What Does It Take to Meet our Vision for School Culture: Potential, Inspiration, Connection and Equity in ACTION!

Dear Families,

For the last 2 and a half years, the staff at GRCDC have worked hard to build a strong foundation of consistent academic and culture/behavior systems, processes and programming.  This foundation represents “Tier 1” of our school. As a school, we think about 3 Tiers in all we do. Tier 1 is what everyone experiences across all grade levels and defines the life of the school.  Tier 2 is for students (10-15%) who might need something a little extra, either in academics or class culture/behavior and typically these extra supports are designed and delivered by the classroom teachers and paraprofessionals.  Tier 3 support, both academic and behavioral, is for a small percentage of students (3-5%) and is designed and delivered by specialists in partnership with teachers- academic interventionists, Mr. Trevor, Ms. Heyne, Ms. Cooper and sometimes our special education teachers and staff.

For our Tier 1 Positive Culture and Behavior focus, in the past two years we have:

We are so proud of the work that has been done so far and can see our students growing and learning everyday about what it means to be a contributing member of our school community.  In conversations with staff and parents, we have realized we have come to the point where we are ready to take our work to the next level! It is time to continue to strengthen our Tier 1 practices, while also building out consistent Tier 2 and Tier 3 processes for culture and behavior across the school and in each classroom.  This level of refinement will help us all be on the same page when students are facing either a one-off conflict or an ongoing issue.

In order to guide the next phase of this work, we have formed a Positive Culture and Behavior Team.  This team is lead by Ms. Heyne and will be working on 3 main issues which the team identified as the most important right now:

SEL/Responsive Classroom and bullying prevention Extension and Resource Group  Ms. Hegarty

Ms. Elly

Ms. Abby 

Mr. K

Parent Connection/Communication/Outreach/Learning Group Ms. Ruth

Ms. Aimee

Mr. Metcalf

Tier 2 and Tier 3 Programming, Systems, Communications and Accountability Ms. Amash

Mr. Trevor

Ms. Lantinga


I wanted to share this because our staff does SO MUCH behind the scenes work to continue our growth and school improvement.  This work is outside of school hours and teachers and staff generously volunteer their time and talents to ensure that our school is a place where every single child grows at least a year in a year’s time academically and feels safe and valued every day.  As a parent, I know that the “behind the scenes” work of the school is not always transparent and I want to make sure I use our Narwhal page and the Link to keep you updated on our continued progress. We will be asking for parent input in our work with the groups above, so be on the lookout for a survey and other ways to engage.  Without your participation, support, and ideas no system we build can be complete!  We each have something to contribute to the process as this school community pushes to reach our full potential.  As always, if you have questions or ideas, email me at heynel@childdiscoverycenter.org or call 616-459-0330 to set up a time to meet. 

Sincerely yours,

Lisa Heyne


Read more

How Do We Share Planet GRCDC?

Dear Families,

Wow!  I can’t believe week 1 is already in the books.  We have had a fantastic start to the school year- connecting with new students, reconnecting with old friends, practicing our routines, and really thinking about what it means to “share our planet”.

Our school-wide study theme this year is: how we share our planet.  Adults and children together will be studying our rights, responsibilities and the conflicts that arise as we share resources with people and with other living things.  This concept is aligned with ideas we have been working on for the past two years- what does it mean to be a member of the GRCDC community?  How does our community at GRCDC impact our broader community and vice versa? How do we build a sustainable and equitable community? How do we take care of our spaces?  How do we work together? These questions are worth thinking about and talking about for ALL of us.

At the most basic level, that means making sure we all observe our school rules and processes and live into our core values of inspiration, potential, connection, and equity.  This allows us to be in harmony with one another while supporting our children and our school to continue to grow into a vibrant, dynamic, and richly diverse place. Doing this together takes time and intention.

I have been “wowed” every day by the different ways our families and children have been showing what our core values and 3 Bs (be kind to yourself, others, and the environment) look like in action.  From comforting a lonely friend, to picking up litter in the playground, to eagerly welcoming our new families, to working hard to get back into the school routine after summer- our children and families amaze me everyday.  Thank you for the way you show up to this community.

As we work to share the GRCDC planet together, there are some NEW faces in our community!  We have 3 new teachers and 3 new paras! Please welcome:

  • Mr. Verkaik- 2nd grade, partner to Ms. Harmony and parent to a First Grader
  • Ms. Hegarty- 4th grade, partner to Ms Trout
  • Ms. Lindsay- 5th grade, partner to Ms. Elly
  • Ms. Lakara- 2nd grade para, recent GVSU grad with a Liberal Studies degree (focus on social change and diversity)
  • Ms. Megan- 3rd grade para, previously subbed as a para and parent to a 2nd grader and 5th grader
  • Ms. Aimee- 4th grade para, previously subbed as a para and parent to a 5th grader, 3rd grader, and Kindergartener

With an Education Based on Relationships, it is important that staff and families connect.  If you see a staff member who looks new to you, introduce yourself! We will always be as healthy and strong as our connections are.

I am wishing all of us a great year ahead.  With the intention that we are already showing around how we share planet GRCDC, I know we will all learn and grow together so much this year.  I am honored to be in this community with you!

Respectfully yours,

Lisa Heyne

Read more

The State of the School: How are we doing and where are we going?

