Upcoming Changes In Mustang Country
August 15, 2022
Hello Students, Parents, Guardians, & Community Members:
There is a hint of autumn in the air, fall athletic practices have begun, and a new school year is nearly upon us. Various teacher groups, custodians, and other district staff have been working hard throughout the summer to prepare for the start of school on September 6th. We are excited to soon have students returning to our buildings as we love the energy that they bring to the learning environment.
There are numerous staffing changes at each building, including a new principal (WesLee Tweedale) at Mather Elementary and a new principal and athletic director (Nicole Lasak) at Munising Middle-High School. Additionally, we will be employing a full time school social worker who will be devoting a bulk of their time to working with students at Mather Elementary and we are working with the City of Munising/Munising Police Department to hire a full-time school resource officer (SRO) that will serve students and staff at both buildings beginning this fall. Furthermore, we have secured a substitute bus driver which will enable us to cover transportation to after school athletic events while greatly reducing the need to double up afternoon bus runs for our younger Mustangs. Details regarding other important staffing changes will be highlighted in later communications. In addition to staffing changes, there are some changes in procedures, practices, and expectations for our students that are worth noting.
The first change is an increased focus and renewed emphasis on improving district attendance rates at all grade levels. Reducing the percentage of students deemed chronically absent is a district goal and it is the collective goal of the Alger County Youth Services Task Force which formed last year. Chronic Absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of the days in a reporting period (quarter, semester, etc.) or missing 10% or more of the days in an entire school year (10% of 180 days equates to 18+ days missed). The research is very clear about the negative impacts of chronic absenteeism, which include lower grades, higher failure rates, higher dropout rates, and lower graduation rates. The entire learning environment benefits from students that regularly attend school.
The second big change is a shift from a 7 period day (50 minute periods) at Munising Middle-High School to a 6 period day. The 6 period day with 60 minute periods will provide increased instructional time annually for students in all subjects and reduce the number of courses/subjects students are required to complete and pass. Additionally, with some increased course offerings, this change will reduce our reliance upon online providers to meet our students academic needs and will increase the opportunities for more face-to-face in the classroom learning with our excellent teaching staff.
Two other changes to our learning environment that we are implementing for the 2022-2023 school year will require some adjustments for our middle school students (grades 6-8). Those changes are to the cell phone (personal communication device) procedures and expectations for middle school students and the use of district provided computing devices for middle school students.
Change Three - Cell Phones/Personal Communication Devices: Beginning in late September or early October, Munising Public Schools may no longer allow middle school students to possess cell phones on school grounds during school hours. Some limited exceptions to this may be approved through the building principal for verified health needs or other extenuating circumstances. There is a designated phone in the office for students to use as needed for contacting parents, etc. The teachers and administration have carefully considered many factors related to this impending change and believe that it is essential to the success and well-being of our middle school learners. Over a decade of research now supports the negative academic impacts of fragmented attention and divided learning that occur from the possession and use of cell phones and similar devices in the school setting. Additionally, the use of mobile phones in school, especially at the middle school level, have resulted in numerous behavioral and safety concerns that we wish to reduce. We encourage parents to prepare their middle school learners for this anticipated change and consider having them leave cell phones at home to start the year as it may make the transition easier. Revised cell phone parameters and expectations for middle school students will be shared later this fall.
Change Four - Chromebooks: Consistent with previous expectations, all Middle and High School students will now be required to use an MPS issued Chromebook laptop as their digital learning tool. No personal laptops or devices may be used in lieu of the district issued Chromebook. This change is now essential in order to increase network security and protect our students during school hours from online predatory behaviors which are increasingly of foreign origin. Additionally, we must protect the district’s network and important data storage from data breaches and increasingly sophisticated malware and cyber attacks. Also a change for Middle School students (6-8) is that they will no longer be permitted to take their Chromebooks home on a daily basis. It is important for the district to be good stewards of this equipment by greatly reducing the breakage and loss rates and costs at the middle school level as well as assure that all of our middle level learners have functioning and fully charged devices in the classroom each day. In order to accomplish this, the district has purchased several Chrome charging carts which will be stored in our middle school students' last period classroom. They will be expected to retrieve them from this room in the morning and plug them in for charging at the end of the school day. Exceptions to this expectation may be made for middle school students that have written permission from a classroom teacher or the principal to bring a Chromebook home to complete missing assignments and special projects, or have extenuating circumstances due to long term health/medical related absences.
Although some of these immediate and near future changes may not be popular with everyone, it is because we love our students and our school so much that we believe them to be essential to the safety and success of all learners, the classroom learning environment, and the district at large. I am proud to be a Mustang and believe that change is essential to growth and improvement, both for our school district and our community. Please support us in these efforts to improve upon established traditions of success at Munising Public Schools.
If you have any questions, input, or great ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael J. Travis
Superintendent & Auxiliary Services Director
P.S. We have a new, easier to use district website. Check it out here!