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Director’s Note February


Winter is slowly slipping past us, but the chance for a significant storm or two remains. It is common at this time of year for there to be some confusion regarding our school cancellation policy, and I’d like to remind you that we do not follow Ann Arbor Public School closings. The decision to close is made by the HCCS administration after consulting with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and reviewing weather conditions. In general, Honey Creek Community School does not close for cold weather; however, if cold weather is accompanied by blowing and drifting snow, which contributes to unsafe driving conditions, the school will close. Snow closings are based on actual conditions on the ground and forecasts. As Honey Creek Community School serves families throughout Washtenaw County, conditions may vary. Students who are unable to attend due to unsafe road conditions will be excused.

Honey Creek Community School maintains several systems for announcing school closings. The most efficient way to receive notification is through the school text messaging system. Families may sign-up to receive text notifications at: https://www.remind.com/join/honeycr. Additionally, Honey Creek sends out notifications through our email system and places a banner notification on our homepage: honeycreekschool.org. We also post with the following media outlets: FOX 2, Local 4, ABC 7, WWJ-TV 62, CW 50 Detroit, WWJ 950 News Radio, and WJR Radio.

While I’m hopeful that winter will fade away without any major weather events, I felt it important to review our policies and notification systems.



Board News February

The Board of Trustees met on January 27, 2016 at 5:30pm. Board members present: Greg White, Karen Andrews, Christine Kelley, Sara Hoffman, Megan Masson-Minnock, Pamela Reister, Steve Rich. Staff and community present: Al Waters, Shellee Almquist, Sue Hofbauer, Mary Bassett, Karen Giltrow.

The Board focused much of its attention this meeting on the first reading of the updated budget, which includes hard numbers for both revenues and expenses. One primary concern was preserving a healthy fund balance while also offering increased pay to faculty and staff. The finance committee had prepared some figures looking at 1%, 1.5%, 3%, 4%, and 5% raises. Discussion followed, with Karen Andrews encouraging board to find potential places to reduce costs as we prioritize teacher compensation. Shellee Almquist advised a conservative approach to spending, pointing to decreasing projected fund balances over future years. The finance committee will take the budget and provide some recommendations about appropriate steps forward, and the board will vote on a final budget in February.

Director’s Report:

Al reported that the building was thoroughly cleaned over the break, with some delays due to roof leaks and waiting on construction crews (which inconvenienced some teachers who had to wait to get into classrooms until just before school resumed). He intends to test air quality again, and is continuing to work with WISD to maintain facilities.

Reviewed enrollment meetings, including current 104 interested families. This is down a bit from previous years; Al’s guess is that increased options (STEAM school, expanded Open school, schools of choice) and our reputation for taking few new students annually has contributed to this.

Reviewed the generally positive (for Honey Creek) MSTEP results.

Informed board of a concern a family had brought forth about social curriculum. Al and the executive committee of the board have consulted a lawyer around this concern, and have a plan to address the concern.

Finance Committee Report:

Still needs a chair/treasurer. Worked with Shellee to prepare the budget. Will be looking into a line of credit as an alternative to maintaining a very high fund balance.

Foundation Liaisons Report:

Foundation had annual retreat, and has committed to raising $125,000 for the school in the coming year.

Governance Committee Report:

Continued working on updating board documents.

Four individuals have expressed interest in serving on the HC board. Committee will meet with them to assess interest/fit, and will bring candidates to the board at our next meeting.

Communications and Outreach Committee Report:

Continuing to work on strategies to improve internal and external communications, including direct communication between stakeholders, website, email, newsletter, promotional materials.

Branding/Marketing Committee Report:

Steve Rich reports that Erin Peterson has joined him in his work, and they hope to produce a draft of the marketing platform by March.

Faculty Liaison:

No report.

New Business:

Karen Andrews had to leave the meeting early, so discussion on her proposal to form a Facilities task force was tabled until our next meeting. Goal of this would be to have regular inspections of the facilities to look for work that could be considered in-kind per new lease, and to confirm that WISD is managing the space.

