Thursday, August 3, 2017

Millage Letter

I sent this out this last spring, however, with the vote quickly approaching I thought I would post it again. Please feel free to share. Hope everyone is having a great Summer and see you at the start of school.

Dear Parent(s) and Community Member(s),

On behalf of the Vestaburg Board of Education, I am writing to inform you of a couple of upcoming millage proposals.  As a result of the 2009 bond, we were able to update and add to many of our facilities which have allowed us to provide a richer educational experience for our students.   As part of our responsibility to our students and our community, the district is committed to being good stewards of the resources we have been so generously provided.  As such, it is important that we are able to continue addressing our facility needs.As many of you are aware, school funding is always an issue.  What you may or may not know is that not every district is funded at the same level.  In addition, not all communities are blessed with the same level of resources such as taxable values.  In other words, some schools are funded at a higher per student rate than others and what is generated through taxes is not the same from community to community depending on the size and structure of the district. It is with this in mind that on August 8, 2017, voters in the Vestaburg Community School district will be asked to vote on two different millage proposals.  

The first proposal is to renew the current millage levied on the non-homestead property (industrial, commercial, business, rental, and second homes). The current millage is set to expire on December 31, 2017. This proposal does not affect the taxes of owner-occupied primary residences – for homeowners, an approval will cost you nothing!  However, if it is not renewed, it would result in a loss of approximately $431,728 of funding per year or approximately $744 per student that would not be replaced.

The other proposal is for a Sinking Fund.  A sinking fund millage is a limited property tax to fund major repairs and renovations to school facilities including, school security improvements, and instructional technology. The tax is levied each year and the revenue generated is used to address the most urgent building and site improvements identified by a school district. Sinking fund uses are limited by law to the construction or repair of school buildings, school security improvements, and acquisition or upgrading of instructional technology.   The ballot will be asking for 3 mills for 10 years.  This would be an increase of $3.00 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation.  If approved, the millage would generate approximately $265,391 annually. This proposal comes as the result of three years of hard work by the Board of Education and staff creating a long term strategic plan identifying current and future needs of district facilities.  

One of the primary needs to be addressed in the plan is the school building’s roof.  While some of it was upgraded in the 2009 bond and renovation, most areas are beyond their life expectancy and are in need of repair and/or replacement. Furthermore, even the updated sections were done so with ten to fifteen-year roof systems and will be coming off warranty and will need to be updated in the next five to ten years. After cost analysis and due to the cost of replacing and/or updating the roof, the plan calls for the roof to be addressed by sections over the next ten years with a roof that will last the next thirty to forty years. Furthermore, a cost analysis A cost analysis estimated that by installing a 30-year roof versus other options such as 15 year systems, the district would save approximately 1.2 million dollars over the next 30 years. In addition to the roof, there are many other needs identified in the plan that will continue to enhance the student’s learning experience including, but not limited to security upgrades, student instructional technology, parking lot repairs, bathroom repairs, classroom updates, and track repairs. 

All registered voters in the Vestaburg School District will vote at the Richland Township Hall on August 8th. In addition, if anyone has any questions or has a group to whom they would like information presented, please contact Central Office at 989-268-5353, and we will be glad to answer your questions and/or set up a time to meet. Your feedback and questions are welcome and appreciated.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

We ARE Vestaburg!!: Graduation

We ARE Vestaburg!!: Graduation: Graduation High School Graduation is a very special time in a person’s life.  It is a time of celebration, a time of reflection, a time...



High School Graduation is a very special time in a person’s life.  It is a time of celebration, a time of reflection, a time of accomplishment, a time of sadness and apprehension, and it is a time of family and friends.  However, there are many things that graduating from high school is not such as, a time of entitlement, it is not an ending but a beginning, it should not be a time of reckless decision making, and it absolutely should not be a time of mourning.  Every year we hear stories of young men and women that make bad choices and end up suffering tragedies including life-altering injuries and even death. 

In my educational career, I have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with such tragedies and they were some of the hardest times in my career and life.  As an educator, you get to know your students and they become so much more and when tragedy strikes it is crushing to not only see the pain of the families, but you feel for all of the students that are left dealing with the aftermath.  While we all experience tragedy in our lives and it is part of growing up, it should not be a part of the graduation season.

