Educationally Speaking is an Oakland Schools Intermediate School District broadcast which focuses on important topics related to education in Oakland County, MI.
This is the second part of our series where we are interviewing Oakland Schools' employees who are helping out their communities. In the second segment, we will talk about two of our Oakland Schools' staff who are on the frontlines working to help those in need of food and shelter.
Lori Adkins, Oakland Schools Nutrition Consultant
Sara Orris, Oakland Schools Homeless Services Consultant
- Oakland Schools
- Oakland Schools Community Resources
- Meet Up and Eat Up
- Michigan Department of Education
- My COVID Response
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
>> Hello. Welcome to "Educationally Speaking". My name is Sarah Davis, and I'm a Communications Specialist with Oakland Schools, and the host of this podcast. The goal of "Educationally Speaking" is to focus on important topics related to education, here in Oakland County, Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in. This is the second part of our series where we are interviewing Oakland Schools employees who are helping out their communities. Food and housing insecurities for our students are always something we're concerned about here at Oakland Schools. And we dedicate staff year round, provide assistance in these areas. But the COVID-19 pandemic has brought these issues even more to the forefront. In the second segment, we will talk about two of our Oakland Schools staff who are on the frontlines working to help those in need of food and shelter. We are here with Lori Adkins, our Oakland Schools Nutrition Consultant. Lori is a national speaker on all things related to childhood nutrition, and was recently elected as vice president of the School Nutrition Association. Lori, congrats to you on your recent election. We're so proud to have someone from Oakland Schools representing us on a national level on such an important topic such as childhood nutrition.
>> Well, thank you for having me, Sarah.
>> So one of the first issues that came up when Governor Whitmer announced that schools will be closing is the realization that there were going to be thousands of students who no longer had regular access to meals. Can you talk a little bit about what impact schools closing had on local children as it relates to childhood nutrition?
>> Well, just to give you a scope of need, about 51% of Michigan students are eligible for free and reduced meals. And in Oakland County that number is about 30%. So on a typical day when school is in session, Oakland County Food Service Program serves about 100,000 lunch and breakfast meals to kids daily. So when the school closings happened as a result of COVID-19, school food service programs they knew they had to act fast to ensure that our food safety net was in place for kids. So we know that anytime when school is closed, schools -- student access to school meals is cut off. So the unanticipated school closure or the USC Summer Food Service Program was a newly authorized emergency food program from the USDA in response to COVID-19. So MDE oversees the program, and it's administered by local districts. So the regular summer food service program, just to give you a by comparison, it traditionally allows students to show up at service sites, and consume the meal onsite, regardless of their eligibility. And the new emergency summer food service program meals are served to kids regardless of their eligibility, and in addition to this, the new program allows parents to pick up multiple meals at one time to take home to their kids. So serving multiple meals on one day it really helps to reduce the number of times that families have to leave their home during the pandemic to get food.
>> Yes; that's -- it's a pretty amazing program. And just those numbers you were mentioning, I mean, that's a huge amount of children affected. Yet it seems like almost as soon as word was given from the governor that schools were closed, there was an immediate local response. Can you talk about what was done?
>> Well, you're right, Sarah, the schools responded quickly and pivoted quickly from the National School Lunch Program to the new unanticipated school closure program. And they did this literally in 72 hours. So just to give you a bit of background, on March 11th the governor declared this -- a state of emergency in our state as a result of COVID-19. The evening of March 12th the governor announced a three-week closure of schools. And then the very next day on Friday, March 13th, Michigan Department of Education held a virtual town hall meeting for school superintendents, and food service directors, on how they can continue to feed kids under the new unanticipated school closure summer food service program. So many districts immediately went into action. And they prepared meals over that weekend so that kids wouldn't miss a meal on Monday. So since then, I'll tell you, Oakland County schools have served over 1.4 million meals in just March and April alone. And that doesn't include May.
>> Wow, that's amazing. And that turnaround, I mean, talk about, you know, just stepping up to the plate right away.
>> Yes; and you might be wondering too how Michigan was able to respond so quickly to this crisis, and it's because we've had these crises before. And this seems like eons ago, but remember last year's polar vortex?
>> As a result of that, schools were unexpectedly closed for a number of days, then it required schools to take emergency action for meals then. So to prepare for future crisis, MDE held trainings back in November, which many of our school districts attended, to prepare them to participate in an unanticipated school food closure program, should an emergency occur in the future. So schools were trained, they were prepared, and they swiftly took their current systems and changed them up to meet the emergency demand of this new program. So right now all 28 local districts are participating in the unanticipated summer food service program. And they are providing meals through the last scheduled day of the school year.
>> Amazing. Where can students be served this food? And I think each district has a site, if that's correct.
>> And what does it look like for interested families?
>> Well, that's a great question. We actually have over 110 sites in Oakland County school sites that families can pick up meals at. So districts have implemented a variety of service models, which really focus on social distancing, to safely distribute the meals, and to, you know, get the food to families safely. So some things that districts are doing are drive-through pickup style. So that's where parents will drive up to a location, typically a school building parking lot, to pick up meals and bring them home. And some schools are -- have recruited the help of bus drivers, and they're using school buses to deliver meals to -- along bus routes, and they're meeting parents at the bus stops and distributing meals that way. Some districts are doing a preorder system, where parents are going online and using Google Docs and Google Sheets, and preordering meals, and then they pick them up right from a specific location. And most districts -- or if not all districts are providing both breakfast and lunch meals. And some districts are even providing home delivery service for those kids with families that don't have a vehicle, or don't have access to a car to drive to a location. So some school counselors and some of the districts have been delivering meals directly to needy students that way, too. So the food that's served is our typical school fare that we have; and it's wonderful. And their breakfast items include cold food items like bowl-pack cereal, wrapped bagels, mini-pancakes, whole-grain pastries, and of course a lot of fresh fruit, cheese sticks, whole-grain crackers, that kind of thing. And then for lunch school districts have been leaning more into individually-wrapped items, because that's the most convenient thing to package and send home; so things like burritos, individually-wrapped pizzas. And some districts have even gotten into preparing macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti and meat sauce, and tacos, and other things like that as -- and they provide heating instructions for those foods that are, of course, sent home cold, for parents to heat up and serve once they get home. So individually-wrapped sandwiches, salads, those kinds of things are also being served as part of the meal plan. So districts are being creative really with the stack that they have on hand, so they utilize all the foods before anything would expire, you know, over the summer. But they're, you know, getting in a lot of fresh produce and a lot of nice menu varieties being offered to the kids through the program.
>> Yes; I know I have taken my kids a couple of times to receive the free lunches. And honestly when I left I was a little teary-eyed.
>> We went -- it was the Thursday before Easter, and so as you mentioned, they were giving away food, not only for that day, but for the weekend so that people had food for Easter weekend.
>> Plus each child pick a toy out, and they gave us candy-filled Easter eggs. And these women were outside, you know, with gloves and masks. It was a pull-up type situation; you just opened, you know, the trunk of your car and they put it all in there. But it was a cold, windy day, and I was just overcome with the generosity of the food program and those who are volunteering their time to make sure [inaudible]. It was really heartwarming.
>> Aw, well thanks for sharing that story. And yes, school food service professionals became essential workers overnight with this program. So the shift from serving meals in cafeteria lines to then providing multiple prepackaged meals delivered in an outdoor setting every day and really requires a deep bench of staff and volunteers. So not all food service staff is able to work right now because of -- perhaps due to healthcare constraints or even childcare issues. So not all food service staff could report to work and help. So volunteers have joined the food service staff and districts to help mobilize and sustain these programs. So the food service workers, the staff are heroes, because they've really put aside their own personal fears to show up and to make this program help others every day. And from -- and these folks are helping to prepare food in kitchens, they're helping packing and assembling meals in the larger cafeteria area, and then the meals are the following day passed out on school buses and in parking lots, and all that stuff. So that's where the work is happening. So the essential workers, they're essential because food is essential to the health and wellbeing of kids every day. So as they say, "Not all superheroes wear capes; some wear aprons." And that couldn't be truer for the volunteers and staff we have now. It's amazing that the front -- they're doing amazing work, the frontline staff. And they're true heroes. And they're truly critical to the infrastructure of our community, and our schools right now.
>> Yes, I completely agree with you.
>> So where can people find out more about this program; maybe where their local pickup site is at?
>> That's another great question. Thank you for asking. So there's a complete list of all Oakland County programs posted on the Oakland Schools resource page. And that's the Help and Community Resource page. And then there's also an online app called "Meet Up and Eat Up Site Locator". And this is an app that parents can use to find the nearest school meal site that's nearest to their homes. So you would enter in your zip code to find out where the closest site is. So you can access the site by texting the word "food", F O O D, to 877 dash 877. And the online app will pop up. You put in your zip code and then a virtual map will come up showing sites closest to your zip code. Also, that information is posted on the MDE website as well. And, you know, districts are also using social media platforms like crazy to get the word out about their programs. Districts have also posted their service schedule on their website, their child nutrition page, and they've even printed schedules that they pass down at distribution sites.
>> Okay; well this is truly a wonderful program. And you said it's going to continue through the end of summer, right, or is there --
>> Yes, the current -- the unanticipated summer food service program will go to the very last day of school. Some districts have opted to run it to the last day of June, which would be June 30th. But every district is a little bit different. Districts, according to the government -- governor's emergency order, are required to provide meals until the very last day of school. But again, some districts are continuing it past that. And then some districts qualify for the regular summer food service program. Districts that do the regular summer food service program have 50% or higher free and reduced eligibility during the school year. So not all buildings qualify for the summer -- regular summer program so -- but there's been a lot of folks signing up for that summer program this year. And I think we're going to see more programs than we ever have in the past. So more to come on that. We, our school nutrition association, and our state, MDE, has requested for additional waivers from USDA to allow districts to expand and maintain these programs moving forward this summer.
>> Excellent. Well, thank you for talking to us, Lori, about this. And I hope --
>> My pleasure. Thank you.
>> I hope to have you in the podcast again soon.
>> I would love that. Thank you, Sarah.
>> Yes; thank you. [Music] We are here right now with Sara Orris, Oakland Schools' Homeless Services Consultant. She works tirelessly all year long to ensure that students that find themselves in a homeless living situation have a seamless educational experience, working with the local districts to remove any barriers that may be prohibiting the homeless student from being able to attend and fully participate in any all school activities and experiences. Additionally, Sara has worked to forge partnerships with many community organizations, in order to ensure that families and students in Oakland County have easy access to basic needs such as food, shelter, and personal items as needs arise. Sara was recently instrumental in putting together an amazing partnership between Oakland Schools, Lighthouse, Gardner-White Furniture, Gleaners Food Bank, Oakland Community College, and Oakland University, where all of these organizations came together to help local families who are food insecure. Sara, thank you for being here on the podcast.
>> Thank you so much for having me.
>> No problem. I've been wanting to have you as a guest on here for quite some time, so I'm glad we could finally make this happen. Can you talk a little bit about how this partnership was formed?
>> Absolutely. Food insecurity is a major issue here in Oakland County. People are often shocked to hear that Oakland County has more than 65,000 students that qualify for free and reduced meals. And that's a ton of kids that rely on breakfast and lunch at school five days per week. And many of those same students receive meals from the districts that provide meals. You have programs such as Blessings in a Backpack, for weekend food and meals as well. Last year the 28 districts in Oakland County, as well as our charter schools, identified over 2500 homeless students. Those are just the students the districts know for certain didn't have a permanent place to call home. And that's just the drop in the bucket, as we know that there are many, many students that go unaccounted for; and all of those students often lack resources for food and other personal items. When we heard that the schools would possibly be closing their doors without much notice, I immediately reached out to our partners at Lighthouse and asked what they might be able to do to ensure that the students and families in Oakland County have access to emergency food. We knew that we would be -- need more food and resources than we typically need, so we needed to remove any barriers that we might find, including removing the barrier for the one time per month access to food, as well as expanding transportation needs that families might have, or removing those barriers, especially given the size of Oakland County. The Lighthouse team worked very quickly to stage a plan to increase the food and distribution capacity, in order to try and serve as many families as possible during this time of need.
>> That's pretty amazing. I'm sure there are many, many working parts to putting something like this together. Can you talk a little bit about what role each organization plays in this partnership?
>> Sure. Lighthouse was really instrumental in getting the collaborative effort together. This included getting Oakland University involved as a partner, and using the Oakland Center as a staging and packing area for food, using volunteers to deliver food, for those families that lack transportation, obtaining a grant from United Way to purchase additional food, contract -- contacting partners from other various parts of the county to use their locations as distribution sites and pickup locations, and then partnering with Gardner-White to pick up food boxes that have been packaged with food, and delivering them to the locations for pickup. Right now the staging sites and packing are done at OU and at Lighthouse in Pontiac, and then they are picked up by Gardner-White and delivered to the additional locations around the county. Oakland University and their COVID response team they currently have several hundred volunteers that help at various times packing the food boxes, loading them into the vehicles of volunteers, and then delivering the boxes. And then they, of course, have the delivery volunteers themselves that are dropping off at the homes. And they try and do this with no contact to ensure the safety for everybody and leaving the food on porches, or at doors for folks. And then additionally Lighthouse have volunteers and staff packing the boxes and then having them picked up by the Gardner-White trucks, and then delivering them to the Clarkston and Farmington Hills area.
>> Okay. Where are the distribution sites?
>> So right now the distribution sites food can be picked up at Lighthouse in Pontiac, Lighthouse in Clarkston, Saint David's Food Pantry in Southfield, and then [inaudible], Farmington Hills. We worked hard to try and find various locations around the county, so that folks would have less distance to travel if they're in, say, the western part of Oakland County. We try to disperse locations for less travel for families.
>> And so how many people have been served by this partnership so far, and how long do you plan to have it last for?
>> Well, between Lighthouse and Oakland University, approximately 500 -- 5,594 households have received food assistance in the last eight weeks or so. We are expecting it to last through June, but hopefully we will be able to continue it into the summer months. That's really going to be dependent on funding and the volunteer capacity.
>> That's really amazing, well over 5,000 families served. I'm glad to hear that so many people are being helped by this effort. And there was also recently a Facebook Live event held by Lighthouse to raise money for these causes, correct?
>> There was; and it was really amazing. They -- it was a huge success. It was a 12-hour live event that included performances by locally and nationally known artists and musicians, as well as interviews from various community partners and supporters. And the event raised $150,000 during their 12-hour campaign. And then additionally, Lighthouse has been running a HandUp campaign. And HandUp is similar to a GoFundMe, but it's specifically for nonprofit organizations that are fundraising for various efforts. And they have been running the HandUp campaign for about eight weeks, and so far they've raised over a million and a half dollars. And the money has been used for sheltering families and individuals in the county, housing needs, as we see folks may become evicted with the pandemic and job loss; utility assistance, food assistance, and other basic needs that we may see arise during the pandemic.
>> Well, all I can say is, "Great job." The impacts of these efforts are obviously far-reaching. Oakland Schools is lucky to have people like you on the frontlines helping those most in need.
>> Thank you so much for having me on the show. I'm really glad to come and talk to you and share the information, and the work that's being done around Oakland County to serve the families in need. And if people want to learn more about food distribution or they're in need of resources, they can go to lighthousemi.org, or they can call 248-600-9541, or they can also go to mycovidresponse.org. Any of those avenues will get them connected to resources, and they can request assistance or other basic needs.
