Washtenaw County, Mich. - After the tragedy at Oxford High School this week, the Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association (WSA) is issuing a statement out of care and concern for our collective school community. The WSA represents the superintendents of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and the nine public school districts in Washtenaw County: Ann Arbor Public Schools, Chelsea School District, Dexter Community Schools, Lincoln Consolidated Schools, Manchester Community Schools, Milan Area Schools, Saline Area Schools, Whitmore Lake Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools. Their statement reads:
As education leaders of the nine public school districts in Washtenaw County, our hearts continue to ache for the Oxford community as they grieve at this time. Our schools are special communities that should spark inspiration and cultivate the joy of learning, and this tragic act of violence shakes our foundation, especially given its close proximity to home.
Over the last 48 hours, schools across Southeast Michigan have seen a drastic increase in the number of potential threats of violence reported to them and to law enforcement authorities. Just this morning, the WSA collectively met with the police chiefs of Washtenaw County and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.
Every threat, no matter how big or small, is illegal and investigated by schools and law enforcement. Threats against the safety of our schools are never a joke, and law enforcement and school leaders will take action to protect our community, including and up to prosecution. We ask all families to speak with their students about the seriousness of making or sharing threats, and report any threats seen on social media, through text messages or other platforms to authorities through the statewide confidential reporting tool OK2SAY:
In addition to educating students, ensuring our schools are safe is our number one priority. Washtenaw County schools have close relationships with all of our law enforcement agencies and have worked together for many years behind the scenes to keep our schools safe. This includes consultation on Emergency Operations Plans and safety infrastructure and technology, partnering on grants from the Michigan State Police to secure additional safety-related resources and technology, annual county-wide coordination meetings, and regular safety planning for individual school districts. The Washtenaw Intermediate School District and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office provides ALICE training for all school employees in our county throughout every school year, and while we hope this training never needs to be used, it is a protocol we must always be prepared for.
We also understand that reactions to this tragedy look and feel different for every student and adult, and you may notice changes in the behaviors of those around you as we collectively grieve, reflect and react. Help and support is available to you and your family:
Additional resources are available to your school district, including expanded crisis and clinical mental health support thanks to our community’s Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation Millage.
We are deeply saddened that these events continue to touch our schools, and we will do everything in our power to prioritize the safety of our students, staff and families. We continue to lean on the close relationships and clear channels of communication we have among our school districts and law enforcement authorities to keep our schools safe together. Our schools will continue to keep you informed through individual district communications, and as always, thank you for your understanding and support of our school community.
Washtenaw County, Mich. – At a special board meeting held on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) Board of Education interviewed four candidates to fill a vacancy left by Dr. Mary Jo Callan on June 30, 2021. Callan stepped down from the position as part of her transition to Providence, RI, where she has been appointed Executive Director of the Swearer Center and associate dean for engaged scholarship at Brown University. After approximately two hours of interviews, the WISD Board of Education appointed Don L. Garrett, Jr., of Ypsilanti to complete the term through June 2023.
The district accepted letters of intent and resumes for interested candidates from June 23 through July 9. Qualified applicants needed to be a resident of the school district of Dexter, Chelsea, Lincoln, Manchester, Milan, Saline, Whitmore Lake, or Ypsilanti. Due to state law dictating that no more than two members of the board may be from the same school district, residents of Ann Arbor Public Schools were ineligible. Applicants also needed to be at least 18 years old, a registered voter in the school district where they are a candidate, and a citizen of the United States. The WISD Board also requested that applicants demonstrate a commitment to WISD’s Educational Equity Policy
The WISD Board of Education interviewed Glen McIntosh of Dexter, Kimberly Samuelson of Ypsilanti (Lincoln), Nicole Balensiefer of Saline, and Don L. Garrett, Jr., of Ypsilanti. Each interview lasted approximately 25-30 minutes, during which the Board asked a breadth of questions seeking to better understand each candidate’s experiences and their vision for education in Washtenaw County. Immediately following the interviews, the Board engaged in discussion and deliberation, and unanimously selected Don L. Garrett, Jr.
“As a former board trustee of Willow Run and Ypsilanti Community Schools, Don L. Garrett, Jr., brings a wealth of knowledge of our local school system, a fierce devotion to children and students in our community, and a proven track record of school governance leadership,” stated WISD Board President Steve Olsen. “We are pleased to welcome Don to the WISD Board of Education, and we are confident he will be a valuable advocate on behalf of children, students, and families in Washtenaw County.”
Prior to joining the WISD Board of Education, Garrett served on the school boards of Willow Run Community Schools (2009-2013; Board President 2011-2013) and Ypsilanti Community Schools (Vice-President 2013-2015). He was critical to the successful consolidation of Willow Run Community Schools and Ypsilanti Public Schools. As a graduate of Willow Run High School and Washtenaw Community College, Garrett has deep ties to Washtenaw County.
As interviews were conducted virtually as allowed by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioner’s State of Emergency, Garrett will be sworn in in-person later this week.
Dr. Mary Jo Callan, who has served with distinction as a Washtenaw Intermediate School District Trustee since December 2016, has announced that she will step down from the Board of Education before the completion of her term, ending June 2023. Her resignation is effective June 30, 2021.
“Serving the WISD, supporting its mission, including its commitment to advancing diversity, inclusion, and social justice in education, has been a great honor,” Dr. Callan said. “I have learned so much from the incredibly talented and committed WISD staff team and from my board colleagues.”
Dr. Callan will be transitioning to Providence, Rhode Island, where she has been appointed Executive Director of the Swearer Center and associate dean for engaged scholarship at Brown University.
Naomi Norman, WISD’s Interim Superintendent, shared her gratitude for Dr. Callan’s exemplary service to the district and to children and families in Washtenaw County.
“Mary Jo has been an exceptional board member who has always focused on ensuring our students and families are at the center of everything we do,” Norman said. “She has an unwavering commitment to equity, inclusion and social justice, and while her leadership will be greatly missed, we wish her all the best as she begins a new chapter at Brown University.”
The district is now accepting letters of intent and resumes for candidates interested in completing the term through June 2023. Letters of intent should detail qualifications and experiences with public schools and school governance, as well as the applicant’s commitment to educational equity. Letters of intent and resumes should be submitted by July 9, 2021, to incoming Board President Steve Olsen.
Qualified applicants must be:
The board will review applications on July 13, 2021. They will then invite qualified candidates to interview between July 20-22, 2021. After the final interview, the Board will make its selection and appoint a new trustee.