Board kudos: To the teachers, for hard work producing semester reports; to Sarah VanLoo, Teresa Gonzalez Woods, and Jessica P’Simer for running after school art; to the students, teachers, and parents for another impressive Curriculum Celebration; to the teachers, staff, and parent volunteers for hosting the Enrollment Meetings; to Margaret Wessel-Walker for her work in the media center, at lunch, and after care this fall.

Director’s Note January

Dear families,

I hope that your holidays were filled with family, friends, and fun. While on break, a great deal of work was completed in our building. Ceiling tiles were removed from all of the classrooms in the main building, the area above the tiles cleaned, the grids were painted, and new tiles installed. All of the floors in the building were cleaned and waxed, and the gym floor was completely resurfaced.

You may be aware the State released last year’s M-STEP score the week before break. Parent Reports arrived that Friday, which left little time to get them sent home. I will be sending them home with students on Friday, January 8. Please check your child’s planner or Friday folder for the report. At this time we have not received comprehensive reports from the state, so we can answer specific questions regarding the parent report, but do not have additional information, which should become available within the next few weeks.

The new assessment, the M-STEP, is aligned to our new state standards. It is more comprehensive and requires greater critical thinking and problem solving skills. The state predicted significant reductions in proficiency percentages, and like schools across the state, Honey Creek did see those reductions; however, our students’ performance remains competitive with the highest scoring districts in the county and state. Because this is a new test, historical performance data does not exist.

The tables below will provide you with the percentage of students who scored proficient or better in the state, county, AAPS, and Honey Creek. Honey Creek percentages have been highlighted to indicate where our school falls when compared to the other three. Percentages highlighted in blue indicate that the percentage of Honey Creek students scoring proficient or better exceeds the state, the county, and AAPS. Scores highlighted in green indicate that the percentage of Honey Creek students scoring proficient or better exceeds the state and the county, and Scores highlighted in yellow indicate that the percentage of Honey Creek students scoring proficient or better exceeds the state. If you have questions, fell free to contact you child’s teacher or me.

Happy New Year, Al


Board News January

Honey Creek Community School Board of Trustees met December 16, 2015.

Board Members Present: Karen Andrews, Sara Hoffman (arrived at 5:34p.m.), Christine Kelley, Megan Masson-Minock, Pamela Reister, Steve Rich, Greg White.

Staff and Community Present: Al Waters, Shellee Almquist, Sue Hofbauer, Mary Bassett, Karen Giltrow, administrative intern Caleb.


Board Spotlight: TerraNova Assessment Results

Al reported on the Terra Nova test, given to second through eighth grade. Because the state has changed to the MSTEP, and data is still not available (from spring 2015), it is important to have some data on student progress; Terra Nova fills this role. In general, Honey Creek students are showing improvement of at least one grade level per academic year (although timing is tricky, as TN was skipped last year to avoid overtesting in the spring). Teachers have the Terra Nova data for each student, and are able to start using it now.


Director’s Report:

–All classrooms and other meeting spaces will be thoroughly cleaned over break, including spaces above ceilings. After cleaning, Al Waters will test air quality monitor again, although he has not seen readings lower than acceptable in the past.

–Media Center/Art Positions: Long term art sub seems to be doing fine, and has applied for the permanent position. Media Center position has received no additonal resumes from certified candidates; school may consider filling that position with someone without a Media Center credential. Margaret Wessel-Walker is not returning in January, and someone else will need to fill that role.

–Every Child Achieves Act: Replaces No Child Left Behind. Al Waters expects we will see significant changes coming down from the Michigan Department of Education but these must meet Federal standards. Act renews emphasis on visual and performing arts.

–PA 219 may allow individuals that are retired to return to substitute teach in areas with significant sub shortages.


Finance Committee: Greg White noted that board member and Finance Committee member Andrew Banas resigned. Sara Hoffman noted the committee will meet the first Thursday of January at noon. They will be looking at the budget and what recommendations to bring back to the board, including around teacher raises/bonuses. Board will have the 1st reading of the budget in January to be approved in February.


Foundation Liaison: Karen Andrews reported, indicating that the Foundation has approved new bylaws and board member job descriptions. Bylaws should go up on the website. Immediate goals for the Foundation include: maximizing return on the end of year appeal; increasing the number of monthly recurring donors/families.