>> Okay, great; and we'll put that in our [inaudible] as well so when people listen to this they can refer to the notes and get that information as well. This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools Intermediate School District's Communication Services, and produced by Media Production in Distance Learning Manager, Mark Hanson [assumed spelling]. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel which are better delivered regionally and provide cost, size, and quality advantages to those we serve. You can find out more information on Oakland Schools are oakland.k12.mi.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find this and future episodes of "Educationally Speaking" at Anchor FM. We hope you will join us for our next episode, where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every students every day.
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This is the first of a two-part podcast where we are talking to Oakland Schools' employees who are helping out their communities. In this first segment, we touch base with our Oakland Schools Technical Campuses, as well as one of our early childhood compliance consultants. Both are great examples of going above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Martin Kaye, Dean Oakland Schools Technical Campus Southwest
Elaine Tadajewski, Early Childhood Compliance Consultant in Oakland Schools Special Populations department
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
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>> Hello, welcome to Educationally Speaking. My name is Sarah Davis and I'm a communication specialist with Oakland Schools and the host of this podcast. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education here in Oakland County Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in. Today we are starting a two part podcast where we are talking to Oakland Schools employees who are helping out their communities. In the first segment, we will touch base with our Oakland schools technical campuses, as well as one of our early childhood compliance consultant. Both are great examples of going above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just because schools have closed due to the pandemic doesn't mean they aren't still contributing to the local community. At our Oakland schools our technical campuses have really stepped up and have been helping out wherever possible. Here to talk with us today about this is Martin Kaye, dean of our Oakland schools technical campus southwest. Marty, thanks for joining us here today. It is my understanding you are here talking on behalf of all of our technical campuses as each of them has been doing a lot to help out others during this pandemic.
>> Yeah, thanks for having me Sarah, glad to be here. So yeah, as you said, all this happened really fast and the technical campuses first priorities were really to get everything straight with teaching and curriculum and making sure our students and families were okay. And in fact, early on we even spent a lot of time sharing community resources with families through our social workers in each of our buildings. We spent a lot of times connecting links to resources and we sent out some emails and some phone calls and so forth. But shortly after that we started getting some ideas about ways that we could donate certain things to the community and that's sort of turned into a three step process of being able to donate a lot of items to the community.
>> Right. And rhyme what I understand, there's been three main areas that the campuses have been contributing in. The first is food donations, can you talk to me a little bit about what the campuses have done as it relates to bringing food to the community?
>> Yes, of course. So each of the campuses have, we each have a culinary program, very, very large kitchens, walk in refrigerators, freezers, everything. So we had a huge stock of perishable items, as well as some stuff that was frozen that would last a while and we didn't really focus on this stuff too much. But we did was we all took a look at all of our perishable items, everything. Because we pretty much knew that we needed to get rid of them fast. And we were contacted by a few community agencies around the entire county and all four campuses in basically on day, maybe a second day, boxed, bagged, put everything that was perishable sort of organized together and these community agencies came and picked them up from the back doors of our kitchen areas and they delivered them to food pantries or other places that they needed to go. You know, regarding the food donation. So that was obviously a really rewarding thing to take part of.
>> Yeah, absolutely. And making sure that food doesn't go to waste and not only that but helping others in the process. Another area where the OSTC's have made donations was giving PPE equipment to frontline workers, correct?
>> Yes, that is correct. So, this is also something that kind of we actually had a teacher to make a suggestion that we do that, that suggestion then was forwarded onto some people at Oakland schools and we've started the process of collecting, organizing and then eventually dropping off a lot of PPE equipment, thousands of dollars' worth, to a building I believe that is actually right near Oakland schools. So in general, each of our buildings have several programs that use goggles or masks, you know, we do have health science programs where we train nurses, so we have all sorts of masks and gloves and N95's and just everything. And even some of our auto programs have the heavy duty masks and goggles and gloves and various programs throughout the building. Our culinary programs, each has hundreds upon hundreds of gloves that we you know, boxed, and bagged up and donated and I think even in our agricultural science programs, whether it was gowns or masks and gloves, you know, we had that type of stuff as well. So each dean went through the building with one of their facilities building employees and we just basically walked around and started bagging boxing up as much as we could and eventually I believe those were all driven in Oakland schools vehicles over to the community agency out there in Waterford near Oakland schools.
>> Awesome. And then lastly, at your campus specifically, your agro-science and visual imaging staff and students came together to do something special for the community. Can you talk a little bit about that?
>> Yeah, so the last thing was really cool. I mean, obviously the food and the PPE was really cool as well. But my Ag teacher, Bailey Garwood [assumed spelling] called me one day a few weeks ago and said, "You know, I've got 125 hanging baskets. By this time in most springs we would have had several hundred flats of flowers but we didn't order, it was just before order time when we had to leave the buildings." But she didn't already have the hanging baskets because those are grown further with our supervision leading up to our spring sale. We have a spring flower sale, two buildings who still have the agricultural science program, every spring in May. So, her idea was that why don't we clean up the hanging baskets a little bit, you know, we dead headed them and everything and let's call all of my students and all of our staff and say, you can each pick up two to four baskets. And the idea is to take the baskets and donate them to somebody labeled as a frontline worker. Maybe grocery workers, maybe a mail person, doctors' offices, hospitals, sanitation workers, whoever. So, everybody came and they picked up two or three or four baskets, we did the whole social distancing thing, we had them laid out in parking spots and people just came, grabbed them, threw them in their car and left. And the other cool thing they did on the back of that is they took a lot of pictures and many of those photos made it to social media. In some cases we just kept them internally so, you know, I gave one to my mail person and I had a cool picture about that and we just sort of shared that amongst the staff. But I will tell you in closing with this particular topic, we got incredible feedback and of course a lot of smiles from the people who we gave these to. There were some people that were really blown away that we did this, whether they were dropped off a grocery stores, doctors' offices or even just walking out to the person who delivers our mail, we had some really, really happy people. They thought it was so cool that we did this. And the last thing to add to it, our graphic design department made these little flags, tiny little flags that we put on little wood sticks to stick in the dirt, the soil, that said you know, "Thank you frontline workers from OSTC Southwest." And the back of the flag sort of looked like an American flag and it had, I think the names of who some of those frontline workers were by category like nurses, doctors, so forth. So we kind of had that little flag put in the basket too and that was really cool. It was all good fun.
>> Yeah, I know when we heard about it here we put those photos up on social media I believe the picture of the flag in the flower is our cover photo now. And it was also just in time for mother's day, I think it was the Friday before mothers days so the timing couldn't have been any better I think, for some people to get a little bit of extra love there for those frontline workers. So, it shows that although obviously the main point of our campus is to educate students that even in these times our OSTC's are still able to find the ability to contribute to the community. So thanks Marty for being on this show and for sharing these great stories.
>> Yes, thanks for having me. We are here right now with Elaine Tadajewski. Tadajewski, an early childhood compliance consultant in our special populations department, who was recently recognized on our Oakland schools Facebook page for helping out the local community during this COVID-19 pandemic. Hi Elaine, how are you?
>> I'm good, thank you. How are you?
>> I'm doing good, just taking all of this day by day.
>> Same here.
>> So, at Oakland school's you support early childhood special education staff in Oakland county in matters of compliance with special education mandates and best practices for children with special needs birth to age eight. But you also recently decided to donate some of your personal time and resources to helping out others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us what you've been up to lately?
>> Yeah, I have a neighbor Erin, who is a nurse at Mott Children's Hospital. She mentioned through social media one day back in March that they were in need of cloth face masks. I sew and like most people who do I had a bunch of extra fabric and supplies and whenever I see a need, if I'm able to do something about it, I always try to chip in. So I offered to make some for her and her coworkers and since then I've discovered that another neighbor of mine works at U of M and they needed masks too, so made some for her as well.
>> That is awesome. So with limited supplies everywhere, how have you gone about making the masks?
>> Well like I mentioned before, I already had a bunch of fabric but I didn't have enough elastic to make the part that goes around the ears and the craft stores were completely out. There's a lot of people making masks these days apparently, so I had to order some online and even that was a challenge. I had to wait for at least a week for it to arrive. But in the meantime I experimented with a few designs for the masks and settled on one that the nurses would be able to adjust a fit which I understand is an important feature.
>> And so how many have you made so far?
>> I made about 35 to 40 before my neighbor told me that the hospital system said that they couldn't accept them anymore. Since then I've been making some for friends and family just kind of as needed. I do plan to continue making more to have on hand and to give to others as needed.
>> Who are the masks going to and what is the feedback that you've been getting from the recipients?
>> So most of them have gone to nurses and staff at U of M Hospital and Mott Children's Hospital, but then also friends and family and just anybody that I know that needs one. The masks have been very well received. I've gotten many heartfelt thank your from both of my neighbors. My neighbor Erin sent me a picture of her and her team wearing the masks made by me and other donors and it was pretty special to see all of them together and you could tell they were smiling behind their masks.
>> That's really awesome Elaine. I bet the people getting the masks are so grateful. And you mentioned the other day that you're also making sidewalk chalk for local families.
>> Well, sidewalk chalk games. So, I live on a dead end street with several families who have young children and I started to notice them taking walks with the kids just to get out of the house and I came across a bucket of sidewalk chalk that I had bought for a different purpose and I never used it. So I just started thinking it would be nice to add a little something to the street to make the walks more fun and engaging. So I started drawing different lines with instructions to do different things like running, zigzag walk, hop, jump, spin, following curved lines. And then I did a Google search and found other sidewalk games that would be fun for little kids and could be done with little instruction so it's not like I'm going to stand out in the middle of the street telling everybody how to play the games or instructions posted at the side of the road. So I added those and the response was very positive and I even got thank you's from the families with teenagers and adult children who were joining in the fun with the little kids too.
>> [clears throat] Excuse me, I have a two and a four year old and I know that they would love to see something like that in the neighborhood for sure. Thank you Elaine for all you're doing to help others during this pandemic. Oakland Schools is proud to have you representing us in the community.
>> Well no problem, it's been my pleasure. Thank you for having me on the podcast.
>> This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools Intermediate School Districts Communication Services and produced by media production and distance learning manager Mark Hansen. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel which are better delivered regionally and provide cost, size, and quality advantages to those we serve. You can find out more information on Oakland Schools at Oakland.k12.Mi.US I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find this and future episodes of Educationally Speaking on Anchor FM. We hope you will join us for our next episode where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every student, every day.
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Oakland Schools' Diversity and Equity Consultant Dr. Jay Marks talks about cultural proficiency and how he teaches the subject to school leaders and students throughout the community.
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
>> Hello. Welcome to Educationally Speaking. My name is Sarah Davis, and I'm a communication specialist with Oakland Schools and the host of this podcast. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education here in Oakland County, Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in.
Today we have a special guest, our very in demand Dr. Jay Marks. Jay, thank you for being here today and taking time to connect on this podcast.
>> It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Sarah. It's great to be here.
>> Dr. Marks is Oakland Schools' Diversity and Equity Consultant, and he's highly sought after for his work in the areas of social justice, cultural competence, educating African-American males and student engagement, to name a few. In addition to his professional work, Dr. Marks has been mentoring you since and has started several mentoring programs in the metropolitan Detroit area as a result of his experiences. For this episode, Dr. Marks and I will talk about cultural proficiency, which is currently a hot topic when it comes to discussing matters related to equity and diversity. Dr. Marks, let's start by having you explain what cultural proficiency is.
>> Well, Sarah, I'll start off with a technical definition of cultural proficiency. According to Lindsey, Terrell and Robbins, the authors of the text Cultural Proficiency, cultural proficiency is the set of values and behaviors in an individual or a set of policies and practices in an organization that create the appropriate mindset and approach to effectively responding to the issues caused by diversity.
>> Okay. So how does cultural proficiency relate to the education field?
>> Our educational system was not designed to be equitable in the first place, so our educational system was not designed for people of color, in many instances historically was not designed for women and girls. It was not designed for those who are ably different. It was not designed for those outside of the religion of Christianity. It was not designed for members of LBGTQ community. It was not designed for those students who speak English as a second, third or fourth language. So it was built on inequities in the first place. And cultural proficiency provides a framework for eradicating those inequities. But also, on a practical level for educators, cultural proficiency helps educators to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding necessary for facilitating an equitable and inclusive schooling experiences for students from diverse backgrounds, particularly those from historically marginalized groups. It does this while also providing a framework for educational institutions such as schools and school districts to pursue and sustain equity in their systems.
>> So how do you facilitate this topic through professional learning to educators in Oakland County?
>> It's an inside-out approach to developing educators' knowledge, skills and understanding as it pertains to responding to differences that come with diversity. Unlike other forms of diversity training, if you will, it helps participants to focus on themselves first by examining their own identities, attitudes, backgrounds, experiences before assessing the identities of others. In this process, we use a four-pronged approach to the work. Where we see the most progress around cultural proficiency nationally is when we engage all stakeholders in the work. This includes teachers, administrators, students, parents and community members at large which includes school board members. Cultural proficiency is a model. They use the four tools to shift the culture of an organization such as a school or school district. One of the four tools we use to facilitate professional learning for educators is called the five essential elements, which I call my playground. That's where all the learning occurs because it is that tool, the essential elements that we use to measure the behavior standards for cultural proficiency. That's how we're able to measure how well one is growing towards proficiency as it relates to this work. I believe that these are the core bodies of knowledge, skill and levels of understanding educators need to be culturally proficient, then this is where the learning should take place, in these five essential areas. The five elements are assessing culture, and that simply means identifying what are the cultural groups involved in the environment. So, if we're talking about a classroom, what are the cultures in a classroom? At the building level, what are the cultures in the building? At the district and community levels, what are the cultures in the building -- I mean in the district and/or community? But it first starts off with me. What is my culture? How do I identify myself as relates to my race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation? What is my background? What experience have I had? Then there's valuing diversity. How do we show appreciation for the diversity that exists in our environment, whether it's in the classroom; again, the building or the district. Suppose it's one thing to know whether that diversity exists. It's another thing to show how do we value that diversity that is existing? The third essential element is called managing the dynamics of difference. I love that one. This really distinguishes this work from other former diversity training, if you will, because it intentionally allows educators to develop the capacity to respond to conflicts that sometimes arise from differences. An analogy I use often in explaining the dynamics of difference, I'll ask a group of educators I'm working with how many of you all have ever been in love? Then some people raise their hand. Then I will ask how many of you are currently in love, and some people raise their hand. And I would ask them, in those spaces of love, how many of you have found conflict in those spaces? And then people will raise their hand. And then I kind of joke with them and say how many of you all found that this morning, right, and they laugh. But, at any rate, what my point is, is that in the places where we have the most love we still have conflict. But we learn how to manage that conflict on a day-to-day basis by doing simple things like compromising, seeking to understand, listening for understanding, showing empathy, being compassionate, you know, all the things -- we exercise some forgiveness, right, and some grace to people. And we do these things. Why? Because the love that we have in our households are often stronger than any conflict that can be created by the individuals in our households. So I often ask participants what if our love for each other as human beings was greater than any conflict that can be caused by our differences? So we really know how to manage these dynamics. We just don't know -- always know how to transfer what we do in our households into our classrooms and our schools and our communities. The fourth essential element is adapt to diversity. And what are some changes that we can make in our practices to adapt to the diversity that we have now? Sometimes I find in the school settings we're still teaching to a demographic that existed 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago. And the demographics have shifted tremendously and drastically, but we have not adapted our practice to that. So that's when you look at including things like Black History Month, right, to recognize, honor and celebrate our black children. But I also warn, if you will -- I don't know if warn is the right word, but I encourage educators don't just celebrate your black children in February because your black children will still be black in March, April, May and they were black, you know, in January before we started. So we want to make sure we have 365 day approach to making sure we're being inclusive, honoring and celebrating our differences but adapting to diversities is simply saying what are some of the adjustments and changes we need to make to be more an inclusive classroom or school or community? And then the last essential element is called institutionalizing cultural knowledge, and that's when how we begin to normalize our organization, our institution around the diversity that exists. So we want to begin to look at our policies, our practices and our procedures so that things are just normal. We're not just adapting or responding, but we have equity policies in place. We have policies in place that provide an inclusive environment for students who may be ably different or speak a different language other than English as their primary language, right, and the like. So those are the five essential elements: assessing culture, valuing diversity, managing the dynamics of difference, adapting to diversity, institutionalizing cultural knowledge.
