Friday, August 21, 2015

A new school year brings excitement and challenges

A new school year is quickly approaching.  It will be an exciting time, with new classes, new staff members, new friends and new experiences in store for over 7,600 Lake Orion students.

Our school district continues to experience change, as well.  We are expanding our world languages program this fall to include an introductory class in sixth grade that introduces all students to Spanish, French and German.  About 25 percent of our seventh and eighth graders take foreign language classes now, which can count toward high school credits.  Our goal is for even more middle school students to take advantage of this opportunity.  Expansion of the world languages program into lower grades will be considered in the future.

We have also identified the need to further improve math instruction, especially in our elementary schools where fundamentals are taught and a love for math is born.  About 20 percent of our students need extra help in the subject area and this fall we are adding dedicated math support specialists at every elementary building, much like we have now with our reading curriculum.  They will work collaboratively with teachers in the classroom as well as independently to meet the math support needs of each student.  In addition, all of our elementary math specialists will work together to assure current best practices are shared throughout the district.

It is not easy to offer programs like these and others when Lake Orion’s overall student enrollment continues to decline, mirroring the trend in public school districts across our region.  According to a recent article in The Detroit News, student enrollment in public schools has declined by 11.1 percent over the past decade.  Most of our operational budget is determined by the number of kids in our classrooms, so we have seen a consistent reduction in state funding.  Consequently, we have reduced or eliminated more than $25 million in budget expenditures over the past years and are always looking for ways to operate more efficiently.  

Orion Township continues to be an attractive place to live, but there is uncertainty surrounding the potential rebound in the numbers of school-age children in our community.  We cannot count new students until they actually enroll.

Consequently, a long-range planning committee made up of nearly 40 people from around the community was formed earlier this year.  It has been charged with considering ways to reimagine the school district to best reflect Lake Orion and the evolving needs of its families over the next 3-5 years.  I am pleased to say this group has successfully met three times this summer.  Working together, they have identified a number of priority areas and key considerations.  Work groups have been formed, with everyone committed to completing the hard work needed to make thoughtful, responsible recommendations to our elected Board of Education before the end of the school year. (Click here to learn more about the Long Range Planning Committee)

Enjoy the remaining days of summer as we approach an exciting and productive 2015-16 school year!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Balancing the budget

This is the time of year that we begin the process of projecting our budget revenues/expenses for the next school year.

As a result of projected enrollment decline of about 60 resident students as well as a decline in expected revenue based on the first run of the Governor’s budget proposal, it is anticipated that we will need to reduce our expenditures by approximately $1 million in order to have a balanced budget for next school year and maintain at least a 10% fund balance as required by Board policy and auditor’s recommendation so as to not go into operating deficit.

The Governor’s preliminary budget indicates a $75 per pupil increase in funding.  However, what isn’t apparent is that this budget reduces funding in two areas that we received revenue this year totaling a reduction of $100 per student.

The first of these reductions is for Best Practices for which all schools that met the criteria received $50 per pupil this year, which Lake Orion did.  That allocation has been reduced by $30 and we will only receive $20 per pupil next year. The second reduction in the Governor’s budget eliminates dollars for student performance.  This current year Lake Orion received $70 per pupil for the performance of our students; this will be eliminated next year. The net result of the Governor’s budget for Lake Orion is a reduction of $25 per pupil over this current school year’s revenue.

There is, however, an allocation for at-risk students of $26 per at-risk student but this allocation is very controlled as to how the funds can be used and for whom it is earmarked – meaning this is not money that can be used for the general population of students.  Even if we were to count this, we would only be realizing a $1 increase in our funding for the next school year – not a $75 increase as is being “advertised.”

In order to have a balanced budget for the next school year and maintain at least a 10% fund balance as required by Board policy and auditor recommendations, the administration is working to identify reductions in our expenses.  Of course, it is important to note that this is all very preliminary and we hope that there will be favorable revisions to the Governor’s budget as it goes through the legislative process.

Friday, January 9, 2015

January is School Board Recognition Month

President Debbie Porter

January is School Board Recognition Month. Lake Orion and communities across Michigan recognize local school board members for providing leadership and guidance to school districts.

Vice President Scott Taylor
The Lake Orion School Board members are dedicated, visionary and generous individuals whose leadership has been invaluable in navigating the challenging environment of the last few years.

