Dr. Coffin's Column

What About “The Basics”?

October, 2018

Globe, desk and books with apple in a classroomAt the October TPS Board meeting, I had a great conversation with a gentleman from the community. He was interested in the work we were doing here in Tecumseh, and had listened to the various presentations shared with the Board at the meeting. But he shared that he still had a few questions and waswas seeking clarification on a few things he heard during the meeting.

He first began with sharing how he appreciated the work that was happening in the district, including the leadership activities and community service. But, he shared, he was concerned that we have moved away from “the basics”--reading, writing, and arithmetic. I could absolutely see where he was coming from as those topics had not been specifically discussed at this particular meeting. It dawned on me that, somehow, our core work as a school district - providing opportunities to learn content at a deep level - appears to be hidden from those who may not have direct contact with our classrooms on a regular basis.

Our Instructional Framework is the core of our work at TPS. This is focused on four specific areas that support learning in the core subject areas. The four areas included standards and measurable objectives, lesson structure and sequence, student engagement and proactive classroom management. Whatever subject is being taught, these four areas must be part of a quality learning experience. Each and every day, learners have courses in reading, writing and arithmetic. They also take courses in social studies and science. They have opportunity to take classes in the arts and physical education. Those opportunities have not, and will never, go away.

I think it is important for us as a community to begin to redefine “the basics.” No one is saying that reading, writing and arithmetic are not important. They simply aren’t enough. The future that our students face will require not only a base knowledge in these (and other) content areas, but they will have to apply and transfer this learning to new situations. That will require confidence, teamwork, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. It also requires a deeper knowledge of the content that is being taught in schools. This is the work we are doing at TPS.

I so appreciate the conversation with this gentleman. It is through conversations and sharing of ideas and perspectives that we do our best work. For more information on our Instructional Framework please visit our website at www.tps.k12.mi.us and look under the District--About Us tab to find our Strategic Design.

Respectfully,

Kelly

Kelly M. Coffin, Ed. D.
Superintendent, Tecumseh Public Schools

Previous Columns

Letter to the Editors, October

Letter sent to the Tecumseh Herald & The Daily Telegram

October 23, 2018

I had my October column pulled together for the Tecumseh Herald and was just finalizing a few edits, when the October 17, 2018 edition of the newspaper came out. I planned on writing about a great conversation that took place following the last Tecumseh Public Schools Board meeting with a gentleman from the community. He asked good questions and was seeking clarification on a few things from the meeting. He shared that some might not understand that we are still teaching “the basics” -- reading, writing and arithmetic. I shared that these things are the core of our work, talked about our instructional framework and shared that we want our students to apply this knowledge to have a deeper understanding of each of these areas. Again...that was the plan. Until I read the front cover of the Tecumseh Herald.

I was deeply saddened to see the headline of the October 17th paper, but became more concerned once I viewed the content of the story. As you may have noticed, there was no byline. I have been told that, when there is no reporter listed, the story is the work of the editor. A staff member contacted the Tecumseh Herald, requesting the name of the author of the article. They were told that the article was written by “staff.” When they asked for the specific staff member’s name, they were told to look on the Tecumseh Herald website for staff names.

The article, dubbed as an “Investigative Report” is filled with, at best misconceptions and at worst, outright lies. I could spend time going through point by point, but then this column would exceed the word limit and not make it to press. The lack of journalistic integrity is shocking. For the editor of the local paper to print information, as part of an “investigative report” without doing his own research by visiting the school, and interviewing school personnel or board members is disappointing at best. Everyone knows there are two sides to every story, yet only one side was represented in what was dubbed as “investigative reporting.” The editor of the Tecumseh Herald, without any conversation with school personnel, chose a heading using very strong terms, insinuating that our school district is “exploiting students.” This is unethical. Outside of the opinion section, news should remain unbiased and offer the opportunity to read both sides of the story. Coupled with the lack of ownership, the one-sided perspective is very disturbing. It should be noted that the editor is accountable for what is published.

I understand there are still people who are upset with the changes happening at TPS. I appreciate all of those who have come to us with questions and concerns. I appreciate all who have shared their fears and provided opportunities for growth. That is how we work together as a community. That is how we all become the best version of ourselves. What is not acceptable is to choose to remain close-minded and rely solely on information shared among like-minded individuals. There are still community members who refuse to have a conversation to discuss their concerns, and wish to think they understand our new system without any firsthand observation. For example, the editor of the Tecumseh Herald has been asked on several occasions to join us on a tour of our STEAM Centers, but has declined--and chooses instead to be uninformed of what is actually happening in our buildings, yet continues to share secondhand information with the entire community. To attack the work of our deeply committed staff and members of our community who have spoken up in support for the need for educational change is uncalled for.

