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Importance Early Childhood Education

August 14, 2015

Pooh CornerAs the start of the school year is getting close, I have been thinking about children in our community that are not yet “school-aged.” Research continues to show the critical role that high quality preschool experiences play with regard to student success once the children start kindergarten. In fact, a recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University shows that students who participate in strong preschool programs reap benefits reaching into adulthood!  While cognitive benefits cannot be downplayed, the psychological skills learned in preschool programs teach children how to be successful adults.

I recently read a letter from a parent that had a child in Pooh Corner Pre-School last year.  Here is a quote stuck with me,

“For me, the best part about his teachers at Pooh Corner is their ability to maintain a structured learning environment, but also recognize and respond to the needs of the individual child.”

We are fortunate to have access to high quality preschools within our community and region.  When looking at a program, I encourage the focus to be on the following areas:

Learning Environment

Is it a safe environment? Is there space outdoors? Are there a variety of materials?  Open-ended play materials and opportunities?


Daily Routine

Is there a consistent routine? Time for child-initiated activities? Large and small group time?


Adult-Child Interaction

Is it a warm and caring atmosphere? Is there acknowledgement of child efforts? Is there encouragement for peer interaction?


Curriculum Planning & Assessment

Is there a curriculum model? Are the staff taking notes about child behaviors?

Parent Involvement

Is your input valued by the educators?  Are you asked for information to help the teachers better understand your child?  Are you encouraged to visit, volunteer?

I am looking forward to the school year for the school-aged students and I am also looking forward to seeing the pre-school aged children in our community taking advantage of the learning opportunities available through the Saline Area Schools and the greater Saline community.

Lifelong Learners

July 14, 2015


To be invested in learning throughout one’s life is part of the mission statement for the Saline Area Schools.  What is exciting for me is to witness how well the Saline Area Schools staff embody that mission over the summer!  Through social media, staff members are posting of their learning opportunities from all around the country.  Updates are posted from New York to Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Oregon and even Finland as teachers and administrators seek training to enhance the experiences for all Saline students.  For Saline teachers, the summer is a time to learn!

I follow along on Twitter as teachers post what they are reading, participating in focused chat sessions, and networking with other educational leaders from across the country, and around the world.  And it is that leadership that we need now – more than ever before – from all of the teachers. Teacher leaders bring innovative ideas from other educational gurus and technology experts to a district that is already at the forefront of instruction and learning.  How exciting that the teachers model in their personal lives the same outcomes that we hope to instill in the students:  lifelong learners and leaders.

Bringing excellence to teaching and learning, and leading the way for others to emulate is a source of pride in the Saline Area Schools.  Teacher leaders, those that seek to improve continuously, will return to school in the fall with new, innovative approaches to instruction and pedagogy.  It is with pride that we follow these teachers on their learning adventures.  How exciting that they have the drive to strive for excellence in all that they do; the students of the Saline Area Schools are the most fortunate recipients of that learning.

What does mission driven mean for us?

July 12, 2015

I have been reading about the need for organizations to be “mission driven” in the 21st century.  In these fast-paced, technology-driven times, employees and educational leaders must be focused on the organizational mission. Adopting a system-wide, results-based philosophy with a clear vision is essential.  The mission of Saline Area Schools is:

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.

If this is the result that we want achieve – to instill a desire for lifelong learning – how is that measured?  Are the mandated state assessment (M-Step, ACT, NWEA) scores relevant data points? If so, how can we use that data to measure success?  Are data points like attendance, college acceptance, and college completion rates better indicators of lifelong learning?  What about students that pursue skilled trades and the training that entails? What about non-traditional learners that continue to focus on learning?  How is that information on that success captured, and if it is – how is it actionable for us when the students leave the  Saline Area Schools?

The idea I have been thinking about is looking at student engagement as a measure of instilling a desire to learn.  Measuring student engagement would drive us to look for ways to more deeply involve students in their learning. Once students understand why education is important and become excited and committed to learning, the drive to excel and continue learning becomes an innate part of the student’s psyche.  Measuring student engagement is no small task. It would push to assess what engagement looks like at various grade levels. Will deeper engagement lead to higher scores on our current assessments while leading to a deepening desire to learn?
I still have more questions than answers, but the need to define what is actionable about our mission is clear.