"Few people fully understand the scope and implications of school board service," said Kathy Hayes, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of School Boards.  "When citizens elect a school board, they've given those few members the great responsibility of steering public education in the communities they represent."

Treasurer Jim Weidman
Secretary Connie Meech
The seven Lake Orion Board members take that responsibility and public trust very seriously, dedicating an enormous number of hours to their work both in and outside of Board meetings.  

Please join me in thanking our board members for their dedication to the students of Lake Orion Schools.

Trustee Birgit McQuiston
Trustee Steve Drakos
Trustee Bill Holt

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Winter is Here! Time to Talk Weather-Related School Closings

Winter’s icy breath has come early this year.  It is way too soon for most of us, unless you are a student who relishes snow day school cancellations.  At least we are not alone, for most of the country is unseasonably cold right now.  Thank you Mother Nature!

Nobody wishes a repeat of last winter, but we assume there will probably be at least a few days of missed school due to inclement weather.  The district recognizes the decision to open or close the schools in such situations has a big impact on families.  Our top priority when making such choices is the safety of our students and staff.

A number of factors are considered when making the decision to close our schools due to the weather conditions:

  • Road condition reports from our transportation and buildings-and-grounds departments - careful consideration must be given to the most dangerous, often rural, roads in the district;
  • Amount of accumulated snow and ice and whether or not it is continuing;
  • School building conditions (electricity, water and heat);
  • Parking lot conditions;
  • Temperature and wind chill, considering many of our children waiting outside for a bus or walking to school;
  • Weather predictions, which we know are not always accurate but must be considered in conjunction with other deciding factors; and,
  • What other school districts in Oakland County have decided.

The final decision is based on the above factors and recommendations from the Directors of Transportation and Buildings-and-Grounds.  In the event the district is closed, the goal is to make the decision and begin notifying families no later than 5:30 a.m.

There are several ways to find out if the school district is closed:

  • Messages sent via School Messenger if you have opted-in to the service;
  • Postings on the district’s website and Facebook page; and, 
  •  Notices that are automatically sent to local television stations, plus WWJ 950 AM and WJR 760 AM radio stations.

Please note, the school district recognizes parents may not feel it is safe to send their child(ren) to school in inclement weather and decide to keep them at home.  They should contact the school to notify them of this decision.   Parents should contact their children’s schools to update their contact information, if necessary.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November 4, 2014 Election results of school related issues

Non-Homestead Operating Tax Renewal - Passed

A very sincere thank you to all who supported the ten-year renewal of the LO district non-homestead operating tax.  This will allow the district to maintain the current instructional and support programs for our students.

School Board Members (uncontested)

4 year terms
Steven Drakos (incumbent)
Jim Weidman (incumbent)

2 year term
Scott Taylor (incumbent)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

141 strong - the LO Dragon Marching Band is heading to the State Finals!

141 LOHS Marching Band Students!
If you walk down the halls of LOHS or drive by the football field during 4th period every day, you'll hear some pretty amazing melodic sounds coming from our marching band students.  Not only do these dedicated student musicians, under the leadership of Mike Steele, practice during school hours, they play after school three days every week and on Saturdays - rain or shine!

Their grueling schedule starts the week after school ends in preparation for the next school year with rehearsals every day the first week and then every Wednesday throughout summer until right before a week-long band camp.

In their first competition this year at the Novi Invitational in September they placed first and earned the Best Music Award.  The next month at the Bands of America Toledo Regional, they were a finalist and placed 7th.  

Clarkston Invitational

Two weeks ago they competed at the Clarkston Invitational and secured a score of 90.250, the highest score in school history, finishing in second place behind last year's state champion, Walled Lake Central and tying for the award for "Best General Effect." 

Troy Athens Invitational

And, at the Troy Athens Invitational this past weekend, the Dragon Marching Band finished in second place, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd for their outstanding performance; the final one before this weekend's State Finals at Ford Field.

The Dragons will then have two weeks until their preliminary round performance at the Grand Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana.

We should all be very proud of the tireless commitment that our marching band students dedicate to their program.  In addition to their competitions, they never miss performing during half-time at football games, at homecoming and community parades for Memorial Day and the Christmas LO Lighted Parade.

Equally important is the outstanding manner in which they consistently represent our school district and our community.  Let's cheer them on as they approach the State Finals this weekend and then on to the Grand Nationals.