>> Okay. So what are some of the outcomes educators can expect to get from engaging in this professional learning?
>> Well, the outcomes are already set up by the framework, so that makes it easy. It's just getting there that's the challenge. But the outcomes have already been established by the authors of the work, again, Terrell, Robbins and Lindsey. The first one we look at, when we use the essential elements to determine the outcomes, since those are the -- the essential elements provides the playground for the learning. So the first outcome will be under assessing culture, and that includes the ability for educators to assess culture to becoming aware of one's own culture as well as the culture of their colleagues and clients. And when we talk about clients, we're talking about students, parents and members of the community. The outcome for valuing diversity, which is the second essential element, talks about demonstrating a value for diversity by embracing the differences that exist between oneself, the organization and the districts that you're partnering with or working with. Under managing the dynamics of difference, the outcomes will include development of the skills and capacity to manage the conflicts that are caused by diversity. And, again, I think it's important that from informal and older models of diversity training there was an emphasis on similarities and commonalities and not so much on differences and conflict but, again, with the cultural proficiency framework they normalize conflict and say conflict is a normal part of human beings' existence, particularly as it relates to diversity and differences. And so we understand that, so we plan for it and we develop a capacity to respond to it. The outcome for adapting to diversity is learning about cultural differences and how to respond to them effectively. And, lastly, an outcome for institutionalizing cultural knowledge is really getting into the willingness and the courage it takes to do this work. It speaks of willingness to work to influence the culture of the organization so that its policies and practices are informed by what's considered the guiding principles of cultural proficiency for the purpose of creating equitable environment for ourselves and those whom we serve in an organization. So those are the outcomes. And, again, the framework really provides tightly aligned framework for or process, if you will, for facilitating professional learning for our educators. But, again, it's not just for educators. It's used for students. And I use the same frameworks when I'm working with parents and community members at large, which would include school board members.
>> Can you talk a little bit about the different -- like you just mentioned, the different audiences that you reach and maybe some of the different methods that you use to have them do this professional learning.
>> Absolutely. So for teachers it's really about your classroom practices, right? And, when I say teachers, I'm talking about counselors as well, social workers, your ancillary staff. But what are your practices, your classroom practice; and what do those practices look like in terms of being inclusive and being equitable, from your curriculum selection to your instructional strategies and approaches to the routines that you use in a classroom to your -- the way that you manage conflict and manage the differences in your classroom to assessments and all those things, your classroom environment itself. We look at the walls to see who's represented on the walls and how are they represented. Is the diversity of your classroom represented in that space, or is it lacking? Is the diversity of your school represented in that space, or is that lacking? Is the diversity of your community represented in the classroom, or is that lacking? And I often also encourage educators to ensure that they're representing the diversity of the world in the classroom. Our students should not have to wait until they become adults and go off to college or move or go to the military or join a workforce to learn more about diverse groups, which was my experience. I really didn't -- I grew up in a predominantly homogeneous community on the northwest side of Detroit, and for the most part in the '70s and the early '80s everyone looked like me. Then I went to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was like, uh-oh. Everyone does not look like me or live like me. And so there was a shift for me. And I just believe that our children don't have to wait until they're adults to have that shift. We can really provide them with those experiences and opportunities throughout their K12 experience, even minus the lack -- even with the lack of that type of diversity in that community in the school, right, just by the classroom, books that we're using, guest speakers that we bring in, field trips that we take them on to experience.
>> Right. I like how -- I liked how you pointed out the 365 days a year, you know, not just during one specific month or --
>> Yeah. And I believe in Heritage Month because I think it's an opportunity for us to honor, recognize and celebrate groups of people who we continue to marginalize in our society, not just in our schools, in our society. And I don't believe that we've got to full inclusion yet with that. So we're -- you know, people feel welcome. They feel included. They feel seen and heard on a regular basis. So until we get there with our curriculum and our instruction and our placement of students, we still have students who are based on certain demographics, whether it's race and socioeconomic status and gender even, who are placed disproportionately in special education remedial class versus those placed in honors and Advanced Placement or college prep courses. So to me, until we get to a place of total inclusion and integration as it relates to our identities and groups of people who've historically been marginalized, I think it's important to take that time out to celebrate our heritage month. And there are many, from now with African American History Month to Women's Heritage Month to Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month to Arab American Heritage Month to Pride Month to Indigenous Peoples Month to Hispanic Latino Heritage Month. And so I think it's important that we take time out to go and -- and not on the surface. I think those months also give us an opportunity to go deeper in our learning with those specific groups, right, where we're working towards expanding those experiences 365 days out of the year. But for administrators to your original question regarding how does it look differently, administrators, they deserve -- they need some of the same professional learning around identity work, social identity work, racial identity development work; unconscious bias, looking at stereotypes and microaggressions; and looking at privilege broadly. But also something I do that distinguishes their professional learning from that of teachers is provide them with a lens of how to lead equity in their schools, how to lead equity in their districts and in their communities, right? And so we begin to -- and that takes on a different -- that's a different, what can I say? How can I say this? These are different categories, if you will, different elements for them because their practices are different. And so part of that, for example, I always say that professional learning is not enough. Facilitating workshops, which I absolutely love -- anybody who knows me, I love that. But it's not enough by itself. It can't sit alone. We need to begin assessing for what we are asking teachers to learn through their professional learning. So, if we're not looking for it in our evaluation models, I really think that it defeats the whole purpose of doing -- why are we doing. We have to ask ourselves why are we -- why are we supporting this professional learning if we're not going to ask teachers to incorporate it in their practice and then look for it in their evaluations. I believe we owe that to them. If we're going to ask them to go through these professional learning experiences and change their practice or at least begin to reflect on their practices and make the changes where necessary, we owe it to them to look for it and to provide them with opportunity to give evidence that they're integrating and incorporating these things in their practices. But administrators need to know what to look for. So they need their own professional learning so that they can do their own work but also on themselves professionally and personally but also so that they know what they're looking for when they're evaluating teachers. But also, when we look at the development of policies which often happens at the administrative level, central office or at the school board level, and we need to have an eye for equity, right? We need to -- there has to be something that is at the forefront of our consciousness so that we can begin to ask more questions about documents as they're being published, about our processes; who's included, who's not; our practices; who can be marginalized; who may be privileged by these practices. And so, again, administrative level need to be asked those questions. Parents and community members, they need to know how to support it. So they need to -- and, again, they have work to do as well at home. What are we doing because it does -- us, again, it becomes an -- it can become an impediment to the work if we're only working with students in school because so many of our students unfortunately are still going home to households who have not shifted their attitudes, beliefs or mindsets as it relates to diversity. And so we could be doing rich things in schools with our students, but they could still be going home to very bias, bigoted and prejudicial homes that discriminate against people based on the color of their skin, the way that they love, the way that they speak and the way they live their lives that may be different from the mainstream. So the work that we do with parents around supporting what's happening in school is very important. And, then again, work with students which I absolutely love because absolute -- to be honest, often I find with students, particular student leaders which there are many of them. What they most need from us is just a little guidance and support and then to get out of their way and let them go ahead and do what they're doing because they're growing up in a very different world, not that they don't experience and perpetuate bigotry and hatred and oppression because they do. But, again, I find that for many of our young people they're further along than the adults. As a matter of fact, a lot of the work that we do in Oakland County around social justice is a result of students who said that they needed the educators in their lives to develop some capacity to intervene and support them and not just intervene but to support the social justice advocacy that was important to them and begin to intervene when -- when social injustices occur in our schools relative to bullying, around one's identity, racial slurs, hateful speech and the like. So the work looks differently. There's some similar components, again, topical areas that are covered with all groups. But then the pathway is just very different because, you know, the practices and needs are different.
>> Right. Depending on the audience.
>> Depending on the audience. Yeah.
>> How can district leaders find out more about cultural proficiency? It's obviously a very dynamic subject. There's a lot to it. So where can people find out more to study it further?
>> It's life's work, Sarah, to your point earlier in terms of facilitating it. It's an inside-out approach. And I tell people the beauty of the work is that it never ends. I've learned two things as a diversity equity consultant facilitating this work for as long as I have, and that's one thing I've learned is that I don't know enough, and the second thing I've learned is that I never will. But what I do possess -- because you will never know everything that there is to know about differences, right? One of the things I do possess is the will to get to know what I need to know about the groups of people whom I'm serving so I could be responsive, effective and equitable in my work with them. But people can contact me at jay.marks@ Oakland.k12.mi.us. And, again, that's email@example.com Or they can call me here at Oakland Schools at 248-209-2272.
>> All right. Well, I think we can see why you're in such high demand in your field. Thank you, Dr. Marks, for talking with us through this important but very layered subject. With so many diversity and equity topics to tackle, hopefully you can be a repeat guest.
>> Sarah, I would love to come back. Thank you for having me on the show.
>> Not a problem. This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools Intermediate School District's Communication Services and is produced by Media Production and distance learning manager Mark Hansen. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel which are better delivered regionally and provide cost, size and quality advantages to those we serve. you can find more information on Oakland Schools at Oakland.K12.mi.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis. And you can find this and future episodes of Educationally Speaking on Anchor FM. We hope you will join us for our next episode where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every student every day.
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Oakland Schools Technical Campus-Southeast (Royal Oak) Dean Amy Gole and Oakland Schools Technical Campus (Wixom) Dean Martin Kaye and student Nihal Suthakar discuss what opportunities Oakland Schools Technical Campuses can provide for local students.
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
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>> Hello, welcome to Educationally Speaking. My name is Sarah Davis, and I'm a communication specialist with Oakland Schools and the host of this podcast. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education here in Oakland County, Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in. Today, we're talking about career technical education, often referred to as CTE. According to this data in Michigan, jobs related to information technology, STEM, construction trades and healthcare are all examples of occupations projected to be in high demand in our state through 2026. So, what are we doing to prepare today's students for our current and future economy? At Oakland schools, we are forming campuses throughout Oakland County, which we call our Oakland Schools Technical Campuses, or OSTCs. These schools are specifically designed for educating students who have an interest in a CTE field. So, we're going to spend this episode getting you know what is offered at these campuses and discuss why students should attend. Here with us today to talk about this important subject is Amy Gole, Dean of our Oakland Schools Technical Campus Southwest and Royal Oak. And Martin Kaye, Dean of Oakland Schools Technical Campus Southwest in Wixom. Also joining us today is Nihal Suthakar, a senior at Clarenceville High School and a second year student in the Engineering, Robotics and Mechatronics Program at our Southwest Campus. Thank you all for being here today.
>> Thanks for having us.
>> Thank you.
>> Thank you.
>> So, first, we're going to start with Marty and Amy. Can you describe for us what exactly an Oakland Schools Technical Campus is?
>> So, OSTC is simply an extension of your high school within Oakland County. We have four locations that service all of Oakland County. By attending your high school for half of the day and an OSTC campus the other half of the day, you are experiencing a full academic day. We offer 18 programs, which are developed around occupational areas containing different but related career training options for students. All programs also have some sort of academic credit in math and/or science embedded or integrated into the CTE program. The programs are designed to facilitate learning, allowing students to manage their instructional plan. Students that attend OSTC have the opportunity to participate in work based learning, which is really like an opportunity for them to engage in some sort of internship while they are a high school student. Students are provided the opportunity to earn industry based certifications in all programs. And pre apprenticeship and early middle college programming is also part of the OSTC experience as well.
>> Okay, what kinds of programs are offered at OSTC?
>> Well, as Marty said, we have 18 different programs. So, at the different campuses, most of the offerings are the same. So, basically the first is agriscience and environmental technologies. We also have automotive technology, collision, repair, and refinishing, computer networking, computer programming, construction technology, cosmetology, criminal justice, culinary arts and hospitality, cybersecurity networking, energy and electrical technology, engineering, robotics and mechatronics, entrepreneurship and advanced marketing, health sciences, machining, medium heavy truck and equipment, visual imaging graphic design, and welding.
>> That's a lot of different programs. Can we talk a little bit about how you decide what programs are offered at OSTC?
>> Sure. We make it a priority to offer programs at our four technical campuses that are what we call high wage and high demand. We consider what industry demand is and support building that pipeline for our business and industry partners. For example, a couple of years ago, we began to explore this new medical pathway within our health science program, specifically at the Southeast campus. We did a full year analysis of industry data and determined that the State of Michigan data, Tri County area data, Oakland, Wayne and Macomb, and also just specifically Oakland County, the top medical occupation was a medical assistant. So, when we started our new pathway at the health science program, we focused on medical assistance. One of the critical roles that current technical education does is helping build that pipeline for our future industries. It's important that we offer programming that connects directly with our industry.
>> Okay, so there's a lot of thought that goes into deciding what you put at these campuses.
>> So, Nihal [phonetic], you're a second year engineering robotics and mechatronics student. Can you tell me what led to you attending OSTC in the first place?
>> Well, I first started off OSTC in computer networking. I went in a field trip during my freshman year, and I saw how amazing OSTC was. I knew for a fact that I would definitely join. But on my second day when I was going to the bathroom, I passed by the mechatronics building and I saw all the technology, everything they had laid out, the PLC stations, the giant FANUC robotics, and I knew that that's for sure what I want to do with my future. So, I immediately ask, with all respect, that I want to switch programs to mechatronics for sure. And I first talked to the mechatronics teacher, and I also knew that that would be a good fit because when I first met him, he was pretty loose and pretty understanding. And also the environment on the first day of school was very open. It wasn't a traditional classroom where we had rules and guidelines. We were told to do specific things. But afterwards, we could go into what we liked and what we learned and what we wanted to do with our lives, which I really admired and appreciated a lot.
>> Can you talk a little bit about the mechatronics program specifically? What is it that you do there?
>> So, for first years, everybody has to go hands based on a few of the engineering concepts, like soldering skills, circuit designs, CAD programming. And for your second year, or sometimes even in the second semester or first years, we can expand on the field that we most enjoy personally, because no one is going to be the exact same engineer. There's going to be so many different types. But the first year is just to give us the fundamentals and the basics. And for our second years is when they start going to certifications and making sure they're experts in the field that they want to be. Right now, I'm studying PLCs, and I'm going to be writing my certification exam this week. And I know that two of my other friends, they just got their CAD certification, and they're one of the best builders digitally for our first robotics team as well.
>> And we're going to talk a little bit more about the certifications later. But what are some of the things that you've learned through your program?
