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Director’s Notes: June 2012

Greetings all,

I hope that your summer is off to a great start, and that you have found some time to enjoy this spell of warm weather.  The teachers have been working very hard to complete their end of the year reports, and I plan to email all of them by mid-week.

This has been a busy year at Honey Creek, and much has been accomplished.  Thanks to the efforts of our faculty and community, Honey Creek was once again accredited by AdvancED.  Immediately after the accreditation team’s departure, the administration and faculty began working on the recommendations made by AdvancED. This August, I will be submitting a report to them outlining the progress that we have made toward those recommendations.

Additionally, our faculty has received significant notice by the greater educational community. In January, the school received “Charter State Champs” for 100% proficiency in eighth grade reading. Later in the year, Joe Griffith was recognized by Michigan Association of School Boards. He received an “Excellence in Education Award” for his units on Homelessness and Economics.

Along with their work in the classroom, our teachers have been sharing Honey Creek’s integrated project based approach through professional presentations.  Last November, Salli, Tammy, and Mary presented a workshop at the Michigan Public School Academy Conference, and this November, Stephanie and Barbara, and Bill and Jon will present as well.

As the state legislature escalates its dependence on data to judge student and teacher performance, the data provided from this effort will provide both families and the state with a broader understanding of individual student progress and teacher quality.

While the work our faculty does in the classroom focuses on utilizing basic skills to develop creative and critical thinking skills, both MEAP and the TerraNova scores point to high levels of performance among our students.  That being said, we fully recognize that standardized tests provide a limited scope of a student’s actual ability.  With that in mind, I have initiated a conversation with faculty from both Eastern Michigan University and Michigan State University with the intent of exploring how we can document methods that demonstrate both the reliability and validity in how we evaluate our student progress.  This work will address an element of our Strategic Plan, and also provide us with a far more balanced picture of actual student achievement.

This year Honey Creek has renewed its emphasis on the element of our charter that calls for us to share our approach with the greater educational community. We have expanded our relationship with EMU and look forward to having more pre-service teachers in our classrooms.  We also established a working relationship with U of M by providing an administrative practicum experience for one of their graduate students.

Additionally, we continue to develop our working relationship with the Southeast Michigan Sustainability Coalition (SEMIs) which will further our dedication to environmental science and eco-justice while expanding curriculum based service opportunities.  Our work with SEMIs has led to joint activities with Ann Arbor Learning Community and a developing relationship with the Boggs Educational Center. Finally, Honey Creek is the first Public School Academy to be asked to participate in the countywide director’s groups for both technology and special education.  These successes demonstrate that Honey Creek Community School is emerging as a significant contributor to broader educational efforts in the county and the state.

Our successes as well as the positive views of our school so often shared by the Honey Creek community have led to a significant increase in applications to our school.  This year we received ninety applications for our twenty-seven kindergarten seats, and approximately one hundred seventy-five total applications during our open enrollment period, which ended on March 15. Since that time, our office has been fielding three to five inquiries each week.  I fully expect that Honey Creek will turn away well over three hundred families this year.  While this is a great position for Honey Creek, I’m saddened that so many families have limited educational options.

While Honey Creek is working hard to create greater educational success for our students, we find ourselves constantly assessing our financial well being as the State cuts funding. Last year the state cut equaled $470 per student.  This year, we will receive another $40 per student cut.  Unlike many larger districts Honey Creek is projecting that it will not need to tap into its reserve fund balance until the 2013-14 school year.

Finally, the Honey Creek faculty has been working diligently on the instructional and curriculum goals in our Strategic Plan. At this time, we have set some very ambitious objectives, and I have asked the Board of Directors to provide additional professional development days and resources to complete this important work.  Please look for an email later this summer that outlines the tasks we intend to address this year.  I’d also like to make you aware of a fourth goal that was developed by the strategy team in May. The team recognized that our initial three goals did not address the broad range of talent that you, our community, so eagerly share both in and out of the classroom, and this goal, we believe, will address, support, and enrich the contributions so selflessly made by all of you.  I have provided the major elements of our Strategic Plan below.

Have a wonderful and safe summer,

Al

Vision Statement:  Honey Creek Community School will be a model for high K-8 student achievement articulated through curriculum, assessment, instruction, and reporting.

Mission Statement:  Honey Creek Community School provides an outstanding education of the whole child so individual students reach their academic potential through a rigorous, project-based curriculum and a community focus. Honey Creek students develop critical-thinking skills, a positive self-image, and an appreciation and respect for diversity.

Belief Statements:

  • We believe that students learn and flourish with experiential, integrated, and thematic instruction.
  • We believe that there are experts of all ages in our community who contribute to student learning.
  • We believe that the development of cooperative learning strategies and the ability to work successfully as a team member are essential life skills.
  • We believe that every individual is entitled to a respectful environment that is both physically and emotionally safe in which he or she can develop to his or her full potential.
  • We believe that it is essential for children and their families to be active participants in students’ education, their school, and their community.
  • We believe that celebrating academic, personal, and civic achievement promotes enthusiasm for learning and supports a positive self-image.
  • We believe that fostering genuine relationships between the High Point and Honey Creek communities creates opportunities for students to share the joy of life viewed through a broad lens of human experience.
  • We believe that curriculum based service learning projects enhance student learning.
  • We believe instruction is academically rigorous when students are challenged to research, explore, and synthesize complex topics to develop a deep understanding of core subjects.
  • We believe students demonstrate their learning as they share, explain, and transfer their new knowledge.
  • We believe that our intentional commitment to small, multi-age classrooms leads to strong relationships that promote the development of each student.

Goals:

Curriculum: All core academics will be aligned both vertically and horizontally with the Common Core Standards and/or GLCEs and integrated with: (1) curriculum based service, (2) projects emphasizing environmental sustainability.

Instruction:  All classrooms will have high quality differentiated (same learning outcomes, different means) instruction that is integrated, project-based and challenges each child to achieve at his or her greatest level.

Reporting:  All grade levels will provide consistent and informative reports on student achievement, social growth, and classroom activities.

Community: Sustain and enhance Honey Creek Community School by encouraging and connecting the time, talent, and resources of our entire community.

Note: Specific action plans, metrics, and timelines will be developed with input from the faculty, administration and community.  As those action plans are developed they will be share with the entire Honey Creek community.

Strategy Screen:

Any strategy must meet the following criteria:

  1. Support the Honey Creek Community School Mission
  2. Be aligned with the Honey Creek Community School belief statements
  3. Be sustainable in terms of human and financial resources
  4. Meet quality criteria, i.e. do whatever it is really well
  5. Communicate the Honey Creek Community School story
  6. Possess measurable academic and social outcomes

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