Superintendent's Blog

  • District Closure Update

    Posted by Adam Spina on 3/20/2020 12:35:00 PM

    It is hard to believe it was just a week ago when school was open and we were watching the high school basketball playoffs and the 4/5th grade play. This is truly a unique situation for all of us. I am extremely grateful for the selfless service of our custodial and maintenance departments, as well as our bus drivers and members of our food service team who have provided over 1,000 meals to children this Wednesday - Friday alone. 

    “Unprecedented” is a word that was used often this week. This is true in many ways, including the status of education in Michigan. The administrative team sifted through 14 policy directives from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) alone, as well as numerous state-level executive orders and guidance documents from the Office of Civil Rights and many other governmental entities. Additionally, district leadership participated in conference calls with national and state professional associations, MDE leadership, and Governor Whitmer. We continue to collaborate with leaders from throughout the county to address unforeseen issues and solve problems. There are still many unknowns at all levels, we are working diligently to plan and prepare for the future based on the information we have available. 

    Significant questions remain (as of this being written) regarding educational access and equity during the closure period. Contingency planning is taking place in order to prepare the District for remote instruction should that become an allowable option. To assist in our preparations, please participate in the Online Capability Survey if you have not done so already. The survey will close Friday, March 20th at 5:00 pm.

    Additionally, visit the “Learners” global icon on any district webpage to access customized school level enrichment and enhancement educational resources. The page also includes information on special Internet pricing, AP testing, the District Meal Plan, and many other topics. Check the site often as more resources will be added in the future.

    Scenes from Around the District:

    The WCS food service team, bus drivers, and volunteers prepare for the first day of the meal plan:

    WCS Meal Plan, MAR 2020

    The custodial and maintenance teams begin sanitizing district facilities:

    Facilities Cleaning, March 2020

    Facilities Cleaning, March 2020

    Facilities Cleaning, March 2020

    Comments (-1)
  • Upcoming Area Road Construction

    Posted by Adam Spina on 3/11/2020 8:35:00 AM

    The District has received notice from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) regarding area road construction projects that will take place this spring and summer. While the exact start and completion dates are subject to change, several of these projects might interfere with our normal bus routes. We are currently conducting an assessment of the impact the projects will have and looking for solutions that will minimize changes. If it is determined that a modification will be made to your child’s bus route, you will be contacted by the Transportation Department prior to that change taking place. Otherwise, I hope this information is useful for planning school drop off/pick up, daily commutes, or any other applicable reason. 

    It is also an opportune time to remind the community that we are hiring (and very much in need of) bus drivers. For substitute drivers, the District is offering up to a $3,000 bonus. If you know someone interested, please have them contact Mrs. Pam VanSickler at vansicp@gowcs.net to find out more details.

    Upcoming Road Construction Projects Per MDOT:

    Contract Description:  Bridge rehabilitation including deep overlay, deck patching, expansion joint replacement, epoxy overlay, healer/sealer, pin and hanger replacement, rocker realignment, partial painting, beam end repair, structure repair, slope protection repair, approach pavement replacement and pavement marking on 9 bridges along I-96 from Hagadorn to Wallace Road, Ingham County.

    Overall Project Schedule:  March 16, 2020 - October 30, 2020

    Bridge Locations Include:

    Hagadorn Rd over I-96

    Traffic Impacts: Full closure and detour

    Detour Route: Sandhill Rd - College Rd - Jolly Rd

    Duration: March 16 - End -April (4-6 weeks)

    Zimmer Rd over I-96

    Traffic Impacts: Full closure and detour

    Detour Route:  Holt Rd - Williamston Rd - Linn Rd

    Duration:  End-March to Mid-May (4-6 weeks)

    *Zimmer Rd will be closed on March 19 and 20 between 9 am and 2 pm for tree trimming.

    Meridian Rd over I-96

    Traffic Impacts: Full closure and detour

    Detour Route: Holt Rd - Okemos Rd - Jolly Rd

    Duration:  Mid-April to End-May (4-6 weeks)

    *Ingham County will be closing 1-mile sections between Holt Rd and Jolly Rd for reconstruction from Early May - End of August

    Williamston Rd over I-96

    Traffic Impacts:  2-way traffic maintained with temporary signal.