Community Conversation & Bond Discussion – June 10th & 15th

June 9, 2015

Saline Area School Community,

These are exciting and challenging times for Saline Area Schools.  Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to get feedback from many people, often in community meetings where there is a set agenda.  During these meetings, 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 toward a bright future.  I am now interested in sharing information regarding a potential November, 2015 Bond Proposal and getting feedback before it is finalized.

I will be sharing information on Wednesday, June 10th at 10:30am at Brewed Awakenings,  7025 E. Michigan Ave. and again on Monday, June 15th at 6:30pm in at Liberty School in the Media Center.  Please stop by, say hello and share your thoughts on the scope of the proposal.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

Saline High School – Class of 2015

May 28, 2015

Saline High School
2015 Senior Class Survey

On Wednesday, May 13, the members of the Class of 2015 completed transcript cards where each student indicated where they would be sending their final transcript. The results for the 450 responses are below:

Michigan Colleges (334) 74%

Out of State Colleges (88) 20%

Michigan Public Colleges (310) 69%

Michigan Private Colleges (24) 5%

All Four Year Colleges (333) 74%

All Two Year Colleges (89) 20%

Military (2) <1%

Working Full Time (11) 2%

Exchange Students returning to home country (7) 1.5%

Young Adult Program (6) 1%

Interesting Numbers:

Michigan Private Schools 

Adrian College 4

Albion College 3

Baker College 1

Cornerstone University 1

Davenport University 1

Hope College 2

Kalamazoo College 3

Kettering University 2

Siena Heights University 4

University of Detroit Mercy 1

Michigan Public Schools    

Central Michigan University 22

Eastern Michigan University 41

Ferris State University 2

Grand Valley State University 23

Lake Superior State 1

Michigan State University 50

Michigan Technological University 4

Northern Michigan University 2

Oakland University 2

Saginaw Valley State University 3

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor 51

University of Michigan – Dearborn 5

Wayne State University 4

Western Michigan University 17

Michigan Career and Technical Schools 

AIS Training Center 1

Aveda Institute 2

Michigan Career and Technical Institute 2

Michigan Institute of Aviation and Technology 1

Motion Picture Institute 1

Michigan Rehabilitation Services 1

Michigan Community Colleges  

Jackson Community College 1

Kalamazoo Valley Community College 2

Schoolcraft College 2

Washtenaw Community College 74

Public Out of State Colleges

Appalachian State University 1

Ball State University 1

Bowling Green State University 2

Central Connecticut State University 1

Colorado State University 1

Florida Atlantic University 1

Georgia Tech 1

Indiana University 2

Miami University 1

Ohio State University 1

Ohio University 2

Oxford University 1

Purdue University 3

Southern Illinois University 1

Texas A & M University 1

University of Alabama 3

University of Central Missouri 1

University of Cincinnati 1

University of Connecticut 1

University of Hawaii 1

University of Kansas 2

University of Kentucky 2

University of Louisville 1

University of Minnesota 1

University of Nebraska 1

University of Passau (Germany) 1

University of Toledo 5

University of Utah 1

University of Windsor 1

University of Wisconsin –EauClaire 1

University of Wyoming 1

Utah State University 1

Private Out of State Colleges

Ashland University 1

Baylor University 1

Belmont University 2

Beloit College 1

Brigham Young University 3

Bryn Mawr College 1

Butler University 1

Case Western Reserve University 2

Cornell University 1

Clark University 1

Columbia College Chicago 1

DePaul University 1

Elmhurst College 1

Fransiscan University of Steubenville 1

Full Sail University 1

Hanover College 1

Heidelberg University 2

Johnson & Wales University 1

Loyola University Chicago 2

Marquette University 1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1

McNally Smith College of Music 1

New York University 1

Northwestern University 2

Norwich University 2

Princeton University 1

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 1

Saint Mary’s College 1

School of Arts Institute of Chicago 1

Smith College 1

Taylor University 1

University of Dayton 1

University of Northwestern Ohio 1

Valparaiso University 2

Villanova University 1

Wittenberg University 1

Other interesting facts about the Class of 2015:

8        National Merit Semi-Finalists

8        National Merit Finalists

10      National Merit Commended Scholars

7        Students having a cumulative unweighted grade point average of 4.0

65      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

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

Making tough choices…

May 14, 2015

When offered the choice of hearing the bad news or good news, which one do you pick to hear first?

