By Megan Kelley
LAKE ORION — Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education and administrators have spent the last year creating a new strategic plan to help guide the district forward over the next five years.
Since approving the strategic plan at the April 27 meeting, district officials have been working to reach goals in five main focus areas: Academics and Programs, Communications and Community Engagement, Operations, Learning Environment and Culture and Personnel and Leadership.
As LOCS works to fulfill these long-term goals, they have established a set of first year goals that will carry the district through the 2022-23 school year.
Each of these areas has their own goal statement and subsequent points of interest to aid in reaching the main goal of the focus area.
1. Academics and Programs
Goal statement: “Lake Orion Community Schools will increase opportunities and flexibility for all Dragons.”
This focus area includes: enrichment, scheduling, partnerships, curriculum, world skills and technology.
The district wants to increase the number of enrichment opportunities at the elementary and middle school levels, beginning at the start of the school year. Each school building will assess current opportunities in those facilities.
Additionally, district Enrichment Services Supervisor Lori McGraw is looking to re-implement mini-camps during some non-school days and half days.
The district plans to increase the number of flexible scheduling options for students at the high school beginning this fall.
The key part of this is making sure students understand all of their scheduling options before scheduling for the following year’s classes begins.
LOCS hopes to increase their number of community partnerships and expand their network with college and career advisory groups. A meeting regarding this has been scheduled.
Some initiatives have already been identified, such as the K-12 English Language Arts (ELA), math and science programs. Additionally, the district will review their K-12 sex education curriculum.
The district will also review executive functioning skills and determine the best way to implement those.
Representatives at the middle level will review Project STAIR, a program focusing on student’s individual algebra skills, to help students with disabilities or difficulties in that area.
It is expected that instructional coaches will return the week before school begins to help identify other initiatives.
d. World Skills
Work to provide programming that reflects current world skills is expected to begin at the start of the school year to ensure career readiness is aligned in K-12 education.
Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Heidi Mercer said different expectations have been put forward by the state and by the Intermediate School District to make sure younger students know their career options, and then continue to build on that foundation as they get older.
LOCS also plans to showcase leadership and industry skills that students can obtain by joining a career and technical student organization.
District officials are looking to utilize new technology in the district to enhance instruction and student achievement.
Staff at all three middle schools and Stadium Drive Elementary are expected to participate in professional development for interactive flat panels and audio enhancement next week.
This means that every school in the district, with the exception of Blanche Sims which is expected to be completed next fall, will have interactive flat panels and audio enhancements in all of their classrooms.
LOCS is also looking to add two additional positions in the technology department to continue to support technology district wide.
District officials have been meeting with other potential technology providers.
“For the past several years we have been with Oakland Schools. We are looking just to see what other vendors may be able to provide us,” Mercer said.
Additionally, the district is expected to explore PD and do added research into the latest assistive technology for special needs students.
2. Learning Environment and Culture
Goal Statement: “Lake Orion Community Schools will provide a learning environment where all students and staff feel safe, supported, honored and respected.”
a. Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
CASEL and SARA Project framework that were implemented last year are expected to continue.
General education social workers have been added and programming has been revised to include these employees. It is expected that as district Family Service Coordinators leave the district or retire, they will be replaced by general education social workers.
The district is looking to enhance the high schools ‘Sources of Strength’ program.
LOCS has had 82 staff members trained in threat assessment and suicide assessment, and a case manager system will be implemented when school begins.
“Basically, all of the threats will be in one main system so we’ll be able to accurately track that information,” Mercer said. “All of the social workers, all of the psychologists, all of the administrators, counselors, FSC’s, all of those were trained last year and now that same group will be trained on the case manager (system).”
b. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
With the departure of Michelle Cureton, the district’s DEI Coordinator, LOCS is anticipating moving to a coordinator-by-level system and plans on meeting with the coordinators to review the upcoming year’s DEI plan.
Monthly themes are expected to continue and district staff will continue their book study from last year.
‘Ready for Rigor’ framework will also be implemented by instructional staff with individualized development plans.
c. Mental Health
The district will make steps to support the mental health of their staff members by enhancing the WHIL app to provide emotional support and will renew the Employee Assistance Program.
“You may recall we dropped an EAP probably five years ago and the reason for that was the lack of utilization,” said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rick Arnett. “We’re finding, currently, that we’re having great success with EAP, we’re getting utilization from that.”
Health Alliance Plan information will continue to be distributed to staff.
LOCS has expanded their Wellbeing Committee with plans for specific fall activities like Move It Monday, the Top Chef Challenge and Focus On Financial.
d. Individualized Instruction
LOCS has implemented a Student Service Coordinator to review data and revise at-risk programming at the elementary level including the Multiple Tiered Support System (MTSS).
Tutoring programs are expected to return in the fall of 2022.
The Michigan Integrated Continuous Improvement Process goals have been established and entered into the district system.
An English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement program is being offered to teachers. Currently, six teachers have completed or began the program requirements.
Additionally, special education staff and bus aides will participate in professional development on disability awareness and support.
e. Learning Environment
The district is collecting data and conducting research to improve student attendance.
“I don’t want to give the impression that our student attendance is horrible. Our student attendance is actually really good. However, it has taken a dip over the past couple of years,” Mercer said. “So, we’re taking a look at that and studying the data behind it and what the research is saying behind attendance.”
It has become clear to the district that there are more grandparents within the district who are raising students than there have been in the past. Because of this, plans are being made to create support groups for those grandparents.
LOCS will start requiring teachers to give a student survey to gain additional feedback on their content area and instructional practices.
Materials for the new mindfulness course at the high school have been ordered and received. The course, being taught by Stephanie Harris, was highly popular among the high school students, with Mercer saying they could have filled Harris’ entire teaching schedule with the course.
All six elementaries are now a part of the Positivity Project.
The district is expected to develop protocols for potential international travel opportunities. Board secretary Steve Drakos was the lone board member to voice concerns about international travel. According to Arnett, LOCS is one of the few area schools that currently does not offer international travel opportunities to students.
f. Professional Development
Multiple professional development opportunities were offered over the summer and an additional PD plan will be implemented once school begins.
The district is also expected to revisit the middle school standards-based grading.
See next week’s Lake Orion Review for the second half of the district’s first-year strategic plan objectives, which will include Communications & Community Engagement, Operations and Personnel & Leadership.
By Megan Kelley