Inquiries can be sent to Steve Olsen, WISDboard@washtenawisd.org, or WISD Interim Superintendent Naomi Norman, firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be submitted electronically or mailed to: Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Attention: Steve Olsen, 1819 S. Wagner Road, P.O. Box 1406, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1406.
*Ann Arbor Public Schools residents are ineligible. State law dictates that no more than two members of the board may be from the same school district. WISD already has two sitting board members that reside within the boundaries of Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Following the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial, the Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association is sharing the following message with our school community. WSA represents the superintendents of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and the nine public school districts in Washtenaw County: Ann Arbor Public Schools, Chelsea School District, Dexter Community Schools, Lincoln Consolidated Schools, Manchester Community Schools, Milan Area Schools, Saline Area Schools, Whitmore Lake Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools. Their statement reads:
“On Tuesday evening, the jury reached a verdict in the George Floyd murder trial, finding Derek Chauvin guilty. For the Floyd family, nothing will bring back George, but we hope that accountability gives them some sense of peace and closure, as everyone deserves.
Our work to create a more racially equitable future continues. Communities of color continue to hurt, and while this is one instance of justice, it is far too elusive for too many who still feel the pressures of injustice. As National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman said, “A reminder that victory would be George Floyd being alive. Every day Black Americans worry if they will be next is another day without justice.” While we know many dedicated officers would never commit such heinous acts, we recognize that the systems we currently have in place do not always live up to their ideals and that without change, the Derek Chauvins of the world will continue to do harm. We are grateful for local efforts by the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office and local police departments to work with community members and address the design of socially just policies, practices and professional learning within their systems.
We believe we are each accountable for making our world a better place, and each of our systems have work to do to be more equitable, inclusive, and socially just – including education. As education leaders, we hold ourselves accountable to transforming a public school system where every child feels like they and their family belong and where they can learn and flourish. We ask that our communities join us in remaining committed to a more equitable and just future.”
With the rise of attacks on Asian Americans and after the murder of eight people in Atlanta, including six Asian American women, by a white male shooter, the Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association is issuing the following statement condemning these acts of racism and standing in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities both locally and nationally. WSA represents the superintendents of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and the nine public school districts in Washtenaw County: Ann Arbor Public Schools, Chelsea School District, Dexter Community Schools, Lincoln Consolidated Schools, Manchester Community Schools, Milan Area Schools, Saline Area Schools, Whitmore Lake Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools. Their statement reads:
As leaders of the nine traditional school districts and the Washtenaw ISD, we stand together to offer our support and solidarity to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and call for the end of terrorizing communities of color in our country. As long as racism plagues our schools and our country, we will not be silent.
As educators, we believe it is our responsibility to shine a light on the anti-Asian violence perpetuated and sustained by policies, practices and beliefs throughout history in our country: The Chinese Exclusion Act, U.S. occupation of the Philippines, Japanese internment camps, and more. Although our history is stained by racist violence, our future does not have to be.
It deeply concerns us that our students may not feel safe, loved or valued in our community simply because of the color of their skin. We want our students to know, and especially our Asian students, that we see you. We value you. You are important to us, and everything you are and will become makes our community richer.
As superintendents of the public schools in Washtenaw County, we will not waver. We stand firm today with the same commitment we made last year: We commit to anti-racist leadership and fostering inclusive educational environments where each person, students and staff, feels a sense of belonging and is treated with dignity and respect.
We want to be clear that racism and hate have no home in our schools or in our communities. Our diversity is what makes us stronger, and we call on our community to stand with us as we foster a future that honors and embraces all of our diverse perspectives and experiences.
Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association Issues Statement on COVID-19 Vaccinations for Educators
Washtenaw County, Mich. – In response to our ongoing frustration and the recent Michigan Education Association (MEA) report that only 25.6% of Washtenaw County educators who responded to their survey have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association (WSA) is issuing a statement calling for additional vaccine supplies for educators in Washtenaw County. WSA represents the superintendents of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and the nine public school districts in Washtenaw County: Ann Arbor Public Schools, Chelsea School District, Dexter Community Schools, Lincoln Consolidated Schools, Manchester Community Schools, Milan Area Schools, Saline Area Schools, Whitmore Lake Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools. Their statement reads:
The WSA believes that, in a community that deeply values education, the breakdown in coordination between the federal, state, and local vaccination rollouts at the local levels is alarming. While we are deeply appreciative of the consistent partnership and direct collaboration with the Washtenaw County Health Department since this pandemic began in March 2020, we recognize that the lack of collaboration and transparency across all levels of decision-making has caused delays, inconsistencies, and inequitable access to vaccinations for educators.
According to the MEA’s report, some counties have nearly 90% of their educators vaccinated, while Washtenaw’s 25.6% vaccination rate ranks at the very bottom of their list. As the home of Michigan’s fourth largest public school district and nine additional districts representing over 13,500 school employees responsible for educating more than 46,000 students, we are deeply disappointed that vaccines allocated to Washtenaw County have not been administered in a way that keeps our students, families, and staff safe during this unprecedented pandemic.
Washtenaw County superintendents have taken every opportunity to collectively advocate on behalf of our school communities at the local, state, and federal levels. This includes direct engagement with elected officials, university leaders, and hospital system administrators. We have initiated and maintained consistent collaboration with our local health department. We appreciate everyone who has extended support. We have consistently offered every resource available, including staff and other support, and have supported two pop-up vaccination clinics for educators staffed with school nurses and school volunteers. We stand ready to help scale and support additional clinics as more doses become available.
At this point, school staff serving our highest need students with special needs and those over the age of 50 are still receiving their invitations to vaccinate. This represents 28% of school staff. Whether we are fully in-person, hybrid, or fully remote, we all feel the urgency to do everything we can to reduce the risk for students and staff, which includes increasing our vaccination rate.
However, we call attention to the fact that the state’s stringent stipulations dictating how new first dose vaccines are allocated disproportionately impacts our highest need, most diverse school districts that teach our most diverse and often most vulnerable learners. By calling for the expansion of in-person instruction in these districts, the state is disproportionately putting low-income students and students of color at risk for additional harm and further exacerbating inequities in both education and health.
