Archive | May, 2015

One Reason Why Honey Creek Is at the Top

STEM Fair 2013The Education Trust-Midwest (ETM) -a nonpartisan, independent educational research, analysis, policy, and advocacy group- has highlighted Honey Creek and its authorizer, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, as one of the top charter schools and authorizers in the state of Michigan. The ETM praises the efficacy with which Honey Creek and the WISD work together– in particular, their ability both to use data to drive decision-making and to maintain the flexibility to select and implement the most effective, highest quality teaching and learning practices. The ETM identifies mutual respect and “a laser-like focus” as significant contributors to Honey Creek’s status as a leader in setting state-wide performance standards.

For more information, read the EDMT analysis.


Director’s Note May

Greetings all,

I hope that you found some time to enjoy the wonderful spring weather we had this past weekend. With the onset of the warmer weather, we will have several activities taking place. Our Spring Curriculum Celebration is scheduled for Friday, May 15 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and our Spring Performance is on May 19 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. P.E. Play Day will take place on Friday, May 29. Please pack a picnic lunch and join your child(ren) for an afternoon of fun at Honey Creek!

Honey Creek has experienced a great deal of success over the past few years, and the media has praised our little school on several occasions. Most recently we were featured in the Detroit Free Press series on charter schools and also by The Education Trust- Midwest. This publicity, as well as word of mouth, has led to an increased interest in Honey Creek. We receive 80 to 100 applications for kindergarten enrollment each year, not including sibling applications. As a result, we were only able to accept six new families last September, and we will only accept eleven new families this coming September. Due to this increase in interest, the Honey Creek Board of Trustees has asked me to explore the possibility of opening a second campus. They have also asked me to explore the possibility of expanding our grade levels to include a high school. Both our authorizer, the Washtenaw ISD and the Michigan Department of Education Charter School Office support us moving in this direction. For the next several weeks I will be working with a group of Board members, teachers, parents and ISD administrators to explore the benefits and challenges of expansion and replication. Please look for updates over the next several weeks, and if you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best, Al

Board News May

Board News

The Board of Trustees met on April 22, 2015. Present: Greg White (president), John Lonsway (treasurer), Christine Kelley (secretary), Karen Andrews, Nina Nabors, Pam Reister, Angie Tracey, Steve Rich, Al Waters, Shellee Almquist, Karen Giltrow, Tammy Hall, Liz Scott. Also present for Board Spotlight: Will Hathaway, Sara Brintnall.

Board Spotlight: Karen Andrews and the governance committee invited Diana Kern of the NEW Center to present around being an effective member of a charter school board. She presented Board Roles, Responsibilities, and Governance Overview, tailoring her presentation to meet the needs of Honey Creek specifically. The board engaged in a conversation about where to go from here, and expressed gratitude to Diana and to Karen for inviting her.

Director’s Report: –Al reported on progress of M-STEP testing (this is going much more slowly than anticipated, an experience that is reportedly shared by many other schools). –Air Quality: Al presented data from one classroom and the front office for a 24- hour sample. Noted that the number of particulates in the air fluctuates significantly during the day, ranging from good to fair. Al will continue to collect this data, and share it with Randy Trent (maintenance supervisor); he will ask Randy to present his plan for addressing air quality concerns. –Replication/Expansion: Al reports strong support from the ISD, and has arranged a meeting with other educators who have been involved in establishing new programs in the district, to be held in June. –Articles of Incorporation/Bylaws: These had been edited by the governance committee and forwarded to WISD for review; WISD asked Al for written clarification of need for an expanded board, and he agreed to write this. –Marketing: Al attended presentation by two groups at UM Ross School of Business, and will share their recommendations with this board. Work continues to clarify and refine Vision and Mission statements; Board approved new Purpose Statement: Honey Creek Community School develops the whole child by integrating life, learning, and community. –Review of financial health: Al shared a report comparing financial health of schools in the state: http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2013/08/06/new-report-ranks-michigan- school-districts-financial-health/ Honey Creek has a very strong standing (1 on a 0-10 level of financial risk).


Following a $50,000 gift from the Foundation, our fund balance rests around 16%. Next month we will vote on final budget for this school year and have the first reading of next year’s budget.

Foundation Liaison: Approved gift of $50,000 to the general fund. Launched targeted spring fundraiser to replace outdated computer equipment.

Governance Committee: Working on several projects, including Director Evaluation, Board Self- Evaluation, improving Board Orientation, and inviting teachers to complete an Employee Satisfaction survey.

Full board is working to recruit members for the three open seats next year. Secretary will send emails requesting nominations, and will conduct elections the week of May 18.

