Panel Members: (L-R) David Slivka (Manistee Manufacturing Council), Mary Ann Behm (Launch Manistee), Scott Ward (West Shore Community College), Jason Kennedy (Ludington Area Schools), Douglas Rodriguez (Benzie County Chamber of Commerce), Matthew Olson (Benzie Central Schools)
Public education is crucial to a thriving community, and it takes all hands on deck to keep that foundation strong.
On Tuesday night, We the People Action Network of Northwest Michigan and its partners held a public forum entitled, “Public Education: We Will Raise It Up,” at Manistee High School to discuss the state of Michigan’s public education system and the steps being taken to strengthen it.
The event encouraged parents, educators, community members and business leaders from around the region to engage in the conversation.
“If you look at the states that are doing well in education, you’ll see it’s really a group effort,” said Miriam Epskamp of We the People Action Network. “It’s not just the education field working on this, it’s the whole community. It’s business leaders, it’s people at the college level, it’s everybody pitching in.
“Whether you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent, everybody should be focused on this and figure out how we, as a region, as a state, can raise up and improve our education system and our schools, so that each child is getting the best quality education that they can get.”
The forum featured keynote speaker Sheila Alles, the chief deputy superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education who is responsible for coordinating the state’s “Top 10 in 10 Years” initiative, which is a set of targeted strategies designed to help Michigan become a top-10 performing state for education in the country in a span of 10 years.
“Every child has a unique journey, and I’m going to carry that statement throughout the presentation,” Alles said. “Every child is different. Each child has unique circumstances. Some children are faced with demanding environments that put them at a disadvantage in both school and in life.
“The Michigan Department of Education believes that no matter where the student lives, no matter what the student’s circumstances are, every child should have access to the same high quality educational opportunities, including high quality teachers, classroom tools and resources,” she added. “It was with this purpose that Michigan developed a plan to recognize and support each child’s journey.”
Alles said a wide range of community input went into the construction of the plan.
“To create this plan, we needed to have input from stakeholders who either directly or indirectly influence or play a role in children’s education,” she said. “Info was gathered from a variety of different stakeholder groups, including industry, labor, union, educational organizations and professional organizations. We also heard from parents and individual citizens. And they all answered the question: What does Michigan need to do to become a top 10 education state in the next 10 years?”
She said over 4,000 comments were compiled, categorized, analyzed and used to create Michigan’s Top 10 in 10 strategic plan.
Alles’ presentation on the plan was divided into three segments interspersed with panel discussions among local leaders, moderated by Ron Stoneman, superintendent of Manistee Area Public Schools. Questions were also taken from the audience.
The panel was comprised of David Slivka of the Manistee Manufacturers Council; Mary Ann Behm, program coordinator of Launch Manistee; Scott Ward, president of West Shore Community College; Jason Kennedy, superintendent of Ludington Area Schools; Douglas Rodriguez of the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce; and Matthew Olson, superintendent of Benzie Central Schools.
The plan’s vision is to ensure every learner in Michigan’s public school system has an “inspiring, engaging and caring learning environment that fosters creative and critical thinkers who believe in their ability to positively influence Michigan and the world beyond.”
The strategies that make up the “Top 10 in 10 Years” span the breadth of a person’s educational experience — from early childhood through K-12 and post-secondary opportunities for all children, to the important role of parents and guardians, ensuring a strong workforce, and nurturing responsible and informed citizens.
The strategic plan calls for targeted and consistent investment in the main drivers of achievement: high expectations for all students, excellent teaching sustained by strong support and professional development, early childhood education, college and career guidance, and resources to reduce the impact of high-risk factors, including poverty.
The plan is made up of seven strategic goals, consisting of 44 strategies. Those goals are:
• Provide every child access to an aligned, high-quality P-20 (prenatal to adulthood) system from early childhood to post-secondary attainment — through a multi-stakeholder collaboration with business and industry, labor and higher education — to maximize lifetime learning and success.
• Implement, with strong district and building leadership, high-quality instruction in every classroom through a highly coherent, child-centered instructional model where students meet their self-determined academic and personal goals to their highest potential.
• Develop, support and sustain a high-quality, prepared and collaborative education workforce.
• Reduce the impact of high-risk factors, including poverty, and provide equitable resources to meet the needs of all students to ensure that they have access to quality educational opportunities.
• Ensure that parents/guardians are engaged and supported partners in their child’s education.
• Create a strong alignment and partnership with job providers, community colleges and higher education to assure a prepared and quality future workforce, and informed and responsible citizens.
• Further develop an innovative and cohesive state education agency that supports an aligned, coherent education system at all levels (state, ISD, district, and school).
To review the plan in its entirety, visit www.michigan.gov/mde.
Article Credit: D. Savela, Manistee News Advocate