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Sunday, December 28, 2014

A New Year's Resolution That Makes A Difference!

It is that time of the year again: Time to make a New Year’s Resolution!  Each year many of us make resolutions to eat healthier, workout more, volunteer, take time to be kind and care about others.  Some of us will keep our resolutions for several months and some will grab a quick doughnut and skip the workout within the first week. 

As I began to think about making a New Year’s Resolution I thought about all of the things that get in our way of making a change to better ourselves.  We have children to look after, houses to clean, work to do, phones to answer and other activities that seem far more fun than eating healthier, volunteering and working out.  Several years ago one of my friends, Sam, was lamenting that he was so busy he didn't have time to work out.  Another friend, Rob, who was listening commented, “What are you doing at eleven o’clock in the evening?”  Stunned silence followed until Rob said, “We always find time to accomplish the things that are important to us so don’t complain, just make the time.” 

Similarly, we often make time to watch two or three of our favorite television programs each day, but we miss the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.  At Columbia School District we work to make a difference in the lives of our students!  There are ways that our community members may partner with us as we change lives for the better.  You may want to volunteer in a program that focuses on early literacy: Columbia Buddies.  Columbia Buddies develops volunteer community members to mentor individual students in reading techniques under the direction of the program director.  This program shows positive gains in students’ reading levels.

In addition to Columbia Buddies, many community members and parents volunteer in other groups: Athletic Boosters, Music Boosters, Grandparents for Greatness or the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO).  Each of these groups makes a difference for our students.  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, one of our Boosters’ Clubs, PTO or Grandparents for Greatness. If you are interested in learning more about Columbia Buddies send an email to, our Music Boosters’ contact, Athletic Boosters’ email , PTO email or,  or if you are interested in participating in Grandparents for Greatness, email .  Let’s begin this year by making a difference in the lives of the children in our community!  Are you interested in hearing more about Columbia Schools? Call me at 592-6641 or email me at .

Monday, December 22, 2014

Blended Learning Opportunitites at Columbia!

These days we hear a lot of ideas about educating our children.  One phrase we have heard a lot about is “Blended Learning.”  What exactly is blended learning and does it have positive results for our students? 

Blended learning uses both digital learning strategies through online media and traditional classroom instruction.  Students are able to complete the online portion of the learning, decide on the place they access the online content and set an appropriate pace.  Columbia Central High School students use blended learning strategies in quite a few of their classrooms.  In Advanced Placement Biology, Mr. Dickens uses blended learning techniques to enhance the time the students have in their classroom.  He uses a strategy called “Flipped Classroom.”  In this strategy students choose the time and place that they review the material in the lesson before coming to class.  This material may include research, specific online sites or a Podcast.  Once the students arrive in class they begin with activities based upon the material they covered online and may follow up with an assessment covering their assignment and activities.

Blended learning activities also are taking place at Columbia Middle School.  Many teachers are using strategies that integrate technology both at home and during school.  Recently I spoke to several students who were working on a blended learning technique that included doing online research, creating a graphic organizer and translating that into a multipage website.  This strategy gave the students an opportunity to work in their own time, at their own pace, using a learning path they chose and a place that worked for them. 

In some of our Columbia Elementary School classrooms teachers are having students write in their blogs online and then classmates, parents, and other relatives, in addition to the teacher, read and write reviews.  This partnership between parents, students and the teacher is made possible through the online techniques of blended learning.

At Columbia Options High School students use online applications during their traditional classes as well as during their virtual classes.  We support students as they complete their virtual classes with a drop-in center and a resource teacher.  Many students find the virtual portion to be better suited to their learning needs, but they also find the resource teacher very important to assist them with questions.

By integrating technology and blended learning into the curriculum teachers must reinvent their teaching techniques.  To adapt the learning activities into this innovative way of teaching and learning, teachers collaborate together and experience a sustainable, transformation that results in meaningful student growth.

At Columbia as we have worked to integrate technology into the curriculum and use blended learning strategies to enhance students’ ability to acquire new knowledge, we have seen a progressive improvement of student retention by using these techniques.  Students enjoy completing online research activities such as in the example in Mr. Dickens’ Advanced Placement course and seem to experience a greater level of retention.  As we continue to use blended learning activities, strategies and techniques with our students we anticipate that they will increase their performance on post activity assessments.  If you would like to learn more about Columbia School District or our programs, call me at 5175926641 or email me at .

Monday, December 15, 2014

Columbia School District Bond Project Update

Columbia School District is a connected community school! Connected to learning, connected to the community, and connected to your student’s success!  Our goal is to keep our parents and community informed about the great things that are happening at Columbia.  This past summer we completed Phase 1 of our Bond projects.  The Bond competitions included the safer redesigned parking, parent drop-off and pick-up area, and bus drop off area at the middle and elementary school campus.  In addition we added a new playground for the middle school which will become the third through sixth grade building.  Through Phase 1 updates we were also able to purchase updated technology for students and staff members through the purchase of Chromebook laptops, iPads and Dell laptops, along with the installation of additional wireless hubs to facilitate the updated network.

This fall we finalized the facility and site designs for Columbia Central High School.  The Phase 2 renovations at Columbia Central began on December 1st.  Initially, the crew focused on demolition to open up the southwest area of the high school to create the new seventh and eighth grade wing.  On Wednesday, December 17th the crew will break ground for the new locker room addition adjacent to the Fitness Center gymnasium.

The balance of the Phase 2 renovations at Columbia Central High School will increase student safety by providing a secure entry vestibule and remodeled office area, a new heating and air conditioning system, updated technology infrastructure, safer redesigned parent and bus traffic lanes, and remodeled classrooms and hallways.  To see an artist’s pictorial representation, go to the homepage and the link is on the left with the construction update links.

Phase 3 renovations will focus on increased student safety at the elementary and middle school campus, along with Options, by providing a secure entry vestibule and updated office area.  The technology infrastructure, new heating and air conditioning systems, restrooms and classrooms will offer increased efficiency for students and staff members.  

To stay up to date on a day-to-day basis with pictures and information on the remodeling process, go to the Columbia School District Facebook page or the Restore The Soar Facebook page and “Like” the page.  You will receive updates as they are posted.  If you have questions regarding Columbia School District or our programs, please email me at or call 5175926641.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankfulness at Thanksgiving!

Earlier today I read an article by NPR (National Public Radio) that discussed Thanksgiving traditions in the early 20th Century.  According to the article, people in larger cities (between 1891 to 1950) would dress up and parade around the main streets in masks and costumes – very similar to outfits that would be worn for Halloween.  Many of the children dressed as “Ragamuffins.”   Since this was a new revelation to me, I found it fascinating!  

To me Thanksgiving has always been about giving thanks, not about dressing up and parading around.  First of all I am thankful for my family, friends and colleagues.  Since we all have so much to be thankful for this year, I put together my “list.”  Columbia School District has so many wonderful children, from terrific families and incredible staff members.  To illustrate what great students we have I will share a recent communication I received.  The very complementary letter came from a basketball official, who for the first time was refereeing a game at Columbia Middle School.  He was so thankful to the players, fans and staff he sent over a thank you email letter.  He mentioned that the players would always say, “Thank you” when he handed them the ball.  He went on to write that he had never encountered kids saying “Thank you” when refereeing a game.  He continued by writing, “Usually when we see kids at the scorer’s table, it’s not a good thing.  But last night the kids that were there were better than some adults we see at the table.  They were polite to us, kept score correctly, and kept time great.  If we had a question about anything, they could look in the scorebook and answer our question immediately…   If these kids are at the table all season, there will be nothing to worry about.”  He concluded by saying, “I’m looking forward to any other trips I make to Columbia Central to officiate.”   It is easy to see why I am especially thankful for our great students.

