Column: Celebrating the achievements of our school community

Published 11:00 am Monday, May 2, 2022

With the end of the 2021-22 school year nearly upon us, I would like to encourage our entire school community to take a moment and look back at our accomplishments, achievements and celebrations from the past eight months. I am continuously impressed by the hard work and dedication to learning demonstrated by our students, families, teachers and staff, and this school year is no different. We have seen students excel in new and unique ways, the school-family relationship continues to deepen, and teachers have gone above and beyond to support students’ academic, social and emotional journeys.

Academic excellence was in full force throughout the district, as we continue our mission to provide a high-quality education to the children of Niles. Reading proficiency continues to be a focus, and for our youngest learners, we once again hosted One Book, One School at both Howard-Ellis Elementary and Ballard Elementary. As part of this program, every student in the building receives the same book, purposefully chosen so that every child can take part, either reading it on their own or having a family member read it to them. This allows lessons on the same book to be taught in every classroom, creating an incredible synergy among all our learners. We are thrilled to continue to offer this program as we help our students become lifelong readers and learners.

Extracurriculars and clubs continue to shine throughout our district. Both our Future Farmers of America and Future Health Professionals teams competed at the state level. Niles High School’s concert band received new uniforms and once again performed at Disney World, an experience that our students will cherish for years to come. Throughout the year, students soared to new heights, going above and beyond to support the greater Niles community. Niles High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions hosted fundraisers and events throughout the school year to raise money for cancer research and awareness. The money was donated to two local organizations: the Brian Parker Foundation and Hope Grows.

Learning continues outside the classroom. Through a partnership with Grand Valley State University, we have been able to offer additional tutoring opportunities for our students, providing another resource to support their academic endeavors. We had strong summer programming last year, and we look forward to once again offering programs that keep students engaged after the final bell of the school year has rung. This year-round commitment to learning supports students both in and out of the classroom.

At the high school level, our seniors have big plans as they look forward to graduation. Many students are pursuing post-secondary education at either the college level or through a career trade program. We are also partnering with the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce to connect high school students with local employers, further supporting students who plan to join the workforce upon graduation. We look forward to cheering on the Class of 2022 as they cross the stage in only a matter of weeks.

Lastly, as we look ahead towards the future of Niles Community Schools, we have some big and exciting changes for key positions in the district. Earlier this year, Michelle Asmus was appointed principal at Niles High School after serving as the principal at Howard-Ellis Elementary for over 10 years. With expertise in the student experience, family-school relationships and academic achievement, Michelle has been a tremendous addition in this role. We have also announced that Donna Roark will be the new principal at Howard-Ellis Elementary for the 2022-23 school year. Donna has served as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Personnel for the past five years, and we are thrilled to see her transition to helping some of our youngest learners thrive. We will share more announcements, updates and stories throughout the remainder of the school year and into the summer.

We only have a couple months left before the 2021-22 school year concludes, and we are beginning to look ahead to next school year. For families interested in enrolling for the 2022-23 school year, we have resources available on our website and an in-person event on May 23 at 6 p.m. at Eastside Connections School. We encourage you to plan ahead for kindergarten and pre-school enrollment. As always, thank you and Go Vikes!