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Let the Compass be our Guide

November 9, 2017

Over the last few weeks, I have talked to numerous school and community groups about the needs of the district and community as related to the CARES Recreation Millage and the Sinking Fund Millage that appeared on the November 7th ballot. (Thank you, voters, for your support!) These conversations gave me the opportunity to engage with voters across a broad cross-section of individuals throughout the Saline Area Schools District.  After we discussed the campaign related to the millages, the conversation often turned to the direction of the District.

First, it was essential for me to inform citizens about the “Compass” learner profile – focusing on the eight student attributes that we want all students to embody as they graduate from Saline High School: Positive Communicator, Digitally/Financially Literate, Globally Connected, Creative Innovator, Motivated/Self-Directed, Complex Thinker/Problem Solver, Collaborative Leader, and Ethical and Responsible Citizen.  Most of the listeners quickly agreed with that focus.  However, there was often an awkward pause as they thought about how we measure those attributes. This query provided me with the opportunity to talk about various instructional models – different ways of delivering content through blended and personalized learning methods, project-based learning, service learning experiences, and competency-based approaches.  As I talked about these models – I was reminded how far we traveled from traditional paper/pencil types of assessments.  I was also struck by how far we still have to go to feel as though we are genuinely embracing and embedding the SAS Compass every day in all of our classrooms.

My focus has shifted from visionary in scope to the more strategic work of supporting the talented Saline Area Schools staff as they redesign instruction and re-think what “success” means for the students.  It’s exciting to see the progress we have made. The support from families, community members, alumni, and staff to do the work needed to provide our students with an exceptional learning experience is overwhelmingly positive and appreciated.

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Community Forum – CARES & Sinking Fund Millage Renewal – October 26th

October 12, 2017

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We will be hosting a community forum to share information and answer questions about the November 7th CARES & Sinking Fund Millage Renewal.  The forum schedule:

Thursday, October 26th – Liberty School, in the Media Center at 7:00pm

Voice & Choice – Not Just For Students

August 4, 2017

The Saline Area Schools Strategic Framework Goals and Learner Compass are a roadmap for all learners, young and not-so-young. One of the key aspects of improving student outcomes in the Saline Area Schools and living the “Student Led – Future Focused” motto is to allow students to have a voice in their own learning and to be able to exercise choice within the instructional framework.It is important that students make real-world connections with their learning.  A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t beneficial for students.  In modeling the student led, future focused model for teachers and staff; it is important for me and our administrative team to know that a one-size-fits-all approach to learning is not beneficial for adult learners, either.

Malcolm Knowles, an American educator, studied adult learners and discovered that adults need:

  • To know “why” they must learn something
  • Need to learn experientially
  • To approach learning as problem-solving
  • Learn best when the topic is of immediate value

Just like students, staff comes to us with a variety of learning needs and preferences.  As leaders, we need to build in the element of choice.  Here are a few plans for the year designed to address the model “Voice & Choice” model with adult learners:

  • Instead of having all teachers attend the same professional learning sessions, we are looking for ways to allow them to choose topics and formats that fit their preferences and needs.  In late August, a symposium with numerous topics and instructional delivery models is planned.
  • Encourage staff to set their own learning goals.  Engage in conversations with staff to understand and support their unique learning goals.
  • Develop and use “micro-credentialing” as model the for adult learning
  • Allow teachers to be innovative and take risks. Further, we hope to instill a quest for curiosity in all staff.  Over the years, I have seen teachers rise to new heights when they learn in authentic ways.  

The start of the new school year is around the corner, and as the excitement for the new year builds, educational leaders are entrusted with the opportunity to show both students and staff that their voice is important in their own learning.

 

Survey Says….

August 3, 2017

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Summer is in full swing, and so is the planning for next school year in Saline Area Schools. I want to share some of the information that’s guiding our work.

This spring, we asked students, parents, and employees for feedback on the quality of SAS schools. We knew from previous surveys that much of our community views our schools positively, and we were pleased to see those trends continue. However, this year’s survey results also highlighted important opportunities. 

Of the more than 2,300 people who took our survey (Thank You!), 97 percent of parents and 96 percent of staff members rated their school as excellent or good, both increases from last year’s survey. Similarly, 84 percent of participating students rated their school as excellent or good. While still a strong positive response, that is a 6 percentage-point decrease from last year.