I am also very thankful for great teachers and staff members who go the extra mile with a terrific attitude.  For instance, this past weekend (Friday through Sunday) we had many staff members
involved in special afterschool activities at Columbia Middle School on Friday, the Robotics competition on Saturday, the Solo Ensemble for CMS students, and the musical “Snow Off White”.   Every day, I could identify many special activities, programs and projects our staff members work on to inspire our students and to help raise their level of achievement.

All of our students and staff members are thankful to our wonderful community for passing the bond issue!  So many people came together to educate our community on the opportunity to create a safe, warm, dry and smart environment for our students.  At this point we have a much safer drop-off and pick-up area at the Columbia Middle and Elementary Campus, a new roof which is keeping us dry and a terrific new playground to encourage our students to get out and exercise.  Our students are enjoying using new Chromebooks and iPads to enhance learning activities in their classrooms.  Recently I met with the entire seventh and eighth grade to give them an idea of how their new “school – within – a – school” will look.  The students were excited and asked well thought out questions.  They showed their thankfulness through their positive attitude.

I could go on and on about the great staff members, families and students we have in Columbia, but I will end with a heartfelt wish for each and every one of you to have a blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones!  If you have any questions about Columbia School District please email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Help Us Celebrate American Education Week!

Help Columbia School District celebrate American Education Week beginning November 16th. This week of celebration commemorates those who are making a difference every day in the lives of our children and gives us a chance to rejoice with and honor the dedicated and passionate individuals in public education. 

Beginning in 1921, various groups and community members have joined with the National Education Association to celebrate American Education Week.  We take this week to give our educational professionals a virtual round of applause for their tireless work with our most prized possessions; our children.  In addition to celebrating the work of teachers, American Education Week celebrates the local public safety personnel who help keep our children safe, and the wonderful educational support personnel who care for our children. 

The work of our educational professionals has grown over the years.  In response to the increasing needs, our educational support personnel serve breakfast and lunch, bus children back and forth to school, and provide support services during and after school.  Our teachers help to bu
ild a solid foundation for a bright future for our students by teaching more than the core subjects.  They work with students integrating technology into the curriculum, providing character education (including anti-bullying lessons), and teach students how to become life-long learners.

How can you help us celebrate American Education Week?  Send a note or email to an educational professional thanking them for their hard work and commitment.  Stop by and tell your child’s teacher of your gratitude for all he or she does.   If your child or grandchild plays an instrument, sings in the choir or is in the musicals, you could email the director and let him or her know that you appreciate their dedication to your child.  What if your child has graduated?  Send his or her favorite teacher or support person a note telling him or her of your gratefulness for the lasting impression he or she left on your child.

Because the education of our children is a partnership between parents, the community and the educational professionals, it is paramount that we continue to celebrate the gains we have made and continue to make.  Educators have made tremendous progress by increasing the level of excellence in education through hard work and tenacity.  Make this week special for our educational professionals and join me in saying, “Thank you!”  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District, email me at or call 5175926641.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Amazing Learning Opportunities!

On the first day of preschool this year, one of our new four-year-olds told his teacher that, “This is the best day of my whole life!”  Education can be magical, and for this young man, school opened an incredible learning portal.  As students grow and mature they can still feel excited about learning opportunities. Last Saturday some students from U of M came and worked with twenty of our middle and high school students opening up the world of exploration and development of space.  This group, called Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), is a worldwide student run organization whose mission is to enable progress in space exploration.  The occasion gave our students an opportunity to have a very amazing day of learning.

On Saturday some of our students presented information from their forensic science course to the Jackson County School Boards Association.  Similarly to the exuberance of the four-year-old, the students were excited to present the things they have been learning.  In cooperation with the Columbia Fire Department, the students had set up crime scenes and then challenged their peers to figure out the solution.  The students presented the scenarios and the solutions, and these educational leaders were also excited about forensic science.  This class gives students an opportunity to use the basic biology, anatomy and chemistry foundational elements in a practical hands-on real-world setting.  Columbia School District is dedicated to provide our students with a solid foundation for a bright future.

At Columbia Middle School we have students who are excited about learning the fundamentals of engineering.  They are learning while they are using hands-on activities and investigation techniques to complete projects and solve assigned tasks.  Some of the engineering students are also part of the two robotics teams at Columbia Middle School.  The students not only learn about engineering, they also use collaborative team based strategies to learn about robotics and how to program a robot.

These are just a few of Columbia School District’s courses that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  Our students have an opportunity to learn STEM through inquiry and project based educational activities.  These activities are helping all of our students to be enthusiastic about learning, just like our new preschool four-year-old student.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District and our STEM activities, please call me or email me at

Monday, October 20, 2014

Building Your Child's Critical Thinking Skills

Each week when I receive the newspaper there are advertisements for appliances from Sears, Lowes, Home Depot, ABC and other stores.  They advertise many models of refrigerators; there are side-by-side with or without ice in the door, French Door refrigerators with one or two drawers and regular basic no-frills one door refrigerators.  This week I looked at a low cost refrigerator that was advertised for $367, while another more expensive model was on sale at $2898.  Although all of the refrigerators keep our food cold, some have more options than others.  As you shop for a refrigerator, you would actively collect data and choices for your comparison.   As you compare and contrast the prices and options for the refrigerators, you would use the skill of critical thinking. 

In each classroom in the Columbia School District, students use critical thinking in their daily assignments.  Critical thinking is an important skill that will help our students be successful in all of their school subjects.  Let me offer some examples for you to work with your child on his or her critical thinking skills.

The first example is: Finding similarities in our daily lives.  Take a look around a room and find two things that do not seem to have anything in common.  You may say a lamp and couch.  Challenge your child to use his critical thinking skills to find a minimum of one thing that is similar in the lamp and the couch.  She may tell you that they both sit on the floor or that the lamp shade has a pattern with material and so does the couch.  You may repeat this in other rooms in your house or in outdoor settings.

A second try at increasing your child’s proficiency of their critical thinking skills is to play games.  You may choose word games to play in the car.  You may mix and match comparing and contrasting words like; river is to ocean like plant is to what?  You might choose games that your child can look ahead to predict the outcome like checkers or chess.  You may ask them, if you move there, then I might move here and where would you move next?

Finally, you may help your child and his or her friends make up a story or rewrite one they already know.  To write a new story together, have one of them begin something like, “I was walking in the woods one day and”, then the next person takes over, and each person puts in a sentence as they write their new story.  You may tell them what the last sentence should be, or let them write in a freestyle way.  Not only will they end up with an intriguing story, they will have fun!  When using their critical thinking skills to rewrite a story, you could choose a traditional children’s story like “Little Red Riding Hood” or one of my favorite, “Horton Hears A Who.” You could have them think about writing their story from the wolf’s point of view in “Little Red Riding Hood” or describe what happens to Horton or the Who in the next chapter.

Just like we use critical thinking in our daily lives to make large purchases like a refrigerator, our children use critical thinking skills to make decisions and complete their school work.  Your encouragement of their ability to think critically and assist them as they practice these skills, will help to make them more successful students.

If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District or our programs, please email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Celebrating Homecoming at Columbia!

It is that time of year again: Homecoming!  Homecoming is a special time of year where our alumni families gather with current students to cheer Columbia on to Victory over their foe!  It is enjoyable to see friends and family and watch the students take part in the week’s activities, ride in the parade and compete in sports.

The Columbia School District celebrates Homecoming at all levels. The Student Councils at all of our schools independently work with their advisors to specify what they will wear on which day.  This gives the students an opportunity to take on a leadership role at their school.  For the youngest students at Columbia Elementary School they began the week by dressing up in gear from their favorite sports team, and culminated the week with our favorite colors: Blue & Gold Day! 

