- From the Superintendent
- Holiday Cheer
- Human Resources Corner
- Staff Spotlight
- Well-Being Words
- District News
Deep exhale … we have made it to the end of 2020! Yesterday’s snow signals a new season is upon us. For me, the snow outside my window also brings the astonishing realization that it has been almost a full year since our staff was last together as a group.
When we came together for a day of professional learning at CJHS on that cold January day, we contemplated this empowering passage:
I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.Haim ginott
After some time for reflection, we all wrote how we could be the “decisive element” in the classroom. Take a minute to look at our compiled responses. How powerful they are to read today! No one could have fathomed at that time that 2020 would bring unimaginable new ways to practice the things that we wrote on those Post-Its.
Sometimes it takes a situation like this to be able to fully realize and appreciate the magnitude of what we’re capable of. Take stock of all you’ve managed to overcome. Even as we stumbled, those stumbles helped us learn and grow, and we never stopped moving forward. We have truly shouldered an amazing challenge this year — and by no means was it easy.
By now, I’m sure most of you know me as a “glass is half full” kind of guy, but I won’t lie — there were days that were a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Yet I did, because I didn’t want to let you down. You inspire me to give my best everyday. Thank you for giving me and the families of Clarkston YOUR best everyday. You are nothing short of amazing.
I am proud to be a part of a team that knows how to get it done! I wish you happy, healthy holidays and a bright new year.
Here’s to 2021!
Just in time for the holidays, we've added new Employee Perks to our website. Thank you to the following local businesses for these generous offers for CCS staff.
Beyond Juicery + Eatery (5520 Sashabaw Road): 15% off any purchase now through 01/31/2021 with employee ID. Clarkston location only.
Munk Orthodontics (5825 S Main St #201, Clarkston): $750 discount on regular braces or Invisalign for Clarkston Community Schools staff and immediate family members, if you schedule and start treatment between December 17, 2020 and April 30, 2021. Read more.
- Shawn Ryan, Superintendent
- John Lucido, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services
- Nancy Mahoney, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services
- Kathy Christopher, Executive Director of Student Support Services
- Westley Goodman, Executive Director of Operations
- Mary Beth Rogers, Executive Director of Business Services
- Lori Banaszak, Administrator of Technology Integration
- Jarrod Berkey, Accounting Supervisor
- Christa Fons, Shared Services Director
- Angela Harrison, Administrator of Technology
- Ken Janczarek, Director of Special Programs
- Colleen Mayes, Transportation Director
- Wendy Osterman, District Data & Assessment Coordinator
- Staci Puzio, Director of Student Growth and Well-Being
- Mary Ellen Rowe, Director of Marketing and Community Relations
- Matt Severson, Director of Dining Services
- Ken Janczarek, Clarkston Virtual Director
- Gary Kaul, Clarkston High School Principal
- Gary Bigger, Renaissance High School Principal
- Adam Kern, Clarkston Junior High School Principal
- Liz Walker, Sashabaw Middle School Principal
- Kim Fletcher, Andersonville Elementary School Principal
- Glenn Gualtieri, Bailey Lake Elementary School Principal
- Brian Adams, Clarkston Elementary School Principal
- Nate Fuller, Independence Elementary School Principal
- Jennifer Johnson, North Sashabaw Elementary School Principal
- Jodi Yeloushan, Pine Knob Elementary School Principal
- Matt Gifford, Springfield Plains Elementary School Principal
- Lisa Marion, Early Childhood Center Director
Throughout our district this month, CCS staff and students are using their time, talents, and resources to be a light for others.
Transportation Dept. staff held their annual “Stuff-A-Bus” event to collect food items for Lighthouse of Oakland County. Central Office staff adopted families in our community to surprise them with holiday wish list items. CJHS teacher Rory Beer and her Leadership students created craft kits to hand out at curbside meal distribution. Many of our students have also taken the initiative to raise money for local causes that are important to them.
Clarkston Virtual Mentor Dana Pennanen hosted a Rainbow Connection Letters to Santa Drive-Thru event that involved the participation of many current and retired staff, student volunteers, and community members. Director of Choral Activities Mike Peterson directed a group of student and alumni carolers, and staff from every building made and donated tie blankets (bringing the "Will to Ty" blanket total to over 2,000 since 2010). Dana shared a special thanks to teachers Anne Duffy (IE), Jenny Biallas (SMS), and Michelle Herkowitz who helped with the effort.
The spirit of holiday giving is alive in Clarkston!
As we close the 2020 calendar year, I want to recognize just how important and valued each one of you is to the core of our school district. Together, we served Clarkston families in new and important ways — from the creation of a new virtual learning option, to the institution of a host of new safety protocols and procedures on our campuses — I am impressed with all that you've helped to make possible.
As you will see in the survey results below, your efforts were not lost on CCS parents. Those efforts haven't escaped me either. I see and appreciate the countless ways you continue to roll up your sleeves and contribute. Thank you for your flexibility and professionalism over these last few months. I wish you a restful holiday break.
