November 28, 2014

Area schools ready to start year

By James Kuch
News Editor | news@arenacindependent.com
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ARENAC COUNTY — Changes to staffing, technology and student learning will impact all four area school districts during the 2011-12 school year.

Arenac Eastern Schools

Superintendent Bill Grusecki said the Arenac Eastern School District has made a change in scheduling and integrated new technology this year.

“One of the things we have done is eliminate the 30-minute seminar period during the middle of the day,” he said. “Now students will have more time during a seven-period day to learn more and spend more time with some of our new technology.”

Example of that new technology are interactive smart boards for teachers in the district to use during classes.

“All of our K-12 classrooms will have smart boards available and all of the teachers have gone through training to learn how to better use the boards,” he said.

Grusecki said the district’s new technology is available for students thanks to grant funding from the Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe.

“We will have a new quarterly student newsletter that will be created by our students, and we also want to create a student video to show the tribe what their funding has allowed us to do here,” he said.

AuGres-Sims Schools

Superintendent Anne Doriean said AuGres-Sims is finalizing staff call-backs before the start of the year, and has updated its technology.

“We had some staff layoffs in the spring and at this time we will be able to recall some of those people, pending concessions,” she said. “We are still in negotiations.”

Doriean said the district’s teaching staff is set, with a new teacher hired fill a gap left by a retiree.

Doriean said technology is constantly changing at AuGres-Sims.

“We are fortunate to have been given a number of grants from the (Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe),” she said. “We have used funding from those grants to continue to improve on technology.”

Doreian said Au-Gres-Sims just launched is its new district website, www.ags-schools.org. She added that the site will keep students and parents up to date about district activities.

“We are still adding things to the site, and we expect it to continue to grow,” she said. “It is still a work in progress.”

Due to the economy, the district has focused on improvinging what they have.

“This year we did not really add many things,” she said. “We do not have many new expenses.”

Pinconning Area Schools

According to former Superintendent Darren Kroczaleski, Pinconning Area Schools made a significant commitment to new technology for the 2011-12 school year.

“Pinconning High School and Middle School as well as Central Elementary now have Wi-Fi available,” he said. “We installed Wi-Fi and made our entire campus hot.”

Kroczaleski said advancements in technology made it necessary for the campus to have Wi-Fi in every building.

“Our students are going to need that Internet accessibility,” he said.

Kroczaleski also said e-readers were added for use in different classes.

“I know that our AP English classes in the high school will have (e-readers), as well as our fourth grade students at Central Elementary,” he said.

Kroczaleski believes that having e-readers and tablet computers available can only help students down the road.

“I feel like these things are going to be necessary in the future,” he said. “With the applications and books that are available online, it is a great technology.”

Kroczaleski said that as always, the district will focus on education.

“This district wants to remain focused on student learning and provide the best education opportunities it can for students,” he said.

Standish-Sterling Community Schools

The Standish-Sterling Community School District will be continuing to face changes from state mandated testing and staff reductions.

Roger Fritz, SSC High School principal, said the district will implement a new K-12 system called Teaching Maps.

“Teaching Maps are a new way for our students to learn in a consistent way from grade to grade,” he said. “It will help students make transitions from grade to grade.”

Fritz said the district has hired a specialist to help teachers integrate Teaching Map criteria in lessons.

“An instructor comes in a couple days each month and will teach our teachers in our different buildings,” he said.

“We are all excited about this,” he added.

The district has also faced staff reductions. During budget cuts in June, the Board of Education cut 4.5 full-time teaching positions from the district, and three teachers retired from the high school and were not replaced. Fritz said the high school and middle school will share some teachers to help balance the load.

“The loss of some of our teaching staff is a challenge in the sense that we may not have the staff to teach some of our elective courses,” Fritz said. “I think with the sharing of teachers between the middle and high schools, we were able to preserve some of that.”

Fritz said the high school will have 92 students commuting to the Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District this year, the highest number in years.

Technology has also seen growth in the high school over the past few years and Fritz said there be new additions to the school this year.

“We have implemented a new e-beam system to go along with our interactive white boards,” he said.

Fritz said teachers can use the e-beam system with the Internet to project and interact with whiteboards.

“We want to continue to make the best use out of our technology,” he said.

Clinton Potts, principal at Sterling Elementary, said the Standish and Sterling elementary schools each have new smart boards.

“Sterling Elementary has four new boards, and I believe Standish Elementary has six,” he said. “Teachers really enjoy using them.”

Potts said Sterling Elementary has brought back its entire teaching staff for the new school year and he said that is an asset for the school.

“I think it is very important that we have our teachers here working together,” he said. “Out teachers are here for the long term; they are committed and they are stable.”

Potts said both schools will look to shift their core curriculums from state to national levels.

“In three years we will have all of our student testing being performed on a national level,” he said.

Potts said the elementary schools also received support from the community: “Stuff The Bus,” an event hosted by area residents Ron and Nancy Curtis, gathered supplies for both schools.

“Because of Stuff The Bus, we were able to get supplies for every teacher in both buildings,” he said.

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