New school year off to a good start in Alcona

LINCOLN – The first meeting of the school year for the Alcona Community Schools Board of Education lasted all of 30 minutes Wednesday and members were upbeat about the new school year.

“Things are very positive,” Superintendent Shawn Thornton said. “Things are going well.”

Students kicked off the year with a special assembly, and have a greater flexibility of class selection during the seven periods their day is divided into. The yearbook is now a class, Thornton said, and students also will have an opportunity to study computer-aided design at the school. Students also will be involved with the Cyber Safety Initiative program this year, which is designed to protect them from bullying online and in person, she said.

Meanwhile, the year’s schedule is unfolding, she said, with testing taking place in October. According to the Michigan Educational Assessment Program website, students will be tested online in science and social studies Oct. 8-16. Others will be tested in reading, writing and math during that period. PSAT tests will be given to students, who want to practice for college SATs.

Another school year highlight- homecoming – is scheduled for Oct. 25, Thornton said.

Thornton said the district will partner with Alpena schools to phase in a new student information systems program that will show parents real-time progress. By sharing the platform, costs will be reduced.

The new program by Synergy Info Systems will kick off in the fall of 2014, giving educators several terms to train and transfer data from the old system, known as Pinnacle.

Principal Dan O’Connor said that not only does the system maintain information on each student, record absences and provide report cards, but it also will be used to schedule classes. Additionally, the system will be used by teachers to assess where each student is when it comes to meeting a detailed list of standards-based learning goals.

“The goal is to be better informed on what our kids know and to be able to react to that and intervene, improving what the child knows,” O’Connor said. Parents also will be able to log into the system to see exactly how their child is coming along in mastering levels of comprehension, analysis and other skills.

“It’s going to mean more to them,” O’Connor said, adding the new system is user friendly. “The information is going to be more clear on how their child is doing.”

Thornton had one caution for parents who expect their child to come home with high scores the first term. Students will have an entire school year to master skills required by state standards.

“Parents should not expect all threes in the first marking period, because learning equates with growth,” Thornton said.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.