School Beat


November 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

State Board of Education challenges Michigan schools  by DR. RYAN KELLEY Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Rockford Public Schools The Michigan State Board of Education has placed a challenge to every student and every school in Michigan, by raising the MEAP/MME cut scores (the minimal score at which a student is considered “proficient”). As the cut score is raised, fewer students will be considered proficient in math, science, reading, writing and social studies. In an effort to show how significant the change will be, the State Board re-released last year’s scores and included what the scores would have been using the new cut scores. The chart displays a sample of the significant changes in the percentage of students labeled proficient, including the county and state averages. Despite the initial decline in the number of students reported as proficient due to the change in cut score, we are confident that the scores will continue to increase due to the many school improvement efforts and the outstanding teachers and students that we have at Rockford Public Schools. The state is challenging every student to perform at a higher level. We are confident the Rockford students will rise to meet and exceed this new standard. Working together we welcome this challenge and we know that our students will continue to accomplish great things. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at your convenience at (616) 863-6556.


November 3, 2011 // 0 Comments

It’s good to know!  by LAURA FEATHERSTON Trustee, Board of Education Rockford Public Schools As a local real estate agent, I am frequently asked for information about area school districts. I’m obviously a bit biased towards Rockford Public Schools (RPS), but I have to be as impartial as possible! I always direct people to the administrative offices and each district’s website for details. I think has great information and urge you to visit frequently. The following information is taken from a link I like, “Fingertip Facts.” I hope it helps you learn something new about our great district! •            The district encompasses 100 square miles with a population of approximately 42,000 people. •            Our facilities include: eight elementary schools, two middle schools, the Freshman Center, high school, River Valley Alternative High School, administration, community services, facilities and operations, special services/library services, and transportation. •            The student count for the 2010-11 school year was 7,937. •            First Class Facilities—a $45 million bond issue was approved by the community in May 2008. It funded upgrades to technology district-wide, renovated and built additions to 10 schools, and expanded/improved the district’s athletic and multi-purpose fields. •            The community of Rockford Public Schools has supported every bond issue since 1990. •            The transportation department has a fleet of 70 buses and transports approximately 5,610 students per day. •            The transportation department has received state and national recognition for student safety. •            Over $2 million in scholarships were awarded to the graduating class of 2011. •            Rockford Public Schools is the only school district in the state of Michigan with a mandatory competency test as a graduation requirement, which guarantees that our graduates possess the essential skills to succeed after high school. •            The food service program provides a nutritious lunch program to approximately 6,000 students daily and meets the highest state and federal guidelines. •            The administration continues to work toward reducing current and future operating costs through an aggressive energy conservation program. To date, savings through the end of March 2011 were $3,105,614 and 100 percent of our buildings have received the Energy Star Label Award.


October 27, 2011 // 0 Comments

Creating a safe, positive learning environment  by CINDY KITZROW Principal, Cannonsburg Elementary School Director of Library and Media Services October is designated as National Bullying Prevention Month. Communities nationwide are urged to take an active role to prevent bullying. It takes the entire school community to create an inviting school where everyone feels they belong and are safe. We all need to work together—administrators, teachers and school staff; parents and students can stop bullying. Promoting this environment of health and safety is a community-wide responsibility. All students need to feel safe and secure in order to learn, and learning entails much more than academics. Prevention efforts must recognize the role of the peer group as well as the relationship between the person who bullies and the person who is bullied. Effective prevention programs promote positive and just practices, while also setting firm limits of unacceptable behavior. Rockford Public Schools has created exemplary programs to reduce bullying and its detrimental effects on our students. These programs convey expectations of respectful behavior by crafting our district bullying policy and guidelines. Capturing Kids Hearts is one of our bullying prevention programs. Staff and students have developed strategies that help to ensure each student’s positive experience in each of our schools. It is a process that helps the adults in a school work with the students so that together they create a school culture that is mutually respecting, caring and celebrating the dignity of all. The goal is for students to become self-disciplined, accept the responsibility for their actions, and devise ways to prevent the recurrence of negative behaviors. The adult works with the student, guiding the decision-making process. Our motto has become, “If you capture a child’s heart, you capture their mind.” Ram Buddies is a program aimed at helping students with various needs form meaningful relationships with a “buddy.” The peers will initiate opportunities to provide support, encouragement and friendship. Throughout the year, the students who participate will join in a series of organized team-building activities and fun events that will provide them with strategies and opportunities to build relationships. Our library media specialists integrate cyber safety and digital citizenship while teaching our students how to use the Internet for research. Sixth- through 12th-graders are taught about […]


