Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Athletic Recognition Committee

Q: I’ve heard that the school is forming an Athletic Recognition Committee.  How can I volunteer to be on it? -Community Member-

A: Thanks for the question and I am able to respond.
The Stephenson Board of Education is embarking on the task of having a consistent set of criteria for recognizing exemplary athletic accomplishment in a consistent format.  It would appear that over the years there has not been a consistent set of criteria to recognize exemplary athletic accomplishments.

At the April 25th Business Meeting the Stephenson Board of Education adopted the following recommendation: “It is the recommendation of the Superintendent that the board approve the formation of the Athletic Recognition Committee under the direction of Athletic Director Bryan Wickstrom.  Eligible committee members must be residents of the Stephenson Area Public School District or be employees of said district.  The Stephenson Area Public School Board of Education members shall submit potential committee candidates to President, Joe LaPointe no later than May 11, 2018.  A committee of up to three board members, the superintendent of schools and the athletic director shall recommend to the Stephenson Board of Education members to serve on said committee by May 16, 2018”.

If you have interest in being a member, please contact a board of education member quickly.  Current seated board of education members must have potential candidates to serve on this committee to President Joe LaPointe no later than May 11, 2018.

Thanks for the question

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Public Participation at Board Meetings

Q: When I go to a Board meeting and people talk to the Board why doesn’t the Board answer the questions or tell us anything? -Community Member-

A: I am happy to give my perspective.
Normally the Board of Education in Stephenson meets two times per month.  One meeting is a work session (Committee of the Whole) and one is a business meeting.  As part of the Open Meetings Act, the board is required to take or listen to public comment at least once during a public meeting when there is a quorum of the Board present.  The Stephenson Board of Education normally takes public comment twice during a meeting.

According to the district policy, public comment is to be directed to the Chair or Presiding Officer (normally the Board President).  I am including a copy of the Stephenson Area Public School District Policy (0167.3) in this response for your review.

There are many regulations that the Board must follow in regards to comments made while seated or acting in session.  Federal and State laws do not allow Board Members or employees of the district to answer question or comment on topics that may infringe upon a student or staff members “Rights”.  In my opinion, it is better for board members to listen to the questions or concerns, gather information and give a written response within a reasonable time frame to the individual who poses the question or concern.  The answer may be, “I cannot answer that question because it may infringe upon the rights of………

The commitment, by the Board, to be consistent regarding answering or not answering questions immediately is key.  I believe it is best for all parties if the Board will listen intently, gather information, communicate with the district’s attorney to make sure the response does not infringe upon a person’s “Rights” then give a written response.

We must remember that Board meetings are not “Fire Side Chats”.  The board meeting held in open public session to conduct the school districts business.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Last Day of School 2017-2018

Q: With the cancellation of school due to six snow days, two staff illness days and one day for the broken water main, when is the last scheduled day for students at Stephenson Area Public Schools?   –Parent-

A: I can answer this question, based on the information I received On April 30, 2018.

In the appeal process, to the Michigan Department of Education, I had to state specific reasons as to why Stephenson Area Public Schools was seeking the forgiveness of three instructional days.  I must say for the record that from my perspective, the effort of our students and staff this year has been extremely solid.  A commendable effort by students and staff is not a justifiable reason for the state to forgive three instructional days.

Based on the work that has been completed by the Stephenson Board of Education, District Strategic Planning Steering Committee and the Action Planning Teams, the Board had entered into a contract to undertake a brick renovation project on the Middle / High School building this summer.  We have planned and contracted for the mobilization of materials on June 7, 2018 and June 8 2018 and the start of the brick restoration project is slated to begin on June 11, 2018.

Based on the renovation schedule the state has forgiven the three days missed do to unforeseen condition and our last day for students barring any unforeseen situations will be June 6, 2018.

Thank you for your interest and patience throughout the school year.  The effort and commitment of students, staff, parent’s community members and members of the Strategic Planning process has been commendable.  We will continue to move forward in a positive direction to serve ALL students and care for the facilities that our community has so graciously provided.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Bus Drivers & Half Days

Q: Question towards half days.  Instead of two half days a month, can we have one day off per month for teacher in-services.  The half days twice a month are a waste of money. Plus, in a four and one- half hour day how much education can you teach when you have recess and lunch break.  So roughly three and a half hours to educate kids.  To heat or power the school.  To gas up buses.  Also how does a teacher make a daily planner on a half day?  Also for the majority both parents are working class people.  I want those to work better for everyone.  I also like to see better pay and more respect to our bus drivers. -Parent-

A: Great question.  I am able to respond to this question.  I will start at the end and work my way up through the question.

