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District Achievements and Future Plans: Academic Excellence, Bond Proposal, Sports and more

The Hornet Hive Podcast

Release Date: 03/14/2024

Jordan Williams: Making a Difference in Physical Education at Williamston's Elementary Schools show art Jordan Williams: Making a Difference in Physical Education at Williamston's Elementary Schools

The Hornet Hive Podcast

In the latest episode of the Hornet Hive Podcast host Dr. Christopher Lewis sat down with Jordan Williams, a dedicated physical education teacher at Discovery Elementary and Explorer Elementary in the Williamston Community Schools. The conversation delved into Jordan's experiences, challenges, and the inspiring impact he has had within the school community. The Pandemic Pivot: Navigating Physical Education during COVID-19 Teaching physical education during a pandemic was no easy feat, as Jordan shared. He highlighted the initial challenges of connecting with students while adhering to safety...

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Supporting Students Through Struggles: A Middle School Guidance Counselor's Insights show art Supporting Students Through Struggles: A Middle School Guidance Counselor's Insights

The Hornet Hive Podcast

In a recent episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, Dr. Christopher Lewis had an engaging conversation with Sophia Mackoul, a dedicated guidance counselor at a middle school in Williamston. Throughout the discussion, Sophia shed light on the importance of her role, her personal motivations, the challenges students face in today's society, and the resources and support available to them. The Impact of Community and Relationships Sophia spoke about the strong sense of community and the unique opportunity to build deep relationships within a smaller school district. Her enthusiasm was evident as she...

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Inside the Life of a School Speech Pathologist: Bailee Lawrence's Impactful Work show art Inside the Life of a School Speech Pathologist: Bailee Lawrence's Impactful Work

The Hornet Hive Podcast

In the fruitful fields of education, there exists a group of steadfast professionals who tirelessly work behind the scenes to nurture the communication skills of our children. Among them is Bailee Lawrence, a dedicated speech pathologist working in Discovery Elementary within the Williamston School District. Her journey from an outpatient facility to the vibrant environment of a school district amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the transformative impact of speech pathology within the education system. In this blog post, we delve deeper into the experiences and...

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Navigating 5th Grade: Sonya Pake on Preparing Students for Middle School at Explorer Elementary show art Navigating 5th Grade: Sonya Pake on Preparing Students for Middle School at Explorer Elementary

The Hornet Hive Podcast

In a recent episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, host Dr. Christopher Lewis sat down with Sonya Pake, a 5th-grade teacher at Explorer Elementary School in the Williamston Community Schools district. The conversation provided a unique insight into the experiences and perspectives of a teacher working in a small, close-knit community. From discussing the transition from elementary to middle school to the support and pride of living and working in the same community, Sonya's insights shed light on the multifaceted role that teachers play in shaping students' lives and the community at large. The...

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District Achievements and Future Plans: Academic Excellence, Bond Proposal, Sports and more show art District Achievements and Future Plans: Academic Excellence, Bond Proposal, Sports and more

The Hornet Hive Podcast

The Williamston Community Schools have been a hub of success and progress, and today in our podcast we bring back Superintendent Dr. Adam Spina. The episode delved into various topics, including academic achievements, recognition, and updates on district initiatives. Let's take a closer look at the highlights and key takeaways. Celebrating Academic Achievements: The episode began with a celebration of the remarkable academic achievements within the district. Dr. Spina highlighted the State Scorecard Index and the letter grading system, sharing the outstanding scores of Williamston High School,...

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3rd Grade Adventures: A Conversation with Sarah Long & Libbey Merrell show art 3rd Grade Adventures: A Conversation with Sarah Long & Libbey Merrell

The Hornet Hive Podcast

Teaching is a noble and challenging profession, and those who choose to educate young minds carry the responsibility of sculpting the future generation. In a recent episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, Dr. Christopher Lewis, who also serves on the Williamson Community Schools Board of Education, engaged in an insightful conversation with third-grade teachers Sarah Long and Libby Merrell from Explorer Elementary. The discussion provided a window into the unique world of 3rd-grade education, offering valuable insights into the experiences, challenges, and joys of molding young learners during a...