Schools have repeatedly been called on to re-open and expand face-to-face learning opportunities, despite the inadequate allocation of financial and vaccination resources necessary to do so safely. If getting more students back to school is a priority, then vaccinating teachers must also be a priority. While vaccination is not the only risk mitigation strategy, it is one of our strongest and most effective. In the United States alone, this virus has infected more than 27.9 million and taken the lives of more than 490,000 people. Schools need systemic support in order to be part of the solution in minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
Today, we issue the following calls to action:
To all of our students, families, staff, and community members, our commitment to our school community is not limited solely to our students’ education, but also extends to the health, well-being and safety of everyone impacted by our school system. We will remain steadfast in our advocacy and dedication to expanding face-to-face opportunities for students safely. While we are amazed at how our educators have moved mountains to provide fully remote, hybrid, and fully in-person instruction for our students and families this past year, we look forward to the day when we can safely see all our students in our classrooms together.
Residents of Detroit, Inkster, Flint and Washtenaw County will soon benefit from expanded free Wi-Fi access at more than 50 community locations across S.E. Michigan. The effort, part of Merit Network’s Michigan Moonshot initiative, was supported by contributions from the Toyota USA Foundation and Cisco. Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Merit Network provided in-kind contributions for the project.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Detroit Public Schools has the highest number of households in the state without internet access at 82,894. The Flint School District has the second highest number with 14,221 households without internet access. In addition, 57% of K-12 students in Washtenaw County do not have high speed Wi-Fi access at home.
“For thousands of students across the state of Michigan, the pandemic has introduced new challenges or highlighted existing ones. We expect this to help both rural and urban communities access the internet for basic informational needs tied to living, learning and working,” said Charlotte Bewersdorff, Merit Network’s vice president for Community Engagement.
The grants address the digital divide by providing community organizations with the technological ability to extend their existing internet connectivity through Wi-Fi networks which are accessible outside the buildings. Detroit Public Library will extend their Wi-Fi network beyond the walls of nine select sites, during normal business hours. Washtenaw Intermediate School District is coordinating the following different access points at area schools and community partners across the county:
“As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our nation, Toyota is proud to partner with Michigan Moonshot and Cisco to expand free Wi-Fi to Southeast Michigan area schools, libraries and community gathering locations to provide an immediate solution to this urgent issue of access,” said Chris Reynolds, chief administrative officer, Toyota Motor North America.
Beyond Washtenaw County where Toyota has its North American research and development headquarters, the Toyota USA Foundation provided grants to help address the digital divide in 13 states across the nation.
Internet access at community sites is powered and secured by Cisco’s next-generation Wi-Fi and cloud security technology. The overall effort is supported through Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program, which has over 900 active or completed mass-scale digitization projects in 37 countries around the world.
“It is our responsibility as business leaders to step up and mobilize the tools and innovations at our disposal to help curtail the growing disparities in our communities caused by the digital divide,” said Nick Michaelides, senior vice president, U.S. Public Sector at Cisco. “We are proud to launch this initiative alongside Merit and Toyota to help ensure equity of access, and to power an inclusive future for all Michiganders.”
Moving into the future, the Michigan Moonshot will continue to identify and lessen the impacts of inequitable access to broadband internet with the help from our communities. If your community, private or philanthropic organization is interested in supporting local Community Access Network sites, please contact email@example.com.
To view an interactive map of all locations and hours of operation, please visit MichiganMoonshot.org/CommunityWiFi.
After continued attacks on people of color across the United States and in Washtenaw County, the Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association has issued a shared statement standing in solidarity with black and brown students and families and re-affirming their commitment to anti-racism. WSA represents the superintendents of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and the nine public school districts in Washtenaw County: Ann Arbor Public Schools, Chelsea Schools, Dexter Community Schools, Lincoln Consolidated Schools, Manchester Community Schools, Milan Area Schools, Saline Area Schools, Whitmore Lake Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools. Their statement reads:
“The public murder of George Floyd by a white police officer, the killing of Breonna Taylor by police officers while she slept in her home, and the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery by white supremacists in Georgia are stark reminders that the issue of race in America and abuse of power by white people continues unabated. Systemic racism was part and parcel of the founding of this country. For more than 400 years, people of African descent have been abused, oppressed and marginalized in a country where we proclaim “liberty and justice for all.”
Police violence and brutality is not a new phenomenon, and the racial disproportionality is evidence of just how deep and pervasive systemic racism is in every aspect of our society. We know that many dedicated officers would never commit such heinous acts and support those officers who work tirelessly to eliminate systemic racism. We also acknowledge that throughout our country, we have a problem. The recent incident in Washtenaw County with a white police officer punching a black woman repeatedly in the head is a reminder that this isn’t something that just happens in other communities. This violence against people of color by those who are sworn to protect and serve is unacceptable. When a police officer can kneel on a helpless black man for more than 8 minutes while his life slipped away because he couldn’t breathe and his colleagues in blue acquiesced to the public killing in broad daylight, we are all in danger. None of us are immune from abuse of power unless and until we demand accountability and insist on true liberty and justice for all.
Our children are angry, scared, and confused. They don’t understand how in this country the people who are supposed to protect us can be allowed to arbitrarily take the life of someone because of the color of their skin. They are looking to us as leaders and adults to do something – not just say something, but to take action. When any one of our students has to fear for his or her safety because of the color of their skin, we know we are not living up to our ideals as a community and as a nation.
In February, we made a collective statement about our anti-racist commitment as public education leaders. That commitment is restated and reaffirmed here with an even greater sense of urgency.
As leaders of the public education system in Washtenaw County, we are committed to nurturing anti-racist educational learning environments where each and every child is respected and valued for who they are regardless of skin color, gender, sexual identity or orientation, ability or disability, or any other category. Our diversity is what makes us stronger, and we will not accept educational environments where students are subject to conditions where their identity makes them a target of abuse.
How we treat each other is a measure of our shared values and commitment to basic human dignity and worth. As superintendents in Washtenaw County, we commit to anti-racist leadership and fostering inclusive educational environments where each person, students and staff, feels a sense of belonging and is treated with dignity and respect.
Now more than ever there is an urgency to act. The superintendents of Washtenaw County stand with our black and brown students and families. We see you. We hear you. We know we have been part of the problem by perpetuating a system of inequity and injustice, and we pledge ourselves to dismantling and disrupting the unjust systems so that each person may live freely and without fear.”
