Friday, April 26, 2013

Dr. Temple Grandin speaks to conference attenders in Troy and talks about autism

     Metro Parent Magazine and several sponsors brought in autism expert Dr. Temple Grandin to a conference in Troy. Grandin, in this video story talks about how students and adults need to develop their talents instead of be couch potatoes. For those that do, an entire new world exists. In the first of a couple of stories, I explore autism during National Autism Month. The story airs on the Oakland Press website and their News at Noon Broadcast. Another story on this subject airs later this week.

Waterford Youth Assistance Crowns 97 Students for helping the community

     Often people are complaining about today's youth and sometimes it is justified. In Waterford, 97 students were honored by the Waterford Youth Assistance with help from the Waterford School District and students from every school celebrated those who do so much for others. Students combined for thousands of hours in community service, fundraising and helping fellow students reach potential. One lucky student in the video story in the Oakland Press by Roy J. Akers.

To get involved with WYA, their website address is here.

The Betty Fortino award was presented to one lucky Mott student

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Belightful Yoga partners with schools and families to help children with Autism

          Belightful Yoga partners with schools and families to help children with Autism. The following video story in the Oakland Press and Macomb Daily talks about how Switzer School is partnering with Belightful Yoga to help students self-monitor themselves.


Lisa, here is the new link for the video story with changes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pontiac's Great Lakes Academy rewarded for improved MEAP scores

In a truly inspirational story, the Pontiac' Great Lakes Academy is rewarded for improved MEAP scores. While I am not a big fan of charter schools, I most certainly am when it comes to improving test scores. When a school receives an extra $7,345 this late in the school year and it goes directly to students (for charter schools is this the case?) there is reason to celebrate. They earned the money for improving on their Michigan Educational Assessment Program test scores in 2012 for the subjects in math and reading. In a story by the Oakland Press' Diana Dillaber Murray, she goes to the school and filed this story.

Pontiac's Great Lakes Academy rewarded for improved MEAP scores 

Slip into teacher Ashleigh Fanning’s classroom at Great Lakes Academy and the third-graders are so engrossed in their reading, they barely look up to see the visitors.

Great Lakes Principal Michelle Parham and Assistant Principal Melissa Johnson are proud of their students and the positive behavior they demonstrate as guests pass through.

The two also boast that their Michigan Educational Assessment Program test scores in 2012 improved enough in math and reading to make them among the schools that won $30 per pupil in bonus dollars from the state. The tiny Pontiac school of 215 students was awarded an extra $7,320.

And the two principals also point to a 2012 MEAP chart that shows Great Lakes students’ reading and math scores were higher in seven categories — sometimes slightly, sometimes significantly, especially in fourth and fifth grades — than the average at the same grades levels in Pontiac school district.

To be fair, at the same time, the chart also shows that Pontiac district can boast its average scores were higher in five grade levels than the academy.

Both are teaching students from the same high-poverty urban area, and despite improvements in some areas at the public charter and the public school district, scores of both remain lower than the greater majority of Oakland County’s other 28 school districts.

Nonetheless, Parham, a third-year principal, and Johnson, a third-year assistant principal, are confident their programs and curriculum are going to turn out students who will continue to improve and graduate high school.

Not only that, the two say every student knows from the time they start kindergarten until they leave in eighth grade what year they will graduate high school and that they will go to a college or trade school, Johnson said.

As inspiration, all teachers have posted their college banner on the wall in their classrooms that average 17 students and are no more than 24.

In addition, the school day is longer, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Children in kindergarten through fifth grade have two hours of English language arts, including reading and writing, and one and a half hours of math.
Certified teachers provide intervention to help students in areas in which they are struggling.

Middle school students have one hour a day in each core subject, and they break out in groups later in the day to focus on areas where they might be having difficulties.

“They know they are safe and that we care about them and they know we are doing our best for them, so they give us their best,” Parham said.

In a letter to Great Lakes Academy that accompanied a draft of what schools might expect in bonuses for this school year, state school Superintendent Mike Flanagan pointed out that schools from urban and economically disadvantaged to small rural schools showed improvement and would receive bonus funds.

The bonuses strengthen Parham and Johnson’s resolve to see more improvement.

Great Lakes Academy charter school is in its 16th year of operation in a former Catholic school tucked behind St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Pontiac. Parham wants to see it grow to 300 students.

All students in kindergarten through eighth grade wear the uniform of navy and maroon shirts over navy and khaki pants. When visitors passed through recently, the pupils were quiet and orderly, even the middle schoolers.

During study time in her classroom, Fanning, who has a Grand Valley State University banner on the wall behind her desk, reads with every child individually at least once a week.

On this day, Fanning helps third-grader Alexandra Jackson and the quiet room becomes busy with chatter as some students go over their test results, study together or work on computers.
In neighboring teacher Anita Robertson’s fourth-grade classroom, she also is working to ensure this group of fourth-graders tests as high or higher than the children in her class last year.

The youngsters are studying the difference between formal and informal language and when and how to use it.

However, dedication to academic studies is not all that is going on to help children reach their potential.

Parham and Johnson said at the beginning of every school year all teachers and staff are trained in Positive Behavior Support, an incentive system, and Love & Logic. The teachers then train their students.

The children are constantly reminded and are looking forward to the grand award of special field trips for each age group that come at the end of the school year for those who demonstrate positive behavior.

During a visit, when Fanning was busy helping one youngster at her desk, a little boy offered to help a classmate who was waiting for his turn with the teacher. And the two walked over to another desk where they looked over his paper.

In Robertson’s classroom, a fourth-grader said, “Excuse me,” as he passed in front of an adult to go to the pencil sharpener.

Parham and Johnson beam with pride.

