By David Fleet
On May 4, the State Superintendent of Schools Brian Whiston, along with State Board of Education member Kathleen Straus, visited the Brandon School District.
Whiston began his tenure as state superintendent in July 2015 and is the principal executive officer of the Department of Education, and sits on the Governor’s Cabinet, the State Administrative Board, and acts as chair and a non-voting member of the State Board of Education.
Brandon Superintendent Matt Outlaw said an invitation was extended to Whiston after he indicated an interest early in the year in visiting districts to see the things they are doing that are working well.
“The visit was planned to begin at the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy at the high school, but there was a delay in his schedule. As a result, they mostly saw items at the elementary level including the preschool program, math program in action, a kindergarten writing lesson, and a class doing science with the assistance of their iPads. He also met with our administrative team to discuss ways that the state can help Brandon and to solicit information for us in the field on upcoming reforms. Two big areas of discussion were state testing and school improvement planning.”
Whiston said that he, along with staff, are in the process of visiting all 850 public school districts in the state.
“In Brandon we reviewed the test scores, graduation rates along with the financial position of the district,” said Whiston. “Our goal is to determine, as a department, what we can do to help them be a successful district. We are here to serve and compile a warehouse of ideas to help other districts.”
Whiston added that seeking pathways for Michigan’s 1.5 million students, whether online or in the classroom, is their goal.
“Let the students create a pathway best for them,” he said. “Brandon is heading in the right direction we had a very good and healthy discussion with teachers and the administration.”
Outlaw was pleased with the visit.
“It was great to have a voice in the larger conversation about improving education in the state,” he said. “It was also a great opportunity to use the work being done by our principals, teachers and students as a model for others to use across the state. Our team was encouraged by some of the thoughts and ideas that were shared. It was obvious that he is working very hard to improve Michigan’s schools and, more importantly, to improve the quality of education for students.”