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).

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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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Godfrey-Lee Public Schools Continues 22-Year Growth Trend

Michigan’s trend of declining school-age population doesn’t seem to be impacting schools and classrooms at Godfrey-Lee. Guess we didn’t get the memo.  So far this new school year, we’re projecting that enrollment will be higher by at least another thirty students over last year, fifty-five more than planned for in our budget and staffing calculations.

This will be the sixth consecutive year district enrollment has grown, and sixteenth out of the past twenty-two years. We had an enrollment of 1,171 students in 1993-94 but since then have steadily grown by 64.8% to the current expected enrollment of 1,930. This does not include shared time or adult education. It’s quite clear that a growing number of parents see the value of our small district, the programs we have to offer, and the education their children are receiving.

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This year’s growth has been a surprise. The district realized a gain of 100 students (5.6% increase) last year and  because of that, the Board approved trimming back the number of available seats for schools-of-choice this year. That decision coupled with the statewide trend of declining enrollments led to our plan to budget for an actual small decrease in enrollment this year to ensure we can continue to provide quality programs.  In addition, we’re utilizing every classroom space available including some areas that were not designed for regular classroom use.

With growth comes continuing academic challenges which have proven costly and come at a time when the state not only has cut real dollars for core academic programs, but has failed to even keep up with the rate of inflation and growing legacy costs dating back to 1994. Adjusting for inflation (Detroit Consumer Price Index), the district now receives a foundation allowance that is 15.4% lower than it was twenty years ago, yet everyday costs have been rising faster than revenues leading to cutbacks in many needed programs along with larger class sizes.

Despite the growth and diminishing finances, our collective goal is and will continue to be to meet every student where they are at and provide each with the learning experiences they need to be college and career ready by the time they graduate. Our professional staff is dedicated to meeting the challenges we face and continuing a 157-year legacy of success at Godfrey-Lee.

 

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LHS Alumni Association News

We’re mailing out a letter to all of our alumni who have previously registered their addresses with us. Here’s the content of the letter:

Alumni Homecoming Reunion

Friday, October 3, 2014

Our annual alumni gathering is quickly approaching! This year’s event will include the following activities and we hope to see you there:

4-7:00 pm        Alumni reunion in the Lee Gym

5:30 pm           Homecoming Parade (Havana to Burton to Godfrey)

7:00 pm           Homecoming Game vs. Tri-Unity Christian

We’ll have our usual yearbook and memorabilia displayed during the reunion and a light luncheon will be available. Donations are encouraged to support this annual event. Not all of our alumni are on our mailing list and we’ve lost touch with hundreds of Rebels over the years. If you have contact with any of your former classmates, please pass the word and encourage them to return back to good ol’ Lee High School on October 3.

Historical Publication We are hard at work compiling a more detailed history of our district and the Galewood-Urbandale-Burlingame community. Our plan is to publish this extensive historical account in 2016 and are asking that if you have photos, scrapbooks, or are willing to send us your written memories of growing up here, we’d love to have your participation. Contact David Britten at dbritten@godfrey-lee.org or (616) 241-4722.

Godfrey-Lee Education Foundation We are working hard to build our Foundation’s assets so that we can award more student scholarships and mini-grants to teachers for classroom learning activities. We encourage you to consider donating to your alma mater through the Foundation and if you are interested, we’re always looking for additional alumni to serve as volunteers on our Board.

Your donation can be made simply by sending a check or money order written out to “Godfrey-Lee Education Foundation,” and mailing or dropping it off at the Administration Office. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and all donations are tax-deductible. You can get more information about the Foundation including participation on our board by calling me (616-241-4722 ext. 5320) or sending an email to dbritten@godfrey-lee.org.

We’re Online! You can keep up with the news or reminisce about old times simply by following our presence on the Internet in a number of ways:

District Websitewww.godfrey-lee.org

            Twitterwww.twitter.com/GodfreyLeePS

            Facebookwww.facebook.com/LeeRebels

Did you know?

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The basic funding for our core education programs and operations has gone down since 2010 and hasn’t kept up with inflation since Proposal A was enacted.

Foundation

Our student enrollments have increased significantly over the past two decades straining both resources and space as we strive to serve the needs of a high poverty, transiency, and limited English proficient student body.

