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Director’s Note: November 2013

Dear Community,
It was such a pleasure to see so many of you at our Fall Festival last weekend. I’d like to thank the Kovacs and all the other families who did so much to make this event an incredible success. I’m always left very impressed with results when our community pulls together to accomplish a goal.
As many of you know, school funding has become a serious issue in our state. Two years ago, the Muskegon Heights and Highland Park school districts closed all of their schools and contracted with for-profit charter companies to operate their schools. Then, last year both Buena Vista and Inkster school districts closed; and Albion closed its high school. Presently, there are 55 school districts in the state that are in financial distress. These schools will be required make significant budget cuts or will have an emergency financial manager appointed to operate their district. Smaller districts may face closure.
Shellee and I, as well as our school board, saw this challenge coming several years ago. We were also aware that reductions in federal funding were setting many school districts up to slide over a financial cliff. For this reason, we increased our fund balance and began making strategic cuts in an effort to retain our various educational programs. Because 80% of our budget goes to personnel costs, our teachers and staff have borne the brunt of the cuts. At the same time, their out-of-pocket costs for their benefits programs – health care and mandatory retirement savings – have increased dramatically– in some cases by several hundred percent.
Presently there are several bills being introduced to our state legislative bodies that focus on reducing the sales tax on a variety of items. If passed into law, the legislation will have a direct impact on the school aid fund, which is primarily funded by sales tax. The school aid fund provides approximately 83% of Honey Creek’s total revenues.
In an effort to address continued reductions in our funding, the Honey Creek Board of Trustees took the initiative to create the Honey Creek Community School Foundation. The focus of the Foundation is to raise funds to create a sustainable financial platform, which will also provide for the continued improvement of our wonderful school. We will do this by soliciting donations from our community, local businesses and philanthropists, and foundations, but community participation will be vital to our efforts to secure larger donations.
In the next week or two you will receive an invitation to participate in an evening event to learn more about the challenges as well as the opportunities before us. Please make the time to attend. Between now and then, there are a few things that you can do.
  • Learn more about the financial challenges facing education in our state and share that with fellow community members.
  • Consider how you can support your child’s education by giving to the Foundation.
  • Consider asking extended family members if they would be willing to support your child’s education.
  • Ask your employer if they provide matching funds for charitable donations.
  • Speak to your employer about the wonderful education your child is receiving and ask them if they would be willing to meet with a member of our Foundation Board.
Our Fall Festival is just one example of our community’s generosity and ability to come together for a common cause. I’m certain that with your support we can overcome the challenges ahead. Thank you for taking the time to read this message and for all that you do for our wonderful school.

Board News: November 2013

 HCCS Board of Trustees October 23, 2013 meeting update
-Shellee Almquist provided the board an overview of school budget and told us how to review the monthly  financial information submitted to the board
-Lisa Wozniak recognized the importance of the discussion/communication regarding the new Michigan law mandating schools provide the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
-Finance Committee: no report
-Fund Development: Al reported that the foundation is developing an information sheet to but used for fundraising at the individual and corporate levels.  The paperwork for the 501c3 status will be submitted once the bios of the members and a preliminary budget are received.  The next Foundation meeting is scheduled for November 6.
-Governance Committee:  Goals of the committee were reviewed and include the need to formalize the Board election process,  the need to develop a reporting mechanism for the director to update the board on the status of the Strategic Plan, and a process to maintain the director’s evaluation including a timeline for completion.
-Outreach Committee:  Will undergo a name change to the Communications Committee as this better describes their current role/function.   One of their primary focuses will be facilitating internal communication.
-Strategy Committee: This committee will evolve into the Community Involvement Committee to better meet the needs of the fourth goal of the strategic plan.
-Faculty Liaison: Mary Bassett provided faculty input with regards to the discussion during the September board meeting regarding the Pledge of Allegiance.  The faculty recognized that there were few families who had concerns about this state mandate, but encouraged the board to focus on the efforts needed to ensure the sustainability of the school.  Al reported he has received further concerns regarding the new law and recognized the time, talents and efforts of the faculty in making HCCS such a wonderful educational experience.
-Directors Report: Al reported the MEAP assessment is almost completed.  He continues to actively participate in county wide meetings regarding HCCS Focus School status.  He is also working with the new ISD facility manager regarding building maintenance.
-HCCS Charter Renewal:  Al reported the ISD is changing the process for renewal.  The HCCS portion is completed and the ISD is in the process of completing.
The board unanimously agreed to accept the audit results presented in September.
-The 2013-2014 board goals were reviewed
-The director’s evaluation will be presented to the board during the November meeting.
-Al provided a preliminary overview of the presentation scheduled for Friday 10/25 which will include role clarification, review of the strategic plan and information regarding the financial challenges the school is currently facing.
The next board meeting will be November 20, 2013 at 5:30 in the High Point reception room (i.e. the Pit) and is open to the public.   The complete minutes can be found on the HCCS web site.
Kelly Krawcke
BCCS Board Secretary


