August 18, 2022

State of the Schools Recap

State of the Schools square

Superintendent of Royal Oak Schools Mary Beth Fitzpatrick hosted State of the Schools at the Administrative Offices in Royal Oak on August 17, 2022.

She welcomed those in attendance and thanked them for coming. She described what she would be covering in her presentation and how proud she was to share details about the district with the 2022-23 school year right around the corner. 

"(This is) My 6th year as the Superintendent of Royal Oak Schools and I’m so grateful to work in partnership with our Board of Education, our parents, staff and students.," she said. "Royal Oak Schools is the heart of the community - the strengths and supports, the engagement  and collaboration - are all ESSENTIAL for student success which is our core mission."

 Royal Oak Schools has over 650 personnel and near 5000 students. It's annual budget is approximately $72M. It is one of 28 Oakland Schools districts. 

The Board of Education has 7 elected volunteers from the community who help guide and advise the district. 

In a recent job fair held on August 10, the following all completed applications for employment: 12 paraprofessionals, 3 food service, 3 latchkey + 2 preschool aides, 2 bus drivers and 12 substitute teachers.  The district is still hiring,  if anyone is interested they should contact the human resources department. Over the summer, 30 new instructional and support staff personnel have been hired.

The new safety grants and funds for mental health are being developed; currently learning more as the school year begins about applications and parameters for accessing the historic state funding for public schools. At Risk alone is approximately $975K in new funding for the support of students academically and socially/emotionally in need of extra supports. 

"With additional funds we were provided in ESSER and 11t Funding, we have been able to hire 3 elementary instructional coaches, provide free summer school this summer and next summer; develop after school programs for students; and purchase supplemental materials to better meet post-COVID learning needs."

 Royal Oak Schools is home to 6 elementary schools: Addams, Keller, Northwood, Oakland, Oak Ridge, and Upton. It offers community education, an early childhood center, adult education, and an adult transitions program. The district is also home to Royal Oak Middle School, Royal Oak High School, and Churchill Community High School.  

Over the summer a new principal was hired at Royal Oak High School, Sharida Lewis; and a new Royal Oak Middle School Principal, Kristin Meldrum.

"We are very excited to have them join our administrative team," Fitzpatrick said. 

Latchkey is a very popular service provided by Royal Oak Schools. "As quickly as we can hire new staff, we can open more slots for children to attend latchkey." Fitzpatrick said that the district is also very appreciative of the collaboration with the Salvation Army and the Metro Detroit Youth Clubs - Salter Center for hosting other after school program options for local families. 

Something new for 2022-23 is  K-12 Mathematics. Following a year of study and testing, and an approval by our Board of Education, supplies have arrived and books are getting ready to be distributed. Elementary Teacher Resources for Literacy are under study for 2022-23. 

Over 400 new Kindergarten and Developmental Kindergarten students will walk through the doors for the first time in September, and overall enrollment distinct-wide is very stable. 

A goal for the district is that student achievement for Royal Oak students will exceed national, state and county norms. And that each individual student will achieve at least one year’s worth of growth for a year’s worth of instruction

"Summative Assessment were on hold for the years during the pandemic," Fitzpatrick said. "Over the past few years we have shifted the focus to include the social emotional learning needs of students and families, while maintaining the support and focus on academics;  It is an “and” statement - not an “or”.  We are always committed to the whole child." 

A few highlights from the 2021-22 school year:

  • ALL students who took the Diploma Progamme exams passed with a score of 4 or higher;  while all students enrolled in the full Diploma Programme earned the IB diploma upon graduation. 
  • Diploma Progamme was authorized in 2018 - and the district recently completed its MYP Authorization successfully!  
  • ROHS was named to the Newsweek Best High Schools list: #2,199 in National Rankings; #71 in Michigan High Schools; #30 in Detroit, MI Metro Area High Schools
  • ROHS had a 97% graduation rate.

The Human Resources department continues to attract and retain high quality employees. Royal Oak Schools seeks to attract and retain the best teachers and staff for Royal Oak Schools. The current make-up for 2022-23 all-staff shows a very good mix of new and veteran staff -  which allows for growth, mentorship and collegial support.  Staff feedback is very important: Fitzpatrick conducted school/building visits in spring 2022 and heard positive feedback about the district along with ways staff could be better supported. The feedback helped to shape new ideas for 2022-23. 

ESSER Funding decisions were shaped by stakeholder feedback of what they found valuable and wanted to continue post-COVID.

Regular meetings are also held with Union Leadership.

Teachers receive the support they need with professional learning Wednesdays. Staff arrive early, while students start late which allows for collaborative training and learning.

Students received extra support from the district in the spring when they received nearly 5,000 Chromebooks. Chromebooks were distributed to students in K-11 for use at home to ensure accessibility as part of the ECF - Emergency Connectivity Fund grant;  New students can expect to receive their new device later in September. 

Another goal of the district is to continue its invaluable community partnerships. 

School and Community success are interrelated and active school and school-community partnerships are essential to both therefore we will work to strengthen and increase school-community partnerships.