Columbia Middle School students celebrate Homecoming in a somewhat more flashy way beginning with Clash Day, where students wear clothes that are mismatched and then ending with Blue & Gold Day.  This year Columbia Middle School they have added a new day: Scrabble Day.  During the day they will collaborate with each other to create academic specific words or phrases as classes.  The students may spell out robotics in their engineering classroom, exponent in math class or genetics in biology.

Sometimes our students assign a deeper meaning to their daily choices: In support of our troops abroad, the Columbia Central High School student wore red, white and blue for Monday’s America Day and in support of finding a cure for Breast Cancer, Tuesday at CCHS was a Pink Out, where everyone wore pink.

Many of the activities during Homecoming Week focus on bonding our students and staff members together.  There are competitions between classes at CCHS and sometimes the teachers play the students in basketball or volleyball.  Both Columbia Middle and Columbia Central will end their week with a pep assembly celebrating their athletic teams.

The day culminates with a Homecoming Parade featuring floats and our Columbia Central High School representatives.  This year’s Homecoming Court is made up of: Freshmen  Mackenzee Whipple and Jeff Perry; Sophomores Hailey Dickens and Hunter Martin; Juniors Courtney Hill and Noah Raby and Seniors Garrett Hotchkiss,  Austin Witt, Noah Stump,  Ariel Miller, Jackie Ali and Jordan Diefenthaler.


Be sure a join in the Homecoming Festivities with our Columbia Central High School teams!  The Homecoming Parade begins at 5 pm and the Football Game begins at 7 pm.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District and our programs, call me at 5175926641 or email me at

Monday, October 6, 2014

Creating a Strong Successful Learning Environment

Over the past decade, educational researchers have reviewed practices in various school districts to determine what programs have yielded the most positive results.  One of the practices that has produced increases in test scores and successful acquisition of learning is differentiation.  Differentiation is not just a trendy idea or a slick word, it includes many positive aspects of wonderful learning environments including respecting each other, developing a learning community, encouraging student success, creating various opportunities for learning, and involving everyone in the teaching and learning community.   When speaking about the importance of a positive culture when using differentiation, University of Virginia Professor Cindy A. Strickland commented that “Kids have to feel that they can take a risk, they can fail and it’s going to be okay, that growth will be rewarded and is expected.” 

In the Columbia School District our teachers use differentiation methods to help all of their students learn. Faced with the daunting task of meeting the learning needs of each student our teachers strive to make their classrooms safe and welcoming.  We focus on using educational best practices to enhance teaching and learning. One of the aspects of differentiation that teachers at Columbia embrace is to ask themselves: “Will what is happening in my classroom support student success?”  Teachers at Columbia use various differentiation strategies including academic games, practice, and inventive techniques to yield a higher level of effectiveness in their classroom. 

Our teachers provide the basis for student learning and for establishing an environment that uses differentiation to adapt various activities to the different levels of student readiness.  Although educators have known about the need for differentiation for years, many districts have not embraced this powerful learning strategy. However, Columbia District teachers have firmly grasped the fact that children enter the classroom with various levels of readiness and that we must use strategies and techniques to help all students succeed.

As Columbia School District teachers and staff members continue to improve our effectiveness, we are working adapt lessons and use differentiation to give our students the best opportunity for success.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District and our programs, email me at or call 517-592-6641.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Partnering With Our Community

Approximately 150 Columbia School District teachers, staff and administrators appreciate the opportunity to assist in developing and increasing learning activities to benefit your child’s education. Our goal is to partner with you to provide your child an outstanding educational experience in a safe, positive and dynamic environment.   

At the schools in the Columbia District, we work on being intentional regarding our students’ learning opportunities.  Teachers develop plans which include activities designed to enhance student achievement.  Our terrific teachers use detours and “teachable moments” to allow random events to become learning filled occasions.   The other day I ventured into a classroom where a visiting spider had given the teacher an opportunity to help the students learn a bit about the rather large arachnid.

Increasingly, teachers are integrating technology into their learning activities in their classroom. Our teachers engage their learners by unfolding their lesson by intentionally using technology to boost student interest and understanding.  The teachers are coming up with creative ideas to improve student achievement and to increase the capability of students to be successful problem solvers.  We are empowering our teachers to work with students to harness technology to gather information and to communicate efficiently and effectively.  Our teachers, using best practices, are striving to increase literacy and integration of technology while incorporating digital and blended learning activities into the educational environment in their classrooms.

As a member of the Columbia School District community you may support the teachers’ intentional focus on enhancing the students’ achievement by encouraging your child or grandchild to fully complete their school projects or assignments.  You may encourage your child to take the next step and learn more about topics they are covering in school by conducting web-quests.  You may also support our wonderful teachers by engaging in positive verbal support as you speak with others in the community.  Your enthusiasm for learning at Columbia Schools may also include volunteering to serve on a committee or read a book to a child or cheer our sports teams on to victory.

As we work together side-by-side leading the children of the community to become lifelong learners, our support of education will have an enduring effect on our children! I am deeply proud of the critical and immeasurable community support for the Columbia School District. Thanks to your help, Columbia School District has become one of Michigan’s premier school districts.

If you have questions about how you may partner with the Columbia School District or to register your child for school, please email me at or call me at 517.592.6641.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Firmly Rooted in Education

Over the weekend I was pruning bushes and pulling weeds.  As I pulled the weeds with prickly spines, I noticed that while they had large leaves, their roots were small.  They were easily pulled out as I grabbed them with my gloved hand.  I compared the root system of the weeds to that of other small plants and bushes; I realized that the plants we value have intricate root systems that reach far into the soil to give them a strong base to grow from. 

In much the same way our children need extensive support systems to grow and mature.  Columbia School District focuses on supporting our students academically and nutritionally.  Our students have the opportunity to take advanced courses that will get them ready for their future.  Last week as I spoke to various students at Columbia Central High School I heard many positive comments.  One student exclaimed excitedly that she loves science and was taking Anatomy and Physiology, Forensic Science and Sports Medicine.  Another student told me on Friday that she loved her teachers and her classes, especially Chemistry and Algebra II.  Still another student mentioned that he is taking college courses through our dual enrollment program.  Several students told me that they are excited to be taking Advanced Placement classes so they may earn college credits.  Our teachers make an effort to give their students educational learning opportunities to help them grow and mature into life-long learners.

At the middle school level our students develop their educational root systems by learning and collaborating.  Over the past two years we have focused much energy on introducing our students to Chromebooks and integrating technology into all of our courses.  Students at the middle school have the opportunity to earn high school credits in mathematics, Spanish and history.  This past summer thirteen of our middle school students participated in advanced math courses that resulted in high school credit.  Other middle school students opted to participate in the Leaders In Training program that gave them an opportunity to work collaboratively building their teamwork skills.

This fall we are introducing a new program that will provide support for our third through eighth grade students and will increase their understanding of mathematics and language arts.  We are joining the Michigan League of Academic Games.  Students learn the games of Equations, On Words and On Sets.  In a fun and challenging game setting our students will learn aspects of Algebra II such as set theory, square roots, exponents, imaginary numbers and will use the basic operations of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.

We all want our children to become successful, productive members of society who are rooted in a solid educational foundation.  Our students are continually building their root systems and our teachers and staff members work diligently to assist and support them as they grow and mature into wonderful adults.  If you are interested in learning more about the programs at Columbia School District, please email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Assessment In Our Lives

Most of us have to mow our lawn once a week, pull weeds and prune bushes at our homes.  We also have to keep our vehicles working properly so we can get from place to place.  Each time we begin to work on our landscaping or check over our vehicles, we must go through a process of assessment and evaluation.  The assessment and evaluation of our environment whether our landscaping, or the vehicles we drive, keeps us on track. Columbia School District also uses a system of assessment and evaluation for our students' learning environment.

