By Carolyn Marnon – Wayne Westland Community School District Superintendent Dr. Shelley Holt addressed those gathered in the auditorium at John Glenn High School on October 23 at the 2nd annual State of the District event. Those who came early were able to talk with school representatives and learn about some special projects in the district as they walked down the hallway to the auditorium.
Approximately one-third of the seats were filled with community dignitaries, school officials and concerned citizens. Signs expressing “Excellence is the Expectation,” “We Believe, Students Achieve,” and “I Believe in Wayne-Westland” were displayed throughout the area.
After stating that parts of Canton, Romulus and Inkster are within the school district, Dr. Holt asked “What do we do when people struggle?” She went on to stress that we need to know what the struggle “is” before we can tackle it.
She referenced “The Hulings Report”, a Climate and Culture Assessment report that reflects the voices of stakeholders within the WWCSD regarding strengths, challenges and solutions for the district. It can be found on the district’s website at http://www.wwcsd.net/downloads/superintendents_page/hulings_report.pdf
This report stated that three dynamics currently make up a snapshot of the district: “1) Behavior in school buildings is perceived as a grave concern – frequently described as out of control. 2) The attrition of staff will pose an even greater challenge than it already is, if not addressed soon. 3) Limited communication and the pace of change is causing challenges within the district.“ Dr. Holt commented that the secretarial group within the district has the longest longevity over any other group. Out of 79 secretaries, 51 have been with the district over 10 years.
Assistant Superintendent of Standards, Learning and Innovation Jennifer Curry spoke on a 5-year plan for excellence in learning. A scope and sequence curriculum guide has been developed for K-8 grades and one is now being worked on for grades 9-12. This guides what is taught in the schools. She also mentioned there are now instruction coaches in every building.
Andrae’ Townsel, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent for Climate, Culture and Social Emotional Learning talked about teaching students self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making so they can perform better academically. Effective August 1, 2017, there is a Michigan law regarding discipline that requires consideration of “restorative practices” as an alternate to, or in addition to, suspension, except when it comes to firearms. He said as the climate and culture improves in the schools, the academic achievement on standardized tests will improve. He noted that change is a process and that although fights will still happen, over time the number of fights will decrease overall. He also mentioned putting relevant information into the hands of our children via social media and shared a YouTube video he had made with the audience.
Assistant Superintendent of Employee, Community and Government Relations Jill Simmons spoke about human resources. The GEM award was created in March 2018 to recognize staff members for going above and beyond in their duties. Her group is currently working on staff attraction and retention, including hosting a recent job affair that brought the district 47 viable candidates for jobs. Recruiting student teachers at colleges outside of Michigan is also in the works. Community efforts are increasing; these efforts include the 2nd State of the District address, coffee with the superintendent events, ministerial breakfasts and realtor luncheons, an enhanced website, community forums, bond presentations, This Week in Wayne Westland (a weekly email for staff) and the creation of a community team.
Stacy Witt, Assistant Superintendent of Business, Maintenance & Instructional Operations, spoke about two strategies being implemented: zero-based budgeting (basing the budget on what is happening now, not on what happened last year) and academic return on investment (evaluating cost effectiveness of academic programs and strategies to get “the best bang for the buck.” She also spoke of repairing spidering asphalt and replacing parking lot lighting with LED lights. Also mentioned was the new free lunch program for all students at no cost to the district.
Dr. Holt returned to the stage to speak briefly about the 2018 Bond proposal, saying schools have gone from using encyclopedias to google and using rotary phones to iPhones, but we still fund schools like we did 25 years ago. What can you do to support our schools? Learn how to respond when people struggle. Believe changes can be made. Support the journey to improvement. Pick up people when they fall. Celebrate successes.
“I am glad to be able to acknowledge the major strides towards district-wide academic excellence that WWCS has made since the April 2018 State of the District address. We have built a central office team structured around supports to sites, increased the competencies of our school-based staff through training and professional development, strengthened community engagement with new collaborative efforts and volunteer activities, and created a platform to celebrate district successes. We are moving forward with making our expectations of excellence a reality!” Dr. Shelley Holt, Superintendent, of Wayne-Westland Community Schools.