Outgoing Plymouth-Canton Community Schools Superintendent Jeremy Hughes on Wednesday touted student and administrative accomplishments in the past year during his final State of the District address.
Hughes, originally hired as an interim superintendent in 2011, will leave his post this summer. A search for his successor recently was narrowed to five finalists admidst a slate of national candidates.
According to the outgoing district chief, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools will remain in good hands.
"We are on the verge here of a new era of excellence," Hughes said, speaking to an audience primarily consisting of local business owners and service organizations at Plymouth High School. "We're turning the corner into something to become even greater than we've been so far."
Hughes said Plymouth-Canton is one of the few school districts able to afford middle school students an opportunity to earn high school credit, and that current high school students are able to take advantage of unique programs at the three-high school Plymouth-Canton Educational Park to better prepare themselves for college.
Hughes: PCEP 'best college prep program' in Michigan
"I make no bones about telling people our program here at the Park is the best college prep program in the state of Michigan," Hughes said. "I would put this program up against the Cranbrooks and the (Detroit) Country Days any day of the week. The enormously varied, broad and deep curriculum that exists here because we have three high schools on the same campus makes this an unparalleled college preparatory curriculum."
For instance, Hughes said, the Plymouth-Canton was among five districts in Michigan honored by the College Board from Princeton, which oversees Advanced Placement courses and exams, for high-quality AP courses.
The district also swept Michigan's AP Scholars honors in 2012, an award given to just one male and one female student per state—a first in Advanced Placement history, Hughes said. The award, given to 2012 Plymouth High School graduate Todd Maslyk and Canton High School senior Angela Sun, is based on AP exam scores, the number of college credits earned, grades earned in AP courses and the number of AP courses taken by each student, Hughes said.
While the district exceeded state averages and saw improvements over past years with its annual MEAP scores, Hughes asserted the district won't be happy until it becomes a statewide leader.
"Forget the state averages, we're going for the gold here," Hughes said.
Superintendent promotes $114 bond proposal
Hughes also briefly touched on the forthcoming May 7 vote, where a $114 million bond proposal is at stake.
The bond, which would upgrade technology by equipping students and teachers with iPads and build a new middle school on district-owned land in Canton to replace the aging Central Middle School, would keep the current tax levy intact for district taxpayers, Hughes said.
While Plymouth-Canton is among the largest districts in the state, it ranks fourth from the bottom of Wayne County's 34 school districts in per-pupil funding from the state, Hughes said. Yet, Hughes noted, the district has been able to add new programs to keep the district's achievements at a high level.
Hughes said the district has the ability to lower the tax rate by about $45 annually per home starting in July after refinancing the district debt in 2012, but is instead asking taxpayers—and voters—to agree to pay the current rate for the next 5-6 years to allow the district to sell its bonds to raise the $114 million.