April 16, 2023
Update from Superintendent Shuldiner
Dear Lansing School District Community,
I hope this newsletter finds you well. As always, it is a pleasure to be writing to you all. Today, I will answer some of the Ask The Superintendent Anything questions! I want to thank you all for writing to me. The questions were thoughtful and important. I have copied some of the questions below, but I deidentified them so that the writer stays anonymous. I also tried to pick questions that were emblematic of other questions. If I didn't pick your question this week, please don't worry, I will do another answer session soon. And again, as promised, if your questions were more individual in nature, I will respond to you personally.
My question is shouldn’t there be other alternatives to suspending students from school for disciplinary purposes? In my opinion, when a student commits minor school violations, such as fighting or being verbally disruptive, extra homework or in school suspension could be used. I feel that when students are already behind educationally, the last place they need to be is at home. Many parents work and can not be home with the kids, which gives them lots of time to waste. I am speaking from personal experience when I say my grandkids have been suspended for various reasons and I was not aware that I had to request assignments be sent home with them while suspended. What I have found is many of the missed assignments are never completed and the student is penalized for missing assignments.
I agree wholeheartedly. This is why this semester we have moved toward ending out-of-school suspensions. When a child does something wrong, sending them home for 10 days doesn't seem like punishment. It can seem like a vacation. In fact, some students even look forward to being suspended so that they can stay home and play video games. This is the exact opposite of what we want to build in this district.
So, as we rethink discipline, we are moving toward the following model: If a student does something that warrants a 1-5-day suspension, the child will be asked to report to their school. They will go to a version of an in-school suspension room. The idea here is that rather than stay home, the child will be able to do work, talk to counselors, and generally have the adults from the school focus on getting the behavior to change and making sure the student doesn't fall even further behind. Five days out of school can have a very damaging impact on a students education.
If the student commits a severe enough transgression that the child will be suspended for 6-10 days, they will be sent to an alternative education program housed within our alternative education center, specifically to help suspended kids get back on track. Here the student will receive support, counseling, and the ability to work on classes and get tutoring. And if a student is suspended for more than 10 days, the child will be sent to the suspension center but also get even more support from the Office of School Culture.
This plan is in its nascent phase, but, as you indicated, we as a school district need to create a discipline system that actually gets the students back on track, not one that creates even more distance between the student and success.
Topic: Listening to the Voice of the Community
Do you think having the students take a survey at least mid-year to evaluate how they feel they are learning from the curriculum and teachers would be helpful? I speak with many kids that actually care very much about their grades and they have some great things to say about some teachers and how helpful they are to the learning process. I also hear about some that aren't very helpful or even seem to not care about the student's questions or success.
This used to be something schools did back in my day - do you think it could be implemented especially for the High School? It might be helpful for teachers to know that they are making a difference for the better or what they can work on & make improvements where necessary.
You bet! Creating a survey, not just for students, but for families and staff is a very important action for the district to take. In fact, this month and next month, we will be conducting our district-wide surveys. These surveys will ask all sorts of questions about what happens in schools and our district writ large. We piloted the surveys last year and learned a lot, but the survey was a little clunky. This year, we have an even better software to not only give the survey but be able to share the results in a clear and concise way. So, to everyone reading, please be on the lookout for your survey. If you are a family/parent, you should be getting an email this week or next to invite you to take the survey. If you are a teacher, we will probably release the survey at the end of the month, but we will be taking time during the DPPD on May 12th to have you answer the survey. We are working on trying to open the survey up to all staff, as we want everyone's voice. But for this iteration, we can't promise we can make it happen. And if you are a 6-12th grade student, you will take the survey in class, sometime after we are done with all of our testing. I can't wait to hear from you all.
Topic: Class Size
Do you believe we should be prioritizing smaller class sizes? If so, what would you do to improve student to teacher ratios in our district?
This one is really interesting. Even though we all believe that a smaller class size seems like it would lead toward better results, the research actually doesn't support this policy, except in specific cases. As long as the class isn't too big, the difference between having a few extra students in the class does not seem to impact performance. For instance, imagine you are a great teacher and you have 18 students in your classroom, if 2 more students transfer in, you don't suddenly stop being a great teacher. And if two more students enroll, it is doubtful that a sudden revolt will occur among the children, and they will stop doing their homework. I know it feels like reducing class size should increase student performance or success, but it isn't the main thing to focus on. The most important thing is to have a great teacher in each classroom, with the necessary supports and equipment.