     

    • EB I-96 exit ramp to NB Williamston Rd to be CLOSED.  Traffic will be detouring to EB I-96 exit ramp to SB Williamston Rd (Dansville Exit) - left turns will be allowed during the closure.
    • NB Williamston Rd entrance ramp to WB I-96 will be CLOSED.  Traffic will be detoured to EB I-96 - M-52 - WB I-96.

     

    Duration:  4 months to start after completion of Zimmer Rd

    EB I-96 over M-52 & WB I-96 over M-52

    Traffic Impacts:  Single lane closures in each direction on M-52

    Duration:  3 months, start date TBD

    Elm Rd over I-96

    Traffic Impacts: Full closure and detour

    Detour Route: Holt Rd - M-52 (Stockbridge Rd) - Grand River Ave

    Duration:  4 - 6 weeks to start after completion of Hagadorn Rd (Late May - June)

    Wallace Rd over I-96

    Traffic Impacts: Full closure and detour

    Detour Route: Van Orden Rd - Elm Rd - Grand River Ave

    Duration:    4 - 6 weeks to start after completion of Elm Rd (Late June - July)

    **College Rd over I-96

    Traffic Impacts: Full closure and detour

    Detour Route:  Sandhill Rd - College Rd - Jolly Rd

    Duration: 2 - 3 weeks, start date TBD

    **Dietz Rd over I-96

    Traffic Impacts: Full closure and detour

    Detour Route:  Grand River Avenue - M-52 - Holt Rd

    Duration: 2 - 3 weeks, start date TBD

    **These bridges will likely be added to this contract, more details to come once the scope of work is better defined.

    Additional Notes:

    EB & WB I-96 will be down to 1 lane in each direction over 2 weekends at M-52, most likely in September.

    Hagadorn, Meridian and Zimmer Roads will require an additional 3-4 day closure to apply the epoxy overlay.

    Scenes from Around the District:

    Bella, a WHS Junior, has her artwork posted on billboards in the Lansing area:

    WHS Student Artwork on Display on Area Billboards, 2020

    The Elementary Art Club displays their TEAM mural at Explorer Elementary:

    TEAM Mural at Explorer Elementary

    Advanced Placement (AP) English Language and Composition students work through a Saturday morning AP practice assessment in Mr. Duffey’s classroom:

    AP Test Practice at WHS

    Comments (-1)
  • COVID-19 Resources:

    Posted by Adam Spina on 3/3/2020 1:35:00 PM

    In addition to the information provided in our community letter earlier this week, below is a list of resources pertaining to coronavirus (COVID-19). 

    • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, link here
    • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Coronavirus Website, link here
    • Ingham County Health Department Website, link here
    • Ingham County Intermediate School District Coronavirus Website, link here
    • Cartoon strip for elementary-age students to help explain the virus, link here

    As noted previously, it is important to focus on information from reputable sources. Updates pertaining to WCS will come directly from official district communication mediums, not from social media rumors. We will continue to monitor the situation and formulate potential decisions on district operations based on guidance and recommendations from national, state, and local health officials. 

    In the meantime, the District is taking short-term steps to keep facilities sanitized. Additional containers of disinfecting wipes have been distributed to wipe down keyboards and other similar areas of classrooms. Disinfectant spray bottles are in the process of being distributed to all teachers to use within their classrooms and additional hand sanitizer dispensers are being installed at the high school.    

    Seen below, a new sanitization machine is utilized to disinfect district buses:

    Bus sanitizing, March 2020

    Scenes from Around the District:

    Posters promoting the upcoming Explorer Elementary production of Peter Pan in the elementary campus breezeway:

    Peter Pan Play Posters, 2020

    Comments (-1)
  • Odds and Ends

    Posted by Adam Spina on 2/26/2020 12:35:00 PM

    A Great Employment Opportunity for Families Who Do Student Drop-off or Pick-up:

    The Williamston Police Department is seeking a responsible adult to assist with crossing guard duties at the corner of Riverside and Highland across from the elementary campus. If you are a parent who drops students off in the morning or picks students up in the afternoon, you might be interested in making some extra money for a short amount of work. We can assist you by providing a safe place for your child to wait. The morning shift is from 8:00-8:30 and the afternoon shift is from 3:00-3:30. For more information, contact Chief Bob Young at bob.young@williamston-mi.us.