And community members or guardians could join a the board committees that are always looking for new members; see our website or contact the Superintendent’s office for more information. 

Absolute points of pride for Royal Oak are:

  • $25k for SEL initiatives from Foundation, plus annual scholarships;  sponsor of our new staff orientation this year. 
  • Annual 3rd grade Bike Helmet project from RO Optimists Clubs. 
  • Rotary Club - sponsors Blessings in a Backpack providing nearly 200 bags of food for weekends and holidays sent home to families in need;  
  • New Community Garden project - west side of Churchill Buildings 

Royal Oak Schools are also applying for the new Oakland County SEL and Mental Health grant which equals a potential for $350K plus district matching funds for further SEL supports and programs. 

Fitzpatrick updated the community on the $59.9M bond work which is wrapping up this fall. "I'm happy to report," she said, "that ALL Royal Oak schools and buildings have been updated using bond funds." She said that the summer of 2022 is the 5th summer of bond work ending with improvements to the Churchill Community Education building, Northwood Elementary, ROMS and the Maintenance and Transportation Center. Some of the highlights of the bond work are a new track at the middle school, new Learning Commons shared space at Churchill, new flooring and furniture, and upgraded technology and infrastructure.

The last Building Site Sinking Fund, which was another community supported funding for the district, included completing the $2M new window project for the entire high school building spanning over two school years. 

Fitzpatrick publicly  thanked the community for their support of theses upgrades, along with community partners - McCarthy & Smith Construction Services, TMP Architecture, Lecole Planners, and IDS (Integrated Design Solutions) technology consultants. "Projects are finishing on time and under budget," she added.

Fitzpatrick shifted gears about half way through her presentation to "long range planning" for the district.  This project will launch in the fall of 2022 and include full community and staff engagement. She plans to use Thought Exchange and surveys for feedback from the community and staff and have a committee formed by October. The work done by the committee will be presented to the board in late winter 2023. "You do not have to be on the committee to be a part of this process," she said. "There will be consistent ways throughout the school year to be engaged, give feedback and be informed on progress."

She reminded all about ways to follow the district and how to get involved.

  • Subscribe to e-news from district’s main website.
  • Royal Oak Schools is on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIN, YouTube).
  • Principals and teachers often have their own Facebook or Twitter pages too.
  • The district is launching a new, user-friendly website this fall, along with an APP.   
  • The District Dispatch is the monthly newsletter sent home to all families with news about the district.
  • The district is also featured in the Royal Oak Insight/Your Schools publication. This collaborative news magazine is sent to homes free of charge 4 times a year.

To learn about more ways Royal Oak Schools communicates, click on this link.

There are multiple ways to get involved with the district.  

  • Keep up with building principals regular newsletters.

  • Attend parent events including conferences, open houses and information nights. 

  • Join Special Ed. PAC - Parent Advisory Council.

  • Participate in DEI Work, attend Parent U workshops. 

New for 2022-23, JEDI Council - Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, led by Dr. Kimberly Martin. You can read more about this initiative with this link.

She wrapped up the event with expectations for the 2022-23 school year. Regarding COVID-19 protocol, she said the district has updated their COVID-19 response, and mitigation procedures remain in place following new guidelines by the CDC. They also confer with the Oakland County Health Department for final recommendations. She said that the mask optional policy remains in place and that they are always watching the numbers and paying attention to trends.

School safety plans, or Emergency Operations Plans include any emergency, such as health/medical needs, local issues, stormy weather, etc. Royal Oak Schools collaborates with the Royal Oak Police Department for school safety planning. She thanked the ROPD and School Resource Officer, Joe Yerke, for all of their guidance and assistance in training for all staff and new employees. In early spring of 2022 the district conducted an independent safety audit with Secure Education Consultants (SEC). The auditor walked through all spaces and evaluated safety plans at the time. Secure Education Consultants found that the district ranked in the top 20% of districts assessed across the country. They did include some recommendations for the district to work on. To read more about this study, click here.

 "Summer has provided us time to complete some of those changes and recommendations," said Fitzpatrick said. "(We've) enhanced our safety plans, including the installation of Nightlock doors safety mechanisms." She added that during the school year regular drills and practices are conducted with students. And when teachers return to their classrooms, new Go Bags will be provided. These bags are emergency kits standardized across all classrooms, spaces, even after school events and athletics.  

An all staff Back to School meeting is planned for August 30 which will include updates, a chance to meet new colleagues and see old ones, hear from departments and learn about new safety measures. "It's an energizing day!!" A two-day new staff orientation is also planned the third week of August which will also include safety training. "Safety training will be a regular part of professional development this school year," Fitzpatrick added.

And lastly, some great news that food services will have full use of new equipment and planning this year. During the pandemic schools weren't able to fully use their kitchens but this year that shouldn't be a problem. The district will continue to be monitoring any supply chain issues when it comes to food planned, but they expect a smoother transition into hot/cold lunches this school year. 

Watch the State of the Schools below, or with this link: https://youtu.be/JM4dFei2xJc.