Superintendent's Corner

August 2019

Dear North Branch School District Families and Community,

The North Branch Board of Education, administrators, teachers, and support staff welcome our students and families to the start of another great school year. Our motto continues to be “All In” and we are committed to providing the best educational experience for all of our students. Thank you to our community for recognizing the continued excellence of North Branch Area Schools and voting our district once again as a destination of choice for county students. In 2018, County Press readers voted North Branch Schools Best of the Best and in 2019 readers chose our district as The County Press Favorite. I am continually reminded that the vast majority of families choose to send their children to our district because of our outstanding employees, specifically our incredibly dedicated teaching staff. As classes begin on Tuesday, August 20 this year, please take a moment to thank a teacher, custodian, secretary,  paraprofessional, cook and bus driver for the investment they make on a daily basis in the lives of our children. Our district is fortunate to have loving and caring adults who prioritize the needs of children to ensure they have nutritious meals, a clean and safe environment to learn, secure rides to and from school and quality instruction at all levels.  


Yes, we are ready for the start of the 2019/20 school year which will begin for students on Tuesday, August 20. We have included a copy of the district calendar in this publication and ask that you familiarize yourself with the changes that were made [1] [2] [3] for this school year.


Please allow me to share a few updates relative to our Board of Education goals:


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:


  • The graduating class of 2019 earned $3,000,000 + in scholarships to further their education and prepare for meaningful careers;
  • We continue to provide a wealth of opportunities for all students including gifted education for grades 3-6. Additional support is being provided to all students at the elementary and next year at Ruth Fox Middle School through MTSS[4] (multi-tiered system of supports which includes enrichment opportunities). Our high school provides several academic offerings including advanced coursework, middle college and dual enrollment opportunities as well as new courses such as Biomedical and Digital Media. We offer Spanish classes at Ruth Fox Middle School and as enrichment in the elementary school;
  • We have made a financial commitment to invest in books for students, especially at the elementary level. Last year, the North Branch Board of Education invested $50,000 to purchase children's books for all classrooms in the elementary. We are also fortunate to be able to partner with outside agencies who have graciously agreed to donate books throughout the 2019/20 school year which our children will be able to take home and keep;
  • Our teachers have been piloting new Language Arts and Math resources to be purchased this year for elementary, middle school and high school students;
  • Under the guidance of Curriculum Director, Amber White, we employ three highly effective instructional coaches who work with all teachers K-8. Theresa Rae is our elementary literacy coach who works with our K-4 teachers to improve literacy skills for our youngest students. She has already finalized plans for our 4th annual All-Star Reading Night which will take place on Monday, September 30 from 6-8 p.m. on the football field. Cindy Lewis is our K-4 math coach and she has made a significant impact in rapidly improving math scores at the elementary and middle school buildings. Our third annual Math Night will be held on Thursday, April 16 from 6-8 p.m. at the elementary school. Finally, we are extremely excited to add Sara Taylor as our new Ruth Fox Middle School Literacy Coach. Sara’s expertise will be invaluable as she assists Mr. Terauds and Mr. Barkowska in providing enrichment and/or additional academic support for all students in grades 5-8.


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:


  • Three years ago we developed 5-year plans for all curriculum purchases, facility needs, and technology improvements. Those plans have allowed our district to target how we spend public dollars to support classroom needs as well as maintain and improve our overall excellent facilities in the district.Early on we identified areas of need and immediately implemented a plan to save for costly expenditures over a period of time in order to make those purchases. For example:
    • The district has updated technology in all buildings including individual teacher classrooms as well as all computer labs;
    • Every building has the most updated high definition security cameras to enhance safety for all students and staff;
    • A much needed addition to the elementary parking lot will be completed before the start of school;
    • The track at the high school is utilized daily for curricular activities during the school day along withmiddle school and high school sports in addition to community members that enjoy walking and/or running on the track on a regular basis. We have set aside funds each year to pay for a new track at the high school. The life of a track is typically 20 years and our 6-lane track was built in 1994. By the end of the 2019/20 school year, we anticipate having 100% of the funds needed to install a new 8-lane track next summer;
    • Our fund equity has increased each year from 8.7% in 2015/16 to a projected 13.7% with our adopted 2019/20 budget. Three years ago, the Board of Education held a special meeting to share with the community a plan to pay off the district's long-term debt. At that time, we projected we would be debt-free in the year 2041. Our updated conservative projection estimates the district will have all current debt paid off three year earlier (2038). Much like paying a house mortgage, we continue to reduce debt which has allowed us to use general fund dollars for our students.


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:


  • The North Branch Board of Education successfully negotiated two-year contracts with all North Branch employees resulting in a modest 1% increase to the base pay for the 2019/20 school year and a .5% increase for the 2020/21 school year.Teachers will also receive steps and longevity each of the two years.We appreciate the shared commitment our teachers and support staff have with the Board of Education in agreeing to fair contracts which validate the importance of our employees while allowing the district to effectively budget over an extended period of time;
  • North Branch Area Schools has always enjoyed tremendous support from the community which is a major reason our district continues to experience great success.We are committed to keeping all community members updated and informed. Please visit our website which is updated daily and click on our social media links located on the front pageto get the latest information on school events;
  • Speaking of social media and the internet, our school district has arranged for the organization “Protect Young Eyes” to come to North Branch on Monday, December 2 to educate our grade 5-12 students on how to safely use social media apps and the internet in general.There will be a scheduled parent presentation at 7 pm that evening and we will provide more information as we get closer to the date;
  • Finally, to strengthen teaching and learning, the district continues to participate in collaborative learning partnerships with MSU, Literacy and Beyond, Lapeer County United Way, the Family Literacy Center, and Dr. Paul Morsink at Oakland University.


So yes, we appreciate county readers recognizing North Branch Schools as “Best of the Best” and a “Favorite” over the past two years and look forward to even more district success during the 2019/20 school year.    Please contact my office at 810-688-3570 if I can be of any assistance as we start the school year on Tuesday, August 20.  


Looking forward to a great start to a new school year,


Jim Fish

North Branch Superintendent




Consider omitting? Direct reference made prior.

_Marked as resolved_


If you want this to jump out that we have a "new" version of MTSS at Grades 7 & 8...I will play w/this more.