>> One of the biggest skills that I've learned is definitely electrical systems, understanding circuits on, and also how to create like working circuit boards. Also, PLCs. The coding helped me work with also CMD programming and Java programming, which is definitely one of the biggest skills.
>> That sounds amazing. So, Amy and Marty, where are these OSTC schools located at?
>> So, like we mentioned before, there are four campuses in Oakland County. The Southwest campus is located in Walled Lake. Really in Wixom, but right on the border of Walled Lake and Wixom. And that campus hosts students from Clarenceville, Farmington, Huron Valley, Novi, South Lyon, Walled Lake, and also West Bloomfield.
>> Okay, and the Southeast campus is located in Royal Oak. And we enroll students from Berkeley, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Lamphier, Madison, Oak Park, Royal Oak, Southfield, and Troy.
>> And the Northwest campus is located in Clarkston. And the students they serve come from Brandon, Clarkston, Holly, and Waterford.
>> And the fourth campus is the Northeast campus. And that's located in Pontiac. And Pontiac, that campus partners with Avondale, Lake Orion, Oxford, Pontiac, and Rochester.
>> Okay, and what does a typical day or schedule look like for these students, and how do students manage going between their sending school and OSTC?
>> So, the way we describe it is that students basically attend half of their day at OSTC and half of their day at what we call their home high school. They're with us for two and a half hours. And they earn three credit hours during that time, which is noted, takes about half of their school day. We have two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning sessions typically start at 7:30, 7:45, a little bit different in each building. And the afternoon sessions typically start around 11:15, 11:20, or 11:30. The other thing is that we do provide transportation from each sending district to each of the OSTC campuses. So, students cannot drive, because some of their high schools are a little bit far away. They are able to hop on the bus both to our campus and then back to their school so that they can make it home on the bus, bus haul.
>> Okay, so it sounds like everything is pretty much figured out in terms of students getting the best that they can from both their home school and OSTC. They're not missing out on any type of curriculum. In fact, it's adding to it.
>> They're not missing out on anything. And, in fact, it really just becomes substitute electives for them. So, rather than taking say drama or jewelry or statistics or something their junior, senior year, they take mechatronics, engineering, robotics, and mechatronics, which would serve as those three elective credits, either for their entire junior year only, or for both their junior and senior year, or even just for their senior year, because they can come as juniors and seniors, or just juniors or just seniors.
>> Okay, and Nihal sort of touched on this already, but what are some of the real world benefits that students get from attending OSTC?
>> So, there's lots of different benefits. One of the main benefits are the instructors. So, the students are taught by certified instructors that are both highly qualified in the field of education, but also in their industry. So, our industry experts and our instructors are required to main contact throughout the year. So, this partnership that we have with our industry experts actually allows our instructors to stay up to date in their field so that we make sure that we're offering curriculum and programming that's relevant to what's going on in industry at that point in time. One of the other things, and this is something that Nihal [phonetic] mentioned previously, is the ability to earn certifications. So, our students have the ability to earn industry recognized certifications in each of our programs. So, some examples of those things are like OSHA, ServSafe, multiple ASC certifications that link with our automotive area, certified nursing assistants, certifications with the FANUC robot, Java, all of our health students leave with the American Heart Association, the BLS healthcare provider, certified ethical hacker. Those are just some of them. Actually, last year, our students earned over 3,000 certifications alone. So, we really do put a lot of emphasis on the certifications. That's one of the priorities for our students is that they leave with those certifications. Another really cool thing that kids get to know is they get to participate in what we call co curricular student organizations. These are things like Business Professionals of America. You hear people call it BPA. SkillsUSA, HOSA and DECA. Those are just to name a few. With these organizations, students are able to provide an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in this particular area. They get to do different activities, events, they go to competitions. And then students that are successful actually get to directly connect with employers and then earn certifications. We also have a couple of other activities that link with our programs. First Robotics and OCRA, those are also very heavily participated in with our students and provides such an amazing opportunity for our kids. Another area that kids get to get a huge benefit from is our work based learning. So, we have a whole continuum. So, it's things like field trips, job shadowing, internships, and, of course, employment. Some of our industry partners that we work with on a regular basis is Beaumont Hospital, Oakland County Water Resource Commission, Dean Sellers, McLaren, Suburban, the Waterford Fire Department. So, those are all places where our students get to go and be employed. Some of them are paid opportunities, and some of them are non paid. And then we also have a ton of field trips. We get to do some really cool things where we're taking kids to like Little Caesars, Arena, StockX, and even Google. So, the opportunity for the students to participate in these work based learning opportunities is huge. It provides them with options that they don't get to have at their normal high school. And I would say finally the one thing that you'll hear kids say a lot is the benefit to them is being able to attend classes with kids that have the same interests as them. There's not the same feel as their home high school because you're bringing in kids from three, four, five, twelve different schools, and they're getting to interact and connect and network and find time to be with kids that like the same things that they do. And that's a really cool thing for these kids.
>> And I would just add one thing at the end of that that Amy said. Among many things students say they like about our school, one of them is that ability to meet people from many different schools. Almost every time I ask a kid what they like about school, or why they're coming back for their senior year, almost all of them know how cool it's been to meet kids from all sorts of different high schools and kind of branch off and get away from the same district in most cases they've been in since kindergarten, and really just meeting new kids. And our students really seem to enjoy that.
>> Nihal, have you found that to be true?
>> Oh, yeah, definitely. Actually, four of my best friends I met at OSTC my first year. Emma, Nathan, Nathan, and Joe, all of them. Oh, they also motivated me to take on new hobbies too like RC racing, Airsoft. And also joining the first robotics in OCRA. I mainly joined that because of them. I met so many other people because of OSTC and the extracurricular programs that I joined through OSTC.
>> And that kind of gets us into our next question, Nihal where we're going to, you know, talk about all these career readiness and tech opportunities. But there's other skills that students can develop while attending OSTC. What are those?
>> So, in addition to everything we've mentioned already, for years, OSTC has focused on, well, really what we talk, call it as career readiness, like you said, career ready habits. There's other different words we use to describe this. They're basically industry specific content that our staff works on with students that our employers have indicated are must have for successful employment. And, of course, we also refer to these often as soft skills. At OSTC, we call them and sort of use this framework called the Michigan Talent Architecture, which is a little long for MTA, and we focus on the following nine competencies; positive personal brand, integrity, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, adaptability, technology literacy, and customer focus. And something that we've really noticed is that our industry partners, the local businesses we work with really do appreciate this work we do. In fact, we had two industry partners at our open house last Thursday night, and both of them said that when they get resumes from people, even in their late teens, let alone their early 20s, one of the first things they look for is if the student attended an OSTC campus and they put those kids in their first pile because they know that we're really doing such a good job, not only with their technical skills, but especially teaching kids these soft skills, that they are coming in very prepared for the workplace.
>> Okay, Nihal can you talk a little bit about some of the opportunities OSTC has afforded to you that you don't believe you would have gotten in a different setting?
>> Well, as Marty said earlier, OSTC is basically electives kind of on steroids. At OSTC, they give us a foundation for our real futures, the things that we really want to do with our lives. And one of the greatest things is getting ready for the real world. At the end of our first years, most of the kids in mechatronics will get to go for an interview with a real job seeking person. I interviewed with exotic automations, and also Ford. But it was nice to feel the competitiveness of interviewing, even though that you know that your friends are going for it as well, you know how to like tackle it and handle the situation. And it was just overall a great experience.
>> And you talked a little bit about First Robotics too, being involved in that. I'm sure there's some, some other skills that you learned from joining the robotics team.
>> Yeah, there's two robotics competitions that mechatronics participates in. It's OCRA and First. We start off with OCRA, which is just community of Oakland. And we usually do really well in that. For four years, we were champions. And then we just started doing First Robotics last year and this year. And we made it all the way up to Worlds, which is a big accomplishment for a rookie team.
>> Amazing. So, now that you've had all of these opportunities, how do you see all of this helping you in the future?
>> One of the biggest things is OSTC definitely makes me stand out compared to other students. As Marty said, having that name OSTC just on my application, and all the certifications they got, it gives me such a big competitive advantage. For any job, there's always people like continuously going for it, even if you're more than qualified, and you've got to have some sort of advantage compared to everybody else. And OSTC is definitely that advantage. I did get accepted to both U of M and Wayne State, mainly because of the certifications that I got here. And I also notice when I went to the open house for Wayne State, their first year was exactly everything I did in my two years at mechatronics. All of the soldering skills, the CAD, the FANUC robotics, literally almost the exact same thing. If I took the final exam, I could probably get 100.
>> Well, that's great. Marty and Amy, we've heard all about Nihal [phonetic]. Exactly what type of student should go to OSTC?
>> So, I could start with this question. We really say that all students that are in 11th and/or 12th grade should come. They are eligible to come. They can start in 11th as I noted earlier and continue through 12th grade, or they might just start in 12th grade for various reasons. Students that plan to attend a four year university are great candidates, or a community college. Some students even who are planning on starting with an apprenticeship program, or even going straight to work, there's options and career paths for all students regardless of what their future plans are.
>> And if a parent or student is interested in learning more about OSTC, where can they get that information?
>> So, the best place to go for information is very simply online, and going to ostconline.com for all information about the Oakland Schools Technical Campuses.
>> Okay, and we'll have that in there for anyone who wants to take a look and get more information. Thank you, Amy and Marty, for being here today and representing our deans and explaining what Oakland Schools Technical Campus is. And Nihal it was absolutely wonderful to have you on the program. We've been wanting to get a student on here. Best of luck to you, no matter what you decide to do in the future.
>> Thank you.
>> Thank you.
>> Thanks. This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools Intermediate School Districts Communication Services and produced by Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel, which are better delivered regionally and provide cost, size, and quality advantages to those we serve. You can find more information on Oakland Schools at oakland.k12.mi.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find this and future episodes of Educationally Speaking on Anchor FM. We hope you will join us for our next episode where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every student every day.
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Oakland Schools' Assistant Superintendent and Chief Information Officer Tammy Evans and Oakland Schools Service Desk Supervisor Robin Evenson discuss how the Oakland Schools Service Desk was recently given the opportunity to provide tech support for MIServiceDesk, which is a statewide pre-K-12 initiative. This move puts Oakland Schools at the forefront of technology plans taking place at the state level.
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
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>> Hello and welcome to Educationally Speaking. My name is Sarah Davis and I'm a communications specialist with Oakland Schools and the host of this podcast. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education here in Oakland County, Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in. Today we're going to discuss how the Oakland Schools Service Desk was given the opportunity to provide tech support for MIServiceDesk which is a statewide pre-K-12 initiative. It is something we are immensely proud of here at Oakland schools and we're excited to be at the forefront of technology plans going on at the state level. Here with us today to talk about this topic, we have Oakland Schools assistant superintendent and chief information officer Tammy Evans. And Oakland Schools Service Desk supervisor Robin Evenson . Tammy and Robin, thank you so much for being here today.
>> Thank you for having us.
>> Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
>> This is a fun topic for us to talk about, but there's also many levels to it. So we're going to kind of go through and break apart how this came about, that Oakland Schools was selected to head up such a big project. Sound good?
>> Yes it does.
>> Perfect. Okay, so Tammy, let's start this off by discussing how Oakland schools got involved in MIServiceDesk to begin with.
>> Sure, Sarah. We have been a part of a statewide project for many years with a collaboration group that has been focused on providing solutions for pre-K-12. Whether they were state-mandated or they may have been something that an association like General Education Leadership Network or the Michigan Education Technology leaders would have identified as something that everyone has to do. This group has focused on many initiatives, and we'll get into that in a little bit more. We have a group called MCH which is the Michigan Collaboration Hub. And this Collaboration Hub focuses on providing these solutions. When we started building these things and providing these things, we found very quickly that we needed frontline support, what we call tier-one support in IT. So tier-one support for these types of solutions is really a website and a phone number and a resource that someone can contact from a classroom or from a central office so they can get support. So really what prompted the state to form the Michigan Service Desk was being able to address the support needs for these statewide initiatives. When we started creating these solutions, we quickly found that the few resources that we had allocated to the work wasn't enough to cover all of the support needs across the state. So at that time, Oakland Schools and many other ISD's were asked to be partners and collaborate on providing resources to support these initiatives. And there's many initiatives associated with the collaboration hub.
>> So what was it about Oakland Schools Service Desk that made it the best candidate to take on the statewide initiative?
>> We're really fortunate in Southeast Michigan to have so many resources. And Oakland Schools especially has a very established service desk that we've been operating for 20 years. So supporting regional initiatives is what we do really well. And Robin and her team have done an outstanding job. They're all very passionate and very committed to learning all the new things that technology brings us. So I knew pretty quickly that it would be easy for Oakland to absorb this entry-level service desk for the state initiatives and contacted Robin and said, "What do you think about this?" And how we would approach it. So we kind of talked about it for quite a while. We talked with our own internal team. Then I offered it to the Collaboration Hub as an opportunity to start out providing support for the state. We want to start out with some of the entry-level applications that are being supported, and then grow it. Oakland Schools is providing this support in a way that allows the rest of the ISD's to join us. So we're not the only provider. Today we are, because we're starting it. But ultimately we believe that there will be other ISD's that help us support statewide initiatives because there will be tens of thousands of people using this service.
>> Okay, so Oakland Schools takes this on in November 2019. Can you talk about how this affected your day-to-day?
>> Honestly, Sarah, the day-to-day hasn't really changed with our team. We worked so closely together and they absorb all tasks that are brought to them quickly and, as Tammy said, with passion. Some tickets spark conversation that come into the MIServiceDesk. We have two leads right now which is Sidney Pershon and Brandon Stevens. They led this project with the team in getting them trained and making sure that they understand what accesses they have and what the processes are to generate the tickets or troubleshoot them. So honestly from what we do day-to-day with our field service districts and all of the 28 districts in Oakland County, it's just the same process. We own that ticket from start to finish.
>> Even still, this sounds like a big project. So what are you focusing on first?
>> When we bring on a new district or a new project like this, any kind of task, our first focus is training. We want to make sure that we have all the data we need to provide the support that our customers are used to getting from the Service Desk. So since this is a new initiative for us, we spent a lot of time sitting with the MCH group who provided the training to us and our team. It took about a week to get us all onboard. Once the training was completed, we had the team play inside the admin councils just so they could get familiar with seeing what the customers and the teachers that call into us are going to see.
>> The first two products that we're supporting, there was a third-grade reading law put into place about 18 months ago or so. And as a MCH collaboration response to that, we created a statewide solution called MIRead. It also ties in with another application called MIStrategy Bank. So MIRead allows teachers to do instantaneous assessments of literacy components for each student that they work with. MIStrategy Bank complements that solution in that it provides strategies to address the different learning styles or the different literacy components that they're trying to help the student with. So Robin's team went through training in not only the applications themselves but really what the content meant. And so they would understand the types of questions that would come in from teacher classrooms, which is where they'll get most of their calls.
>> And what are the other layers that will be supported other than those two applications?
