Royal Oak Schools focusing on the future

By: Taylor Christensen | Royal Oak Review | Published February 21, 2024

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ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick presented a long-range planning update at the Jan. 11 school board meeting.

The district’s strategic plan, titled “Continuing Excellence,” was approved by the Board of Education in the fall of 2023.

The mission statement for the district’s long-range planning process reads: “Royal Oak Schools is an inclusive, diverse, safe and student-first environment. Together as a community we help develop growth-minded students who can adapt in a dynamic world as they learn.”

Fitzpatrick said this statement “is a guide for us; our work on a day to day basis should be directed by this agreed-upon statement.”

The presentation took the form of four overarching goals with slides explaining how the school district is working to achieve these goals.

“Committed to fostering an impactful learning community where students will be embraced, accepted, challenged, and prepared” is the first goal.

In this endeavor, Fitzpatrick said that the schools have continued their diversity, equity and inclusion professional development for all K-12 teachers, and they have been giving monthly late-start professional development sessions for all teachers across the district.

Royal Oak Schools have also begun to utilize the Michigan Integrated Continuous Improvement Process.

The MICIP is a process for districts to “improve student outcomes by assessing whole child needs to develop plans and coordinate funding,” according to

“Many of us remember school improvement plans and committees in the history of working in the state of Michigan, and this is now the approved tool we use where goals are set by staff,” Fitzpatrick said.

Every school is required to have a school improvement plan, according to Fitzpatrick. The MICIP gives each district the opportunity to select the goals it wants to focus on in its improvement plans.

The Royal Oak Schools staff collectively selected health and wellness for its goal.

“When staff and students feel included and safe in the learning and work environment, it is better for everyone involved,” she said.

Royal Oak Schools also wants to continue working on timely and meaningful feedback.

Teacher cohort groups have been established and are currently being taught about the formative assessment practices at Royal Oak High School.

“Formative assessments are for the purpose of improvement,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s meant to guide teaching and learning.”

School quality meetings are another strategy being implemented by Royal Oak Schools, according to Fitzpatrick, and have been focusing on a Multi-Tiered System of Supports.

“It is not one size fits all; as students need assistance, we are able to shift and change our support for those students,” said Fitzpatrick.

One of the focal points for the district is to prepare K-12 students for career and technical education, according to Fitzpatrick, and this does not only affect high school students getting ready to graduate.

Fitzpatrick believes that all students need to be taught about career readiness.

The school has been reviewing its career and technical education programming and expanded the CTE program to have an emphasis on specific careers and how the district can include younger students in the program.

The school has also increased the career readiness programming for students K-12.

“There is an added emphasis now on what are careers and how elementary children can explore that,” said Fitzpatrick. “Career-focused education is no longer just for older students; it is something all students are thinking about throughout their years of learning in our district.”

The second overarching goal of the Royal Oak Schools district is to “strengthen and expand school-community connections that are crucial to both the success of the district and the community.”

To achieve this goal, the school district continues to plan special events with the city and also work with the senior citizen community of Royal Oak.

Royal Oak students have also been participating in career-focused activities set up by the school district, including presentations, job fairs and a manufacturing day that tours through American Axle and Manufacturing in Royal Oak.

Job placement is another important factor to strengthen the school district and community relationship.

Xello is a program used by the district to connect students to jobs around the community. Using this, students can be placed at jobs that include the medical and veterinary fields.

There are also 24 students in co-op opportunities, according to Fitzgerald.

Executive Director of Finance and Operations Katherine Abela presented the third goal, which is to “optimize the use of all financial and physical resources.”

Abela said that there are conversations being had about improvements to specific athletic fields and spaces.

“One of the things I wanted to highlight is we have already approved new batting cages, and bullpens for both boys baseball and girls softball. That will happen this summer,” she said.

Abela also mentioned that they are currently running a traffic study at Royal Oak Middle School following some comments from students about traffic in that area.

Along with this, the last bond projects will be going on at Addams and Keller elementary schools.

“I am very excited to put my construction hat back on, and the construction team has just started meeting again,” Abela said. That work will begin in the summer, according to Abela.

Executive Director of Staff and Student Services Patrick Wolynski began the fourth goal, to “attract and retain the best staff.”

“This goal is becoming increasingly critical during the national teacher shortage,” he said.

One way Royal Oak Schools is trying to grow its teaching staff and ensure that staff members stay with the district is to “renew existing and seek new cooperative agreements with higher education to host student teachers.”

Wolynski also said that they are continuing to put out marketing to find teachers, as well as utilize their own staff to recruit future teachers.

Retaining teachers is a major aspect of this part of the presentation, according to Wolynski.

“We want to do everything we can to retain the 53 teachers we hired last year,” he said. “One of the strategies is our mentor-mentee program, and to do a mid-year orientation to ask the 53 teachers how it is going and if they like it.”

It is also planned to do exit interviews to continue logging the feelings of these teachers, and to find out what can be improved on to keep them as teachers at Royal Oak Schools.