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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Changing Seasons Of Childhood

Recently I was driving down a road in a rural area.  As I drove down the road, I noticed that while the leaves on the trees were still a vibrant green,  the sumac bushes had turned various colors.  Some were bright yellow, with a bit of green.  Other bushes were more a orange-red color than yellow.  Over the past several days I have see a dramatic change as the leaves on the bushes have turned to a deep red, almost burgundy color.

Thinking about the changes in the leaves and looking forward to the peak color change that will be revealed over the next month, I began to draw a corollary between the change we see in our children as they grow, mature, learn about the world around them and reach their peak.  

Early in the school year our new Columbia Elementary School girls' singing group "Magic" began gearing up to perform at various school events.  It was amazing to see the young ladies in this group who are all in their early years of schooling begin to grow and mature.  By listening to their director, Mrs. Wright, they have learned to project their voices, smile when they sing and to perform their choreographed moves with confidence.  It was as if they were sumac bushes and they were donning their bright fall colors.

This past summer I was able to watch our middle and high school cheerleaders as they worked on learning back handsprings, incredible jumps and intricate routines.  Much in the same way as the young ladies in the choir "Magic" have grown and matured, gaining confidence each day, I noticed that over the weeks of practice the cheerleaders grew stronger, performed more confidently and learned how to shine under the tutelage of their dedicated coaches.

Each day I have the amazing privilege of seeing young children growing up before my eyes as they are guided in learning situations by their dedicated teachers and coachers.  In the Columbia School District we have over 100 dedicated staff members who work diligently to encourage our students to take small steps towards a successful tomorrow.  Our many professionals give the children of our community the ability to move forward toward their peak color as they experience life's lessons and learning activities.  

This year a group of dedicated parents, community members and school staffers have worked to support our students as they grow and mature as learners.  This group has worked to determine, "What is the best learning environment for our children?"  Certainly it has been easy for these dedicated individuals to figure out that new roofs, temperature controlled classrooms, safe schools with insulated doors and windows and renovated restrooms would be advantageous  for our children as their teachers present them with learning strategies and activities, which will support them as they don their bright fall colors of success.

More difficult for the members of the Facilities Improvement Team was to determine what should be included in our upcoming Bond Issue and what would be left out.  As our videographers, Josh and Conner, from our Columbia Central High School video productions class would find, the issues that need to be updated or replaced, not only include boilers and roofs, they include computers and the infrastructure to support the computers.  The Facilities Improvement team has focused their efforts on pursuing enhanced educational avenues through renovations, replacements and remodels.  The group has been careful to consider all options and use a laser focus in order to eliminate wasteful and unnecessary items and elements of the possible project.  They have continued to strive to structure their efforts on providing our children with a learning environment that will support them as they grow and mature and put on their fall colors!

If you are interested in learning more about the Facilities Improvement Team, the planning process and elements of the Bond Issue, please email me at or call me at 5175926641. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Following The Flowers To Learning

Each fall as the leaves begin turning colors and children go back to school there are all types of animals and birds that attempt to accompany the children.  Many schools welcome animals for show and tell, but rarely do we welcome random animals and birds into our buildings.  

Yesterday I received an email from Columbia Elementary School first grade teacher, Linda Wills describing her adventure with a humming bird and she brings up an interesting collary.  Her story is as follows:

At the end of the school day a hummingbird was found trapped in the cafeteria. At least it couldn't find its way out even with the doors propped wide open. It was just flying around the ceiling and a few times did notice the red lighted "Exit" sign just inches away from freedom, but went back to the ceiling. We tried everything we could think of...butterfly net, pancake syrup on red construction paper... until we discovered that one of the teachers had received a bouquet of fresh cut flowers!  I climbed up on one of the tables and just held the bouquet as high in the air and as still as I could. It took about 5 minutes for him to find it, but he did. After a few minutes I started climbing down from the table very slowly and over about the next 10 minutes he would flit away from the bouquet for a few seconds and then return as I inched slowly toward the door. Finally I made it to the outside door and he flew to a limb of a tree right outside the door. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Just remember that if you want to catch a hummingbird you have to find something hummingbirds like. I wonder if this is true for teaching children as well...Hmmmm.

Teachers in the Columbia School District system are constantly looking for a new way of connecting with their students, just as Mrs. Wills connected with the hummingbird.  Often children are "talked at" and "directed" in their classrooms as they struggle to learn.  Columbia School District teachers like Mrs. Wills work with their students to construct learning opportunities by attracting their students to educational activities.  

This fall Columbia Middle and Columbia Central High School both have added learning opportunities for students that are designed to attract students to follow and absorb activities that will accelerate their academic abilities.  Columbia Middle School students are enjoying additional electives including Spanish Culture, Creative Expressions, a language arts course that features hands on activities including experiencing culinary arts, a course that gives students an opportunity to learn about business and run the school store, and an enhancement of last year's outstanding class that focused sixth grade students on creating a video news program.  

Columbia Central High School has students excited about learning not only through all of the Advanced Placement offerings, but through new courses designed to increase students' understanding of earth and space science, poetry, history and video productions.  As we move through the year we will focus on the various learning activities of each of these new courses that are designed to have students experience the school educational environment through teaching that will entice a higher level of understanding, in a similar way to the way that Mrs. Wills worked to attract the hummingbird with flowers.  Learning is an interactive process between the students and the teacher, come and experience true educational activities at Columbia Schools.

