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The Focus of Strategic Planning

October 23, 2014

At this time of the year, I typically review the District Strategic Plan – or the Strategic Framework – to assess progress on each of the identified action steps and goals. An article from the Harvard Business Review came to mind as I reflected on this process. The article, The Big Lie of Strategic Planning, notes inherent flaws along the path toward expected outcomes. One identified flaw is that organizations do not clearly define what they do and why. The idea is to limit risks while maximizing the odds of success.

Of particular interest in the Harvard Business Review article the guidance to avoid traps typically associated with strategic planning. Keeping the focus on the customer (the student) is critical when identifying intended outcomes. Over the next few months, a student profile will be developed. Essentially, what knowledge, skills and capabilities should a Saline Area Schools graduate possess when they exit the school system? Is the mission statement for the District the roadmap for this work?

“We, the Saline Area Schools, will equip all students with the knowledge, technological proficiency, and personal skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex society.  We expect that our students, staff, and the Saline community  will share in these responsibilities.
Our ultimate goal is to instill in our students a desire for lifelong learning.”

Beginning with that end in mind will guide the work of the District in the months to come.

Let’s Talk…..

September 30, 2014

In the Internet age — with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, forums and email compounded by chatter at the bus stop, at the grocery store and in the hallways — it can be difficult for any superintendent to feel confident about hearing the full story from his or her community. I feel like I am visible in Saline, but am I getting the full story? That’s where Let’s Talk! comes in.

This month, we launched Let’s Talk!, a 24/7 technology platform that will give everyone — parents, students, teachers and community members — an outlet for questions, comments, compliments or concerns. Our goal is to always be listening to you and for you to feel heard.  If you lose the link, a Let’s Talk! button is located on our main district website.

As we start working with Let’s Talk!, I would like to ask you to share your thoughts about the opening of the school year. Were there particular successes you want to point out? Are there areas we should work to improve for next year? Are there changes we can make now?

Submissions through Let’s Talk! will be automatically directed to the appropriate staff member for follow up. In addition to the school opening topic, there are links to connect you to several key district departments and my office. If you provide contact information, we promise to respond within a day of your submission. If you choose to submit anonymously, your feedback will still be reviewed and taken under consideration.

It will take support from our community to reach our goal of inspiring our students to become lifelong learners, and so I encourage you to join the conversation. I do know that we grow stronger as a community when we work together to ensure success for every student.

Information for Families regarding EV-D68

September 11, 2014
This message was sent to all Saline Area Schools Families on September 10th:
Saline Families,

You may be aware of recent news reports regarding a strain of enterovirus (EV-D68) causing widespread illness in parts of the United States. As of September 9th, we have had no confirmed cases of this particular virus strain in Washtenaw County however, we are working closely with the Washtenaw County Health Department to monitor this situation. In the school setting, we are taking extra precautions to monitor for illness among our students and to increase hand washing efforts. Hand washing is the single most important strategy we can use to prevent the spread of illness in general.

What is Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68)?
Enteroviruses are very common viruses. There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses. It is estimated that 10 to 15 million enterovirus infections occur in the United States each year. Most enterovirus infections in the U.S. occur seasonally during the summer and fall. In fact, enteroviruses are the second most frequent cause of “the common cold.” Unlike the majority of enteroviruses that cause a variety of symptoms, EV-D68 has been associated almost exclusively with respiratory disease and causes mild to unusually severe respiratory illness. EV-D68 infections occur much less often than other enterovirus strains, but like other strains, EV-D68 spreads through close contact with infected people.

What are the symptoms to watch for?
People who are infected with EV-D68 can have a range of symptoms, from mild to severe illness requiring hospitalization.

Symptoms may include:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • New onset wheezing
  • Fever
  • Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)

For more information about EV-D68 and links to other sources, please visit the Washtenaw County Public Health site at:

As always, please feel free to contact Karan Hervey, District Nurse at (734)429-8000, extension 4160 or at hervekar@salineschools.orgwith any questions or concerns.
Thank you,
Scot Graden

Does anyone really know what time it is?

July 30, 2014
The 2014/15 Saline Area Schools Calendar and school start & end times are set. The calendar is also be posted in PDF format (to make it easier to print) on the District website.
A note about the starting and ending times for each building in the district for 2014/15. In order to meet the appropriate number of instructional hours (1098 hours) as required by the Michigan Department of Education, we have added 9 minutes on to each school day.  The hour requirement and how it relates to teacher professional development is new for Michigan public schools in 2014/15.  While the time may seem small each day, it’s 30 additional hours over the course of the school year.  This is valuable time for us as we work through the curriculum.
Our building start and end times are as follows for the 2014/15 school year:
Kindergarten – 5th Grade 
(Harvest, Pleasant Ridge, Woodland Meadows, Heritage) – 8:50 AM  – 3:44 PM
Middle School – 8:00 AM – 2:54 PM
High School  – 7:50 AM – 2:44 PM
Alternative High School – 7:45 AM – 2:39 PM

Summer Reading List…..