September 15, 2011 // 0 Comments

SCHOOL BEAT Rockford Public Schools state funding: past, present, future  by MICHAEL S. SHIBLER, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools Rockford Public Schools During the past several months, I have been asked by many parents and Rockford Public Schools (RPS) employees to clarify what the “real” state revenue cuts to our schools were as compared to what they are being told by state lawmakers. Governor Snyder and some of our legislators have been proclaiming that public schools have only experienced a 1.4% cut in state funding. If that were the case, I would not be writing this clarification. I ask that you read the information below and decide for yourself. 1.            During the 2008-09 school year, RPS received $7,316 per child from the State in the form of a foundation allowance. 2.            Prior to the end of June 2011, the governor and state legislature agreed to cut our funding $470 per child. That would bring RPS’ state funding per child to $6,846. However, the final 2011-12 School Aid Bill passed by the legislature and signed by the governor added back $200 per child on a ONE-TIME basis if we qualified, which we do. Therefore, our 2011-12 state foundation allowance per child is $7,046 ($7,316 – $470 + $200). That represents a $270 cut in funding per child. If my math is correct, that is a 3.69% reduction in state funding, not 1.4%. 3.            Beginning July 1, 2012, the state funding reduction per child continues according to the June 2011 School Aid Bill passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. The $200 one-time add-on disappears, and RPS’ 2012-13 funding drops back to $6,846 per child. That represents another 2.9% reduction in state funding. Again, if my math is correct, Rockford’s state funding per child in 2012-13 will drop 6.42% since the 2010-11 school year ($7,316 – $470 = $6,846). 4.            Why is this happening? Since 1994, after Proposal A was passed by Michigan voters and legislated, revenue raised by Proposal A went into the School Aid Fund (SAF) to fund K-12 public school districts and public charter schools, as was the intent of the authors of Proposal A—not to higher education. Beginning with the 2010-11 school year, the governor and state legislature began allocating revenues collected […]


September 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

SCHOOL BEAT Welcome to the 2011-12 school year!  by MICHAEL S. SHIBLER, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools Rockford Public Schools I hope you have experienced a relaxing and pleasant summer. Even though the middle of July was excruciatingly hot, in my opinion it was far better than minus 10 degrees with snow blowing sideways. Those days will come soon enough. Thank you, Rockford Public Schools (RPS) employees! It is very important for me to recognize the teachers, support staff, and administrators of RPS. During contract negotiations this summer, our employees agreed to a two-year contract (2011-12 and 2012-13), which will impact each of them financially for the next several years. This landmark agreement will allow RPS to recall 9.5 of the 25 teachers the Board of Education had to lay off earlier this spring. Because our state lawmakers continue to allocate K-12 public education money as defined by Proposal A to higher education, public school districts across Michigan have been required to make serious cuts to their programs and staff. In general terms, I want the Rockford community to know what our teachers, support staff, and administrators have agreed to so that several of our laid-off teachers could be recalled. This includes: •            salary, wage and step freezes for the next two years—combined with the past two years, this will represent four years of salary and wage freezes by the end of the 2012-13 school year; •            significantly higher employee cost sharing of health insurance premiums; •            higher prescription co-pays; •            higher office visit co-pays and health insurance deductibles. The above contract terms represent only a few of the many cost-saving and cost-sharing components our employees have agreed to in order to help RPS remain financially stable. Since 1989, RPS’ ongoing philosophy of continuous improvement has been exemplified by our logo of “Quality Community, Quality Schools—Together Building a Tradition of Excellence.” Our most important resource is people. People make the difference in the success of our community and our schools. On July 1, 2011, I began my 23rd year as superintendent of the Rockford Public Schools. There is no better community or school system in the state of Michigan. Because I have had the privilege of serving the Rockford area community for such a long time, I […]

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