Communications Committee: Work is progressing on video project; videographer was here on Earth Day and will return during week of curriculum celebration to capture images of project- based learning and interview Al and a few teachers.

Full board minutes are available at http://honeycreekschool.org/who-are-we/ the-honey-creek-team/school-board.

Public participation is always appreciated! Consider serving on the Board of Trustees: The Honey Creek Board of Trustees (the school’s governing body) will have at least THREE positions open next school year. Each position is a three-year term commencing in July 2015. We are currently recruiting candidates/nominees who will proudly represent the community and have an interest in any of the following areas: finance, policy, administrative oversight, business development, real estate development, and building exemplary community relations. The HCCS Board of Trustees meets monthly throughout the year, currently on the third Wednesday of the month at 5:30 pm.

Physical Education and Swim

Physical Education and Swim

We are really looking forward to PE Play Day on May 29th where all the students have a chance to be outside and interact with all grade levels in a fun, field day setting.

We are beginning some assessments in class. All our students will be participating in the Pacer Test as part of the Fitnessgram to help assess aerobic capacity. In K-1 this is done as more of an introduction and “game.” They use this time to challenge themselves, work on setting goals, and practice following directions. All students are encouraged to cheer on their classmates during the Pacer Test, practicing good sportsmanship as well. In later grades, we assess how many times a student can “beat the beep” while running either 15 or 20 meters across the gym. We did this in January so students will be able to compare their own personal results from then to see how they have improved throughout the year.

As the weather warms up we will be going outside more for classes. Middle school classes will be finishing up Frisbee as well as working on completing an ongoing project of “fitness journals.” Students have been logging their physical activity each day so that they can begin to think about the type of and how much physical activity they are doing each week, helping them to set personal fitness goals. The middle school elective class has been both in and out of the water this semester, doing a different activity nearly every class. They are finishing up projects this week in which they had to create a unique game that could be played in a physical education class at Honey Creek. The 4/5 classes were introduced to volleyball, dance, and yoga this past month and are working on ultimate Frisbee rules and skills now. In 2/3 they are working on skill review including: striking, throwing, and catching. They will be introduced to heart rate and Frisbee over the next couple of weeks. The K1 classes will be doing a lot of skill practice with different stations in the gym. Along with stations, we will be focusing on improving our locomotor skills by playing various games and they will be introduced to a variety of yoga poses during warm- ups. In swimming, we are practicing many of the strokes/kicks/and turns that we already learned throughout the year. We are also taking the deep end test in all of the classes and continuing with some water safety fun! Our goal is to get everyone comfortable in the water and help each student improve their individual skill level.

Director’s Note April

Dear families,

Spring is here, and our break

is scheduled from April 6 through

April 10. I hope that all of you find some

enjoyable family time.  When we return from spring break, the Michigan academic testing season will begin. The new assessment, the M-Step, will be given to the various grade levels at different times. The eighth and fifth grade will take their English Language Arts assessment on April 14 and 15. Math and Social studies will be given the 21 through 23. The other grades will take assessments during the following weeks. You will find the entire schedule later in this news letter.

Please keep in mind that we take a low-pressure approach to assessment. All we ask is that students arrive rested and fed. Participation is critical as our funding, academic rating, and charter reauthorization are all dependent on the data generated through this assessment.

Last month I sent out an email regarding immunization waivers. I’ve recently been informed by Washtenaw County Public Health that they are anticipating a high volume of requests for waivers. As we have large numbers of medically fragile students in our building, I strongly encourage you to immunize your child, but if you chose to waive your child’s immunizations, you must make an appointment at the Washtenaw County Public Health Immunization Clinic to speak with a nurse. The clinic is located at 555 Towner Street in Ypsilanti. The phone number is 734-544-6700. All students entering kindergarten or seventh grade or enrolling in the school for the first time must submit either an immunization record, a physician issued medical waiver or a Washtenaw County Public Health issued waiver. Students who do not have one of these forms of documentation will be excluded from attending Honey Creek Community School until appropriate documentation is submitted. If you plan to obtain a waiver, I urge you to contact Washtenaw County Public Health to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

Have a healthy spring break!



M-Step Schedule


Literacy Committee

Do you know what your student enjoyed most about March is Reading Month?

For many kids it was the “Read In” with High Point, Honey Creek, and Gretchen’s House on March 6th. Thanks to Jessica P’Simer, Kristyne Cole, Doug Miller, and Christine Billick for their help that day. A special thank you to Liam McGlohon, Michael Tracey, Anneka Billick, Zach Sabin, Emmy Rhizal, Ana Morgan, Katherine Andrews, Caroline Andrews and Eli Atkinson for your entertaining reading.

