2017-12-31 / Insight

Dryden Schools confident about future

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

DRYDEN – It’s been a not so bad year for Dryden Community Schools.

While the district, like every other in Lapeer County and across the state, has struggled with declining enrollment in recent years this year Dryden school officials were buoyed by numbers that weren’t as bad as they expected.

Although Dryden, Lapeer County’s smallest school district at just 35.38 square miles, began the year two classrooms smaller than the year before, the 67-student drop was 10 less than what school officials had budgeted for.

While saying she didn’t want to read too much into this year’s numbers, Superintendent Mary Finnigan, who also serves as high school principal, said she’s seen hopeful signs in Dryden including new home construction in the area; a kindergarten roundup event at the beginning of the year that drew 26 people instead of the usual 15 people and; the district’s pre-school program maxing out 29 students.

The last two are especially encouraging, since the county has seen years of graduating classes being significantly larger than in-coming classes.

Earlier this month Dryden Community Schools has earned academic honors from MEMCA (the Michigan Early Middle College Association).

The Dryden Early College Academy allows students to spend five years in high school, instead of the traditional four, while earning an associate’s degree along the way with no additional out-ofpocket costs to their families.

To earn the certificate, students need to complete at least 15 non-remedial high education credits and 100 hours of community services, 40 hours of verified career exploration or a combination of the two totaling 70 hours in the course of their high school experience.

Finnigan said the district has worked hard to sharpen its focus on providing individual instruction, a trend that has been rapidly gaining traction nationwide.

For the past two years the district has offered a Senior Seminar College Planning Course in conjunction with the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) to its graduating class.

Sheryl Czerwinski, who teaches the College Planning Course, said the classes have included weekly speakers throughout the year covering topics ranging from specific educational opportunities to post-secondary life skills, as well as knowledge necessary to be productive members of a community. The program seems to have hit its stride this year.

The class goal, Czerwinski said, is to increase college completion by lowering barriers that prevent students from getting to and through college, including social capital, academic preparation, college knowledge, and affordability. This year the program has brought in a large group of speakers offering tips and strategies for successfully navigating the college experience.

Earlier this year Finnigan said, “We’re just going to go about business as usual, trying to provide the best education available.”

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