On Tuesday, May 12, 2020, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) Board of Education approved an interim leadership structure as the district embarks on a formal search process for its next superintendent. Naomi Norman, WISD’s Assistant Superintendent of Achievement and Systems Support, will step into the Interim Superintendent role for the 2020-21 school year. WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel, PhD, was named the next superintendent of Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, AZ, on February 22, 2020, and will retire from WISD on June 30, 2020.
“We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Menzel for leading Washtenaw ISD over the past nine years and wish him all the best in Scottsdale,” said Dr. Theresa Saunders, WISD Board President. “We are also thankful for Assistant Superintendent Norman’s willingness to step into the Interim Superintendent position. We are confident she will provide the leadership and stability our district needs during this period of transition.”
While the majority of the Superintendent’s responsibilities will fall to the Interim Superintendent, WISD Assistant Superintendents Cherie Vannatter and Brian Marcel will also take on interim positions that reflect additional responsibilities as they lead alongside Norman. Assistant Superintendent Cherie Vannatter will step into an Interim Deputy Superintendent role and oversee internal organizational operations and support to local school districts, as well as continue to oversee special education and early childhood education. Assistant Superintendent Brian Marcel will take on an Interim Associate Superintendent role and take full responsibility for the major building construction efforts and board policy oversight and development, while continuing to oversee administrative services including finance.
“This interim leadership structure will allow us to maintain continuity of operations for our district, as well as continue providing leadership and support to local districts and our community while the Board conducts a thorough and thoughtful search for our next Superintendent,” stated Norman. “This stability is particularly critical as our community, state, and nation navigate the longer-term impacts of COVID-19. As the impacts of the pandemic continue to unfold and disproportionately affect our students of color, students in poverty, and students with disabilities, WISD remains steadfast and dedicated to our commitment to equity, inclusion and social justice.”
Norman, Vannatter, and Marcel each have deep roots in Washtenaw County, and their careers include nearly 60 years of combined service at Washtenaw ISD, plus additional service at local school districts. Their interim roles will begin July 1, 2020, and they will serve in them until June 30, 2021.
On Saturday, February 22, 2020, Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) Superintendent Scott Menzel, PhD, was named the next superintendent of Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) in Phoenix, Arizona. Menzel was one of three finalists selected from a list of 29 applicants to be interviewed by the district’s Board and five advisory committees. After interviewing on Friday, February 21, followed by deliberations that evening and the next day, Dr. Menzel was selected with 5-0 unanimous vote by SUSD’s governing board.
“I have been incredibly blessed to serve as superintendent of Washtenaw ISD during the last nine years,” said Menzel. “We are fortunate our community is committed to providing outstanding educational opportunities to all students, and I am proud of the work our team at Washtenaw ISD has done to expand supports to children and families from birth through college and career.”
During Menzel’s time at Washtenaw ISD, the district has grown in a number of ways to better meet the needs of children and families, such as establishing an early childhood department that now manages early educational programs such as Head Start, the Great Start Readiness Program, and home visiting services for families with young children ages birth to three. The WISD has also played a key role in establishing a local college access network to increase access to post-secondary education and training programs. One of the most notable successes of Menzel’s leadership was facilitating the merging of Ypsilanti Public Schools and Willow Run Community Schools to form Ypsilanti Community Schools. In August 2019, voters approved a $53.295 million bond to significantly renovate WISD’s High Point School, which serves students with severe and multiple disabilities from across Washtenaw County.
“We are grateful to Dr. Menzel for his leadership and fierce commitment to creating a more equitable and socially just educational system for students in Washtenaw County,” said Dr. Theresa Saunders, WISD Board President. “While we will be saddened to see Dr. Menzel go, we wish him the absolute best as he moves on to the next chapter in his career. We know the students, families and staff of Scottsdale Unified Schools will be as impressed with Dr. Menzel as we have been at Washtenaw ISD.”
Dr. Menzel’s contract with WISD expires June 30, 2020, and he will be negotiating a start date with the Scottsdale Unified governing board. The WISD Board of Education will begin planning next steps for a transition this week.
On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, the WISD Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Washtenaw Superintendents' Association's Anti-Racism Commitment Statement:
Resolution on the Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association Anti-Racism Commitment Statement
Whereas, the education and safety of the children of Washtenaw County is our top priority, and
Whereas, the recent occurrence of overtly racist incidents in Washtenaw County impacting our school community has garnered national attention, and
Whereas, Washtenaw Intermediate School District and the Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association are taking a firm stand against racism in all forms at the interpersonal, internalized, organizational and systemic levels, and
Whereas, we believe each of us, individually and collectively, are responsible for nurturing anti-racist educational learning environments where each and every child is respected and valued for who they are regardless of skin color, gender, sexual identity or orientation, ability or disability, or any other category, and
Whereas, we will not accept education environments where students are subject to conditions where their identity makes them a target of abuse, and
Whereas, Washtenaw Intermediate School District, and Washtenaw County School Districts, will further our commitment to anti-racist leadership and fostering inclusive educational environments where each person, students and staff, feels a sense of belonging and is treated with dignity and respect,
Therefore, be it resolved that, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Board of Education will support our agency and local districts alignment with the Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association Anti-Racist Commitment Statement.
After the recent occurrence of overtly racist incidents in Washtenaw County garnering national attention, the Washtenaw Superintendents’ Association (WSA) has issued a statement condemning these acts of racism and solidifying their commitment to anti-racism within all local public schools. WSA represents the superintendents of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and the nine public school districts in Washtenaw County: Ann Arbor Public Schools, Chelsea Schools, Dexter Community Schools, Lincoln Consolidated Schools, Manchester Community Schools, Milan Area Schools, Saline Area Schools, Whitmore Lake Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools. Their statement reads:
“As leaders of the nine traditional school districts and the Washtenaw ISD, we are compelled to speak out in response to recent events that have called attention to racist attitudes and actions within our schools and the larger community in Washtenaw County.
The stories of students at Saline High School have surfaced in the media recently, but microaggressions and more overt aggression happens in every district. Now is not the time to point fingers at one district or one community, but rather to reflect on the ways in which each of us, individually and collectively, contribute to an environment where racial insults, bullying, and harassment are permitted to take place or are even seen by some as acceptable. It has been said that “what you permit, you promote.” Silence in the face of racism and racist actions is complicity and therefore we will not remain silent.
As leaders of the public education system in Washtenaw County, we are committed to nurturing anti-racist educational learning environments where each and every child is respected and valued for who they are regardless of skin color, gender, sexual identity or orientation, ability or disability, or any other category. Our diversity is what makes us stronger, and we will not accept educational environments where students are subject to conditions where their identity makes them a target of abuse.
