• Jim Townsend

Conversation with Superintendent Will Heath


On Friday afternoon, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Will Heath took the time to sit down with me to provide Beacon readers with some updates on a few topics around the district.

2018-2019 Perception Surveys

Back in October, parents of students in PPS buildings received an invitation to participate in an online survey. Surveys were also sent to district staff, and students. Survey responses were compiled into reports during November, and the district administrative team began reviewing the reports in December. In January the data was shared with all staff.

These surveys have been a regular occurrence for the last three years, since Heath took over the Superintendent role. The questions asked each year are the same, which assists with comparison from year to year, building to building. While response rate from staff and students is great, Heath estimates parent response rate to be roughly 25 percent of households.

Heath said, “I usually read every parent, student and staff response. These are taken very seriously.” He added, “Not just the negatives. We want to hear what parents think the school is doing well too.”

In the future, Heath hopes for closer to a 100% response rate from district households. The district uses the data to look for multi-year trends, and to develop short- and long-term goals for improvement.

While many of the scores saw little change from 2017-2018 to 2018-2019, Heath reported the following summaries to the Board of Education.

Parent

  • Areas that dropped involve student safety, public image, and direction of the district.

Student

  • Areas of improvement include having good teachers and having teachers who believe they can learn.

  • Areas that dropped include having choices in what they learn, recognition, students treating students with respect, and having support at home.

Staff

  • Areas of improvement include that learning can be fun, overall confidence in teaching diverse student populations, parent communication, and student outcomes being clear.

  • Areas that dropped include teacher morale and superintendent seeking staff input.

All survey respondent data was anonymous.

Snow Day Status

As of 2:04 PM Friday, Governor Whitmer had not yet signed legislation approving the forgiveness of additional snow days. Heath said, “If signed, PPS will request to have June 10th, 11th and 12th to be forgiven, and to make June 7th the last day of the school year.”

The district had a total of 16 snow/severe weather days in 2018-2019. If the current bill is signed by the governor, the total number forgiven will be 12 days.

Bond Funded Projects

Heath showed me the updated bond website. Readers can find it themselves at https://sites.google.com/portlandk12.org/2018-bond/home

Heath explained that, “All technology stuff will be done this summer.” That includes the purchase of approximately 1,500 new Chrome Books, new data/audio wiring in each building, and new a projector in each classroom.

From the security perspective, this summer’s work will include the installation of technology for central lock down ability, and the ability for law enforcement to remotely access cameras. Nearly every inch of district property will be covered by cameras.

Bus Driver Staffing

If you have a child involved with an extracurricular activity in the district, you may well have had an instance this school year where a bus driver was not available for an after-school event.

Heath said, “Every district in Michigan with buses if experiencing the same shortage.” He said the district is, “fully staffed for regular coverage, but has no coverage for any sick calls or unexpected leave.”

The district has offered all coaches free bus driver training, but the time to complete the training is often a complication with coach availability.

“The district is working on potential incentives for people interested in driving or referring others to drive” Heath said. He suggested that anyone interested in driving for the district either full or part time contact the district office for more information.

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