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First-Day Bus Incident

You may have heard news accounts of an incident involving one of our kindergarten students on the way home from school, Tuesday. It was an unfortunate circumstance and we certainly don’t take this kind of error lightly. Apologies were made several times to the parents and a complete investigation of the incident was conducted first thing this morning. It’s unfortunate, however, that local radio and television outlets chose to tell an incomplete version of the story but we realize the district can do nothing to prevent them from doing so.

We do want our parents and members of the community to know accurately what transpired and how it was handled. Here is a step-by-step account:

1. The youngster, understandably, got confused with two different bus lines and ended up on the wrong bus. Staff members assigned to check attendance made an error and unfortunately the mistake was not corrected before the buses departed the Early Childhood Center.

2. The bus the student ended up on had only two stops and it was noticed by one of the other riders before the final stop that she was on the wrong bus. At the stop, the driver was alerted as he ensured each child leaving his bus was either met by an adult or had another child to walk home with. That’s when it was clear the student had definitely ridden the wrong bus.

3. The parent of another child recognized this young student and took charge of her while calling the parents to alert them. At not time was this student left at a stop or “abandoned” as one local radio station decided to put it.

4. The child’s mother called the transportation supervisor to discuss the error. Forty-five minutes later, the child’s step-father discussed it by phone with the superintendent. We certainly apologized for the mixup and pledged to investigate what happened and why so a fix would be put in place to prevent any further incidents.

5. A full investigation was conducted and the errors already pointed out in this post were discovered. Further conversations with the parents have been held and both the principal and transportation supervisor are personally ensuring that the errors are not repeated.

We care very much for the safety and welfare of each and every child at Godfrey-Lee and we empathize with our parents when something like this happens. No one wants to be the mother or father who is waiting at the bus stop and their child does not come off the bus.

Once again, we apologize for this incident and look forward to providing and even better transportation service for our students.

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Remarks on K-12 Funding in Michigan

Here is the full text of my remarks during a press conference today on the front lawn of Lee High School:

I have the privilege of leading a tremendous team of well-qualified educators. I’ve been an administrator in the Godfrey-Lee district since 2002 and superintendent for the past six years. I grew up in this community and attended schools here.

In my time serving in the district I’ve seen more and more kids, through no fault of their own, growing up in homes where parents are struggling to make ends meet, often working two or three low-wage jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Many of our students are first and second generation immigrants whose parents decided to raise them here because of the high-quality public education we’re capable of providing. Nearly 25% come to us through Schools-of-Choice because they like the atmosphere and personal care of a smaller district. But because of decades of disinvestment in public education made by our state legislature, especially over the past four years, we’re failing to deliver as hoped for each and every one of them.

GLPS Foundation Allowance

State funding for our core academic programs has been cut in recent years and over the past 20 years has failed to keep up with rising costs due solely to inflation.

Kids in our district are hard working and capable of learning but they face greater barriers to success, often starting out two to four years behind in their education. And because many come with limited English language skills, they need more instructional time and specialized training for our teachers.

As I’ve stated, we know our students can be as successful as students in any other district, and we can help make sure that they are, but that’s much more difficult to do when Lansing continues to slash funding to our schools and perpetuate an inequitable funding system. It’s meant that class sizes have gotten substantially larger, but we don’t have the resources to reverse this. Class sizes in our elementary schools have gone from on average eighteen to twenty in a classroom to anywhere from 25 to 30. Two-thirds of our middle school this year could have upwards of 34 students in several of their classes.

3rd grade reading to poverty

This graph illustrates that results on state 3rd grade reading tests are correlated to the percentage of students growing up in poverty. The yellow circle represents Godfrey-Lee 3rd graders.

Additionally, our district has not been able to purchase new textbooks or replace outdated ones for the past seven years, nor are we able to provide even more high quality training and coaching for our teachers to help overcome the barriers of poverty and limited English proficiency. We’re not alone in being short-changed by our state legislators, as education funding has been cut in most other school districts across the state to a level that is inadequate to reach the lofty college and career readiness goals for every child.

We know beyond a doubt that when provided adequate and equitable resources to meet the needs of every student where they are at, they can be successful. Research by Rutgers University’s Bruce Baker has proven this point for a number of years and has singled out our school district for being one of the most unfairly financed districts in the country.