All of our students will be asked to be competitive workers in a society that assumes an ability to work in a multicultural world. For many, the ability to understand difference is developed through their educational experience.
How we treat each other is a measure of our shared values and commitment to basic human dignity and worth. As superintendents in Washtenaw County, we commit to anti-racist leadership and fostering inclusive educational environments where each person, students and staff, feels a sense of belonging and is treated with dignity and respect.”
On Tuesday, January 7, 2020, students in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s High Point program will begin the second half of their school year on the east side of the county at Ypsilanti Community Middle School @ Willow Run (YCMS @ WR) located at 235 Spencer Lane, Ypsilanti. Due to passage of the WISD’s bond proposal in August 2019, renovation and reconstruction of their campus on Ann Arbor’s west side at 1735 S. Wagner Road is scheduled to begin March 2020, requiring the High Point program to move out before construction.
“It is no small undertaking to move out of a school that has been serving students for 45 years and be ready to begin classes in a new building in about two weeks,” shared WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel. “I’m incredibly proud of our community for supporting our students and of our staff for all their hard work to make this transition successful.”
The High Point program serves students ages 3 through 26 with severe and multiple disabilities, such as cognitive, physical, and emotional impairments, and medically fragile students from all nine school districts across Washtenaw County. WISD’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) program and Honey Creek Community School, a K-8 public school academy, have also temporarily moved to YCMS @ WR alongside the High Point program, and will return to their Ann Arbor campus with High Point when renovations are complete. Honey Creek Community School has been co-located with the High Point program since it was chartered by WISD in 1995 in order to ensure students with disabilities have the opportunity to learn next to their general education peers.
“One of the most unique aspects of our High Point program is the co-location with Honey Creek. This symbiotic relationship is a critical component of the High Point educational experience, and we believed this needed to continue during the transitional process,” states Superintendent Menzel.
WISD’s DHH and High Point programs and Honey Creek Community School will be temporarily located at YCMS @ WR through June 2021, and expect to re-open at their Ann Arbor campus in September 2021.
Monica Knowles, President of the Ray & Mary Knight Scholarship Fund, presented a $60,000 check to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District for the Education Project for Homeless Youth. The generous donation will benefit students across Washtenaw County experiencing homelessness or a temporary living situation.
The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law that guarantees a student’s right to an education even if they are experiencing homelessness. During the 2017-18 school year, nearly 1,200 children and youth in Washtenaw County experienced unstable housing.
“The students we see have extremely complicated lives and complex needs,” said Dawn Espy, Manager for the Education Project. “This generous donation will help ensure students receive the resources they need not only to be successful in school, but also what they need to just feel like kids, regardless of their situation.”
In addition to being well-known for their restaurants and butcher shop, the Knight family is also passionate about giving back to their community. The Ray and Mary Knight Scholarship Fund was established in 2016 in honor of the business’s founders and focuses its efforts on providing education-related funding to children in need.
“We are proud to support the Education Project for Homeless Youth,” states Knowles. “We are excited this will help make a difference in the lives of local students. We firmly believe all students should have access to academics, arts, and athletics, regardless of your family or housing situation.”
A nostalgic evening of laughter, hugs, and storytelling was shared among over 200 visitors in High Point School’s gym on Monday, December 16, 2019. Those in attendance included alumni and current students, staff, and families of High Point, Honey Creek, and Gretchen’s House, as well as community members, who came together to share their memories and see old friends and colleagues as the school kicked off its final week in the building before moving out before reconstruction begins in early 2020.
“It feels like my family has been here forever and we will continue to be involved for a long time,” said Andi Spengler, who has two children each currently enrolled in High Point and Honey Creek, and one who has already graduated from Honey Creek. “Because of High Point, our daughter Emma has made such incredible strides in her growth and development. We will be forever grateful to this community for everything it’s offered our family and will continue to offer for us and families like us in the future.”
In addition to catching up and sharing stories, attendees gathered around photos taken over the last 45 years that were spread throughout the gym. Photographs included key moments of High Point’s history, including construction in 1974, the school’s 30th birthday celebration, and graduation throughout the years. Poignant memories shared by attendees when they registered for the event were also displayed, and others were encouraged to share favorite memories and notes about their times at High Point.
“High Point is a truly exceptional school, and we are thankful for the nearly 45 years we had in this building,” stated Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) Superintendent Scott Menzel. “We’re incredibly thankful to all of you – our High Point, Honey Creek, and Gretchen’s House family – for celebrating with us as we close this chapter and look ahead to a new one.”
High Point School will close at the end of this week leading into the winter break, and classes will resume on January 7, 2020, at the Ypsilanti Community Middle School @ Willow Run. The High Point building will be closed for reconstruction and renovation, and is expected to re-open in September 2021 for the 2021-22 school year.
After nearly 45 years of serving students with disabilities from across Washtenaw County, significant renovation and reconstruction will begin on High Point School in early 2020. Before staff and students move out so construction can commence, Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) will be hosting a Farewell Celebration honoring High Point School. The celebration will be held on Monday, December 16 from 4:30-6:30 p.m., and all current and former staff, students, and families of High Point, Honey Creek Community School, and Gretchen’s House, as well as general community members, are invited to join. Cake and coffee will be served, and remarks will begin at 5:30 p.m.
“We are incredibly grateful to our community for passing the August bond proposal so High Point can be transformed into a high-quality school designed to meet the needs of students with disabilities for generations to come,” stated WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel. “While we are eager to begin the reconstruction and renovation process, we also want to pause to celebrate and share memories of the existing building that has been serving students with significant needs since it opened in 1975."
Amesite, Inc., an artificial intelligence software company providing online learning products, announced today its partnership with one of the largest counties in Michigan, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD). With an enrollment of over 46,000 students and over 80 schools, WISD serves nine public school districts and the public school academies in the greater Ann Arbor region.
The partnership’s work will focus on the Washtenaw Alliance for Virtual Education (WAVE) program, a free public high school program for students in the Washtenaw County school districts, which provides a flexible, student-centered, project-based approach to learning for students who need an alternative to the traditional high school model. The partnership is being supported by WISD and the Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium (WEOC).
WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel said, “The partnership with Amesite will provide cutting edge tools so our educators can focus their energy on providing our students with the exceptional educational experience they deserve. We are excited to partner with Amesite, a truly innovative tech company as dedicated to education as we are.”
