Friday, April 5, 2013

Supt. Allen: Revitalization Task Force will meet for third time April 10

By Diane Allen
Superintendent of Schools

The Taylor School District Revitalization Task Force for the 21st Century will meet for the third time at 4:30 p.m. on April 10 at the Board of Education offices.

The task force of over 60 members represents all stakeholder groups and includes community members, parents, board members, support staff, administrators and teachers at all levels. They have gathered hundreds of ideas and, as a result, have formed 10 action committees.

Those committees will meet independently of the larger group to study specific topics, such as reconfiguration, preschool curriculum, special education, technology, etc. Each committee will present a brief update of the work they have done thus far at the meeting next week.

This is an exciting process that is being lead by a group of dynamic and committed people. The work that is being done on behalf  of the students of the Taylor School District will lead to new learning opportunities for all. I'll keep everyone informed as we moved forward.

BACKGROUND: The first meeting of the task force was held Feb. 28. It's mission: To make the community proud of the Taylor School District. At that time, the Board of Education had its deficit plan approved by the State of Michigan and all contracts within the system had been recently approved.

At that meeting, the superintendent pointed out that the district's enrollment was 7,310 with a general fund budget of $62 million. It's foundation allowance per pupil -- the per-pupil state grant to fund education annually -- was $7,547 per pupil.

Allen pointed out that the revitalization program was focused on giving new life or vitality to the system and bringing it again into prominence.

Why the task force? Allen used a couple of quotations to make a point.

Margaret Mead once said, "We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems." 

"That says so much about our district," Allen said. "Actually, this is an opportunity for our district" to improve. She then turned to another quote, this time from Oprah Winfrey.

"We can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are." Allen told the task force members that the district will only get better by changing.

Revitalization focuses on five points: 

  • Increasing student achievement
  • Better preparing students to live and work in the 21st Century
  • To bring resident students back to the district
  • To retain the students that the district currently has
  • To increase enrollment through schools of choice

Allen pointed out that nearly half of the K-12 students living in the district (3,016) attend schools out of the system. In addition, she pointed to a 32 percent decline in student population over the past decade. Taylor did see 231 out-of-district student enrollees this year.

The revitalization campaign seeks to change negatives into positives -- instead of an end, this is a chance for a new beginning in Taylor. Considered heavily will be issues like reorganizing to add value, saving money and aligning with best practices and effectively and efficiently using facilities.

The timeline for task force work began with that first meeting. The end date is projected for Sept. 30. There is plenty of work ahead.

"We are now at a point where we must educate our children in what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet."
-- Margaret Mead

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Taylor Reading Corps continues to seek volunteers

The Taylor Reading Corps, which recruits, trains and supervises adult reading mentors to work with preschool and lower-elementary pupils in the Taylor School District, is still in need of new volunteers for this school year, as well as next year.

Currently, the TRC has approximately 200 adult volunteers working with about 300 students, but it is still in need of volunteers. 

Volunteering can be very easy: The TRC supplies in-house training and plenty of learning and background materials. TRC staff tailors the mentoring schedule as best as possible around the requests of the individual volunteer, scheduling them in the school that they prefer at times that they prefer. As part of the program, the TRC also hosts ongoing educational sessions for adult mentors – all on a totally voluntary basis. Many of those sessions include other adult peers who just trade stories and other tidbits to aid in the mentoring process.

The Michigan Reading Association recently honored the Taylor Reading Corps with its statewide agency award during the MRA’s winter conference and convention in Grand Rapids earlier this month.

The annual convention, “Lighting the Way for Literacy,” took place March 8-10 and drew more than 2,000 authors, educators and more to the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. The MRA is a non-profit group that is dedicated to promoting literacy in education and beyond.

Six statewide honors were awarded by the MRA. The MRA recognized the Taylor Reading Corps for its development as a non-profit literacy incubator since it was created in late 2011. 

Now in its second year, the TRC has sought to aid district pupils at the preschool and lower-elementary school level. It started recruiting, training and supervising adult reading volunteers last year, beginning on the kindergarten level. The corps ended up with approximately 100 adult mentors working with about 200 non-reading-proficient pupils. 

Despite the fact that the TRC was only able to work with those students for approximately half the school year, educators noted gains in their reading proficiency.

To volunteer or donate to the Taylor Reading Corps, email or telephone 1-313-769-6730.

Anyone interested in the program can also click on the Web site at, or write to the TRC, PO Box 276, Taylor, MI, 48180. The TRC is open during regular business hours Mondays through Fridays in the old U.S. Army recruiting storefront office at 22755 Wick, inside the Sax Pharmacy plaza (Wick Road at Pardee). 

