Escanaba panel recognized for many positive works

ESCANABA – Members of the Escanaba School Board were recognized for their service to the board and updated on district goals recently.

As January marks School Board Appreciation Month, the six current board members were presented certificates from students in the district in recognition of their service.

Superintendent Michele Lemire also provided the board with a packet of items representing each of the four goals of the district’s strategic plan developed in 2009 – student achievement, fiscal responsibility, facilities and communication.

Lemire reminded the board how these goals have been met in recent years and where the district plans to head in the future.

“In the area of student achievement, the Escanaba Area Public Schools has qualified for state performance funding two years in a row,” Lemire noted during her superintendent’s report, adding the district has also outperformed the region in state assessments.

She also touted Escanaba High School’s partnership with the Delta County College Access Network – where efforts are being made to ensure more students not only graduate, but go on to college.

Another high school program, Jobs for America’s Graduates, has been going strong at the high school for two years now, and the recently created Escanaba Virtual Career Center has provided an avenue for students who previously dropped out of school to be re-engaged in their education – at no cost to the district.

Mathematics is going to be the main priority moving forward for student achievement.

“Principals in grades K through 5 will begin this Friday looking at some math resources at the Delta-Schoolcraft ISD,” said Lemire. “They’ll be looking at these resources in the next two months and hopefully will bring in a recommendation for these resources to the board of education this spring.”

Another goal Lemire highlighted relating to student achievement is how the board can configure next year’s budget to allocate more funds for curriculum purposes – an area which has seen little funding in the last few years.

In the area of communication, the school district has done more radio commercials in recent years and has provided the community more information through a district newsletter, said Lemire. Escanaba Area Public Schools has also made use of Facebook and Twitter and implemented Power Announcement, a tool used to more readily inform parents and staff about school cancellations, emergencies, and other district information.

“I believe we’ve improved since 2009, but there’s always more room for improvement, so hopefully we’ll be able to figure out additional ways we can help our community become informed,” said Lemire.

In doing so, the district plans to guide and teach staff and families how to access and customize Power Announcement to better fit their needs as well as develop a stakeholder survey in the spring that assesses the effectiveness of district communication.

With regard to facilities, work is being completed to increase safety and security throughout the district, said Lemire. The most recent example is front entrance improvements at Soo Hill Elementary School. The district’s capital improvement plan has also been updated and revisited to re-address safety and security and look at how to maximize bond contingency funding.

In addition, the district’s technology director has made efforts to ensure eligibility for extra funding through Technology Readiness Infrastructure Grants (TRIG) to be used toward technology devices and professional development.

The administration also plans to implement a project to provide new technology switches for technology infrastructure and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in the next school year aimed to reduce the cost of telephone services over time and improve safety and security.

In the shorter term, the district will use some of its bond contingency funding that has been set aside to replace a freezer box in the high school kitchen, upgrade instructional technology infrastructure, implement security improvements at Webster Elementary School, repave and restripe the high school’s west parking lot, and purchase a new lawn mower and floor scrubber.

In the fourth area, fiscal responsibility, Lemire noted the district has recently made some tough budget reductions but implemented several initiatives to maintain and increase enrollment for the school year. The district, she added, continues to provide excellent academic and extracurricular options for meeting student needs and interests.

“Where are we going to go from here?” asked Lemire. “It’s important, I believe, that we continue to increase collective understanding of school finance – revenues, expenditures, restricted and unrestricted funding and their trends. It’s important that we be aware of unintentional impacts to school funding.”

The district must also continue to look for efficiencies and opportunities and also stay up-to-date on the state budget as Gov. Rick Snyder, the House and Senate finalize their budgets and come to a consensus, said Lemire.

“From our district side, we’re going to continue to monitor our enrollment. We’ll be monitoring kindergarten registration. We’re going to continue to improve in all the areas that I’ve mentioned…and we’re going to keep moving and keep progressing so that we’ll have a good school system that just continues and continues,” she said.

In other business the board:

– approved hiring Chuck Joncas for a bus driver position open due to a retirement.