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Godfrey-Lee is one a handful of districts in the country deemed unfairly funded by their states, and has been on this list since 2009. Baker, Bruce D. America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts and How They Got that Way: How State and Local Governance Causes School Funding Disparities. Appendix C. July 2014

We’ve proven the fact that school funding matters. Lee High School received a substantial federal school improvement grant that provided the instructional resources, additional learning time, additional teachers, as well as extensive staff training and coaching over a three-year period. During that time, the high school went from the bottom of the state’s Top-to-Bottom rankings all the way to performing better than 63 percent of schools in the state. It was identified by MDE as a model for effectively using additional funding to close achievement gaps and elevate student learning. Those funds, which amounted to an additional $2,200 per student per year, were exhausted after three years and many resulting programs, particularly extended learning time, could not be sustained. Subsequently, the school slipped to the 11th percentile this past year.

Funding does matter, especially when it comes to providing equitable learning opportunities for kids. It’s time for our elected leaders to show they have the right priorities for our children’s future by making greater investments in our public schools. But beyond that, leaders in Lansing also need to prioritize allocating more aid to districts who are struggling with greater needs to ensure that every child in Michigan has the opportunity to succeed.

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Thinking Back to That First Graduating Class

This evening we will gather at Resurrection Life Church to honor and celebrate the 90th graduating class of Lee High School. Our human minds have a difficult time grasping the concept of “90 years” because we are captives of our personal memories, and life prior to our very own first memories is but an illusion. My own personal memories likely date back to as early as 1959 and anything that occurred prior to that time is but fiction to me, although intellectually I know that the world was turning long before I was born.

In late fall of 1923, the doors to the new Lee Street School were opened to a group of students who had been enduring the over-crowded conditions of the old Godfrey School. The high school grades had only been around about fourteen years and even then only extended to the tenth grade. Students who attended ninth or tenth grade at Godfrey likely experienced attending classes in narrow hallways and stairwells. There were only ten classrooms total.

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Originally planned only to be a junior high school, by the time the Lee Street School opened it had a small handful of students who had just entered the eleventh grade. Their experience at Lee would be short-lived and four would become members of the very first graduating class during the spring of 1925, a time when the electric Interurban train to Holland would ramble by the front of the school several times each day.

From the very first fall, they had fielded a football team and both boys’ and girls’ basketball teams followed that winter. The next spring, they managed to come up with enough players to field a baseball team. In their senior year, the boys’ basketball team made it all the way to the state semi-finals, not bad for a rural school barely open for one year. That spring, a track team took the place of baseball and three of its members went on to the National High School Tournament at Ann Arbor. The girls’ track team set a number of records and won championships in the Suburban Meet and West Michigan A.A.U. meet.

Because the Class of ’25 was so small, it required the aid of the junior class to put on its musical comedy,  “Sunshine.” It played to a full house the first night but due to an injury to one of the cast members, a sell-out crowd had to be turned away the second night.

Eventually, graduation day came for that first class of Lee High School seniors. A year later, Magdalene DeYoung was attending Grand Rapids Junior College and would eventually become a school teacher. She would live to be the oldest surviving member of those early days attending alumni reunions at Lee well into the first decade of the 21st century.

Her fellow graduates included Marie Austin who went to work at Michigan Bell Telephone in downtown Grand Rapids; Albert Smith who following graduation tried his luck in the growing movie industry in California; and Alvin Oakes, who quickly became a foreman in the expanding Pere Marquette Railroad Yard industries on the north end of Wyoming.

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Norovirus Outbreak

Lee Middle and High School was closed this morning with students and staff being sent home just prior to the start of a typical Friday. It became clear that a flu-like outbreak was underway due to the number of staff and students calling in sick with similar conditions. The Kent County Health Department was called in and the evidence concludes an outbreak of the Norovirus.

What is Norovirus? Norovirus is a virus that causes acute gastroenteritis also known as the “stomache flu”. Symptoms of Norovirus infection are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and low grade fever. It is spread by fecal-oral route, either by consumption of fecal-contaminated food or water, direct person-to-person contact or by environmental contamination where the virus lives on inanimate objects such as keyboards, door handles etc.

How can you prevent yourself and your children from getting Norovirus? Below are several charts (English and Spanish) that can help you. In the meantime, our cleaning company is completely disinfecting all of our school buildings and the Lee Field locker room this weekend. Our technology team has assisted to make sure all of our computer keyboards and laptops are also sanitized. We have cancelled a number of athletic practices and events this weekend, and have closed the schools to any weekend events pending completion of the cleanup. I would also suggest that our students avoid congregating together this weekend, particularly if a family member has contracted the virus.

At this point, we anticipate opening school on Monday morning. If that should change, we will immediately notify all of our families through the emergency notification system, television, radio, Facebook and Twitter.

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