Thus, I am asking that every student, parent, and community member make a pledge to look out for all of our children and help our young people make good decisions this graduation season.  It is our responsibility as a community to embrace our children and make this a great time of celebration.  It is my sincerest hope that everyone will join me in making this a time of great memories and happiness and not a time of sadness and regrets by helping to protect our children.  Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2017!  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Growth vs Proficiency

In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion in our nation about what student growth and student proficiency really means and what is the difference between them. Growth is the amount of progress a student makes from one point to another point in time.  For example, student A is a seventh grader that is reading at a 5.0 grade level at the start of the school year.  By the end of the school year student A is reading at 6.7 grade level.  In this case student A had a 1.7 grade level growth.  If this were a real case this would be considered a very good year and great growth in that the student improved by 1.7 grades in just one year.  Proficiency, on the other hand, is a measure of a student’s ability at one moment in time compared to a set standard or measuring a student according to their level of mastery of grade level material. In the above example, student A would be considered non proficient because they were not at or above their grade level.  In many cases proficiency is a yes or no question. The student is either proficient or is not proficient.

So, how does this apply to Vestaburg Schools?  At Vestaburg, we use a tool called N.W.E.A.  This is an assessment that students take three times a year (Fall, Winter, and Spring) that is intended to measure student growth first and foremost.  While it provides data that can be used to help determine proficiency its primary goal is to measure a student’s growth.  The goal is for every student to make at least one year of growth during each school year.  However, in Michigan every student is required to participate in the M-STEP (formerly MEAP) assessment each year.  This is a proficiency test that is designed to measure whether a student is proficient (at grade level) and how many students in our school are proficient (at grade level).  Making this confusing is teachers are evaluated by growth rates and schools are measured by proficiency rates.  This would be less of an issue if every student came to school with the same skills and matured at the same rates.  However, we all know this not be true.  For many reasons some students come to school with different abilities and struggles.  This does not mean that they cannot and will not be able to learn or be successful, but rather that they all do it at different rates and times.  

While we use both measures to evaluate our program, our primary focus is growth.  We believe that all students can and will learn. We expect our students to make a full years growth each year and for students that are behind or not at proficient we work to help those students make more than a year’s growth so that they can become proficient.  We cannot change where a student is or their past but we can change where they are going and the progress they make.  We believe in a Growth Mindset.  I will be discussing this in more detail in future articles and blogs, however, a simple way of thinking about a Growth Mindset is that it is not that a student cannot do something, it is that they cannot do it yet!

Lastly, there is an very likely chance that in the coming weeks you may see reports and articles about the Michigan Department of Education discussing the state test (M-STEP) and either making changes to this test or possibly adopting the N.W.E.A. as the new state assessment.  As you hear or read about this keep in mind the difference between student growth and student proficiency and it relates to what we are doing at Vestaburg Community School.  We ARE Vestaburg!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Small but Great!

We have all heard it, "the small town and small school cannot offer the same opportunities as the bigger towns and schools".  I could create a huge list of all the reasons that I do not believe this. I could list all the strengths of a small school and town that I believe outweigh any potential truth in this statement.  However, this weekend I was reminded of the one thing that best represents what makes the small school and community experience so powerful - support!  This weekend I had the privilege to attend a college basketball game of a former VCS student.   It is always great to have the opportunity to watch our students and graduates pursue their dreams and to support them in anyway possible whether in the classroom, on the playing field, or a simple conversation about life and how they are doing, however, what stood out was not the event itself.  While I was extremely proud of our former student, and believe that simply playing college athletics is a great achievement, it was what happened in the stands that stood out and lead to this blog.   You see, on this Saturday afternoon what stood out was walking into the facility and seeing 70% of all of the people in attendance were from our small community and school. It was great to see so many people there to support a friend, family, and former student.  While everyone cheered and wanted the best for the player on the court, they were there to show support.  They were there to show that while an individual may have graduated and are no longer a student at VCS they will always be a part of the Vestaburg family!  It is this kind of connection and support that outweighs any perceived opportunity or activity and makes our small community and school so special!  This is why I am proud to say We ARE Vestaburg!

