By LINDA LOBECK
KINGSFORD - The slogan,"Dedicated to Excellence," is taken seriously by the administration and staff of Breitung Township Schools in all areas of school operation.
"When building a quality institution, it is important to look systematically at all functions of the district, because everything is interrelated. Things such as clean, well-kept facilities coupled with a solid food service program and top-notch childcare are important functions of a quality school district and ultimately impact school culture," said Supt. Craig Allen.
Teaching and learning is at the forefront of the focus of the school district. He said that everything from a new common core aligned reading series adopted at Woodland Elementary to adding its ninth advanced placement class, AP chemistry, at the high school, the district is making it a priority to keep current with the curriculum.
"A major focus of professional development this year is for teachers to align instruction with the common core national standards and prepare for assessing students using smarter balance assessment," Allen said. "A new tool this year, Curriculum Crafter, is helping teachers align state and common standards to their instruction."
And the district is continuing to building a strong tradition of excellence in teaching and learning along with fine arts, athletics, co-curricular programs and community service. This all leads to standardized test results that are well above state averages.
Allen noted with the help of technology and Jean Constantini and Steve Andrews, teachers are becoming fluent at utilizing technology to enhance instruction at accelerated rates. The school district during the last two years has sent 24 staff members to the state Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) conference.
"This was the catalyst for sparking an excitement about technology, and teachers are now teaching each other how to leverage technology to enhance instruction. They have developed 20 minute professional development sessions where teachers instruct each other technology skills after school," he said.
He credited Jacqueline Leiker, who was the runner-up for the MACUL State Technology Teacher of the Year award, for starting this concept.
"It is imperative that teachers learn how to teach differently as new technologies are rolled out throughout the district," Allen said.
Allen noted that the bring your own device (BOYD) and teacher iPad initiative have helped to start this concept of instructional technology. One new skill that all the teachers learned this year was to create their own web or Weekly site. Each teacher has weekly lesson plans and classroom information posted on their websites at www.kingsford.org.
Another area of top priority this year has been school safety and this has been the focus of staff professional development. Throughout the school year there have been ongoing crisis training provided, including an active shooter exercise. In addition, each school has practiced lock down and evacuation procedures and partnered with Kingsford Public Safety to provide liaison officers.
"On the infrastructure side, the district has upgraded and added to the more than 90 security cameras and monitors. One major project planned for the summer is to add electronic card operating systems to the exterior doors," Allen said.
To compliment the school district's curriculum, BTS offers a wide variety of co-curricular opportunities. Allen said that this includes a nationally recognized rocketry program and 23 varsity sports with the most recent addition being girls softball. And the district boasts a 90-plus student band under the direction of Ben Sherk, which performs at a variety of community events.
The group is getting ready to perform at Disney during spring break of 2014.
"Breitung Township Schools is very proud of its school district and the community it represents. Working together, we can continue to build a quality educational program in our schools and maintain a sincere feeling of pride in our community," Allen said.
One point of pride is the public response to pass a $5.8 million bond issue that enabled the school district to continue to more forward - in the areas of facility upgrades and technology.
Partnerships are also a focus of the BTS and a recent example was that between the district and the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Community Federal Credit Union. A branch of the credit union is now located in the high school to give students the opportunity to experience a real life, relevant learning opportunity, he added.
"Breitung Township Schools uses a multi-prong approach to leveraging all available sources of influence as it strives to be an institution of total quality," Allen said.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.