This year the Columbia School District has adopted the iReady assessment program for our students in kindergarten through eighth grade and students who attend Options High School.  The program is designed to assess an individual student’s skills across multiple grade levels to pinpoint strengths and gaps in their learning in mathematics and English language arts.  The assessment may be given to students up to four times per year and will allow teachers to target areas where there students may need additional work.  

The iReady is a computerized adaptive assessment which uses a dynamic mode based on student response patterns to derive large amounts of information from the test items.  For example, a second grade student who has strong math skills may begin at the second grade level and end up in some strength areas at fifth or sixth grade.  The iReady will also give teachers information on the areas where that student may need additional assistance.  This is a different ideology compared to the old bubble in traditional fixed-form tests.  The adaptive tests give students an opportunity to push the limits of their knowledge base and efficiently pinpoints the student’s educational needs.

This type of assessment program is beneficial for providing differentiated instruction based upon strengths and for identifying gaps spanning back multiple years.  Columbia teachers will use this information to individualize next steps for instruction for each student.  One of the strengths of the iReady assessment program is that student results are tracked from year to year.  Based upon the results of the adaptive diagnostic, the program will provide individualized online and teacher-led instruction which is appropriate and targeted to each student’s unique needs.  Teachers are able to print out reports and action plans for groups of students or individual children.  The reports also include the tools to present the information in the most appropriate way for each student’s learning needs.

Next time you check your vehicle’s oil, fill up the gas tank, or strategize a plan for your landscaping, think about the iReady assessment program used by Columbia School District to help support our students as they learn and increase their knowledge base in mathematics and English language arts.  If you have any questions regarding the Columbia School District, email me at or call at 5175926641.​

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Updated Columbia Elementary and Middle School Campus

In any environment there are right and left-brained individuals.  This combination of the two types of people helps to make school a rich learning environment.  The so called “right-brained” thinkers are said to be creative, thoughtful and intuitive.  “Left-brained” thinkers give us the logical, analytical and sequential way of approaching a problem or a concern.  Strengths of right-brained and left-brained combine to make the school environment rich during learning activities.  Classrooms in the Columbia School District often use grouping to solicit various solutions and problem-solving approaches by complementing right-brained people with students who are left-brained.

As we have worked with our construction projects we also have included right and left-brained individuals in the process.  Some of us look at things in square boxes, very sequentially, while others view the area in question with a creative approach.  Some of our contributors use charts, graphs and organizational utilitarian strategies, while other participants go by their experience and feelings.  As we have proceeded through the process we have discussed, designed, and redesigned areas, then kept, delayed or deleted individual items. 

This summer our projects included new roofs at all four schools.  The roofing projects included new metal trim around the edge, upgraded and improved soffits and soffit lighting and new downspouts.  The roofs received new insulation and are warrantied.  So far we have had very few leaks throughout this process.  Unfortunately, one leak emerged after the antenna on the Columbia Central High School was placed directly above the CC logo in center court in the gymnasium.  The slight rip in the seam of the roof during a short down pour, resulted in some damage at center court.  The roofing contractor is paying for the damage to the court.

One of the important safety items we tackled this summer has been the separation of the parent drop-off and
bus loop at the Columbia Middle and Elementary School Campus.  Parents will find it convenient to drive east on School Street straight into the parent drop-off loop.  The loop goes to the right, so parents may drop their middle school students off first, then proceed around to the elementary school drop off area.  There will be two lanes: the right one for dropping your child off and the left one for passing.  Children should exit from the passenger side of their vehicle. Parents may not drop their child off from the left lane or they may be in peril of getting hit by a car.  To keep the drop-off lanes working to peak efficiency, please ask your child to have their shoes or boots on and their school supplies in hand when you pull up to the drop-off area.  There will be a small parking area in the center of the drop-off loop for preschool parents.  This area is reserved for preschool parents because they have to bring their little ones into the school to sign them in.

For parents who desire to park and bring their child into the building, they will find it convenient to park immediately west of either the elementary or middle school.  Parents with elementary aged children are asked to park in the “Parent/Staff” lot on the west end of the elementary school.  This lot is designed for parking only, not for drop-off.  All drop-offs must be made in the drop-off loop between the buildings.  Middle school parents who must accompany their children into the building are asked to park in the “Parent/Staff” lot immediately west of the middle school.  This lot is being transformed from a drop-off loop into a regular parking lot.  The formerly dirt and gravel lot may be used by either elementary or middle school parents.
A second safety element is the bus loop.  Children arriving by school bus will be dropped off in a separate area from the parent drop-off loop.  This area is accessed by the new bus driveway off of Monroe Street.  This drive may not be accessed by any automobile traffic. 

It is exciting to see this summer’s renovations coming to a close just in time for the next phase to go out for bid in October.  A heart felt “Thank You” goes out to all of you left or right-brained community members who have participated in the Facility Improvement Team or any of our other committees.  The improvements to our schools are a testament to your hard work and tenacity!

If you have questions regarding the traffic flow at the middle or elementary schools, please attend the Back-to-School Bash for Columbia Elementary students on Wednesday, August 27th from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm or the Open House for Columbia Middle School students also on Wednesday, August 27th from 6 pm to 7:30 pm.  If you have questions regarding registering your child for Columbia Schools, please email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Stuff the Bus!

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine regarding my concern for children who come from families who are struggling to provide back-to-school supplies.  As we talked about the opportunity for community members to donate notebooks, pens, pencils and backpacks, my friend launched into her own story.  She told me that her eldest daughter was ready to begin school when her situation changed at home.  Her husband left her with nothing, so she applied for a position back in Michigan to be closer to her parents.  However, it took all she had to get moved and she was worried that her daughter would not have everything she needed to start school.

She knew that her daughter had grown a lot during the summer and wouldn't fit into her clothes from the last fall, and she certainly didn't have funds to purchase a new backpack or other school supplies.  Being a woman of faith, she prayed that she would be able to provide for her daughter as she began school.  The next morning she opened the door and there was a big box filled with a mixture of gently used hand-me-down clothes and items that still had the price tags!  There was even a backpack filled with school supplies.  When she checked the return address, she noted it was from a friend.  When she phoned her friend to thank her, she learned that her friend had gone through her daughter’s closet pulled out items that no longer fit her.  When she mentioned the backpack, her friend told her that they had been at the store getting back-to-school items and her daughter had suggested they send the items along with the clothes.

At Columbia Schools, we too have families, who struggle just like my friend who was in need at that point of her life.  As you make trips to the store to purchase back-to-school items for your child or grandchild, you may want to pick up a couple extra notebooks, pencils, pens or even a backpack to donate to someone who is in need.  Donations of school supplies may be dropped off at any of the Columbia School District offices or put your donation in the school bus during “Stuff the Bus Week” August 25th through September 2nd; you never know…your generosity may just be the answer to a mother’s prayer.

If you are interested in registering your child for school or learning how you might volunteer at the Columbia School District, please email me at or call 5175926641.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Getting Ready for Kindergarten!

Kindergarten is an exciting time for children and their parents. As your child moves from preschool or daycare to Kindergarten they may need you to help prepare him or her for this big step. You may be able to build their confidence by doing family activities to help your child learn what school will be like. Over the next several weeks before school begins on Tuesday, September 2nd you may want to try some of the following activities:

• Doing art projects with your child and incorporating the use of crayons, markers, glue, scissors, paint, and other supplies will help him or her to be familiar with activities he or she will do in school.