As a school district there is no doubt that we choose the good news and work hard to celebrate and boast about all of the good news emerging from this district.  As superintendent, however, I also have to confront the bad news.

This past week we learned that someone who worked with the school district as an independent contractor in our athletic department was charged with embezzling money from the VA Hospital.  We were sad to learn that he later admitted to taking the money. As a district we cannot and will not support this type of behavior.  Consequently, and based on this admission, this person is no longer affiliated with the district. Further, we are re-evaluating our independent contractor policy.

While this individual may have been a good coach and statistician, we are concerned with the behavior off the field. After an internal review we have concluded that our district, our students and our faculty and staff did not have direct contact with the individual as it relates to the issues affecting the VA Hospital.

We realize that sometimes people make bad choices.  However, when those bad choices have the potential to impact our district, we have to make tough choices as to how to respond and how to set the tone as leaders in our community. As leaders we also aspire to become role models for our students and consequently have established strong values and high standards for anyone who has contact with our students to live by and achieve.  As leaders we also take every opportunity to improve the district and build upon each experience.

I want you to know we are constantly looking after what is in the best interest of your children and our students. This begins with community engagement and the opportunity to talk about issues openly and honestly.  I hope that our district can continue to provide a forum for people to talk openly about issues concerning our students, the district and our community.

This is a time of year when we begin to feel the warmth of summer approaching, when our students trade in their t-shirts for tuxedos and prom dresses and trade in their textbooks for yearbooks. In looking through their yearbook or even sitting at graduation, it is a time for reflection and a time to celebrate. We know our students will do both.  They will look at this year with great admiration, with fond recollection and with the ability to take the bad news with the good. They know, that despite good news or bad, as a district and as a community we are looking after each other.

If you have any questions on this matter or on anything else, please feel free to contact me.


Is it research based?

March 22, 2015

Prove It

This week, I had the opportunity to attend the M.A.C.U.L. (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) Conference in Detroit.  It was inspiring to see and hear all of the stories of innovation and creativity that are occurring across Michigan, and highlighting the efforts of several Saline Schools staff.  It brought to mind an article I recently read, titled “Two Words that Kill Innovation.”  The words are, “Prove it.” Those are the two words most deadly to innovation.

A variation of “prove it” in education is “research based.” Often, it makes sense to ask for analytical proof before making a decision, but this phrase can set a standard that is impossible to meet. There is no data to measure how a genuinely new idea will interact with the world or impact student achievement, so there is no way to prove that it will work in advance. While one might think that rigorous adherence to the strict norms required in academia germane, that rigor might end up killing innovation and potentially important new ideas. To keep these innovators and early adopters from being discouraged, we need to distinguish between when we are refining an existing system/program and when the aim is to create something entirely new. If refining, it is most appropriate to ask for supporting data. If truly invested in  new ideas and strategies, one needs to take an entirely different approach. Giving educators permission to take risks with the implementation is important in the process. Throughout the Saline Area Schools, the focus is on prototyping, testing, piloting, rapid iterations, to test innovative ideas in small ways without much up-front investment. Iterative experimentation will generate data that can then be used  to refine the solution.

Do not mistake our interest in looking for new ideas to help students as us as not being concerned about the impact on student learning.  We continue to use various strategies and measure student learning to make sure growth is at or above targeted levels.

Innovation in a highly regulated system such as public education can be very challenging.  As leaders, it is important that we both encourage and model the approach that allows staff to develop new ideas that help all students succeed.



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