The Oak Park Advantage

December 2020 Third Edition Newsletter


Dear OPS Families,

On behalf of our Board of Education and central office leadership team, I wish you a restful, peaceful, and joyful holiday season and winter vacation. Our winter break is Monday, December 21, 2020 - Friday, January 1, 2021. School will resume online on Monday, January 4, 2021. In any way that you celebrate the season, we hope you find comfort, purpose and hope.

It’s been an honor to serve as Superintendent of Oak Park Schools and we would like to thank you for your continued confidence. We value each and every one of our students and their families and cannot express our gratitude enough for your ongoing support.

The holidays are a time for giving, and we’d like to share a number of resources available for families who may need additional support during these unprecedented times. Although the last meal distribution of the year will take place on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 and return on Wednesday, January 6 in Oak Park. Please review the attached document to access other meal distribution sites in neighboring communities during our one-week meal distribution closure.

Additionally, we recently became aware of Mack Alive Resource Center (MARC) for assistance with rent/mortgage payments, utilities, car payments and car insurance. Assistance is available, but you must apply before December 31, 2020. For more information, please click on or 313-824-3900. Assistance is also available through Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP). For more information, please click on or call 313-388-9799. Assistance is also available through the Oak Park Youth Assistance. For support from the Oak Park Youth Assistance, please contact your child’s principal.

Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful winter break and happy new year! May peace, love and prosperity welcome you in the new year!

Health and happiness from my family to yours!


Jamii J. Hitchcock, Ph.D.

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This week marks the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. Here are some links with the latest COVID-19 vaccine information:

MI Coronavirus Vaccine webpage:,9753,7-406-98178_103214---,00.html

CDC COVID Vaccine Updated webpage:


What is the Difference between a Rapid Antigen COVID-19 test and a PCR COVID-19 test?


Rapid antigen tests look for certain proteins specific to SARS-CoV-2 (COVIDF-19) virus in the upper respiratory tract. PCR tests looks for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) viral RNA in the upper respiratory tract and are considered the "Gold Standard" of tests for COVID-19. Rapid antigen tests may be useful in screening and surveillance testing for the virus because it gives a quick result; however, they are less reliable than the PCR test. Although PCR test results may take days to come back, the CDC and OCHD recommend this more accurate test method along with using the isolation/quarantine guidelines for anyone with symptoms or those exposed to someone with COVID-19.

For more information contact you primary care provider, or to schedule a free test, contact Oakland County Health Division's Nurse on Call:

(800) 848-5533

Watch for the rollout of the Mobile Henry Ford Health System free COVID-19 testing at Oak Park High School. Testing will be soon be available for anyone who needs a COVID-19 test, without a prescription, no insurance needed, and no appointments necessary! Follow the signs, entering into the Coolidge parking lot, look for door #6; follow instructions on the posted signs. Testing will be every Wednesday from 10am to 6pm, starting January 6th 2021.

Have a Safe, Happy, and Healthy Holiday!

Vanessa Long
Oak Park Schools District Nurse
(248) 342-9944

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Thank you to our Director of Dining Services, Chef Aric Wienclaw and Food Service staff, for the positive community impact with the Unanticipated School Closure and traditional Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) this year. Your dedicated efforts have made a positive impact on Michigan’s children and in your community by providing healthy meals during a great time of need. We appreciate all that you do!


More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days.

As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.

Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and isolating for many people. Gatherings during the upcoming holidays can be an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. This holiday season, consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your friends, families, and communities healthy and safe.

CDC offers the following considerations to slow the spread of COVID-19 during small gatherings. These considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which all gatherings must comply.

Considerations for Small Gatherings of Family and Friends

Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread. Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your housing unit (such as your house or apartment). This can include family members, as well as roommates or people who are unrelated to you. People who do not currently live in your housing unit, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk.

Organizers and attendees of larger events should consider the risk of virus spread based on event size (number of attendees and other factors) and take steps to reduce the possibility of infection, as outlined in the Considerations for Events and Gatherings.

Several factors can contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings. In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk:

  • Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering. Information on the number of cases in an area can often be found on the local health department website.

  • Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.

  • Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.

  • Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.

  • Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear masks, wash hands, and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.

  • Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, handwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.

  • Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.

