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News and Notes

#BestYearEver: Why WLPS?

 

Tom DeKeyser, Superintendent

I am passionate when I describe Whitmore Lake Public Schools.  I was watching our girls’ basketball team play earlier this month.  It was an exciting game in which the girls won and cemented their chances of winning their first league title in decades. What was really cool about the game was watching five young ladies compete at a high level, athletically, all while knowing all five girls were straight-A students!   You see, the manner in which we care for students, the extra work we put in to create special experiences, and the safe environment kids get to experience are all things I get a front-row seat to view on a daily basis. But, if you don’t have my seat, you may not see it. So, go ahead, pull up a symbolic chair, and let’s take a look at some reasons why I tell parents to choose WLPS.

Let’s spotlight one important area, academic achievement, and programming. After graduation, 75-80% of our graduates go right into a college or university.  Top universities they attend include the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, Central Michigan University, and Grand Valley State University.  (Those are the same top five as all our neighboring districts–Dexter, Brighton, Ann Arbor, you name it!) To prepare our students for the challenges of higher education, we have beefed up our curriculum over the past five years to include more honor level and Advanced Placement courses.  In fact, we require all our students to take at least one AP class before graduating. No other school does that in our region. We know our students are up for the challenge and will meet our high expectations. And they do. Our students consistently score above average on the SAT which is an important benchmark for acceptance into the top colleges and universities and a good indication that we are giving our students the education they need to be successful after high school. 

What about the other 15-20%?  What do we do for them? WLHS has multiple opportunities to delve into career-based coursework.  A slew of students starts their day off-campus working in auto repair, aviation, agriscience, cyber-security, energy technology (linemen), early childhood, graphic communication, health occupations, home building, firefighter/EMT, manufacturing, robotics/engineering, and culinary programs.  If you want to try a career without paying big bucks, we offer that experience for free. I am proud to say ALL our students have a plan for their careers BEFORE they leave WLHS.

All this success doesn’t just happen overnight when they get into high school.  WLPS starts the preparation early. Our elementary programs all utilize project-based learning platforms for content delivery which empowers students to see challenges as an opportunity to use the knowledge they learn to solve real-world problems. More and more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning opportunities are available, too, as students progress toward 6th grade. STEM education not only makes our students aware of the related fields and occupations that are in such high demand, but they learn them how the scientific method can be applied to everyday life to solve problems. Our middle school students also learn to use technology in preparation for the demands of high school. Our social studies and science students are 1:1 technology (each student gets a Chromebook). Our approach to instruction is successful. In fact, this year’s 5th grade demonstrated a level of math proficiency that was only 1% below Ann Arbor Public Schools.   Our elementary and middle-level programs are powerhouses of reading, math, and technology literacy setting them up for success right away.

I could go on and on with reasons why families in our region should want to be a Trojan, but luckily you don’t have to take only my word for it. We had the chance to interview two School of Choice parents on what drew them to WLPS and why other families should. Their interviews are below. 

You can also learn more about WLPS here: https://www.wlps.net/school-of-choice/.

 

Beth and Jason Vibbart with their children 7th-grader, Jacob, and 2nd-grader, Abby

Q: How long have you been a School of Choice family at WLPS?

Beth Vibbart: We have been a School of Choice family since Jacob started kindergarten in the Fall of 2012. 

Katie Waters: My son, Nelson, has for about 12 years. 

Q: What were the biggest factors in deciding to look outside of your home district for other options?  

BV: Initially, we really chose to look into School of Choice when it was time for Jacob to start school because Abby had just been born that spring.  We were hoping to minimize transitions for the kids and keep them within the district that their daycare was in. We also wanted a smaller school setting because we knew the kids would do well in an environment that was really personalized for them. 

Katie Waters and her son 11th-grader, Nelson.

KW: We chose to go to Whitmore Lake because Hamburg Elementary had closed and his grandma was the principal at Whitmore Lake Elementary School.  Also, I had worked in the district and loved it. And with it being smaller, I knew a lot of the staff and parents already. 

Q: How did WLPS measure up to your expectations?  

BV: The smaller school setting has been great for both kids.  They have really gotten to know their teachers and vice versa.  This was the first year that we were in two different buildings, and even that transition has gone really well. 

KW: Whitmore Lake has been an excellent choice for Nelson giving him access to advanced math and technology and to play sports. 

Q: Did you look primarily at WLPS or did you look at other schools too?  

BV: We really only looked at WLPS, since our goal was to keep them in a smaller school district.

KW: We didn’t look at other schools.

Q: What is the School of Choice process like?

BV: The process was very simple.  We completed the application, and once admitted as a School of Choice family, haven’t had to worry about anything else.

KW: It was easy to choose Whitmore Lake–simple paperwork.

Q: What are some of your favorite parts about the educational experience at WLPS?

BV:  My favorite part about the experience we have had at WLPS has been the great teachers the kids have had.  They are very much invested in the kids and figuring out how to help them learn.

KW:  The elementary school does an excellent job supporting student needs/extra support when necessary.  The high school staff does an outstanding job challenging students academically as well as in extracurricular activities like band, wrestling, track, football, drama, choir, baseball, etc. What’s nice about a smaller district is it is likely that your child will participate in their chosen sport. We’ve had wonderful experiences with the coaches and the students.  Overall, our experiences at Whitmore Lake have been positive and helpful. We are very lucky to have our “school family” and friends.

Q: What are some challenges or areas of improvement?  

BV: Challenges have mostly been surrounding communication for school-wide events, or events scheduled during times that working parents might not be able to attend.  However, the teachers are great at sending information to parents and newsletters have more information about upcoming events. 

KW: At this moment, I cannot think of any areas of improvement.

Q: If your neighbor or another parent was considering School of Choice options, what would your response to them be about your experience at WLPS?

BV:  I would tell them that it’s a great community, with great teachers…and the smaller school district has allowed my kids to get to know the teachers really well. 

KWTo any parents considering Whitmore Lake Public Schools, I say, “come check us out.” I would tell them to give Whitmore Lake a try.  

Q: Any else to add?

BV: School of choice has been a great option for us, and it’s worth considering.

KW:  I’d like to say thank you to all the staff that has taught the mini version of myself. I am forever in your debt. It’s always a great day to be a Trojan!!!

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