• Math activities such as counting pennies, grouping items into similar categories, matching numerals with numbers of items, talking about time, and discussing differences in sizes of items such as big, little, small and large.

• Reading books together. The Public Library is a great source for choosing books at random or about a particular topic your child is interested in, such as dinosaurs, dogs, animals, or space travel.

Columbia School District is offering all day Kindergarten, Young 5’s, and Preschool for your children. We believe that all day Kindergarten and all day Young 5’s program are successful in providing additional learning opportunities for our students. The additional time allows teachers to expand and advance our curriculum providing increased academic experiences for our Kindergarteners and Young 5’s. Our teachers are excited about the growth and achievements they see in our children who participate in all day Kindergarten.

Since beginning all day Kindergarten we have seen many benefits. Our students learn to read in Kindergarten and they are excited when they get an opportunity to read to each other. They are able to work on additional math facts and learn about how to count coins. The students count pennies, nickels, and dimes. They also have an opportunity to work with guided writing strategies. Many of the current standards and benchmarks are very similar to what used to be taught in first grade.

Transitioning from preschool or daycare to Kindergarten or Young 5’s is a big step for children. If you haven’t had an opportunity to register your child for one of these terrific programs, please stop by Columbia Elementary or call 592-6632 or email Mrs. Powell @ or Together we are Building a Brighter Future for our Students!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Paddling as a Team Towards Educational Excellence!

Recently my husband took a group to West Virginia to go whitewater rafting.  For those of you who have been on the New River, you know that there are medium rapids, fast rapids and a couple areas of calm water.  As you proceed down the river you follow the lead of your guide: paddle on the right, paddle backwards, or lean a particular way.  When you make it through an especially difficult run of rapids, you feel a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie.  You and your rafting team-mates may even use your paddles to do a huge “high-five.”

lower-n-alldayIn a school district, much like a river raft, there must be guides.  The Columbia School District Board of Education guides the district by making policy decisions and budgetary assessments.  When looking forward to the district improvements, the Facility Improvement Team handed over draft plans for the bond issue and the School Board adopted the recommendations.  As the projects go forward the board continues to adjust the plans and maximize the benefits for the students. The guidance they provide influences all those in the Columbia School District family.

Working closely with the School Board, administrators, teachers and community is another guide; the superintendent.  Similar to the way the guides on the New River ask the participants to paddle left, right or backward, as superintendent I work with the principals and teachers on curriculum, technology and school improvements.  I also have the responsibility of putting the budget together and I work closely with the construction team, made up the School Board, Steering Committee, architect, construction manager and contractors. 
This year our high school teachers and students had a new guide in Mr. Hyliard.  As he worked throughout the year with the teachers and students they developed camaraderie, similar to the teams in the river rafting.  They also set their sights to build on previous years’ work by improving student test scores and they succeeded! Our students responded to the guidance of their teachers and principal to achieve to a level unequaled by other schools in the county.  On the MME and ACT, the students raised their scores in each category compared to last year.

Providing guidance for Columbia Middle School is Mrs. O’Neil.  In her second year as principal, she has worked with her teachers to create a positive learning environment for all students.  They work together to celebrate excellence with Student of the Month, the Science Fair, the Robotics Team and Geography Race.  They also have put in a lot of time paddling together in the same direction towards achievement of their school improvement goals.

Mrs. Powell provides the guidance to the Columbia Elementary School teachers and students.  One of their school improvement goals was to align their curriculum to the Common Core standards.  They have spent hours and hours working together to set their goals, objectives and activities to provide excellence in learning activities for their students.  They also have worked on improving support for their students in reading and writing. 

Options High School teachers and students follow the lead of principal Piepkow. One the growing programs at Options is the Online Academy.  The Columbia Online Academy has many students joining every day and taking advantage of the learning environment options.

The Columbia School District is looking forward to the 2014 – 2015 school year!  Beginning on September 2nd, we are set to have the best year ever!  CCHS has two new science courses and one new AP social studies course.  CMS is providing various new summer programs that will give students an advantage when they begin school in the fall. CES is offering Reading Recovery this summer and has additional supplemental materials for mathematics.  All of the schools will have carts of new Chromebooks for the students and the elementary will have a card of new iPads for students to use. 

If you would like to join us as we paddle our raft to excellence in educational learning environments and register your child for school, please call me at 5175926641 or email me at

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Columbia Pride Community Wide!

For all of you who attended the Fourth of July Parade, you saw many teachers, staff members, administrators and board members handing out foam flyers with the inscription: “Columbia Pride Community Wide.”  These fine folks are crucial members of the Columbia School District Family who take pride in nurturing, teaching and working with the youth of the area.  From pre-kindergartners through 12th grade students we take pride in educating our students and providing them with excellent learning environments.

This spring and summer we have given a lot of tours and registered students for Columbia Schools. When we ask parents and students what brought them to Columbia School District, many of them answer “Our children are excited to attend a school with high academic standards” or “Your test scores show that you have excellent teachers” or “Our children want to take AP courses.”  Parents of our youngest students focus on the caring and nurturing teachers at the elementary and middle school level. 

Pride in our Columbia Schools reaches even farther: This fall in addition to having new roofs and safer drop off and pick-up areas at the Columbia Elementary and Middle School campus, our students will have an opportunity to use improved technology.  We are adding to the Chromebooks we piloted at Columbia Middle School this year.  We will have additional carts of Chromebooks at both the middle and high school this fall.  Our Columbia Central High School teachers will receive new laptops and there will be new iPads at Columbia Elementary School.  This is just the first step in the technology improvements that will happen over the next year at all of our schools.

Not only are we gaining students at Columbia Central High School, Columbia Middle and Elementary School, the Columbia Online Academy is growing with students who need an alternative to the traditional school setting.  Many area homeschoolers who have outgrown their elementary curriculum have joined our Online Academy, taking advantage of the free online schooling options and supportive teaching assistance from Lisa Klink.  Other are students who have joined the Online Academy are students with chronic illnesses that prevent them from attending school or students who have adult responsibilities and need a flexible schedule for their school attendance.  There are many opportunities for your child to find a terrific fit in one of our learning environments at Columbia School District.  If you have any questions about our options for free school attendance, please call me at 5175926641 or email me at

Monday, June 30, 2014

Activities at Columbia School District!

This year I have taken hundreds of pictures of children playing on the playground, studying in their classrooms, getting help from their teachers and participating in activities in school. In each of the pictures are smiling and active students are happy to be at one of our Columbia Schools. This summer, while we are missing our smiling, happy students, there is still a lot of activity.

Columbia School District has contracted with Bloom Roofing to replace the roofs on all four of our schools. Currently, they are about fifty percent finished at Columbia Elementary, twenty-five percent completed at Columbia Middle School and just beginning at Options and Columbia Central High Schools. The roofers are working diligently to ensure proper installation of all aspects of the roof. If you are visiting our Brooklyn Campus of Columbia Middle and Elementary Schools, please use the rear entrance to the Middle School and the main entrance to the Elementary School.

The excavators and asphalt trucks are getting ready to begin working on the parking areas and drives. Columbia School District has contracted with Bailey Excavation and American Asphalt to complete the parking areas, parent drop off locations and drives. If you are in the area, please be mindful that they are working to get everything finished prior to school beginning in September. We want to make sure the area is safe, but it is a construction zone. We anticipate many people attending the fireworks and will have construction areas marked with caution tape. Please help us keep children and adults out of the construction zones.

In addition to the construction and renovations taking place at Columbia School District, we also have our summer school programs currently going on at Options and Columbia Middle School. Options High School is hosting a credit recovery program and Columbia Middle School has a new STEM accelerated math and science program. The accelerated program offers middle school students an opportunity to earn high school credit in math and science through a blended learning activity. Our child care program is also continuing this summer at Columbia Elementary School.