PTO News: November 2013

The PTO meets on the second Friday of every month at 8:30, in the Pit.

Every member of the Honey Creek community is welcome to participate, at any level and at any time.  There are many ways to get involved, and you do not have to be present at the monthly meetings.  To learn more, contact a Theme Committee, ask your room parent, or visit the PTO website: http://honeycreekpto.wordpress.com/ .
At the October meeting, we heard about: Mabel’s Labels, the upcoming ball/auction, working with High Point to bring the playground up to code, Budget C was passed, and Jessica Ashmore was voted in as PTO Co-Chair.  Due to the constraints of this year’s budget, a new method of presenting and tracking budget items was proposed.  Budget C was passed at the last meeting, and further information regarding this can be found on the PTO website. Many thanks to all of you who participated in this process and helped to approve a budget for the upcoming year!

The PTO is offering a fundraiser through Mabel’s Labels, a company that offers water-proof labels to put on your children’s belongings to prevent them from ending up in the ever-growing Lost & Found. Not only are these labels dishwasher, washing machine, and microwave safe, but can also save you a bundle on replacing lost items and 20% of the purchase price will go to the Honey Creek PTO. Orders can be personalized through the PTO fundraising website: http://www.honeycreek.mabelslabels.com
Learning Express (a fabulous toy store in the Westgate Shopping Center on Maple Road) is also hosting a fundraiser for Honey Creek November 19-21st. Honey Creek will receive 20% of the money that is spent. Last year this fundraiser raised $400 for Honey Creek! Flyers will be e-mailed out closer to the time.

The upcoming ball/auction will take place at Hathaway’s Hideaway in downtown Ann Arbor on February 7th, 2014. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements from Erin Peterson as to how to get involved and support this effort.
As many of you know, Honey Creek has been working with and supporting the efforts of High Point in bringing the playground up to code. One of the ways to get involved is to take a shift at the concessions stand at the home U of M football games. We’d love you to sign up for shifts here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/30E094DACA92FAA8-bighouse or if you need more information/ have another way that you would like to get involved, please contact Gilda Weaks at 734-994-8111 ext. 1655 or email gweaks@wash.k12.mi.us and leave a message. Ann from High Point will be at the next PTO meeting to provide additional information regarding this effort.

The Theme Committees – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), Wellness, and Fine Arts – assist the Honey Creek community by planning and implementing enrichment activities and events.  Examples include Try It-Thursday and the Harvest Dinner by the Wellness Committee, Lunch with an Expert and the STEM Fair by the STEM Committee, and a Fine Arts Fair and extra field trips by the Fine Arts Committee.  To become involved with one or more of the committees,   contact Deb Lentz or Jane Pacheco (Wellness), Karen Andrews (STEM), or Sherri Borer (Fine Arts).

