DeWitt Public Schools evolving to best connect with students

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Painted rock in front of DeWitt Junior high school. Photo by Rachel Bidock

Painted rock in front of DeWitt Junior High School. Photo by Rachel Bidock

By Rachel Bidock
Clinton County Staff Reporter

DEWITT — Emily Macintire said that part of her reason for choosing to live in DeWitt was because of its public school system.

“We had heard good things,” Macintire said. “We just moved here in August so we’ve only been here for a short period of time, but I can already tell that they are kind of ahead of the game.”

Having strong schools can be an important draw for residents. But what makes a school strong?

According to Patricia Edwards at the College of Education at Michigan State University, what makes a school district successful is more than just being able to teach, it is about being able to reach a wide variety of students.

“I think districts fall apart when they try to teach like everybody is the same because everybody is not the same,” Edwards said. “If there are no interventions or strategies for working with those kids that are not doing well, then the school is going to struggle.”

Beth Whaley, principal at Fuerstenau Early Childhood Center, explained how important it is to her to consider the uniqueness of every child when teaching.

“I think that what is really important for people to remember is that in this age with really high-stakes testing … that if you don’t consider how kids learn best, you won’t get the best outcomes,” Whaley said. “We work really hard here to look at data and look at every students’ learning level but also to make sure that it is presented in a way that matches what they need developmentally.”

Fuerstenau Early Childhood Center in DeWitt. Photo by Rachel Bidock.

Fuerstenau Early Childhood Center in DeWitt. Photo by Rachel Bidock.

Macintire was also impressed with the way the schools are able to use technology and the different ways that teachers interact with their students.

“In terms of technology and doing different activities in the classroom, it is not just the teacher telling them about the lesson,” Macintire said. “It is the students actually being very interactive and doing a lot of independent learning.”

According to John Deiter, the superintendent of DeWitt Public Schools, they may not be advanced in technology but they are working towards improvements.

“I wouldn’t put us as ahead of everybody with technology,” Deiter said. “In fact we are trying to look for ways to expand our technology this summer, but I think that the resources we do have, we use them well.”

As time passes schools need to evolve, Edwards explained.

“Schools have changed, teachers have changed, parents have changed and we cannot act as if things are the same way,” Edwards said. “I do think that people need to teach who is sitting in front of them and not be making imaginary classes.”

Keeping up with the latest ways to improve teaching and learning, specifically in the early learning center, is important to Whaley.

“DeWitt schools are really embracing the current research, the best way that kids learn is through play,” Whaley said. “We are still really focused on outcomes which you can tell by our reading and math … we are wrapping that instruction very carefully in play-based learning.”

Digital sign at entrance of DeWitt Public Schools. Photo by Rachel Bidock

Digital sign at entrance of DeWitt Public Schools. Photo by Rachel Bidock

Parent involvement is at the core of a strong school system, and can lead to success among educators and students, explained Deiter.

“It’s crucial, it’s impossible to have a successful school environment without parental involvement,” Deiter said. “I think that we are above average because of our great community and the support we get from our families.”

Whaley is pleased that parents in DeWitt are involved in things such as their local Parent-Teacher Association.

“We have a really active PTA in DeWitt … it’s one PTA for kindergarten through sixth grade so it’s nice because we have continuity of parent volunteers across grade levels,” Whaley said. “They work really hard to provide extra opportunities for families in the district.”

According to Deiter any school district can be successful if they are able to maintain certain qualities.

“It is the culmination of good teachers, good principles, and supportive families,” Deiter said. “I think if any system can say they have those things going for them they will be successful.”

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