Letter to Parents Regarding School Attendance

I’m writing this as an appeal to all parents asking that you ensure your children are in school every day. Absences from the classroom add up and can impact your child in a negative way especially when it comes to academic performance. Research just completed shows that students living in low-income homes in particular achieve at a much lower rate than their classroom peers when they miss too much school.

As I write this in early October, we have only been in school four weeks and already 300 students have missed two or more days of school. At that rate, those students could miss at least eighteen days or more by June. Poor attendance in the first month of school is a predictor of chronic absence for the entire school year, and students who are chronically absent, especially at the lower elementary grades, experience many difficulties in school. Here are some findings from the most recent research:

  • Absenteeism in kindergarten prevents a child from developing the “grit and perseverance” needed to persist and engage in learning as it becomes harder over time.
  • Absenteeism in kindergarten can influence whether a child will be held back in third grade because it undermines the effort to improve reading skills.
  • Absenteeism in middle and high school can predict whether a student will eventually drop out of school. As early as the 6th grade, absenteeism can be a dropout indicator especially if they lead to poor grades in core courses and behaviors that lead to suspensions.
  • Absenteeism patterns in K-12 also impact negatively on whether a college student successfully completes their first year of college.

Improving attendance can help reduce achievement gaps your child may be experiencing compared to others in the class. In Chicago and New York, they found that by reducing chronic absenteeism more students stayed in school through graduation. Even those students who start the school year with the weakest skills but attend regularly showed greater gains in learning than their classroom peers.

Any student who is on track to missing ten percent of the school year (18 days) is considered in our district to be a chronic absentee. Principals, counselors and teachers will be in touch with you if your child has a pattern of missing too many days. As parents, you have a responsibility to ensure your child is in school so that he or she will have the best possible opportunity to succeed academically, socially and emotionally. We’ll be working with you as a team throughout the year to help overcome any reasons for chronic absenteeism.

Thank you!

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Reminder to Registered Voters Who Reside within the Godfrey-Lee District

If you reside within the Godfrey-Lee district boundaries and are a registered voter, Tuesday, November 4 is a very important day. On that day, registered voters across Michigan and the United States will be taking part in the state general election.

On the ballot will be a very important item related to funding for Godfrey-Lee Public Schools. It is the renewal of the statutory operating millage rate of 18 mills levied on all property except principal residence and any qualified agricultural property. It is required for our school district to receive its per pupil foundation allowance. The foundation allowance is the primary school funding provided by the State of Michigan to fund all of the district’s core academic programs and basic operations. This millage is not part of the homeowner’s property taxes on the principal residence within the district where you reside.

The proposal is for a ten (10) year period (2016 to 2025) and in addition, includes the renewal of the 1.5 mill enhancement that will ensure the district is able to levy the full 18 mills should the millage be impacted by the Headlee Amendment. If the proposal is not approved by the voters, the estimated loss of revenue in 2016 will be approximately $810,000.

Besides this very important funding renewal issue, you will be asked to elect three (3) members to our Board of Education for six-year terms. There are six (6) candidates on the ballot listed in the following order: David A. Blok, Josephine Coleman, Reta Hendriksen, Tammy Schafer, John E. Ter Beek and Robert L. Baker, Jr. The candidates elected will take their seats on the Board at the January 12, 2015 regular meeting.

We hope you will exercise your civic responsibility and head to the polls on November 4. If you have general questions regarding the election, you can go online to http://www.wyomingmi.gov/Government/Voting-elections.asp or call the City Clerk’s office at (616) 530-7296. If you have questions about the renewal millage proposal or Board of Education election, please don’t hesitate to call my office at (616) 241-4722.

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Foundation Allowance and Total State & Local Revenue

Because there’s an ongoing debate about whether schools are receiving more funding now than four years ago, I wanted to post both of these charts that show our funding since 1997. Both charts include inflation-adjusted figures (in red) so the reader can see how the value of the revenue each year has diminished which is why class sizes are higher, some programs have been cut or trimmed, and our fund balance (savings account) has been seriously eroded placing the district in a difficult financial position.

We have been fortunate that with the help and sacrifice of our union and non-union employees, we’ve been able to hold the line in spending to weather the current political climate.

Foundation Chart

The foundation allowance provides our district, schools and classrooms with the primary and unrestricted funding core academic classroom instruction and basic operations. As you can see, the amount we are receiving this year per student is still considerably less than four years ago and has been eaten up by inflation considerably over the past twenty years.

Revenue Chart

Total state and local revenue includes the foundation allowance plus restricted-use funding for specialized and targeted programs. These additional funds are restricted from being used for the basic educational program provided for all students. Revenue figures are not yet available for the current year since pupil counts will not be finalized until late spring. In actual dollars, our revenue this past year is considerably less than 2007-08 and like the foundation allowance, has been eroded over the past two decades by inflation.

