bill permalink
    January 25, 2010 1:14 pm

    Thanks for explaining to everyone what Steve Laatsch does. Can you also provide some explaination about what Dr. Enright does and how his role is different than Mr. Laatsch’s? On the surface it appears we now have 2 people doing the job that one person did before. Is this true and if so what is the additional work that resulted in the creation of a second position?

    Also I understand that Tim Heim is a Counselor assigned to the High School but he does not work with Students? Can you explain what his job is within the School District?

  6. January 25, 2010 6:30 pm

    Dr. Enright is the Executive Director of Assessment and Secondary Education. In addition, he is the Principal of the Alternative High School. In the past we have had as many as 5 full time staff in the Curriculum and Instruction Department – we are down to 2 after several budget reduction processes. Here is the job description for the Executive Director of Assessment and Secondary Education –

    Position: Leads in the development, implementation, and coordination of the district’s student assessment, instructional technology, and secondary curriculum for the purpose of maximizing every child’s learning potential.

    Reports to: Assistant Superintendent of Instruction

    Supervises: Staff members as designated by the Assistant Superintendent

    Qualifications:
    • Possess valid Michigan teaching certificate
    • Masters degree or above, preferably with emphasis in curriculum and/or educational administration
    • Minimum of five years successful administrative experience
    • Experience with advanced statistical work
    • Earned six graduate credit hours or 18 SB-CEUs within the past 5 years
    • Job experience in staff development, curricular issues, MEAP, ACT, MME, and NCA
    • Possesses job experience in group process skills
    • Such alternatives to the above qualifications as the Board may find appropriate and acceptable

    Performance Responsibilities:

    1. Guides development, implementation, and coordination of curriculum and staff development programs
    2. Works with all staff in organizing and coordinating grade level/development meetings to assure horizontal and vertical continuity and articulation of the district’s entire educational program
    3. Interprets the approved curriculum to the staff, community, and Board in conjunction with the Superintendent
    4. Encourages the development, publication, and use of new instructional materials by teaching staff
    5. Ensures understanding and promotes the vision, mission, beliefs, and guiding principles of the district via the curriculum
    6. Coordinates, reviews and evaluates the district’s student testing and assessment
    7. Assists in preparing staff development programs and budgets
    8. Administers federal and state funds when accepted by the district for educational objectives
    9. Administers the district’s responses to P.A. 25, ED Yes, and NCLB
    10. Oversees implementation of school improvement/NCA process
    11. Prepares required reports and proposals for state and federal grants and programs as directed
    12. Attends all Board of Education meetings unless otherwise directed

    The above statements are intended to describe the general purpose and responsibilities assigned to this job and are not intended to represent an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills required.

  7. Bill permalink
    January 25, 2010 6:37 pm

    Thanks, his role sure looks alot like Mr. Laatsch’s role.

    I don’t see where you have explained Mr. Heims roles. How does a High School Counselor not have any students to work with? What is his role in the School District?

  8. January 25, 2010 6:39 pm

    Mr. Heim is the Special Populations Coordinator for the South & West Washtenaw Consortium. In addition to this position, as the president of the Saline Education Association (teachers union) he is provided release time through the current collective bargaining agreement with the SEA. Here is the job description for the Special Populations position –

    Job Goal: Assist Principal/Director in the daily operations of SWWC

    Reports to: Principal/Director of CTE

    Supervises: Paraeducators/Paraprofessionals/Technicians

    Qualifications:

    + Michigan Secondary Teaching Certificate
    + Vocational Endorsement in * or

    Special Education Certification

    Performance Responsibilities:

    1. Assist Principal/Director with CTE program delivery

    2. Marketing and Promotion of all CTE programs

    3. Coordinates program visitations from other districts

    4. Assist students who need extra help

    5. Assist with daily operation and management of SWWC

    6. Assist in complying with State Trac Audit findings

    7. Assist with grant writing

    8. Local district liaison with principals, assistant principals, counselors and special education staff

    9. Attend IEP meetings

    10. Implement accommodations services as needed

    11. Collect relevant data and information to identify students with special needs

    12. Supervise CTE Center

    13. Compliance with provisions of the Carl D Perkins IV Act

    14. Provide equal access to recruitment, enrollment and placement activities for special populations students

  9. Pam Dahlmann permalink
    January 26, 2010 1:52 pm

    Scot,
    I am hoping you can stop an ugly rumor going around Harvest 4th graders. There is talk that teachers maybe eliminated mid-year (March). Thus, displacing the students within their classrooms for the remainder of the year.
    I appreciate your quick reply to this matter.
    Thank you,
    Pam

  10. January 26, 2010 3:10 pm

    Ms. Dahlman,

    As part of the budget reduction process we have reviewed numerous “worst case scenario” options for balancing our current budget – particularly in November & December. As we prepare to make recommendations to the Board of Education for the February 9th meeting – I can share that there are NO scenarios that are being reviewed for recommendation that include eliminating elementary sections and redistributing students.