    Join us for Kindergarten Orientation on Tuesday, March 3 at Discovery Elementary:

    Kindergarten Orientation, 2020

    Snow Day Petitions:

    Of all the creative ways students (and some adults) have petitioned me for a snow day this winter, these might be my favorites:

    Snow Day Petition

    Snow Day Petition

    Scenes from Around the District:

    Set building at Williamston High School for the upcoming production of The Little Mermaid on March 6 and 7 at 7:00 pm:

    Set Building for Little Mermaid, 2020

    Elephant Poster Parade by Young 5s students at Discovery Elementary:

    Elephant Poster Parade

    The 2020 Education Wins Raffle Draw. Congratulations to the winners of the combined total of $9,000 and thanks to all who contributed to the Williamston Schools Foundation in support of this event:

    WSF Raffle Draw, 2020

    Comments (-1)
  • Be Nice Student Mental Health Presentation

    Posted by Adam Spina on 2/18/2020 4:35:00 PM

    I invite all Williamston Community members to attend our Be Nice Student Mental Health event on Friday, February 21 during the home varsity basketball games. The evening will include several events including the annual Williamston Schools Foundation Raffle Drawing and the last home game of the season for our basketball teams. Williamston is teaming up with Haslett High School, a fellow Be Nice school, to break through the stigma and send a message of support to students from both schools who might be struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health matters. Students from the WHS Be Nice committee will conduct a presentation on student mental health between games, at approximately 7:30 pm. Be Nice committee members will also be available in the athletic wing lobby with information about how they are supporting the District’s student mental health initiative throughout the evening. 

    During the past two years, WCS has invested considerable resources in professional development for staff as well as community outreach regarding this topic. This has included efforts such as the implementation of a student trauma working group and partnering with numerous state and national mental health experts to share information with staff, students, and parents.

    Pictured below, WCS hosts educators from throughout Ingham County for a seminar on student trauma, presented by Dr. Stephanie Grant:

    Seminar on Student Trauma At Williamston High School

    One of the most impactful initiatives, however, is the student-led Be Nice program at our middle and high school buildings. The program gives students the opportunity to assume a high profile leadership role while developing innovative strategies to spread the message of Notice, Invite, Challenge, and Empower. 

    View the video here to learn more about the tenets of the Be Nice program at Williamston High School.

    I look forward to seeing you for what will be an informative (and fun) evening. Thank you in advance for your support of this important initiative.

    If you are unable to attend the event February 21, our Be Nice faculty advisors will be presenting the Board of Education with an update on the initiative at their regular meeting scheduled for 7:00 pm on Monday, March 2.

    Be Nice Basketball Event, 2020

    Scenes from Around the District:

    The Williamston Wrestling Team celebrates winning the district championship:

    Wrestling District Champions, 2020

    Children's author Kelly DiPucchio presents to students at Explorer Elementary, an enrichment experience funded by the elementary PTSA:

    Explorer Elementary Author Visit, 2020

    Williamston High School students participated in Teen Court where they deliberated on six different cases as part of a Restorative Justice opportunity for teenagers who have committed a crime:

    Teen Court, 2020

    Comments (-1)
  • County School Safety Parent Letter

    Posted by Adam Spina on 2/12/2020 12:35:00 PM

    School safety is the top priority both here in Williamston and for districts across the county. The letter below represents a joint message from the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, all Ingham Law Enforcement Officials, and District Superintendents. The main goal of the letter is to encourage parents to have age-appropriate conversations with their children regarding school safety, particularly around the use of social media. It might also be a reminder to check in on your child’s social media accounts and ensure their online interactions are appropriate and safe. As I have noted in the past, school safety is a team effort. Our parents, community members, and first responders are essential to maintaining a positive and productive learning environment for our students. The message from the prosecutor’s office is clear, threats will not be considered “jokes,” and students will be held accountable. Reports regarding school safety can be made to school administration, local law enforcement, or anonymously via Okay2Say.

