Remember the Lightning: Thank you student-athletes, community supporters

sports ad 7I’ll never forget the feeling of pride that nearly overwhelmed me on that frigid Friday night. For many weeks, we had all been witnesses to something we won’t soon forget.

I saw a mixture of eye black and tears trickling down faces, as an exhausted group of players took off their helmets, some for the last time. I couldn’t help but think that no defeat could be big enough to swallow up the accomplishments of Team One. This is the group that will be remembered for going toe to toe with the top football team in the state, and never blinking. This was the team that, perhaps more than any other, brought our community together for the first time in nearly four decades.

They embodied what this community is at its core: resilient.

Just a few moments later, as Lapeer’s football team, our team, took a knee to listen to their coach find the words to describe what we were all feeling, we were enveloped. A large group of community supporters, parents and well-wishers encircled the team close enough to hear words that I’m certain will stay with many of them forever.

Coach Mike Smith didn’t gloss over the pain that every member of his team felt, and that they would feel for some time to come; but, the agony of defeat wasn’t the only certainty that he shared with his team that night. There was something bigger than football those boys-turned-men needed to hear in that moment.

“Team one is a special group; you’re special,” Smith said, fighting back tears. “I know, without a doubt in my mind, that if you guys put as much effort into your life off this field as you put into your life on it, you will succeed.

“If you do that, you cannot fail.”

Remember his words; Remember this team.

It has been said that some of life’s most important lessons are learned between the white lines. Opportunities to be a part of a team, to be coachable, to understand how to win (and lose) are priceless.

I think it’s fair to say that, this Fall, our young people had something to teach all of us. In victory and defeat, our student-athletes shined. They taught us how to adapt to change, to work together toward a common goal and to represent our community with great pride. They played for each other; they played for Lapeer.

We saw this theme play out all over the District, as our boys’ soccer team knocked off undefeated Flint Powers to win the conference championship. We saw it on the volleyball court, as our girls went from unranked and unknown all the way to the Elite Eight in Class A. We saw it on the tennis courts, in the pool, and on the courses, both cross country and golf.

This dynamic played out all season, and at every level. Our student-athletes proved, over and over, that all of us truly are better than any of us.

Most importantly, we saw the teamwork that made our teams succeed carry over into our schools. The anxiety that, for many, accompanied every step in our transition to one high school, is now a thing of the past. Lapeer Community Schools is delivering on its promise to educate all students, to provide more and better choices, and is now taking its place among the most innovative school districts in the state.

Next month it will be my honor to tell our story, the Lapeer Story, at the Innovative Schools Conference in Lansing. This opportunity is proof positive that people across the state have a keen eye toward what we have done and what we’re going to do.

Not long ago, I was struck by a comment that one of our community members posted to our District’s Facebook page. It was in response to a simple question, asked of our thousands of followers, about what they love about our community. Planted between lighthearted comments about Max’s donuts and the laid-back luxuries of country living, were these five words: “I love our new reputation.”

One Lapeer isn’t just another school district among the hundreds; we are one of one. We have become a destination district for students seeking challenge and choice, for parents looking for a small-town feel with a big-city opportunities.

Where success is measured not in points but in prosperity, we remain too committed to fail.

Thank you to all our student-athletes and to a great community that supports them.

#BoltUp

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Message to staff: Start with ‘Why’ this year

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 4.00.49 PM

A message to staff from LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie:

For the past three years, we’ve all been through our fair share of meetings, forums, PD sessions, strategic plan presentations and the like. We’ve made decisions, helped craft new policies and programs, and even changed minds — sometimes our own. To do nothing would have been easier, but that was never an option.

You’d be hard pressed to find another district in the state that has done more to reinvent itself, and in less time. Today, we offer more and better opportunities to students than ever before. The hard work was worth it and the future is bright.

We know where we’ve come from as a district; we know where we’ve gone and, I trust, we have a better understanding of where we’re headed.

As an organization, I believe it’s time for us to circle back and pay closer attention to what compelled us to change —  to offer more choices, to re-engage our community and to no longer be content with the status quo.

It’s time we inspire our community with the same spirit that inspired us to educate all kids. Author Simon Sinek calls it “starting with why.”

We fundamentally believe that education is the one and only, tried and true, path to success in this world. The ultimate “why” is the fact that access to education is what transcends poverty, race, class and circumstances beyond our control. It is still the best and most readily-available opportunity for a better life.

We believe that every student deserves a personalized education, and the opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to achievement.

Great organizations do not become great without clarity, without knowing why they exist. All of us must begin each day with a clear understanding of why we chose to be educators, why what we do every day makes a difference. We must be able to articulate it, live it and persuade others to want to be a part of it.

Real innovation does not happen without this basic understanding of why.

This is the most important year in the history of Lapeer Community Schools. I am confident that we will succeed where others have failed if we maintain our focus on the why.

