State Superintendent Visits Chelsea Schools, Impressed with Focus on Well Being

By Seth Kinker,

Sheila Alles, the Interim State Superintendent for the Michigan Department of Education visited the Chelsea School District (CSD) on Mar. 20, as she continues to make her way to various districts around the state.

During the winter, Alles toured ten schools and plans to tour ten more this spring. She had heard about Chelsea schools through friends that had kids in the district and thus lead to her team reaching out to CSD administration.

“Her assistant reached out to me a couple months ago and asked if this date would work for us,” said Chelsea Superintendent Julie Helber, who led Alles around the district. “When the state superintendent calls, you make the date work! We welcomed her and it was an honor to have her.”

The tour began at the high school, followed by South Meadows Elementary, North Creek Elementary, and finally Beach Middle School. Each stop showcased something different about the district and had presentations for Alles about what some classes were working on.

At the high school, Alles learned about the Why You Matter campaign and the graduate learner profile that the district has worked to install district wide. Helber told The Sun Times that showing Alles all the hard work the district has done in linking everything they do back to the portrait of a graduate was something she wanted Alles to see.

Chelsea High School Principal Mike Kappolka (left), State Superintendent Sheila Alles (center), and Chelsea Superintendent Julie Helber pose in front of the portrait of a graduate at Chelsea High School during Alles’ Mar. 20 visit to the district.

The CSD’s stated goal is to “prepare students who possess the skills to communicate effectively, express themselves creatively, think critically and work collaboratively to maximize their potential and meet the challenges of global society.”

Communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration are all on the outer rim of the portrait of a graduate framed in the shape of a tree. Within the circular logo is a tree that has “branches” of the words “social, academic, and emotional” with more characteristics branching off of those words to encompass what CSD wants their graduates to be.

Alles was shown the flex spaces at the high school and the change to some of the classroom layouts at multiple stops in an effort to stimulate learning with different classroom layouts.

During the tour of South Meadows, Alles stopped in on Jordan Miller’s class, who gave Alles a presentation on their Sky Ninjas Projects, that promoted collaboration and critical thinking.

When Alles visited North Creek, she was led by students of the buildings and shown the maker space in the library. Alles was able to talk about early literacy work in the state and in the district, specifically, while talking with Principal Kimberly Gillow.

State Superintendent Sheila Alles, pictured center, listens to students read some of their books at North Creek Elementary,

The last stop on the tour was at Beach Middle School and Alles had two presentations from student groups at the middle school that focused on the well-being of their peers.

While at Beach the presentations took place in the library that has undergone similar work to that of the flex space at the high school. Beach Middle School Principal Nick Angel and assistant principal Matt Ceo broke down the process of updating the library to its current status of a more flex space, on a shoestring budget, that has helped increase traffic and usage of the library.

Angel and Ceo’s discussion on the transformation of the library with Alles also touched on how the CSD as a whole was working to revamp those kind of work environments around the district, with most classrooms planning to have a different look within the next few years.

After the tour, Alles told The Sun Times she was impressed with the number of different programs the CSD offers and continues to expand upon.

In addition to programming, she said one of the things that stood out to her on her that day in the district was what CSD was doing in terms of looking at everything for the well being of the kids. Not just academically, but socially and emotionally as well.

During her tour, one of the main things that Alles touched on was equity and funding, not just for the CSD but for the school districts across the state. Helber agreed with Alles sentiment and was proud of what the local community has done to support the schools.

“I think she and I agree we have to work on equity and funding,” said Helber. “Not only talking about equity and funding for pupil allowance but also that equity and funding in terms of the ability to reach out to your constituents for bond votes or sinking funds or other monies you can use to take care of your faculties. In districts that don’t have the ability, it just breaks your heart. They have to use general fund dollars to fix their roof. They don’t have their funds like we’ve been given by our community to be able to do those things that protect the kids and classroom. You’ll see very sad stories about buildings that don’t have money for materials for kids because they have to fix a leaky roof and the fact we don’t have those problems is pretty fantastic and a good reminder to always think about how fortunate we are.”

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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