Governance Committee: Pamela Reiser reviewed the updating and streamlining of the employee handbook.


Communications and Outreach Committee: Christine Kelley reviewed work of the committee, which includes continued liaising between stakeholders, work on monthly newsletter, website, email issues, and promoting volunteerism in the community. Next meeting scheduled for January 15, 2016 at 8:15a.m. in the Office Conference Room.


Branding Committee: Steve Rich noted his intention/mission was to play around with logo ideas for the community to choose,  not to step on toes. He is open to what the community wants (perhaps the logo for the  anniversary spiritwear). He has communicated with Tammy Hall who was unhappy with the way new logos were heading. A discussion followed with a focus on synergy, to make sure vision is shared by all stakeholders and all stakeholders are invited to collaborate.


Faculty Liaison: Mary Bassett noted the teachers’ confusion about the logo. Also reported teacher concern over lack of raises.


New Business: Replacing board member Andrew Banas. Karen Andrews and Greg White  will reach out to potential members. Board members will also keep in mind we need a replacement for Andrew Banas now and begin to plan for the other two openings at the end of the year.


Other Items of Business by Consensus of the Board: Megan Masson-Minock would like to discuss how the three proposed administrative positions relate at a later time. Al Waters reiterated that the board has not made a decision to hire a third administrator, but are considering the idea.


Board Kudos To:

Katie Gates for a wonderful Winter Performance. Marta England for heading up the craft sale, all the parent volunteers and students who participated.


Next meeting is scheduled for January 27, at 5:30 pm. Public participation is warmly welcomed!

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

Directors Note December

Hi all,

I’m looking forward to our Winter Performance on December 10th. I hope to see you there, and I wish

you a very joyous and safe holiday season.

TerraNova results arrived last week, but we are still waiting on the results from the state assessments given last April.

Below are tables and charts that outline student progress as measured by the TerraNova 3 assessment.  The table provides you with the aggregate mean of the National Percentile (NP) and Scaled Score (SS).  The national percentile is determined by the pool of students taking the exam any given year. As this pool of students changes each year, fluctuations in the NP are common.  The scaled score is based on the number of questions a student answered correctly, and is a better reference to measure actual student achievement. A decrease in the scaled score from one year to the next indicates less than one year of academic growth.  An increase in the scaled score from one year to the next indicates more than one year’s academic growth. This year, many of our scaled scores have decreased. This is largely due to a change in the assessment period. In the past this assessment has been given in April. This year it was given in October, which means a decrease of instruction of six months. This change was implemented because of the change in the state-testing calendar.

Any one assessment can only give us a snap shot of how a student or group of students is performing on any given day. There is always the chance that other influences can impact a student’s performance negatively. It is for that reason that I prefer to look at patterns.

The table below provides mean grade level scaled score for the most recent assessment windows.

Individual reports will be sent home in your child’s planner or Friday folder on Friday, December 4.  If you have questions regarding your child’s performance, please contact your child’s teacher.  If questions remain,  please feel free to contact me.



Board News November

Honey Creek Board of Trustees met on November 18, 2015. Board Members Present: Karen Andrews, Sara Hoffman (arrived at 5:55p.m.), Megan Masson-Minock, Pamela Reister, Steve Rich, Linda Shirato, Greg White.  Staff and Community Present: Al Waters, Shellee Almquist, Sue Hofbauer, Mary Bassett, Karen Giltrow.

Board Spotlight: Yeo & Yeo presented the completed audit for 2014-15. Generally, the audit went well. The audit company found one material weakness due to cash reconciliations not being completed (this was an issue with new software this year) and one material noncompliance due to a budget overage.

Director’s Report: Al Waters reported on preliminary M-Step assessment data. He also encouraged attendance at the Charter School Advocacy Day in Lansing; it is particularly important to advocate for parity of funding for charter schools as compared to traditional public schools.

Finance Committee: Committee helped Shellee Almquist with cash reconciliations. School received a $50,000 gift from the foundation, and there was an increase in the state foundation allowance of $32,000. Board engaged in discussion of whether Honey Creek should be spending dividend from Community Foundation endowment or reinvesting in the endowment.

