Avondale School District – Oakland County, Michigan

March 4, 2024

Avondale School District

Innovative Education for Tomorrow’s World


Utilizing experiential education, community integration, and cutting-edge safety measures to prepare students for a dynamic future.

Avondale School District, an innovative and respected educational hub, is focused on redefining the boundaries of traditional learning. Situated in Oakland County, Michigan, the district embraces a philosophy that transcends conventional academic frameworks, focusing on experiential learning and real-world applications. This approach is not just a mere strategy but the cornerstone of Avondale’s educational ethos.

Dr. James Schwarz, the district’s Superintendent of Schools, articulates this ethos with passion. “We’ve prepared ourselves and pride ourselves on steeping our instruction in experiential learning,” he explains. Avondale’s carefully crafted and executed strategic plans over the last few years are not just documents. Still, they are living blueprints guiding the district towards a future where learning is an immersive, hands-on experience. This focus on experiential education is not just a differentiator but a transformative force within the community.

Under Dr. Schwarz’s leadership, Avondale has cultivated an environment where students are not merely recipients of knowledge but active participants in their learning journey. “Our students embody critical thinking,” Dr. Schwarz states, “viewing problems and solutions through diverse lenses.” This approach, diverging from rote memorization and test-centric methodologies, equips students to navigate unpredictable situations, preparing them for real-world challenges.

Pioneering Early Education and High School Curriculum

As Dr. Schwarz explains, building a robust foundation in early childhood education is a crucial focus for Avondale School District. The district’s approach begins with the youngest learners, starting from age two. “We educate students in our early learning environments from a very young age,” Dr. Schwarz emphasizes, highlighting the district’s commitment to inclusivity and diverse learning strategies. Programs like the Great Start Readiness and tuition-paid preschool are part of this comprehensive strategy.

According to Dr. Schwarz, the district’s early education curriculum is anchored in real-world learning. This approach is not confined to rote learning but is integrated into play, allowing children to absorb knowledge seamlessly. “Kids are learning, and they don’t even realize it,” he notes, underscoring the effectiveness of this method. Avondale’s commitment to early education sets a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

Transitioning to high school education, Principal Doug Wilson sheds light on the district’s innovative strategies for older students. “We’ve got a wide variety of opportunities for our kids that are continuously expanding,” Wilson states, reflecting on the district’s commitment to preparing students for the future. From partnerships with local colleges like Rochester University and Oakland Community College to a robust Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, Avondale offers a plethora of pathways.

Wilson outlines the district’s diverse offerings, including accelerated options for obtaining associate degrees, extensive web design and engineering CTE programs, and partnerships for local business internships. “Our junior and senior years offer internships that are ever expanding,” he adds, highlighting the practical application of learning in real-world scenarios.

Cultivating Excellence in Teaching

At the heart of Avondale School District’s success is its teaching philosophy and approach to attracting and nurturing educational talent, as elucidated by Assistant Superintendent Coleen Brunni. Her insights show the district’s commitment to fostering an environment where students and teachers thrive through continuous learning and connection.

Brunni emphasizes the district’s focus on cultivating students’ capacity for learning. “We work on how we ask good questions,” she explains, underlining the importance of teaching students to set goals, reflect on their learning, and foster curiosity. She says this approach is about imparting knowledge and building a lifelong passion for inquiry and learning.

Brunni highlights the need for educators who can connect with a diverse student body when recruiting new teachers. “We speak 41 different languages in this district,” she points out, stressing the importance of teachers being able to engage with students from varied backgrounds. The district seeks educators who can facilitate learning through collaboration and embrace the diversity that each student brings to the classroom.

Addressing the challenge of the current teacher shortage, Brunni reveals the district’s unique strategies for attracting and retaining teaching talent. “Learning is social, and teacher learning is also social,” she asserts. Avondale distinguishes itself through a leadership structure that allows teachers to assume leadership roles without leaving the classroom. This structure includes professional learning community leaders and a range of mentorship programs.


Prioritizing Safety and Security

When it comes to safety and security, Avondale School District stands at the forefront, adopting comprehensive measures to ensure the well-being of its students and staff. Dr. Schwarz provides an in-depth look at the district’s multifaceted security approach, encompassing physical and mental health aspects.

“We have added safe and secure entranceways in all our buildings, staffed with armed personnel.” These fortified entry points are part of a broader strategy to secure the school environment physically. In addition to armed security, Avondale has implemented weapon detection systems at these entranceways, ensuring that all who enter are screened for potential threats.

The district’s commitment to safety extends beyond physical deterrents. Dr. Schwarz details using Raptor, a system for conducting visitor background checks. “When we have visitors, their ID is processed through the system, giving us an immediate reporting on their criminal background history,” he says, emphasizing the thoroughness of their security checks.

Avondale’s security measures are not only reactive but also proactive. “We have a munitions dog at the high school, the first in Michigan,” Dr. Schwarz notes, highlighting the district’s innovative approach. This trained dog can detect black powder and is routinely used to inspect the school’s hallways and lockers.