    The letter has been mailed to the parents of Williamston students and posted to the Announcements tab on the District homepage.

    School Safety Parent Letter

    Scenes from Around the District:

    The undefeated boys’ swim team competes during a home meet:

    Boys Swimming, 2020

    Fifth-grade students from Explorer Elementary visit the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University:

    Explorer Students at Abrams Planetarium, 2020

    The girls and boys basketball teams recognize members of the community who are fighting cancer during the 2020 Coaches vs. Cancer game:

    Coaches vs. Cancer Game, 2020

    Upcoming Be Nice Event:

    Be Nice Basketball Event

    Comments (-1)
  • Leaders in STEAM and February District Podcast

    Posted by Adam Spina on 2/4/2020 4:05:00 PM

    February District Podcast:

    February 2020 District Podcast

    The February District Podcast can be listened to here.

    _______________________________

    Leaders in STEAM:

    When WCS began its K-12 STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) initiative four years ago, we had several goals we were looking to achieve. Those objectives included:

    1. Establish/market the District as a progressive and relevant leader in STEAM education
    2. Increase STEAM-related integration opportunities throughout the District
    3. Close the gender gap at our high school regarding enrollment in STEAM-related courses
    4. Add evidence-based educational opportunities for all students at our elementary and secondary buildings

    Through the commitment of our staff and the support of the community much has been accomplished. The following are some of the highlights of the initiative thus far:

    WHS math and computer science teacher Ray Herek monitors student work in class:

    Ray Herek monitors student work during math class at WHS.

    • Creation of the Elementary Campus STEAM Lab, winner of the 2019 MASB/SET SEG Education Excellence Award

    Students explore coding in the Elementary STEAM lab:

    Students explore coding at the elementary STEAM lab

    • Revitalization of the District Spring Arts Showcase
    • Addition of two Code.org elective classes at WMS

    A Williamston Middle School student engages with a coding lesson:

    A Williamston Middle School student engages in a coding lesson

    • Initiating the District’s high school and middle school First Robotics Teams

    First Robotics Team vehicle under construction in the Robotics Lab at Williamston High School:

    First Robotics Team vehicle under construction

    • Constructing the WMS Innovation Labs
    • Designing the WHS Robotics Lab
    • Full alignment to the new Michigan Science Standards, the first area district to do so
    • One of four Districts in Michigan selected to partner with Michigan Virtual University on implementing blended instruction
    • Begin the redesign of classroom spaces to include flexible seating and interactive technologies that remove the traditional “point of instruction” 

    These new opportunities were added to a firm STEAM foundation already in place within the District. Examples of long-standing student opportunities include elementary arts integration, Project Lead the Way Design and Modeling at Williamston Middle School, and the Math/Science Academy, InvenTeam, and Innovative Vehicle Design team at Williamston High School. 

    More work remains to be done, but the District has made significant progress on its pledge to be a leader in STEAM education. I look forward to sharing more about this initiative in the future.

    Scenes from Around the District:

    Student artwork on display at the 2020 MSUFCU Art Exhibition:

    Student artwork on display at the 2020 MSUFCU Art Exhibition

    WCS Track Coach Mitch Lutzke is inducted into the MITCA Hall of Fame:

    WCS Track Coach Mitch Lutzke is inducted into the MITCA Hall of Fame:

    WCS Board of Education Members are Recognized with Williamston Schools Foundation Hornet Awards:

    WCS Board of Education Members are Recognized with Williamston Schools Foundation Hornet Awards

     

    Comments (-1)
  • The Educator Shortage in Michigan

    Posted by Adam Spina on 1/28/2020 7:05:00 PM

    Over winter break the following editorial was published in the Lansing State Journal, written by Ingham County Superintendent Jason Mellema. The piece focuses on the labor market for educators in Michigan and the growing concern of a teacher shortage in our state. With permission, I am relaying this article as the issues it discusses are beginning to impact even very successful districts such as ours. While the solutions are indeed complex and multifaceted, I feel Mr. Mellema’s article provides appropriate situational awareness regarding the issues we face when trying to attract and retain the very best educators and administrators to serve our students here in Williamston. 