A few updates and notes:

  • VHS has received a grant and has started a robotics team.  The team will be creating a robot to compete at the state competitions in April.  This is a great learning experience for our students as they will be learning engineering, programming, and teamwork skills.  Anyone high school student that is interested in participating can see Mrs. Slezak. 
  • Thursday January 19th and Friday January 20th are the end of the first semester and will be early release days.  Students will be released at 1:00 pm on both days.
  • Due to several snow days, many athletic events have been cancelled.  Please look for updates on the rescheduled dates and times on the school Facebook page and/or visit under the athletics tab on the school web-page.
  • The district has used four (4) inclement weather days so far this winter.  The state allows for up to six (6) days to be forgiven, thus, anything after six (6) are required to be made up.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Character - Cannot be Great Without It!

In education there is always an internal struggle regarding the idea of teaching character versus the content.  Are we here to teach students character or are we here to teach them skills and standards that will help them be successfull in life after school?  The answer is yes!  We are here to teach both.  The lessons that we teach on the content can and should also reinforce, model the importance of character and the role it plays in one's life.  As I watch this years election cycle and all of the debating about one candidate versus the other on certian issues I am reminded just how important character truely is.

To quote Michael Douglas's character in the movie The American President, "being president is 100% about character".  However, while I am chosing to use the election as a symbol or example to frame the conversation, I believe that life is 100% about character.  For the record, character is not the same as morals or beliefs.  Too many times we confuse character with individual beliefs.  Character is not about your position on certain topics but how you conduct yourself, especially when faced with a challenge. Two people can have the exact opposite beliefs and still both be people of high character. We do not have to tear down another person's character to make ours look better. Character is also not about being perfect or mistake free. Character is how a person conducts oneself when they are faced with a mistake that they have made.  Do you own your mistake and what do you do to fix it? Can you admit when someone else is right and you were wrong?  Can you do what you feel is right and handle the consequences that accompany any decision that you make, both good and bad?  Are you able to make sacrifices for what you believe in and those you love and not expect anything in return?  

As a leader, I beleive that character is backbone of everything one does.  You cannot be a great leader without being a person of character.  In leadership and in life, whether it is as a teacher, parent, manager, coach, or youth group leader, you will make mistakes but it is your character that will determine how you handle those mistakes.  It is our character that determines and motivates the decisions that we make.  If you are person of high character you can "reach across the aisle" (to use a political term) and help those that you do not agree with because it is the right thing to do.  

This election cycle has only shined a light on our issues as we tear down those that we do not agree with and blame everyone but ourselves for everything that is right or wrong with our society and our country.  As individuals, families, schools, communities, states, and a country we need to demostrate character and come together to help each other.  This means to debate what is best but to also then have the character to move on and make a difference even if we do not agree. As Dennis Prager stated, "Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people." 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Priority Status/M-STEP UPDATE

As some of you may know, Vestaburg High School was released by the State School Reform Office from the Priority School status. This was driven by the consistant growth we have acheived over the last 4 years.  For example, on the most recent data we demonstrated growth in 8 of the 10 areas at the secondary level.  In addition, thanks to the work of our staff district wide we have improved our state rankings by over 35% at the Secondary level in the last 3 years.  Thus, we were one of only 7 schools that were released from Priority status this past year.  

As a district, the staff continues to look at all areas and set goals to push our district forward.  One of the areas that has helped create our success has been our staff working together as a district to improve a variety of areas. For example, the staff is working through a district wide MTSS approach to address specific needs of our students.  Some of the strategies that we have implemented are common intervention times, coherence and updating of curriculums in all areas, a focus on classroom questioning for depth of knowledge and engagement, classroom learning labs, close reading strategies, and alot of data analysis including M-Step, ACT, SAT, and NWEA which we implemented 4 years ago as district level assessments.  

This year we are focusing on student engagement.  Our entire teaching staff attended a professional development session with Dave Burgess called "Teach Like A Pirate" that is designed to energize and engage students and staff. However, it all comes down to the work and commitment of our teaching staff and their focus on meeting the needs of each individual child.  The thing we are most proud of is how dedicated our staff is and how they continue to come together to do what is best for our students! 

This is proof and reinforcement of the fact that we have an outstanding staff at Vestaburg.  It demonstrates what is best about our district and our community in that, we always come together and are willing to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Thus, it is with confidence that we say that this is just the start and that we will continue to put in the hard work and make our school the absolute best it can be!  We ARE Vestaburg!