Content archived from Superintendent Ridgeway's Weekly FAQ Facebook post.
Why two half days prior to holiday break?
The answer is twofold. First, it ties into one of the reasons for the early start to the 2019-20 school year - high school exams. The early start calendar made it possible for first semester at the high school to end at the holiday break, thus allowing high school students to take their exams prior to the vacation. In years past, students would be off for the two-week holiday and take exams upon their return. We hope students – and families – enjoy the time away without studying and exams.
Secondly, half days allows teachers to have the opportunity to participate in professional development midyear, not just prior to the school year. One way we invest in our teachers is by providing time for professional development. Our dedicated teachers strive to expand their knowledge and understanding, as well as hone their craft. It is important work, and the reason we carve out time to allow them to do so.
What is an SRO?
SRO is the acronym for School Resource Officer. We are fortunate that our Board of Education has earmarked PILT funds for two full-time School Resource Officers for the District this year. Harper Creek Community Schools has an agreement with Emmett Charter Township to provide certified Public Safety Officers for work in our schools. Officer Rich Mackey has been with the district for five years and has been instrumental in leading the district’s school safety committee, as well as successfully writing grants to underwrite many safety initiatives, including updated security cameras, radios, training, and secure vestibules at the High School and Middle School. Officer Victor Pierce is in his second year with the District and is heavily involved with traffic flow improvements and building relationships with students. In a nutshell, Harper Creek pays a portion of the SROs wages and benefits, as well an equipped office space, and the township provides their patrol vehicles, radio systems, uniforms and accessories. It’s a great collaboration!
Why should I send my children to school on half days?
Because attendance matters. Every day. Every hour, every minute makes a difference. While 180 days of school may seem like a lot, in reality teachers have limited time with students.
Teachers work collaboratively to plan every hour of each school day to optimize learning and ensure students are on pace to learn curriculum standards. The school year is like a 180-piece puzzle - missing even one day – or half day - renders the puzzle incomplete. Sure, your child can make-up some of the work at home, but gaps in learning occur when students miss classroom instruction that cannot be replicated at home. A missed day is truly a missed opportunity.
Is Harper Creek Community Schools the only district that receives money (Payment in Lieu of Taxes funds) from Firekeepers Casino - Hotel?
No. Harper Creek is one of several school districts that receive PILT funds. Only school districts that collect property taxes where the casino and tribal reservation are located are fortunate to receive funds. Harper Creek Community Schools does receive the most Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT), based on location and millage rate. The other schools that receive money are Athens Area Schools, Kellogg Community College and the Calhoun Intermediate School District.
What is Count Day and why is it important?
Count Day is when all Michigan public schools literally count the number of students attending their schools. There are two count days per year – one in October and one in February. The October count is critical as it accounts for 90% of state funding, dollars we use to educate our students and operate our schools. This year State Count Days are October 2nd and February 12th.
Only students in attendance the entire day can be included in Count Day numbers. However, the State does have a window of opportunity for students absent on count day to be counted, if they return to school and are present within the immediate 10 days following Count Day. Attendance matters. It is important each and every day. But on October 2nd, it counts for 90% of state funding received for educating our students.
Why are freshmen not receiving laptops at the beginning of the school year?
Harper Creek Community Schools continues the process of increasing the number of devices for all students, kindergarten through twelfth grade. This project is funded by revenue from Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) from Firekeeper’s Casino and Hotel. The Board of Education, based on recommendations by administration, is holding off on this purchase until legislators in the State of Michigan finalize the current year budget for public schools. The PILT money allocation for devices has not been spent and is still set aside for the project. As good stewards of the district’s money, the Board of Education is ensuring that general fund revenue received from the State of Michigan through our per pupil foundation allowance matches our budgeted revenue. In simple terms, we are ensuring the school district does not spend more money than it receives. We anticipate the decision to purchase laptops for freshmen will occur sometime this month.
How is casino money spent?
- When the first check arrived the Board of Education decided to use the money in two ways.The largest portion of the money, 75%, was to be spent on operations to ensure that students at Harper Creek would be afforded the best education possible.Keeping class sizes low and maintaining staffing levels ensures all students are academically supported and enriched.In 2009, when the housing market plummeted and tax revenues decreased significantly, many local school districts were forced to make deep reductions in staff and activities for students.Because of the casino revenue Harper Creek did not have to make the level of reductions that have been implemented elsewhere.
- The other 25% of the casino revenue was set aside in an account called the Future Needs Fund.Numerous equipment, facility and technology upgrades have been completed with this revenue each year.The Board of Education also holds aside a portion of this money saving it for needs that will arise as facilities and equipment reach the end of their useful life.Currently there is approximately $500,000 in the Future Needs Fund for this purpose.In terms of equipment, facilities and technology upgrades a comprehensive list from the inception of the Future Needs Fund is included with this article.
- As with all school districts in the area, Harper Creek Community Schools must manage funds carefully.The Board of Education continues to do their very best to manage and protect programming for our students.The revenue from our local casino is greatly appreciated and allows Harper Creek Community Schools to continue to be the cornerstone of the community.
What happens when there is a vacancy on the Board of Education?
When a board member resigns, a vacancy occurs. The board of education has 30 days to fill the seat vacated by the resignation. After 30 days, the intermediate school district (ISD) will step in to fill the vacancy.
Currently, Harper Creek Community Schools has one vacant seat. We are accepting applications for board of education candidates until 4:00pm on Friday, September 27, 2019. The Board will hold interviews and appoint a new trustee to the vacant seat at a special meeting on Monday, October 7. Interviews are open to the public.
Are you or someone you know dedicated to public education and have passion for all students? If so, we encourage you to apply. Applications are available on the District’s website or in the HC Administration Office.
Questions? Contact the Office of the Superintendent at (269) 441-6555.
Why can’t the bus wait for my child to arrive at the bus stop?
Harper Creek Community Schools transports approximately 1,400 students daily from their homes and neighborhoods to school and back again. With the sheer number of students, scheduling is critical. Each minute the bus waits at a stop in the morning is another minute the bus is late for the rest of the students on the route. My directive to the transportation department is to have bus routes as short as possible so that students have less ride time, which allows more sleep prior to each school day. If buses are significantly late - more than 20 minutes - the school will do a call out to parents of students on buses affected by the delay.