Moreover, the district employs technology, including a system called Gaggle, to monitor potential risks. “This system screens student communications, allowing us to pick up potential violence signals and act proactively,” Dr. Schwarz explains. The district has also established a proactive threat assessment protocol with crisis teams in every building.

Dr. Schwarz’s description paints a picture of a district that spares no effort safeguarding its community. With over 300 cameras, shatterproof window plastics, and an ever-evolving array of security measures, Avondale School District is deeply invested in creating a secure and nurturing environment.

Strategic Investments and Community Engagement

The Avondale School District is focused on the present and strategically planning for the future, as Dr. Schwarz discusses upcoming investments and community initiatives. These plans reflect the district’s foresight and commitment to growth and development, catering to the evolving needs of their students and the wider community.

Regarding future investments, he mentions a bond issue slated for May 2024. “This is to continue with building upgrades, largely from an infrastructure perspective,” he explains. The district addresses essential needs such as heating, cooling, and HVAC systems, indicative of a commitment to providing a comfortable environment conducive to learning.

In addition to infrastructure, Dr. Schwarz highlights the district’s growth and the corresponding need for expanded facilities. “We’re looking at building additions due to growing enrollment in parts of our district,” he notes. One notable project is the construction of a new preschool building. “Enrollment forecasts certainly indicate a need for additional space to house preschool,” Dr. Schwarz adds, signaling the district’s proactive approach to accommodating increasing student numbers.

Shifting to community initiatives, Dr. Schwarz elaborates on efforts to integrate local businesses into the educational experience. “We’ve put forth a lot of effort in recent years to connect with local businesses for internships and job shadowing,” he says. This initiative extends beyond traditional career days, involving businesses in students’ career planning and development.

An innovative step in this direction is the introduction of career portfolios for students before graduation. “Members of the local business community will assist students in creating these portfolios,” Dr. Schwarz reveals. This program prepares students for their future careers and fosters a direct connection between the school district and the local business community.



Nurturing Arts, Athletics, and Robotics

In Avondale School District, the emphasis on arts, athletics, and robotics highlights its students’ diverse talents and interests. Principal Wilson delves into the vibrant world of the district’s extracurricular activities, revealing a landscape where creativity, competition, and student leadership flourish.

“We have a fantastic visual arts program,” begins Wilson, illustrating the vast array of creative disciplines offered, including photography, ceramics, and metals. He proudly points to the theater program, a perennial powerhouse in local and state competitions. “It is student-led and student-centered,” Wilson emphasizes, underscoring the district’s philosophy of fostering student autonomy and creativity.

Wilson transitions to discuss the district’s robotics program, a beacon of innovation and competitiveness. “Our robotics program is powerful, from elementary to high school, and it’s student-developed and led,” he states. This program has gained recognition statewide, nationally, and internationally, showcasing Avondale’s commitment to STEM education.

In athletics, Avondale’s facilities and teams are described as phenomenal. “Our football team was eight and two this year,” Wilson shares, highlighting the improvement and success of various sports teams. He notes the new staff leading the varsity basketball and football teams and the cheerleading squad sharing the ethos of being student-centered and preparing students to be future leaders.

Addressing the fine arts, Wilson admires the vocal music program. “Our vocal music is phenomenal,” he says, proudly mentioning a past student’s achievements in the Detroit Opera House and now in Germany. The band, too, receives commendation for its performances and continuous growth, reflecting the district’s dedication to nurturing musical talent from elementary through high school.

A Vision for Inclusive Excellence

As Avondale School District enters 2024, Dr. Schwarz outlines their ambitious goals. These objectives reflect a commitment to inclusive and innovative education, ensuring students’ needs and potentials are recognized and nurtured.

Emphasizing the ongoing push towards experiential learning processes, he asserts, “As we adopt new curriculums, students are always being pushed toward that experiential lens.” This approach, integrating hands-on experiences with academic learning, continues to be a cornerstone of Avondale’s educational philosophy, ensuring students are prepared for the complexities of the real world.

A significant achievement and a key focus for the future is creating a gifted magnet school. “It’s a public magnet school, which is rare in our area,” Dr. Schwarz notes, highlighting the school’s uniqueness. Launched in 2017 with 30 children, it has now grown to accommodate 400, illustrating the district’s ability to identify and fulfill an essential educational need.

Dr. Schwarz’s ultimate goal is to serve every child’s unique educational needs. “No child is ignored,” he says firmly. Whether a student is gifted and talented or needs more support, the district is dedicated to creating a success plan that caters to their abilities.

Avondale’s commitment to reaching every student, regardless of their ability, is not just a goal but a philosophy that permeates every aspect of their operation. “We give that experiential base to everyone,” Dr. Schwarz reiterates, underlining the inclusive nature of the district’s approach.

As Avondale School District moves forward, its focus remains clear: to hone its craft in delivering an education that addresses and celebrates all its students’ diverse needs and talents. This vision of inclusive excellence sets Avondale apart as it continues to evolve and adapt in an ever-changing educational landscape.

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Avondale School District

What: An innovative educational district focusing on experiential learning, community integration, and advanced safety measures.

Where: Oakland County, Michigan

Website: https://www.avondaleschools.org/


K&S Ventures Inc. – www.ksv.us


February 2024

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