State super: Rural schools offer unique opportunities
UBLY — Small, rural districts certainly face staffing and resource challenges, but they also offer an experience that uniquely encourages moral growth and community responsibility.
State Superintendent Brian Whiston visited Ubly Community Schools and Bad Axe Public Schools last Thursday to examine what practices work for the districts. He visits approximately 50 districts annually, seeking great ideas that can be shared with other schools throughout the state.
Whiston said he saw unique learning opportunities at both schools. At Ubly, for example, he visited the school’s greenhouse, where elementary students were studying the progress of flowers and vegetables cultivated by the high school agriculture class.
Science and agriculture teacher Melissa Kramer said it’s an experience not available at larger districts.
“The elementary kids can come and take advantage of what the older kids are doing,” she said.
Ubly Elementary Principal Joel Brandel said older students model how the younger ones should behave, setting positive examples that would not be possible in larger districts.
“We have so few problems between the high school kids and the younger kids, even though we have to co-exist in close quarters,” he said. “Having all the kids together, it creates such a great community.”
There are challenges, however. With 701 students sharing the same building, hallways are often crowded and juggling time in the cafeteria and the two gymnasiums can get tricky.
To further inspire positive behavior, Ubly has monthly assemblies to recognize students who are setting a good example. In effect, the environment creates a type of positive peer-pressure when young students witness the big kids behaving correctly.
“To me, it’s a lot more impactful coming from a high school kid rather than some old guy like me,” Brandel said with a chuckle.
Whiston said one of the challenges smaller districts face is staffing, but he added both Ubly and Bad Axe have staff members serving multiple roles to fill positions. He also said both districts are serving students by offering dual enrollment.
“They’re doing a good job. I think the taxpayers should be happy with the education they’re offering,” he said.