Amesite CEO, Dr. Ann Marie Sastry, said “We are thrilled to step into a partnership with WISD, a respected educational leader here in Michigan. Their strategic vision includes centering learning on the learner and using technology wisely. We are proud to partner with them – they are true innovators in the K-12 space.”
Amesite’s online learning solutions utilize artificial intelligence technologies, including machine learning and natural language processing, to deliver cost effective, cloud-based digital educational products, that greatly enhance and improve the learning experience of students. Amesite’s online platform includes customized user messaging and tracking, as well as seamless integration of current events into traditional course materials, creating a more meaningful experience for both students and instructors alike.
bulb Digital Portfolios announces a partnership with Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) to provide all students in Michigan with access to a digital portfolio.
A bulb digital portfolio is used by students to create, collect and showcase their latest ideas and best work when applying for college or a job. Teachers can use bulb to keep lessons, track professional development goals and to showcase credentials or badges earned. bulb digital portfolios are also implemented by schools and districts to advance STEM initiatives and meet the requirements of Career and Technical Education programs.
“Washtenaw ISD looks forward to launching this partnership with bulb Digital Portfolios so students across Michigan can access cutting-edge educational opportunities,” said WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel. “Digital portfolios allow students to highlight their lifelong learning and accomplishments, as well as align with broader education and workforce goals we have in Michigan. Partnerships like this help ensure teachers and students have the tools they need to be successful both today and in the future.”
bulb is a web-based tool where students collect digital evidence of their learning (images, videos, documents, audio, embeds) and showcase their work beautifully and professionally.
“We’re excited about working with Washtenaw ISD to help students show off what they know, demonstrate skills and interests to get into college or to land a job,” said Andrew Cary, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships at bulb. “Adding a digital portfolio to a student’s school experience allows them to practice positive digital citizenship skills while creating a powerful collection of their work.”
Schools and districts have access to special pricing, professional development, implementation support and training for teachers when purchasing bulb Digital Portfolios through Washtenaw ISD. Anyone interested can get information here.
Nearly 50 boxes of braille books sent to the Louis Braille Memorial Library
Washtenaw Intermediate School District teamed up with the Ann Arbor Evening Lions Club to send nearly 50 boxes of braille materials to students in Bangladesh. The materials were shipped to the Louis Braille Memorial Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Founded in 2000, the library provides free services to children, youth, and adults who are deaf blind, deaf, partially sighted, visually impaired, and physically handicapped in Bangladesh.
“When we heard the Louis Braille Memorial Library was actively seeking donations for any type of braille materials, we thought this would be a great opportunity for us to partner with our local Lions Club to help those in need in Bangladesh,” states Laura White, Teacher Consultant for the Visually Impaired at Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD). “We had braille materials that we can no longer use because of updates to braille code, and this was a chance to help those on the other side of the world.”
The materials being shipped to the Louis Braille Memorial Library are considered outdated for education today due to the transition from English Braille Code American Edition to Unified English Braille Code. Louis Braille developed the first standardized braille system using raised dots representing letters, numbers, and punctuation in the early 1800s and until recently, the system remained largely unchanged. The move towards a single system of English braille began in the 1990s and the Unified English Braille Code was adopted in 2012.
WISD’s team of Teacher Consultants work to build the capacity of local schools to educate students with special needs. They provide support based on specific disabilities such as visual impairment, deaf and heard of hearing, emotional impairments, and more. Teacher Consultants also assist local school districts with program planning, direct student support, professional development, implementation of specialized resources, and communication with families. Teacher Consultants for the Visually Impaired, like White, and volunteers from the Ann Arbor Evening Lions Club came together in the afternoons last week to box up braille materials in storage.
“Without the chance to donate to this library in Bangladesh, we would have needed to discard or recycle these outdated materials,” shared White. “We are thrilled that the Louis Braille Memorial Library is able to reuse these braille books and that these resources will continue to benefit others!”
Assistant Superintendent Norman appointed by Governor Whitmer to lead statewide literacy network
Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s Assistant Superintendent Naomi Norman has been appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to serve as Chairperson for the Michigan PreK-12 Literacy Commission. Assistant Superintendent Norman was appointed to the Commission in 2016 and then reappointed in 2018, and now looks forward to leading this statewide effort.
“It is such an incredible honor that the Governor’s Office is placing trust in me to lead this commission,” said Norman. “While there is immense work to be done, I am confident that this group can and will make a difference for the kids in our state.”
The Michigan PreK-12 Literacy Commission is the commission that advises the Governor, Legislature, and the Department of Education on how state policy can better align to the unique literacy challenges that schools face based on the school’s community and socioeconomic status of the school’s population. The Commission suggests PreK-12 literacy goals for the state, monitors current PreK-12 literacy research, pilot programs, and policies nationwide, and encourages collaboration between teachers, schools, and districts around resources, proven methods, and best practices concerning PreK-12 literacy.
Norman adds, “I’m feeling grateful for the opportunity to lead the effort and humbled by the support from across Michigan.”
The Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) is proud to announce the successful sale of its 2019 School Building and Site Bonds approved by voters on August 6, 2019. The successful bond sale allowed the District to maximize their taxpayer-approved bond initiative generating just shy of $53.295 Million in bond proceeds for the upcoming projects. The 2019 School Building and Site Bonds are being issued for the purpose of erecting, furnishing and equipping a new High Point School as an addition to the pool and gymnasium portions of the existing building; remodeling, equipping and re-equipping and furnishing and refurnishing the pool and gymnasium portions of the existing building; purchasing and installing information technology systems equipment and software; preparing, developing, improving and equipping playgrounds and the site; and paying the costs of issuing the Bonds.
In preparing to sell the 2019 School Building and Site Bonds, Washtenaw ISD, working with their municipal advisor, PFM Financial Advisors, LLC, requested that S&P Global Ratings, a business unit of Standard and Poor's Financial Services LLC ("S&P") evaluate the district's credit quality. S&P assigned WISD the underlying rating of "AA" with a stable outlook, which is one of the highest credit ratings possible. The rating agency cited the district's diverse economic metrics, stable employment base, and vast educational service area that spans nine local school districts in the greater Ann Arbor region, which have supported steady growth in the district’s per capita wealth levels over the last five years; historically stable and predictable financial position and maintenance of overall steady reserve levels in its general and special education operating funds; and very low overall debt burden and annual debt service payments, with all of the debt being amortized in the next ten years in their rationale for rating of the School District at this level.
