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Student Engagement – Is it the key?

February 16, 2018

Engagement

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

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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” .

 

Sincerely,

Scot Graden

Superintendent

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

February 8, 2018

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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.

 

School Quality Survey: Why It Matters

February 5, 2018

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Our students are always learning and growing, and it’s critical that Saline Area Schools learns and grows along with them. That’s why we conduct our School Quality Survey every school year.

This year’s survey launches today – February 5th.

It’s easy for me to say you should participate in this survey. (And you should!) But why?

Saline Area Schools is committed to community involvement, transparent decision making, and effective use of our resources. In that spirit, Saline Area Schools makes improvements based on what we learn from our stakeholders in the School Quality Survey. For example, previous survey results have led us to provide teachers with additional training on how to make lessons more relevant to student lives. We also updated our school menus to increase the variety of nutritious and delicious food options.

Now we need you to tell us what changes we should tackle next!

Participating is easy and entirely confidential. Just grab your computer, tablet, or smartphone, and click the survey link in your email invitation. Parents can also take the survey by going to http://tiny.cc/sasparentsurvey. The parent survey is offered in English and Spanish.

Have questions about the survey or how we use the results? Let’s Talk! I look forward to hearing from you!

If there is no wind, row…

February 3, 2018

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I have a poster of a Latin proverb hanging in my office. I am not sure where I first read it, but it says, “If there is no wind, row” – but I do know as soon as I read it, it resonated with me.  Whether it is in our personal life, professional life or the life of an organization like Saline Area Schools – we all face periods where there is no wind to fill our sails.  It is inevitable.

The success of a person or organization is often defined not by how they respond when the wind is blowing, but rather when it is not.  How do we react?  Are we able to dig in, grab an oar and row, or do we wait for the wind to return?

As a school district, we must be prepared to row.  Making progress for the benefit of the students and the community requires a mindset that does not stop when momentum is not on our side.  Even more important, we need to help our students develop the mindset of the being able to seize the moment when the wind stops.  They will face those moments throughout their lives.

The best way for the adults in the school community to help the students understand this concept is to model it. According to a recent Educational Leadership article, providing students with experiences that help them build their “reservoir of resilience” will serve them well in whatever they encounter in life.

Community Conversation – February 6th

January 19, 2018

Community Conversation

We have passed the halfway point of the 2017-2018 school year, 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 Tuesday, February 6th from 7:00pm- 8:30pm at the Saline District Library, 555 Maple Rd. 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

School Board members Deserve Recognition

January 18, 2018

 

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l to r: Scott Hummel, Karen Delhey, Paul Hynek, Tim Austin, Heidi Pfannes, Dennis Valenti, Michael McVey

As citizen leaders, our School Board Members face complex and demanding challenges.  They are often described as having the most important volunteer jobs in the country and continue to face the toughest challenges in elected American government.  School board members are regular citizens with extraordinary dedication to our nation’s public schools. As a leader and staff member at Saline Area Schools, I would like to recognize the vital contributions of these men and women and the crucial role they play in the education of our children.

Public education is the backbone of American Society, and local School Boards are deeply rooted in US tradition.  It is the foundation on which our democracy was built.  Today School Boards continue to do the most important work of their communities – that of educating our youth.

School board members come from a variety of backgrounds, yet they share a common goal – helping students achieve in school and life.  As a state, Michigan has faced many challenges, but the key to a brighter future is a strong public education system.

The month of January marks the annual observance of School Board Recognition Month.  This is a time to show our appreciation and begin to better understand how local trustees work together to prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders.  In January, please join me in thanking our Saline Area Schools Board of Education Members for their continued service to our students and community.

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