A huge thank you to all of you who helped out with the Fall Festival and made it such a success! The Haunted House provided endless entertainment for those who dared to venture through it, the Harvest Dinner catered by Zingerman’s Roadhouse was delicious, the countless activities in the gym provided lots of fun for both kids and adults, and the Pumpkin Trebuchet never disappoints the masses.

We would also like to extend our sincere gratitude to those that provided dishes for the potluck to nourish and support our hard working teachers during conferences.


Mark your calendars!

• Bagel Fridays: Relax with breakfast at the school on Friday mornings (or the last school day of the week). Bagels, cream cheese and juice, OH MY! There are also toasters available for use.

• November PTO Meeting: Friday, November 8th, 8:30-10:30 AM

If you would like to add an item to the PTO meeting agenda or have a concern with which the PTO may be able to help, please contact the PTO Chair, Catie Wells, cgbwells@gmail.com.

Fine Arts Committee News: November 2013

Two events that the Fine Arts Committee is sponsoring this year:

November 15th, Ann Arbor’s own Lori Fithian with Drummunity!  will spend the day with each grade level having an opportunity to have a hands-on experience with drums and creating spontaneous music in a group.  From the Drummunity! website:

A ”Drummunity” circle is a high energy, fun and empowering activity for any group. Lori Fithian, drum circle facilitator and workshop leader, will bring her collection of hand drums and percussion toys to your location to transform your community into a “Drummunity” – a word she invented for the community-building that happens when people come together around a circle of drums.

March 12, 2014, University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMAField Trip – .  The 4/5s will be heading downtown to our local museum for a guided tour of this incredible resource of art.  The 4/5 teachers and Sarah Van Loo are working together with the Fine Arts Committee to weave this trip into their current art education and make it a memorable experience.

If you’d like to find out more about what the Fine Arts Committee is up to, or have some ideas to share, please come to our next meeting on Friday, December 6th, 8:20-9:30 am.  The theme that day will be the Talent Show Night and how to make it a fabulously successful fundraiser.

STEM Committee News: November 2013

The STEM Committee was thrilled to have Honey Creek community-wide interest and participation in the Pumpkin Chucking Trebuchet at the Fall Festival again this year. For the first time, we also sold pumpkins as a PTO fundraiser and intend to continue this offering in future years. We also continued the great tradition of “slime making” at the Fall Festival introducing students to the properties of polymers.

Our first “Lunch with an Expert” lunchtime learning event will be Friday, November 22nd featuring Dr. Sandi Little. Dr. Little will share an overview of her veterinary practice. We and are currently seeking experts from the Honey Creek community to come in and share their professional expertise with the students for additional Lunch with an expert sessions.
Our next scheduled committee meeting is Thursday, November 7th at 8:30am. We welcome new members!

Scrip News: November 2013

The new year is well in progress and the Scrip booth has been busy.  In addition to the normal method of scrips card purchases, Honey Creek has instituted a new online method to request gift cards through SignUpGenius.com, which everyone subscribed to the [hccs-all] mailing list should have received. A full listing of all the cards available is posted at the following website: http://www.glscrip.com/shop/Search.aspx?SearchType=2. We are working on a large binder of these cards as well as their percentage returns for display at the scrip booth. If anyone has a particular card request from this overall list or would like a hardcopy order form similar to the SignUpGenius list, please contact Jennifer Alexander at jenaalex@gmail.com.

Wellness Committee News: November 2013

The Wellness Committee provided “Pumpkins” as the featured vegetable of the month in the form of Pumpkin Smoothies to the students for Farm to School Day at the beginning of October.  Recipes were supplied along with a visit from the farmer, Danielle Ruhlig from Ruhlig’s Produce Farm, who grew them.  November’s vegetable will be the very special “Romanesco Cauliflower”!
We also would like to extend a warm thank you to everyone involved in making this year’s Harvest Dinner such a success.  We are grateful that so many of you could join us in sampling the wonderful food, and we very much appreciate everyone who volunteered before, during, and/or after the meal. Lastly, we would especially like to recognize and thank the generous donors who provided local foods and services.  Our children are fortunate to be part of such a vibrant community!
Zingerman’s Roadhouse (http://www.zingermansroadhouse.com/)