    Keep reading after the conclusion of the article for a unique way to recognize an educator at WCS who has been influential in the education of your child or has contributed in other ways to the success of the District and the Williamston Community.    

    Teacher Shortage Creates Problems; Let's Focus on Solutions

    With the economy roaring and unemployment at historic lows, many industry sectors are struggling to find great employees. The education community has been hit with the same challenges. In addition, the pipeline for future educators – teacher preparation programs – have seen a dramatic decrease in student enrollment. Data from the U.S. Department of Education, shows Michigan has had an over 70% decrease in enrollment in teacher preparation programs between the 2008-09 and 2016-17 school years. To be blunt, we have a teacher shortage problem.

    In a 2017 white paper published by the Michigan Department of Education, Trends in Michigan Teacher Certification, 9,964 initial certificates were issued for teachers during the peak school year of 2003-04. By 2015-16, the number of initial certificates had dropped 62% to 3,696. According to count data on MISchoolData.org, the student population dropped approximately 11% during the same time period. This has led to a significant increase in long-term substitutes in the classroom with a cost to the quality of education for students. A recent long-term substitute study by Bridge Magazine reports that, “more than 2,500 Michigan classrooms were led by long-term substitutes who weren’t certified teachers in the 2018-19 school year – a stunning tenfold increase in just five years.” Many of these long-term subs aren’t highly qualified or certified, but rather people who are interested in helping kids. This makes a difference in the quality of education our students are receiving.

    Unlike the private sector, education does not have the ability to increase pay by producing more widgets, nor raise prices on our product – the student and their families – to reflect high demand. Rather, funding is tied to the per-pupil aid determined by our legislators and the number of students we are serving.

    Further complicating the matter are changes our legislators made to overall benefits, restrictions on school retirees entering the classroom, approximately 100 new public school academies/charters since 2003-04, competition between districts for staff and those educators that have left the profession. Noting the challenges impacting the ecosystem, waiting for the dust to settle seems like professional malpractice as current students are stuck.

    So how do we solve this?

    While the teacher shortage has been exacerbated in recent years, the reality is that it has taken us years to get to this point, and it will take a concerted effort and time to improve. The issue becomes focusing on what we can control. K-12 public school districts have been partnering with higher education institutions and research partners to help with preparation for those coming into the field. Within Ingham Intermediate School District and throughout the state, conversations are happening about how to improve onboarding programs and retention of staff. We continue to reach out and encourage our legislators to help find solutions to allow retirees back into the profession, especially in critical shortage areas like special education and math. Finally, if we can all agree on the goal of our children having a world-class education that allows them to reach their dreams, we must recognize that improving perception around public education is about us – all of us – within our community.

    Collectively, we can make a difference. Drop a note of thanks to teachers who work tirelessly, a simple thank you to the staff who work to keep the building and grounds clean, or a handshake to the administration are all ideas to help educators know that you appreciate what they do. Please join me in recognizing the educators who are making a positive impact on students every day.

     

    Jason Mellema,

    Superintendent

    Ingham Intermediate School District

    ________________________________________________


    Despite the very real challenges Mr. Mellema presents, we are fortunate to have a talented and dedicated team of educators at WCS. Join me in recognizing those who are making that “positive impact” right here in Williamston by nominating them for a Hornet Award. Hornet Awards support the Williamston Schools Foundation and are a great way to say “thank you” to a teacher, para-professional, secretary, custodian, bus driver, or any other member of the WCS team who is deserving of such an accolade. Hornet Awards can be ordered online at https://williamstonschoolsfoundation.org/hornet-awards/ or by selecting the link here.

    Hornet Award Nomination Form

    Comments (-1)
  • Special Education Headlee Restoration

    Posted by Adam Spina on 1/23/2020 6:35:00 PM

    The Ingham Intermediate School District has proposed a Headlee Restoration which will appear on the March 10, 2020, ballot for all voters who are residents of the Ingham ISD service area. The goal of the proposal is to restore the special education millage originally passed in 1988 which has since eroded due to property value caps set by the Headlee Amendment. If approved, the ballot proposal would restore .2438 mill to fund special education services at the rate originally approved by voters. 