On behalf of a grateful community, I thank you for your dedication to the students of Lapeer.

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Writing the first chapter of a story worth reading

ambassadors logoThis guest editorial by Matt Wandrie was featured in Sunday’s Lapeer County Press.

One solution is never enough to bridge the gap between good and great. To simply come together won’t get us where we need to go.

We must work together to forge a new, brighter future for our community.

As we enter the final stretch of our historic unification of East and West High Schools, we are coming to grips with what one banner will mean for the future of Lapeer. From here on out we rally together, we root together and we take the first of many steps toward the restoration of the great tradition of One Lapeer.

This past week, many of our students had the opportunity to meet former Michigan State basketball player Anthony Ianni. To many of our kids, Ianni, at 6-foot-9, is larger than life. His message is even bigger.

Ianni is Autistic. He is the first person with the disorder to accede to the ranks of NCAA basketball. He told a group of students at Murphy Elementary on Wednesday that he was bullied during his elementary years, and even into middle school. He was targeted because he was different. Ianni said he succeeded where others failed because he had friends, teammates, and teachers – all family – looking out for him. It was that sense of the familial and familiar, phenomena we all experience, that changed his life. It was a support system, a community and ultimately individuals choosing to befriend rather than belittle that set his course.

As the community rallies around the banner of One Lapeer, we become people identified by a place, a time and a vision. People who look out for each other in a place that is no longer about “them,” but “us. “

“You are all in the Lightning Family,” he told the students.

Starting now.

As an organization, we believe that a culture of consensus can overcome the anxiety that always accompanies change. If we approach this transition as a family, as stakeholders in the shared future of our community, we will not fail. We won’t always agree on the route, but as a community we must agree on the destination: excellence in all that we do.

We must first demand more of ourselves and, second, expect more from our young people. They are capable of great things. Starting this fall, we will offer more academic opportunities for our students that at any point in our history. More rigor, more support and more (and better) choices.

This transcends a consolidation. This is the year we put our stake in the ground as a community, the year when excellence is an expectation not an outlier. The foundation has been laid, and we are ready to build.

We have a plan for K-12 alignment that we can achieve; we have a structure that is sustainable; and, most importantly, we have a vision that is less about the adults and more about our kids.

We are writing the first chapter of a story worth reading, telling and re-telling.

In the coming months, many of you will encounter members of an intrepid group of volunteers who have been tasked to spill our beans, to ensure that the program we’ve built over the last three years isn’t a secret.

This group of Ambassadors, more than 100 strong, are taking our message to the streets and encouraging anyone who will listen to take a fresh look at Lapeer. But don’t wait for them to come to you. I encourage you to get connected to LCS online (LapeerSchools.org) to learn about all the exciting new initiatives coming this fall.

And don’t just look at what we’re offering our students; consider all that’s new, innovative and exciting.

Lapeer is a great place to live and learn, and we’re confident more and more people will choose the District of Choices.

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Annette Breaux on the anatomy of a great teacher

I read an article on Twitter this morning by Annette Breaux that I thought really highlighted what makes a great teacher. Here are a few of the points she shared:

- At the risk of overstating the obvious, great teachers truly love children. If you don’t love children, you can’t be a great teacher. Period

- Great teachers are masters at classroom management. They understand the importance of structure. Their management plans consist of clearly stated rules that are enforced fairly, calmly and consistently and of procedures that are are practiced until they become routines. No surprises.

- Great teachers are intelligent people who possess a thorough understanding of their subject matter. They are not, however, arrogant in their knowledge. Rather, they use their knowledge to simplify what’s complex and to accommodate their students’ individual abilities and levels of understanding.

- Great teachers (have) enthusiasm that is contagious, and they act as though everything they teach is their favorite. . .

- Great teachers are positive, kind, compassionate, patient people. Though they are as human as anyone else, they do not allow students to push their buttons. They handle even the most challenging situations with composure, thoughtfulness and professionalism. They never compromise a student’s dignity.

- Great teachers are problem solvers. They don’t play the blame game. They identify problems and immediately get to busy finding solutions.

- Great teachers don’t endure change; rather, they ensure it – not simply for the sake of change, but for the betterment of teaching and learning.

- Great teachers have a sense of humor, and they share it daily with their students.

- Great teachers continually strive to make learning fun, relevant, interesting, challenging and engaging. In the classrooms of great teachers, students are encouraged to question, discuss, debate, experiment, invent and make lots of mistakes.

- Great teachers recognize the importance of establishing positive relationships with their students.

- Great teachers have high expectations of all students. . .

- Great teachers are not perfect teachers. When they make mistakes, the act as good role models do, admitting their mistakes. . .

The bottom line is that great teachers are some of the most dedicated and committed people you will ever meet. . .