If you have other question, feel free to email me directly at
-- Karl Ziomek

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring Literacy Fair held at Eureka Heights

Before going on Easter break, second-grade pupils in Mrs. Cermak's class at Eureka Heights Elementary School hosted a "Spring Literacy Fair."

The pupils read Acrostic Poem Self Portraits that they designed to their parents. Those poems were designed and typed in Mrs. Farkas' technology class and then combined with self-portraits created in their classroom. 

Classroom activities included multiple craft/reading stations for pupils to circulate through, showing their parents what amazing readers they've become and how they attach literacy to creativity in the classroom.

In addition, pupils took their parents on a tour of the technology classroom and showed off PowerPoint presentations they had been working on, detailing, "Why I Like Spring."

Rounding off a perfect presentation was healthy fruit-topped pancake treats supplied by Mrs. Cermak's parent volunteers!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Kinyon pupils get a taste of what's to come

Kinyon Elementary School recently marked the final day of the March is Reading Month challenge!

Principal McGuire noted that the school celebrated the reading month's theme of "Reading Luau" with a performance by polynesian dancers as a special treat for the pupils.

In addition, the class winners of the month-long challenge were announced.

On April 11, all of the students who met their reading month goals will attend a special luau party.

Standing ovation gives the staff a lift before the break!

By Tommie Saylor
Truman High School Principal

“A man never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child”

We must be doing something right at Truman High School. This last week (before Easter) we had the potential for utter chaos, a “perfect  storm” to speak in terms of student management and/or discipline.  

The weather is getting nice, slowly but surely spring is upon us and this always makes students edgy. Charged by the warm weather and the renewal of life that comes with springtime, students sometimes forget themselves in school and an increase in disciplinary referrals often accompanies the onset of warmer weather.  

Second, we were celebrating “spirit week."

Though I understand the importance and traditions of “spirit week," I dislike the impact it has on the educational environment. Students dressing up, attending assemblies filled with games and antics and constant interruptions to the educational process often translates into disciplinary
issues. Student’s sometimes forget that though this is a fun time, rules still apply and work needs to get done.  

Finally, it was the week before a significant break. Normally the week before a major break marks a rise in disciplinary referrals. This is theorized to be the result of students being jittery, knowing that their normal routine of coming to
school, seeing their friends and interacting with caring adults will soon come to an end. Others believe that students who are not capable to seeing past tomorrow -- let alone two weeks from now -- look at this as an opportunity to “be bad,” knowing that the consequences of their behavior will not catch up with them until some long off time in the future.

Either way, given any one of the above conditions usually spells hard times for a school, a rise is discipline issues and a disruption to the educational process. But when all three come together in one week, a rare event indeed, an absolute disaster can be forecasted.
A disaster for which the administration prepared, and hoped, would never come.

With the above lurking in our minds, we entered into this “perfect storm” of a week expecting doom and gloom, and found relatively “calm waters." I’m not going to lie to you, we did have an increase in disciplinary issues, but nothing like what we were expecting. Yet the real amazement came during the end of one of our assemblies, after all the grade levels had the opportunity for their girls dance teams and boys lip-sink teams to perform.

It was then that the teachers team took the gym.

This is something that has not happened in a long time. The teachers were concerned, even scared that they would not be accepted by the students as they performed. That they would
be "booed off the stage."  

What happened was stunning. Not only did the students cheer for their teachers, they openly approved of their
efforts and performance. In fact, at one point when the teacher’s performance came to an unplanned sudden stop, due to technical issues with our sound system, the students stood up on their feet clapping their hands and cheering “Teachers, Teachers, Teachers."  

To see the sight of over 1,100 students cheering, giving a standing ovation in support of their teachers who are experiencing a very embarrassing technical difficulty while trying to muddle their way through a performance, is nothing short of a miracle. If you would have told me two years ago that our students would be on their feet cheering, hooting and hollering for their teachers, chanting and clapping and openly
showing their affection for their teachers, I would have called you a liar.  

The image of seeing a gym full of students on their feet
cheering, chanting, and clapping for their teachers is one that I will take to my grave; it was beyond words, it was powerful, it was an affirmation of all the hard work and efforts to change the culture and climate of Truman over the last few years. 

Simply, we must be doing something right. In the face of such confirmation, I say stay the course, remain vigilant and continue to work hard on our transformation efforts.  Soon we will be the jewel of the Downriver area, the
educational “meca” for all to emulate.

Remember, their future is in our hands. Improving one week at a time. The New Truman High School ...