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Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

December 15, 2014


Since many families in our community are giving gifts to their children (our students) over the next fews weeks – here is my shameless plug to consider items that support our learning targets.

  • Books – You can never go wrong with books. Consider non-fiction titles like biographies, autobiographies, travel/geography, how-to, and science/technology options. (Magazine subscriptions can also be a good fit for non-fiction reading.)
  • e-Readers – Same as above but in Kindle, iPad, iPad Mini or Surface format.
  • Legos – Always popular and great for creativity.  They can also help build dexterity and develop math and pattern skills.
  • Technology – This area can be pricey, however, we are encouraging our students at many grade levels to bring their laptop, tablets, and smartphones to class to use as a learning tool. Google Chromebooks are a relatively inexpensive option for laptop and they work well on our network.

Feel free to comment with other educational gift ideas.

Motivation vs. Compliance

December 7, 2014


I have been thinking about motivation lately.  Specifically, how is student motivation improved?  The majority of students in Saline Area Schools are motivated to do well.  What is it that motivates them, and how can we deepen that motivation to create even stronger levels of student engagement?  The if/then rewards are effective motivators in certain simple situations:  “If you complete this worksheet correctly within three minutes, then you will get a sticker.”  Small, tangible rewards work, especially when the goal is short-sighted and quickly achievable by most. The larger question of motivation is quite convoluted and mired in a study of human behavior.

The issue becomes more complex as the goal is more far-reaching, not clearly defined, and complicated. In school, at all levels, we want to encourage more complex tasks that require students to use the four Cs:  Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking.  We need students that are engaged and actively participating in their learning as opposed to those that are merely compliant. Author Daniel Pink, in discussing his book, “Drive,” notes the need for autonomy as critical to employing more student engagement.

“Students and teachers don’t have a lot of autonomy and trends in federal policy over the last decade aren’t helping.  When I say autonomy leads to engagement, it doesn’t mean that you have to turn the autonomy dial up to 10 in every circumstance.  If you really want to get people engaged, you have to find ways to increase autonomy the right amount at the right time.”

I am looking for examples of what is the right amount at the right time within the Saline Area Schools. Once examples are identified, what is the best way to share and replicate those ideas in all schools?  If we can increase student and staff engagement while focusing  on the 4-C’s…. the results in student achievement will be compelling: students prepared to excel in post-secondary education, participate fully in a global society, and poised to compete with the world’s best in academia and industry.  That is our hope for every student enrolled in the Saline Area Schools.

Community Conversation – December 5th

December 3, 2014

Saline Area School Community,

With the school year well underway, I would like to schedule the first “Community Conversation” meeting of the 2014-2015 school year. Over the last seven years I have had the opportunity to host several “Community Conversation” events to learn more about what interested community members see as the strengths of Saline Area Schools, and what areas they felt we needed to focus attention on for improvement. Through these conversations and other opportunities, I have learned a great deal about how many of you see our district and it has helped guide me, along with the Board of Education, as we move forward.

In an effort to continue this dialogue, I will be making time available on Friday, December 5th from 11:00am- 12:15pm at Carrigan Cafe, 107 S. Ann Arbor Street. Please stop by, say hello and bring any thoughts about the district you feel I should know.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

Seeking Feedback

November 6, 2014

At times, our community seems small. Small enough that I feel I could spend 10 minutes at Benny’s or Tim Hortons on a Friday morning and hear the true opinion of our school district. Then, with the Internet bringing the world to our fingertips and busy schedules rushing us past each other, there are times it can seem large. I feel I could never know what people are really thinking.

Every day I am charged with creating an environment that ensures every student’s success while also ensuring that I responsibly oversee our citizens’ investment. I am committed to this work, but I know it will take more than me as an individual and my ideas to make Saline Area Schools the best it can be. And how can I be sure my actions match the community’s priorities?

That is why we’re launching our 2014 Community Survey this month. I want to hear from every person in the Saline community. It doesn’t matter if you have a student in our school system or not. It doesn’t matter if you have lived here for less than a year or your entire life. Your voice matters.

Every person has an important role to play in our district. Every perspective can help shape our future. And it will take all of us coming together to ensure we have prepared our students to succeed after they graduate from our schools.

I hope you will join the conversation and partner with us in a dialogue that will support our students.

Please take the survey now by visiting and clicking on the “Community Survey” button on the lefthand side.

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

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