June 19, 2014

Summer is here and  I am looking at my summer reading options….

First, I plan to read  for enjoyment this summer.  One book I plan to read is Brown Dog by Jim Harrison.  The book follows a character who rescues a preserved body of an Indian from Lake Superior’s cold waters; overindulges in food and drink while just scraping by in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The second book is A Team of Leaders by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff.  The book looks at ways to approach the team experience and improve performance.

Another book that I have wanted to read but have not found time yet is Just Middle Manager, Next Great Leader by David J. Hulings.  David is a Michigan resident who has worked with many of the administrators within Saline Area Schools and works with many districts across the State. The book is a leadership fable.

I also have The New American High School by Theodore R. Sizer that I hope to read.

Any other books I should consider?

Saline High School – Class of 2014

May 30, 2014

Saline High School
2014 Senior Class Survey

On Wednesday, May 14, the members of the Class of 2014 completed transcript cards where each student indicated where they would be sending their final transcript. The results for the 441 responses are below:

Michigan Colleges (333) 76%

Out of State Colleges (74) 17%

Michigan Public Colleges (315) 71%

Michigan Private Colleges (18) 4%

All Four Year Colleges (324) 73%

All Two Year Colleges (81) 18%

Military (6) 1%

Undecided (9) 2%

Working Full Time (6) 1%

Exchange Students returning (6) 1%

Young Adult Program (4) <1%

Interesting Numbers:

Michigan Private Schools

Adrian College 2
Albion College 1
Calvin College 1
Cornerstone University 1

Hope College 4

Kalamazoo College 2

Kettering University 2
Lawrence Technological University 1
Olivet College 1
Siena Heights University 2
Spring Arbor 1

Michigan Public Schools                                     

Central Michigan University 22
Eastern Michigan University 33
Ferris State University 6
Grand Valley State University 35
Michigan Career and Technical Institute 2
Michigan State University 42
Michigan Technological University 2
Northern Michigan University 2
Saginaw Valley State University 6
University of Michigan 61
Wayne State University 2
Western Michigan University 20

Michigan Community Colleges

Jackson Community College 2
Schoolcraft College 1
Southwestern Michigan College 2
Washtenaw Community College 74                                                                            

Public Out of State College 

Arizona State University 1
Ball State University 1
Bowling Green State University 1
California State University San Marcos 1
George Mason University 1
Hillsborough Community College 1
Indiana University 2
Iowa State University 2
Miami University 4
Ohio State University 1
Oregon State University 1
Purdue University 3
University of Alabama 3
University of Arkansas 1
University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College 1
University of Illinois at Chicago 1
University of Kentucky 1
University of Louisville 1
University of Tennessee 1
University of Toledo 2

Private Out of State Colleges                                

Bard College 
Baylor University 1
Brigham Young University 3
Butler University 1
Catholic University of America 1
Champlain College 1
Clark University 1
Columbia College Chicago 1
Davis and Elkins College 1
Defiance College 1
Denison University 1
DePaul University 2
Elmhurst College 2
Endicott College 1
Harvard College 1
Heidelberg University 2
Huntington University 1
Judson University 1
Lake Erie College 1
Lehigh University 1
Lourdes University 1
Loyola University Chicago 1
Marquette University 1
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1
Miami International Univ. of Art and Design 1
New York University 1
Pennsylvania State University 1
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 1
Southeastern University 1
Southern Virginia University 1
Towson University 1
University of Dayton 2
University of Findlay 1
University of Notre Dame 1
Valparaiso University 2
Westminster College 1
Yale University 1

Other interesting facts about the Class of 2014:

10  National Merit Semi-Finalists

10  National Merit Finalists

  5  National Merit Commended Scholars

  5  Students having a cumulative unweighted grade point average of 4.0

74  Students having a cumulative weighted grade point average of 4.0 or higher

111 Students having a cumulative unweighted grade point average of 3.667 – 3.999

80  Students having a cumulative weighted grade point average of 3.667 – 3.999

Beyond the Blue Wall at Saline Alternative High School

May 25, 2014

This past Friday marked the last day for Seniors in Saline.  At the Saline Alternative High School, Principal Carol Melcher conducted the ceremony that has come to be known as “Beyond the Blue Wall”.  Below is a copy of the script from the ceremony.  We talk a great deal about the need for our students to possess perseverance, grit and determination – these students have dealt with adversity and persevered. Congratulations!