However, there is a limit. We need to make sure that all of our classes don't get too big, where the classes become unwieldy, even for the best teachers. To that end, we have started to limit classes to 25 students as best as we can. I want to be clear, this is not a policy. But we have tried very hard to do so. We have done this in two ways: 1) when we enroll students, we are trying to balance out classes so that no one gets more than 25 live bodies in the room. (I say live bodies, because very often, there might be a name or two on a roster, but that child moved to Kansas and we are still waiting for confirmation from their new school that the child actually enrolled.) 2) As we move toward school based budgeting, where each school gets money based on their actual student enrollment, we are using a 25 student per class ratio. This will help us create budgets that allow for class sizes of 25 or less throughout the district.
Once again, this one is tough. Yes, of course, I agree with reducing class size and we have actually moved very quickly to reduce the average class size throughout the district. But, I also want to be honest about the research and highlight that reducing class size is most beneficial when you focus on the very large classes and as the classes go under 25 students, the impact becomes very small, if at all.
I hope you enjoyed these three questions and answers. I look forward to answering more in the coming weeks.
Thank you so much for all of your incredible support of our district. Together, we will do great things for the children of Lansing.
Benjamin Shuldiner, Superintendent
Lansing School District
Meet Our Featured Student!
Valedictorian, Eastern High School
Lansing Eastern High School is proud to celebrate our distinguished Valedictorian* for the Class of 2023, Aenet Anthony. Aenet is an International Baccalaureate Full Diploma Programme student with a GPA of 4.395 after the first semester. She is fluent in Mandarin, embarking in the Madarin Immersion Programme at Post Oak Elementary and Lansing Eastern High School for the last 13 years. Further, Aenet has taken part in several leadership opportunities through clubs while at Lansing Eastern. She has been a member of Scouts BSA for four years, founded and is a leader in the Dungeons and Drangons Club, six year member and President of the Chess Club, and Co-founder and Vice-President of the Debate Club. Additionally, Aenet has been a pillar in the Robotics program at Lansing Eastern and plans to continue to develop those skills while attending the University of Michigan. Aenet plans to major in the highly rated Computer Science program.
“I have had the privilege of working with Aenet for the last 5 years in Robotics. In that time, she has proven herself to be a true Quaker. She is dedicated, knowledgeable, curious, and ambitious. Although we will miss Aenet greatly, we know she has an amazing future ahead of her. We are so proud of all she has accomplished as an Eastern Quaker and wish her all the best as she moves on to the next stage of her life.”
-Mr. David Bills
English and Robotics Teacher
*Current in the lead Valedictorian at time of publication
Staff Feature of the Week
Nicole Minor, Eastern High School
Very few people know what they want to do for the rest of their life at a young age, and oftentimes, even the ones who do end up taking a complex journey to get there. Such is the case with Eastern’s Nicole Minor. Nicole’s mother bought her a memory book when she was a child and from kindergarten to seventh grade the answer to the seemingly relentless question “what do you want to be when you grow up” was to be a teacher. Something changed for the budding educator in eighth grade though and her answer changed to engineer. Her choice was re-affirmed in 11th grade when she attended an engineering program that her school district had and really enjoyed it.
She enjoyed engineering so much that she made the decision to pursue an education in engineering at Michigan State University after graduation. She did that for a decade before she thought “you know what, let me give teaching a try.” It was only natural for her, considering her very first job was as a tutor, and she had always been a teacher at heart. So, she went back to school at Central Michigan University to earn her teaching certificate while simultaneously teaching in a GED program that she helped start and run.
When she got her teaching certificate in 2010 one of the first places she stopped to drop off a resume was Eastern, but the school was not hiring at the time so she ended up working in an alternative education program for the next two years before her mentor teacher contacted her let her know that someone she knew who worked for the Lansing School District was going to take a different position. She wanted to know if Minor would like to work for the district, to which she said “yes, of course!” Ironically the position was teaching math at Eastern High School, so it was like it was meant to be. Since then, she has also taken on the role of the math team lead at the school and Secondary Math Steering Committee chair for the district.
