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Monday, December 23, 2013

New Year's Resolution!

New Year’s Day spurs many of us to make resolutions promising ourselves that we will make a change in our daily lives and habits. After making the resolution, we must strategize how we will facilitate the change in our habits and how we will develop new patterns of behavior. Samuel Johnson, an 18th century moralist and writer, often commented in his journals about his resolutions and philosophies on education. His personal philosophy indicated that everyone should receive a foundational education (Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791).

As I thought about the differences in our educational system and the type of education that existed when Samuel Johnson grew up, it became apparent that while we educate everyone, some children come to school without the very foundation they need to be successful. While Samuel Johnson’s mother gave him a book at age three and he began his learning, not all of our students have that educational advantage.

Columbia School District offers learning opportunities for preschoolers beginning at age three. Our preschool and daycare focuses on giving children an educational foundation through active learning using hands-on materials and play. We offer both tuition based preschool and our free Great Start Readiness Program for four-year-olds who qualify. These early opportunities at building a foundation for literacy and independence in an educational setting, give our children an advantage when they attend kindergarten.

As the children of our district move into kindergarten and first grade, some of them struggle learning to read. Columbia Elementary has important programs that focus on early literacy, two of them are: Reading Recovery and Columbia Buddies. Reading Recovery utilizes a certified teacher to work with individual students and groups of students to increase their reading levels. Columbia Buddies develops volunteer community members to mentor individual students in reading techniques under the direction of a program director. Both of the programs show positive gains in students’ reading levels.

As you contemplate and refine your New Year’s resolutions, please consider making a resolution to volunteer in Brooklyn Buddies or one of our other opportunities, such as Grandparents for Greatness. If you are interested in learning more about Columbia Buddies send an email to Lori.Kouba@myeagles.org, if you are interested in participating in Grandparents for Greatness, email Nancy.Backus@myeagles.org.

While our resolutions have the potential to serve as a stimulus for change and personal growth, sometimes we forget all of our positive self-talk and transformational strategies. Make a New Year's resolution that will last through out the year by resolving to volunteer in a capacity that will enhance the lives of our children! Are you interested in hearing more about Columbia Schools? Call me at 592-6641 or email me at Pam.Campbell@myeagles.org.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Key to Success!

Keys, keys, keys! I pick up my key ring and wow, what are all the keys for? Some of the keys are shiny, some are old and worn, some are silver, and some are multi-colored, but they all have some significance in my life. Sometimes our children have an assignment or take a class and they are not quite sure how it will benefit them in later life, but it may be the key to a successful career.

Often I have heard people say, “What am I going to use Algebra or Biology for when I am older?” In this day of instant gratification we want everything to have a reason right-now. Our children are growing up in a world that puts a greater emphasis on basic algebra facts in business, industry and the informational technology field. Those hiring people in the health and human services career fields often comment on the need for qualified employees.

Just like each of my keys has significance, each of the courses our child takes has meaning. The State of Michigan now requires students to complete two years of foreign language while in high school. Columbia School District offers Spanish to students in seventh through twelfth grade and French to our Columbia Central High School students. The significance is that in our increasingly globalized economy it may be necessary for our children to know a second language.

In much the same way as I need the silver key to get into my office, the key to a good job may be having taken Algebra, Geometry or Chemistry. At Columbia Schools we have opportunities for our students to succeed through the classroom setting and after school tutoring and assistance programs. If your child is finding a subject difficult, make sure you contact the teacher because the key to your child’s future may be hidden in that subject. If you have questions regarding Columbia School District or are interested in serving on our new Curriculum Committee, please give me a call at 517.592.6641 or email me at Pam.Campbell@myeagles.org.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Flavor of Columbia Education

Snap, Crackle, Pop! Those familiar words are trademarked by Kellogg’s Cereal to represent their Rice Krispies Cereal. Since the iconic elfin characters were developed 1933 to help publicize the cereal, they have undergone many updates, but have remained the same loveable characters.
The ten or so changes over the past eighty years in the appearance of the small elfin characters, reminded me of the fact that the Columbia School District will be undergoing changes in the appearance of the buildings, while the dependable “flavor” of the Columbia education will remain tried and true, just like the taste of the crispy rice cereal.
The Columbia School Board, administration and steering committee are involved in a conversation designed to initialize the changes to the buildings and grounds based upon the goals that were set early on in the Facility Improvement planning process: To make our buildings warm, dry, safe and smart. To accommodate the expansive nature of the project, it has been split in to two phases.
While the entire time line has not been defined, it appears as though the first phase will include installing new roofs, increasing student and staff safety by designing and constructing the new bus and parent drives and parking areas between the elementary and middle schools, designing and installating of wiring for an increased level of technology at all schools, and using focus groups to initiate the design process for interior building remodeling. The second half of the first phase will include the transformation of the area south of the Media Center at Columbia Central High School to accommodate the seventh and eighth grade students, starting construction on the elementary secure entry vestibule and the junior high locker room addition for CCHS.
The second phase will include replacement of the boilers, remodeling of restrooms, classrooms and office areas, replacement of windows and doors, improvements to the technology, parking lots, tennis courts and CCHS track. We will continue to solidify the timelines as we move through the early weeks of the process. Over the next several months there will be opportunities for parents, community members and staff members to have input as we embark on the improvement process. If you are interested in participating in a focus group, please contact me by email at pam.Campbell@myeagles.org or call me at 5926641.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Christmas Sugar Cookies!

The other day I made my second batch of Christmas sugar cookies. For those of you who do not make Christmas cookies from scratch, it is really quite a production. First you have to make sure you purchase everything you need for the cookies. You may need flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and don’t forget to bring home containers or decorative plates for gifting some of the cookies.

When I made the first batch a couple of weeks ago, I studied the recipe and thought I was being so careful as I added each ingredient. At one point the recipe says to add four eggs, then add three cups of butter milk with two teaspoons of baking soda stirred until frothy. I missed the part about adding the baking soda to the butter milk. I thought rather than adding the eggs and butter milk separately, I could stir the eggs and the butter milk together, then add the baking soda last. Obviously, this wasn’t what the recipe called for and I was horrified, but the cookies tasted great!

For the second batch I followed the recipe to the letter and even tried a new icing recipe. When the new recipe turned out too thick, I settled on a second recipe which turned out to be easier to spread. The cookies were good and the icing was excellent.

Thinking about my Christmas cookie baking experiences I thought about how we approach a process with a plan and then work step by step to carry it out to the best of our ability. Following the completion of a process, we reflect on our performance and we work to improve for the next time. Just like the correction in my second batch of cookies, adding the baking soda to the butter milk, our teachers spend a tremendous amount of time focusing on improving our classroom learning environments for our students.

Each of the Columbia District schools have improvement plans. Our teachers work together examining test data and reflecting on educational practices, focusing on best practices. As we continue to join together to improve Columbia Schools, we invite our parents and community members to add their input. Parents may submit their input via our website at www.myeagles.org. The parent survey may be found by clicking on the appropriate school, then clicking on the Parent Survey link located below the school’s picture. Community members may submit input by emailing me at pam.campbell@myeagles.org. If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District please call me at 517-592-6641 or email me at pam.campbell@myeagles.org.