Source: Sherman Publications

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Words from the Sup't
Superintendent views as school year gets underway

September 21, 2011

We're two weeks into the school year. I hope the experience is excellent so far for everyone! Here's a quick update.

Developmental Days

On Sept. 23, we'll have our first Developmental Day of the year. Herein, our elementary teachers will engage in AIMSWeb (which is a literacy assessment) training, examining the literacy data generated through the assessment of all K-5 students since the beginning of the school year. At the same time, a principal and a teacher from each K-12 building will attend a leadership training with Harvard University researchers Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church.

The topic is Cultures of Thinking, which our district will undertake this year. The Clarkston Community Schools will host this training, including educators from 13 other Oakland County school districts.

In all four of our secondary school buildings during the a.m. session, teachers will work in Professional Learning Communities to address school-wide initiatives, including literacy, data, identifying essential learnings around which to teach, and school culture. In addition to this, Sashabaw Middle School will view demonstration lessons in Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, Mi-CLASS, and Cultures of Thinking. Renaissance High School's teachers will examine a video on 21st Century Skills and work on integrating technology into the classroom with the use of web pages, Google Docs, and etc. Subject area coordinators will continue their work with secondary teachers in the afternoon on creating essentials, developing common assessments, and determining how to measure student growth.

Thank you for giving our teachers this critical time to work together. We will use it to further our district's mission, vision, and learner profile.

State Assessments

Last week, Michigan's State Board of Education announced changes in cut scores for the MEAP (grades 3-9) and the MME (grade 11). Essentially, students must now score significantly higher to achieve proficiency status. These changes will have a significantly negative effect on proficiency rates for all schools in Michigan. Subsequently, students' test scores will affect Adequate Yearly Progress, meaning that more schools, due to declining test scores, will fall below required levels of annual improvement, and will face sanctions. Our Clarkston Community Schools' will continue to work very hard and we fully expect our students to excel. If you're interested in seeing the predicted drop levels in scores across Oakland County, please see the CCS website.

Pending Legislation

The state legislature is proposing the elimination of the personal property tax. For the Clarkston Community Schools, this could mean a $300,000+ reduction in funding through our ISD.

Additionally, the elimination of this tax means a loss of up to $200 per pupil in revenue collected locally, which the state is required to reimburse back to our district. Given the tough economic times in Michigan, it is a slippery slope to think that the state will have the revenue to fill this gap. It is also troubling to think that the state may attach future revenue increases to student achievement levels. Another disconcerting fact is that local units of government face even larger losses in revenue through the elimination of the Personal Property Tax. You'll find more information at the CCS website.

Parent Choice Legislation

Both the federal and state governments are considering allowing additional charter schools to open, which is designed to give parents more educational options for their children, despite the fact that they spend more on administration, perform at a lower level, and do provide expansive special education services (see more information on the CCS website). Also, Michigan's state government is considering the opening of schools of choice for every school district in the state. This means that children from other districts could potentially come to Clarkston at any grade level or in any program that has open seats. As you're aware, our district has selected to participate in schools of choice only on a limited basis wherein we can set the entrance requirements. Last month, your Board of Education passed a resolution against expanded schools of choice.

Right to Work and Privatizing Teaching

Other potential legislation at the state level includes allowing teachers the right to opt out of unions and giving schools the option of employing teachers through a third party. I strongly oppose both of these ideas as I believe that the Clarkston Education Association offers efficiency of scale, truly wants the best for kids, and provide an excellent education for our students. Further, I want Clarkston to employ our own teachers. It may make sense in some cases for other, smaller, non-teaching groups to work through a third party, provided that we can continue to employ our great people. Privatizing teachers, in my opinion, is simply a bad idea that de-professionalizes teaching.

If you have an opinion on these issues, please contact your legislator at the state and/or federal level. Please also feel free to share your opinions with me.

Life Lessons

I'm exceedingly honored to call myself a Clarkston Wolf and I tremendously enjoy watching our student-athletes compete. I know that our football team, under the expert and high character leadership of Kurt Richardson and his excellent staff, will work very hard to overcome the challenges they've encountered early in the season. As we adults know from our playing days, there's nothing quite like being a member of a successful team. These are the relationships and competitive moments that shape our character. As with every loss, tackle behind the line of scrimmage, fourth and short, or potential game-clinching play, our football team will stand together and confidently overcome the obstacles that stand between them and their goals. I believe that, in their future, this team will fondly remember the 2011 football season wherein they collectively accomplished something extraordinary. And I know that I will feel fortunate to have been one of their fans. Go Wolves!

Many thanks to our teachers and principals, bus drivers, support staff, food service personnel, secretaries, custodians, building and grounds crew, safety personnel, crossing guards, technology staff, central office personnel, and all others for their great work with kids. I want to give a special shout out to our Deputy Superintendent, Mr. Shawn Ryan, who, along with his leadership team, is conceptualizing an amazing structure for continuous learning and sustainable excellence. Way to go, Mr. Ryan.

If there's ever any way that I can be of direct service to you, please contact me at rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us

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