Dear Families and Community,

Last year, our school community was preparing for some big changes.  When I was hired as leader in late October of 2017, I was charged with ensuring that our school began providing a life-affirming, Reggio-inspired education equitably to all- regardless of class or race.  In order to do this, I found we would need to make some significant changes in some of our practices.  In order to share these ideas with the school community, in the spring of 2018, we started a new tradition called the State of the School meeting.  The State of the School is an annual gathering co-sponsored by the Family Team, GRCDC Board of Directors, and school leadership to update families on the work of the school, share the thinking behind any upcoming changes, and really allow everyone to hear about the progress the school is making towards meeting our vision.  In the spring of 2018, we were preparing to embark upon some major changes within the school and it was important to get feedback from the community and publicly share our thinking.  This year, we are affirming that the changes we made are moving us in the right direction and wanted to update our community on our work.  We paired the State of the School with our End of the Year Celebration, allowing everyone (adults and students alike) the opportunity to reflect on and share the work of the year!  We plan to continue this tradition into next year, as well.

Talking to parents and grandparents after the meeting, many shared that they have never heard of a school doing something like the State of the School and that they really appreciated the chance to hear about some of the internal thinking, planning, reflecting and growing that is happening at GRCDC.  In my experience, that is true.  Schools don’t often share their “insides” with families and community.  Schools are frequently closed systems, not allowing others to hear about their processes, inner workings, and reflections.  However, we all know that GRCDC is a special place. True to our Reggio philosophy, we know that our school itself is never “finished”, but instead school is contextual- the school must respond to the needs of the community. Beyond that, the people that work at the school are not “workers”.  Like the children we learn with, we are also whole beings- growing, learning, and constantly seeking a full emergence of our capacities- as humans and a school. “School” is really nothing more (or less) than the collection of relationships within it.  Given that, we must gather together to think, share, and talk about the work we have done and the work ahead.

The next phase of our growth and turnaround must involve ALL staff,  families and students in working together towards our vision and our common goals.  Please take a moment to read through the slide deck or watch the commentary of this year’s State of the School.  If you are new to the school and would like to also watch or read last year’s State of the School, you can find that here and here.  As always, let me know if you have comments or questions.  I look forward to continuing this new growth phase at GRCDC with you!

Respectfully yours,

Lisa Heyne

Executive Director


Read more

Building a School Calendar: These are the Days of our Lives

Dear Families,

We are excited to share with you our School Calendar for next year!  We know that sometimes our process for choosing the days of the calendar and the times of the school day can seem like a mystery.  Some of you might wonder how and why we have made the decisions we have made regarding the school calendar and I would like to share with you the thinking behind our decisions.  One of the greatest “pros” of being an independent charter school is that we have lots of freedom and autonomy to make the decisions that are right for our students, staff, and families.

How does GRCDC made decisions about the school calendar?

  1. State Requirements:  The Michigan Department of Education sets parameters for the the required number of school days and instructional minutes each student must receive.  All schools must follow this
  2. Kent Intermediate School District Guidance– All schools that are part of the KISD must adhere to certain guidelines around timing and length of vacations and other types of days off.
  3. Teaching and Learning- This is the MOST important factor we take into consideration after we follow all the requirements from the state and ISD.  We ask ourselves: what does our calendar need to look like in order to meet our goal for an equitable, high quality, life affirming education for all students?  What does our day need to look like? Each week? Each quarter? The year?
  4. Teacher Feedback- The calendar was carefully reviewed by our A-Team (a committee that acts as our central office) and our Teacher Council.  Rounds of feedback and edits were made to ensure we have a calendar that provides ample time for planning and preparation, teacher collaboration, student learning, and rest/respite throughout the year.
  5. GRPS Calendar- As much as possible, we try to align our beginning/end of year and vacations with GRPS, knowing that many families have children both in GRCDC and GRPS.  This is not possible in every instance, but we do try in the ways that it makes sense.


Features of the 2019-2020 calendar:

  • Daily Change:  Our school day will start 15 minutes later and end 10 minutes later than this year.  This is to allow for many teacher and staff meetings to take place in the morning, rather than afternoon.  Our teachers prefer this blend of meeting times, as mornings can often be better for doing the heavy thinking work of collaborative planning, book studies, and reflective meetings.


  • Other Changes:


    • Half Days:  Our families and staff shared that ½ days can sometimes be a burden for families.  We shifted our calendar from having one ½ day each month, to only having 6 ½ days over the course of the school year.  4 of those are half days for staff and students at strategic vacation times where we were seeing a lot early sign outs.   Also, our ½ days will include a regular lunch schedule, which will preserve instructional time, predictable nutrition, and routines.
    • Teacher Work Days with no students:  Each quarter, we have committed to a working day off for teachers with no students.  The purpose of these days is for teachers to have time to work on class records and assessments and engage in long term planning with their teaching partners.  As we have moved into quarterly report cards with the same content scope and sequence for each grade level teacher, teachers need time to work together on their lesson and unit plans.
    • Parent Teacher Conferences: We moved these up a couple of weeks so that instead of coming at the END of the quarter, they come more in the middle.  This will allow teachers and parents to focus on building connections and understanding a students’ current level of functioning in comparison to grade level standards, rather than focusing on “grades”

All in all, I want you to know that NO decisions regarding our calendar were taken lightly.  We know that TIME is one of the most precious resources for all of us. How we use our limited time dictates the level of energy we have, the growth we can do, and the connections that we all build.  If you have any questions, please let me know. You can reach me at heynel@childdiscoverycenter.org or find me almost every morning “at the gate”!

Sincerely yours,


Read more