The portion regarding respect for our bus drivers, I believe our bus drivers are treated with respect and appreciated.  The district just ordered two new buses.  One of the priorities in purchasing the new buses was making sure we had high quality heated driver seat with lower back support and adjustments for comfort.  We specified options that would reduce the amount of reaching and twisting by drivers also.

Regarding the compensation of bus drivers, after approval of the Stephenson Area Public School Board of Education and numerous conversations with the uniserve director of the Michigan Education Association for this region, I submitted a proposed letter of agreement to the union on March 9, 2018 to increase compensation, benefits and incentives to attract and retain bus drivers.  I know the union is working on this but I have not received a verbal or written response as of today.
All public schools in the State of Michigan are required to schedule at least 180 days of instruction and 1098 hours of instruction in any combination.  The state of Michigan sets these rules.  A day is considered a day once school is in session and attendance is taken.  Scheduled or non-scheduled delayed starts or early releases still count as a day as long as a minimum of 75% of the students are in attendance according to state guidelines.

Regarding the heating of the building on half days, our building is still used on most half days for athletic or academic club practices or meetings.  The cost to set the heating controls back for a day or half day would be minimal.

The point of three and a half hour period of time to educate kids can be outstanding when planned correctly.  The shortened instructional time-frame is an outstanding time to introduce a new topic, spiral already taught content or give a shortened assessment.    The creativity of instruction is where it belongs, in the hands of the instructor.

Regarding recess and lunch; I am the reason we serve both breakfast and lunch on half days.  It is my request that when we are in session, that our students have the opportunity to have two meals served to them.

Regarding the gassing up of buses and the costs therein.  In order to have school we need to make two round trips daily with our buses.  This does not matter if we go a full day, delay or early release.
Why so many half day?  In my opinion one important ingredient that has been lacking at Stephenson Area Public Schools has been consistent and collaborative professional development.  I am speaking both to professional development revolving around instructional strategies and assessment practices as well as Professional development around School Improvement.   We cannot successfully build a house from the top down.  We successfully build houses from the foundation up.  We must make sure we have a solid foundation and work together from grade to grade to make sure we provide the best opportunity for our students.  Our professional development has been delivered very well and has received positive reviews from our teachers.

I appreciate the comment regarding this being difficult for working parents.  I have had similar conversations with other parents face to face and that is why we are offering extended care on half days.  Based on the feedback from parents, we will look to reduce the number of two half day per month schedule for professional development in the future.

Thanks for the question.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bees in the classroom

Q: Friday my son got stung by a bee in the classroom.  There has been a problem for a couple of weeks now with bees in the classroom.  I was wondering how the school can address this problem.

A: I am able to respond.
Last spring, I was made aware of concerns with yellow jackets, bees, wasps, etc.  Our Maintenance Director, Paul Starzynski and I did a couple of walkthroughs of the elementary building and grounds to observe and then destroy as many hives as we could find after dark.  This included the building, playground and storage shed areas. 

We had some concerns of potential areas around windows and fascia that could be contributing to unwanted insects entering the building.  We contracted with a firm to come in and caulk areas that we believed could be allowing unwanted insects into the building over the summer.
This is the first time I have heard of unwanted insects in the building since the start of the school year and I appreciate the information.

In the event that your student gets stung, your student needs to report this to the teacher immediately and building administrator.  I will E-Mail our staff today and remind them to communicate with our Maintenance Director, Paul Starzynski when students get stung or when unwanted insects are in the building.

I realize that some students are allergic to stings and we take these situations very serious.  If your child is allergic to stings please make sure that information is on their health records and if they need to carry an Epi pen please communicate this information to your student’s teacher and administrator.
Thanks for the question

Monday, April 23, 2018

Dress Code

Q: Is there any way to change the dress code for the following year?  If there is please contact me.  I would like to ask about leggings and dress for girls.  I think that the dress code is unfair for part of it but the other half is fair.  I think that some kinds of leggings should be band but, there are other leggings out there.  Girls should be allowed to wear dresses in the spring and early summer and to dances.  I do not understand what is so offensive about the shoulders; to me there are many restraints that girls have to deal with when picking out clothes for school.  I thought that kids in Stephenson Middle and High School were allowed to show and be creative about what they wear and express how they are feeling and the best way to do that is to express yourself through clothing.    Please contact me about being able to change or bend the dress code. –Student-

A: Thanks for the question and thanks for being proactive, professional and polite.  I will do my best to answer this question.

