Rockford Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler

Bill on kindergarten start dates moves forward

May 17, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CINDY M. CRANMER A bill to move back the kindergarten start date in Michigan is moving forward after the Senate Education Committee approved a three-year plan to phase it in. Sen. Darwin Booher, the bills’ sponsor, told The Rockford Squire that the five-member panel ended up split over the decision after hearing extensive testimony from educators on Wednesday, March 21. Kindergarten teachers statewide have supported the measure overall, while some school administrators voiced opposition to the plan. Rolling back the eligibility date means fewer students starting kindergarten and the state saving millions in per-student allowances that are provided to public schools. Booher said he is in support of using the savings as an opportunity to restore support and invest in early childhood programs that have been underfunded. Four-year-olds have been eligible to start kindergarten in Michigan as long as they turn five by December 1 of the school year they begin. After concerns were voiced by school districts, a phased-in plan that staggers the cut-off for kindergarten eligibility was approved. During the 2012-2013 school year, the cut-off will be November 1. It will be moved back to October 1 for the 2013-2014 school year and the cut-off by the 2014-2015 school year would be September 1. The original bill had an exception, but that language has since been taken out, but some administrators are pushing for that in the final bill. “A large part of kindergarten is learning how to adapt socially,” said Farwell Superintendent Carl Seiter. “When students struggle with the social aspect, the academics suffer.” “From an education standpoint, I think the shift will help student achievement in the long run,” Seiter said. “Academically, it’s going to be a good move.” “Financially, this could impact schools,” Seiter said. “I would choose the academic aspects over the financial aspects at this point.” Locally, Rockford Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler said parents have the most information about whether students are ready for school. “I really think the people who are most qualified to decide if students are ready for kindergarten are the parents,” Shibler said. “I really think the parents and the school district should make the decision.” Shibler said he likes the idea of allowing for testing to appeal the decision if the age […]

Local leaders report on state of community

December 29, 2011 // 0 Comments

Providing more with less, looking to the future a common thread by BETH ALTENA  Representatives from the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, schools, City of Rockford, Kent County, the State House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate spoke Monday, Dec. 12, at Rockford High School, presenting a variety of opinions about the state of our community. A common theme of looking ahead to face challenges of our state and country as well as accomplishments achieved seemed to run through the discussions. Rockford’s Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Shibler spoke first, describing the district’s work on long- and short-term goals. He explained that in his early years with Rockford, he helped establish a Ram Action Model for Success (RAMS), now in its eighth cycle of three-year comprehensive plans. He said each RAMS plan takes into account the opinions of residents across the demographic spectrum—from empty-nesters, business people, seniors, parents of school-age children, etc.—who took surveys, including answering questions and providing narratives. Shibler said the district began the process in 1989 because the school leadership felt it was important for the community to decide what is important to the district. He said despite increasing financial challenges, the RAMS has helped the district complete 96 to 97 percent of the identified goals. He pointed out that Rockford Public Schools is a base-foundation district—among those schools in Michigan who receive the lowest level of funding per student. Today, he said, Rockford receives $7,046 per student, compared to $7,300 per student the district annually received in 2008. He said in 2012, cuts may bring the per-student funding for the district to $6,846. Despite continued lower finances, Shibler reported that Rockford is fortunate to have “a performance school district.” Rockford and East Grand Rapids are the only two districts in Kent County to have all schools receive As in state evaluation, and the only large district in the state of Michigan to receive the all-A recognition. In 1994 Rockford became the only school in the state to offer a guaranteed diploma—students who fail to be successful in jobs that require high-school level skills can return to receive additional education at no charge. This year, 50 juniors received a 30 or higher on their ACT tests, and the Rockford marching band earned the […]

Algoma Township drops D.A.R.E. funding

December 9, 2010 // 0 Comments

Program the last in Kent County by BETH ALTENA Rockford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Shibler and Rockford Police Chief Dave Jones can’t understand the reasoning for Algoma Township’s decision to discontinue their $5,000-a-year funding of the D.A.R.E. program, and they aren’t taking it quietly. Plainfield Township is also taking a hard look at their budget and had a discussion on whether to continue to fund the D.A.R.E. program. With revenue down across the board in municipalities in Michigan, including the City of Rockford, many government organizations are looking longer and harder at every service they offer, but Jones and Shibler don’t believe D.A.R.E. should fall to the wayside. On Monday, Nov. 29, Jones, Shibler and representatives from the Parent Teacher Organizations of each Rockford school attended a wake-up call meeting at Rockford City Hall to discuss the funding and future of D.A.R.E. “If Algoma doesn’t come around, if we lose Plainfield, we’re done,” Jones said. The D.A.R.E. program is much more than an anti-drug lesson, described Rockford’s D.A.R.E. officer Dave Jehnzen. It is a program that encourages good decision-making with lessons that ideally last a lifetime. Every student in the district takes part in D.A.R.E. in the fifth- and sixth-grade levels, and Jehnzen said that if it helps even a few kids avoid behaviors that lead to criminal activity or drug use, it is a no-brainer with the annual cost of $67,000 split between the City of Rockford and the townships who have students in the district. Jones said the program was originally offered by the Michigan State Police, which cancelled it due to budget cuts 10 years ago. Determined to continue D.A.R.E., the Rockford Police Department took on the program for Rockford Public Schools, and established funding by splitting the costs with Plainfield and Cannon townships each at $10,000 a year, Algoma and Courtland townships—with only part of their students in the Rockford district—at $5,000 a year each, the City of Rockford at $10,000, Rockford Public Schools at $12,500, and Our Lady of Consolation Church contributing $2,500. That total of $55,000 is still short of the entire funding by $12,000, which is currently made up with contributions from groups and an annual D.A.R.E. golf outing held by the Rockford Police Department on volunteer […]