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Diving Into 2nd Grade with Lisa Major: Finding Joy in Teaching and Learning show art Diving Into 2nd Grade with Lisa Major: Finding Joy in Teaching and Learning

The Hornet Hive Podcast

In this episode of the Hornet Hive podcast, we had the pleasure of speaking with Lisa Major, a dedicated 2nd-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary in Williamston. As a seasoned educator, Lisa walked us through her inspiring journey into education and her experiences within the Williamston school district. Throughout our conversation, Lisa shared valuable insights into her love for teaching, the impact of the Williamston community, and the challenges she has faced, particularly in the context of the ever-evolving landscape of education and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Joy of...

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The Joy of Kindergarten: Sara Parsons' Passion for Teaching and Making Learning Fun show art The Joy of Kindergarten: Sara Parsons' Passion for Teaching and Making Learning Fun

The Hornet Hive Podcast

In this episode of the Hornet Hive, Dr. Christopher Lewis, welcomes Sara Parsons, a dedicated kindergarten teacher with over two decades of experience in the district.  Sara Parsons shares her journey, dating back to the early 2000s when she and her husband chose Williamston as their home. Drawn by the community's warmth and the unique balance of a small-town feel with ample opportunities, Sara has found fulfillment in teaching and raising her own children within the district. Reflecting on her 21 years in Williamston, Sara appreciates the district's commitment to innovation....

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Renee Heide: Nurturing Curiosity and Independence in 5th Grade Students show art Renee Heide: Nurturing Curiosity and Independence in 5th Grade Students

The Hornet Hive Podcast

In this episode of "The Hornet Hive," Dr. Christopher Lewis, a member of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education, is joined by Renee Heide, a 5th-grade teacher at Explorer Elementary. The episode offers insights into Renee's experiences and highlights what makes Williamston a special place for both students and staff. Dr. Lewis begins by emphasizing the importance of showcasing the remarkable things happening within the school district and providing an opportunity for the community to get to know the dedicated staff. He introduces Renee Heide, welcoming her to the episode. Renee...

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Kindergarten-Ready: Erin Chomas' Dedication to Preparing Students for Success show art Kindergarten-Ready: Erin Chomas' Dedication to Preparing Students for Success

The Hornet Hive Podcast

In this episode of The Hornet Hive, Dr. Christopher Lewis, a member of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education, sits down with Erin Chomas, a kindergarten teacher at Discovery Elementary. They discuss Erin's journey to Williamston, her experiences as a teacher, and her love for working with kindergarteners. Erin shares how she and her family moved to Williamston due to their desire for a different community and more space. She later transitioned from being a stay-at-home mom to working as a paraeducator before becoming a kindergarten teacher at Discovery Elementary. Erin speaks...

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More Episodes

The Williamston Community Schools have been a hub of success and progress, and today in our podcast we bring back Superintendent Dr. Adam Spina. The episode delved into various topics, including academic achievements, recognition, and updates on district initiatives. Let's take a closer look at the highlights and key takeaways.

Celebrating Academic Achievements:

The episode began with a celebration of the remarkable academic achievements within the district. Dr. Spina highlighted the State Scorecard Index and the letter grading system, sharing the outstanding scores of Williamston High School, Middle School, and Explorer Elementary. The continuous high scores and consecutive recognitions underscore the dedicated efforts of the staff, students, and the support of the parents and the community. These achievements are a testament to the district's commitment to providing high-quality education and nurturing student growth.

Transition in Accountability Metrics:

A key topic of discussion was the upcoming changes in the accountability metrics for schools. Dr. Spina provided insights into the transition from the letter grading system to the State's accountability index as the primary metric. This shift reflects the need for a comprehensive and nuanced approach in assessing school performance, emphasizing the significance of student growth and overall progress. As the district aligns with these changes, the focus remains on ensuring a transparent and effective evaluation of educational standards.

Empowering Female Students in STEAM:

Another significant recognition highlighted in the podcast was the 2023 Advanced Placement Computer Science Female Diversity Award received by the district. This accolade reflects the success of the K-12 STEAM initiative and the emphasis on providing equitable representation for female students in STEAM-related classes. The district’s commitment to cultivating diverse participation in technology and scientific fields, as evident from the achievement, showcases a forward-thinking approach to education.

Bond Proposal and Community Engagement:

The discussion then shifted towards the collaborative efforts of a committee working on a bond proposal for the district. Dr. Spina detailed the comprehensive process that involved gathering community feedback to identify facility needs and prioritize essential developments within the given budget constraints. This transparent and inclusive approach demonstrates the district's commitment to involving the community in key decisions and ensuring that the proposed bond aligns with the collective vision for the future of Williamston schools.

