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April 4, 2014

State Superintendent visits Center Line Public Schools

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

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Michigan State Superintendent Michael Flanagan, left, with Debbie Prentiss, a co-founder of the Rising Star Academy, meets academy students Sebastian Dulecki, of Warren, second from right, and Josh Kowalski, of Clinton Township, far right. The students were assigned to give Flanagan a tour of the school when he visited April 1.

CENTER LINE — If Michigan State Superintendent Michael Flanagan could determine the pay system for school teachers, they would get a salary of $100,000 per year.

“If we’re going to compete, you need the brightest and the best,” he said, adding some beginning professionals just out of college make that type of pay in fields other than education. He is aware of high school students who would like to become teachers but don’t pursue education because of the salary.

On April 1, Flanagan visited Center Line Public Schools — a district in which beginning teachers earn $43,000 per year on average — to observe programs offered in the school system. Flanagan stayed about four hours and met with school officials, teachers, students and parents.

He got a look at the Academy 21 Virtual School and several Center Line High School programs, including the firefighter, law enforcement and emergency medical technician classes, according to the district’s itinerary. Flanagan also lunched at the Rising Star Academy, a post-secondary public culinary school located in the former Miller Elementary for students with special needs ages 18-26.

“I think it was wonderful. It was a great day. We shared lots of idea and lots of programs,” CLPS Superintendent Eve Kaltz said. “I believe he was able to see a district that works hard to provide opportunities for every child. He expressed as much as he could, the focus is for our students and what they need.”

Last year, Kaltz sent letters to Flanagan and Gov. Rick Snyder to invite them to visit the district, and Flanagan responded. He visits districts on a regular basis.

“We do this at least once a month,” the state superintendent said. “It keeps you more grounded.”

The State Board of Education appointed Flanagan to the state superintendent position in May 2005. Flanagan directs the Michigan Department of Education, chairs the State Board of Education, and advises the State Board of Education, the governor and the Legislature regarding public education in Michigan. 

After lunch, it was off to the CLHS auditorium for a one-hour regional meeting where Flanagan and district, regional and union leaders openly discussed various topics. Flanagan briefly touched on the Smarter Balance assessment test, which will replace the Michigan Educational Assessment Program next year.

For the past several years, MEAP was administered in the fall. Flanagan said Smarter Balance will be given in the spring to assess student progress in grades third through 11th. It is designed to determine student growth more effectively than MEAP.

“By the end of the year, there should have been growth with individual kids,” the state superintendent said.

When speaking with the teachers, thoughts turned to the curriculum changes state lawmakers have mandated in recent years, sometimes putting educators on the defensive. Flanagan also would like to see more world language requirements at the elementary and middle school levels.

Because Flanagan’s visit got behind schedule, he wasn’t able to visit the district’s Early Childhood Center as planned, so ECC Principal Sheila O’Kane and a group of parents and students met up with the him at the high school. O’Kane and home school liaison Kim Chambers — who homeschools her two children — spent a few minutes explaining the program, housed at the ECC.

“The home school program provides extracurricular activities for the home school students,” O’Kane said. Chambers told Flanagan last year’s program attracted seven home school students, and there are almost 40 this year.

Flanagan was also asked about the Common Core State Standards, which were adopted by the MDE in June 2010. Districts are in the process of implementing the CCSS with full implementation complete by the 2014-15 school year. According to the MDE, the CCSS don’t represent a curriculum, but rather serve as a framework around which curriculum can be built. And they are aligned with college and work expectations.

Many groups, however, have formed in opposition of Common Core. For example, the website www.truthinamericaneducation.com has listed concerns, including the “delay development of some key concepts and skills in math” and the use of “confusing language” in multiple subjects.

When asked about those opposed, Flanagan said, “If they look at what we had before, it’s almost identical to Common Core.”

To date, about 45 states have adopted Common Core, and according to various news sources, Indiana recently opted out of Common Core. Flanagan does not see that happening in Michigan.

“We’re not going to go backwards, nor should we,” he said. “If a third-grade teacher doesn’t have a common core, how do we know all kids are prepared for fourth-grade?”

Flanagan called his visit to Center Line “very positive.”

“This superintendent is student-oriented,” Flanagan said. “I can see real examples of dedication that is about the kids here.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.