Superintendent Scoop

January 2019

Happy 2019!

"Disrupting the status quo to save the lives of children" is a summary of the work behind the Blueprint (a plan for rapidly turning around struggling school districts), and the work is backed by the Michigan Department of Education. For the last two years, Houghton Lake Community School District has been implementing the work of the Blueprint. In short, the Blueprint incorporates every research-based, best practice used in high-performing school districts. Practices include high levels of teacher collaboration, decision-making based on data, a focus on curriculum, instruction and assessment, and developing an intensive student support network. A crucial element of the Blueprint implementation is assuring that all staff members in a school district - including support staff, maintenance and transportation - understand and are part of each piece of the plan (Blueprint requires "at scale" implementation). In addition, all staff and board of education members should be able to give a brief, five-minute summary of the work of the Blueprint in a way that anyone can understand the essence of the Blueprint. For me, "disrupting the status quo to save the lives of children" is that summary.

Houghton Lake Community School District is kicking off the new year with a bang and with news that is certain to disrupt the status quo. Just before winter break, the Michigan Department of Education notified the board of education that the district was awarded the $750,000 31a Balanced Calendar Instructional Grant. This grant can be used for one-time facility expenditures needed to successfully implement a three-year balanced school calendar. This news creates both excitement and trepidation.

The $750,000 will go a long way to repairing and updating facilities of Houghton Lake Community Schools. The research around balanced school calendars shows clear benefits for children, especially at the lower-elementary level. These benefits extend beyond academics and into meeting the non-academic needs of children. In addition, the intercession breaks throughout the school year allow for additional academic and enrichment activities for children. However, any proposed change brings a measure of resistance. Moving at least one Houghton Lake school to a balanced calendar requires open discussion, tenacious planning, and collective problem-solving efforts.

Our first district-wide community forum will be held Tuesday, January 8th from 6:30-8:00 PM in the Kirtland room at Houghton Lake High School. This will be an opportunity for families and community members to hear first-hand information about the grade-level reconfiguration and considerations for a 2019-2020 balanced school calendar. The 31b grant was written to include Collins Elementary and the middle school. However, "piloting" a balanced calendar with teaching staff and families at the elementary level volunteering to participate will be considered. A pilot program will allow Houghton Lake Community Schools to accept the grant funding, provide time to evaluate the effectiveness of the balanced calendar for this community, and give us the time necessary for long-term planning. All are invited to attend the meeting and learn about the benefits both opportunities bring to our children and the community.

In addition to the community forums, the high school, middle school and Collins Elementary will host planning meetings that will be open to staff, families and community members. Please follow the HLCS District Calendar ( for meeting information.

As the year moves forward, both academic and non-academic data will be used to drive district decisions. Current practices that are backed by strong results/data will be maintained and improved. Those practices that are not backed by strong data will be replaced. Change causes disruption. Change for the sake of change is very seldom good. Change, however, based on data, that supports a vision, is change that will disrupt the status quo for the right reasons and assure high levels of success for our children, families and the communities that make up Houghton Lake Community Schools. Please be involved at this exciting, and anxious, time for our district.

Early Release Day for Students

Wednesday, January 9th is an early release day for students. Staff will use the second half of the day for professional learning focused on the Intense Student Support Network of the Blueprint. Sessions include continued work to understand the impacts of trauma on students and the use of restorative practices to develop a safe classroom environment. We thank the community for supporting these professional learning opportunities!
"Help Students Focus" - article for parents & students

8 Ambient Sound Websites to Help Students Focus

2019-2020 Facilities Community Forum

Tuesday, Jan. 8th 2019 at 6:30-8pm

4433 West Houghton Lake Drive

Houghton Lake, MI

Kirkland Room

Upcoming Calendar Events

Tuesday, January 8 - 2019-2020 Facilities Community Forum @ HLHS Kirtland Room; 6:30-8:00 PM

Wednesday, January 9 - Early Release Day

Monday, January 14 - Board of Education Meeting @ HLHS Board Workroom; 6:30 PM

Friday, January 18 - End of First Semester

Friday, January 18 - Half (1/2) Day of School

Monday, January 28 - Board of Education Meeting @ HLHS Board Workroom; 6:30 PM

Wednesday, February 6 - Early Release Day

Thursday, February 7 - High School Parent/Teacher Conferences; 4:00-7:00 PM

Monday, February 12 - Board of Education Meeting @ HLHS Board Workroom; 6:30 PM

Saturday, February 23 - HLCS Strategic Planning Retreat (public invited); HLHS; 8:30-4:00 PM

Monday, February 25 - Board of Education Meeting @ HLHS Board Workroom; 6:30 PM

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