“Washtenaw ISD is incredibly pleased with the sale of the bonds and the success of locking in lower than expected interest rates,” states WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel. “This is a win-win situation where we are able to minimize the cost to taxpayers and also build a new school for our students with disabilities who have the most significant needs.”
The school district's financing was conducted by the Michigan investment banking office of the brokerage firm, Stifel, the financial advising firm, PFM Financial Advisors, LLC and the law firm serving as bond counsel, Thrun Law Firm, P.C. The WISD's 2019 School Building and Site Bonds were sold at a true interest rate of 1.56% with maturities 2021 through 2029.
Brodie Killian, Managing Director with Stifel states, "Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s Bonds were well received by the bond market. The District was able to enter the bond market and lock in extremely low interest rates. The financing met the goals of the District and resulted in a cost of borrowing that was considerably lower than originally anticipated."
The Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) will lease a portion of the Ypsilanti Community Middle School at Willow Run (YCMS @ WR) from August 1, 2019, through October 31, 2021. The lease was approved by the Ypsilanti Community Schools Board of Education and the WISD Board of Education at their respective board meetings on August 12 and August 13, 2019.
After passage of the WISD’s bond proposal on August 6, 2019, the district needed to formalize an agreement to temporarily relocate the integrated operations of High Point School and Honey Creek Community School while the High Point facility is renovated and reconstructed. Two local school districts offered spaces available to temporarily house the operations of High Point School, and after consideration of costs, facility availability, facility operations such as availability of a pool for adaptive aquatic education, and the level of renovations needed to temporarily meet the needs of High Point students, the WISD agreed to move forward with a lease of YCMS @ WR.
“We are happy to expand our partnership with Ypsilanti Community Schools as we move ahead with leasing the Ypsilanti Community Middle School at Willow Run as a temporary home for our High Point community,” shares WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel. “This represents a true win-win since the facility, which opened in 2004, was available and requires only modest modifications in order to serve our students during the transition.”
Some renovations will be necessary to accommodate the unique needs of High Point’s students with significant disabilities, such as the addition of accessible bathrooms in close proximity to classrooms.
“Our district looks forward to welcoming High Point to Ypsilanti Community Middle School at Willow Run,” said YCS Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross. “This will be a great partnership that benefits both Ypsilanti and WISD’s High Point community.”
The annual lease cost for the facility is $634,375, and because WISD will not incur much of High Point School’s operating costs due to its reconstruction, the savings will be utilized to offset the lease cost. Honey Creek Community School, which has paid rent to WISD for space at High Point School since opening in 1995, will also continue to pay rent in this location as well. The lease includes the use of approximately 50,750 square feet of exclusive-use space for educational programming, instructional support services, and office function purposes, as well as use of common areas of the building. Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) will continue to provide all building maintenance, snow removal, lawn care, and evening janitorial services, while WISD will provide a daytime custodial/maintenance staff person.
The Education Project’s Beyond Backpacks campaign is in full swing for the 2019-20 school year to equip local homeless students with the tools they need to be successful in school. More than 1,200 children and youth across Washtenaw County experienced homelessness or a temporary living situation during the 2018-19 school year, a 9% increase from the previous year.
To help meet this goal, monetary donations and school supplies are being requested. Cash donations go toward meeting unforeseen, unmet needs that students encounter, such as providing winter clothing, transportation, graduation caps and gowns.
While school supplies are always needed for all ages, the needs of homeless students are so complex that the Education Project would also like to ask the community to support youth experiencing homelessness in a new way. For each of the 1,200 young people experiencing homelessness, the Education Project is seeking 1,200 donors willing to commit $50 each. The goal of $60,000 would support the needs of our young people for the entire year.
“The students we see have extremely complicated lives and complex needs,” said Dawn Espy, Manager for The Education Project. “School is oftentimes one of the only places that provide stability and consistency in their lives. We strive to ensure that students experiencing homelessness not only have what they need to be successful students, but also what they need to just feel like kids, regardless of their situation.”
Among school supplies needed for all ages are backpacks (no backpacks logoed for advertising purposes, please), crayons, washable markers, folders, pencil boxes, zippered pencil pouches, scientific or graphing calculators, 3-ring 1-inch binders, colored pencils, highlighters, rulers, protractors, compasses, pencil sharpeners, index cards, Post-It sticky notes, small tissue packs, hand sanitizers, lip balm, and toiletries.
Monetary donations can be made by:
School supplies donations can be dropped off at:
“We really hope the community will continue to rally around our students for the upcoming school year so everyone has the opportunity to thrive,” Espy said.
The Education Project is a grant-funded program of WISD, in partnership with Ozone House, that helps homeless students enroll, attend, and succeed in school. It serves students age 0-21 years-old, including those living in shelters, motels, cars and abandoned houses, as well as those living doubled-up temporarily with friends or family. The program works closely with all nine public school districts and the public school academies of Washtenaw County.
The voters showed their support for public education when a majority of Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) constituents voted to pass a bond proposal to renovate and rebuild High Point School, which serves students with severe disabilities from across Washtenaw County, on August 6, 2019. The vote means that over $53 million will be generated to ensure High Point meets the needs of students with the most significant special education needs, both now and in to the future. WISD Superintendent, Dr. Scott Menzel, said the election is affirming of the community’s commitment to all students.
“The students throughout Washtenaw County who receive special education services at High Point School are the winners,” Menzel said. “We are grateful to our community for recognizing that our most vulnerable students deserve a high-quality learning environment just like the rest of their peers. I would like to thank the voters on behalf of our High Point community who will benefit from a school that meets their needs and enhances their quality of life and education.”
Teacher Consultant Katrina Fitzpatrick named Michigan’s only 2019 award recipient.
Amid a gathering of 2019 Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) Young Adult graduates and WISD staff at their annual graduation dinner, Superintendent Scott Menzel made a surprise announcement recognizing Katrina Fitzpatrick as one of the winners of the 2019 Outstanding Special Education Teacher Award. Fitzpatrick is Teacher Consultant for WISD, and is the only educator in Michigan recognized for this year’s award presented by the National Association of Special Education Teachers.
“Our special education educators do incredible work, and for Katrina to be recognized nationally is a true testament to her dedication, care, and effective approach working with students with disabilities in Washtenaw County. As an organization, we are extremely proud of Katrina and her commitment to students,” said WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel.