Foundation Liaison: Sara Britnall has stepped down from Development Officer position. The Foundation Board will decide what to do about this position during retreat in January.

Governance Committee: Board will have job descriptions for three administrators to discuss at next board meeting.

Branding: Steve Rich presented some versions of a new logo and elements for a branding platform, including focus on community, relationships between faculty, and flexibility. Will continue to solicit feedback.

Faculty Liaison: Staff thanked board for keeping raises in mind.

Old Business:

-Faculty raises. Discussion was tabled until budget is completed.

-Media position. Will be posted again in November, with decision to be made in January. Faculty feedback was shared.

-Facilities lease. WISD sent back a renegotiated lease which includes a reduction in rent for this year, followed by stepped increases next year and the following year. New lease allows for early opt-out for Honey Creek, and allows a clause to make capital improvements for rent refund. Following discussion, board agreed to support the new lease, which will be back-dated to July 2015.

New Business:

-Board president Greg White acknowledged that he has not been able to be as engaged with the board’s work this year due to other priorities; he offered to step down as an officer. Board encouraged him to stay on, which he will do.

Other items by consensus of the Board: Discussion of history of specials, including music, art, and the discontinued environmental education program.

Next meeting: December 16, 2015 at 5:30 pm in the Pit. Public encouraged to attend!

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

Pick-up and Drop-off Etiquette

Dear Honey Creek Families,

Please help keep our kids safe! And be great role models for them! There have been numerous complaints about unsafe traffic conditions, both in front of the school and especially back near the modulars. Below are guidelines for navigating the parking lots; most importantly please STOP at crosswalks and NEVER double-park.

–Fire lanes

There is no parking at any time in the fire lane. These are the lanes by the curb both in front of the building and along the fence by the modulars. You may stand in these lanes (remaining in your car) at pick up and drop off, but you may never leave your vehicle unattended in these lanes. This includes outside of normal school hours (such as pick up from aftercare or activities, or during school gatherings — even in the evening). If you use the curb area for drop-off or pick up, please use your directional signal and check for traffic before driving away from the curb.

If you find yourself using the curb lane when school buses are present, then you should use the designated parking lots instead. Buses at High Point are transporting students with disabilities and always have priority over other automobile traffic.

If you need to leave your car to enter school, even for a few minutes, please park in a designated parking area.

Of course it is NEVER acceptable to double park even if you remain in your vehicle. If you cannot find a space at the curb, you must use the designated parking areas.


Drivers, please come to a complete stop at each crosswalk. There are six crosswalks on the circular drive through the WISD campus. Four of these crosswalks are regularly used by families with young children. Because children are often entering crosswalks from between two cars, they may be difficult to see and their view of oncoming traffic will be limited.

Pedestrians, please use crosswalks to move across traffic, especially during busy drop off and pick up times. Children should never be unattended either in drive lanes or in parking areas.

It is NEVER acceptable to drive around other cars stopped at a crosswalk or to swerve around pedestrians in the crosswalk. It is also NEVER acceptable to park in a crosswalk. Pedestrians have the right of way.

–Speed limits

The posted speed limit within the WISD is 15 miles per hour, 5 miles an hour through crosswalks. Please comply with this speed limit at all times. Be prepared to stop during peak pedestrian times such as morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up.

–Standing lanes

During pick-up and drop-off, cars may stand in fire lanes. Please use turn signals to indicate change in lane. Forming a second line of cars is not safe for children and is confusing to other drivers. If you are not able to join the line of standing cars, please keep moving or park in a designated parking spot.


If children are not picked up within 15 minutes of dismissal (by 3:30 for normal school day), they need to report to aftercare until an adult arrives. Children must be encouraged to wait safely (out of drive areas) for parents.

–Drop-off/Pick-up Near the Modulars

The pedestrian walkways are less defined near the modulars. Drivers should be extra cautious in this area. Double parking is not permitted in the area near the modulars. Please be mindful of your speed and of other drivers and use directional signals when re-entering traffic.