As I reflect on the Mission Statement of Stephenson Area Public Schools: “Stephenson Area Public Schools provides a safe environment to educate, challenge and inspire all students to be lifelong learners”.  The first thing the district needs to do is make sure that attire worn by students, staff and visitors is safe for different learning and social environments within the district.  Different students choose to take different courses such as shop / vocational offerings, band, art, physical education and work study.  The dress code needs to be inclusive enough to give reasonable assurances that the school environment is safe.

Effective School Research is research that is utilized extensively within our district here in Stephenson.  One of the correlates of this research is, “Safe and Orderly Environment”.  Without safety and order, educational institutions would not be able to attain their mission.  Does the attire that schools allow to be worn impact order within the educational environment?  Attire worn by students, staff and visitors surely can impact the order of the learning environment. 
We are currently working with local business and industry leaders regarding work rule expectations within their facilities.  It would appear that in many businesses there are work rules.  We have sought and will continue to seek samples of work rules, “expectations from potential future employers”.  One of the goals of Stephenson Area Public Schools is to have 100% of our students “work ready”.  Parts of being work ready are being safe, orderly and consistently follow work rules.  Work rules include appropriate attire for the work place.  We understand that different occupations require different attire but the ability and willingness to comply and abide by the employer’s expectations including attire, is a skill that needs to be modeled and practiced each day while attending school.  I believe that every employee does not always agree with the expectation of ownership or management regarding appropriate attire for the work setting.

At Stephenson Area Public Schools, we acknowledge that time and location is a major factor in many of the choices and decisions that occur here.  We acknowledge that at different times and in different locations different attire is appropriate.  What is appropriate dress for the traditional school day may not be appropriate for prom, district solo and ensemble, BPA competition, a field trip to Tyco or the Christmas concert.  The attire for welding class is not the same attire that is required for success in physical education class.  The traditional school day is the students work environment for approximately 6.5 hours per day.  Having a dress code that is safe and orderly, comfortable and reasonable may not always align with the latest style, fashion or individual interest.  I agree that individual preference of attire may not always be allowed at school or in the work environment.
Our goal is to be safe and orderly as we prepare students for the real world work environment.  The real world work environment will have rules and expectations of many things including but not limited to appropriate attire for the conditions and situations.

Thanks for the question and thanks for approaching this in a very professional manner.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

School Safety Drills

Q: My child comes home and will tell me they had a code yellow or another school has a code red. What does that mean? -Parent-

A: I am able to answer this question.

One of the requirements that K-12 public school must comply with are, “School Safety Drills”.  Stephenson Area Public Schools are required to schedule and practice safety preparedness such as Fire Drills 2 drills required each school year, Severe Weather Drills 2 drills required each school year, Shelter in Place Drills / Cod Red and Lock-down Drills / Code Yellow (a total of 3 in any combination of Shelter in Place, Code Yellow or Code Red required each school year).  The scheduling and execution of these drills are recorded and reported to the Michigan Department of Education annually. Documentation of drills can be found on our Stephenson Area Public Schools website labeled "Emergency Drills".

What is Code Yellow?  Code Yellow is a required drill where districts lock all exterior doors as well as classroom doors.  Business goes on as usual within the classrooms and offices.  Students and staff are not allowed to leave the classrooms or offices without escort.  When does a code yellow occur?  “Code Yellow Drills” occur when there is a tip from law enforcement or credible source that there is a “potential threat” within the region or area.

What is Code Red?  “Code Red” is also a required safety drill where districts lock exterior doors as well as classroom doors and there is a state-endorsed safety pin that in attached to the door and floor.  During these drills students and staff move to a predetermined place within the facility, remain silent and remain in the predetermined area until the “Code Red” is lifted.  “Code Red” is used when there is “Reasonable Suspicion” that a threat is within the region of area.  During the required “Code Red” Drill, Law Enforcement is present to observe and check to make sure the drill is being run as required by state expectations.  During the times of actual “Code Red” situations / non-drill, law enforcement works diligently to have a presence in the immediate area of schools.  This presence is either on patrol outside the building or a presence within the building.

I hope this answers your question.