Senior Send off

Friday, 5/23/14

Good morning and thank you for attending.

We are here to congratulate a group of young people that have completed all requirements for high school graduation.  In Saline, that may sound more like an expectation or something that does not require sacrifice and hard work.  But at the Saline Alternative, nothing could be further from the truth.

As a group, these students have endured hardships.   Two seniors have attended four different high schools.  Four are enrolled on a release agreement from their resident district. Seven are from single parent households. Two have been in more than one foster placement.  Five have had extended absences in their schooling due to serious mental health concerns. Substance use, abuse, addiction, treatment, recovery, relapse truancy, court involvement, school failure, denial….all of these potentially life-changing events have impacted more than a few of these young adults.  Still, in spite of the odds, they came to the Saline Alternative in search of a fresh start, a second chance at life, a positive high school experience, and timely high school graduation.

At the Alternative, this blue wall defines the “ALT” hallway: the small segment of Liberty School where the students attend school.  The school is founded on the premise of preparing students for what comes next in life.  The school is small and segmented into even smaller mentor groups where students form relationships with at least one adult mentor at the school. For some, that relationship is the first positive relationship they’ve ever had with a teacher.   The wall is symbolic of a safe, nurturing, caring environment where students can not only build academic skills, but – more importantly – learn skills for life that will help them navigate the adult world in whatever comes next in life.  Today, we send them ‘beyond the blue wall’ and off into the adult world.  It’s an exciting time, and also a bit scary.

Through the lessons learned in BASE to the heart-to-heart discussions with the teachers, these young people have learned to work through adversity, develop resiliency, and forge ahead when giving up might have been easier.  All have grown, matured, and learned lessons that will carry them into their adult lives.

Here are the stats:    In the state of Michigan, the graduation rate across the state was 74% for the class of 2011. That percentage grew to 76% with the class of 2012 and 76.96% for the class of 2013. Ironically, this increase coincided with the implementation of more rigorous state standards – including Algebra 2 as a graduation requirement.   Across the country, 78% of all public school students earned a high school diploma in four years.   This year, at the Saline Alternative, we are pleased to report that 90% of the students graduated on time – within four years of starting high school.  (18 of 20 in the 2014 cohort)

To the graduates:  That high school diploma that you will receive on June 1 is a stepping stone, a starting point on your lifelong journey.  Eleven of the graduates have been accepted into college, and four have already taken college classes through the dual enrollment program.  The graduates will attend Washtenaw Community College, Schoolcraft Community College, Ohio Technical College, Southern Virginal University and Michigan State University.  One has enlisted with the US Marine Corps.  These students are continuing on with their education, knowing – of course – that a high school diploma should be the beginning of a life long adventure with learning.

So, with our congratulations, it is also fitting that we take a moment to express gratitude.  The business of learning is a shared responsibility, and everyone here has had a hand in helping you along the way.  We asked the seniors to thank one educator that had been very influential in their success. They did so with these “golden apples.”    All of the staff members at the Saline Alternative were recognized with at least one golden apple.  In my eyes, there are no better teachers anywhere.

Thank you to Mr. Duane Wilson, Ms. Staci Nazareth, Mr. Kevin Perry and Mr. Brad Woehlke.    The students are also provided with counseling and emotional guidance from Mr. Jason Pickett and Mr. Mark Schuby.

Thank you as well to the larger Liberty school community and to the Saline Area Schools in general.  Many have provided paid employment, internships, volunteer opportunities, financial and emotional support and even friendship.  The students, and I, are grateful. Thank you!

And now, as has become our tradition, it is time to honor our graduates by hanging the names on the Alternative HS Wall of Fame.   I’ll call up each senior and ask each student to place his or her nameplate on the wall.  We’ll also give them a chance to say a few words if they’d like.


First, the students that graduated earlier in the year:

Michael Watson, Rosie Beach, Tyrel Bredernitz, Dillon Stratos, Seth Smith


Michael Adkins (Schoolcraft College)

Bonnie Bishop (WCC)

Trevor Branham (Central TX Fishing Guide Training Program, Hubbard, TX)

Amy Chatell (Michigan State University, Veterinary Medicine)

JJ Faeth (WCC)

Tanner Furgeson (Southern Virginia University)

Hayley Garbo (WCC)

Daniel Hochrein (WCC)

Aaron Long (WCC)

Weston Morris (summer internship with SAS Tech Dept, then IT Tech Inst)

Michael Savage (United States Marine Corps)

Saige Seleska (working for a year and then WCC)

Brendon Shankland (Ohio Technical College)

Ashley Smith (WCC)

Thank you, seniors!


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