Read more from this article by visiting the SmartBLog on Education.

Categories: From the desk | 2 Comments

Check out this awesome trailer for Into the Woods

Please watch this video made by East senior Justin McCrory. Shows are March 7-8 and 14-15 at 7 pm in the Lapeer East Auditorium. Tickets are available for purchase in advance at the Lapeer East Office. They are also available at the door.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ggeq9IQ9Cs&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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Too Committed To Fail: Not hope, expectation

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 1.40.05 PMThis editorial was featured in Sunday’s Lapeer County press. Click here to subscribe.

Earlier this month, after spending an afternoon meeting with policymakers in Lansing, I stopped by the auditorium at Lapeer East High School for one of the District’s Innovation Nights. More than 200 people came out on a snow day to hear from members of our administrative team about one of the exciting new programs coming to Lapeer in the fall — College on Campus.

The concept of high school students earning college credits in our buildings, inside their traditional class schedules, has a lot of parents and students fired up about the future.

For me, the evening embodied what Lapeer Community Schools is all about.

We aren’t sitting idly by waiting for a cure to what is ailing so many school districts across the state. We have a voice in Lansing and attentive ears to changes happening at the state level, but our eyes are fixed on the future. We have solutions right here, in our town, that will be modeled by our neighbors – solutions that are being talked about in Lansing.

Over the last three years, we’ve developed a secondary program for our students that will be unparalled in the region. Don’t take my word for it; come see for yourself at our final Innovation Night at 6 p.m. on Feb. 11 at Zemmer Middle School.

As the largest educational institution in Lapeer County, we shoulder the greater share of responsibility for preparing our young people for the future. I encourage all of you to take a close look at what the future holds for students in Lapeer; that said, even a passing glance is enough to realize what we are aiming for: college and career readiness.

Our youngest students must be prepared for advancement to a middle-level program that will have more opportunities for rigor than ever before: Flexible scheduling for intervention and academic stretch before and after school, implementation of the nation’s leading STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum, the state’s first middle-level year-round program, SpringBoard English curriculum for high school credit and much more.

Similarly, our middle-level students must be prepared for a high school experience that is focused on college readiness. By the time our younger students get to high school, our teachers will build upon a foundation of understanding that started on day one. And when they get there, they won’t know that their experience was never the norm – but their parents will.

Our high school students, as mentioned above, will have opportunities to earn college credits through our College and Campus program and Advanced Placement (AP). Those who take on the challenge will be better prepared for college rigor, and their parents will save thousands in tuition costs.

Thousands.

In the coming weeks, we will introduce you to a high school senior who, thanks to our expanding AP program, will graduate high school with more than 30 college credits. So how will she answer the question, “what’s your diploma worth?”

You’ll meet an enterprising student who started taking college-level math courses with Michigan State University while he was still in middle school.

Since no two students are exactly alike, we strive to reach all students where they are with a multitude of options to suit their needs and interests. We don’t believe in the factory model for our students. If they are ready for more, we’re going to provide them with more.

It doesn’t end there. Flexible scheduling at the middle level will carry over to high school, as we offer transportation for both enrichment and intervention. We will open our Center for Innovation – West Campus (currently West High school) as our home for numerous academic and extracurricular programs including dual enrollment, AP, robotics, alternative education and outdoor athletics. We will start the 2014-15 school year as the only school district in the state to offer AP Capstone, an innovative diploma program that engages students in the rigorous scholarly practice of core academic skills required for success in college.

As we inch closer to the historic consolidation of East and West High Schools, I want to reaffirm my commitment to the families of this school district. This merger will not only have a far-reaching impact on our community, but will open our students up to more opportunities than ever before.

As has been reported in this newspaper in the last week, our local economy is still struggling. Our local jobless rate is back in double digits and the national economy is recovering from recession at a historically slow pace. There are reasons to be uncertain about the future; your local school district is not one them.

Our focus is on the whole child, improving our academic and athletic programs, facilities and, ultimately, becoming a model school district in Michigan. This is an expectation, not a hope.

In this endeavor, we are too committed to fail.

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Kudos: Jennifer Christian is a big part of successful intersession at Turrilll

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Jennifer Christian, Turrill Elementary

As an organization, Lapeer Community Schools is offering better choices and more opportunities than ever before. Two years ago we opened our year-round school at Turrill Elementary, the first of a series of major innovations in the District.

A big part of the success of year-round is its vibrant intersession programming, led by Jennifer Christian. Christian, a teacher in the District for six years, has been the Intersession Coordinator since day one.

The year-round, or balanced academic calendar, has shorter and more frequent breaks. During off weeks throughout the year, Turrill hosts theme-based learning opportunities for parents who want more classroom time for their student(s). In October, for example, the theme was “Don’t Bug Me, Insects, Arachnids, and other Creepy Critters.” Students spent time continuing to work on their traditional educational skills but in a non-traditional environment.