    During the 2018-2019 school year, Williamston utilized $493,322 out of its general operating budget in order to fully fund special education staffing and programming in the District. If the Headlee Restoration is approved by voters, it would still not fully fund special education at WCS but would significantly offset the number of general fund dollars that are diverted to support special education needs.  

    Ingham ISD has posted extensive information about the ballot initiative on its website. Resources include additional information about how the Headlee Amendment impacts school funding, information on voting, the potential cost to Ingham County residents, and a Frequently Asked Questions section. There are also flyers on the initiative located at the offices of all school buildings and the enrichment office.

    The ballot language for the proposal is listed below in its entirety: 

    INGHAM INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DISTRICT SPECIAL EDUCATION MILLAGE PROPOSAL

    (RESTORATION OF HEADLEE REDUCTION)

     This proposal requests additional millage to permit the continued levy by the intermediate school district of the maximum mills for special education previously approved by the electors.

    Shall the current charter limitation on the annual property tax rate for the education of students with a disability in Ingham Intermediate School District, Michigan, be increased by 0.2438 mill ($0.2438 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 20 years, 2020 to 2039, inclusive (this increase will allow the intermediate school district to levy the maximum rate of 4.75 mills previously approved by the electors that has been reduced as required by the Michigan Constitution of 1963); the estimate of the revenue the intermediate school district will collect if the millage is approved and levied in 2020 is approximately $2,300,000 from local property taxes authorized herein?

    District Vacancies:

    Please see our Human Resources page on the website or select the link here for more information.

    WCS is supporting the employment of an additional school crossing guard through the Williamston Police Department. Contact Chief Bob Young at bob.young@williamston-mi.us if interested in learning more.

    Scenes from Around the District:

    Students and staff wear blue at last week’s basketball game in support of Haslett High School after the loss of their principal, Bart Wegenke:

    Blue Out in Support of Haslett High School

    Students draw prizes for reaching their reading goals from the treasure chest at the Discovery Elementary Library. The incentive program is a new aspect of the elementary “Reading Hall of Fame” and is sponsored by the PTSA and donations from parents:

    Reading Hall of Fame Treasure Box at Discovery Elementary

    The National Anthem performed at Williamston High School before the start of the 2020 Mooney Classic:

    National Anthem Performed at the 2020 Mooney Classic

    Comments (-1)
  • Transportation Vacancies

    Posted by Adam Spina on 1/14/2020 3:25:00 PM

    Happy New Year! As we reach the half-way mark in the school year and close out the first semester, we are happy to welcome 18 new students to the District. 

    The District has been involved in a careful analysis of transportation resources over the last several years. The short and long-term planning involved with this process has been responsible for the majority of the District’s bus fleet being replaced with new vehicles as well as allocating resources to significantly upgrade the transportation garage. This process will continue into the future to include assessments of routes, costs, and ridership.

    District enrollment is now at a point where we can justify adding an additional daily bus route. The benefits of adding a route include a decrease in travel time and more capacity. We are in a somewhat unique position of having enough buses in the current fleet to support an additional route, but we do not have enough bus drivers. We are interested in hiring an additional regular driver and more substitute drivers. The District will pay for all training and licensing expenses. For substitute drivers, there is also a bonus of up to $3,000 based on the number of routes driven. If you know anyone who might be interested in joining our team as either a regular or substitute driver, please have them contact Ms. Pam VanSickler at vansicp@gowcs.net or (517) 655-1011.

    Bus Driver Bonus Flyer

    In addition to bus drivers, we have numerous additional vacancies in the District. These include teaching positions, substitute teaching positions, noon-aides, coaches, food service, and the minute taker for the Board of Education. 

    WCS is also supporting the employment of an additional school crossing guard through the Williamston Police Department. Contact Chief Bob Young at bob.young@williamston-mi.us if interested in learning more.

    Please see our Human Resources page on the website or select the link here for more information.

    Family Activity Fair at Williamston High School, January 25:

    Family Fair Flyer

    Comments (-1)

Executive Assistant

Mrs. Janet Eidt

Phone: (517) 655-4361

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mrs. Janet Eidt