    Thank you for sharing that rumor so that we can set the record straight.

  11. Curious permalink
    January 27, 2010 8:38 pm

    Scot,

    I am seeking some clarification on an ugly rumor about hiring practices. I understand that teacher hiring is not exactly a major concern right now as the district is currently facing mid-year staffing reductions. I have heard that the current hiring philosophy is to not interview, let alone hire, teachers (or even accept student teachers) that have any connection to the district (children attending school, former student teachers, reside in the city, etc…)
    I know that there was a 2nd grade position posted in late August and a 5th grade position posted a couple of months ago. Furthermore, at some point in the future, the district will have other open teacher positions and I sincerely hope that this “hiring philosophy” will not be in place when that time comes. Here are the details, and some “proof” that I have heard “through the rumor mill”:
    1. The open 2nd grade position finalists were all from out of state. I was told that this is because anyone who has connections with the district was not considered regardless of qualifications. I believe that the “proof” here is that the teacher hired for that position did in fact come from out of state.
    2. Certain members of the school district were “banned” from being on the 2nd grade position interview team because they did not agree with the mandate to not “hire from within”.
    3. Several student teacher placements this school year have been denied. The “proof” here is that the University coordinator was actually told that Saline does not accept student teachers who “have connections to the district”.

    If it is truly the policy of the district to not hire teachers or place student teachers “from within” the community, I wonder if you, the Board and the district HR staff all realize how illegal a practice such as this is and how it opens the district up to lawsuits for discrimination in hiring practices. I also want to know if you realize the tremendous educational talent that resides within the community that you are passing up because of a ridiculous and illegal hiring practice.

    Please shed some light on this very concerning “rumor”.

  12. January 28, 2010 7:18 am

    Simply not true.

    1. I am involved with all final interviews. In the case of the 2nd grade position, one of the finalist was a former Saline student with numerous “connections to the district”. We had several hundred applicants – many with and without connections to the district. The staff member that was hired was moving back to Michigan from “out of state”, however, that is incidental to our review of qualifications and not relevant to the hiring decision.

    2. No one was “banned”, as there is no mandate to not “hire from within”.

    3. I am not aware of any student teachers who have had sponsoring teachers that have been denied by the district. I do know in the past colleges and universities were reluctant to place student teachers in districts where they attended as students. I am also aware that there are at least two current student teachers that were former students. One was a former student, para-educator and is a current coach – which was all known when they were placed in Saline.

    Last year we hired 4 teachers that were former Saline Area School students. Three of them were current coaches in the system. In fact, I was/am more concerned about the perception that we are hiring mostly staff with “connections to the district”. The Saline community does have talented and well prepared candidates for employment by Saline Area Schools. I can assure you all candidates are given fair consideration.

    I also find it ironic that this “rumor” is out there as I, the superintendent, was hired “from within”, am a former Saline Area School student and have numerous “connections to the district”.

  13. Kelly Saiya-Cork permalink
    January 28, 2010 11:35 am

    Mr. Graden,

    Can you please tell us how many SAS District employees are making 6 figure salaries? Can you please also share with us where we can locate this public information?

    Thank you,
    Kelly Saiya-Cork

  14. January 28, 2010 3:23 pm

    Saline Area Schools had 22 staff members earn $100,000 or more in the last year. This does include staff that have multiple positions such as teaching, coaching, Driver’s Ed, etc.

    A list of salaries can be acquired by contacting our FOIA coordinator Ms. Kitty Coryell at coryellk@saline.k12.mi.us.

  15. Kelly Saiya-Cork permalink
    February 1, 2010 5:59 pm

    Mr. Graden,

    Thank you for continuing to answer these difficult questions.

    Can you please update us on the bussing situation in the school district? In Saline Township, it has been observed that there are not enough seats on the bus for all the students riding. Children have been seen standing on their way to school.

    Will this safety issue continue throughout the rest of the year and into 2011 as well?

    Thank you,
    Kelly Saiya-Cork

  16. February 2, 2010 10:43 am

    I spoke with Ms. Henes, our Director of Transportation, about any routes that were over capacity in the Saline Township area – she is not aware of any overcrowded buses. Please contact her directly at henesp@saline.k12.mi.us or 429-8067 to discuss further. In particular, if you are aware of the bus numbers. Thank you.

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