Athletic and Academic Achievements:

The episode also highlighted the impressive accomplishments of various student groups and teams, including wrestlers, gymnasts, and the girls' basketball team. The district's strong emphasis on providing holistic support, not just for athletic programs, but also for academic and extracurricular activities, underscores the commitment to nurturing well-rounded student development.

The podcast episode not only reflected the remarkable achievements and ongoing initiatives within the Williamston Community Schools but also highlighted the collaborative spirit and community engagement that are integral to the district's success. The commitment to academic excellence, equity, and holistic student development remains at the core of the district's mission. As the community continues to celebrate these accomplishments, the blog encourages ongoing engagement and support for the district's journey towards excellence and inclusivity.

In conclusion, the podcast episode showcased the strong foundation, progressive initiatives, and unwavering dedication of the Williamston Community Schools, offering a glimpse into the vibrant educational landscape and the collective efforts shaping a promising future for students and the community at large.

TRANSCRIPT

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:20]:
Welcome back to the Hornet Hive. I'm your host, Doctor. Christopher Lewis, one of the members of the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education. Really excited to have you back again this week. I love being able to talk to you about the amazing things that are happening in our schools, and there are amazing things that are happening within our schools. And I have the opportunity to be able to talk with you about these things, to bring people out in front of you, to let you meet some of the amazing staff and learn about some of the activities and programs and things that we have available for our students. And every once in a while, I also get an opportunity to bring back Doctor. Adam Spina, our superintendent, to talk about what has been happening in our district, what is happening in our district, and it's always fun to have him here as well.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:05]:
Doctor Spina, thanks so much for being here today.

Dr. Adam Spina [00:01:07]:
Thank you, Chris. As, you know, we were talking about before, we started recording, it's been awesome to see how the podcast has grown in popularity and the amount of folks, individual staff members, and also different programs associated with the district that wanna be featured on the podcast to tell their story. And I just, you know, I was kinda reflecting back when this used to just be you and I kinda chatting about this and how this initiative has really grown. So I appreciate your willingness to continue to lead this and get these, more nuanced perspectives of the things that are going on within the district out through this medium. So as always, appreciate your your your efforts and great to be a part of the, the production.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:46]:
I appreciate you saying that. And it has been a lot of fun, not only for myself getting to know so many of our staff members, but also to allow for others in our community to be able to do the same because there are so many people and so many great things that are happening in our schools. And it's so important for everyone in our community to know that because I, for 1, definitely want to share this story and I want people to know what's happening because you all should be very proud of what is happening in our schools. And speaking of proud, I know that every year we end up getting some some accountability standards, the scorecard index that we get every year, the state accountability and letter grades, and we just got those back. Doctor. Spina, can you tell us a little bit more about this? And also I know there's been, there's going to be some changes happening with this in the future. And maybe you can talk on that too.

Dr. Adam Spina [00:02:37]:
Absolutely. So we look at these in a number of other metrics that give us indicators in terms of how we're doing as educators and and the progression that our students are making both academically and and from a social emotional standpoint as well. One of the key benchmarks that is published during the year are the, state accountability results, and there's 2 different systems, one of which will be going away after this year. But I'll start with the first one, which is the State Scorecard Index, or Accountability Index, depending on how you refer to it. And this is a metric that looks at a number of different factors across the district, including things like student proficiency on state assessments, graduation rates, participation in the assessment, overall school quality index, and there's a there's a whole system for how they devise what, makes up that component. And then probably the most important part, which is student growth. And, of course, that's always been the the main effort here in Williamston because we understand students are gonna be starting from different places. Our goal is to continue to educate them and maximize their success, regardless of where they start.

Dr. Adam Spina [00:03:47]:
And so while student proficiency or student achievement is is is always worth noting, For us, the most important aspect of that is is student growth. So in this index that is published annually, as folks might recall, we've we've done very well in recent years in terms of those results. And so I'm pleased to share this year that, Williamston High School received a 93.10 out of a 100 once all those different components are tabulated. That was the the highest score in Ingham County for high school, and it is the 5th consecutive year the high school has earned that designation. Williamston Middle School had a 91.79 out of 100, and that is also the highest score in the county for a middle school. And then Explorer Elementary had a 92.15 out of 100. We didn't go in to dig through all the, the many, many elementary schools within the county and the surrounding area, so I I don't know how that ranks comparatively. But, obviously, anything over 90 is a considerable achievement.

