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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Updated Technology Makes a School Smart!

New, new, new! The media is full of advertisements about new gadgets and upgrades to help improve our lives. Recently I upgraded my computer to a newer software package. As I looked through the program, I saw that I could use all sorts of options to design a new document. There were templates for a Blog post, a calendar, a flyer and even a list: Really, a list? I could use a pencil and paper and make a list the old fashioned way. While I didn’t need to use a computer to make a list, there are other more important activities and projects that require appropriate updated technology.

Over the past year as our Facilities Assessment Team, a group made up of parents, school staff and community members, worked to audit our needs and plan for improvements, we took a close look at what items were necessary and what prospective elements were unnecessary “fluff.” The Facilities Assessment Team reviewed the age, the stability and the appropriateness of our technology and the supporting infrastructure.

During our time of assessment we found that many of our children were working on computers that were over ten years old and no longer serviceable. The older computers are no longer able to support the educational software required to prepare our children for jobs and the skills they need in the future. The Facilities Assessment Team found that we must expand our wireless technology, obtain additional classroom computers for students and staff, integrate 21st Century job skill development with upgraded educational delivery tools and implement security and access control systems.

The Facilities Assessment Team worked together, meeting on a weekly basis to plan and integrate the needs for technology with the need to make the buildings Safe, Warm and Dry. The Smart portion of the Bond issue proposals will provide a strong educational technology infrastructure that will support current technology needs and will allow for future technology growth. The elements included in our Bond proposals will indeed make our school buildings Safe, Warm, Dry, and Smart for our current students and future children in the Columbia School District. If you have questions regarding your child attending the Columbia School District or about the Bond issue proposals, please email me at or call me at 517.592.6641.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Leaping Into School

Hanging on to the screen for dear life, the praying mantis slowly made its way up towards the top. Rather than walking through the foliage, this praying mantis was in the sun seemingly asking to come into the house. I wondered what the mantis was thinking, if a mantis indeed thinks about anything, and just then it just hopped away! Thinking about the mantis reminded me of how our elementary students sometimes start slowly and then when they get excited about learning, jump into an educational experience!

At this time of the year our elementary students have just finished reviewing mathematics from last year and now are beginning to learn new information from their teachers. If your budding mathematician is in second grade, he or she is learning to convert word problems into mathematical sentences. Your child will learn to take information that describes everyday life and use it to form addition and subtraction problems. Similarly to the way the praying mantis suddenly jumped from the screen, our second graders will leap into learning about fractions.

While mathematics may be your child’s favorite subject, your second grader will also learn that reading takes first place in their classroom. Reading is fundamental for learning. It is the basis for science, social studies and much of mathematics. Your second grader should be reading a minimum of 30 minutes each evening. Second graders will enjoy reading more if they understand all the words in their books so helping them with their vocabulary is essential. The more your child reads, and works on his or her vocabulary, the stronger their foundation will be as they gain more skills as a writer.

Writing is an important part of second grade. Your second grader will work on proper sentence structure, capitalization and punctuation. Your child’s teacher will be able to recommend some good techniques if you are interested in helping your child excel in writing.

Just as the praying mantis initially walked slowly up the screen, some second graders will seemingly start out slowly. At home they may be easily distracted by television, video games, or their sister. To help your second grader become successful, you will want to minimize the distractions and help your child focus. While it may not be the most fun aspect of having a second grader, there will be times when you will want to sit next to him or her and patiently listen to questions and help to redirect his or her attention to his or her school work.

Your child will watch and emulate you when it comes to learning activities. Your enthusiasm for school and learning opportunities will help to energize his or her passion and willingness to spend time doing his or her school work. Columbia Elementary School often has extended learning opportunities in science, mathematics and reading. You will want to pay close attention to the school’s website and to newsletters and notes your child brings home in his or her backpack for opportunities to participate in learning activities.

If you are interested in learning more about your child’s grade level and the requirements, you may contact your child’s teacher or principal. You may learn about registering your child for Columbia School District by calling me at 517-592-6641 or email me at

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Improvements for the Columbia School District

Armed with brochures and flyers dedicated groups of Columbia School District community members, teachers and administrators spread out through the community to answer questions and hand out information regarding the upcoming Bond Proposals.  While out in the community we met many passionate Columbia school supporters and answered many questions.  One of the questions we were asked was, "How will the additional millage compare to the communities around us?"  Columbia School District only levies 0.9 mills compared to Springport at 8.95 mills, East Jackson at 6 mills, Onsted at 3.77 mills and Napoleon at 3 mills.  By passing both Proposal 1 and 2, the total Columbia millage will still only be 3.5 mills, which amounts to $10.83 per month for a $100,000 home.  For additional information on millage comparison go to

Another question we heard was concerning the details of the proposals.  Many community members asked what will be included in the bond issue and how may we be sure that it will be accomplished?

The bond issue is separated into two Proposals; number one and number two.  Proposal 1 contains the largest share of the improvements amounting to 2.15 mills or $26.5 million to ensure our students have an educational learning environment that is Safe, Warm, Dry and Smart.  "Safe" refers to a safe and secure learning environment for students, staff and community with many updated areas to meet current code requirements.  Safety upgrades will include secure entries at each building, doors that will properly lock and do not need to be chained shut, drop off and pickup traffic patters that separate parent and bus traffic to ensure the safety of students and staff, security cameras that are installed to increase security and facilities upgrades to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

"Warm" refers to creating a more energy efficient learning environment for our children so more money may be spent on educational needs and the installation of items that will convert operational dollar savings into educational funds.  To create the energy efficient learning environment, the 1950's and 60's era boilers will be replaced with new energy-efficient heating systems, increase the R value of our buildings by installing additional insulation and new roofs, and install new windows and doors with energy-efficient glass and insulation.

"Dry" encompasses facilities that are easy to maintain, reflect a positive image and enhance community spirit and update facilities to attract students, parents, staff and community members so the Columbia School District may grow.  To create a dry environment for our students the 40 plus year old roofs will be replaced with highly insulated roofing systems, the 40 to 60 year old original leaking piping systems will be replaced, and install heating systems without water leaking into the duct work.

"Smart" includes a strong educational technology infrastructure that supports current technology needs and allows for future technology growth.  This element includes the expansion of wireless technology infrastructure, the addition of classroom computers for students and staff, and the provision of 21st Century job skill development tools.

Proposal 2 will improve teaching and learning for our children by focusing on grade-level restructuring.  The results of the restructuring will provide additional space for enhanced learning opportunities at Columbia Elementary for pre-kindergarten through second grade students, changing Columbia Middle School to become an upper elementary school for third through sixth grades, better utilization of the space at Columbia Central by initializing a teaching and learning environment in the southern portion of the building for seventh and eighth graders, and improving the learning environment for the ninth through twelfth grade students.  This restructuring will allow for spaces to be remodeled into 21st Century computer labs housing updated and additional technology.

The second portion of the question indicates a concern regarding the completion of the elements of the project.  In order to have the project approved by the State of Michigan Treasury Department, the Columbia School District, interested community members, Kingscott Architects and Granger Construction Managers all worked together to construct and solidify plans that will be monitored through out the process by the Treasury Departments oversight personnel.  We have already had our first visit from the Treasury Department to ensure that the elements included in Proposal 1 and 2 are necessary. The project will be completed in accordance with Treasury Department rules and regulations.

For more information regarding the Bond Proposals, visit upcoming events that may be found at or visit the website and click on the right column where it indicates "view flyer" and "Information on Proposals 1 and 2."  You may also email me at or call me at 5175926641.