Interested in learning more about learning activities at Columbia Schools?  Call us at 517-592-6641 or email me at

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Blasting Out Bullying!

Over the past year Columbia School District teachers and staff members have worked together to curtail bullying.  Much of the concern regarding bullying in educational settings comes from the statistics: according to the National Education Association, over  160,000 students across the country miss school  each day because they are worried about being intimidated, harassed, and bullied.  What is more startling is to learn that one in three school children across the country in the middle grades, grade six through ten, are bullied during the year.

By partnering with Columbia Schools parents can assist in our quest to be bully-free!  It is important for parents and schools to work together to help support our students and create a safe learning environment.  For years, many have thought that bullying is just harmless teasing, but it may have a lasting impact on our students' ability to learn.  In addition to the high levels of absenteeism for victims of bullying, researchers have found a connection between suicide and bullying and being a victim of bullying for children.

When parents work with their children's teachers to end bullying, the emotional portion of school safety improves.  Parents should encourage their children to communicate with their teacher or a school staff member when they are bullied or see another student being bullied.  Contrary to a child's fear, letting one's teacher know they are being bullied is not tattling and it may make the difference between being comfortable in the social environment of school and feeling anxious and alienated.

Parents may encourage their child to be nice to other children.  Being friendly and making positive comments to other students, especially those affected by bullying, will help them feel accepted rather than alienated and lonely.  Everyone wants to feel accepted and valued.  By encouraging your child to consider other children's feelings and not to exclude them at recess, in class or at lunch, your child can make a difference in the lives of their classmates.

You may also make a difference if you learn about cyber bullying.  Cyber bullying is growing by leaps and bounds with the increasing emphasis on technology even for our youngest children.  This technological tormenting is impactful.  Comments made by children about others on Facebook, Twitter and texting could make you shudder with disapproval.  Parents who audit and check their child's Facebook statements, Tweets and texts can insure that their child is not the cause of another child's pain, because even good children can make inappropriate comments.

Join with the Columbia School District this year and help Blast Out Bullying!  If you have questions about Columbia Schools, our anti-bullying policy or would like to register your child for school, please call 517-592-6641 or email me at

Columbia School District Bond Proposal

On November 5th the Columbia School District has two Bond Proposals on the ballot. Both Proposal 1 and 2 include educational needs for Columbia students, rather than wants.  Our students and teachers are learning and working in buildings that range in age from 45 to 63 years in age.  When you take a look at the life-expectancy of building systems, you will see that many of the areas are in dire need of updating.  The average life span of doors, windows and roofs are considered architectural components and have a life-expectancy of 20 years.  Plumbing systems come in at a life-expectancy of 30 to 40 years.   HVAC systems are estimated to last 15 to 40 years, but the newest system in Columbia School District is 45 years old, while the oldest is 63 years old.  The district cannot afford to be without heat, so it makes replacement of updated equipment imperative.  Lighting, electrical and cabinet fixtures have life-expectancies ranging from 20 to 30 years, so it is easy to understand the intense needs that exist in our school buildings.

Proposal 1 encompasses necessary essential modifications and replacement of areas of our infrastructure which are failing.  This Proposal provides an opportunity to give Columbia students a safe, warm, dry and smart learning environment.  Building improvements include restricted entryways and increased safety features including the rerouting of traffic at the elementary and middle schools.  The traffic modifications will separate the bus traffic from the car and pedestrian traffic to increase safety.

Proposal 1 also includes upgrades to the fire safety system, door and window upgrades to increase safety and to improve energy efficiency.  Security cameras, electronic door technology and the elimination and replacement of worn out carpeting, will give our students a safer educational environment.  Many of our area community members, along with our students will appreciate improvements to our track and tennis courts, which at this time are not up to school safety standards due to the impact of aging.

Students will learn in a warmer and dryer environment with the replacement of roofs and ceilings that have at this point, outlived their useful life-expectancy.  Boilers and classroom heating systems will be replaced with updated equipment.  The building envelop will be improved by the replacement of leaky windows and doors, most of which are between 45 and 63 years old.

"Smart" in Proposal 1 refers to updating our technology infrastructure.  Currently our infrastructure ranges in age from ten to twenty years and is inadequate for the usage level of our students and teachers.  Since today's students use technology on an ongoing basis throughout the school day and into the evening hours, it is important to provide updated technology to teach student in the way in which they learn best.  In addition to upgrading the infrastructure Proposal 1 includes the replacement of student and teaching computers.

Proposal 1 will be possible for only an additional 2.15 mills which is the equivalent for less than the cost of two meals at a fast food establishment for only $8.96 per month for a home owner of a $100,000 home.

Proposal 2 focuses on restructuring Columbia Central High School to include 7th and 8th grades and reorganizing the elementary and middle school buildings to create an upper and lower elementary campus.  The 0.45 mills will enable the district to provide a cutting edge learning environment for 7th and 8th graders at Columbia Central, enhance technology and add a locker room.

The number of mills for Proposal 1 and 2 is an additional 2.60, which combined with the current 0.9 mills would levy only 3.5 mills.  The 3.5 mill levy would put us only slightly above Napoleon but less than Hanover-Horton, Onsted, Western, Northwest and East Jackson.

If you have questions, email me at or go to to read more about the proposals.