Bond Dollars Hit the Road!

miii9763Last May the Jenison community voted in support of a Bond proposal that allows the district to keep up with the growing needs of our students, teachers and community. One of those very important [and practical!] needs was replacing ten buses in the current fleet which took place this summer.

According to Kip Medendorp, Director of Transportation, buses should be replaced every fifteen years to keep up to date on mechanics as well as gas mileage. However, with multiple needs facing the department, new buses had been put on hold until the recent Bond vote when the purchase of ten buses was able to move forward.

miii9745The old buses were sold at auction in July – the oldest of which was 23 years old [maybe some of our Jenison parents used to ride those Jenison buses?] and all of them experiencing some rust issues. The new buses are already out on the road and Mr. Medendorp says that both drivers and students are happy to have them and consistently show respect to the new equipment. One important safety feature on the new buses is a “sleeping student alarm” that requires drivers to walk to the back of the bus and push a button confirming the bus is empty within a certain amount of time. This, in addition, to the department’s policy to check for remaining students will continue to keep our students safe!

miii9782The transportation department isn’t stopping at new buses, though! The bond vote will also provide a new radio system and equip all buses with a GPS system. This will allow for the department to be able to locate a bus when needed. Additionally, they are planning to purchase tablets to be given to substitute drivers which will detail the route and each stop, replacing a print out that subs use now.  Finally, they are looking into putting cameras on every bus and joining an app for parents called, “Where’s my bus?” that would allow parents to locate their child’s bus at any time.

In accordance with the overall goal of improved communication, the department provides many online resources. You can visit their website here for information and complete their Transportation Request of Change form here. This school year, over 500 parents completed the form online saving the team and parents time!

Through the support of the community and the dedicated team in the Transportation Department, the whole student is honored, served well and kept safe from the beginning of their day to the end, “We try to make all the kids happy; we’re the first ones they see in the morning, the last in the afternoon and it’s a source of pride for our drivers to contribute to the students’ experience”.

miii9767-2Thank you to the Jenison community for your Bond support and to our bus drivers and transportation staff for keeping our kids safe! Don’t be shy when you see the Jenison buses on the road, give them a wave to say you’re thankful too!

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Jenison Fine Arts Center Construction Update in Pictures

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

View from the Jenison Junior High parking lot.

With room for 1,200 seats, hundreds of students, and millions of dreams, the Jenison Fine Arts Center is taking shape despite the roller coaster weather we’ve experienced during the past month, in particular.

“The construction crew has been working diligently through the difficult winter months on the inside of the facility to maintain the schedule.  The team has kept the project on schedule for the grand opening performances in December 2013,” said Owner Rep for the project, Bill Culhane.

With a stage “uniquely designed with the flexibility to convert from a theater to a music hall,” the performance area remains the “heart” of the facility. However, there is much more to look forward to!

The venue will offer a “Black Box” small performance area, dressing rooms, scene shop, student art gallery, and conference room. It will additionally provide a home for Jenison’s district administrative offices.

“Jenison’s new Performing Arts Center will provide the students at Jenison Public Schools with a world class performance venue to display the hard work and dedication they put into their craft,” said Mr. Culhane.

We look forward to many years of stellar student performances within these new walls! And as always, we thank the community for continuing to value the arts in Jenison.

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

Future administrative offices

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

Entry area getting tooled under a welder’s torch.

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

Future performance seating area.

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

Future conference room

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

Our choirs will raise the rafters!

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

Securing stairwells.

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

Where will you be sitting next Christmas?

Jenison Public Schools, Fine Arts Center

Working rain, shine…or snow storm!

Students Benefit from Teachers Using Technology

The beginning of a new school year is marked not only with falling temperatures and dropping leaves, but with pencils and notebooks, folders and locker combinations. This fall our school year is marked by all of those things — and the welcome presence of new technology thanks to the passage of our last bond proposal.

District Director of Information Technology, Dave Tchozewski, is pleased to report that Jenison has purchased 300 new iPads, 334 new iMacs, 440 MacBook Pros, and 300 Apple TVs for use in classrooms districtwide. Powering these new devices was a task in itself, as JPS buildings (until recently) did not have wireless technology or wi-fi available to students and teachers.

“Our data center was rebuilt and updated this summer allowing for faster and more reliable network access throughout the district,” Dave said. “Included in the update was more reliable backup power supply, appropriate climate control, and the addition of several user friendly racks for easier access to our networking equipment. The JPS Technology Team has gone above and beyond this summer to ensure that technology would be updated and ready to go early in our school year.”

Our team of six technology professionals worked tirelessly over the summer to distribute the new computers and iPads, train teachers, ensure that all systems were in place for functionality and ease of use, move, re-wire, and re-design scores of labs, and work on the new mobile labs termed C.O.W.S.:  Computers On Wheel(S).

The “C.O.W.S.” are a welcome innovation by staff members seeking to more fully integrate technology into their classrooms. With 12 total throughout the district, teachers are better able to access the computers and technology needed to teach 21st century skills.

