Greetings to all as we begin our second half of the 2015-16 school year. So far the weather has been fairly kind to us and we hope our luck continues until spring! I am happy to report that our enrollment numbers are a little more solid this year. This past fall, 13,153 students in our nine public school districts started the school year. This total is only 85 students less than last year across our entire two-county area! This hasn’t always been the case, with declining enrollment a remnant of the recession of several years ago. These numbers also include students who will be receiving various levels of services from our Special Education Department.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Update: Across our region, employers continue to call for more “STEM” educated workers. This region includes not only Gratiot and Isabella counties, the Great Lakes Bay Region and indeed, all the State of Michigan. The main STEM Impact Initiative Goal states, “To build the workforce of tomorrow through comprehensive STEM education and training to meet the growing needs of current employers and to attract new jobs and companies to the Great Lakes Bay Region”. The common theme was that education must produce the STEM talent required to meet and sustain economic growth in our region. We continue to have dialogue with our local employers to work toward preparing more of our students for STEM related careers. Our additional course offerings at both the Mt. Pleasant and Alma sites have been well-received.
We look forward to highlighting these STEM programs! Thursday, February 11, 2016, was the date of our annual Mt. Pleasant Technical Education Center Open House. Area business and industry representatives manned booths and provided information on their companies. This effort was in addition to the regular “open house format” consisting of students and staff members displaying projects and sharing information. Our local business owners are anxious to raise an awareness of the opportunities for students who choose career technical education. Last year well over 1,000 people attended this event.
Even though we seem to be heavily focused on STEM education and the CTE Centers in Mt. Pleasant and Alma, we are also involved in other areas of importance and interest. Our Forest Hill Nature Area which is located north and west of Alma, continues to be a desirable location for many of our elementary classes as a site for a unique educational field trip! This past fall, over 1,000 student visitors and more than 250 adult visitors attended this site. Our nature guides are a valuable resource that have always interacted positively with area students and staff members. We thank them for their service to our students! We also host Alma College students who utilize this facility and the surrounding acreage for supervised study projects. In August, long-time Forest Hill Nature Area Director, David DeGraff, stepped down to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. He still serves as a guide and we are thankful for that! Our new director is Erika Kemler, and we look forward to her leadership as she guides this wonderful Nature Area. Although it is cold as of this writing, the winter visitations by students are scheduled from January through May.
LINKS LINKS update. LINKS is our RESD-wide German Student Exchange Program. It is also an acronym for Learning though International Networking for Knowledge and Sharing. The 2014 school year was the 15th year that this program has been offered to our high school students. The German students visit our students, their families and schools in the fall and our students and advisors visit Germany in the early spring. We have approximately 80 students who look forward to participating in the program this year! Tom Steere is the coordinator for the LINKS program. Pictured is GIRESD Board President Dr. Timm Thorsen with Christopher Pöschke and Rolf Christiansen from the LINKS German Exchange program. Dr. Thorsen and GIRESD were presented with a commemorative plate celebrating the success of this exchange program.
We look forward to bringing you additional information on our programs and activities in the coming months.