NOVEMBER learning Options survey results
We recently published the results of our November Learning Options surveys on our website (view the results at https://www.clarkston.k12.mi.
- "I am happy my children get Clarkston curriculum from an amazing Clarkston teacher with peers while being SAFE and not in risk of quarantine and the anxiety that would bestow on them."
- "I’m very pleased with my daughter’s teachers and the effort they are putting forth. I cannot be easy teaching remote and face-to-face at the same time."
- "Just wanted to take the time to thank the administrators and teachers for being flexible and resilient during these crazy times. There is no handbook for a pandemic! Thank you for keeping us informed and for keeping our kiddos safe. I'm proud to be a part of such a great community and group of educators."
- "My children’s teachers are working so hard for their students."
- "I like how engaged my son was every day in his learning, despite the fact that he was on a computer all day long. Shout out to the 3rd grade teachers at BLE!"
- "I think CCS has done a great job all around! You are playing the hand you’ve been dealt and I have zero complaints. Communication has been awesome and my child is thriving. Thank you CCS!"
- "I honestly feel it is a tough situation for all. We all are doing the best we can. Thank you for working so hard for our students. It is recognized!"
- "I think Clarkston educators and administrators are doing a great job."
- "The school is doing an amazing job with safety protocols and trying to make it as normal as possible."
- "I think you guys are doing a great job. The administrators and teachers are doing a fabulous job. My kids are engaged and learning so much. I wasn’t sure they’d be able to connect with their teachers, but both kids have their favorite teachers EVER this year. Keep up the great work Clarkston!"
- "THANK YOU! You are in an impossible position but I am thankful for your hard work and feel that the decisions you have made are based on data."
With tentative plans to return to school buildings in January, it is critical to the collective health of our community that every employee continues to follow the public health protocols outlined in our Updated 2020-2021 Return to School plan.
As mandated in the MI Safe Schools Roadmap, every student and staff member must wear a face mask inside the building, unless a medical exception is provided. Masks may be removed in your individual classrooms and offices, if you are alone. All employees will be provided with a washable, reusable cloth face mask to wear at all times in the building, though they may choose to wear any mask that is comfortable.
All employees who work on district grounds are required to complete the Employee Self-Screening Questionnaire. The questionnaire must be completed each time the employee reports to work in our buildings. If you answer "yes" to any question on the form, please reach out to your direct supervisor immediately. If you travel between school buildings, please check all of the buildings you expect to be at that day. This will help with contact tracing if we have a positive case in a building — we will be able to know who was at that building and can notify you of possible exposure. We have created a Printable QR code that you can scan with the camera on your phone to complete the Employee Self-Screening Questionnaire each day. This can be printed and placed somewhere visible (like on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, etc.) so that you make the daily questionnaire part of your morning routine. The QR code will also be posted at building entrances.
Employee Assistance Program
Did you know that as a Clarkston Community Schools employee, you are eligible to take advantage of free counselings services as part of our Employee Assistance Program? Our partners at Counseling Associates includes a staff of social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists to provide an extensive range of services for CCS employees. For more information please call (248) 626-1500 or click here.
Recognizing that the Spring and Fall of 2020 were semesters unlike any other in the history of public education, I know I am not alone when I beg of the new year just a little bit of consistency and predictability.
I know our students and parents feel the same way. In November, we offered families the opportunity to transfer between our learning models (Clarkston Virtual and Face-to-Face with a Distance Learning Contingency) for the second semester. We had approximately 500 students take us up on this offer, and I am proud to say that our team was able to accommodate all of these requests without undue burden on any one building or the Clarkston Virtual program.
Teachers and mentors, our administrators will soon inform you of any new students joining your class and provide you with a timeline for reaching out to those students prior to the start of the second semester on January 19. Please welcome them "human-to-human" as you would any new student, understanding that their first semester learning model may not have been a good match for them and perhaps they struggled a bit. We know that our brick-and-mortar curriculum and the Clarkston Virtual online learning platforms are not "sister programs," particularly with regard to the self-paced aspects on the virtual program.
For this reason, it will be all the more important to get to know your transfer students, share available resources with them, and ease their transition by being the warm and human-centered educators that you are.
In appreciation for all you do,
Assistant Superintendent, Instructional Service
This Winter Break is a time for everyone —staff, students, and families — to unplug and focus on psychological health. Please honor this time with NO assignments, projects, or homework assigned that would otherwise need this time to be completed, as well as limit your own engagement in any CCS business to truly step away. These last 9 months have been challenging for everyone and we need to give ourselves permission to Refresh! Relax! Rewind!
As a language arts teacher at Clarkston High School, Katie French shares her love of the written word with students. Like most Clarkston educators, she is passionate about her chosen subject; however, unlike most of us, Katie is sharing her talents on a much broader stage. She is an Amazon best-selling author in Young Adult Sci-Fi and Fantasy whose book, The Breeders, was a semi-finalist in the 2014 Kindle Book Awards. We asked Katie a few questions about her writing career and hope her answers inspire you as much as they inspired us.
What prompted you to create these stories for young people?
