Quality Schools, Quality Community… Together Building a Tradition of Excellence
by MICHAEL S. SHIBLER, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Rockford Public Schools
The above statement has been an important part of the Rockford Public Schools (RPS) logo for over 20 years. Not only is the declaration true, it is ongoing with no ending point—we live it every day.
RPS and the Rockford community enjoy a real and functioning partnership which has endured and expanded over the years. Despite the current economic challenges which are negatively impacting state, local, school and family budgets, RPS remains an exemplary educational institution because of our people!
Several weeks ago, I spoke at the Citizens Research Council’s annual conference in Detroit, when I was asked, “What has RPS done and what is RPS doing to improve educational opportunities for students?” Before I could finish my answer, the program moderator had to “cut me off” because the list of our accomplishments is so lengthy.
That question made me realize the importance of reminding the Rockford community of just a few of the excellent opportunities and successes we have enjoyed despite the economy.
Beginning in 1989, we began conducting focus groups and surveys of parents, employees, students and the community at large to identify priorities and expectations for RPS. Thus, the first Rockford Action Model for Success (RAMS) was born. Every three years since that time, a new and relevant RAMS model has been created with input from our school and community. RAMS VII is nearing completion, and we have already started the process to create RAMS VIII. This ongoing strategic blueprint for continuous improvement has played a major role in our success.
RPS has earned a strong reputation as an exemplary public school system based on the following facts:
• Rockford is the only school district in Michigan to require students to demonstrate proficiency in math and language arts by successfully passing the ACT WorkKeys high school competency tests to earn a high school diploma.
• All of our schools are recognized by the State Board of Education as exemplary Blue Ribbon Schools, which is based on student achievement test scores, educational programs, and parent involvement. We are the only school district in Kent County to earn this recognition.
• As defined by the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act and Michigan’s Education YES! initiative, all of our schools have earned Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and straight A’s for the past six years.
• All of our schools are accredited by the North Central Association of Schools (NCA).
• Last spring, RPS earned the highest level of district-wide accreditation by NCA, the AdvancED accreditation.
• We offer high school Advanced Placement (AP) and honors classes in all disciplines.
• Many world language opportunities are available, including elementary Spanish Immersion and four-year programs in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese at the high school level (in addition to traditional world languages of French, German, and Spanish).
• Every year, many students are named National Merit semifinalists and finalists.
• Our middle and high school bands have won numerous state competitions.
• Our choirs have been invited to perform throughout Michigan and the United States.
• Our theater program has performed such challenging musicals as “Beauty & the Beast” and “Les Miserables,” receiving accolades comparable to college and professional productions.
• Several students have received scholarships and recognition for their outstanding works of art.
• Students and staff make a difference in our community by volunteering thousands of hours and raising money for charitable causes, including Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, etc.
• Many intramural and club sport opportunities are available for middle and high school students.
• The district offers 34 varsity interscholastic opportunities, with nearly 60 percent student participation.
• Students have earned 31 state athletic championships, mostly since the mid 1990s.
• Odyssey of the Mind teams have earned several awards, including four world championships.
• Our TV studio has won numerous statewide awards for excellence.
• We offer an array of community services including Hola Amigos preschool, student and adult leisure time and recreational activities, and opportunities for our senior citizens.
• The Rockford community has shown support of the schools by passing several bond issues. With the 2008 bond, classrooms were added to many schools, technology was updated, infrastructure was improved, Classrooms of the Future became a reality, and 20 athletic/recreation fields were added for students and the community.
• Our energy conservation program has saved the district several million dollars in energy costs, and every facility has earned the Energy Star Award for energy conservation.
The above examples are a small representation of RPS’ commitment to be the very best for our students and community. We practice continuous improvement despite a difficult economic environment and, with strong community support, we will continue to build on our tradition of excellence.