For further CDC information regarding Holiday Celebration precautions please visit:
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Important Announcement Regarding Technology Services

Beginning January 4, 2021, Oak Park School District’s Technology Helpdesk will be serviced by Oakland Schools. You will receive an email within the next day or two from the “OS Service Desk”. This email will include your Service Desk login and a temporary password. Please follow the instructions on the email to activate your account, change your password, and access the new Service Desk.

You will now be able to access Technology Services help in four different ways:

(1) Login and create a ticket via a link on

(2) Chat online with a Service Desk agent

(3) Email the Service Desk

(4) Call the Service Desk.

Our Student support line 248-336-7667 will still remain, and students may press 1 for Technology Support. This will transfer the calls to Oakland Schools automatically.

Our staff Support number will change to 248-209-2060.

Support will be available Monday – Friday from 7:00am to 6:00pm!

Maintenance and Building requests will still be created using the Oak Park Schools Ready desk Ticket system. In the future, Maintenance requests will move to another platform as well.

Oak Park Schools Technology Services


Our primary video-conferencing instructional platform is Zoom, which we have found is the most user-friendly among all platforms for both students and teachers.

However on December 16, we had multiple reports of “Zoom Bombing”, unwanted, disruptive intrusions in virtual classrooms today. Uninvited guests used an Oak Park Schools logo to impersonate Oak Park Schools administrators, which inadvertently allowed uninvited guests to gain access to virtual classrooms. Unfortunately, the uninvited guests used profanity, vulgar and disparaging language.

We would like to commend the quick response of our staff on their immediate removal of the uninvited guests. Teachers swiftly closed their classrooms, reassured students, enabled the waiting room feature when necessary, resumed instruction and reported the incidents to administrators. Our faculty and staff will continue to be vigilant to ensure unwanted guests impersonating members of our school community will no longer gain access. Additionally, in collaboration with our Technology Department, administrators and staff are reviewing additional best practices to limit virtual classroom disruptions.

The health and safety of our students is our priority. It is incumbent upon our OPS community to maintain safe online practices and responsible digital citizenship. Although we have discussed responsible digital citizenship in our school environment, this Zoom Bombing event is another great opportunity to have age-appropriate discussions at home. Please consider this Zoom Bombing conversation as one of many that you have about online safety.

Let’s continue to partner to keep all of our students and staff safe during this unprecedented time. Safety is a shared responsibility and we encourage anyone who may have any information about who is responsible for this behavior to contact their teacher, principal or another trusted member of our OPS staff.

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Office of Teaching and Learning

District Wide Updates

w/o December 18, 2020

  • Fall 2020 NWEA Results for all K-12 students are now uploaded to MISTAR Parent Portal!

  • All Conference PD videos from August, October, and November have been compiled and uploaded for your learning pleasure! We also have uploaded the (6-12) Nepris Professional Learning session from December 7. If you are interested in additional learning from our Return To Schools Conference, our October PD Conference, or November 5D+ PD, or Nepris please click the links below! The uploads can also be found under “Staff Links” on our district website!

  • ​​Shout-Outs!

    • To the elementary L.I.T. Team (Sarah Jones, Brandi North, Amy Sielagoski, Irene Fakhouri, Katherine Wilcox-Vella, Gerisha Toler, Angela Cheek-Welch, Jennifer Goshorn, & Suzanne Lallier) for providing high quality professional learning opportunities twice a month on student engagement strategies!

    • Shout out to OPHS teachers Jeremy Golem (Math), Sean Kelly (Math), Peter Haun (ELA), and Kris Cooper (ELA). All four have agreed to partner with representatives from Oakland Community College for the next year in order to develop shared curricular resources, assessments, and instructional strategies that will help prepare our students for the demands of college and arm OCC faculty with the tools they need to ensure students are successful once they enter their classrooms!

    • To OPHS 9th grade ELA teacher Desiree Fuller for developing a series of “student choice” final exam options. Ms. Fuller and all the creative teachers like her are putting our kids in a position to succeed! Thank you!

    • To Shana Murphy, OPS Data Specialist, for officially linking student Xello access to Clever! Now, all teachers and students in grades (K-5) can now access their Xello accounts through Clever!