I've wanted to be a writer since my 7th grade English class, and I've been a huge reader from a very young age, so the progression to telling my own stories seemed very natural. I've also always been a lover of Young Adult books. I never lost the excitement I get when reading a really wonderful story about humans learning how the world works for the first time. There's nothing like first love or first discovery, and young people usually still have their sense of wonder intact. I love that.
How do story ideas come to you?
Story ideas come from everywhere — a song lyric, a news story, something else I'm reading. The problem I have now is that I have too many story ideas. I also co-write so my co-authors and I come up with ideas together. I love meshing two ideas into one and making that work. It creates a rich story that I couldn't come up with on my own.
How has your experience as a high school educator influenced the material you write?
As a high school teacher, I find that I'm able to write teenage dialog better than some since I'm immersed in it. Being around young people helps me stay connected and relevant to what they're into these days, though my stories often revolve around the supernatural, so I can always fudge things here and there. I do love the way language evolves and find it fun to play with the way different generations mold it into their own style.
How does being a YA writer make you a better teacher of young adults?
Since I teach language arts, I can show my students that I'm not only a teacher but someone who really loves the subject they teach. I've had a few students read my books which allows us to connect, but it's also great just to show them that it's possible to get your own stories out into the world. I've had lots of conversations over the years with budding authors which always warms my heart.
When do you write? Is it more of a creative outlet or something that requires a lot of self-discipline to do?When I first started two decades ago it was more a simple creative outlet, but now my books are a business so I do take it very seriously. It's still a creative process, and my brain lights up whenever I get a great idea or write an exciting scene, but a lot of it is discipline or I'd never finish a full novel. It's a lot like exercise: you don't want to do it beforehand, but afterward, you feel good that you have.
What's the most interesting, offbeat, or touching feedback you've ever received from a reader?
I definitely enjoy getting feedback from my fans or having them say they've read a book of mine more than once. That's a big compliment that they would give me that much of their precious time. Sometimes, if I'm feeling particularly brave, I'll go through my Amazon one-star reviews. Those can be very eye-opening. For the most part, however, my readers are wonderful. I've developed a few penpal relationships that I cherish with people all over the world, people I never would have met without my books.
Wendy Osterman, District Data & Assessment Coordinator
Wendy Osterman comes to Clarkston Community Schools from the Bloomfield Hills School District where she served as the District Data & Assessment Coordinator. You may remember Wendy as a middle school math and/or technology teacher for 12 years starting in 2004. We are delighted to have her back in our district as our Administrator of Data structure & Analysis!
Jarrod Berkey, Accounting Supervisor
Jarrod Berkey has joined the Business Office as accounting supervisor. Previously, he worked as a CPA at Hallmann Advisors, CPA's, P.C. Jarrod brings three years of professional financial expertise to our district. Prior to that, he was a middle school teacher in the Flint Community School district for five years. Fun fact: Jarrod completed his student teaching in our school district at SMS! Welcome back, Jarrod!
Next week, winter officially begins with the winter solstice on December 21. The winter solstice brings us the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. The winter season also gives us the gifts of engaging in both friluftsliv, a way of life practiced in Norway, and hygge, practiced as part of the culture in Denmark.
Friluftsliv can be translated to “open-air living,” and is a commitment to spending time outdoors in all seasons. It’s about being in nature and taking a time-out from electronic devices. Time outdoors is not just for the avid skiers and adventurers. It can include long walks with friends, going for a daily walk with the dog on a chilly morning, taking a hike through the woods, a bonfire in the backyard, or enjoying a warm beverage and conversation.
Here are some tips for enjoying friluftsliv:
- Dress like an onion - It’s all about layers that allow you to linger outside more. One tip is to avoid cotton for the first layer, as it loses the insulating layer when you sweat. Layer with sweaters, mittens, scarves, and blankets.
- Put your winter gear by the door as a reminder to go out daily - Shawn Achor talks about the 20-second rule, where he says, “Lowering the barrier to change by just 20 seconds was all it took to help me form a new habit.” If it takes an extra 20 seconds to take out the winter gear, that may become a deterrent to getting out daily.
- Start slow - Aim for 10 minutes of outdoor time and work your way up to more time. There are studies that have shown that our bodies are able to adapt and acclimate to cold environments over time.
- Prep your outdoor space for lower temperatures - Have something warm to sit on outside (a metal chair will be too cold!) Create a firepit, and have extra blankets around.
Hygge is about “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” This is a time for warmth and connection. One big component of hygge is lighting candles. There is just a feeling you get when there are multiple candles lit and set around the room. Other components include lighting a fire, having a blanket, sweater, and thick socks, while enjoying homemade sweets, comfort food, and hot drinks.
Keep the electronics turned off and take the time to enjoy the people around you in conversation and games. It’s a beautiful way to end the day after spending time outdoors.
When we look at winter in a different way and embrace the season (rather than hiding from it), we are able to take joy in it. May you find pure JOY during our winter break and start some practices to do throughout the winter.
We have the best schools around, and they're only getting better ... anywhere we go, we are proud to say #WeAreClarkston!
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