Novi Community School District Superintendent Ben Mainka speaks during the annual State of the District address May 1 at Novi High School.

Novi Community School District Superintendent Ben Mainka speaks during the annual State of the District address May 1 at Novi High School.

Photo by Brian Wells

Mainka gives second State of the District address in Novi

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published May 8, 2024


NOVI — The Novi Community School District celebrated all the things that are currently available to students in the district, and Superintendent Ben Mainka announced some that are to come at the annual State of the District address May 1.

During his address, Mainka highlighted various things that are happening within the five categories of the Novi Community School District strategic plan, which is set to launch this summer. Those five categories are innovative academics; student passions and interests; staff support; wellness; and financial and infrastructure management.

The Novi Community School District has been named the No. 1 community school district in the state of Michigan for the third year in a row by Mainka attributed that to all the hard work by staff, the district’s student supports, and district families.

“We are doing a lot in the way of artificial intelligence. This summer we have a camp that’s going to be hosted by MIT and Stanford (University). They’re coming to Novi to host that camp here at the high school. We are doing a lot of really great things in that space,” said Mainka.

Another way the district is focusing on innovative academics is through a modernized kindergarten program. The kindergarteners will go through an introductory week, where they will work with teachers, interventionists and other support staff to help them get comfortable and connected with school. The children won’t be assigned a specific teacher until after that first week, and the teacher will not be randomly assigned.

There will also be a new program, called WildCat Launch, a kindergarten program, which is geared toward children who have a birthday after Sept. 1, but before Dec. 1.

NCSD completed a pilot program over the last few months to identify resources and a curriculum that are aligned for the literacy program. Mainka said that over 50 elementary school teachers participated in the pilot program. Over the next month, a selection will be proposed, and a districtwide pilot will take place in the fall.

“We have already seen the incredible impact this is making on our students’ ability to speak and write and have conversations about content that they are reading,” said Mainka.

The district takes great pride in having a vast variety of programming so that there is something for every kid’s passion, Mainka said. This includes programs such as theater, ceramics, robotics, choir, orchestra, band, athletics and many more.

“In Novi, we have the unique opportunity to offer tremendous activities in the arts,” Mainka said. “As you heard our singers here tonight (at the State of the District), if you were here just a couple weeks ago, you would have seen this stage actually having rain come down on it, because our theater department put on ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ a classic musical, but our students just have these opportunities that are absolutely incredible.”

The district offers more than 75 different clubs, and it is looking at how those can be brought to elementary students, according to Mainka.

“Something that’s not super exciting to the students, but is an important thing for the staff, is that we’re developing a consistent student code of conduct and handbook that will be presented to the board for review over the next few months. This is a task that has been undertaken by a number of our teachers and administrators to try and bring some consistency to understanding what the expectations are and how we are supposed to conduct ourselves,” Mainka said.

The district is also continuing to look at career guided learning opportunities, and as such will launch a new mechatronics lab this summer.

“We are doing a lot of things in our district to be able to connect kids with things that they are passionate about and that they are interested in, to make it so that they can go into classes and we’ll create classes that are tailored to them — very excited about the work that’s happening in that area,” Mainka said.

In the area of diversity, equity and inclusion, the district is working to have playgrounds that are accessible to children of all levels of mobility.

Mainka went on to discuss the availability of parent coaching, cellphone use and screen time.

“What we’re doing is, we’re looking at wellness from a lens of a holistic approach with the community and with families, and we really want to partner with our parents in those ways,” Mainka said.

He said the district is also working on parent and community engagement through many different means of communication. The district uses social media, email, newsletters and even has a podcast, “Courageous Curiosity,” which has new episodes biweekly.

In the aftermath of several shootings at schools across the country in recent years, school safety is a top concern for many parents, as well as teachers and staff. The district is working closely with Novi police and has also invested in some high-end technology to make the schools as safe as possible.

The district is also focusing on the dietary needs of its students, especially those with special restrictions such as those who practice a halal or kosher diet.

“We’re pleased to announce that we’re going to be rolling out halal and kosher friendly beefs and meats that are going to create options for families that have certain religious requirements at different times of the year — very proud of our food service program,” Mainka said.

Mainka also spoke of the various construction projects going on in the district, including the work at Novi Meadows, which involves the conversion of the sixth grade house to hold a robotics center, a Japanese school, a special education school and the school’s administration. The district is also planning on having a new athletic center, more tennis courts, a new baseball field, and more.

The State of the District event also gave parents the opportunity to take part in two of four 20-minute breakout sessions. The topics included school construction; future facilities vision for NCSD; student mental health and wellness; school safety at NCSD; and cellphones, screen time and social media for kids.

RosaLeigh Johnson, the Novi Community School District director of mental health and wellness, was one of the speakers on the topic of mental health. She said she had around 20 parents in each of her two sessions and was able to provide them with many resources and explain all that NCSD is doing to advocate for the students’ mental health and well-being.

“It was my first State of the District, and actually I’ve been part of a few different districts and this is the first time I’ve been part of one that had a State of the District event. I think the concept is a really awesome concept,” Johnson said.

She said that she has worked for five different school districts in two states.

“It was really awesome for families, I think, to be able to see the district supports that are in place. It was cool,” Johnson said.