Jenison High School Principal Brandon Graham said the benefit of using “COWS” is that technology becomes mobile“We have the ability to make every classroom a computer lab by simply wheeling a cart of computers into the room and letting teachers work on projects there. It’s a wonderful tool that we’re excited to have on hand.”

 

Of course while new tools are necessary and helpful, the teacher-student relationship is still paramount in reaching and motivating kids, as was obvious this day (see photo at rightin Ms.Wendy Hunt’s classroom at Jenison Junior High. Connecting with kids remains the focus in all of our schools, and doing so with compassion and care is paramount. We make it our goal to model excellence and demonstrate a love of learning that is flexible and accommodating. We strive to grow with and expand to meet the demands of our world. And in 2012, understanding, teaching, and integrating technology must be part of what happens in our classrooms.

 

Thank you to our community and to our Information Technology staff for making it possible for us to connect with kids in this way!

Jenison High School Media Center Gets a Face-Lift!

For many students returning to school this week, the question that has been asked more than any other was, “How was your summer? What did you do?” If the walls of our high school media center could talk, they would smile and answer that question by merely saying, “Take a look around!”

Thanks to monies brought in by our bond proposal, the “library” that hadn’t been touched in decades was re-imagined and brought into the 21st century with the kind of forward-thinking that will help shape student learning for years to come.

Six large, flat-screen television sets are mounted on the walls for computer hook-up, creating alcoves for study and collaboration. Now, rather than four students gathering around one small computer to work on a group project, those same students can connect a single computer to the TV and have their document or presentation displayed for all to easily see. Access to information means that more voices can join the conversation and play an active role in scholarship.

Hailey Wardall and Aubri Roberds (pictured above) love that the handful of new, soft-seating areas have created an environment more similar to a college than a high school. Working in partnerships or in groups is more comfortable and more fun, they both noted, adding, “…we rarely came in here before the renovation — and now that it’s so nice we wish it could’ve happened sooner!”

Both girls echoed sentiments of feeling more respected after the school gave them the responsibility to steward this special area. “The school gave us more responsibility to take care of this place, and knowing they trust us makes me feel respected.  This new media center is a big step up for our high school and a better way to learn. For instance, right now we’re collaborating on the yearbook layout and it will be great to come in here and work on our slideshows and theme presentations together.”

Lexi Petersen, Courtney Talsma, Aubrey Brown, and Breanna Hansen (working above) said they were “Shocked!!” when first seeing the completed space saying, “We didn’t think we’d get all this!”

Breanna summed it up perfectly with her comments. “It will bring more group work into our learning and into our school. Whereas before we might have had to crowd around one computer, now we can all see what we’re working on and we can all add our input.”

Scores of tables and chairs on casters were also added, allowing students to reconfigure their workspace to fit their needs. Floor space can be easily opened up if physical space is demanded, and groups can come together by merely rolling tables and moving chairs. Additionally, desktop computers were situated in an open section of the media center to preserve a traditional “lab” housed within the media center.

“I think our media center more closely resembles many business environments now. More and more we’re seeing offices move away from cubicles to a more collaborative setting, and providing that for our high schoolers is just one more way that we’re preparing them to be team players and contributing group members after they graduate, “ explained Jenison High School principal Brandon Graham.

“I’m just so proud that we can bring a state-of-the-art learning setting to the students of Jenison High School. We hope it will invigorate them and spur discovery, creative thinking, and problem solving.”

Student Technology Forums

How many of you reading this would struggle through the day if you left the house without your cell phone? Or if your laptop was broken?

Would you feel like part of you was missing?

We’re finding that our students can often times relate! They have been raised in a digital age where many have been given cell phones well before a driver’s license, and educators are realizing that we must begin to meet them where they’re at. To listen; to strive for mutual understanding.

So this winter we reached out to both Jenison High School and Jenison Junior High students for their input. A select group of kids has been interacting with district leaders, teachers, and myself around the issue of technology and how to best allocate our bond dollars in that arena.

I like how Dave Tchozewski, JPS Director of Information Technology explained our goal: “We want to give students a voice with how we proceed with implementing technology in the district. We want to ask the questions, ‘How do you live in your world–and how can the school meet you where you live?'”

Mr. Tchozewski and I stressed to the students that many factors go into making decisions of this magnitude, such as gathering staff input and considering the guidance offered by our technology advisor, consultant Bret Emerson of Commtech Design.

We noted that our efforts in spending the bond money are two-fold. Our goals are:

  • to improve infrastructure to accommodate the numerous devices being brought to school with permission from a teacher and for educational reasons (Netbooks & laptops from home, smart phones, iPads, etc.)
  • to update current technologies to make learning easier and more seamless for students.

Years ago we asked students to “power down” when they got to school. The message we sent, inadvertently, was that from 8 am – 3 pm, they had to change the way they interacted with the world; change the way they gathered information and formed opinions about current events.

