Niles supt. reacts to state of state address

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Niles Schools Supt. Richard Weigel said he was pleased that Gov. Rick Snyder made education a priority in last week’s State of the State address.

Weigel was particularly happy with the governor’s support of early childhood education, including his pledge of an extra $65 million for the Great Start Readiness Program. That could mean adding one or two more preschool classes within the district, according to Weigel.

“It is important for us to recognize that preschool is a very important piece for us,” Weigel said. “Right now we have a lot of kids who could be served that aren’t currently being served… We have a waiting list.

“We are very interested in this and think that the governor’s recommendation will help to make a good improvement in this area.”

Weigel was also encouraged when Snyder addressed the topic of what happens to young people during summer vacation.

“There’s evidence to show that they can lose much of what they learn because they’re not actively in learning mode,” Snyder said in the speech. “In fact, there’s some studies that say you can lose a grade or two by ninth grade if you’re not going on a year-round basis.”

Synder went on to suggest that it would be appropriate to look at the possibility of starting a pilot program for year-round school in some districts in the state.

Weigel said he would be interested in Niles being a part of such a pilot program, adding that data shows his students return in the fall with a large dip in knowledge and skills.

“It could be about more (instructional) time, but it’s really about a different school year,” Weigel said. “Instead of having months off in the summer, they might have two weeks off between quarters and maybe four weeks off in the summer

“We would like to see some work done in this area. We are eager to work with the governor and our legislators to help to make a balance school calendar approach available for the students in our area. I am hopeful that we can make this a priority for our legislators in 2014.”

As for the state’s $977 million surplus, Snyder didn’t specifically address what he thought should be done with it during the speech.

Weigel said he hopes some of the surplus will be spent on education, specifically the year-round school idea.

“If they’ve got some money they can put toward school, I’d like to see I focused on helping some innovative programs that can make a trued difference for kids,” he said.