Early Elementary News: November 2013

Our thematic learning is now well underway. To establish our year-long theme of “How Things Work” we introduced the concept of systems. We read the book “The Crayon Box that Talked” which is a book about a box of crayons that were not working together as a system. We compared the crayon box to our classroom. Each person is like a different color crayon in the crayon box that is our classroom, and when we all work together and cooperate, our classroom can be at its best. We then gave each table group one box of crayons and one piece of paper and asked them to work together as a system to create a picture. We discussed when the system was working and when it was breaking down. Similarly, when we assigned children to tables to function as cooperative learning groups, they had to work together as a system to agree upon a machine to name their table after, and they had to work together to create a table group picture representing their machine. Another introductory systems activity involved the creation of a spiderweb made out of yarn. Each child had to contribute and coordinate like the parts in a system for the spiderweb to be constructed and remain intact.

We have been applying this understanding of systems to our first thematic unit, “How I Work.” By the end of the unit, we want children to understand that they are a system, and that they are part of many interconnected systems such as family, culture, time, etc., when something happens in one part of their system it affects other parts of their system, and improving one part of their system can improve the dynamics of the whole system. To put this in language more accessible to young children, we put these understandings into songs that we chorally read and sing. It is roughly sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”:

How I Work

Learning how I work is fun
I get to know myself and everyone
I’m a part of many systems:
My family, my classroom, and my group of friends
When I make a choice to cooperate
Each system will work really great!

The children have been engaging in activities, readings, and projects to reinforce these understandings. These understandings give a context to the state required social studies and science content goals such as needs of living things, differences between living and non-living things, exploring events from their own lives chronologically, distinguishing among past, present, and future, using components of culture to describe family life, describing ways people learn about the past, retelling details from family stories, using historical records and artifacts to draw possible conclusions about family life in the past, and comparing life today with life in the past.

Middle Elementary News: November 2013

It was great to see you all at conferences. Please keep up with reading our blogs each week as that is the place for the most current and specific information.
We are excited to be taking our first field trip on November 15. In conjunction with our social studies unit of Communities, we will be visiting the Ann Arbor fire station, the library and Kerrytown as well as using maps to help us navigate and a scavenger hunt to help children see all the parts of a community.
Math has focused on students telling time, getting acclimated to Reflex math and our 3-minute timed tests and working on mastering our addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. 2nd graders need to know addition facts through 20, by memory, by the end of the year. 2nd graders also need to be fluent in subtraction facts within 20. 3rd graders need to know multiplication facts from 0s-9s by memory and be able to use these facts to solve the reciprocal facts in the division family.
We read daily in 2nd and 3rd grade! Students are read to each day with our class book. Children are loving the City of Ember and it is helping us think about communities as well as other topics in math, social studies and science. Students also read on their own each day in Read-to Self. During the week and month, students also read with a teacher through small, guided reading groups.
Personal narratives are on the agenda in writing. This is a story from your life. Children are learning about narrowing in on one topic, looking for ideas for stories in their own lives, using details in their writing, writing good leads and endings and revision. Revising is making our writing better and this is a major step for 2nd and 3rd graders. Instead of “one (draft) and I’m done” children are encouraged to go back and find ways to make each writing piece better.

Middle School Language Arts News: November 2013

As the MEAP concluded and we got things back to normal, we also wrapped up our unit on vignette writing and The House on Mango Street.  We’ve already started our next unit of study, historical fiction, led by Laura, our student teacher.  Students are in book groups with novels about the Revolutionary War, and they are having daily discussions about their reading and the genre.  They are also starting the planning process of writing historical fiction, based on a historical event of their choosing.  Thanks again to all of the families who offered to purchase their child’s book for this unit.  It was a great help in saving the school money!

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