What we’re realizing in this forum process is that boundaries still exist and boundaries are still necessary.

However, we’re realizing more than ever that part of our job is to prepare kids to succeed in a world full of digital devices. 

Our job is to help them develop intelligent filters for what they read and see.

Our job is to get them ready to take the next steps as lifelong learners.

And right now, that means we are learning from them.

Question for the Community: How have you seen the demand for technology skills increase in your own workplace? 

Your Bond Dollars = New Carpet

Students at Rosewood Elementary enjoy learning on new carpet.

 

This fall was a busy time for everyone in Jenison. Not only were teachers prepping for new students and new possibilities, they were clearing out their rooms for the latest blessing of your bond dollars: new carpeting!

With constant traffic having taken its toll on the flooring in each of our schools, laying down fresh, heavy-duty rolls was a necessity.  High school rooms that had once been duct-taped to prevent further unraveling of old carpets now enjoy something industrial-strength that will last for years to come. Classrooms, hallways, and media centers at the Junior High and each of our elementary buildings are once again preened at the level of quality you’ve come to expect in Jenison.

Beside the obvious benefit of a nice aesthetic, the real victory is won when I visit classrooms like the one pictured above and see kids sprawled out with flashcards and games that reinforce the top-notch direct instruction they receive each day.

I’m so grateful that for a community who sent a message loud and clear last spring: We believe in the power of a great education! We believe in JPS!

New Year, New Offices!

What did you do on Christmas vacation?

Do you remember this writing prompt from elementary school? Perhaps you smoothed out a wrinkled piece of spiral notebook paper and reveled in your sledding adventures, or clutched your #2 pencil and listed off your favorite gifts. Writing that essay was always a moment of joy, because it meant that I could re-live all the best parts of my Christmas memories.

Though I am no longer a fourth-grader with sledding adventures fresh in my mind, this past winter break was no less full of excitement! Aside from welcoming a new fleet of buses, our administration offices moved from our old building to 7506 Church Ct. in Jenison.

This move signals the start of something incredibly special: the construction of our bond-funded Performing Arts Center! Jenison’s future state-of-the-art facility will be housed on the combined sites of our old administration building, green space, and former parking lots.

In just a few short weeks the first pile of dirt will be turned, and our vision for a world-class venue will start its journey to reality. It will be my privilege to share updates and photos here (at tomtenbrink.com) along the way!

If you know a community member eager to stay connected, I hope you’ll pass this along by using the gray “share this” button at the bottom of this post.

Also, I’m adding a new feature to invite your participation on my blog–a conversation prompt! For the fourth grader in all of us, I’d love your comments…

Question for the Community: What aspect of having our own Performing Arts Center is the most exciting to you?

New Buses Have Arrived!

As 2011 came to a close and many of you sat near twinkling trees opening new sweaters and ties, Jenison Public Schools opened the doors on a fleet of new, state-of-the-art school buses purchased with your bond dollars.

These buses join 30 existing others and are equipped with the finest technology available: power doors and complete undercarriages for equipment storage (think sports teams and field trips). They also boast rear engines which allow our drivers to better hear students inside the bus, as well as provide a tighter turning radius for city driving. Our new buses also meet all EPA standards for air quality and pollution control, helping us model environmental stewardship for our community.

Finally, we are proud to share that our entire fleet earned a 100% safety rating from the Michigan State Police this year, ensuring that Jenison kids are as well protected as possible while they’re being transported to and from school.

We feel so fortunate to be able to maintain our buses and retire those that have served their time well; furthermore, we know that we have them because you, our Jenison community, has stepped up and said YES to your public school system. Thank you for allowing us to use your bond dollars well! 

Reflections on Christmas

With Jenison students now on vacation and Christmas Day drawing closer, I’ve had some quiet moments to ponder how fortunate we were to have had the carpet rolled out, if you will, in preparation for this holiday.

The past two weeks have been packed with wonderful concerts at every level, starting at our elementary schools and being topped off at the high school. Each time I have the privilege of hearing our vocalists, choirs, bands, and orchestras, I am reminded of the high standards of our programs and the quality and dedication of our fine instructors.

These concerts also fill me with gratitude. We are entirely thankful to you, the community, for passing a bond that will one day allow our young musicians to perform at home rather than at an off-campus venue. While we have been blessed to have held our Christmas concerts at Fair Haven Ministries over the years, we look forward to a day when we will have a Performing Arts Center of our own.

…And that truly deserves an “Hallelujah”!

Fine Arts Center Groundbreaking Ceremony

Before a crisp October football game this fall, we had the pleasure of manually scooping the first shovelfuls of dirt in our performing arts ground-breaking ceremony. Our deep gratitude goes out to you, the community, for approving the 1.05 mil bond proposal last spring and making these improvements possible.

After years of renting churches and other venues to house our concerts, I am thrilled at the thought of having a place of our own to showcase the many talents of our students. Thank you!