Superintendent's Corner

 Tom Bruce

 

November 27, 2019

 

Dear Parents,

Welcome to fall and the holiday season here in St. Joseph!  Having arrived from 12 years in California, I am still looking forward to the snow and all of the winter activities it affords; I know - ask me again in February.  Our schools have already started celebrating our fall and winter holidays and I love seeing our parents in the schools, volunteering and helping out.  This is a great way to engage in your students’ education and observe all of the wonderful things our teachers do for our kids.  St. Joseph is truly a wonderful place to raise a family and be a part of a great community. I hope to see you at some of our events!

Given we are entering the winter months, I would like to share information about the decision to close school due to inclement weather.  As you know the weather may be different depending on where you live in our district. So too, we take into account many perspectives before closing school. We consider the amount of snow that has fallen, visibility, the timing of the storm, temperatures and wind chill values. If the storm occurs overnight, this process starts no later than 4:00 AM in the morning. We go out to check road conditions while collaborating with other area superintendents. We may also check with the road commission and our local authorities for more specific information.  All of this to say, the decision to close school is never an easy one and is always heavily considered. We understand the impact these days have on our families. 

Please note that if you decide to keep your child at home because you do not feel it is appropriate to send your child, we will always respect and excuse that absence.  Our number one concern is always to make a decision with the safety of our students in mind. We want to be sure that we can transport our students to and from school safely, and that the roads are safe for our high school drivers as well.

Looking behind us a bit, our high school student senate hosted their yearly Veteran’s Breakfast on November 11th.  It was an amazing event that invited Veterans and their families for a hosted breakfast, music by our own Jazz Band, and a heart-warming address by Fred Upton.  Over 100 people RSVP’d and I am sure most showed up - even with a strong snowy squall making it icy and cold outside.  I was able to talk to many of our guests and they were very happy to be there and were honored that our high school students took the time and effort to host them.  Special thanks go to SJ teachers Amanda Wallace and Joshua Doe for directing the festivities!

We are constantly looking for ways to improve student learning.  Being innovative and bold is always accepted and favored. Over the past year, we have noticed some of our students are not as connected as we would like to school or personnel in our schools.  We know from research the more connected students are, the more successful they are likely to be; we want kids to feel safe in our school community.  To this end, we have partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to run a pilot program in the high school that focuses on connecting all students to school! In the last couple of months the numbers have grown dramatically - students wanting to participate in short activities or programs that focus on building social-emotional health, connectivity, and leadership skills. We will continue to observe this pilot through both qualitative and quantitative data for success.  At this time everyone involved is very excited about this new program and opportunity to connect.

We're excited about our continued partnership (year two) with the Boys & Girls Club at the elementary level!  We have expanded the invitation for the after school programs, Smart Girls and Passport to Manhood for older students in all three elementary buildings. The program meets at E. P. Clarke.  Transportation is provided via our existing shuttle buses. Our SJPS Foundation’s Special Projects Grant helps cover program costs. Thank you!

Our teachers are diving into Chromebooks and the Google Suite.  This is yet another example of our educators showing initiative and innovation; constantly improving the educational setting for students. Recently, our 4th and 5th grade classrooms have new 1:1 Chromebooks and our teachers have adapted quickly showing great learning success. Our grade level and content teams continue to accelerate student learning using new tools and instructional practices.  

We're thinking about the whole child while designing our learning environments and activities in our elementary schools.  The SJPS Foundation and our School Board has graciously supported our new furnishings in all elementary classrooms!  Flexible furnishings are designed to offer flexibility, choice and movement during the school day, depending on the task and social support needed. Students are reflective of their learning  and choices while being accountable for their continued success.

The St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation is on track to fund nearly $475,000 in projects in 2019 that will greatly benefit the academic performance of our students.  The Foundation’s partnership with our school district is vital to the continued growth and success of our students – making a difference and helping in ways that the general fund cannot. The generosity of donors makes this possible and impacts every student in our district.  If you would like to join our team and support the SJPS Foundation, please visit their website at http://www.sjpsfoundation.org and consider making a gift to their Year End Giving campaign.

Please have a safe, enjoyable and relaxing holiday season.

Sincerely,

Thomas S. Bruce, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

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