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Director’s Note November 2016

Greetings all,

Thanks to all who planned and worked at the harvest Dinner and Fall Festival this year. The food was fantastic, and from all appearances our students had a wonderful time. We are fortunate to have a community so invested in operating these events.

Our AdvancED accreditation visit will take place on November 9,10, and 11. Parent interviews are scheduled for November 9 from 3:30 to 4:15. If you are available to attend, it will significantly aid in our accreditation efforts. If you need child care, please contact Sue Hofbauer in advance. There is no fee if you are participating in the interviews.

Each year we assess our third through eight grade students with the TerraNova assessment. This assessment provides us with consistent information regarding student progress at a time when state assessments continue to change. We plan to begin assessments after Thanksgiving. Your child’s teacher will share with you specific details regarding the assessment schedule.

I had ice on my car this morning, so it is once again time to share information regarding school closures. 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 HoneyCreek 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 pass without any major weather events, I know it is important for you to have this information in advance.

Have a wonderful November!


Foundation Gives $100,000 to Honey Creek!

The Honey Creek Community School Foundation is a non-profit group seeking to serve one purpose: to raise funds, both from within and outside the Honey Creek community, to directly benefit our school.

In 2015, we did just that.  Due to the generous support from the Honey Creek community, the Foundation was able to gift $100,000 to our school (in 2 installations).  Because the Foundation supports Honey Creek directly, these gifts will enable changes such as improved technology, increases to staff compensation and professional development opportunities.  In 2015, 58 families made one-time contributions to the Foundation.  37 families made monthly contributions, which ultimately provide sustainable gifts for the Foundation and predictable revenue for our school.

The all-volunteer board, comprised of current student and alumni parents as well as HCCS teachers and staff, is committed to not only help Honey Creek weather times of decreased funding to education, but to provide sustained financial support to ensure a vibrant future for our school.  It is our goal to reach 100% participation from Honey Creek families in 2016!

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.

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.

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.

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.


March is Reading Month!

Welcome to March is Reading Month!

All across the country, schools will be celebrating March is Reading Month. Monday, March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, which is commemorated as Read Across America Day. Honey Creek’s reading celebration will be a Read-In on Friday, March 6, from 10AM-11AM.  Honey Creek students, High Point students, and kids from Gretchen’s House will all be part of a kick-off event in the gym and then have time for reading. We are excited for this opportunity for the schools to collaborate.

The Honey Creek/High Point Literacy Committee (yes, it is a new committee!) put together the March calendar (see below) to provide some other reading inspiration for students and families.  It has some optional ideas, so choose the ones that work for your family.

We are happy to share the news that ALL Honey Creek students qualify for a free Ann Arbor Library card even if they don’t live in Ann Arbor. You can print the application http://www.aadl.org/files/MinorsLcardappREV02-14.pdf and take it to any branch.

Students need to show proof (report card) that they attend Honey Creek. The adults signing will need to show photo identification.

Happy Reading!

From the Literacy Committee (Dianne Baker, Stephanie Boling, Tammy Hall, Michelle Manthei, Dianne McLaren-Brighton, Karen Larson, Liz Scott, Renee Swart, Johnny Thompson)





Talent Night/Dinner

The Talent Night festivities are less than two weeks away!  Please mark your calendars for Friday, March 13th at 5pm.  More details, and your opportunity to volunteer,  can be found by following this link to the SignUpGenius.

We are pleased to announce the menu for this year’s Talent Night –  a yummy brunch-style meal, including specially-prepared fritatas (with meat and veggie options!). Full details here.

Many adult hands are needed, so please consider how you may contribute to the success of the event!

The Honey Creek PTO Website has been kept thoroughly updated with this year’s details, please check it out!


Art Exhibition Deadline:  Art must be submitted by Friday, Mar 6th to guarantee inclusion.

A printable application form, with rules, can be found at Art Application.

Advertising Space Available!  Gold Sponsor still needed!

If you own a business, big or small, this is a great chance to inform the Honey Creek community.  We need your ads to make a successful Talent Show Program!

Download our advertising/sponsor Rate Card


STEM Committee
Teams are forming now for the HoneyCreek Washtenaw Elementary Science Olympiad (WESO).  This team-based event is for 2nd through 5th graders, and is a wonderful opportunity for students to acquire STEM-related knowledge in a fun, team setting.
  • Sign your child up to be a part of one (or two) olympiad event teams.  Detailed description of each event team may be found at: http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/wesowizards.home/home;
  • There are also opportunities for parents to volunteer as a coach or assistant coach for an event.  (Anyone can volunteer as a coach so even if you do not have a 2nd – 5th grader at Honey Creek, please consider coaching one of our teams.)
Please contact Head Coach, Sara Brintall for more information.  Online sign-up is possible by clicking here.


Board News February 2015

Board News

The Board of Trustees met on January 28, 2015 at 5:30 pm. Board members present: Greg White, Yvette Atkinson, Pam Reister, Angela Tracey, Karen Andrews, Jon Lonsway, Christine Kelley. Public present: Al Waters, Shellee Almquist, Mary Bassett, Rhonda DeLong.