Our elected officials in Lansing claim that K-12 funding has been increased but their figures include primarily dollars that have had no impact on our district, school and classroom budgets.

You may also want to read:

Citizens Research Council of Michigan – Making Sense of K-12 Funding, October 2014

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – Most States Still Funding Schools Less than Before the Recession, October 2014

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Concerns about the Entrovirus-D68

For parents, students and staff concerned about the Entrovirus-D68, here is an article shared with us by the Kent County Health Department:

What Parents and Schools Need to Know about Enterovirus D68 Enteroviruses are very common viruses. There are more than 100 types and each year it is estimated that over 10 million enterovirus infections occur in the United States and tens of thousands of people are hospitalized for illnesses caused by these viruses. People are more likely to get infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall. A mix of enteroviruses cause infections every year and different types of enteroviruses can be common in different years. This year, enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) appears to be the most common type of enterovirus, and this virus is likely contributing to an increase in severe respiratory illness in children across the United States.

Recent news reports documenting severe illness in children leading to neurological illness and stories of EV-D68 being detected in patients who have died has understandably caused great concern for parents in our school district. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is always the best source for information on EV-D68 and parents are encouraged to visit http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/outbreaks/EV-D68-outbreaks.html for the most recent updates on the current situation.

It is difficult to know the number of individuals diagnosed with EV-D68 in Kent County because testing for EV-D68 is not routinely done. Despite this, information on patients presenting to hospital emergency departments with respiratory complaints provides a clue as to EV-D68 activity in the local community.

These data indicate that the highest level of respiratory illness activity in Kent County occurred during the week ending September 13, 2014 and this activity has since declined to levels slightly above what is typically expected at this time of year.

While enterovirus infections typically decline in late fall, students in the school setting are always at risk for respiratory infection from a variety of viruses (rhinovirus, influenza, etc.). Because of this, basic infection prevention measures should be stressed in the school environment. Preventing respiratory infection in children with a history of asthma or wheezing is especially important since they are more susceptible to serious illness. If your child is sick with respiratory illness and they are having difficulty breathing or their symptoms are getting worse, contact your child’s physician or visit the emergency

Tips for Preventing Infection

• Wash hands with soap and water,

• Avoid close contact with sick people

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands

• Keep children home from school until they are fever free for 24 hours without medications

• Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

• Encourage children to “cover” coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve

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Connected Educator Month (#CE14)

Yesterday was the kick-off of Connected Educator Month (#CE14).  I’m encouraging all of our staff throughout October to participate in a series of online events and conversations to promote professional learning communities and share best practices.

You’ll find a list of events, activities, and resources on the Connected Educator Month Calendar.  Please feel free to share them throughout our teaching and learning community.

cem-wartaz

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Future Ready District

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools has been a leader in West Michigan in developing the human capacity, digital materials, and device access to ensure our students and staff are teaching and learning in the 21st century. We have just completed the first five years of our digital learning vision and are committed to taking more bold steps to the future. In doing so, I have signed the following pledge to continue leading our district to the next level.

FutureReadyDistrict

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Rachel’s Challenge is Coming to Godfrey-Lee

Rachel’s Challenge is coming to Godfrey-Lee Public Schools on Tuesday, September 23. Students in grades 1-5 and 6-12 will participate in two morning assemblies followed by a Friends of Rachel training session for up to 100 secondary students and ten staff members that afternoon. We’re enthusiastically inviting parents and members of the community to join us that evening, 7:00 pm, in the Lee High School OAC for a community-wide memorable event (see poster for details).

Facebook Posting

Rachel’s Challenge exists to equip and inspire individuals to replace acts of violence, bullying, and negativity with acts of respect, kindness, and compassion. Rachel’s Challenge is based on the life and writings of Rachel Joy Scott who was the first victim of the Columbine school shootings in 1999. Through her example, Rachel’s Challenge is making a positive impact in the lives of millions of people every year.

Educators and parents bring Rachel’s Challenge into their schools because of escalating societal problems such as: bullying, student isolation, teen suicide, discrimination, school violence, and increased disciplinary actions. Through powerful presentations, trainings, community events such as this, and professional development, Rachel’s Challenge provides the sustainable solution.

Rachel’s inspiring story provides a simple, yet powerful example of how small acts of kindness and acceptance motivate us to consider our relationships with the people we come in contact with every day.

Rachel’s Challenge can renew our hope that our life has meaning and purpose. Rachel’s story gives us permission to start our own chain reaction of kindness and compassion, which positively affects the climate in our schools and our Godfrey-Lee community.

For more details, you can go to http://www.rachelschallenge.org/.  We also encourage staff, students and parents to preview event videos at http://www.rachelschallenge.org/quicklinks/event-prep-materials/.

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