I may not have been born here, but in April of 1992, I chose Tecumseh to be the place to live my adult life with my husband and raise our three boys; all proud graduates of THS. My husband has been a business owner in the community for over 20 years. I have relatives here and have been part of the Tecumseh community as long as I can remember. It saddens me to see this happening in what I do consider my home and my community. I know that together we will get through this and I will continue each and every day to commit everything I have to our staff, our students and their families. I’m committed to supporting the fantastic people in our schools who work hard to serve the children of our community, even under the added weight of insults and personal attacks. As a community, we are better than this. I ask that you seek first to understand. Give us a call. Stop to talk to anyone from the district. Visit our website. Please be informed.

Respectfully,

Dr. Kelly M. Coffin
Superintendent, Tecumseh Public Schools

August 2018

blueprint drawingAugust 17, 2018

It is hard to believe that summer is coming to a close and a new school year is about to begin. We have been very busy getting ready to greet our learners as we begin the second year of implementation of a customized approach to learning based on the district’s Strategic Design. Our educators have spent countless hours over the summer preparing for this school year and they are eager for the school year as we work together to create the ideal learning experience for each and every child.

I’ve thought a lot about the planning and implementation of the Strategic Design, and I think the changes our district and community have experienced are similar to other events in our life where we know we want or need change, but forget how the change will impact our life. Take for instance, a home remodeling project. Maybe we’ve lived in our home a long time, and over the years and we realize that we want to remodel/redesign our kitchen. The appliances may be on the fritz, something is leaking under the sink, the cupboards squeak, and there’s not enough room to host extended family. So we decide to remodel and start to research, gather ideas, talk to the experts, develop a plan - and take the plunge.

As soon as you start to empty cupboards and peel back layers of wallpaper, there’s inconvenience and discomfort. You may have to make all of your meals in the microwave and do your dishes in the bathtub. It is a difficult process - one that you share with others, commiserating about the dust and noise, delays, and unexpected electrical work. They offer advice, suggestions, raise questions, remind you how much you hated your old kitchen - and remind you of how great your new kitchen will be when it’s done. They share stories of their own projects, pick up a paintbrush, and offer support during the process.

They don’t tell you to give up and put it all back.

Just as the kitchen is the core of our homes - our schools are the core of our community. Not much has changed within our educational system over the last 100 years, and it just wasn’t meeting the needs of our children anymore. It was time for a change. So we researched, we gathered ideas, asked the experts, developed a plan - and took the plunge.

We are so thankful to those who have provided feedback through meetings, phone calls, emails, and individual and group meetings. Your suggestions, questions, and input help us to keep our focus on the end goal, allow us to learn what is most important to our families, and ensure that we are meeting the needs of our learners.

Tecumseh Public Schools is pleased to provide new opportunities for learners to explore their gifts, talents, and passions. We are proud to be on a path that allows flexibility and the creation of relevant and meaningful learning experiences. We are committed to helping learners develop 21st century skills that are so important to their success in post-secondary education and the workplace.

The dust will settle. We will invite guests over to see our work and share stories about the process. And as we sit in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and some friends...we will start to wonder if it’s time to finish the basement.

I can’t wait to start the new year together.

Respectfully,

Kelly M. Coffin, Ed. D.
Superintendent, Tecumseh Public Schools

September 2018

Dr. Kelly Coffin speaks to local business owners at the 100 Business Luncheon in June 2018

We have now settled in to the 2018-19 school year and are excited about the opportunities this year has in store. We are seeing significant benefits to our Strategic Design and restructuring efforts, including the ability for our community be involved in supporting the learning happening in our district.

A significant part of our Strategic Design includes community involvement and engagement. In 2016, our community came together to develop a plan for our district that not only supports the future of TPS, but the entire community. We believe that the partnerships we develop within the community encourage collaboration and support innovation. We recognize that learning and personal development also happens outside the classroom and see our community as a “learning laboratory.” I wish to thank the individuals, businesses, and organizations who have generously given of their time and resources to partners with TPS to provide learning experiences for students.

We are thrilled that so many organizations are interested in supporting our learners through the00 Business Buy-In. This program connects students with businesses and nonprofit groups for career exploration. Learners will be exposed to a variety of careers through guest speakers and site tours, and may choose to take part in hands-on experiences through job shadowing and internships.

In addition to our work with the 100 Business Buy-In, we seek ways to work with community groups for service activities. Most recently, our STEAM Center learners took part in the second annual Days of Service. Thanks to the hard work of STEAM Center Counselor Mary Tommelein, our incredible community partners, and generous volunteers, over 400 learners had the opportunity to learn why it’s important to give back to our community.

We are always looking for community members to be involved in the education process. If you would like more information about the work happening at Tecumseh Public Schools, or if you’d like to support our learners through the 100 Business Buy-In, please check out our website at www.tps.k12.mi.us or give me a call at 517-424-7318. Together we will continue to provide opportunities that make a positive difference in our children’s lives!

Respectfully,

Dr. Kelly Coffin
Superintendent, Tecumseh Public Schools