She brings a passion and energy for the job that extends beyond her role in this important program.

Turrill Principal Ken Janczarek: Jennifer has done an amazing job as her role of intersession coordinator as she is responsible for creating, planning, and running each of Turrill’s Intersession.  Each year Jennifer plans out the intersessions for the year with a focus  on creating fun activities for students in grades E5/kindergarten through fifth grade.  After the planning Jennifer is busy ensuring staffing, activities, transportation, and supplies are ready for students as they attend the Intersession.  During the week Jennifer’s role of coordinator transitions from planning into the management of the Intersession and its programming.  

Keep up the great work, Jennifer! We appreciate your positive attitude and the excitement you bring to our classrooms.

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Kudos: PBIS leaders making it happen at Zemmer

Zemmer students address their classmates at a recent B.A.R.K. Buck Assembly. B.A.R.K.  Bucks are earned by students for doing the right things in school B.A.R.K. stands for Best Effort, Attitude, Responsibility and Kindness.

Zemmer students address their classmates at a recent B.A.R.K. Buck Assembly. B.A.R.K. Bucks are earned by students for doing the right things in school B.A.R.K. stands for Best Effort, Attitude, Responsibility and Kindness.

Every achievement starts with an idea, continues with a structure to support the idea and succeeds with the right people.

At Zemmer Middle School, we are fortunate to have some people in key positions who are helping to create a culture that will continue to have a significant impact on student achievement. The school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) leaders, Russ Reitz, Rachel Henderson, and Stephanie Guerin, have taken ownership over PBIS and the students are responding.

pbisThis crew has presented to community groups, on numerous occasions, the goals and positive outcomes of PBIS at Zemmer, often using the first-hand testimonials from students involved in the program. As a result of these community engagements, Zemmer PBIS has received nearly $1,500 in financial support from generous members of our community.

From Zemmer Principal Matt Olson: “I’m proud to have this remarkable team of dedicated staff members who have gone well above and beyond to get the message out about what Zemmer is doing for kids!”

Kudos to the leaders of PBIS at Zemmer. You guys are doing a great job!

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Kudos: Volunteers teach ‘Weird Science’ after school at Lynch Elementary

A group of volunteers, including several teachers, are doing great work at Lynch Elementary this year in the afterschool program.

“Weird Science” is a great way to get students interested in science using entertaining and hands-on experiences to teach basic principles. The students in the video are in grades 3-5.

Kudos to Aneta Lawrence, Nichole Hayden, Kelly Orlando and all of our employees who donate their time, energy and expertise to our students.

Great job!

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Local real estate agents attend presentation on future of LCS

realtor-meetingThis morning I had a great opportunity to speak to a group of 20 local realtors about Lapeer Community Schools: where we’ve come from, where we are and where we’re going. One of the best parts of my job as superintendent is engaging the community in dialogue about the role LCS will play in the future of this community.

I equipped these individuals with information, and avenues to even more information, that will aid them in their encounters with prospective buyers. In the future, our goal is to make Lapeer Community Schools a destination district. We want this district, and what it offers to families, to be reason enough to move here — setting aside all the great things we know about this community.

Lapeer is a safe community, a generational community filled with pride that runs deep. Moving forward, we want to increase our visibility, enlarge our role in the community, to build a even stronger foundation for the future. To do this, we need more advocates (like those who attended our presentation this morning) to be informed about the revitalization of LCS.

There are many things happening now, and slated to happen in the coming year, that everyone should be aware of. In connection with the consolidation of our two traditional high schools in 2014-15, the current Lapeer West High School campus will become the District’s Center for Innovation. It will be home to numerous academic and extracurricular programs including:

  • Dual Enrollment – UM-Flint and Mott Community College
  • LCS outdoor athletics
  • Alternative Education
  • Standardized Testing Center
  • Credit Advancement and Recovery Center
  • LCS Robotics
  • Numerous AP Courses
  • Future Magnet Concepts (STEM)

In short, this one facility in our district will give future LCS students opportunities they’ve never had before.

We have year-round schooling at the elementary and middle levels; we are developing a campus structure to create more academic stretch and remediation opportunities for students; we are in our second year offering a virtual learning program at the Maple Grove Campus; we are raising funds for the future expansion of our outdoor athletic complex at the West Campus; a “homeschool high school” concept is being developed that could put district resources within reach of our county’s  homeschool families.

There’s so much going on in the District right now, it’s difficult to get it all in one post. Suffice it to say, I couldn’t be more excited about the direction we’re heading and I want to share that excitement with anyone who will listen.

Thank you to everyone who attended this morning’s presentation. I look forward to working with you in the future as one team, one community, all-in for One Lapeer.

Categories: From the desk | 1 Comment

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