>> The Collaboration Hub has spent a great deal of time -- we've been working on this for about six years. We started with infrastructure, specifically the state education network which connects all of the ISD's and all of the districts to one continuous network. And we created that so that we could address the digital assessment requirement that the state put into place several years ago. So they are doing online assessments they're required to do in every district. And so that state education network gives us a way to capture the results of those assessments. The other layers that we've really been focusing on are the data hubs. So every single district is required to capture all kinds of data about students, about finances, about all layers of classroom management and learning management. So by creating this data hub solution, we were able to connect a way for data to be entered once so that data integrity was the focus. And the district saved a huge amount of money so that they didn't have to enter data multiple times. When a student comes in to a district, they're already registered at the state. They already have a unique identifying number. And there is a way for all of that data to be populated through their student information system and then across all other applications that the districts use, whether it's food service or transportation or many other learning management, classroom management types of applications. We used to do all of this manually. We would enter that data every single time to every single application. So you can imagine Tom and Thomas and Tommy were all put in for the same student.
>> Okay, so what does all this mean for a teacher living say way out in Manistee? Robin, can you take us through the flow of how it works for someone who is seeking assistance from the Oakland School service desk?
>> Absolutely. We have three different avenues that the customers can contact us. For the MIServiceDesk.org is our ticketing system through JIRA. They can log into that system and enter their tickets online themselves. They can contact us through phone, obviously, at 248-209-2060 and get a live resource. And then we also have live chat which is our personal favorite, because it's real-time live chat. You're literally talking with a resource at that time. You can provide them whatever -- you know, the same questions that you might have, the same concerns you have with your ticket. And we can troubleshoot right there at the same time.
>> This seems like a big initiative, so how is Oakland Schools undertaking this project from a resource standpoint?
>> Well, we've really at the very beginning of the initiative, we've just been able to, as Robin said, kind of absorb the additional calls and additional tickets and assistance necessary. But really what we're doing here is we're growing a pretty significant rate. Currently we support very regularly 56 districts, so 28 public school districts and then the charters that we have in Oakland County. We also support a program called VLAC, which is our virtual learning academy. And that is outside of our county. So we've had a regional establishment for quite a while. What MIRead and MIStrategyBank bring to us in the next few months is about 300 districts. So the ticket volume will drastically grow. Beyond that, when we actually start supporting the state education network and the data hubs and the other activities that Michigan Collaboration Hub have created and support, we will have to really resource up. We will have to -- we will be paid by the Collaboration Hub to add resources and to build our Service Desk Solution in a way that fits the needs of the statewide enterprise solution. And that means everything from software licensing to additional hands-on in the Service Desk technicians-wise. Ultimately what will happen I believe is that the Michigan Service Desk will support, you know, the 1.45 million kids that are in the state and all of the 850-plus districts that are in the state. So when I referred earlier to a regional approach, that's really what we envision. We believe that Oakland Schools has a great foundation and a well-established, very strong practice of providing this kind of solution. So building from this will help other ISD's and other districts be able to support their locals in a much easier way.
>> Sounds like a lot of exciting things on the horizon. How can districts find more info on MIServiceDesk?
>> There's a couple different ways. They can go to MIServiceDesk.org and that takes them directly to the ticketing system that Oakland Schools uses. It is branded as MIServiceDesk, so you don't actually see that there's an Oakland Schools brand on it, which is on purpose. Because we wanted to be able to actually roll this all the way across the state and not have it be specific to one ISD. You can also go to GoMAISA.org. MAISA is the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators. That's our ISD association of superintendents and administrators for all ISD's and regions.
>> Okay. Well that's all for today's show about the Oakland Schools Service Desk. Congratulations to you, Tammy and Robin, for overseeing a project that has such a big statewide impact. I'm sure you're very proud.
>> Extremely proud. Thank you, Sarah.
>> Thank you for having us on the show.
>> Appreciate it.
>> This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools Intermediate Schools District's Communication Services and produced by media production and distance learning manager Mark Hansen. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel which are better delivered regionally and provide cost, size and quality advantages for those we serve. You can find more information on Oakland Schools at Oakland.K12.MI.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis. And you can find this and future episodes of Educationally Speaking at our website or on Anchor FM. We hope you will join us for our next episode where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every student every day.
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Oakland Schools' Director of Government and Community Services Lisa Hansknecht talks about school aid funding and exactly how it works. She debunks myths to help give listeners a better understanding of how Oakland County school districts are funded.
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
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>> Hello. Welcome to Educationally Speaking. My name is Sarah Davis, and I'm a communications specialist with Oakland Schools and the host of this podcast. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education here in Oakland County, Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in. Today, we're going to talk about school aid funding and exactly how it works. It's important to discuss this because there are so many misconceptions about this topic. Helping to debunk those will give us all a better understanding of how schools are funded, which in turn can make us all better advocates for our youth. Here with us today, we have Lisa Hansknecht, Oakland Schools' director of government and community services. And if you want to know the ins and outs of school aid funding, this is the woman to talk to. Lisa has spent 30 years working at the state capitol in Lansing, the last 20 of which she has spent specifically doing work related to education policy. She also serves as a member of the Steering and Technical Committee related to the School Finance Research Collaborative, which we will discuss later on in this program. Lisa, thank you so much for being here today.
>> Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.
>> Well, let's start this podcast off by just kind of getting a general overview how exactly are schools funded in the state of Michigan.
>> Schools are funded through a variety of taxes. There is a host of different taxes that individuals and businesses pay that goes to the state, and portions of those come to schools. So, for example, the sales tax that we pay, every time you go out and you buy a new shirt, 6% is put on the overall price and a portion of that comes to schools. And in total, we get 44.2% of total school funding -- this is the biggest one -- from sales tax revenue. You also get it from income tax, so when you pay your taxes at the end of the year. There's a state education tax, which is a property tax. Use tax, real estate, tobacco, lottery. There's a whole bunch of stuff.
>> All right, all of that makes sense. But a lot of times you hear people say, schools don't need the money, they're funded by the lottery. Can you talk a little bit about how lottery money actually plays into school funding?
>> Absolutely. The lottery money does all go to school aid. They get 100% of the lottery revenues. And it equals a total of $979 million currently. That's a lot of money. But when you look at the total amount of school aid funds, the total amount, that's only 7.4% of all of the money that goes to schools. So yes, we get all the lottery money, but it's only a real small piece of that pie.
>> Okay, very interesting. So those are the ways that school money is collected. But when it comes in, then where is it allocated?
>> School aid goes out through the School Aid Act. It's a budget bill they have to pass each year. And in total, you're talking about over $13 billion that they divvy up in different ways to go to our schools. The biggest way is the foundation allowance. And that's what most people hear about. That's the roughly, say, $8,500 per pupil that schools get. So if you have a school with 1,000 pupils, multiply that by 8,500, that's how much they get. In addition to that, there's some big what we call categoricals that help schools address particular issues and challenges that they have. There's categoricals for special ed students. These are students with disabilities. For at-risk pupils. And these are pupils that are poor or have faced incredible challenges. Maybe they have a parent who's been incarcerated. Maybe they're an English language learner, they've immigrated to this country and their parents have become citizens but they're just learning the language. We have also early childhood. So you're talking about the Great Start Readiness Program and all the four-year-olds and I think three-year-olds that that serves. And career and technical education is another big one. So that's all of your career cluster programs that you see in different areas dealing everything from health and computers to construction, HVAC -- like heating and ventilation, air conditioning -- all kinds of career and trade programs get funding through this too. So those are the big areas that the money goes out to.
>> So does all of the school aid money go to K-12 education?
>> Not all of it. First there's that piece about early ed that I talked about a minute ago. And then in addition to that, there's a sort of a controversial debate over higher education and community colleges. And in the budgets that just passed, we had $350 million from the school aid fund that went to higher -- institutions of higher learning, the universities, and 325 million that went to community colleges. That's $775 odd-million. And if you think about that -- what do we have, like 1.5 million kids in our schools, in our K-12 schools? If that money instead of going to colleges went to K-12, that's $516 a student. I mean, imagine what that could do for your child and your school if they had that money in terms of class size, books, materials, support from psychologists or nurses, counselors, career programs. That's why this is sort of controversial about whether it should be going to K-12 or not.
>> How does the state decide how much money goes to each piece of the school funding pie?
>> The current way that we've determined that was predominantly decided by Proposal A, which passed about 25 years ago. And that's where we got that foundation allowance that we talked to. And so a big chunk of it goes right to that, goes to the foundation allowance. There are also big pieces that are obligations that the legislature can't decide not to pay. For example, we owe money on certain obligations related to special ed from lawsuits that said, no, you're not paying enough, you got to pay more. And there's money for matching and maintaining certain amounts of federal money that we have to pay. If we change that, we would lose those federal dollars. So we want to make sure we use that funding. But once they get through all of that, there's typically a chunk of money that legislators view as, this is my piece that I get to decide how the money will be spent. And different legislators have used that in different ways. Some sometimes have a particular school reform or an idea they feel needs extra funding. You'll hear people talk in the past, dating all the back to like Governor Engler had that Laptops for Teachers program, and this is when computers were first starting and they were really trying to get computers in the hands of educators. Sometimes they'll go for literacy coaches, we've heard that before. And sometimes you'll see increases for career and tech building materials or equipment. A lot of times those programs need more equipment. So this is the sort of discretionary pie pot of money that the legislature decides what to do. And the problem with that is, this is where we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot. Because all of the different education groups who all mean well, all go to the legislature and say, I'm underfunded, we need more money for CTE equipment. Or we need more slots for early childhood education. We need more kids to be able to have access to these programs. And what ends up happening is the legislature hears from four different groups that all say they need that little piece of the pie that's left after all the obligations are paid. Maybe school counselors or psychologists come forward -- I'm not trying to pick on any particular group. But just all of these groups know the problems that they're facing and so they come forward and speak out about those problems. And to the legislators, all they hear is this tug-of-war about who should get this last piece of the pie. When we arm wrestle all that, what we really should be doing is thinking about what does the research say? What does the research say that where the funding should go?
>> And can you talk a little bit about that? What does the research say?
>> There have -- over the last five years, there have been a number of studies. Governor Snyder did an adequacy study that showed that we needed considerably more funding. Lieutenant Governor Calley did a study about special ed that showed specifically we needed more special ed funding. But the biggest of these research studies was done by the School Finance Research Collaborative. And this group, made up of legislators both Democrat and Republican, there's foundations were involved, businesses were involved, higher ed was involved. Everybody got together. Charter schools were involved. This wasn't like a public school versus charter thing. Everybody got together and said, given the laws in Michigan, how much does it really cost to educate a child to meet the standards we expect them to meet under all these laws? And it was because of that wonderfully diverse group from all over the state -- eastside, westside, little rural areas, big cities, and both parties, both charters and traditional publics. Because of that, there was a lot of emphasis on the credibility and making sure this was a truly good study done by the best people in the nation. And that's what they did. So they raised money from predominately from the foundations and from the school's community and they paid for this study that really looked at how are we going to educate all of these kids and what is that going to cost?
>> And that study came out I think it was early last year, right?
>> Yes, it's been about a year now.
>> Okay. So we heard about the School Finance Research Collaborative and what they were doing most recently. But can you talk a little bit about what they're doing now?
>> Sure. So they finished that report, like you said, a year ago. And in the report, they identified a couple of areas that they didn't address but they think further research should be done on. And those include things like transportation, capital funding or how to fund the buildings in which all of these schools that the kids go to school to, and further study of high need poverty students. The focus now, in addition to thinking through how to get that other research done, is beginning to implement that research. So the collaborative members were very pleased to see when the governor recommended her budget this past February or March, that she included a lot of the concepts to do a first step toward funding our schools the way the research said. Unfortunately, the legislators didn't really take that research to heart, and the budget they passed, they didn't include the weighted foundation formula. So now the collaborative is going to be doing some education both to the general public and to legislators in particular and just trying to build the case for why this research is the best and why we should be following it and what are the steps we need to do to implement it. They understand you can't just snap your finger and in one year come up with the kind of money that the research says we need. This is something that has to be phased in over multiple years. Many states have done these. In Massachusetts, when they did the study, it took them 10 years to slowly get all of that funding in place then. So this is a long process and we're just starting down that road.
>> Okay. Earlier, you talked about the lottery misconception. Are there any other misconceptions about school funding out there that you want to talk about?
>> Sure. There's one that I hear almost every year that we pass a budget that the legislature passes a budget. When they pass it, unless we're in a recession and we're facing cuts, we always hear them say, "and this year's budget has record funding." Let's dig into that a little bit. What does record funding mean? Well, if I give you $10 this year to buy a book and next year I give you $10 and a penny to buy the book, well, I gave you $10 and a penny, that's record funding. It's more than I gave you before. But it doesn't keep up with what the research says, which might be that really what we need is $15 and instead of a book we need a Kindle and all of these other materials. Nor does it keep up with inflation. Healthcare costs and retirement costs are taking larger and larger chunks. We talked about that foundation allowance of the $8,500 that goes for each kid, almost I think it's around 12 or $1,300 per kid goes to pay for the retirement of the staff and the teachers that you and I had when we were in school. I won't say how many years ago. But we have to pay that obligation and that liability. So it's one of those things that when you hear "record funding," be careful about what that means. It still may not mean that enough funding is going where it needs to in education.
>> All right. So how can school employees or even regular citizens help join toward a united voice to help with these school funding issues?
>> That's a great question. One of the things we need is everybody to get on board with the same message and in some ways a new message. Currently, like I said, everybody is arguing for their piece of the pie. They're arguing and they're saying that last piece of the pie that the legislators determined, that discretionary piece, the most important thing for it should be early ed or CTE or more school counselors, whatever it is that, in all fairness, that's what they know about. And they understand the challenges they are facing. By arguing over that last piece of pie, we're kind of missing the boat. What we need to be saying is, we need a bigger pie. It's not that that last piece of discretionary funding should go to any one of those areas. All of those areas need the funding, according to the research. So instead of arguing over that one piece, we need to be saying, it's time for a bigger pie. And so if everybody were to reach out and try to build a relationship with their legislators -- not just when you need something. Not just when you hear about some law that you don't like and you want to go and, you know, bend their ear. But also, you know, a lot of legislators have coffee hours every month. And you can go, and it may not always be about education. They may be talking about roads funding or healthcare. But if you start listening and just offering your comments, whatever they may be, and the legislators start seeing you regularly, they start recognizing you as a human and not as just someone who's mad about something. One of the great things that school employees can do when they go to these is talk about those particular struggles. When each of those different kinds of groups of people come forward and say, early ed or CTE, they'll say it because they're seeing a particular challenge. Our CTE equipment isn't the kind of equipment that business is using. And that means our kids are not being trained the way they should be. That's all true. You can still say that. But instead of saying, so give us that last piece of pie, the message is, so we need a bigger pie, so we can fund this and all the other priorities. And that way instead of us all competing against each other, we're all working together.
>> I really like that advice, Lisa, especially the part about meeting with your legislator regularly. So thank you. We're lucky to have someone with your budget expertise to talk to. These kinds of topics can be confusing, so I appreciate your clarity.
>> Well, it was a pleasure being here, anytime.
>> This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools' intermediate school districts communication services and produced by media production and distance learning manager Mark Hansen. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel which are better delivered regionally and provide cost, size, and quality advantages to those we serve. You can find more information on Oakland Schools at Oakland.K12.MI.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis. And you can find this and future episodes of Educationally Speaking on Anchor FM. We hope you will join us for our next episode where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every student every day.