  • ​​​Article of the Week:

    • Okay, so this isn’t really an “article”, per se, but The Distance Learning Playbook is a book that will be well worth your time to read and might make for a fantastic stocking stuffer! It’s written by Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie! That’s like sitting around a table with George Washington, John Adams, and Abe Lincoln or the three Beatles excluding Ringo! It’s gold! Check it out...

  • Professional Learning Opportunities:

    • Oakland Schools is offering free 1 hour professional development sessions for all math teachers. All participants will receive 1 SCHECH hour for every session they attend. Check out the calendar of events for the school year and register if you’re interested.

    • MASSP is providing a free, asynchronous, learning opportunity to help teachers familiarize themselves with CEL's 5D instructional framework and 5D+ evaluation tool. In this session participants will gain both an understanding of the background and purpose for using the 5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning (5D™) instructional framework, the 5D+™ Rubric for Instructional Growth & Teacher Evaluation and their roles and responsibilities within cycles of inquiry. The course is offered through Michigan Virtual and is completely self-paced. Upon completion of the online course you will receive 3 SCHECHs applied to your recertification license. The course is open to all educators, whether you are new to the district and have never used the 5D framework, or simply want a refresher on the dimensions and how to use the tool to increase your instructional effectiveness. ​ If you are interested in learning more click here to register.


Dear Oak Park Schools Families,

For those of you who were able to join us last evening during the OPS Board of Education meeting, thank you for your time, and input. We recommended to the Board of Education that our phased re-entry to in-person instruction be extended and the recommendation was approved by the Board with a 5-1 margin.

Therefore, we will not return to in-person instruction on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 as originally planned. At our Monday, January 25 Board of Education meeting, we will determine if our phase re-entry to in-person instruction will begin on Monday, February 22, 2021 following winter break.

Last March, I do not think any of us could have imagined the experiences we would share as an Oak Park Schools community over the past 9 months. Although we have faced many challenges this school year, our students, staff, families and community have persevered. Schools are beacons of hope during troubled times and we are dedicated to providing a sense of normalcy, stability and resources, whether we are fully remote or in-person. If your child or family needs assistance, please contact your child’s building principal for support and/or resources.

I recognize that navigating the uncertainty of this global pandemic has been extremely challenging, but I have no doubt in my mind that we will rise and overcome all that we have endured during this unprecedented journey. We remain committed to the health and safety of our students, staff, families and community. Thank you for your support of Oak Park Schools.


Jamii J. Hitchcock, Ph.D.

Future Health Professionals: Health Occupations Student Association (HOSA)

Good luck to our Oak Park High School Health Science Academy students as they prepare for the HOSA Competitive Events Program regional competition, Saturday, December 19! This year’s competition will be held virtually, winners will be announced on December 23. Any student who has won their event will have the chance to compete in the state-wide competition in March 2021.

Through the HOSA Competitive Events Program, members can compete in teams or as individuals in over 55 different events related to all aspects of the health care industry. HOSA integrates into the Health Science Education curriculum to develop and recognize smart, dedicated, and passionate future health professionals.

HOSA exists to enhance the delivery of compassionate, quality health care by providing opportunities for knowledge, skill, and leadership development of high school, post-secondary, and middle school students interested in healthcare.

HOSA Student Event List:

Student Name Competitive Event

Cartwright, R’reanna - Health Science: Medical Terminology

Chalk, Donyel - Health Science: Nutrition

Cook, Dashari - Teamwork. Public Service Announcement

Thompson, Destiny - Emergency Preparedness: CPR and First Aid

Thornton, Kamari - Health Science: Medical Terminology

Wahhab, Tumani - Emergency Preparedness: CPR and First Aid

Welch, Dejuan - Teamwork. Public Service Announcement

Wilson, Genaya - Teamwork. Public Service Announcement

For further information about the Oak Park High School HOSA program please contact our Health Science CTE Instructor, Mrs. Jennifer Gebhardt-Lavetter, RN at

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OPHS Families: My Virtual Academy will be hosting a series of College and Career planning workshops every Mon, Wed, & Fri in December to discuss educational, training, and employment opportunities for students!


Anthony White and the Detroit Youth Choir are still riding high from its 2018 runner-up run on "America's Got Talent."

The Detroit Youth Choir released "A Holiday With You" on Friday, Nov. 27.