The survey results revealed disconnects between what our students think and what our staff members think. For example, only 33 percent of participating students said teachers successfully connect classroom lessons with life outside of school, while 82 percent of participating staff members said they do.

An overwhelming majority of all participants said their school is safe, but there was less agreement about discipline. Parents and students (65% and 60%, respectively) were much less likely than staff (81%) to think discipline is enforced fairly.

Parents and students continue to have overwhelmingly positive views about our school technology and the resources and materials available to students. We also saw significant increases from last year in how positively staff members view some district operations, such as central office support of schools (76% to 89%) and availability of technology resources (80% to 92%).

Thank you to everyone who took the time to share feedback and opinions with us. You’re helping us make our district a place where all staff members feel supported, all parents know they are heard, and all students are inspired to achieve beyond what they can dream.

Summer Reading… How is it going?

July 21, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 2.49.53 PMAs we all know… the summer goes by way too quickly!  The fact is, we are nearing the ½ way point of the summer break. How is your summer reading plan going?  Are you and your children on track with the goals that you set for the summer?  Here are a few quick tips and reminders regarding summer reading:

  • Read aloud together with your child every day. Make it fun by reading outdoors on the front steps, patio, at the beach or park. Also, let your children read to you. For younger children, point out the relationship between words and sounds.
  • Set a good example! Parents must be willing to model behavior for their children. Keep lots of reading material around the house. Turn off the TV and have each person read his or her book, including mom and dad.
  • Read the same book your child is reading and discuss it. This is the way to develop habits of the mind and build capacity for thought and insight.
  • Let kids choose what they want to read, and don’t turn your nose up at popular fiction. It will only discourage the reading habit.
  • Buy audio books. Listen to them in the car, or turn off the TV and have the family listen to them together.
  • Talk about what you’re reading. The value of sharing good literature through conversation is immeasurable. Make mealtime a “book talk” time. No electronics allowed.
  • Find something that “stretches” you a bit.  Read about a culture, country, or political view that is outside of your comfort zone. Show your children that you’re curious and open to learning about people that have differing views and cultural experiences.
  • Take your children to the library regularly. Most libraries sponsor summer reading clubs with easy-to-reach goals for preschool and school-age children. Check the library calendar for special summer reading activities and events. Libraries also provide age appropriate lists for summer reading.  Check out Saline District Library: www.salinelibrary.org The teen program is all online this summer! On the Teen page is a fairly comprehensive list of books that all teens should read before starting high school Check it out!

Tips adapted from: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/summer-reading-tips-parents

Community Conversation – June 27th

June 26, 2017

Saline Area School Community,

With summer underway, I would like to host an impromptu  “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.

This is the first one I am trying over the summer (with short notice).

In an effort to continue this dialogue, I will be making time available on Tuesday, June 27th from 10:00am- 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.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

Summer Online Learning – Points to Consider

June 14, 2017

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Over the last few years, many Saline students have used the summer as an opportunity to take online courses.  The number has grown from 78 in 2014 to 192 (so far!) in 2017. Many students take summer classes to create more room/flexibility in a traditional high school schedule. Some take advantage of the credit recovery option. Others are intent upon advancement to a higher level of study in school. Whatever the reason, online classes taken during the summer help students keep their academic skills sharp. They appear more focused and ready to start school in the fall.

Here are a few key points to consider if you or your child/student is interested in taking an online course:  

Time Management – Students will need to learn and develop time management skills.  Faced with flexibility on when to work on their course, many students struggle to develop an effective pace to make the workload necessary to complete the course.  Studying for online is much the same as traditional – it still requires note taking, reading, etc.

Online = Easier – There is a common misconception that online is easier or faster than traditional courses.  Most often, they are not.  What is different is the flexibility that students have to learn at their own pace and complete assignments when they so choose.

Try Something New – Often, the coursework that is available online is not offered in the traditional classroom. Students can explore world cultures, languages, and specific areas of study that are of interest to them. Online learning can spark an area of interest or passion where the student was previously unaware.

Online courses are not an “instant” fix for students that have not been successful in traditional classrooms; it’s just a different way of presenting the material. Sometimes, tutoring is necessary, just as it might be for students taking taking traditional classes.

If you would like more information about online learning opportunities with Saline Area Schools, contact your child’s guidance counselor or Mrs. Carol Melcher at 734-401-4040. The application for summer online learning is available online. A list of available courses is included with the application. The summer session is short. If you’re interested in an online learning experience for your child, please enroll by June 20, 2017.

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