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Words from the Sup't: Dr. Rod Rock


New school year to take learning 'from the top'



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August 31, 2011 - There's much excitement in the air. Can you feel it?

The first serves and volleys, kicks, trots, races, and jumps of the fall athletic season recently commenced. The marching band perfected their steps. Students picked up their schedules, visited their teachers, met their classmates, and found their lockers.

School starts on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Teachers and staff returned to work on Monday, Aug. 29. I'm expecting to experience our best year ever!

We welcome new leaders at Springfield Plains, North Sashabaw, Clarkston Elementary, in our nutrition department, and at the high school (assistant principal).

We've hired three new interventionalists, who will serve students at each of our secondary buildings. We're also excited to welcome our new teachers, support staff members, and social workers.

You'll remember that last year, our district adopted new vision and mission statements and a learner profile.

Additionally, we're thinking beyond possible, serving as a partner within the community.

Soon, you'll see updates of intersections around the high school, which will happen in partnership with Independence Township and the Road Commission.

Our Career and Technical Education programs are developing new partnerships and learning opportunities with local businesses and Oakland University.

We plan on facilitating regular meetings with civic, not-for profit, governmental, and health care providers to build additional partnerships.

When your business, agency, or school encounters a need, think of the Clarkston Community Schools as your partner and ask us how we can serve you! Contact me please, so that we can think things through!

We expect to continue to expand our educational partnerships and horizons so that each of our students experiences a digitized, globalized, personalized, and customized education.

One example is a college class we'll offer this winter at CHS in partnership with Oakland Community College. CHS and RHS students can take this study-skills course for dual credit.

Another is CCS working in conjunction with Central Michigan University (CMU) to develop and deliver technology-based professional development to teachers.

The goal of this PD is to increase the technical literacy of the CCS staff while providing college credit to staff members who require it for re-certification.

Other partnership examples include potential connections with Everest Academy, Oakland Christian School, and Our Lady of the Lakes Academy in Waterford.

With 13 other Oakland County school districts and the Oakland Schools, we will begin this fall a Cultures of Thinking initiative with Harvard University.

This includes leadership sessions in the fall and teacher professional learning in the spring.

Several of our schools will pilot technology initiatives this year, including iPads, Netbooks, student response systems, and wireless environments.

Throughout the year, you can expect to hear about a possible technology bond that would enhance instructional technology across the district.

You'll also notice some dirt moving around the high school as the stadium and tennis facilities undergo some updates.

Finally, you'll want to tune into the Blessings in a Backpack initiative at Andersonville Elementary, which when fully operationalized will provide food to students on the weekends.

These initiatives will seek funding support throughout the year.

Our primary focus areas for continuous improvement this year include literacy, higher order thinking, using technology to enhance learning, and using data to inform instruction.

Much of this will take place as teachers work in grade-level and subject-area teams during our delayed-start Wednesdays.

Beyond this, we will work very hard to balance our budget; update our policies; improve efficiency and effectiveness of operations; measure the effectiveness of programs; evaluate teachers and administrators; support all learners; implement new laws and regulations; safely transport our students; and enhance our nutritional, athletic, human resource, special education, business, instructional, early childhood, and custodial and building and grounds services.

We seek to continuously and transparently communicate with you throughout the year. Please read the LINK, school newsletters, e-blasts, and other print communication that we send; check out our website (www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/education/components/scrapbook; follow my blog (rodrockon.blogspot.com) and tweets (@rodrock1); and attend school events and/or board meetings (or view them through our website).

Please also watch for community forums, which I intend to host at several locations during the year.

Our theme for this year is taking it from the top..., which has two meanings:

(1) the feeling of engaged learning is similar to the feeling of descending a sand dune, whereby our energy and momentum pull us forward, revealing new possibilities along the way; and

(2) deep learning is processed in our brains (at the top) and is a social, emotional, full-body experience wherein the heart rate increases, many areas of the brain light up, the eyes see, the ears hear, the nose smells, and the skin feels.

As we engage together in learning this year, our collective energy—like running down the hill—and the culture we co-create for learning—a culture of thinking and learning that engages the entire brain and body—will determine much of what gets learned and what gets learned about learning. Taking learning from the top—with parents, community members, instructional leaders, learners, staff, and faculty—each of us will experience an incredible school year.

I am here to serve the children, district, staff, parents, and community. Please feel free to contact me at rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us. I look forward to seeing you throughout the year!

Rod Rock, Ed.D., superintendent of Clarkston Community Schools

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