Message to our Class of 2015

cap01Congratulations to our 2015 graduates. With the extraordinary help of your parents and persistence on the part of your teachers, you have crossed the finish line of the first phase of life’s journey. It’s definitely an exciting time where finally you will be able to live your own life, make decisions for yourself, and at last do exactly what you want.

Well, maybe. The good news is you’re now free to make your own choices, but wait, because the bad news is you’re free to make your own choices. You see, the world is becoming ever more complex and decisions get harder every day. You may make a decision that results in exactly what you want, and you may make one that leads you in a direction you’ll regret. Every decision you confront will ultimately be based on choices and how will you know when you’ve made the best — or right — one?

Therefore, as you walk out the door following graduation, keep in mind that from this day forward you own more than you ever did before, all the choices you will make and the directions you take. Your parents have spent the past eighteen years and your teachers the last thirteen equipping you the best they can to help you move ahead. Now that you’ve mounted that horse, you’ll be responsible for taking the reins and moving out along a path that will take you toward your dreams. Your family and friends will be there to support you (or sometimes lovingly chastise you), but the reality is you have to take control, evaluate your options, make critical decisions, and act on them in the best manner possible.

Although the next phase won’t be easy — whether you’re off to college, a job, technical training, the military, or somewhere else — but it will be full of exciting adventures — as well as pitfalls. I’d be remiss if I let you think it will be rosy from here on out, though, because there will be struggles, and failures, and sometimes pain. I’ve been there. So have your parents and teachers. We’ve each encountered our bogeyman from time to time but have used our abilities to think, communicate, reason, create and develop supportive relationships that help overcome them. Rest assured, so will you.

I often share my favorite movie line that goes something like this: Thomas Wayne says to his son, Bruce (a.k.a., Batman), “Why do we fall?” Bruce is unsure, and his father responds,  “So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” You see, you will make mistakes and you will experience falls. Mostly small ones but some of them will be monumental blunders. The most important thing I personally hope you’ve come to realize these past eighteen years is that you can learn from those mistakes and get past them. Mistakes may be painful but they’re not permanent. If you don’t want them to be.

It’s going to depend on you and how you respond to life’s bumps and bruises. If after falling, you simply choose to sit in the dirt and cry about your lot, you’ll likely get exactly what you have coming — dirty (and maybe stepped on). If you instead choose to think through what are often complex decisions, make better choices, and take the action steps you need to pick yourself up and get ahead, you’ll do just that.

Eventually. Maybe not at first, but patience and persistence will pay off.

So once again congratulations on arriving intact at this milestone. Graduation is a time to celebrate you, as well as a time to thank those around you — your parents, teachers and classmates — who helped you get here. But, it’s also the perfect time to come to grips with the fact that life from this point on is going to change. Oh yes, it will change.

How it changes and how you respond will be largely up to you.

Always Rebels!

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3 Godfrey-Lee Schools Recognized for Cardiac Preparedness by State of Michigan

Today, three Godfrey-Lee schools were named MI HEARTSafe Schools by the Michigan Departments of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Education (MDE), American Heart Association (AHA), Michigan Athletic Association (MHSAA) and Michigan Alliance for Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young (MAP-SCDY) which recognizes schools that are prepared to respond to cardiac emergencies.

With the assistance of our two Spectrum Health school nurses — Rebecca Quigley and Nicole Kalinowski — East Lee Campus, Godfrey Elementary and the Early Childhood Center achieved this designation.

Between 1999 and 2009 in Michigan, there were 3,134 young individuals between 1 and 39 years of age who died of sudden cardiac death. Of those, 246 were between 5 and 19 years of age. In its second year, the MI HEARTSafe Schools designation is Michigan’s commitment to reducing the number of sudden cardiac death in our youth. Last year was the first year of the program, and 40 schools were designated in Michigan.

“Sudden cardiac death claims the lives of more than 300 Michigan children and young adults between the ages of one and 39 years of age each year,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of MDHHS. “Implementation of CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) within 3-5 minutes is crucial for increasing the chance of survival. Cardiac arrest is often unexpected and frightening, and I’m pleased to see so many of our schools taking preventative measures to address this health issue.”

Public Act 12 of 2014 requires all schools (grades kindergarten to 12) to have a cardiac emergency response plan in place. All of our schools currently have an existing cardiac emergency response plan and have taken additional steps to be prepared for a cardia emergency.

In order for a school to receive a MI HEARTSafe designation, it must perform at least one cardiac emergency response drill per year; have a written medical emergency response plan and team; have current CPR/AED certification of at least 10 percent of staff; have accessible, properly maintained and inspected AEDs with signs identifying their location; and ensure pre-participation sports screening of all student athletes using the current physical and history form endorsed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

For more information about the MI HEARTSafe Schools program, visit

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Lee High School Noted for Improvement

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has notified the district that Lee High School has been released from its 2010 priority status due to the hard work of our professional staff and students these past five years.

I’m pleased to send the attached letter notifying you of the release of one of your schools form Priority School Status. Congratulations to you and to your school leaders, staff, and students for their diligence in school improvement!

As you may recall, Lee High School was identified for a significant federal school improvement grant that ran from 2010-11 through the start of the 2013-14 school year. That funding coupled with Rebel spirit and dedication led to the high school’s substantial climb in the top-to-bottom rankings of Michigan schools, particularly during the first two years.

I echo Superintendent Flanagan’s praise and include a copy of his letter, below.


Also read: 27 Michigan schools removed from priority list after moving out of bottom 5 percent

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Event at Lee Middle & High School

Students and staff at Lee Middle & High School were evacuated this morning due to an unidentified odor. Emergency first responders were immediately called in to determine the type and cause of the odor. School staff moved the high school students to Lee Street Church (thank you, Pastor Kent Rottman) while the middle school moved into the 6th grade campus.