In August the Columbia Middle School Leadership program will begin. Students of middle school age from any area school may participate for only $25. The program brochure is online at just to the right of our video link. Also in the brochure is the description of the Columbia Central High School summer school credit recovery program. This program offers students from area high schools an opportunity to catch up on their credits. Each ½ credit is $125.

If you have questions regarding our summer programs or our construction projects, please contact me at or call 517-592-6641.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Improvements at Columbia Schools

Walking through the hallways everything seems too quiet.  The students have gone home and are on vacation for the summer.  An occasional teacher works in their room putting the end of the year gear away and planning for next fall.  Next week and the following week we will have teachers and principals at school improvement seminars.  Next week I am attending a superintendent’s seminar focused on improving schools.  During July several of our teachers will be at Advanced Placement seminars and very soon, Mrs. Eastman will attend a grant funded seminar in California.

Although this week ended on a quiet note, beginning June 16th and accelerating throughout the summer, bond funded improvements will begin.  Initially, the improvements will begin with the abatement of a material that includes asbestos and was used in the soffits and flashing areas of our roofs.  Following the abatement, the areas will be covered with plastic sheeting until the roofing contractor seals the area with new material. 

The roofers are using a 90 mil Firestone type roof on Columbia Central High School, Columbia Middle School and Columbia Elementary School.  This type of roofing material will give us a 30 year warranty and is backed by the manufacture for both installation and material failure.  The roofing will begin in a couple of weeks.  On the Columbia Community Education/Options High School building the roofers will be using a 60 mil Firestone type of roofing material which has a 20 year warranty. 

Along with the roofing project at Columbia Middle and Columbia Elementary School, earth movers will be working to construct the new bus drive along the east side of the middle school property.  The asphalt company will install a new parking area west of Columbia Elementary School and a parent drop-off area and parking lot between the elementary and middle school.  New fences and a playground for the future third through sixth grade area will also be constructed.

While all of the construction and improvements are exciting, we will pleased to have Phase 1 completed and have our terrific students back in school next fall.  If you are interested in sending your child to Columbia School District, please email me at or call 5175926641.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Technology Integration into Columbia's Curriculum

Keyboards are a part of everyday life for most of us. Essential to our jobs and access to the internet, we depend on all types of keyboards: virtual keyboards, comfortable keyboards, ergo dynamic keyboards and a weird keyboard entitled Franken keyboard. Most of the keyboards in use today use the QWERTY letter arrangement. Although it seems strange when you first begin to type, you soon get used to the arrangement of the letters on the QWERTY keyboard and learn to overcome your initial doubts.

In much the same way, the use of the internet and computers initially seemed strange in education and people were not sure how to use it to benefit our students. Through the use of the internet Columbia School District teachers are able to open up the world to our students. In our English courses teachers assign blogging to their students. Sometimes a student will blog and other students give feedback and comment on the blog entry. Even our first grade students use blogging to help develop their writing skills.

Other classrooms use the power of the internet to do research with up to date information. When most of us were in school we used sources that were several years old to do our research. Students today have the opportunity to read research that has just been released.

Our middle school students are using Chromebooks in various classes to increase their ability to compete in a 21st Century learning environment. They are experiencing technology integrated directly into the curriculum. Social studies class provides an excellent example of technology integration into the curriculum. Earlier this year students in middle school social studies were researching early American history beginning with the 13 Colonies. Each student had to use internet resources to research one of the 13 Colonies, report on the demographics and events that happened during that time. They created a web page to report their findings to their teachers and fellow classmates.

Early in their student careers, our preschool students have the opportunity to become acquainted with technology in the form of iPads. The students use the iPads and special preschool apps to practice their alphabet complete with sounds. They also work on learning their numbers. In addition, there are apps that help students grasp the concepts of matching, patterning, adding and subtraction.

As part of our Bond Issue Projects the Columbia School District is expanding our technology infrastructure and ability to offer our students the best in technology integration. As we move into the next year, our technology coordination team will begin installing the updated infrastructure, ordering additional devices and installing additional wireless access points. We are all very excited about the updated technology because our teachers and students will benefit greatly.

If you would like to learn more about Columbia School District or our programs, please call me at 5175926641 or email me at .

Sunday, June 1, 2014

STEM Options for Summer Learning Opportunities!

School will be over in a couple of weeks and during the summer many of us will load our children into the car and go on vacation. The trip in the car gives you a great chance to work on your child’s math skills and keep them occupied all at the same time!

Work on their math computation skills. Fill a plastic bag with pennies and give them out as your children answer math questions correctly. If they answer incorrectly, you may want to take a penny back from your child. If you have children on different levels, you may alternate the difficulty of the questions with the children. Beyond asking questions such as ‘6+4= what,” you can make longer math sentences filled with addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.

Work on clock math. Ask your children questions based upon the question, “when are we going to get there?” The question would be phrased similar to, “It is 5:49, what time will it be in 27 minutes?” You may want to give out pennies for correct answers during the clock math “game.”

Work on graphing. While playing the license plate game, graph the results. A favorite type for the license plate game would be a bar graph. You may choose to graph the results by player, remember you can play too, or graph the results by state.

Build their basic algebraic skills. Talk about the ratio of miles per hour, miles per minute and how to compute gas mileage. On some maps the exits are indicated by “mile markers” so you can teach your children how to figure out the answer to “how long will it take,” based upon the rate of speed you are traveling. The math games will help to teach your children that math is fun and it is all around us. As you travel the games will help keep your children occupied as they earn “spending money” for the next rest stop.

If you are not planning a vacation this summer, you may want to have your child participate in a summer activity at Columbia Schools. Below are two options:

Columbia Advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) Academy has been designed to give middle school students an opportunity to experience a unique hands-on curriculum this summer. Students will be challenged to increase their academic abilities and earn high school Algebra and Physical Science credits and/or Geometry and Physical Science credits, thereby giving them an accelerated placement when they enter Columbia Central High School. Duration of the Program: June 16th – July 1st and July 7th through August 7th (Monday – Thursday)

Columbia Middle School Leaders In Training Program will use team building strategies to assist struggling students build a sense of camaraderie with their peers. Additionally, the students will build a sense of self confidence and accomplishment that will lead to a greater self-esteem. The students will work together increasing their skills both in and outside of the classroom to increase their level of success. During the four week time period students will participate in challenge-by-choice strategies including: learning through a low-ropes facilitated team-building course, increasing their self-image on the high-ropes course, conquering a forty-foot climbing tower and time for reflection and discussion. The students will also work through basic study skill strategies and character development training to help insure a greater level of academic success next fall. Duration of the Program: August 5th -21st (Tuesday – Thursday).
If you are interested in learning more about our summer programs, please call Mrs. O’Neil at Columbia Middle School 5922181, email her at or email me at .

Friday, May 23, 2014

Congratulations to Our Seniors!

When my boys were young they were excited to play with blocks. As they matured and gained greater dexterity, they began playing with Lego’s and other types of toys to build structures, vehicles and machines. Sometimes they would begin with a single block and then build wider and wider structures until they toppled over. However, when they built a structure with a wide base of support, they were successful in building amazing buildings, towering over the little Lego figures.

In much the same way our children must gain a wide base of learning to build on as they grow. Children who begin with a basic understanding of their multiplication facts and work to broaden their understanding through practice will be successful when they have to recall those basic facts. The same idea holds true in all of their subjects. It is important for our young children to begin reading each day so that when they are in middle school and high school they have the necessary skills to successfully complete their assignments.