Oakland Schools' Teacher Induction and Social Studies Education Consultant Dr. Christopher Lee and Oakland Schools' Literacy Consultant Dr. Andrea Zellner have started a New Teacher Induction Program called NTIP. The purpose of NTIP is to provide induction services for new teachers in participating Oakland County districts. Oakland Schools' goal is to support and guide educators who are in the early stages of their careers.
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
>> Sarah: Hello. Welcome to Educationally Speaking. My name is Sarah Davis [assumed spelling] and I'm a Communication Specialist with Oakland Schools and the host of this podcast. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education hear in Oakland County, Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in. Today, we're going to dive into the topic of teacher induction, which basically is supporting and guiding educators who are in the early stages of their careers. In this podcast, we will be introducing you to a new program Oakland Schools launched in 2016 called the New Teacher Induction Program or NTIP for short. The purpose of NTIP is to provide induction services for new teachers in participating Oakland County districts. Here with us today, we have Dr. Christopher Lee [assumed spelling], Oakland Schools Teacher Induction and Social Studies Education Consultant, and Dr. Andrea Zellner [assumed spelling], Oakland Schools Literacy Consultant. Andrea and Chris have [inaudible] state and national interests in their work with new teachers. They have presented their research on NTIP at national conferences like the American Educational Research Association and the University Counsel for Education Administration. They have also worked to build a network of practitioners from across Michigan to advocate foreign support the work of new teacher induction. Chris and Andrea, thank you so much for being here today.
>> Chris: Thank you.
>> Andrea: Thanks for having us.
>> Sarah: I'm eager to learn about this new program. And, in fact, it was when I was promoting our first podcast, Bullying 101 with Dr. Julie McDaniel [assumed spelling] on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that Chris you reached and thought NTIP would be a perfect podcast topic for Educationally Speaking. So, I'm happy to have both of you here today.
>> Chris: Yeah, we've been slowly rolling out the program over the last three years and have invited new districts to participate as the needs of the districts have aligned with our program goals.
>> Sarah: That's awesome. Well, with that in mind, can you first give us an overview of NTIP?
>> Chris: Absolutely. On our team, we have four Oakland School Consultants, myself and three other very talented consultants. The first one's Andrea Zellner, sitting beside me here, the second is Stacy Woodward [assumed spelling]. She is one of our Disciplinary Literacy Consultants and Social Education Consultant. And then, Ashlyn Curry [assumed spelling] who's also a Literary Consultant. The program is designed around four basic parts, the first of which are quarterlies and quarterlies are whole program gatherings where we invite every new teacher that's in the districts that we're working with to come and gather together. And, the way we think about it is that it's networking around instructional improvement. So, we want new teachers to learn from one another across districts and across buildings. The biggest example of that, the best example of that that we had was one time, we had two special education teachers, one from each district that we were serving at the time, and one of them was a brand new teacher and was asked to create a whole program out of nothing. And so, it was a very difficult time for that teacher. And so, that teacher met with another teacher who taught the same kind of special education program in another district and they had a lot of support. So, this teacher from the first district said can I come observe and can I bring my principal and can I bring my teacher consultant. They went and visited and the first teacher really improved their practice as a result. And, that's the kind of networking that we're looking to generate in these quarterly meetings.
>> Andrea: Yeah, the next part of the program is something that we call Huddles, which were originally content area or grade level group and this year, we've rebranded them as Huddles Plus so that teachers can also engage with online virtual learning, either self-paced or synchronous. And so, those have really expanded the opportunities for teachers to get exactly the type of learning that they need right when they need it.
>> Chris: And then, the third part of the program is there's a coaching part of the program. Now, initially in the first year, we were a small program. We're only in two districts. We had 25 new teachers. And, the consultants provided direct instructional coaching services for those teachers, but we realized pretty quick the program was going to expand and that the need for coaching was going to expand exponentially and that we didn't have the capacity to do that, so what we decided to do is we decided to start training coaches in the districts to do that work. And, that work has been slowly growing. In the first year that we did that, we had about 25 coaches from two districts and this year, we had about 40 coaches from two or three districts. So, that work has been sort of slowly growing. And, we're also thinking about how do we integrate that work into coaching work that's already happening in Oakland Schools. What kind of services are already [inaudible]? So, for example, Marty Chafee [assumed spelling] who's one of our leadership consultants does a lot of this work with principals and so we're trying to align our work with other work that's happening in Oakland Schools in that regard.
>> Andrea: Yeah, and the last part of our program is that we do a lot of research on what is happening with our new teachers. So, one question we had was about new teacher's beliefs and how that impacts their teaching. And, then we looked at how their social networks might be influencing those beliefs. So, we have some outside university partners who work with us in surveying the new teachers and interviewing the new teachers and also with the analysis. So, then we publish that and share those findings widely with the educational communities that we an learn together.
>> Sarah: Okay, great. So, part of the name of this project is Induction and I have to be honest as someone who isn't as familiar with education terms, what exactly is it that you mean by teacher induction?
>> Chris: Well, I think the first thing to realize is that Michigan has a state law that says if you're a new teacher that's untenured, doesn't have tenure in the district, you have to have a mentor. And so, where this program originally started is that Mike Yoakum [assumed spelling], our Assistant Superintendent, came to me and said, we have this law on the books. A lot of districts are providing mentors to new teachers, but that kind of work they're doing is really involved around socialization, like hey, here's where the copier is at, here's the secretary you need to go to if you have a question about your paystub, but what we're interested in is we're interested in instructional improvement. So, socialization is really important. It needs to happen. And, we think the work that's already happening in the district is great and we want to support that, but we want to take it a step further. We want to help new teachers get better at their practice, get better at the instruction that's going on in their classrooms. So, there's that element of it too. There's also a second element that the state requires that new teachers in their first three years have 90 additional hours of professional learning. So, if you're a teacher in Michigan, you have to get recertified every five years, that's 30 hours per year. For new teachers in their first three years, it's an additional 30 hours, so it's a total of 60 hours in their first three years they've got to get recertified and to meet the state requirement. So one of the big things that we want to do is that we really want to make sure that new teachers have, as Andrea said, the way to get those 30 hours that makes sense to them, that works for their schedule, and then also helps them grow in the specific area of their practice they need to get better at. Lastly, you know, we think of the program as five years. In terms of this program, those first three years are really focused on getting those hours, but we now have people, because we've been doing this program and we're in our fourth year, we now have teachers who are in their fourth and fifth year and we're thinking about how do we train them for teacher leadership as well, right. We want to move them on from, you know, being a neophyte into actually helping other teachers. So, we've started to ask some of these veterans of the program if they can begin leading Huddle meetings, leading parts of the quarterly meetings, and we've been seeing some really good results so far.
>> Sarah: Okay. And, I think that, you know, we've all heard about teacher retention right now and how important it is in the state of Michigan. So, can you talk about how NTIP plays a role in that and why this program is important at this moment?
>> Andrea: Right. So, new teachers tend to leave the profession within the first five years. There's a lot of research around teacher attrition at that moment in their career. The New Teacher Induction Program enters into that space to really think about how do we retain teachers in a way that sustains them professionally so that they don't leave the profession and that they don't leave the buildings that they're in. One of the things that we're seeing coming out of teacher preparation programs is that they just don't have the students graduating out of their programs. Those programs have shrunk by 70% over the last decade, which is a really remarkable drop. So, the teachers that we have coming out of those teacher prep programs and placing into classrooms really need to stay. We have a substitute crisis in Michigan. We have lots of students who are being taught by long-term subs, so having a certified teacher in a classroom is a really beautiful thing to have going on for you. As a district, we want to make sure that those teachers don't feel burnt out, that they feel supported, that when they have questions, they know where to get those answers and resources so they can sustain their practice and move through that very tumultuous first five years and into a long term career for themselves.
>> Chris: And, if I could also jump in and add to that, there's also sort of some cyclical and some structural things going on in the teacher labor market as well. So, cyclically, what happens with teacher labor markets is as the economy gets better, fewer people want to be teachers. As the economy gets worse, more people want to be teachers. Teaching provides sort of a stable profession for people in an unstable market. What we're seeing right now because the economy is still pretty good and it's been growing for a long time is that fewer people want to be teachers. But there's also a structural component where the profession is generally under attack. The prestige of teaching has been going down for I think we could say decades and so, we see not only are we at a low point cyclically, but we're also at a low point structurally as well. And, what that means is that we need to install systems for teacher induction and support before we see a flood of new teachers come back to the market whenever the cycle picks back up again.
>> Sarah: And, Andrea, I think it was you who mentioned the research component of NTIP earlier in the program. Can you talk about that a little bit more?
>> Andrea: Yeah, so, it's really interesting. We have a lot of research that shows that professional learning communities can impact teachers' beliefs about teaching. And, we also know that new teachers in their teacher prep programs are really thinking about equity and social justice and the sort of definite thread from all of our major universities who are giving us teachers into Oakland County. So, what we were questioning was okay, so now we have a teacher who's brand new who has this developing sense of who they are as a human being and as a new professional and what happens to those beliefs as a result of interacting with veteran teachers, interacting within their buildings and the culture of those buildings. So, really the question was we believe that there might be some changes around those beliefs, but we don't really have the data to support that. So, the research was really looking at who do you go to for help. So, that was the first question. How often do you speak with them? Who are you naming as your support people? And, then we also surveyed the people that they named as their helper and tried to look how similar or different are those new teacher beliefs around equity and social justice as opposed to the veteran teachers that they are going to. And, we found some really interesting data. We found that their networks really change a lot over the first year. We found that they still go back to their student teaching placement, their mentor from that student teaching placement, that they have a really strong relationship, so that was one person that they really nominated. And also, their closest colleague within the building. So, usually, if I'm a third grade teacher, I'm going to go to my third grade teaching team member or my special ed teaching team member. So, those are the folks that the new teachers are really interacting with. What was missing were more formal leaders that we would expect to see. So, surprisingly, you're not seeing department heads named, you're not seeing principals named within those networks. So, that's really interesting to us, because as an organization, thinking through, we have all these structures in place for formal leadership. Those leaders may not be influencing our newest members of our profession and what consequences does that have? What does that mean for how we develop leadership as an organization and how we support those new teachers as well?
>> Sarah: Okay. So, how can people find out more information or how can a district get involved in NTIP and use its resources. Well, first of all, they can email us. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and Andrea's email is --
>> Andrea: email@example.com.
>> Chris: Two L's.
>> Andrea: Two L's.
>> Chris: And, we were happy to talk to any districts about this work. We want to be clear though, this would be for school year 2020-2021. This year, we're already rolling with our programs and we would want to make sure that any new districts that come in would be fully supported and integrated into the program, but we think that that planning work can begin as soon as January, February of 2020.
>> Andrea: I just want to add too to that because you want to make sure that you have all the structural supports there. So, we meet with human resources, we meet with assistant sup's or superintendents, we meet with the union presidents to make sure that all those structures that might be touching teachers in a formal way are ready to support this more informal way of interacting. And, the other thing we should know is that we have our own hashtag.
>> Chris: And, that is?
>> Andrea: #ntipinoc.
>> Chris: So, that's NTIP in Oakland County.
>> Sarah: Well, thank you Chris and Andrea. I'm really excited to see NTIP develop and be sure to keep us updated here, because I'd love to keep this conversation on the importance of teacher retention in our state going.
>> Chris: Thank you for having us.
>> Sarah: Thank you again and thanks to all of you for listening. And, remember to be sure to follow NTIP on Twitter at ntipinoc. That's N-T-I-P-I-N-O-C. You can also find all this information in the Educationally Speaking show notes. This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools Intermediate School Districts Communication Services. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel which are better delivered regionally and provide cost, size and quality advantages to those we serve. [Music] You can find more information on Oakland Schools at oakland.k12.mi.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find this and future episodes of Educationally Speaking on Anchor FM [phonetic]. We hope you will join us for our next episode where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every student every day.
[ Music ]
Oakland Schools' Student Safety and Well-Being Consultant Dr. Julie McDaniel talks about Bullying during Bullying Prevention Month. The discussion ranges from the three main characteristics of bullying to what impact bullying has on school culture.
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
Oakland Schools’ podcast
Season 1, Episode 1
Sarah Davis: Hello, and welcome to the first podcast of Educationally Speaking.
My name is Sarah Davis and I’m a communications specialist with Oakland schools and the host of this podcast.
Thank you so much for listening. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education here in Oakland County, Michigan. We plan to discuss subjects that have local regional and statewide implications that indirectly impact our students, teachers and parents.
For this first podcast, we are tackling a very important topic: bullying. here with us today, we have Dr. Julie McDaniel who is Oakland Schools student safety and well-being consultant. Julie spends her life’s work educating leaders in the state and nationally with bullying prevention information resources and services.
This past summer, Julie presented at the world anti-bullying forum in Dublin, Ireland on bullying prevention through the lens of trauma. Dr. McDaniel, thank you so much for being here today. It’s an honor.
Dr. Julie McDaniel: It’s truly my pleasure.
Sarah Davis: So, because bullying is such a wide-ranging topic, we’ve decided to have this episode focus on bullying 101, just about the basic information we all need to know about bullying so we can help prevent it.
Julie, can you tell us the three main characteristics of bullying?
Dr. Julie McDaniel: Yes, I’d be happy to. I think that that’s probably the most important place to start. A lot of times bullying is misunderstood and it’s over used, the term. So, Bullying has three characteristics. The first is that it’s repetitive or it’s likely to be repeated. If you see something and you say well this looks like a one-time thing, it’s probably not bullying.
The second is that it is it intentional and unwarranted, which means that it’s always on purpose. It’s never by accident and it’s never just joking.
The third characteristic is the thing that separates bullying from all other acts of aggression and that’s that it’s a power imbalance. What that means is that when people engage in bullying behavior, they believe themselves to be superior to those that are targeting. So, it can be body size, it could be intellectual ability, skin color, ethnicity, race, social status, family income, really it is about the context so, in a particular environment, whatever is deemed as powerful, people who engage in bullying behavior have that and look at those who don’t is being less than.
Sarah Davis: Okay, so who was typically involved in bullying?
Dr. Julie McDaniel: That is a really good question as well because a lot of times we want to take a child who has been engaging in bullying behavior and reduce them to label so I really urge people not use the term bully or victim because what I try to do is more of a restorative way where we look at these precious angels of ours that have engaged in behavior that’s really poor.
So, there are different ways to be involved in bullying. There are those who bully, there are those who are bullied, there are those who both bully and are bullied and I think that even though that sounds confusing it’s important for us to note that our children are not born with the ability to bully that they’re actually taught that something that I share often is that hurt people hurt people.
More importantly, what I want to do is I really want to focus and let people talk about the witnesses. I’ve heard a lot that it’s the bystanders that can really stop bullying but I think it’s important for us to note that just because someone is not actively engaged in bullying, it doesn’t mean that they’re not really active in bullying behavior.
So, in witnesses there are very different types of people that are involved. There are those who may not have been plotting and planning the bullying, but they are involved. They actively participate. There those who are more like cheerleaders, there’re those who say that they’re not involved they show up because they like to be a part of that. They may not be cheering someone on but they might be recording it and posting it on social media. There are those who are who don’t want to get involved because they’re afraid of retaliation and then finally there those and, it’s unfortunately a small number of people who really are potential defenders, but they are afraid to stand up because they’re not in a place where they can to be guaranteed that the adult is going to step in for them. It’s really good opportunity for me to talk about bullying being first and foremost an adult problem that we have to be in first line of defense for our kids.
