Superintendent's Corner

August 2020

 

“Do the best you can until you know better.  Then, when you know better, do better.” - Maya Angelou

Dear North Branch School District Families and Community,

As I write this “welcome back to school” letter on Monday, August 3,  2020, the quote above continues to resonate with me.  On March 13, 2020, Governor Whitmer closed all Michigan schools for three weeks from March 16 through Sunday, April 5 in order to slow the spread of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) in our state.    Another announcement came on Thursday, April 2 closing schools for the remainder of the academic year and ordering all schools to begin distance learning no later than Tuesday, April 28.  


North Branch Area Schools rolled up its sleeves and worked tirelessly to create and implement a plan for all BK-12 students that provided on-line teacher supported instruction which started for our community on Monday, April 6 which was three full weeks before the state mandated requirement.   Our administrators, teachers, and support staff worked closely together to support our families and students for the close to ten weeks of distance learning we provided in our district.   Using the three weeks (including spring break) between the mandated closure on March 16 and our targeted date of providing either in-person or distance learning on April 6, all school employees were challenged to “do the best you can until you know better.”  And, our food service staff did an amazing job of coordinating and serving over 109,000 meals.  Our paras and aides provided much needed classroom support to teachers who were online every day for in-person instruction.   


I am confident that we will be able to deliver a robust learning experience beginning Monday, August 24 for all students regardless if families choose to send their children to school for in-person instruction or make the decision to access the North Branch Area Schools Virtual option.   Part of what I will have shared on August 3 is based on “when you know better, do better.”   Under the leadership of Curriculum Director, Amber White, North Branch Area Schools made a significant financial investment last year to purchase new curriculum at the elementary level which will serve us well if we are moved to a Phase 3 of all virtual instruction at some point during the school year.  In addition, the Board of Education has approved the purchase of a district-wide learning platform which will be used to simplify the online experience for all students and parents.   


While the upcoming school year is going to be challenging and will involve making several difficult decisions on a daily basis, I have an unwavering and unshakeable trust and belief in all of our employees.   They truly love your children and will go above and beyond to ensure they are as safe as possible while providing the best education we can either in-person or online.   We have spent the past few months preparing for our “Return to School” plan and, though our teachers did an excellent job in the spring,, we will be better during the upcoming school year because “when you know better, do better” is what we have been spending our time on in preparation for August 24.  

While change has been the constant and will continue to dominate our lives for the foreseeable future, our school district is still guided by our three adopted and shared goals with our board of education:

Goal #1:  North Branch Area Schools and the Board of Education will teach, measure, and continuously improve instruction aligned with state standards for increased student achievement  and College and Career Readiness:  

  • We have over 600 students (25% of our enrollment) who choose to come to North Branch Schools for a quality education.   I attempt to meet with as many families as possible when they enroll their children in our district.   The vast majority of our parents tell me they choose to send their children here because of the high quality of instruction, the vast amount of opportunities, as well as the amazing and caring teaching staff in our district.   Even though we are in the midst of a pandemic, we will strive to meet all of the challenges we encounter to provide the education your children deserve and need in order to prepare them for a lifetime of opportunities after school.


Goal #2:  North Branch Area Schools and the Board of Education will evaluate and enhance opportunities for students by adopting and executing a budget that prioritizes teaching and learning while improving the district’s financial stability:

  • As I enter my 35th year of education, 21st at North Branch, and my 5th year as the Superintendent of North Branch Area Schools, I have never been more proud to be a part of a learning community and school district that truly prioritizes the needs of its students.  While educating students to the best of our ability is our mission and reason for existence, our top priority remains providing a safe and healthy learning environment for all teachers and students so they can focus on teaching and learning.  We are a financially healthy school district because of our attention to detail and our determination to get value for the resources we are entrusted with each year.   We have doubled our fund equity over the past 4 years from approximately 8% in 2016 to a healthy 16% in 2020.   Our Board of Education members have made it clear 

Goal #3:  North Branch Area Schools and the Board of Education will validate the importance of every staff member as critical to the success of the district and will maintain partnerships of integrity and trust within the North Branch Community:

  • It is more vital than ever that our school district remains as transparent as possible with our teachers, community, parents, and students.   Now, as you read this, we will have held our third Town Hall Meeting tonight (August 3) in order to share information and be as transparent as possible with our community and families.  There are still so many questions to be answered and situations to analyze as we prepare three plans for board approval on Monday, August 10.   What I can share with you as we have prioritized the safety and health of all staff and students.   Please visit our website (www.nbbroncos.net)  to access a Frequently Asked Questions document that details all of the safety measures we have in place for the upcoming school year.  We are working in partnership with the Lapeer County Health Department  and will continue to rely on health and safety experts for implementing best practices in our district.  The partnership we have with our community and families has never been more important and we promise to continue sharing timely and accurate information with all stakeholders.  We also welcome your ideas and suggestions as we navigate through the school year. 


In closing, I would like to share the following Education Decision Making Flowchart that I shared with our administrative team back in November, 2017.   It was part of an article written by George Couros, author of “The Innovator’s Mindset” and a Leadership Consultant, as he described “how we look at situations, and how we think in the face of adversity, will determine what we do and what we create.”  

We have tried to utilize this flowchart to guide our decision making in North Branch Schools.   As Mr. Couros states, “Great teachers and leaders find a way. By starting every decision with, “Is this best for the learner?” helps to focus on what we need to do.”  In North Branch Schools, your superintendent, business manager, all front office personnel, all principals, curriculum director, and technology specialist all live in the North Branch community.   While not a prerequisite for those positions, it does mean that every decision made has a direct effect on their children, grandchildren, and all of the children in the community they serve in the place they choose to live and work.   We are committed to doing the very best we can to ensure we provide the safest and best education possible for every school child who attends North Branch Schools.   Please feel free to contact my office at 810-688-3570 if I can help you in any way during the school year.  I remain positive and hopeful for the very best during the 2020-2021 school year!   As events and circumstances continue to change, I promise we will do the best we can until we know better.   And when we know better, we will do better.   


In anticipation of a great school year!


Jim Fish

North Branch Superintendent