Board Spotlight:

The Board met with Randy Trent, facilities manager for last 1.5 years at WISD. We thanked him for his work so far (replacing floors, fire damage, etc.). Emphasized collaborative approach to WISD maintenance. We addressed concerns around cleaning the building (especially mice/mice droppings, nightly mopping), interruptions from the PA system throughout the day, slippery entry to the modulars, and also concerns about air quality in some of the classrooms. Randy committed to speaking with cleaning staff, weatherstripping to try to remove entry points for mice, and working with the other entities at the WISD to improve the appropriate use of the PA system. The air quality issue is a work in progress. Randy will provide logs so that teachers and students can let him know what problems specifically are encountered, and then he can target cleaning and testing with that data.

Director’s Report:

It appears that email issues with Dream Host seem to be resolved.

Expansion/replication committee met and reviewed enrollment/demand. Next steps: Feb. 10 meeting, laying out needs for K-8 building, curriculum requirements for high school, and also laying out needs for high school.

Al has met with special education staff and implemented a spreadsheet to record all progress made on IEP goals, making data aggregation easier.

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business sent out an appeal for projects in which students would conduct a market review; this was accepted and Al will attend the student presentation in April; board members may also be invited.

Immunization regulations: Al reports that the State of Michigan has changed requirements for waiving immunizations. Families seeking religious/philosophical waivers will now need to attend class and have a form signed by health department; Honey Creek will exclude anyone without a waiver for next school year. Compliance goal is 95%

Committee Reports Finance Committee Report:

Jon Lonsway is working with Jessica P’Simer on a technology grant application.

Fund balance remains at 15%. The committee recommended reinstating stipends for teachers: board liaison, CSLE teachers, math alignment project. Karen Andrews moved to approve, Pam Reister seconds. Unanimous vote to approve stipends. Board will continue conversation about 2% raise for staff at retreat.

Foundation Liaison’s Report:

Foundation donations are nearly the same as they were during 2013-2014 school year.

Foundation is engaged in a lively conversation about the board’s recommendation to hire an Executive Director, and may instead opt for a modified position that is less costly.

Governance Committee Report:

New board members: We have two nominees for the board: Steve Rich (parent) and Rhonda DeLong (referred by Yvette Atkinson). Rhonda DeLong, Marketing and Communications Director for University of Michigan School of Public Health, introduced herself and described her experience around marketing and communications, design, web, internal communications and messaging. DeLong talked about her work with School of Public Health especially doing fundraising, honing messages for developing donors. Board thanked her for her interest, welcomed her involvement. Karen and Greg explained a bit about what being a board member is like (time, responsibilities). Al introduced rebranding project as a potential area where DeLong could consider contributing. Discussion followed. Governance committee will vet the two nominees and bring recommendations to the next board meeting. Governance will invite two candidates as guests to the board retreat.

Reporting requirement around reviewing salaries. Committee is reviewing salaries of other charter schools in county; noted that this was not a good market comparator (because of management companies); also look at independent charters in Michigan. Will also look at salaries for other administrators and teachers. The issue before the board will be: what do we want to make of this data?

Board retreat to review goals and set new 90-day goals will be February 7, 8-12 at Gladwin Center.

Board development: We will invite Diana Kern to speak to board, either as Board Spotlight or stand alone training. Karen will follow up with her to bring back options. Also potential for Stephen Gill to do Board Spotlight (innovation in education); Deborah Parizek (from Henry Ford, about monetizing experience). Governance will also flesh out online independent training options. Al has copy of Innovation and Change, and will be glad to loan out.

Yvette would like to have training in what works for independent charters in terms of business model. Karen invited Yvette to do some more research around other potential speakers.

Beginning process for Al’s evaluation. Form will be outlined toward the end of March. This year will be an abbreviated evaluation.

Communications and Outreach Committee:

There was a written report in the board packet. Committee remains very active, and has several projects in process.

Faculty Liaison:

One faculty member expressed support for the Wellness Committee assisting with air quality, if WISD leads. Another faculty member expressed extreme concern around mouse problem in A Wing. A third faculty member voiced concern around loud and interruptive PA announcements for High Point. Al indicates that this may be a problem with substitutes on front desk misusing PA system; there is also a need to have more training on the phones. One faculty member responded to Al’s question about Workman’s Comp claim, declining to do so. Karen Andrews suggested potential of having a committee that could tour facility 2x/year. Al volunteered to make this an administrative committee, Greg White volunteered to serve. Will invite faculty, Wellness, potentially students.

Old Business:

Relinquishment of Title 1 Funds. Al has had communications with the state about relinquishing the funds. Letter has been drafted. Christine moved, Karen supported, and board voted unanimously to withdraw funds.

Board Kudos:

To the faculty and students for their hard work on the curriculum celebration. To the speakers at the two enrollment meeting for giving time and points of view—Rita Hathaway especially for fielding question. Thanks to Will and Rita Hathaway for editing and posting video of the financial state of the school meeting. To Karen Andrews for work on Governance Committee, Christine Kelley for work on Foundation board/ communications committee. To Shellee Almquist for work on enrollment process, and for Johnny Thompson for her help with forms.

Coming Meetings/Events: February 6, 2015 Professional Development 1⁄2 Day of School February 11, 2015 Count Day February 16th – 20th Mid-Winter Break

Next board meeting will be February 25, 2015, 5:30p.m. in the Pit. Public participation is always welcome! Full board minutes are available at honeycreekschool.org.