Sarah Davis: It’s really interesting to hear all the different types of individuals that are involved in bullying. You never really hear it broken out that way. So what is the impact of bullying?
Dr. Julie McDaniel: So, let’s break it down between the individual and the school-wide impact. Individually, students are impacted academically where typically we’ll see those either grades start to reduce, we’ll see lack of homework, we’ll see a difference in their study habits. Physically, we may see unexplained bruises. We may hear about unexplained pains stomachaches, headaches, socially we watch kids become withdrawn, they have difficulty making and keeping friends and then emotionally we see everything from depression to anxiety so in ours the school culture this is where I think their focus should be a lot of times we think that this is a problem between two individuals and what we know is that bullying affects every single person around and so an entire school culture can feel the impact of a bullying situation. What we know is that in schools they report high degrees of bullying behavior. They have lower standardized test scores. We know that student and teacher absences are reflected by bullying situations so that when there’s high amounts of bullying reported, there are more teacher and student absences. We know that every thing is always linked to the safety support nature of the school culture and so when that school culture is experiencing a great degree of bullying behavior, we know that that culture needs to be strengthened - that there is a sense of safety that’s lacking there.
Sarah Davis: That’s very interesting because I think a lot of times you think of bullying as more one-on-one issue so for it to impact the school culture in that way, it’s really interesting how it’s such an issue. So how prevalent would you say bullying is in schools?
Dr. Julie McDaniel: This is a surprising statistic even though we have a decade of strong evidence that bullying is very prevalent in schools. The youth/risk survey which is given every two years by the Centers for Disease Control has told us, our high school kids have told us, that that 20% of them are being bullied on school property within months of the survey. This is happening 5 times over 10 years where they told us one and five in Michigan - it’s statistically significantly higher where we have one in four kids, 25% of our high school students in Michigan say that they’re being bullied on school property. This is not the neighborhoods or the malls, this is right inside of our schools before, during and after. So what we also have are the crime and violence statistics from the National Institute of Justice and what they do is they bring down bullying behavior by grade ages 12 to 17 and what we know is that is that bullying peaks in middle school and the latest statistics from 2018 show that 39% of sixth graders are being bullied on school property and then that number goes down so we know that bullying peaks in middle school. So it’s not getting any better and it’s staying a constant stable statistic despite all of our efforts.
Sarah Davis: Those are some pretty grim statistics why do you think the bullying issue isn’t getting any better?
Dr. Julie McDaniel: I hear this often is people still think that bullying is a right of passage. I hear parents say that it’s tough world out there and they want their kids to have tougher skin that they want be able to survive out there that is not an appropriate answer because bullying is not a natural way of going through life it is unnatural for people to treat one another that way the other thing is that children will never enter this earth with the capacity to bully they actually see other people do that and so when adults look at bullying behavior when kids are coming to them in reporting that and the adults are dismissing it, what it does is it causes kids to one go underneath and not share anything and the second thing which is even worse is for them to grow up believing that this is the right way to act. So adults either don’t want to see or they don’t see and then if they do see it they don’t want to respond in a helpful way. So what we’ve what we learned about is in 2013 the smartest bullying prevention people in the world came together - Teachers College - and they have this seminar called Beyond Bullying Summit and instead of talking about the bullying prevention programs what they did is they came together and they said the best way to prevent bullying is two things: the first is that there has to be a strong and supportive school environment. The first most important thing is that there’s a strong professional learning community that teachers and administrators trust one another. Once they trust one another than they trust the students then that leads to every student having a trusted adult in the school there’s so many good research-based ways to strengthen school culture. So that’s one thing. The second is that only in the safety support of school cultures can we really help kids develop socially and emotionally. A lot of push right now for social emotional curriculum but that’s never good to be effective unless we have a school that’s supportive and strong where teachers and students and administrators feel like they are in a place where they belong.
Sarah Davis: Given all that information, how does bullying even begin?
Dr. Julie McDaniel: So bullying behavior reflects the way we develop. The first way we develop is physically and so we’ll see tripping and pushing and shoving and and then as verbal skills start growing we also see verbal bullying and we see females developing faster. By the time kids are, girls especially, are in fourth-fifth grade, we start seeing social bullying we see boys, males in sixth grade, and so I think that that’s why it peaks in middle school this is happening as it’s not just a physical development but they’re growing socially and so right about the age of 12 kids shift their need for approval from adults to one another and so we see that dynamic play into the middle-school setting.
Sarah Davis: It seems like a lot of the focus of ongoing discussions, especially in the school setting, relates to cyber bullying in social media. Can you talk about where cyber bullying fits in?
Dr. Julie McDaniel: Sure, I think that it’s really very quick to say cyber bullying is a problem. One thing that I want to point out right away is that what they have looked at through the research is that cyber bullying actually begins in a face-to-face situation. So cyber bullying, the definition, is the same as bullying except that it takes place using electronic devices. This is not just social media, this is also online gaming chat rooms - anything that kids are doing online.
Sarah Davis: Based on everything we talked about so far, it seems like bullying is so common in schools. Is there really anything out there to protect our kids?
Dr. Julie McDaniel: There’s a lot out there. First of all, it’s good to know that there are laws in place in all 50 states. Michigan was the 47th state to enact an anti-bullying school policy. In our law, it says that it’s not just that bullying is prohibited behavior but it also requires every school district to have an anti-bullying policy that must be easily accessible on their website so there’s anti-bullying policies and all other schools in Michigan. In addition, cyber bullying last year there was a law, it was passed, that makes cyber bullying a possible felony if it’s a repeat offense - so there are strong laws in place. The problem with the laws is first of all that they don’t use the definition of bully that’s accepted by the Center for Disease Control by the research community and even by stopbullying.gov which is our federal site for anti-bullying and without the laws containing the same language as the accepted definition of bullying, what we have then is this continued misunderstanding about bullying behavior is. But that being said, there’s a lot of great things that are happening in our schools and I’m in the schools and I see that they’re in there is deliberate effort all the time to make sure that our kids are safe.
Sarah Davis: Are there any more additional resources available so the public can become more informed on this topic?
Sure, there are lots of resources. One example is Okay to Say which is a Michigan initiative you can call in or I’m through to their website and actually text any threat to a student and that is maintained by the Michigan State Police. There’s the Oakland Schools Bullying 101 page which provides a little bit more information than what we’ve been able to do here. There’s stopbullying.gov which is our federal anti-bullying site and is maintained by the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice and finally there’s the International Bullying Prevention Association website which is filled with research and blogs, newsletters there’s more information. I’m always available, if people are interested in contacting me, I can steer them to places.
Sarah Davis: Thank you Dr. McDaniel, your expertise on this important subject is invaluable.
Dr. Julie McDaniel: Thank you so much for having me.
Sarah Davis: It was my pleasure and thanks to all of you for listening. This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools Intermediate School Districts’ Communications Services.
Oakland Schools as a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel which are better delivered regionally and provide cost size and quality advantages to those we serve.
You can find more information on Oakland Schools at Oakland.k12.mi.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find this and future episodes of Educationally Speaking on Anchor FM or Spotify. We hope you’ll join us for next episode, where we will continue to bring discuss topics that affect Every student. Every day.
We know that school leaders are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to planning for the fall. They need to be thinking about students' social-emotional health and learning. Both things must be attended to. Leaders can't pick one or the other. So, the question is, how do school leaders manage this balancing act?
Jenelle Williams, Oakland Schools' Leadership and School Improvement Literacy Consultant
Marty Chaffee, Oakland Schools' Administrator Leadership Consultant
- Oakland Schools
- Unleashing the Positive Power of Differences: Polarity Thinking in Our Schools by Jane Kise
- Barry Johnson, lead thinker on polarity management
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
[ Music ]
>> Hello, and welcome to Educationally Speaking. My name is Sarah Davis and I'm a Communications Specialist with Oakland Schools and the host of this podcast. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education here in Oakland County, Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in. Today, we will be discussing managing the polarity of meeting students' emotional and academic needs during COVID-19. We know that school leaders are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to planning for the fall. They need to be thinking about students' social-emotional health and learning. Both things must be attended to. Leaders can't pick one or the other. So, the question is, how do school leaders manage this balancing act? Here to talk with us about this topic today are Jenelle Williams, Oakland Schools' Leadership and School Improvement Literacy Consultant, and Marty Chaffee, Oakland Schools' Administrator Leadership Consultant. Thanks to both of you for being here today.
>> Thanks for having us, Sarah.
>> We're looking forward to our time together.
>> So, Marty and Jenelle, let's start off by having you explain what you mean by polarity.
>> Polarities are interdependent pairs that over time need each other. Each pole accurately describes something we need, yet neither side is complete without the other. They are items that require and instead of or thinking. A really simple polarity is inhaling and exhaling. The processes are interdependent and we need both of them to live.
>> Okay. So, how is managing a polarity different from solving a problem?
>> Well, some issues do require either/or or versus thinking. Often, there are problems that can be solved once and for all. For example, hunger is a problem that needs to be solved. Either I eat or I will continue to be hungry. If someone is in danger, you either help them or look away. Hopefully, you choose this one wisely. And for a school-related problem, we might think about course schedules as a problem to solve. Polarities are messier systems. They require a different way of thinking. We can't just solve them like we do with problems. The very first step to dealing with a polarity is to see it as just that, a polarity, instead of as a problem to be solved. We see a polarity by asking ourselves the following questions. First, is it ongoing? Second, are the alternatives interdependent? Third, over time are both poles or solutions needed? And finally, if we focus only on one upside, will we eventually undermine our goal?
>> Okay, so what are some specific examples of how polarities might relate to our current situation with COVID?
>> Some examples of current polarities leaders are navigating right now are as follows: In-person and online learning. Leaders need to use both avenues as some families will be most comfortable keeping their kids at home. These poles will be interdependent as well as there may be district staff engaged in leading both in-person and online learning. If leaders only focus on one or the other, they could be in a tough spot as well if schools become closed again for periods of time. Another one might be staff wellbeing and student learning. Leaders are also navigating having medically vulnerable teachers and needing to provide rigorous learning for all students. Teachers need to be healthy and at their best to teach their children and the children need to be healthy to ensure all can be present in school. And of course, as we discussed previously, leaders are having to find ways to attend to student wellbeing and trauma, as well as move learning forward.
>> As we have journeyed through the past few months, Jenelle and I have spoken to many educators. We have heard leaders and school personnel share some very sad stories causing them to want to focus on meeting the social-emotional needs of their students. Here's a sampling of the things we've heard: "My district's leaders say we need to do SEL activities." This was in response to a high school student who in isolation chose to take his life. "I just learned that one of my student's parents died from COVID-19. How can I expect that kid to be ready to learn right now?" Or, "I have parents who are unsure how they will pay their rent. I'm expected to make sure they are seeing that their children are finishing their online or paper packet of assignments?" Recently, I was told that Child Protective Services has seen a steep drop in referrals. Initially, I thought, that was great news, until I was told it was because the people who normally make the referrals, educators, are not in face-to-face contact with the students.
>> We've also heard administrators and teachers focused on how to meet the educational needs of their students. At the very least, students have had three months of their education interrupted. At the most, by fall it will be even greater. Some of the things we're hearing are: "My superintendent wants the teachers to identify the power standards for the upcoming school year." And, "We need to think about assessments so we can identify which kids need intervention this fall." So, let's put it to the test referring back to the questions we shared to see a polarity. Question one, is it ongoing? Sure! This is not a new problem. As educators, we have always struggled to meet the social-emotional needs of students or build relationships along with meeting their academic needs, helping them be successful learners. Question two, are the alternatives interdependent? Absolutely. Students that are experiencing, or have experienced, trauma experience physical and cognitive effects that have a direct impact on their learning. And experiencing success or a proficiency in learning has effects on students' sense of self-efficacy and wellbeing. Question three, over time, are both poles or solutions needed? The old adage, they don't care what you know until they know that you care comes to mind here. Educators know they have to pay attention to both poles. We can be a mean teacher [inaudible] students or we can be an enabling teacher. Either choice leads to inefficient and ineffective teaching and learning. Question four, if we focus only on one upside will we eventually undermine our goal? Yes. Building learning communities and approaches that support social-emotional health but not attending to learning will end up being frustrating for students and teachers. Kids have a natural curiosity that needs to be attended to and only focusing on academics will result in even wider inequities. So, using this four-question criteria, we realize this really is a polarity to be managed, not a problem to be solved.
>> Wow. Lots of really good information there. So, how can we manage a polarity and why should we even do this?
>> Just seeing something as a polarity is progress. Whether it is a school group that engages in exploring polarities or individual teachers or leaders, there will be a benefit. When we manage a polarity, we can reclaim all the energy that is wasted on arguments, resistance, policy swings, and so on. If we learn to start with three steps that organize our collective wisdom instead of solving a problem, which often ends up with winners and losers, we need to see the polarity. That is step one, which we've already discussed. Let's explore that a little though. How does seeing a polarity save energy and keep us from having winners and losers? So, let's say a school is treating students' academic achievement as a problem to be solved and they decide to put groups of students in intervention classes on day one of instruction. By approaching this as a problem to be solved, the school is neglecting the issue of students' social and emotional health. Instead of starting the year with peers and having the chance to rebuild community and relationships, these students receive the message that they are different from, and perhaps less than, their peers.
>> Or, if we treat the social-emotional needs of the students as a problem by spending a large part of our time counseling and rebuilding community, we lose the opportunity to help students continue to develop their academic proficiency.
>> So, step one is seeing it. Step two is we need to map the results of focusing on each pole. And step three, leverage the energy of both sides. We will end up with an articulated plan that moves us toward a greater purpose, meeting the needs of the whole child. Mapping and leveraging a polarity involves several steps that we don't have time to talk about today, but there are several helpful resources to get people started.
>> Right. I mean, it seems like, you know, a fairly complicated subject, but one that is very important. So, how can school leaders and teachers learn more about polarity management and about meeting students' academic needs and meeting their social-emotional needs?
>> Well, a great text resource for educators is Jane Kise's book, Unleashing the Positive Power of Differences: Polarity Thinking in Our Schools. Individuals might also search the internet for resources by Barry Johnson, the lead thinker on polarity management. And, of course, individuals can contact either of us at Oakland Schools.
>> Okay, great. And I'll put all of that information in our show notes, as well as your contact info so that people, you know, can connect with you if they need to. Students are going to have a variety of unique social-emotional needs this school year because of the pandemic, and understanding how school leaders can effectively deal with this is crucial. So, thank you so much, Marty and Jenelle, for talking with me about this important subject today.
>> Thank you for having us on the show.
>> Not a problem. This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools' Intermediate School Districts Communication Services and is produced by Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel which are better delivered regionally and provide cost, size, and quality advantages to those we serve. You can find more information on Oakland Schools at Oakland.k12.mi.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find this and future episodes of Educationally Speaking on Anchor FM. We hope you will join us for our next episode where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every student, every day.
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The transition back to school is going to be tough for everyone this year. Last year, with the pandemic, school went completely online then ended as it always does with the start of summer. But the bottom-line is in late August when students start coming back, it will have been months since they were in a classroom for face-to-face learning. This transition is likely to hit younger students the hardest as this may be the first time they have even gone into a classroom. In particular, the move from preschool to kindergarten is difficult for many youngsters.