Last evening I had the chance to see the results of a good learning foundation and how it affects our students as they grow and mature towards graduation by attending our Honors and Awards ceremony. Many students in the Class of 2014 have worked diligently over the years to earn high grades and a solid educational base. Our Top Twelve seniors are: Scott McCormick, Erik Gammon, Mark (Gus) Schissler Jr., Madalyn Holzapfel, Zachary Taylor, Kristina Howland, Westin Lane, Connor Sullivan, Collin Skonieski, Carly Petersen, Alexandria Huddleston, and Katherine McLaury. In addition to our Top Twelve seniors, there were 41 additional seniors awarded with a designation of Highest Honors and Honors.

One by one the students received honors, awards and thousands of dollars in scholarships for their outstanding achievement in academics, service and athletics. Many of the students exhibited a breadth of ability in their achievements. Eight students were awarded with the designation of earning the Lenawee County Athletic Association’s Academic All Conference Award. They were Alexandria Huddleston, Joshua Leppert, Katherine McLaury, Monica Messerly, Madelyn Ostrander, Payge Reed, Connor Sullivan, Zach Taylor and Nicole Yonkers. One student, Shelby Smith, received an award for her membership in the Jackson Area Career Center National Technical Honor Society. Congratulations to all of our students who received honors, awards and scholarships.

Many of our seniors started their academic journey in the Columbia Elementary preschool or in our kindergarten. These wonderful students began as young children intentionally building a solid foundation of learning and understanding. Their focused learning has resulted in a successful tenure at Columbia Schools. If you would like to have your child begin their education by attending our preschool, Early 5’s program, or kindergarten, please call us at 5175926641 or email me at

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Clipping Coupons and More!

One of my friends was frantically searching for specific coupons and her scissors were zipping along the dotted lines in the newspaper. Clipping coupons is a past-time for many households: Big coupons, small coupons, coupons with special requirements, coupons worth 25 cents and coupons worth one dollar are clipped. We clip the coupons to save money while purchasing items we need or items we want to try.

Everyone wants to get the most out of their money and Columbia School District is no exception. As we proceed through the bond projects we will carefully analyze each and every aspect of the project to ensure it will benefit our students and our community. The basic guide to our projects is the original State of Michigan Treasury document that outlines the bond based upon our facilities analysis that was completed last spring and summer.

During the Bond Issue campaign we used the slogan: Safe, Warm, Dry and Smart. This summer our projects will include elements of: Safe, Dry and Smart.

Safe projects to be completed this summer include: (1) The bus drive east of the middle school will come up and terminate in a bus parking area at the east end of the current CMS/CES parking area. (2) The parent drop off loop will go from west to east along School Street between the elementary and middle school. (3) The parent drop off loop will also contain a parking area for preschool parents and visitors. (4) There will be a new parking area for elementary parents and staff members at the west end of the elementary school. This parking lot will eliminate the need for parents and children to cross School Street. (5) The parking lot west of the middle school will become parent and staff parking for the middle school to eliminate the need for parents and students to cross School Street. (6) The gravel parking lot west of the middle school will be upgraded. (7) The Columbia Middle School campus, which will become an area for third through sixth graders in the fall of 2015, will receive a new playground, improved fencing, and upgraded walking path around the football field. (8) The Columbia Elementary playground will receive an upgraded walking path. (9) There will be new lighting for the parent drop off area between the middle and elementary schools. (10) There will be two additional fire hydrants on the CMS/CES campus.

The Dry projects for the summer of 2015 include new roofs, gutters and flashing for Columbia Central High School, Columbia Middle School, Columbia Elementary School and Columbia Options High School.

Smart projects include: (1) The purchase of several carts of Chromebooks for CCHS and CMS students and an additional iPad cart for CES. The carts will have wireless access points that will later be used during the upgrading of the wireless infrastructure at CCHS, CMS and CES. (2) The relocation of the CCHS Presentation Lab computers to the current Media Center Lab, and the relocation of the Media Center computers to the south end of the Media Center.

At this point the bid package for fall 2014 projects, which will go out to bid early this summer, will include Smart and Safe renovations: (1) The south wing of Columbia Central High School (the old shop wing) will be renovated to accommodate seventh and eighth grade students in the fall of 2015. (2) There will be initial wiring for upgraded technology. (3) There will be a bid for the separation of bus, parent and student traffic at CCHS.

At this time we are planning for the balance of the projects will go out to bid in approximately January of 2015 and will feature Warm, Safe, Dry and Smart elements including: new heating and cooling for all educational facilities, renovation of all educational facilities, upgrading the technology infrastructure at all buildings, addition of locker rooms for seventh and eighth grade students at CCHS, upgraded parking facilities at CCHS and Options High School, and the balance of projects included in the bond issue.

As we go through the renovation improvement process we will continue to have Facility Improvement Team meetings during which we will give updates regarding the progression of the projects. The meetings will be advertised on our website, the Columbia School District Facebook and the Restore the Soar Facebook page. Elements of the project will be outlined on the Restore the Soar Facebook page and the projects webpage. There will also be updates given at our monthly school board meetings, which are on the second Monday of each month in the Community Room of CCHS at 7 pm.

If you have any questions or would like to know how to register your child for one of our great Columbia Schools, please call me at 5175926641 or email me at

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Improving Our Environments!

Over the past week or so home improvement stores have been buzzing with business, selling flowers, bushes, decorative mulch and yard tools. Our friends and neighbors are doing their best to rake, shovel and trim their yards into shape. Today on a visit to my son’s house, he shared with me all he had done to clean up his yard. While we were looking at his yard, the neighbors were digging up sod to put in a new patio and his other neighbors were trimming their trees. Why are all of us working on our yards? It is because we take pride in our environments.

In much the same way, Columbia School District is working to improve the appearance of our schools through the Bond Issue projects. Working with Granger Construction Management and Kingscott Architects, Columbia School District bond committees have structured this summer’s emphasis to be at the middle and elementary school campus. While all of the schools will get new roofs this summer, the majority of the improvements will take place in Brooklyn at Columbia Middle and Elementary Schools.

Teachers and administrators met with design representatives from Kingscott to develop plans for the improvements on the inside of the schools. After hours and hours of planning, the Kingscott design architects have put together plans for both Columbia Elementary and Middle Schools. The designs for Columbia Central High School and Options High School are due to be finished in the next couple of weeks. Community members will have an opportunity to review the plans at the next Facility Improvement Team meeting on May 20th in the Community Room at Columbia Central High School.

It is an exciting time to be a Golden Eagle! Our planning for improvements to our schools is beginning to happen. Please join us as we continue to plan and work towards positive changes to our students’ learning environments! If you have questions, please email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

We Have Great Teachers & Staff Members!

This week is Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week in the Columbia School District and in schools across the country. The Columbia School District teachers and staff work hard to instill a love for learning in our students. They work to provide learning activities for our smallest children in preschool to our high school seniors who are actively engaged in determining whether to take a step towards college or careers. They are concerned with the well-being of our students. Our teachers teach with courage and vision challenging students to do their best and become life-long learners. The teachers are patient and support students as they work together through cooperative learning and problem solving activities.

Teaching is an important profession. Columbia School District has a host of great teachers who dedicate their lives to raising the knowledge level of their students. Our teachers arrive each morning with an enthusiasm for learning and a readiness to be attentive to the needs of their students.

Our staff members are adept at providing educational assistance for our students. The learning environment of our students includes tutoring, administrative assistance, helpful custodians, and food service support. The commitment of our teachers and staff members comes with a diligence to strive for excellence in the education of our students.