Trained responders searched the entire school building while administrative and maintenance staff worked to open windows and doors for ventilation. While it was determined the odor was strongest in or near the boys locker room, no exact source could be located. From the reactions experienced by staff and first responders, it appears it may have been caused by someone releasing pepper spray, a non-toxic irritant. It dissipated within an hour and the building was cleared by emergency personnel for students and staff to return.

We are reviewing our surveillance camera tapes and keeping an ear open for any information that might lead to the individual or individuals who may have caused this incident.  In the meantime, classes will continue for the rest of the day as normal. We appreciate the great support we received as usual from our Wyoming Safety Department.

We take the safety and well-being of our students, staff and visitors to our schools very seriously and will always error on the side of precaution in situations like this.Bringing any foreign substance into a school building that may harm individuals and disrupt the normal educational process is not only a serious discipline issue but a crime, and if it’s determined that any of our students were involved in this type of behavior, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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Opting Out of State Testing – State’s Official Position

There has been some talk in the media, on social networking, and face-to-face about students (via their parents) opting out of state-mandated annual assessments. I wanted to briefly pass along to you the official position of Michigan’s State Superintendent and Board of Education.


Our school district is measured under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law on these annual mandated assessments. While I personally believe they waste a lot of valuable learning time, serve to narrow the curriculum, and utilize state and school resources that would better serve your children while spending time learning valuable 21st century skills, the fact remains that we are required by law to administer them. Should your child’s school not meet or exceed 95% of students in any grade level or subgroup completing these tests, the school will receive the lowest grade (RED) possible signifying it as a “failing school.”

If you have questions, please bring them to your child’s principal or feel free to contact me in the district administration office. You can also read the parent information on M-Step, the new name for Michigan’s annual assessments, at (PDF reader required):

Thank you.

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Proposal 1 Straight Talk

If you’re like a lot of the people I’ve talked with or listened to recently, you’re may be starting to think more fervently about Proposal 1 and wondering why we would increase our sales tax to improve Michigan’s roads. PC side 1There are some who say Proposal 1 is too complex because it involves Michigan’s roads, Michigan’s schools, the sales tax, and even earned income tax credits for low income families.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Like others who are interested in the quality of our transportation infrastructure, K-12 public schools, and the welfare of our most at-risk students, I’ve taken the time to study Proposal 1 in detail and I’d like to share what I’ve learned.  Here’s what it does:

• Proposal 1 increases the sales tax from 6 cents per dollar to 7 cents, bringing our state sales tax in line with the sales taxes paid in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio.

• Proposal 1 substitutes the sales tax on gasoline with a funding stream that directs all tax dollars spent at the pump to transportation purposes.

• The sales tax on fuel provides more than $630 million per year for schools. Proposal 1 replaces the money devoted to schools and prohibits the legislature from diverting school aid funds to four-year universities, which have received $200 million or more from the school aid fund each year since 2011.

• Proposal 1 would also provide additional dollars for schools through the increase in the sales tax, as most of the sales tax revenues are devoted to public education.

• A part of the sales tax on fuel also goes to revenue sharing, to help your local municipality pay for police, fire, and other services. Proposal 1 would replace those revenues through the sales tax increase.

• Many people fear low-income families will bear the brunt of the Proposal 1 sales tax increase because the one-cent increase would represent a larger portion of their family income. Proposal 1 restores a reduction in the earned income tax credit to offset the burden of additional sales taxes families at or near the poverty level.

As you can see, Proposal 1 is complex because it was constructed to make sure schools and municipalities do not suffer because taxes paid at the pump would be dedicated to repairing and maintaining our roads and bridges.

There are a number of resources on the Internet published by groups that both support and oppose Proposal 1. You may want to review some of the resources posted on the non-partisan Michigan League of Women Voters website (  I’ve also scheduled a community forum on Monday, April 20, 2015 from 7 to 8 pm in the Early Childhood Center multi-purpose room.

PC side 2 Please take time to study Proposal 1 and, above all, please vote on May 5th. One of the primary goals of public education is to prepare young people for participation in our Democracy and your involvement in the electoral process provides a wonderful role model for your children, grandchildren and all the children in our community.

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Graduation rates continue to climb

The State of Michigan has released the graduation rates as of 2014 and overall, the statewide rate for on-time graduation continues to improve.

In our district, Lee High School is to be commended as it’s already excellent, on-time graduation rate has continued to climb the past five years to an all-time high of 95.29%, while the dropout rate has dropped to just 2.35%.  Lee’s graduation rate for 2014 ranks the school 8th in Kent County for the highest graduation rate, out of 52 traditional, charter and alternative high schools. Lee is ranked 11th out of Kent and Ottawa Counties combined.


East Lee Campus, our quality alternative high school that provides a last chance for students who have fallen behind to earn a diploma and gain valuable work skills, has doubled its on-time graduation rate since 2009-10, reaching an all-time high of 60.47%.


Our staff, students and parents are to be commended for these results and continuing improvement efforts focused on student learning. Godfrey-Lee’s enrollment has grown by 68% in the past 20 years with a substantial portion of students attending under schools-of-choice. It’s clear based on the graduation rates and other achievement growth factors that we are a “destination district” for students and their parents.

To demonstrate how well district-based, traditional high schools are doing compared with charter high schools in Kent County, the average four-year graduation rate in 2014 for the 24 traditional high schools was 88.1% (median was 92.4%) and for the 13 charter high schools was 54.2% (median 60.7%).

This data and more is available at

Also see’s slide show on the Top 20 graduation rates in Kent and Ottawa counties.

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