Students (and parents) have been enjoying the “Get Caught Reading” posters in the lobby. (Thanks to Tammy Hall for making them!) If you haven’t seen them yet, check them out before the April vacation. New posters were added throughout the month, so you might not have seen them all.

March is over, but we are still coming up with more plans to celebrate reading. Stay tuned for news about a used book sale and some fun summer reading plans!

The Literacy Committee


Board News April

Board News, April 2015

The board met on March 25, 2015. Board members present: Greg White, Angie Tracey, Christine Kelley, Nina Nabors, Karen Andrews, John Lonsway, Pam Reister, Steve Rich. Public present: Will Hathaway, Karen Giltrow, Al Waters, Shellee Almquist, Sue Hofbauer, Mary Bassett, Dr. Stephen Gill.

Board Spotlight: Dr. Stephen Gill presented on the topic of innovation in education, and prompted a lively board discussion about Honey Creek’s approach to education and how that readies our students for the new landscape of college and the workforce.

Director’s Report: –Testing: Al Waters reported on the M-STEP testing that is beginning April 14 and will run through May 15. A schedule of test dates has been sent to parents, and teachers are being as creative as possible to minimize impact of testing on classroom instruction. –The Marketing committee continues to work with data pulled together from Catchafire volunteer as well as two groups from the UM business school (they will prepare presentation for April). –Replication/Expansion committee continues to work gathering information on the requirements for expansion, with the support of the WISD. Next steps will involve gathering some data around finances and possible locations. –Facilities: Randy Trent has been working with Honey Creek to implement a new form to speed up process of responding to teacher-initiated work orders. His crew has also been working to address rodent issues (new weatherstripping, closing gaps and passageways, working with exterminator to properly address issue). Conversation continued around air quality in the classrooms. Al will purchase an air quality monitor and will gather data to bring to Randy. The question of cleaning generally and cleaning air ducts, etc., continues.

Finance Committee Report: Angie asked Board to approve updated 2014-15 budget (few new items, include stipends and bonuses); board voted to approve. –Finance committee asked board to consider asking Foundation for a gift of $50,000 for this year; after discussion, the board voted to ask foundation for $65,000 for the school year. –John Lonsway handed off work on the Honda Grant to Al and Shellee for completion by May 1 deadline.

Foundation Liaison Report: –Foundation has raised around $37,000 this fiscal year. Work continues around a spring fundraising push, perhaps for a specific set of costs. Sent out update sheet for Pi Day indicating number of families contributing, etc. Also continuing work on donor database and identifying events/third party fundraising opportunities. –The foundation board has filled the Development Officer position. Sara Britnall will join us in April; a committee is forming to set goals and establish a work plan.

Governance Committee Report: –Waiting for WISD to give feedback to bylaws updates; should be ready to vote on by May. –Director’s evaluation is getting underway. –Committee provided plan for continued board development, and continues to work on board orientation materials.

Communications and Outreach Committee Report: –Work continues on improving communications among all stakeholders. Plans are in place for middle school transition meetings (for parents), rekindling parent ambassador/mentor program for new families, improving flow of communication, meeting with all stakeholders in fall. –PTO has approved $999 in funding so committee can move ahead with a promotional video primarily for an external audience. –Work is being done on improving content on website, and we are starting to look at Parent Handbook for next year.

Faculty Liaison Report: –Board luncheon/fall retreat: All teachers who responded were positive about interacting with the Board, although there were some mixed reactions to luncheon vs. retreat vs. having Board (or representative) attend a staff meeting. Board recognized these competing preferences, and will plan to move forward as sensitively as possible. –Mary reported on faculty conversation around Honey Bunches of Notes, and acknowledges that there are mixed opinions among teachers here, as well. Board engaged in conversation around this, with Christine providing some context and information about the goals of the tool. She provided Mary a written summary of these remarks following the meeting. The goal is to keep improving communication within and outside of community.

Public Participation: Karen Andrews read Elka Francisco’s email concerning air quality in classrooms to the Board. Discussion around next steps followed, and Board expressed a commitment to continuing to address the issue.

Board Kudos: To the vast crew, including Fine Arts committee and other parent volunteers, who made Talent Night so successful. To teachers who so thoughtfully and thoroughly prepared for conferences. To the Wellness committee, for several well-planned events focusing on mental health, for students and families.

Next meeting: April 22, 5:30 pm in the Pit. All are welcome.

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