Veronica Pechumer, Oakland Schools Early Childhood Consultant
Christine Hodge, Oakland Schools Great Start Collaborative Associate Coordinator
Nicole McDonald, kindergarten teacher at Schalm Elementary in Clawson Public Schools
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
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>> Hello. Welcome to Educationally Speaking. My name is Sarah Davis and I'm a Communication Specialist with Oakland Schools and the host of this podcast. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education here in Oakland County, Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in. Transition back to school is going to be tough for everyone this year. Last year, with the pandemic, school went completely online then ended as it always does with the start of summer. But the bottom-line is in late August when students start coming back, it will have been months since they were in a classroom for face-to-face learning. This transition is likely to hit younger students the hardest as this may be the first time they have even gone into a classroom. In particular, the move from preschool to kindergarten is difficult for many youngsters. Here to talk with us about this topic today are two Oakland Schools experts in early childhood transitions, Veronica Pechumer, Early Childhood Consultant, and Christine Hodge, Great Start Collaborative Associate Coordinator. Also joining us today is Nicole McDonald, kindergarten teacher at Schalm Elementary in Clawson Public Schools. Thanks to all of you for being here today.
>> Thanks for having us, Sarah.
>> So, Veronica, let's start out by talking about what kindergartners can expect going into the school year.
>> Well, this year will be different for sure. More than ever, we need to begin on a positive note for our children, especially our kindergartners. The start of the school year can create anxieties with our children during a typical year. However, this year, things may be increased exponentially. As parents, we can help our children by not having conversations about our own frustrations and fears in front of them. Whether talking to them or when they are around, be sure to talk about school and learning in a positive way. We understand that parents are anxious about the school year. However, this virus has been unpredictable, so the only thing that we can guarantee is that schools and children -- schools and teachers are doing everything they can to keep your child safe. They're working hard to have various plans to teach your children. Nicole, as a kindergarten teacher, do you have anything you want to add?
>> Yes, thank you. As an educator and a parent of elementary aged children, I believe it's very important for us to keep positive attitude and positive talk around our children, even when we're feeling unsure ourselves. It is important to remember that even though things will look and feel very different for us as adults, this is still a new first experience for our youngest students, and they don't have a former expectation. If we continue to create a safe loving environment where students know they're valued and their mistakes are forgiven, great learning can still happen even during these ever changing times.
>> OK. And just as importantly, what should parents be ready for? Christine, do you have any perspective on that?
>> Yeah, sure. So, parents should expect that each day will be unique. Some days will run smoothly and others may not be quite as easy to get through. From a school standpoint, remind yourself that your child's school absolutely wants the best for your child. They will do all they can to ensure that your child is safe and meeting educational goals. Unfortunately, we are unsure right now if every day that will be in a classroom setting. But reminding yourself that your child's teacher and school absolutely want her to succeed may help you feel a little bit better. Make sure to communicate with your child's teacher. Start those lines of communication early and often so that you can work together as a team to foster learning. As far as your child is concerned, she may be hesitant to leave you, even if she left you easily for preschool or childcare before. She has most likely been home with you more than usual lately, so that's become her comfort zone. So just remember, you are the expert on your child and you know what she needs the most. You can do determine how best to accommodate those needs and when you can push her a bit or not. The other thing you need to be ready for is to not expect perfection, in yourself or your child. This year more than ever, you have to give yourself a break. And remind yourself that giving your child attention and showing her love is all you really must do. Parenting is so hard as it is. Just keep reminding yourself that you have -- that you do have what it takes.
>> And Nicole, you know, as a kindergarten teacher, I'm sure you have some unique tips for supporting the child's transition, especially as they're going from preschool to kindergarten.
>> Yes. Helping your child to be as independent as possible before school begins is super important, and maybe even more important this year as teachers may not be able to help them as much with their snacks and lunch as they have in previous years. Helping your child to be able to put on and take off their own coats and to be able to maneuver the clothing they're wearing for their bathroom needs is very important. Have your child practice opening their lunchbox and Ziploc bags and containers at home. Roleplay certain situations such as if you need to go to the bathroom, what should you do? If you're feeling worried or scary -- scared, here's what you can do. You can trust your teachers, your mommy and daddy trust that they'll take good care of you when you're with them. You can roleplay the teacher role and have your child be the student role so that you can help them through those situations.
>> Another great thing is to encourage your child to follow directions with more than one step. For instance, you can ask them to take their shoes to the bedroom and on the way back, bring you a Kleenex. You can make following directions fun by playing games, like Simon says, giving two or three steps, board games like Sorry or Memory not only help with directions but also can help children wait their turn, which is really important skill for a kindergartner. It's also a good time to start with some chores around the house, if you haven't already. Examples could be asking your child to dust two or three items around the house, or setting the table and asking them to get forks and napkins. Doing chores together is great learning, because it helps your child feel like they're contributing to the family. Christine, do you have anything to add?
>> Yeah, I'll add one last thing. One last thing that you can do, and I know you have heard this before but it really bears repeating, is read to your child. Read every day and everything you see. Not just books, but road signs, store signs, cereal boxes, different things that are a part of your everyday. Point out print when you see it and point to the print as you are reading. When you are reading a book, make sure to ask questions about what you're reading that have more than a yes or no answer. So, what do you think is going to happen next? Most importantly, have fun while you're reading. You don't want it to be a chore for either of you. Find something he likes and read about it.
>> So, often an important part of starting the school year is taking your child to visit the classroom, meet the teacher, all those fun things you get to do. Depending on the district and what is going on with the pandemic, though -- not -- some of this might not be possible this year. So what should parents do instead of these important milestones?
>> It sounds like many districts are trying to provide some type of open house or meet up prior to school starting. But if this is not available, visit school website sites. Some districts may have virtual kindergarten orientations for families to view. These often allow you and your child to see kindergarten classrooms, teachers, school principals, so that you will know what to expect when you walk into the school. You can also find classroom teacher pages that virtually introduce you to a teacher. It's a great idea to visit the school playgrounds too. Those are available, free and fun. It's also very important to enroll your child in kindergarten as soon as you can so you can get the communication from your school about what your school is planning. Even if you're considering online education for your child this year, you can enroll them and begin to get the important updates.
>> All right, great advice. So the transition to kindergarten is not something that happens just that first day of school, but it's a continuous process throughout the entire year. What are some things that parents can do throughout the school year to help their child feel comfortable?
>> Well, one of the first things they can do is go through the child's backpack every day with your child. Ask open-ended but specific questions about their day. Instead of, "What did you do today," "What word did your teacher say most today?" Or "Who has the coolest backpack and what does it look like?" Do this during a quiet time when you're not in a hurry, you'll be surprised about what you learn about your child's day. It's also important to communicate with your child's teacher on a regular basis right from the start. You can learn what teacher -- what the teacher is planning and help prepare your child for anything that may come up throughout the year. You can also talk to the teacher about how your child is doing and if there's anything you can work on as a team. Nicole, do you have anything to add to that?
>> Yes, thanks. I was thinking that maybe having them to try to make connections with another child or family in the class. Having another child that they can connect with may be extra helpful. And they could possibly move from in-person to online, and probably back into person schooling. And if that's the case, that's a child they can continue to "see" through things like FaceTime or distance meetups if the school does close. It could make that transition back into the classroom, if possible, a bit easier. You can join in and participate in live meetings in Zooms that are provided through the school. And also join school social media pages like the PTA or PTO or just the school page itself for more information and to stay connected.
>> Right. And I think staying connected is really, really important right now to find all the latest updates and all of that. So where can people get more information or help if they need it?
>> So the Great Start Collaborative website here in Oakland County is a wonderful source of information, greatstartoakland.org. There are a tremendous amount of articles, parenting tips, videos, links to other resources as well. We also have our Sing, Say, Point, Play literacy campaign. If you can just do those four simple things with your child, it really can help babies learn to talk and children learn to read. You can find out more about this campaign and a lot more by visiting our website. You can also live chat on our website. Or call or text our parent phone line at 844-456-5437. Our care coordinators will respond. They're all live people and they're more than happy to offer you resources, answer your questions, find out what you need.
>> Excellent. Thank you so much, Veronica, Christine and Nicole for talking with us today about this important subject. We want to make sure all of our students are supported this school year, including our littlest ones who are making a huge transition.
>> Thanks so much. Not a problem at all.
>> This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools Intermediate School District's Communication Services, and is produced by Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel, which are better delivered regionally, and provide cost, size and quality advantages to those we serve. You can find more information on Oakland Schools at oakland.k12.mi.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis. And you can find this and future episodes of Educationally Speaking on Anchor FM. We hope you will join us for our next episode, where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every student every day.
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With school starting back up in the fall, many parents are having to make the tough decision of whether to have their children go back into the classroom or pick online learning options. For the past seven years, Oakland Schools has already been offering an online option for those interested. The program, called Virtual Learning Academy Consortium, or VLAC for short, offers an at-home learning program for grades K-12. In this episode, we talk with the director of VLAC who provides us with some tips and tricks for successful online learning this fall.
Julie Alspach, program administrator of Oakland Schools VLAC
Host: Oakland Schools' Communications Specialist Sarah Davis
Producer: Oakland Schools' Media Production and Distance Learning Manager Mark Hansen
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>> Hello, and welcome to Educationally Speaking. My name is Sarah Davis, and I'm a communications specialist with Oakland Schools and the host of this podcast. The goal of Educationally Speaking is to focus on important topics related to education here in Oakland County, Michigan. Thank you so much for listening in. It can easily be said that with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of this year, that the landscape of how our children learn has been changed. This past spring, students, teachers, and parents were thrown into the realm of online learning. Some had already been learning this way, but for many others, this was a new way of engaging in curriculum. With school starting back up in the fall, many parents are having to make the tough decision of whether to have their children go back into the classroom or pick online learning options. For the past seven years, Oakland Schools has already been offering an online option for those interested. The program, called Virtual Learning Academy Consortium, or VLAC for short, offers an at-home learning program for grades K-12. There is a public school option for parents and other caregivers who are willing and ready to guide their child's learning in a flexible home-based environment. VLAC currently supports 53 school districts in 10 counties and provides education to about 300 students who achieve academic success through virtual learning. So, with us today to talk about VLAC and some tips and tricks for ensuring successful online learning this fall, is Julie Alspach, program administrator of Oakland Schools VLAC. Julie welcome to the podcast.
>> Thanks for having me, Sarah.
>> So, before we go onto our tips and tricks for online learning, Julie, can you tell us a little bit about how VLAC works?
>> So, VLAC is a program that is an outreach to families who want to do home-based learning. We are a tuition-free program. We are full-time and 100% virtual. Families come to us because in the past they needed a flexible schedule was the major reason that families were coming to us, but now we're also seeing a rise in interest because of health concerns. Our learning guides from the family work in an encrypted program that's aligned with national and local standards with support from full-time, local certified teachers.
>> It's great to know that Oakland Schools has this option for families. In addition to VLAC, due to the pandemic, it seems a lot of local districts have also now decided to offer an online option for students, but for many this type of learning is new. So, how can parents decide which program works best for their child?
>> Well, Sarah, you're right. There's going to be a lot of options out there for them to pick from. And I always advise parents to start asking some questions, and some of the questions I would think that would be important to know, parents should ask how long has the program been around? How long has the teacher been teaching virtual? Is the teacher full-time? Some teachers that are going to be doing these programs might not be available all during the day or when you and your student are working. And another one is how many students does each teacher support and are they supporting only online or in-person? So, I think those kind of questions will give parents an idea of what they're signing up for and help them decide what program is best for them.
>> Great advice. Can you talk about the level of commitment needed from both the parent and child when it comes to embarking on an online learning program?
>> Virtual learning is going to be different in different programs. Some programs are going to require more parent engagement. Our program has a learning guide that somebody in the home that's working with a student. So, it is a full-time program, and it is going to be rigorous. Often that we think virtual learning is going to be easy and quick, but you should plan on spending a few hours a day with your children. Now that doesn't mean you can't virtually school more than one child. A child could be receiving instruction from their parent while another child is doing their homework, and you can kind of balance that, but it is important to know that this is a commitment on the parent's part. Most of the time, most programs, like ours, are going to be flexible on what hours you work, and they're going to be looking at weekly progress.
>> So, say a family has decided to go forward with online learning. What other items are important to get into place before you begin that process?
>> One of the first things I always tell my parents is set up a schedule because part of the problem with virtual learning is you can always do it tomorrow, but there's no bell that starts to tell you math now and no bell that rings again to tell you to stop. So, I always recommend that they set up a schedule with their student and have their student be part of making that schedule. Online learning can be more flexible. So, if your student isn't a morning person, if you have a middle schooler, you may not want to plan it starting at seven in the morning every day. I was a middle school virtual teacher and not many of my students were working at seven in the morning every day. But you know your younger elementary student might be more flexible. So, create a plan with your student, have rewards when you get that plan done, and have a plan B if you don't get that plan done. Maybe we'll do a few extra hours on Saturday. Organize a place for your supplies. You'll probably have books, you'll probably have papers, you'll have pens and pencils and organize that so that it's always in one spot where you can find it. Another thing we also suggest is that you set up a place for learning. Most of us are working remote and we have home offices and we have dedicated spaces for our working. Your child needs that too, and it's usually really helpful if that dedicated space is in the public area where you can kind of see that your child is working. Maybe even see what's on their screen, but not necessarily hover right over them. So, that gives them a little independence, but the parent can also kind of keep an eye that they actually are working. And then last, but certainly not least, there seems to be a lot of thought out there that these online courses are less personal than in-class learning. Can you talk a little bit about how relationships are still very important in the online learning world?
>> Relationships are very important, and when I started as a middle school virtual teacher, I was really surprised at the fact that I felt like I really did know my students, and I knew their strengths and weaknesses, I knew what they were interested in. We could suggest topics that would inspire them to write more because it's things they liked. And that relationship wasn't framed by behaviors or their appearance or personal biases. So, I was really surprised at how you really still connected to your students. But another important part of the virtual program is establishing community, and we do that with virtual and in-person events with our families. We still go to the zoo and we still go to the pumpkin patch in the fall, and then we also have live lessons where students can get together with the people in their class and their teachers every week. For parents to create that sense of community, we have both remote and in-person parent support to help them adjust to the home learning. So, we still create that community and those connections between our teachers, families, and students.
>> Excellent information, Julie. Before we go, can you tell us how people can find out more information on VLAC or other programs if they're interested?
>> So, they can find out more information about our program at our website which is www.vlac.org. They can also call our office at 248-209-2071, and then check out our Facebook page which is VLA Consortium, and we do have a parent meeting coming up. The most recent one is going to be Tuesday night, August 4th, and we will have other parent meetings up until the first day of school. And on our website and on our Facebook page, you can find out a lot more information about our program and the types of things we offer.
>> Excellent, and we'll have all of that information in the show notes for our listeners as well. Julie, thank you so much for guiding our local families through what is going to be some major education-related decision making this summer and fall.
>> Thanks so much for having me.
>> This podcast was brought to you by Oakland Schools, intermediate school districts, communication services, and is produced by Media Production and Distance Learning manager Mark Hanson. Oakland Schools is a regional service agency that offers support services to school personnel which are better delivered regionally and provide costs, size, and quality advantages to those we serve. You can find out more information on Oakland Schools at Oakland.k12.mi.us. I have been your host for this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find this in future episodes of Educationally Speaking on Anchor FM. We hope you will join us for our next episode where we will continue to bring you topics that affect every student, every day.
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