Teachers, students head back to school

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published September 14, 2015


WARREN/CENTER LINE/STERLING HEIGHTS — Public schools throughout the state have taken a hit financially in recent years, but that hasn’t stopped educators from teaching their students.

“I continue to be amazed at the dedication they show to their craft,” Warren Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Livernois said. “Without question, we have the very best staff members, and our students and families benefit from them every day.  The district continues to offer programs and services that provide a strong and viable learning environment.”

Most local districts kicked off the school year Sept. 8.

This year, WCS is offering a brand-new transitional kindergarten program. Transitional Kindergarten, also known as TK, was created for students who would benefit from an additional year of growth between preschool and kindergarten, according to school officials.

According to school officials, the TK program is for many students who are considered a “young 5,” who have a birthday between June 1 and Dec. 1. Placement in the program is based on parental request, kindergarten readiness assessment and teacher recommendation.

WCS officials also replaced elementary school Spanish with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classes once a week. According to Livernois, educators also added an eighth-grade curriculum to the Middle School Mathematics Science Technology Center program (MS2TC), and seventh-grade to the Middle School Visual Performing Arts program (MSVPA).

The district also added an alternative to suspension program for middle school and high school students, a transition coordinator, and will maintain grant-funded language acquisition specialist positions. District officials also opened the St. John-Providence Clinic inside Warren Mott High School.

At press time, WCS officials also predicted staff reductions of approximately 25 full-time equivalent positions due to program changes and estimated student loss. Livernois predicted an enrollment of 14,620 students and funding of $9,006 per student.

Warren Woods Public Schools, meanwhile, will receive $7,899 in per-pupil funding from the state. Enrollment numbers were projected at 3,146 students.

WWPS has added back some special classes at the elementary level, meaning every student will receive physical education, foreign language, music, media and art this year. Districtwide Professional Learning Communities will continue in WWPS.

Warren Woods Superintendent Stacey Denewith-Fici said teaching staff is focused on the following four areas: What do we want our students to know? How do we know they have learned it? What do we do if they don’t learn it? What do we do if they do? 

“These focusing questions allow us to set expectations for all of our students and help us to intervene to support struggling learners or to enhance the experience for students who are excelling,” Denewith-Fici said.

Discussions revolve around real data that is gathered frequently using the district’s common assessments.

“Staff visit classrooms to observe and model best practices, which allows us to continually improve our classroom instruction,” Denewith-Fici said. “I am so proud of the work our team has done to implement true professional learning communities.”

WWPS staff members have been up to the challenge in light of the district’s financial constraints.

“Our staff has worked tirelessly, in and out of our buildings, with less resources for many years. They donate their time and money to make sure that our students have the best educational experience in a safe and caring environment,” the superintendent said. “Our team’s work has facilitated growth throughout the district, and I truly believe that each and every member of our community has a stake in the success of all of our students. “

This year, Fitzgerald Public Schools will receive $8,169 in per- pupil funding. Enrollment has been projected at 2,570 students.

“The Fitzgerald staff continues to provide a quality education for all students. They demonstrate each day their dedication to preparing each student at each level for college and career,” Superintendent Barbara VanSweden said. “We are proud of the commitment by staff and our Board of Education to remain focused on educating each student to their fullest potential.”

FPS is beginning its second year of the Fitzgerald Virtual Academy, an online program for high school students to earn credit toward a diploma. A new program also will be implemented for early elementary students who are displaying autistic characteristics and struggling to communicate.

Fitzgerald High School staff also will implement a plan to support the transition for students to the standardized SAT testing.

Some building changes also occurred in time for the new school year in FPS. New synthetic turf was added in the football stadium, along with a new eight-lane running track.

The district is in its fourth year of adding air conditioning in classrooms at the high school and replacing air-conditioning units at the middle school.