Dr. Adam Spina [00:04:46]:
And so, I just want to acknowledge and celebrate the successes of those schools who, all participate in this accountability index result. Bought our staff for their hard work, our students for, all their accomplishments, and obviously our parents and community for their ongoing support. The second system is the letter grading system that the, state started a number of years ago. So you have these 2 kind of concurrent accountability metrics that are published annually. Last year, a change in the law was made where the the letter grading system will be ended, but they're still publishing last year's results this year. So this is the last year we'll see those letter grades published. That said, again, this year, all of our schools that participate in the, state assessment program received a's for both student achievement or proficiency and student growth, which again are the the 2 main metrics with us particularly being interested in the student growth. So straight a's, so to speak, when looking at those two metrics of that accountability system.

Dr. Adam Spina [00:05:46]:
Again, though, this will be the last year that it's published and but, again, we do wanna recognize that success. And, again, congratulate our staff and our students, parents, and community on that accomplishment.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:05:56]:
Now I know you just mentioned that the letter grade is going to be going away. Have you had any new insight into if something new is going to be developed or added on to be able to provide a similar type of assessment? Or will it only be the state accountability that will be the main standard for the state in looking at K12 education?

Dr. Adam Spina [00:06:19]:
Based on my current understanding, the state's accountability index or scorecard index, will remain as the primary accountability metric for schools within the state. There has been a debate for years on why there was a need to have 2 concurrent accountability systems at the same time in the state. That's not typical. I think there was some thought at one point that letter grades were more accessible, more understandable for folks that were trying to evaluate or assess schools. But as those of us that study grades, would would argue what that letter grade represents, it's an oversimplification. Right? So in in many cases to just say, you know, school has a b. Well, okay. What does that mean? Just like a oftentimes when we provide a grade for a student and we say, you know, you have a b plus or an a minus.

Dr. Adam Spina [00:07:07]:
Okay. Well, what does that consist of? What what does that grade actually represent? So after a lot of debate and political circles, it was finally determined last year that that was not needed and removed. And, again, as far as I know, the scorecard index will remain as the the primary accountability system for all schools in the state.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:07:24]:
Appreciate you sharing that as well. Now I know there's been some other good news that had been coming down that we have gotten within the district that we got another award just recently that puts our students and our school in a very high light. Can you tell me more about that?

Dr. Adam Spina [00:07:41]:
Well, another recent res recognition was the, 2023 Advanced Placement Computer Science Female Diversity Award that is facilitated and issued by the College Board. And it's an award that recognizes high schools that have effectively engaged female students in computer science. In in our particular case, our computer science principles course that was started, I would say, about 6 years ago, maybe 7, at our high school. You might recall that, Williamson High School won this award also in 2019. The award is what it is, but I think the bigger piece for me at least is it's it's a reminder to kinda go back and see how far we've come with our k twelve steam initiative that was started, 2017 ish. And one of the goals was to create or to ensure that we had equitable representation amongst female students in STEAM related classes, in particular at the high school, after studying and understanding that the, the job market is gonna prioritize students who have a background in those fields of study, into the future. So this is a nice reminder that was one of the goals of that program. That notwithstanding, again, there's a lot of other things that we're trying to accomplish as a part of that, whether it's the expansion of our robotics programs and classes, or even just general engagement in terms of how do you apply the content you're learning in your core classes.

Dr. Adam Spina [00:09:02]:
So such as math. Right? We all remember, you know, probably from our own educational experiences, when am I ever gonna use this? Well, you do use it and providing the opportunity for students to apply what they're learning in those core content classes in a meaningful collaborative fashion through those Steam, related fields, answers that kind of inherently answers that question when you actually start to use those concepts, in a meaningful and collaborative way. So, again, they want is what it is. We're grateful to receive it and and, we appreciate the recognition. But I think more so, it's just a reminder that this is a major focus for the district and it shows, you know, the progress that's been made over the last, 7 6, 7, 8 years.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:09:41]:
It's always positive to be able to see that incremental growth and continual movement in the right direction. So congratulations for all the hard work and for that achievement. Over the last few months, we've also been working with a committee, a committee of individuals from throughout our community to be able to talk about a bond proposal that we plan to have on the ballot for August. And through that work, we've been able to have some really good conversations about the needs of our district. And we are almost at a point where we have some ideas where we may be going. Doctor. Shpina, do you want to kind of give an idea of kind of the process that we've been following and people that have been involved and the direction that we're moving now?

