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Study sought input on direction for Brandon



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August 20, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- More than 300 families responded to a survey about the school district, giving insight about what they like and don't like and providing valuable information as new Superintendent Matt Outlaw seeks to lead the district in a positive direction.

"I feel really good about the feedback we got from the survey," said Outlaw. "The whole purpose was to get a flavor of where we are as a district to know what we need to do in the future. We achieved that, and will continue to talk, but I am pleased. There is room for improvement and with some easy and calculated steps, we can really address a lot of the concerns that parents have right now."

During a presentation at the school board's Aug. 18 meeting, Outlaw summarized the Brandon Feedback and Study Initiative, in which 87 families that had left the district in the past year were contacted, and meetings with them, as well as staff, parents, alumni, community leaders and business owners were also conducted.

The study sought areas of concern to district shareholders, as well as areas that are valued, and suggestions for improvement.

Respondents praised district teachers, community and family values, appropriate class sizes and personalized attention, programs offered including the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy, the Brandon Academy, online classes, and robotics, as well as building principals.

The top 10 areas for improvement (in order) were: learning environment for students; alignments of priorities— "serving this community first"; responsiveness to concerns/customer service; improving quality (test scores, reputation, academics); increasing expectations/challenge for middle and top/improving honors/accelerated pathway; enhancing teacher quality/use of instructional time/teacher time out of the classroom/teacher turnover; communication; financial/operational stability needed; need to plan for the future; and the need for elementary foreign language classes.

Other various concerns included the impact of mainstreaming, specific personnel, athletics quality, specific behavior concerns, math curriculum, common core curriculum, new programs and operational concerns. In all, 73 different concerns were raised in the survey feedback.

Outlaw plans to take immediate action on many of the concerns by conducting reviews, convening study groups, and implementing new protocols. Issues that he hopes to resolve quickly include more challenging offerings for students.

"We need to have a K-12 vision for the accelerated program, and make sure we are able to challenge all students across the district," he said. "Use of instructional time— there are some easy things there... Principals working closer with teachers, making sure we are not taking them out of the class too often. Elementary language— let's study it and if it makes sense and is what the community wants, let's do it."

The three target areas he and staff will work on are improving quality in all aspects in the district; improving customer service; and planning for the future.

One of the ways he plans to do that is through forming the group "Brandon 2025" which will consist of parents, teachers and administrators with the goal of envisioning where the district should be in 10 years and how to get there.

He is hoping to recruit members for the group and have the first meeting of Brandon 2025 by the end of September.

"I will be the facilitator of the group, we will do activities and have dialogue," he said. "We will break it into sub groups to study different areas— with one looking at facilities, another at curriculum and instruction, and another athletics. As a group, we'll come back with a comprehensive plan that should be the basis for budgeting and planning for years in the future."

For more information, contact Matt Outlaw at 248-627-1802.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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