DELTA TWP. – State superintendent Michael Flanagan got an eyeful when he spent the afternoon at Waverly on Feb. 1.
During teacher Ramona Mendez’s Spanish immersion lesson at Winans Elementary, for instance, he snapped a photo to send to his daughter, who also happens to be a Spanish teacher.
He shook teacher Kysha Crenshaw’s hand after watching an effective interactive lesson in her classroom. And he asked several questions of students in Barb Knighton’s room after they worked on literacy skills by reading out loud to their partners.
Then it was on to Waverly’s alternative ed Ombudsman Program in which high school students mix work done on computers with small group lessons led by teachers.
Ombudsman, which is run by a private company, boasted a graduation rate of over 85-percent last year, according to business development vice president Paula Reed. Seventy Waverly students participate this year, half of them in the morning, half in the afternoon.
This schedule has required a waiver from the state on the amount of “seat time” students must spend in school, but Waverly High School deputy principal Tracy Thomas assured Flanagan that Ombudsman students take the required standardized tests and many of them take electives at the high school and take part in extracurriculars like sports and drama.
“This is a Waverly High School program,” Thomas said.
Holt superintendent Johnny Scott was also visiting Ombudsman, along with Bruce Duling and Holt School Board member Jeana McKee.
Scott said his district is in the early stages of considering its own Ombudsman program, with a series of meetings scheduled starting Feb. 10.
Flanagan chatted with several students, including seniors Roberto Cantu and Abe Terry. He listened in on a small group discussion on how to form position habits, key to success not only in school but in life.
Flanagan says he visits different school districts each month, finding he learns quite a bit in his travels.
“I make decisions every day that affect two million kids,” he said. “The visits really help me in ways I don’t even realize.”
During the Waverly visit, however, Flanagan had a second goal: touching base with a middle school that has landed on the list of the state’s least proficient schools. He toured the middle school later in the afternoon and met with its staff.
Flanagan said he thinks Waverly has submitted a “great plan” for improvement and is “making great strides.”
“I wanted to be with them for awhile,” he said. “They’re doing a wonderful job.”
Flanagan also emphasized that improvement is the goal for everyone, not just Waverly.
“(There are) 4,000 schools in the state and all of them can improve,” he said.