Dr. Adam Spina [00:10:27]:
So 3 d members might recall a couple months ago, we sent out a survey to collect some initial feedback on identifying facilities within the district that are in need of either complete replacement or or repair. And I'll kinda cut to the chase. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, you know, most surveys you send out, I mean, the feedback is invaluable. It helps you make course corrections and make adjustments, but it's rare that we've sent a survey out that has had that much positive response. So I think that the good piece here is that based on those survey responses, the community as a whole has recognized the areas within the district that are in need of, again, either replacement or at least a a refresh in some cases, and that, you know, that is a commonly understood piece, which, again, makes communicating a little bit easier when we share that common understanding. Those priorities were initially identified through a number of ways, including a comprehensive facilities assessment that was done, which quite frankly has identified much more need than what we anticipate is going to be proposed in the bond, which is to be a a 0 mil increase or no change to the current tax rate. So with that said, when you have that much identified need from a facilities and equipment standpoint and you have to live within your means, and the the district has always been, you know, clear that we're not seeking any type of tax rate increase.

Dr. Adam Spina [00:11:51]:
How do you prioritize those needs against that set budget? And so we've had a steering committee from across made up of representatives from across the community has put in a lot of time to prioritize those items. They had to make some difficult decisions. There are definitely some things that are important that are are not gonna make the cut in terms of what gets included into the proposal that the board will ultimately decide to to move forward. But really appreciate the input and the hard work, a lot of hours by that steering committee, that community committee to kinda coalesce around of all the priorities, what are the very top things that must be done? It's also worth noting that, you know, Michigan is one of the very few states that does not grant districts money for infrastructure improvements or or upgrades. So by design, by law, this is the process in Michigan in terms of how districts seek those large scale capital improvements to schools and corresponding equipment. And so this is the process. We will make sure over the months to follow, there's a lot of information presented and included in our website and other presentations that are made available to the community. And we wanna be very clear, very is a part of this potential initiative.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:13:11]:
So I think the biggest thing here is just to say more info to come, more data to come, and we'll be sharing more as this moves forward be with you to make sure that you are aware and hopefully that you're excited about the changes that are going to be a part of this and that we will hopefully be able to bring to fruition in the future after the completion of the bond. Now one of the other things that I know that we always get to talk about as we end up different seasons of the year is sports, and we've are just about getting through our winter sports season as we get ready to move into our spring sports season. And some of our teams did quite well as well this season. Do you wanna give us a little bit of an update on that?

Dr. Adam Spina [00:13:58]:
Absolutely. Although as we've discussed before, this always makes me nervous because I know I'm gonna forget someone and which is not intentional, but the other piece too is that we have a lot of other groups that are not connected to athletics that are competing in various formats. So, you know, band festival, we have our quiz ball teams, robotics teams. So there there's a lot going on this time of year, and, we try to feature as many of those contests as we can on our website through the community update that's published every other week from the district. But just to get a get a couple highlights, we had several wrestlers qualify to compete when the individual state championships. We've had a gymnast who has gone on and won the regional competition. Our girls' basketball team completed an undefeated conference season and is, now ranked in the top 10 in the state heading into the MHSA tournament. And so across the board, our athletic teams, our coaches, and parents, and community members who support them have been outstanding.

Dr. Adam Spina [00:14:55]:
One of the things I've talked about with my own family and some other members, of the Williamston community is just the difference in how much it matters and how passionate people are and the level of support that I think our students, whether they're in those clubs or band or athletics receive. And I think it's it's very telling just in terms of the general environment, like, when we travel to other schools, other communities to watch our teams, participate and then kind of compare that to the environment that we see here in William Stanton. It's it's a remarkable difference and something that we're greatly appreciative for. I know our students recognize and they're appreciative of, and it's it's just a great thing here. So part of another reason of many why Williamston is a special place and an awesome community.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:15:38]:
Well, Doctor. Spino, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you as always for sharing all of these amazing things that are happening within our schools. And thank you for listening today, for being here, for being a part of our community and being a part of our schools and being interested in what's happening in our schools. It's so important to have you as a part of this journey that we're all on in supporting our youth, in supporting our schools to be the best that they can be. I encourage you to stay engaged, stay active, and watch for more updates that are going to be shared throughout the coming months about amazing things that are happening in our schools because they will continue to be shared out. And if you've got questions along the way, do reach out as well. Make sure to reach out.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:16:26]:
Doctor Spino would be happy to answer questions that you may have, and we are always willing to answer questions of individuals. So thank you for listening. Come back again next time as I introduce you to other people as well as activities and more that are happening within our district. Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day.