Contact Diana Dillaber Murray at 248-745-4638 or or follow her on Twitter at @DDillybar.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pontiac Students in the Promise Zone are increasing scholarship awards

Pontiac’s Promise Zone looking to increase scholarship awards WITH VIDEO

Nineteen-year-old Arielis Bernard is one of the almost 50 students who are taking advantage of the Pontiac Promise Zone scholarship guarantee.

Arielis is a second-year student at Oakland Community College Auburn Hills Campus and a 2011 graduate of Pontiac Academy for Excellence.

Erique Allen, also a graduate of PAE and a freshman at Northwood University majoring in hotel restaurant management, was so grateful for his Promise Zone Scholarship, he wrote a letter of thanks to the board.

The charter PAE academy is one of nine schools within the Pontiac school district boundaries whose graduates are eligible to apply for the scholarships. The boundaries include portions of Auburn Hills, Pontiac, Keego Harbor and Sylvan Lake and the townships of West Bloomfield, Bloomfield, Waterford and Orion.

The goal for the 2013-14 school year is to increase the maximum amount of a Promise Zone Scholarship from $3,000 to $4,000 for up to two years.

However, funding challenges could keep it at $3,000 a year, said Carris Carey, executive director of the organization, who is optimistic about raising enough funds to increase the scholarship amount before the application deadline of June 1.

In part, Carey’s optimism comes from the fact that he is excited about a new strategy that will change the focus of Promise Zone to not only give scholarships but provide support to students to help ensure they complete their education.

Part of the strategy will include working with businesses, corporations, organizations and educational institutions to invest not only financially but with internships in Promise Zone students who are majoring in specific career areas that they need.

The investment will not only provide a needed workforce, but keep young people here, who will buy houses in the Pontiac district and frequent businesses and overall help invigorate the communities, Carey said.

To help carry out the plan, “We just got a grant with Michigan College Access Network,” Carey said. The focus of that grant is to start a college success action team.
“We will be partnering with Pontiac school district, OCC and Baker College, to lay the groundwork for a seamless transition from high school to those two entities,” starting with today’s 11th graders, Carey said.

In his letter to Carey and the Promise Zone committee, Erique said, in part, “I really appreciate the blessing of coming from the city of Pontiac and that I would have help from others in my city,” said Erique, who is in his second semester and made it to the Dean’s list first semester.

Altogether, the Promise Zone awarded a total of $46,550 in scholarships to 49 students this Spring and $43,268 in Fall, 2012.

The scholarship amount ranged from as low as $4 to as high as the maximum of $1,500 each semester toward tuition bills that ranged from as low as $904 at OCC to as high as $14,578, depending on the college or university the student is attending.

Students awarded the tuition scholarships for the 2012-2013 school year were graduates of Pontiac High School, Pontiac Academy of Excellence, Auburn Hills Christian, Oakland Christian in Auburn Hills, International Academy and Notre Dame Preparatory School, Pontiac,

Carris said eight of the students are attending OCC. The rest are students at Oakland University, Rochester College, Michigan State University Western Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University, Baker College, University of Michigan, Grand Valley State university, Northwood University, Adrian College, Central Michigan University, Sienna Heights University, Lawrence Technology University, and Saginaw Valley University.

All applicants must first apply for financial aid, which is applied first to the tuition bill before the Promise Zone Scholarship is awarded to help make up the difference. The number of years a student attends a school within the Pontiac district is also a factor in the award.


To learn more about Promise Zone program, to donate or to fill out an application, please visit or email or call 248-214-0456.

Contact Diana Dillaber Murray at 248-745-4638 or or follow her on Twitter at @DDillybar.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Two Troy HS teens take 3rd Place in C-Span Video Contest

     Novice filmmakers rarely win prizes their first time out. In the Case of Troy teens Frank Bouden and Jason Ji, they responded to a C-Span contest and in their first filmmaking effort, they took home a third place prize of $750 by answering a question. Their story is below on the Oakland Press, News at Noon and this blog and is archived on You Tube.

Their entire video is online on You Tube and the link will soon be posted. 

DIA Inside Out Program brings gawkers to downtown

      When people stroll the newly revamped Pontiac Downtown this summer, they will realize they have classed up the joint. 
With seven paintings spread throughout both north and south Saginaw street, chances are you will learn about art and perhaps take a trip to the DIA. The video story below appears in News at Noon, the online paper and this blog.

Would you give up your first amendment rights for free food?

     Yes the title is right. At a honors society class taught by Susan Jezewski Evans, scores of students traded in their first amendment rights for a free lunch and to reexamine what those rights mean. Unlike the protests of the 1960's, the demonstration was positive and was supported by the University newspaper. Students were reeducated on the rights we take for granted in this country and what would happen if we exercised free speech, freedom of the press or simply wearing a t-shirt. The video for the story is below. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Why are many kids getting carpel tunnel syndrome for their neck? The answer will not surprise you.

The phenomenon is actually termed 'text neck' and as many as one in three teens are getting it. The Channel 7 Action News story features Rodnick Chiropractic in Union Lake.

  The story is about the growing problem that children and teens are facing that has been termed "text neck".  Studies show that 1/3 of all teenagers send at least 100 text messages per day.  While typing their messages they have their heads tilted down usually about 3 inches.  Studies also show that for every inch the ears are in front of the shoulders an extra 10 lbs. of pressure is being put on the cervical spine or neck.  All this extra pressure is a big reason why so many more children now are suffering from symptoms like neck pain, headaches, and upper back pain.  Believe it or not we're seeing a lot of degenerative changes and even early arthritis in more and more teens.  Knowing about "text neck" is very important to combat the stress it's putting on your childrens spines. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Student suspended for answer on test