Columbia School District teachers and staff members are committed to securing a bright future for our students. Over the years our teachers and staff members caring attitude and nurturing spirit has increased the success rate of our students. If you have a chance to stop by a classroom please show your appreciation to your child’s teacher. Take an opportunity to say “Thank you!” in gratitude to the teachers and staff of their genuine support of student learning. Columbia Schools are a Great Place to Learn!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Columbia School District Administrative Assistants Are The Best!

Columbia School District has many wonderful, helpful, cheerful people in our organization. Since this is administrative professional’s week, I would like to introduce you to five very wonderful people who make Columbia Schools special. Ann Dyjach is the administrative assistant to the superintendent and the Board of Education. Ann has worked in the district for 24 years. She began subbing for secretaries and aides throughout the district. Her favorite thing about her job is talking to people and helping them. She loves the versatility and doing so many different things each day. When talking to her about the district she always talks about how much she likes the students. Just ask any of the students and they will tell you that she has a secret stash of candy that she keeps just for them!

At Columbia Elementary School the administrative assistant is Lori Hunter. She is the first person our parents and staff members see when they walk into the office. Her pleasant demeanor is reassuring to parents of ill children and teachers who need some support. Lori Hunter has worked for the Columbia School District for almost 16 years. She told me, “I enjoy working for Columbia School District because of the small community. Over the years I have developed sincere relationships with students and families across the district.” She continued by saying, “I have the best job!!! In what working environment can you receive so much love every single day? I adore all the hugs that I receive in a day. The students at CES are the best. They are kind and respectable. I am so blessed to work with a group of amazing teachers, staff and the best Principal ever!!” One thing is evident to anyone who sees Lori work with children; she exhibits a loving caring spirit to all!

Parents who call over to Columbia Middle School have the pleasure of speaking with Monika Cook. Although this is her first year as the administrative assistant, she has worked for the district as the ABC room aide. She enjoys working with parents, students and teachers. Her pleasant smile and easy going manner helps put even new students at ease. We are pleased to have Monika in the office at Columbia Middle School.

A fixture at Columbia Options High School is Jeanne Meinka. Her cheerful smile and nurturing demeanor is positive for students and staff. She has been with Columbia School District 29 Years, the last 26 working with Columbia Option High School students. When I asked her how she liked her position at Columbia Options High School, she said, “I like working with and watching the alternative students grow and change their attitude about learning. I love to inspire them so that can be whatever they desire to do if we build confidence in each one of them. She continued by saying that, “Encouragement is the key to most all things: Educations, sports and life.”

At Columbia Central High School we have the dynamic duo: Lana Lakin and Debbie Russell! Lana joined the high school staff over Christmas break. While it has been a whirl-wind experience getting into the swing of the high school office area, she finds it very rewarding working with the students. If she can lend a listening ear and offer any encouragement to better their day that is her reward. Students appreciate her calm demeanor and helpful assistance when they are in need.

When students think of Debbie Russell, they think of her quick smile and laugh. After working for the Columbia School District for 22 years, she still enjoys her job. She said, “I like a lot of things about Columbia Schools but my favorite is the students. My husband and I moved to this community in 1979, my children all graduated from Columbia Central High School, I have seen a lot of changes to this community and district and I’m very proud to be a part of the Columbia family.”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Talented Students at Columbia!

Columbia School District students come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. While most of us were enjoying Spring Break, Sophe Stahl wrestled her way to Second Place in the Women’s National Wrestling Tournament in Oklahoma City. This week Ryan Adams and Ashleigh Shay were named by the Jackson Citizen Patriot as some of the best high school basketball players in the Jackson area. Sophe, Ryan, and Ashleigh are only two of Columbia’s very talented students.

This week many of our fourth through twelfth grade students will decide to “join” the Circus of the Kids. This activity gives our students an opportunity to build their self-esteem, develop new skills and explore the world of performance. Much like the “Circus of the Stars” Circus of the Kids trains the performers through rigorous practice sessions over a short period of time. Our students began on Monday and will give their first performance next week, ending with a final performance on Sunday, April 27th at 2 pm in the Columbia Central High School gymnasium.

Last year’s performers had the opportunity to execute trapeze stunts, scarf and rope tricks, do acrobatics on the mini tramp, eat fire and balance on giant balls. Other students experienced success in juggling, hula hooping tricks, and performing as the Mistress of the Ring.

The Circus of the Kids began in 1982 and has included over 500,000 children from across the United States in the performances. Last year was the first time they had worked with Columbia School District students. The Circus of the Kids gives the students an opportunity to learn how to take steps to improve their persistence and resolve. The students learn their activities through a special blend of exercise, skill building and camaraderie. Many of the techniques they use to help train the students transfer into the classroom or onto the playing field.

Include the Circus of the Kids in your plans next week. You will be amazed by our students as they participate this great activity. If you have questions about Columbia School District or one of our many successful programs, please email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Learning About the English Language Arts Common Core Standards

This is part three in a three part series describing the Common Core Standards. In part one I discussed that the word “common” means we have a common goal and will use common language. However, we will not be lock-step with other schools across the country and the curriculums we use to accomplish our goals under the Common Core Standards will be individualized to our students and their needs.

In part two of this series, I discussed the math standards and in this third part, I will describe the English Language Arts (ELA) Standards, which are structured differently than the math standards. Jennifer Fox, Jackson County Intermediate School District Curriculum Consultant, said that the shift to the Common Core standards “represent the shifting of necessary skills over time through societal demands.” These standards focus on reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language strands.

Students are learning to read and understand more non-fiction through lessons that focus on locating evidence in the text to help them ground their thinking about a piece of literature. For example, rather than simply reading a book, taking a test over the book, then moving on to the next book, teachers tie literature together by relating one book to another. Because text complexity is an important aspect of reading which will help students to develop a deeper comprehension, Mrs. Dagenais, Columbia Middle School ELA teacher, is having her students to complete cycles of reading and then writing their reflections, then repeating the cycle. The cycles help students gain a deeper comprehension. She also said that she emphasizes “supporting the reflections with evidence from the text.” She teams with the science and social studies teachers to have her students complete at least one writing piece.

The literacy standards require students to integrate technology and digital resources with writing. Our first graders in Mrs. Hawkins class at Columbia Elementary School are using the Story Bird website to produce blogs and satisfy the standard which says, “Use technology, including internet, to produce and publish writing, and to interact and collaborate with others.” She commented by saying that she “can use this site to post private notes to my students about their writing and that family members may also comment on their child’s writing.” She added that her “students can go home, sign on to the blog, read and comment on other students work.” Mrs. Hawkins feels that by blogging, “it is a great way to collaborate and the kids are so excited to hear what someone other than their teacher has to say about their writing!” By using technology students will learn the strengths and weaknesses of different technological tools and know which one will work the best as they complete tasks in the future.

Mrs. Hawkins students are also working on the standard which says, “Write routinely over extended and shorter time frames for a range of tasks, purposes and audiences.” Mrs. Hawkins says that her “students will most likely communicate with their audiences primarily through the internet or text. They are much more comfortable with a tablet and stylus than a pencil and paper.” In this way they are being prepared for both college and career. She commented that “allowing them multiple options for writing provides more opportunities to find a form of writing that really connect to.” 

When moving from grade to grade students are expected to accomplish the standards, review and reuse the ELA skills and techniques they reached in earlier grades, then progress onto the future standards. Mrs. Schmidt, an ELA teacher at Columbia Middle School said that, “The beautiful thing about teaching ELA is that many, many standards are incorporated into one unit by writing an argument piece.” For example, she relates that her “students will learn how to locate and interpret credible research, formulate an argument and support both sides of the issue, demonstrate proper citation, write in MLA format and present in class. This extended unit incorporates many standards from speaking and listening, reading informational text, and writing standards from Common Core standards.”

If you have questions regarding Columbia School District, please call me at 5175926641 or email me at