What Part of This Picture Is Wrong?

posted Feb 25, 2011, 1:15 PM by Mike Paskewicz   [ updated Feb 25, 2011, 2:05 PM ]
This afternoon the high school "Fling" assembly engaged over 1,100 students in a display of an exceptional level of celebration.  A very moving rendition of our National Anthem was sung by one of our senior class members.  As the young man came to the center of the gym, all 1,100 students and staff fell silent, placed their hands over their hearts, and paid respect to our country.  Opening remarks by the principal referenced next week's MME testing and a request to get plenty of rest and show your best during the testing week.  Assembly events, prepared and implemented by the student council, raised the level of energy and excitement. Staff and students participated together in the fun associated with building a positive culture/climate that is based upon mutual respect and trust.  Winter sports teams were recognized as were the teachers who provided additional time and support to students who needed academic assistance to meet rigorous eligibility requirements. The assembly ended with everyone on their feet singing the school fight song being played by the award winning pep band.

Earlier in the day at West Oakview Elementary a second grade student was explaining his reading goal to me.  He started at reading level 16, is now at reading level 24, and expects to be at level 28.  His motivation to meet his goal is inclusion in a "reading club" that meets in a small area between classrooms.  The "reading club" is funded by a grant from the Northview Education Association.  The grant request was written by classroom teachers and funded by the NEA based upon donations from the Northview community.  Reading achievement benchmarks are used in each grade level at West (and in all of our schools) and the latest round of assessments indicate incredible growth of student reading proficiency.  Teachers tell me the 90 minute Readers' Workshop and the common planning time has fundamentally changed the way we deliver the language arts curriculum.  A short visit to the art room provided me with evidence that our realignment of resources to provide art, music, and physical education each week for each elementary school student is paying dividends.  The art teacher is new to Northview.  We were able to  hire her thanks to a creative approach to the alignment of existing resources.  The current K-12 budget proposal before our elected officials in the State of Michigan has her wondering if she will have a job next year. 

The day began with a very difficult recommendation to our Board of Education regarding the expulsion of a student who made a behavior choice that is unacceptable in our school district and is in violation of policy.  The student has had a considerable amount of support available as he dealt with the issues that life puts in front of our young people today.  Our school resource officer, administration, deans of students, counselors, staff, and other concerned adults have provided interventions and support for hundreds of students who need additional help in dealing with issues that occur away from the school grounds and play out during the school day.  The issues in our schools reflect the issues found in our community. 

Earlier in the week, I attended the Freshman and JV girls and boys basketball games.  Our athletic director pointed out several student/athletes on the court who have brought up their grades and commented that without the sports they would be in danger of falling away from the school district.  This thought filled my mind as I walked to the other end of the high school to sit in on the East Oakview Vocal Music concert.  The Max Colley Jr. Performing Arts Center - "The Max" - was standing room only.  Parents, grandparents, and family members were being treated to the sweet voices of all of the first and second grade students - special needs and regular education students all performing at high levels.  Some of the vocal numbers were even directed by the students without the assistance of teachers.  I found out later that the music teacher gives each classroom teacher a CD of the songs to be performed.  The teachers turn on the songs as kids get dressed for recess or leaving for home each day.  Kids sing as they dress for the outdoors.  Not a moment is wasted during the day.  As I drove home I wondered if we will be able to retain the creative and innovative programs and practices that allow all students to achieve at high levels. I also wonder what part of this picture needs reinvention.

Tuesday night the high school bands and the Varsity Voices performed a combined concert in "The Max."  Once again, it was standing room only in the building named after long time band director Max Colley.  The naming request was brought before the Board of Education by students.  Basketball games were being played at the other end of the building.  In the middle of the building band parents were handing out the sub sale orders, the profits going to the band program.  New band director Greg Wells, thanked the audience for their attendance and support.  He then made a "call to action" based upon the impact the current State of Michigan K-12 budget proposal will have on the arts in the Northview Public Schools.  The award winning student bands and coral groups listened closely as did the packed house.

The budget proposal on the table before our elected officials calls for a $470 per student reduction for next school year.  This means the Northview Public Schools will receive $1.6 million less next year.  Over the past 4 years we have cut 40 employee positions and over $2.2 million from our budget in the past two years.

As I drive home this Friday night, my question remains, what part of this picture is wrong? 

Feel free to make comments or respond to this blog by contacting me directly at mpaskewicz@nvps.net.