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Community address touched on many topics

This past Friday, I delivered the fourth annual State of the District address on behalf of Port Huron Schools. This event is an opportunity for our district to engage with community leaders and share the latest perspectives and realities we are undergoing as the 24th largest school district in the state of Michigan. There are always many points of progress to share as our organization has implemented swift and extensive upgrades and directional change since my team and I began in July 2014. There are always challenges to share as well.

We appreciate the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce’s partnership in this annual event and it’s always reassuring to see how many people attend, which is a testament to the support and interest this community has for public education. Thanks to Chef Shell’s for donating coffee, donuts and pastries for this year’s event. It’s also of critical importance to thank our employees and you, our community as a whole. Much of what has been accomplished is because of your support.

If you were unable to attend, I encourage you to watch the address in its entirety on either our district social media or the online channel for Port Huron Schools.

Each year, we have been fortunate to share updates on the progress of the 2016 Building Tomorrow, Today bond. We are coming to the conclusion of this extensive project as we enter the final phase of construction. It’s been a three-phase project and we could not be more proud of the results in terms of facilities and programming for our students. If you could not attend the ribbon cutting at last month’s new P.J. Wallbank Springs, Inc. Engineering STEAM Lab at Port Huron Northern, please go see for yourself the level of cutting edge and contemporary learning environments we have created. Our entire community should be proud of the opportunities for our students that will be come from this partnership.

Other valuable and unique partnerships that were highlighted include the City of Port Huron and the Port Huron Police Department, which collaborate to help provide our School Resource Officers. The Port Huron branch of the NAACP is another organization that provides important programming for our students each year for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and during February for Black History Month. We have also had a great deal of support with our programs and academic events from our partnership with McLaren Port Huron. At the State of the District, we announced that Ann Murphy and her family will be sponsoring the biomedical lab at Port Huron Northern to honor her late husband John’s legacy of high quality medical care in this community. Each of these organizations and individuals are providing relevant and real world opportunities for our students to learn about leadership and local career opportunities.

Another point of pride for our district is the new Early Childhood Center, which is where we hosted this year’s State of the District. We want the entire community to be aware of what a stunning facility this is and the level of education and personalized opportunities it provides for our youngest learners.

Many of the challenges that were outlined are due to legislative and funding issues. Enrollment in our district, throughout the state and even as a national trend, have been on the decline due to lower birth rates and outward migration of families with school aged children. We have lost approximately 1,186 students since 2014. Michigan is last out of 50 states in total education revenue growth. Regardless of that reality, we must continue to provide the most diverse and personalized programming possible. I feel we are delivering on that promise in many areas and wanted our community to understand some of the unique innovations we are accomplishing on a daily basis.

I appreciate the community support the State of the District receives each year with sponsors, partners and attendees. Together, we are developing the future leaders, talent and workforce for our region.

Jamie Cain is the superintendent of Port Huron Schools.