As of April 10th, Minor can add Michigan Department of Education 2023-24 Region 6 Teacher of the year to an already impressive resume. As a regional teacher of the year, Nicole will be able to talk with other teachers from our state about our education system and ways in which they can help improve it. To say she is thrilled is an understatement. Nicole desperately wants to help students not be afraid of math – starting in kindergarten and going all the way up.
When asked about her favorite part of her day with her students, Minor said that even though she really loves teaching math, and she loves her content area, she really loves talking to her students, just to get to know them as people. Early in her teaching career, she recognized a problem when the first thing many students said walking through her door was that they can’t do math or don’t like it, so she tries to help build them up. She wants her students to know that while, yes, math may be challenging, there are always going to be things in life that are challenging, but they can do it!
She applies the same thinking to challenges she faces in her own life, looking at first the challenge and then the goal. She breaks the space in between the two down to smaller things she can actually do and that are in her control — smaller tasks that she can achieve. Those smaller tasks then add up to bigger tasks and, eventually, she has conquered the challenge and reached the end goal. She also reminds herself that only the tasks that are in her control are the ones worth stressing about. If it is in someone else’s power, she isn’t going to stress over it, because she spent too many years doing that with varying results, but ultimately, if it’s not in her control, it’s not worth expending precious energy over — a strategy that more of us should utilize.
She knows that she is fortunate to have been able to do both things that she loves in her life and she makes sure to tell her students that even though you think you’ve got it all figured out you don’t always have to have it together. Things may change because life happens, and it’s OKAY! Who could be a better example than someone who traded careers, going from a high-paying career to one that pays a little less for the simple fact that she values her mental health and happiness more than the paycheck she takes home.
Congratulations Nicole on being Region 6 teacher of the year — your Lansing School District family knows that you have what it takes to make positive changes in Michigan education.
Nicole Millsap, Director of CTE Appears on Fox 47's Morning Blend
Nicole Millsap, Director of Career and Technical Education with the Lansing School District, appeared on Fox 47's morning blend on Thursday to talk about the newest addition to our educational offerings: Lansing Technical High School. Hosts Deb Hart and Bob Hoffman were excited to learn more about the school and covered a lot of ground in the short segment.
"This is going to be a really unique school, one of a kind in this area," Millsap said. "Students will be able to graduate with both a high school diploma and credentials ready to go into the workforce or further their education." Hart asked how the school came about and why it is so important to which Nicole replied " There are so many unfilled jobs out there, so we really want to work with our students to give them employability skills. To let them find their why, to see why English matters, and why science matters."
After covering the basic details of the school, Hoffman asked Millsap why she was personally excited about the program. "I am excited because this is going to give students opportunities that are going to lead to a career. Not just a job, but a career. They are going to have skills that can go wherever they go" said Millsap, which Hart finished with "to build a life."
Put simply, that is the basic goal of the school — give students the skills needed to be successful and build something for themselves and CTE is an excellent vehicle for that. In fact, students coming out of CTE programs into the workforce or with the intention of furthering their education have the upper hand entering the workforce because their learning is fortified with connections to real-world work experiences, unlike their counterparts in traditional school.
Lansing Technical students will be unique even in the pool of CTE candidates though, because unlike the traditional CTE program which is the last year or two of a student's high school career, our CTE students will be fully immersed in their learning for the entirety of their high school career, so a full four years.
Imagine what you could have done, had you been able to start learning your trade as a freshman entering high school. THAT is the opportunity we want our students to take advantage of.
The full Morning Blend segment can be found on the Fox 47 website.
Spring Soccer Opportunity!
Summer Tennis Opportunity
If you prefer to enroll in person, the staff at the Dr. Eva L. Evans Welcome Center will be happy to answer any questions you may have and guide you through the enrollment process.
Dr. Eva L. Evans Welcome Center
2400 Pattengill Ave.
Lansing, MI 48910
Questions About Enrollment?
Call us at (517)755-2820