Interview with a Principal of a School that Promotes and Celebrates Diversity

Mr. Steven Slancik has worked in Utica Community Schools for 24 years. During his six years at Schuchard, the school received multiple awards, which include being named a “Reward School” by the State of Michigan in two areas: Overall Growth and “Beating the Odds.” The school has also been named a “National Title I Distinguished Schools Award Finalist” and “The Mackinaw Center for Public Policy’s list of most improved schools twice, ranked as the 77th best elementary school/middle school in the state of Michigan out of 2,203 schools in 2019.

Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Slancik attended Grand Valley State University where he graduated with a dual major – Special Education and Psychology. His endorsements were CI (Cognitively Impaired) and EI (Emotionally Impaired). He attended Saginaw Valley State University for his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. He is married to Heather, and has 3 children (Justin – 18, Carter – 16 and Abbie -11) and two step-children (Jacob – 21 and Kyle – 18).

Schuchard Elementary has 630 students. 85% of the students live in a home where a second language is spoken. 70% of the students at Schuchard live in a home where Arabic and/or Chaldean is spoken.

“Cultural Proficiency has been a focus at Schuchard for many years,” he said. “It is an ever-evolving endeavor as we are always trying to improve our understanding and knowledge of our community. We strive to surpass the idea of tolerance and focus on celebrating and using our diversity to make us a better school. Whether it involves adjusting our menu, providing translators and/or translated documents, or adapting our events around cultural and religious holidays; we are always trying to ensure that every student feels cherished and important.”

On November 1, 2019, Schuchard Elementary hosted their first ever “Cultural Celebration Day”. Based on the feedback of parents, students, staff and presenters, it was an incredible success!

This will become an annual event. They already have several ideas and plans in the works on how to adjust and make next year’s Cultural Celebration bigger and better.

“We should admit that depending on how school looks in the fall due to the pandemic, the 2020 version may have to be adjusted for this school year,” he said. “As a result of this event, the city of Sterling Heights awarded us the Sterling Heights Diversity Distinction Award.”

Schuchard has become a role model and a beacon for providing an appropriate education for all students. “Other schools look to us for guidance on how to adapt instruction to fit the cultural needs of students,” Slancik said. “We lead by example, showing other schools that there are no acceptable excuses for not providing every student with the best education possible.”

Schuchard and all of Utica Schools has been focusing on the Social-Emotional side of teaching. Their teachers completed multiple trainings on this topic during the school year, and Slancik took part in a 40+ hour professional development this summer where he learned how to use “the whole child” as a basis for differentiating our instruction.

Prior to the social-emotional training, staff at Schuchard spent several years focusing on Cultural Proficiency and what it means to truly respect and celebrate other cultures. They focused on several aspects that included using more culturally-relevant examples in their teaching and examining the distinct gender gap they had at Schuchard. Through readings, discussions and bringing in community experts, they concentrated on strategies and ideas that could improve the education they provide to the 630 students at Schuchard Elementary. For a 3-year period (2016-2018), Cultural Proficiency was the biggest professional development focus for them as a building and school district.

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