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!