A Holiday With You, the 5 song EP sung by the Detroit Youth Choir and produced by super producer Chuck Alkazian and Pat Harwood at legendary Pearl Sound Studios, is available NOW for purchase on iTunes. Get this incredibly festive and spirited rendition of holiday classics such as, "Joy To The World" and "Mary Did You Know", as well as a new track, "Christmas Is The Time of Year".

Buy NOW on iTunes!!

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The Wade McCree Incentive Scholarship Program is open to students who have been continuously enrolled in, as well as graduate from Chandler Park Academy, Hazel Park H.S., International Technology Academy, Oak Park H.S., Pontiac High School, with:

  • a 3.0 GPA college preparatory curriculum
  • at least a 1060 SAT composite score
  • a US Citizen or Permanent Resident

Students will receive a four-year scholarship to Oakland University covering tuition. This scholarship is renewable for up to four years if they meet the scholarship criteria.

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Fall Science Introduction
The Hoffman Planetarium is an engaging, interactive full dome classroom. It is powered by advanced programs including, Starry Night, The Layered Earth and Zygote Body. The SciDome IQ2400 brings real-time space and earth science into a unique, innovative teaching environment.

We immerse students in the planetarium’s interactive visual macrocosm, explored Earth’s 3D topography and layers in spectacular detail. Each individual high school Science course and grade level courses in kindergarten through eighth grade participate in a developmentally appropriate interactive presentations tailored to the curriculum and/or Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) disciplinary core ideas while providing a connection to the astronomical 'big picture' - the Universe.

At the Hoffman Planetarium, we believe that 'your journey into the mysteries of space begins here...

Planetarium Offerings

  • Upon arrival into the Planetarium, students view a presentation specifically designed for their current science unit. For example, the 5th grade Earth Science show is entitled “Our Place in the Solar System” and explores most of the Next Generation Earth Science Standards (NGSS) for the 5th-grade level.
  • Students are also provided with an opportunity, during their Science Lab experience, to complete a hands-on activity related to their current unit. For 5th grade students, the activity allows students to construct a model of the solar system. Additionally, students also access the Virtual Labs available through the FOSS Science Curriculum and/or online Virtual Labs related to the unit material.

We have accommodations for both wheel-chair bound and students with disabilities, including devices for the hearing impaired. Our goal is to ensure that all students have access to the unique, interactive learning experience that the Planetarium offers!

Preparing Students for a Lifetime of Success: Next Generation Science Standards Alignment

Within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), there are three distinct and equally important dimensions to learning science-core ideas, practice and cross-cutting. The implementation of new science standards with the support of Planetarium programs provides an opportunity to advance science education for all students. To learn more information, please review the NGSS Parent Guides below

Elementary School (Einstein, Key & Pepper)

Grades K- 2: Download the Grades K-2 Parent Guide

Grades 3- 5: Download the Grades 3-5 Parent Guide

Middle School (Oak Park Preparatory Academy)

Grades 6-8: Download the Grades 6-8 Parent Guide

High School (Oak Park High School)

Grades 9-12: Download the Grades 9-12 Parent Guide

Planetarium Coordinator

To learn additional information about the Hoffman Planetarium or schedule a visit, please contact Mr. Grayling Mercer at or 248.336.7620

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Beginning October 12 through December 30, 2020, Oakland County is offering a telephone screening resource to assist parents/guardians through the pre-screening process and to help identify potential illness in children prior to entering school. All screenings are conducted by healthcare professionals.

Hotline staff can help answer questions about COVID-19 symptoms, the need for testing, and what is considered high-risk.

  • Cost: No cost for parents/guardians of Oakland County school-aged children
  • Days: Monday through Friday
  • Times: 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Number: 248-551-4242
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Kids Kicking Cancer has partnered with Pepper Elementary School for the past two years bringing the Hero’s Circle to second and third graders. The program consisted of professional development for teachers, daily instruction by teachers, videos, and weekly instruction from sensei masters.

The program centers on learning to control your brain so that you can reach your goal. The Hero's Circle recognizes that it takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance to reach one’s goals. The Hero’s Circle is a tool to help one reach their goals.

Kids Kicking Cancer now offers help and services to not only cancer patients, but any child in pain from a serious illness.