“Katrina has been a mentor and role model of mine for nine years. I met Katrina as we worked together, in my second-year teaching, with a student who had Autism Spectrum Disorder,” writes Fitzpatrick’s nominator, Kalli Nowitzke, WISD Teacher for the Young Adult Program. “Katrina teaches others that by thinking outside the box and trying what others are afraid to try, one can help make dreams come true.”
The Outstanding Special Education Teacher Award is bestowed on special education teachers who have demonstrated exemplary achievement as a teacher in the field of special education. It recognizes and rewards the special skills and excellence of special education teachers throughout the United States annually.
Fitzpatrick has been with the WISD for over 38 years and has worked with students and staff throughout Washtenaw County ranging from early childhood through Young Adult. Her greatest impact is supporting students with disabilities in the Young Adult Program who transition to living independently, which includes learning how to use public transportation, obtaining and maintaining a job, and financially supporting themselves.
“Katrina has created opportunities for students who may not have had an opportunity to be part of a community,” Nowitzke states at the closing her nomination. “By using her determination and distinctive approach to teaching, she has transformed students and the changes have lasted.”
WISD’s Young Adult Program serves over 125 special education students ages 18-26 years old at nine community-based sites across Washtenaw County. For more information on WISD’s Young Adult Program, click here.
The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) is a national membership organization dedicated to supporting and assisting teachers and future teachers of special education.
High Point School and Honey Creek Community School were awarded a Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools Grant to further foster and promote an inclusive school environment. The grant allowed for new equipment and curriculum to increase collaborative physical education opportunities between the two schools. To learn more about the Unified Champion Schools Grant, see our video here.
By a unanimous vote, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) Board of Education adopted a resolution at their May 7, 2019 meeting to place a bond proposal on the Tuesday, August 6, 2019 ballot in order to renovate and rebuild High Point School. The proposal is for a $53.3 million bond issue to finance the project; the estimated millage to pay off the bonds is 0.37 mill for ten years.
WISD Board Trustee Diane Hockett said this is a crucial election for Washtenaw County.
“I’m very proud of the WISD Board and our constituent districts for supporting this bond proposal to support our students with the highest needs,” said Board Trustee Steve Olsen. “It’s clear we need to redesign this outdated facility, and we sincerely hope that our Washtenaw community will support these efforts so our students can receive the best education possible.”
High Point School is specifically dedicated to meeting the specialized needs of students with disabilities from ages three through 26 by offering programming for students with severe cognitive and multiple impairments. Currently, High Point serves approximately 70 students with the most significant needs from all nine public school districts in Washtenaw County. The school also shares its space with three other education programs: Honey Creek Community School, Gretchen’s House, and WISD’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program.
Opened in 1975, High Point School was originally designed to serve a different student population than it does today. When it first opened, students with mild disabilities attended High Point for vocational and occupational training such as automotive maintenance, woodworking and food service. Students who would have attended High Point in the past now receive services in their home school district.
“Ensuring all students, especially our students with severe and multiple disabilities, have access to high-quality learning environments is a matter of equity, inclusion, and social justice,” said Washtenaw ISD Superintendent Scott Menzel. “Reconstructing a new High Point is a matter of living up to our community’s expectation that all students have resources needed to meet their unique needs and achieve their full potential.”
To read the full ballot proposal language, click here.
A sea of shimmering dresses and suits danced the night away at Weber’s Restaurant on Ann Arbor’s west side on Thursday, April 18, 2019, for an extraordinary Prom unlike any other in Washtenaw County.
Over 200 Young Adults and alumni gathered for Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s 42nd annual Prom, a record number of students and alumni for the event.
“Prom is the biggest night of the year and holds a special place in the hearts of our current and former students,” said Becky Ralls, Special Education Supervisor for WISD’s Young Adult Services, the Young Adult Project, Local Based Programs, and Visually Impaired Services. “It’s a night out for our students to let loose, have fun, and celebrate the end of the school year just like our local high school students.”
Prom started at WISD’s High Point School just a few short years after the building opened in 1975. When Prom outgrew the High Point cafeteria, it moved to the now closed Nectarine Ballroom before finally settling on its current location at Weber’s Restaurant.
WISD’s Young Adult Program serves over 125 special education students ages 18-26 years old at nine community-based sites across Washtenaw County. In Michigan, students with disabilities are eligible for special education services and programs through age 26. WISD’s Young Adult Program strives to assist individuals to be successful in their adult roles by teaching Young Adults how to earn and maintain a job, set and achieve personal goals, plan for and lead healthy lives, engage in self-directed lifelong learning, contribute to their communities by volunteering, and other skills necessary to live as independently as possible like cooking, grocery shopping, and using the public transportation system.
For more information on WISD’s Young Adult Program.
On Wednesday, November 14, 2018, Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s High Point School hosted a dedication ceremony for its new MOVE Model Site, making it the fourth certified site in the state of Michigan and the 27th certified site in the United States.
“We’re excited and honored to provide MOVE, and to continue expanding opportunities for our students,” said Jennifer Parrelly, Principal of High Point School. “MOVE is life-changing for students and their families.”
MOVE, which stands for “Mobility Opportunities Via Education/Experience,” is an activity-based program developed to specifically meet the needs of students with severe disabilities and is designed to improve mobility skills such as sitting, standing, and walking.
“It typically takes eight to twelve years for a site to become fully certified from when it starts MOVE training to full certification,” explained Julie Sues-Delaney, MOVE International Program Manager, who formally dedicated High Point’s site. “We’re incredibly impressed with High Point and WISD staff because they only started on this journey about six years ago, and their commitment to implementing MOVE for their students is evident.”
MOVE Model Sites earn their designation from MOVE International for “their exceptional implementation of the program and their high goals for all individuals,” as outlined by . All staff at MOVE Model Sites are trained as MOVE Basic Providers and key concepts, and techniques are led by a certified MOVE International Trainer. WISD has three certified trainers on staff.
“Because of MOVE and the staff at High Point, our daughter is now able to walk, which is something we never imagined would happen,” said Andi Spengler, mother of Emma Spengler, 11. “We’ve even been able to go to Disney World with her because of MOVE.”
High Point School serves students with disabilities from ages 3 through 26 and is operated by Washtenaw Intermediate School District. High Point offers programming for students with severe cognitive disabilities and multiple impairments, and who reside in one of Washtenaw County’s public school districts. For more information on High Point School.
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