Seniors share views on school experiences with superintendent
When she took the helm at Tecumseh Public Schools (TPS), Supt. Kelly Coffin committed to making herself available to listen to viewpoints at all levels of the school district.
For the past couple of weeks, she has been conducting brief interviews with Tecumseh High School (THS) seniors, providing them with an opportunity to talk about their experiences in the district, whether the students have been at TPS their entire educational careers or came in at a later point.
“When I first got the job as superintendent, I was talking with Onsted Superintendent, Mark Haag, and he’d said one of the best ways to get feedback was to talk to students,” said Coffin. “I’ve met with small groups of students before, but I wanted to get the individual perspectives about their experiences at the district and how things are going while they’re still here in the system.”
Coffin said last year, for instance, several students had mentioned concerns about the high school’s tardy policy.
“We actually did revise the policy as a result of their input, and it’s not come up this year, so I think that’s an area we’ve been able to improve through doing this,” she said.
Coffin typically blocks approximately an hour and a half on her calendar, then meets with each student for five minutes or so. The students get a letter from her in advance, which also serves as their pass to leave the classroom.
On Monday, Feb. 17, Ryan Cook told Coffin that he’d first attended St. Joseph Academy and began his TPS career at Tecumseh Acres around the fourth grade. Cook shared that he likes to play lacrosse and other sports with his friends at the AJ Smith Recreation Center when Coffin asked him to tell her a little about himself.
Cook plans to begin his college career at Washtenaw Community College and then transfer to Northern Michigan University and eventually become a park ranger. When asked to think back on his experiences and what he most liked about Tecumseh Schools, Ryan did not hesitate. “Block scheduling,” he said. He was a freshman the last time the district had the model, but Cook recalled that was his “best year ever,” and said the block scheduling helped students get their homework done, and provided a seminar session the next day to get additional help from teachers before it was due.
“The classes were longer and I feel like we got a lot more done in class,” Cook said. All in all, however, he said his school experiences had been “good.”
Coffin also met with seniors Jason Fetters and Zack Eberle, among others, on Monday, and began to hear a theme in their comments.
Fetters spent his early years in the Britton School District, but came to Tecumseh as a freshman, largely because he could take Advanced Placement classes, which he believed would help him in his studies at Washtenaw Community College to pursue a nursing career. Fetters also mentioned block scheduling as something he liked at the district.
“In the longer classes, we could go over a lot of stuff and the teacher wouldn’t be cut off,” he said. “Now it feels a little more rushed. I also liked the seminar that was part of that.”
Eberle has spent his entire educational career at TPS, and plays the position of goalie at lacrosse. He told Coffin his favorite subject was math “by far,” and said he wanted to attend Baker College to study animation.
He said one of the best things about Tecumseh was that he’d made a lot of friends.
“In high school, I sort of got out of my anti-social shell,” he said. “I think lacrosse and Vo-Tech sort of helped with that.”
Not too surprisingly, Eberle, too, mentioned block scheduling as something he would fondly recall.
“It gave us a little more time between days to get extra help on homework instead of having something due the next day,” he said. Eberle also mentioned that snow-plowing in the senior parking lot this winter left a little to be desired, as some people had been blocked in, the way parking was restricted due to the way it had been done.
“It’s all good feedback,” said Coffin after speaking with the three students and awaiting others to arrive. “This is the last class that will remember block scheduling, because it was three years ago that we went to the more traditional six-hour period system.” The move came as a result of a cost-savings measure that required fewer teachers.
She said interestingly enough, the traditional period used in the district now actually provides more time with teachers mathematically, but it’s obviously not being perceived that way with the students.
“But I am absolutely hearing what they are saying,” she said. “It may not have as much to do with block scheduling as it does with what they are saying about feeling like they don’t have enough time with teachers to get additional help and with homework issues.”
She said it was something she would be addressing at a later date with the administrative team.
“Maybe there’s a way to get more teacher availability for help, and this is the sort of feedback I need to get back to Griff [Mills, Principal] and Angel [Mensing, Asst. Principal] to see how we can accommodate that,” Coffin said.
The students also seemed to appreciate the fact that the superintendent is listening.
“It’s nice to hear that they value the time,” she said. “And for me, this is one of the best parts of my day. It kind of reminds me of why we are here.”