Behind the Scenes

From his signature bowtie to his viral “no-school-today” videos, Dr. David Hornak makes each student’s experience with Holt Public Schools his business. Hornak has spent most of his career in the district, with the last three years as the superintendent.

Some say schools should be run like a business – do you agree? 

“I struggle with the thought of if we should be running our schools like a business, because we have so many moving parts. Our parts, the people we serve, are people, they’re humans – so it’s difficult at times for us to apply all the business principles that are best practiced to education.”

In a way though, your personality and that of the school is like a business. You have a brand.

“We’re working on that. Districts need to have a comprehensive communication plan. If we fail to share accurate and timely information, that space gets filled up by whatever people think is occurring. We are working hard to rebuild trust in education in general, even in Holt Public, and by doing so we are communicating on a weekly basis with email, social media sites, weekly podcasts – I’m now narrating the weekly email using a piece of software called the Soap Box, so our families can listen to me and watch me rather than reading a six- to eight-page email.”

I know you’ve gone viral in a sense on social media with your snow-day videos.

“We’re having a good time with that. Why not have some fun while announcing them? For the record, we’re actively looking for snow-day video ideas, so people should send them along!”

Summer slide is real. Is it time to move away from the traditional school calendar?

“We have balanced calendar schools and traditional calendar schools in Holt Public. Truly, the summer slide is real. Our balanced calendars align a little more closely with current lifestyles. We are spending a lot of money reteaching to try to close the learning gaps that we’re in fact creating. When we resume in the fall, our students are required to be retaught for 20-40 days every single year. You take that 20-40 days and then you compound that over the lifetime of a student’s school career, and it’s very possible they are entering high school a year to a year and a half behind their counterparts who are attending a balanced calendar or are attending schools in other regions of the world. So, ultimately, I’m in support of that … I wouldn’t want to move forward on that without connecting with our community to ensure they would appreciate us expanding the balanced calendar and having air conditioning retrofitted into our buildings.”

STEM and STEAM are buzzwords in school systems – where does Holt stand?

“Our Destination Imagination program had the most teams in the state of Michigan that advanced to Global Finals in Tennessee. One of our teams finished fifth in the world, another finished third in the world; we had some fantastic results. Our Quiz Bowl team and our Science Olympiad team were in the top 10 in the state. STEM and STEAM are alive and well. Over the course of the last three years, the Dart Foundation has granted us around $460,000 for STEM and STEAM hardware.” 

Do you have a solid safety action plan in place for Holt Public Schools?

“We are improving our safety protocols as we speak. Safety is paramount and at the forefront of our thoughts. In partnership with the Ingham County sheriff, we had their security team audit our facilities, and we recently filmed a new safety protocol video. WLNS-TV donated their time for the video, and we hope to have it ready for the next school year. It was built for beyond our school system, we hope other schools will show it too.”

Are you working with students to let them know there are alternatives to traditional college and that skilled trades are viable options?

“We have some innovative things happening at Holt Public Schools. We are starting our own Holt Early College, where we’ll send students to both Lansing Community College (LCC) and Davenport University. We have hired a secondary systems coordinator who is developing relationships in the trades. On Wednesdays in Holt we’ll have Power for America, with a training facility in Potterville, which allows our students to be trained on site to potentially enter the energy field. We are sending students to the Wilson Talent Center and we have several, when possible, going to LCC’s West Campus.” 

Any final words?

“We have a new vision statement: Innovate, Educate and Inspire. These are pretty powerful key terms we use to describe who we’re becoming. Keep an eye on Holt Public Schools, I’m really excited about what the future looks like.”

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