Please use curb as drop-off area, use turn signal to indicate that you are moving into drive lane, and use the circular drive to continue out of the parking area.      

Directors Note

Greetings All,

It appears that we have another

week of mild weather, but winter

storms are due to arrive, often when

we least expect them.

In general, we do not close for cold weather,

but we will close when roads become hazardous. We also close when a building issue creates an unsafe situation.

In the event of a closing, we will post on our website, and we will also send out an email. If we have enough notice, we try to get the email out about 6 A.M.  We also post our closings on FOX 2, Local 4, ABC 7, WWJ-TV 62, CW 50 Detroit, WWJ 950 News Radio, and WJR Radio.


Additionally, if you receive texts on your cell phone, please follow the link below. You will receive a text as soon as the decision to close is made.

Sign up to receive Remind texts for school closings


Another matter of safety involves legislation presently being considered for passage in Lansing. Senate Bills 442 and 561 address the present controversy over guns in schools; however, they will address the issue by allowing concealed carry permit holders to conceal carry in schools. I encourage you to express your feeling on this matter as well as any of the bills outlined below to your local legislator.

House Bill 4822 requires retention of third grade students who do not demonstrate proficiency in reading on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP). Parents have no say in retention or promotion of general education students and no consideration is allowed for students who have made significant progress toward becoming proficient. Students with disabilities may be promoted based on the recommendation of the IEP team. Recent data released by the MDE indicates that about 50,000 students would be retained if this law went into effect this year.

Amendments to Public Act 451 will allow the state or a local districts to create  School Empowerment Zones. This bill is confusing and provides for extensive changes to public and charter school enrollment as well as to how decisions regarding the opening and closing of school are made. If Ann Arbor were to become an Empowerment Zone, all schools within the AAPS geographical boundaries would be subject to the decisions of the Empowerment Zone Manager.

The bill requires the creation of an Empowerment Zone Board and administration. This entity would exist in addition to all of the local school boards. The Empowerment Zone would be funded by charging all schools within the zone one percent of their school funding. The Empowerment Zone Manager would have final say over which schools would stay open and which schools would close.

This Bill originated in a effort to address the financial difficulties in Detroit Public schools. It is anticipated that to address the financial concerns in Detroit, districts throughout the state would see state funding reduced by $50-75 per student. This reduction could cause the fund balance in many districts to drop below 5%, which would place many districts in financial distress. Once a district is in financial distress, the district or local residents through the petition process could take steps to put an Empowerment Zone in place.

Please consider how these bills would impact education at Honey Creek as well as across the state, and consider sharing your perspective with our local and state legislators.

Thank you for your continued support,


Board News October

The Board of Trustees met on October 28, 2015. Board Members Present: Greg White, Karen Andrews, Pam Reister, Linda Shirato, Christine Kelley, Sara Hoffman, Megan Masson-Minock, Andrew Banas. Staff and Community Present: Al Waters, Mary Bassett, Karen Giltrow.

Board Spotlight.

Al Waters highlighted some of the changes proposed at the state legislature, and how these might impact Honey Creek. Of primary concern is the 3rd Grade Reading Bill, which will require schools to retain third graders who are not reading at grade level (based on assessment by M-STEP), regardless of progress being made (set to begin in 2019). Because this bill provides few exceptions based on individual progress, and comes without new funding for schools, it may prove very problematic. Some good reporting about it can be found here: http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2015/10/michigan_house_approves_3rd_gr.html.

Director’s Report.

—As state funding is finalized, it appears that Honey Creek may be receiving around $32,000 more than originally budgeted.

—New staff: Honey Creek will begin contracting for one day/week with a school psychologist who will consult with teachers and special education staff around best practices and individualized plans for students, as well as perform some evaluations and testing. An additional instructional assistant has been hired for 2/3 (welcome, Denise Cain!). Caleb Medacco is Al’s administrative intern this year from the University of Michigan.

—M-Step data for the state was released, with data for individual districts still to come. Since this is the first time the test was administered, it won’t provide any information about change over time or comparisons to other years.

—WISD to change some guidelines qualifying for Special Education. Some students will eventually move into 504 plans (instead of receiving IEPs); more information to follow.

