Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Independence Update, March 2016

The Clarkston Community Schools' Board of Education has been consulting with an engineering and architectural firm to determine the district's short and long-term needs relative to facilities, safety, and technology. The assessment of needs included discussions with several community groups, teachers and support staff from each building, parents, and a community survey. At their March meeting, the Board of Education received a recommendation from the engineering and architectural firm to take into consideration a no millage rate increase bond that can raise $75 million to address these needs. The board decided to conduct another community survey and to hold a public hearing on April 18 at CHS to receive additional community input on this matter.

Please take advantage in the next weeks and months to offer your feedback. It is vitally important that we hear from you. The school system is here to serve our community.

The school district is also working to increase the amount of time that our students spend in elementary art and music classes, along with expanding Spanish instruction. We feel that this is very important for all of our learners.

Our secondary schools, including SMS, CJHS, CHS, and RHS, have undertaken a whole child study. Here, we seek to ensure that each child is healthy, safe, supported, challenged, and engaged at school. We feel that additional counselors and home-room time can help in these areas. We will continue to examine these ideas, including a student and teacher survey, and to discuss them with the Board of Education.

The school district has again applied for federal E-RATE funds to help us improve wireless Internet coverage in the district. These efforts provide great savings to our school district and point to our continued fiscal responsibility.

CCS wishes to congratulate Mrs. Patricia Carter, a CHS teacher, who recently received a Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission Award for promoting safe driving for teens in our community. She received the award at a luncheon in Lansing. Congratulations to Mrs. Carter and thank you for all that she does for kids.

Congratulations also to Clarkston’s bands, orchestras, and choral groups for their excellent achievements at festival. Our winter sports season has come to a close, with several of our teams advancing through conference, district, regional, and state finals competitions. Many of our students achieved academic and athletic awards, including Jacob Kersten, a member of CHS’s regional championship bowling team, who achieved a 4.05 grade point average and a bowling scholarship to Wichita State University in Kansas.

Lastly, we celebrate the achievements of Team RUSH Robotics, who won a district championship and garnered several design awards, and student members of our Business Professionals of America and Future Problem Solving teams who won state championships and qualified for international competitions.

Our students achieve at the highest levels. Thanks to our coaches, conductors, parents, students, and community members for all that you do to make these achievements possible.

Have a safe and restful spring break.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kevin Bickerstaff: A Life and Legacy

3-6-15 Clarkston News Column

This week, The Clarkston Community Schools’ Director of Transportation, Mr. Kevin Bickerstaff, will serve his last day on the job. In 1975, when he started, Clarkston was a much smaller and different place. Many of our schools had not been built, several subdivisions were farm fields or wooded areas, and some of our main roads were not yet paved.

Today, nearly 4,500 students will ride our buses to and from the district’s 12 schools. Before most of them awaken to start their days, Kevin will have already put in several hours, clearing snow off of the hoods of buses, plowing snow from the parking lots, and warming up 55 buses so that seats are warm when students climb on board. As the last bus returns to the garage from dropping kids off for an away basketball game or a track meet, Kevin will turn out the lights and head home, confident that every child and bus driver is safe.

Over his 40 years of service to The Clarkston Community Schools (and long before as he grew up and attended school in Clarkston), Kevin has made countless connections with students, district employees, and parents. He possesses memories of superintendents, teachers, bus drivers, and kids that date back generations.

In the year 2016, our students encounter new information, constantly. To learn and make sense of this information, they must connect it to previous knowledge and integrate it with their experiences.

As a child, student, young person working on his uncle’s farm in Sault Sainte Marie, mechanic, bus driver, and transportation director, Kevin connected knowledge and experience into tremendous skills and relationships that allowed him to do his job with amazing precision and excellence. He did this by naming and noticing, asking questions, listening, practicing, focusing on learning over work, caring about people, and by utilizing a growth mindset.

Few among us will in our careers work for 40 years for a single employer. Regardless, all of us in Clarkston have the good fortunate of having a role model in Kevin Bickerstaff who both did his work well and became synonymous with it. The connections he has made here will influence all of us today and for many generations into the future.

Thank you, Kevin, for all that you have given us, and best wishes to you in your retirement.