Using martial arts therapy, Kids Kicking Cancer staff teaches ill children and their siblings to:

  • Regain a sense of control over the chaos of their lives.
  • Become empowered partners in their own healing.
  • Push away the messages of pain, fear, and anger.
  • Provide inspiration and light to others facing life-challenges.
  • Teach other children, and even adults, how to take control.
  • See themselves as victors, not victims.

Martial arts techniques unlock the student’s Power, and the focused breathing and relaxation work brings them Peace. While teaching Kids Kicking Cancer’s Breath Brake to others, they find great Purpose in their young lives.


Kids Kicking Cancer was created in 1999 by Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, a black belt rabbi and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics. Rabbi G lost his first child to leukemia at the age of two and brings a wealth of personal experience and sensitivity to dealing with children and families facing life-threatening illness.

This program, which began with a handful of children at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, now teaches over 7,000 children in 90 hospitals and program locations in 7 countries.

The most unique and powerful element of the model is that each child becomes a teacher to others. Kids Kicking Cancer’s mantra is Power Peace Purpose. When asked what is your purpose? The children yell out, “To teach the world.”

Kids Kicking Cancer also has a “black-belt” program for patients who are not responding to treatments. This end of life care program provides ongoing meditation and family focus in a palliative format that culminates in the child receiving a black-belt in a public ceremony, usually a few days before he or she dies. Embroidered on the black-belt are the words “Master Teacher” because that child is truly teaching the world how to use the power of light to break through darkness.

Rabbi Goldberg is an awardee of the Robert Wood Johnson, Community Health Leaders Award in Washington D.C., known as the United States’ highest award in community public health. He has been honored as a Hero in People Magazine, CNN Top Ten Heroes, and the Ford Motor Company’s Heroes Gallery, amongst the many media stories featuring the work of Kids Kicking Cancer.

For further information please visit

A Look Into The Classroom at Kids Kicking Cancer!
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No Kid Hungry Organization runs a summer meal texting service. The service is free and open to anyone. A parent, grandparent, or caregiver can simply text the word “FOOD” to 877-877 and the system prompts them to provide their address or zip code, which is used to provide the location and service times of up to three nearby summer meals sites. For additional information, log onto


Our mission is to provide a quality education that promotes respect for the individual and cultural differences of students and provides college and career readiness skills to become lifelong learners and productive citizens.

The Oak Park School District’s nearly 4,500 students are served at Einstein, Key and Pepper elementary schools (grades PreK-5), the Oak Park Preparatory Academy (grades 6-8), , Oak Park High School (grades 9 -12), NOVA (grades 3-12) the Oak Park Alternative Education Center (ages 16-19 years old) and My Virtual Academy of Oak Park (grades 5-12) in Oak Park, MI in Oakland County located in a suburban community near Detroit with approximately 30,000 residents. Our district consists of over 450 staff members, including 250 teachers and 11 building administrators.

Our school district boasts an abundance of educational and co/extra-curricular programs to meet the needs of a vast array of learners from Pre-K through twelfth grade. We encourage students to challenge themselves academically, explore comprehensive course offerings, and take risks to discover their individual gifts. We are dedicated to providing an intellectually challenging educational experience in safe, nurturing school environments that thrive on cultivating and empowering students to be their authentic selves. In addition, our academic and co/extra-curricular opportunities provide agency and shape self-identity, which are critical components to the adolescent development process.

Oak Park Advantage

The Oak Park Advantage is a holistic approach to education that not only prepares students academically, fosters a sense of belonging but creates long-lasting connections to the Oak Park community. While attending Oak Park Schools, students develop a confidence that is woven throughout their post-secondary, professional and social-emotional well-being years after they graduate.

Contact an Oak Park School District principal and take a tour! Get the Oak Park Advantage!

Our 2020 Goals

Maintain dynamic, healthy, and safe learning environments that inspire unlimited equitable opportunities for optimal classroom instruction to increase student achievement.

Implement ongoing transparent best practices to reduce operating costs to create opportunities to invest in human capital and professional learning, sustain quality facilities, establish a healthier organizational culture, and ensure fiscal stability.

Strategically design and implement organizational systems to increase efficiency, boost productivity to allow staff and students to focus entirely on student learning and social-emotional well-being.

Review and refresh curricular needs and resources employing planned adoption schedules based on current research with technology integration for classroom instruction.

Operate collaboratively district-wide and abandon ineffective silos.