The Novi Community School District is ranked the top school district in the state of Michigan by Niche.com for the second straight year.
Niche.com recently released its Best Schools 2021 rankings. Niche is a national educational research and ranking firm. “Ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, public school district ratings, and more."
NCSD also ranked 10th among districts with the best teachers and 12th for best places to teach in the state.
Deerfield Elementary ranked as the top public elementary school in the state, according to Niche. The other NCSD elementary schools ranked as follows: Novi Woods (No.6), Parkview (No.9), Village Oaks (No.10), and Orchard Hills (No.42).
Novi Meadows (Grades 5-6) ranked No.2 among public middle schools in the state. Novi Middle School (Grades 7-8) ranked No.10.
Novi High School ranked No.3 among public high schools and No.4 among best college prep public high schools in the state.
Novi Community School District is proud to announce the first cohort of the Novi4All Therapy Dog Program. The goal is to have a therapy dog at every school in the near future. Five NCSD staff members and their canines are part of the first cohort. The staff and canines will begin training soon with Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth.
"Novi4All supports all abilities and our goal is to support children's emotional well-being and learning through a district-wide therapy dog program," said Shailee Patel, Director of Special Education Programs and Services for NCSD.
The five staff members who are participating in the first cohort for therapy dog training are:
Rebecca Middleton, Special Education Teacher at Novi Middle School
Kailee Chichila, School Psychologist at Deerfield Elementary and Village Oaks Elementary
Julie Holewinski, Special Education Teacher at Novi Woods Elementary
Ashley Weinert, School Psychologist at Novi High School.
Karen Wilkinson, School Social Worker at Parkview Elementary
Rebecca Middleton explained why therapy dogs are important, how students will benefit and why she is excited to join the first cohort.
Why are therapy dogs important?
MIddleton: "Research has shown that having access to a therapy dog has great benefits for all students, including but not limited to: a reduction in anxiety, improved reading and language skills, reduction in negative classroom behaviors, increased academic performance, and more. Research also states despite having one of the greatest needs for mental health services, children and families in low income households are the least likely to have access to quality mental health services.
When you consider Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, if basic physiological and safety needs are not being met, how can we expect students to achieve higher levels of cognitive thinking? Supporting students’ growth in the area of mental health will only improve their sense of security, well-being, and naturally to follow, their academics. Additionally, providing therapy dog services within the entire school will also benefit all students by enriching their educational experiences within the classroom and with their peers."
How will students benefit?
Middleton: "Having a therapy dog in school will be a great support for all students within the building, but especially those students who need it the most (children with lack of access to quality mental health services, those with mental health or social-emotional needs, behaviors, learning deficits, etc.). With devastating impacts of COVID-19 on students, families, and our community, it is our hope with this grant to support all students during the global pandemic.
Once the program is complete, NCSD staff will be bringing their trained therapy dog into school buildings to begin service work. NCSD staff will be volunteering their time to collaborate with staff in order to spread the benefits of a therapy dog as wide as possible among buildings. Additionally, counselors, ancillary staff, and admin would have access to the building therapy dog in case of a student in need of its services.
The desired outcomes of this project are a sense of community, belonging, love, enrichment, and support."
Why am you excited for this program?
Middleton: "In February 2020, we brought home our sweet Labrador retriever, Bosa. Two weeks later, the world shut down. Bosa has been an incredible companion and light in my life during this pandemic. Like many others, mental health has been difficult during these times. I am diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and suffer from panic attacks. Bosa is my emotional support animal and brings me an overwhelming sense of joy, security, and hope when times are difficult. It is because of him that I was inspired to create a grant for him to become a therapy dog.
With the assistance of NEF and my director, Shailee Patel, we were able to turn my single grant application into a therapy dog program for our entire school district. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to train my dog for therapy services, as well as to be able to organize two cohorts of staff dogs to be the light for the children in our district. The pandemic has had significant impacts on mental health of those young and old. It is truly an honor to be able to offer my dog to help others and bring them his joy as well. We are excited and ready to kick off the Novi4All Therapy Dog Program with our first cohort of dogs: Bosa, Daisy, Lacey, Otis, and Ruthie!"
Cathy Farris began work Monday as a full-time nurse for the Novi Community School District.
"Cathy Farris will be an asset to the Novi Community School District," said Superintendent Dr. Steve Matthews. "She brings years of professional experience, plus she's deeply committed because she has students in our school district."
Farris has worked part time for the district since 2010. She was approved for the full-time position by the Board of Education on Oct. 1.
"I'm honored to be hired full time to care for the health and well being of our Novi students, staff and families," she said.
Farris is a licensed registered nurse with 24 years of Pediatric ICU experience at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Mott Children’s Hospital, in Ann Arbor, in the Pediatric Cardio-thoracic ICU, where she continues to work.
She graduated from Madonna University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 1996 and is a certified Pediatric Nurse, a member of Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) and Vice President of the Michigan Association of School Nurses (MASN).
She also is the region leader for all school nurses in Oakland County.
Farris regularly meets with our state nurse consultant and collaborates often with the counties surrounding Novi to enhance our practices, policies and procedures. She also reviews each and every medical plan that is submitted and has revamped all of our medical forms to conform to the medical community. She is on call if needed for medical advice in a building or if a medical emergency should arise. She has provided training to our staff with regards to insulin, epi-pen, AED, CPR, and so much more. She has been instrumental in keeping our information up-to-date and moving us forward through the COVID learning process.