As school ends, local superintendents discuss past year

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 17, 2024

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — The school years for the Ferndale and Berkley school districts have come to an end, and their respective superintendents are looking back on the year.

Ferndale Public Schools ended its school year on June 7. Superintendent Camille Hibbler, who came into the position a couple of months ago, said the transition from her former role as assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment to superintendent was very impactful and had a lot of domino effects from it.

“I think that we did a really good job of responding and bouncing back and not letting some of the adjustments and shifts of adults impact kids,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that it was still the same experience for them. So I think that we did a great job with fostering relationships, with rebuilding relationships.”

In that same thought process, Hibbler felt the district did a good job this year keeping pace with all its goals through that transition.

“Nothing was dropped, nothing was missed, we stayed on pace and I’m really, really proud of that,” she said. “That just kind of speaks to the collective energy and synergy that we had to keep the ball rolling, for lack of a better word. So I’m really proud of that and that speaks to our team and our team dynamic.”

Hibbler said that there always is an opportunity to improve transparency and timely communication with the community.

“I think that consistency, transparent and frequent communication so that the student and parent experience is the same no matter what building that you’re in, no matter who you’re getting a communication from, I think that’s always the opportunity and we’re always working to get stronger in that area,” she said.

For next year, Hibbler said she’s excited to work on the district’s dynamic planning process.

“We are vetting a facilitator who will lead us through this work,” she said. “Our strategic plan is ending this year. So it’s time for us to look forward to developing a new one. So I’m just looking forward to collaborating with our school community, our wider community and developing a strong plan that will take us through the next, hopefully, five to six years.”

The Berkley School District ended its year June 12. Reflecting on the past year, Superintendent Scott Francis said he’s very proud of the district’s staff members and their work with students and families.

“They create opportunities for students all the time, like having our students sing at Carnegie Hall and providing trips to Washington, D.C., and the Upper Peninsula,” he said. “Just going above and beyond, even providing a long list of clubs for our kids to participate in, and summer reading programs and support, the wonderful performances, concerts, all the activities that we provide. And it doesn’t happen without our staff and they do a fantastic job with that because they love our kids and care for them.”

Francis said the district’s facilities and spaces, such as its performing arts space, are things that can be improved heading into the next school year.

“We’ll be drastically improving those spaces with the support of the bond,” he said, referring to the $88 million bond that Berkley voters passed last August. “The athletic upgrades that we’re currently making … our main athletic field, Hurley Field, is getting upgraded as we speak with brand-new turf, a new track, and then we have future plans to improve our pool and our outdoor fields and new multipurpose spaces to support the elementary buildings with lunchtime and other uses. That’s something that’s exciting. It’s a need and it’s in motion that’ll be taking place currently and in the near future.”

Francis said the district also will be adding new furniture and technology in the classrooms to help student engagement and learning.

“When students are more comfortable in their learning environment, when they’re with us from approximately 8 (a.m.) to 3 (p.m.), that comfort level does have an impact on students. The classroom environment does impact the culture of the room, which impacts learning positively too, as well, and then the new furniture is mobile, which really allows our teachers to use best instructional practices so that they can group students appropriately, quickly, and it relates to how the teacher wants to engage students so that they’re not stagnant or sitting in one place all the time.”