—Terra Nova. Testing is wrapping up on this evaluation, and we will likely have data back by Thanksgiving.

Finance Committee.

—Audit. Annual audit is close to completion, with much work by Shellee Almquist. It was complicated this year by a switch to a new software system.

—For next month, committee will be able to provide some recommendations to the board around raises for staff and potentially adding a principal position.

Foundation Liaison.

Reported that Development Officer for the foundation has stepped down, and there is some question around leadership for the foundation. Noted the need for improving alignment between school/foundation/PTO, as all parties want school to succeed and thrive.

Governance Committee.

—Succession planning. Committee is working on job descriptions for administrators, planning for the future.

—Reviewing compensation policy.

—Updating personnel manual.

Communications and Outreach Committee.

—Liaisons. Continuing to encourage open communication between board, teachers, foundation, PTO, and parents.

—Website updates/evaluation continuing.

—Newsletter publishing again this year.

—Working on email “primer” to distribute.

Faculty Liaison.

—Appreciation for board luncheon at start of school.

—Serious need for more substitute teachers, better way of scheduling subs.

Old Business.

—Lease is still in negotiation.

Board kudos! Thank you to the teachers for their hard work around conferences! Thank you to Ann and Tom Kovacs and all the volunteers for successful Fall Festival! Thank you to the Wellness Committee for the fantastic Harvest Dinner! Thank you to Angie Tracey and volunteers for Walk-n-Run-a-Thon!

Next meeting will be November 18, 5:30 pm in the Pit. Public encouraged to attend.

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

Board News September

Because Honey Creek Community School is a charter school, we are considered our own school district by the State of Michigan, and thus must have our own school board. The school’s Board of Trustees is responsible for setting policy, approving school budget, and acting as the governance body for the school. The Board is made up of parents of Honey Creek students and community members. The primary responsibility of the board is to implement the mission of the Honey Creek Community School: to develop the whole child by integrating a rigorous, project-based curriculum, real-life experiences and expertise, a focus on relationships, and an emphasis on the importance of community in a supportive, multi-age classroom setting.

The public is welcome to attend Honey Creek Board meetings. Board meetings are generally scheduled for the third Wednesday of each month. Meetings are held at 5:30PM in the High Point Reception Room (Pit). Please see the school calendar for specific dates and times. Our next meeting is October 28, 2015.

Board elections are held annually in May to fill vacancies (electronic ballots will be sent out). Each family and staff member (half-time or greater) has one vote per open seat on the board.

2015-16 Board Members (term ending):

President: Greg White (2016)

Vice President: Karen Andrews (2017)

Treasurer: Andrew Banas (2018)

Secretary: Christine Kelley (2016)

Trustee: Pam Reister (2017)

Trustee: Steve Rich (2017)

Trustee: Megan Masson-Minock (2018)

Trustee: Linda Shirato (2018)

Trustee: Sara Hoffman (2018)

Board Update:

Full Board Minutes for each meeting are available on the Honey Creek website: http://honeycreekschool.org/who-are-we/the-honey-creek-team/school-board.

The Board met for its annual retreat in September 2015. After a long day of discussion and review, we drafted a Strategic Plan for Academic Success. This draft is included here; it is a living document, meant to be revisited and revised as new perspectives or challenges emerge.

Board conversation has been focused on completing a budget for the 2015-16 school year, with the current budget including a $50,000 deficit. As more concrete numbers come in, this deficit is expected to get smaller; we are also hoping for contributions from the foundation to help with this number. The board hopes to be able to offer teachers a raise this year, and is also looking at hiring a principal to assist in curriculum alignment and teacher support. One way we are looking at increasing savings is moving to a management company, which would allow some staff the ability to leave the state retirement system, resulting in savings for both the school and those staff. We have also decided to wait to fill the Media Specialist position until our audit is complete, and we finish negotiating our lease with the WISD.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact any board member, and public is always welcome at meetings!

Respectfully submitted by Christine Kelley, Board Secretary

Next meeting October 28, 5:30 pm. PUBLIC ALWAYS WELCOMED!

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