As the TK Band played with renewed school spirit and pride, the nearly 400 staff members in the district, including 38 new employees, filled the high school auditorium in preparation for the new year. They received words of encouragement and support from Superintendent Craig McCarthy, Board of Education President Matt Powers, Lani Forbes from the Barry County United Way, and Annie Halle from Thornapple Area Enrichment Foundation.
“Build positives. Tap into our students' curiosities as we engage with them. Set expectations and help them achieve success as you support them. Help our students develop that “can do” attitude. Our students can do anything they put their minds to, and once they develop that attitude, they’re going to build optimism and hope for their futures,” said McCarthy.
Powers also offered encouragement to the staff. “I want you to share your experiences, your skills, your crafts, and your hobbies with our students. Every person in this room impacts our students’ learning and well-being. When you interact and share with our students, then you're building connections with them. Those connections build our school community, our school family, and our school atmosphere,” said Powers.
“Most important of all, our students feed off you. Bring your joy. Bring your passion. And most importantly, bring your love. With all of us working together for our students, they will grow and develop to be their best. And together, we are TK Strong.”
Forbes talked about how the United Way helps students throughout the county with funds pledged by TK staff and others. She also said she has five grandchildren at TK this year. “So, thank you for what you're about to embark on. Thank you for what you choose to do every day. Thank you for choosing to give to United Way and make a difference in your community,” she said.
Halle also praised the work of the TK staff. “You are impacting so many people, our community, and also the world. I know so many students that graduated from TK that are no longer even in this country anymore, and they're impacting students and lives and industries throughout the world. So, kudos to that,” she said.
McCarthy outlined the work that’s been done in the last year to update the district’s strategic plan, approved by the board at their last meeting. “This is my 31st year in education. I've been involved with a number of strategic planning processes. But none, this comprehensive,” he said. “This plan, developed with community input and approved by the board of education, will be our roadmap for the next five years. And everything that we do within our buildings working with students and each other is going to be to try to achieve the goals set forth in the statement.”
The board worked with the Michigan Association of School Boards to undertake the nearly year-long process, which involved extensive student, staff, and public input. In total, more than 900 staff, students, and community members were able to provide input on the strategic plan.
From that input, board members, administrators, teachers, and students determined goals and how to implement strategies to achieve those goals.
“Part of what the board did is reaffirm our mission statement, ‘Encouraging and developing the greatest potential of each student.’ They also approved our belief statements and our focus area goal statements. Our belief statements are that Thornapple Kellogg Schools believes the following are essential to accomplish our mission:
- A safe and secure learning environment
- A viable, aligned, and research-based curriculum
- An environment that supports social and emotional needs to enhance academic growth
- Differentiated instruction to support all individual learning needs
- Collaborative partnerships among students, staff, parents, and community
- High expectations paired with data-driven practices that lead to increased student achievement
- Dignity, value, and a voice for everyone
McCarthy told all the staff they need to do their part in following the strategic plan. “You'll need to work with your colleagues, and you'll need to support each other. You'll need to dig through data and find the gaps in our data. You'll need to teach your lessons and re-teach your lessons to help the students reach their greatest potential. Educating students is what we're charged with by the board of education and our community, student growth and achievement is our goal,” said McCarthy.
He also reminded staff that their actions and how they look at things matters. “The perspective that we take on things matters because our students pick up from us, just like our children at home. How we present things to our students, they will pick up on that,” said McCarthy.
He provided an example of a surprise test a professor gave to his class. The test paper only had a single black dot on it, and students were asked to describe the test paper. They all went into great detail about the dot, but no one explained the rest of the blank white page.
“The black dot for TK is about our academic scores. It's what everybody sees. It's what everybody uses to measure TK against other districts. But it doesn't tell the whole story, and you know that the blank space on this page is what you do every day. It's everything else we're doing right at TK. We have extremely talented staff members,” said McCarthy.
“So, Let's make this black dot grow. Let's be a beacon for all of our neighboring districts to chase, and show them how great we are at TK. With all the positives that are in the blank space on the page and all the positives we have going for us in TK, I’m confident that you will succeed. Let’s work together, support each other and ask for help when you need it. And most of all, let's all have a fantastic year.”