Allegan County News & Union Enterprise

Plainwell Schools adds Home Outreach Coordinator

Tammy Glupker (in blue dress), seen being sworn in as a truancy officer, recently became the Home Outreach Coordinator for Plainwell Community Schools. (Photo provided)

By Jason Wesseldyk
Sports Editor

Public school districts across the nation have experienced a decrease in enrollment since the onset of the COVID pandemic, as evidenced by a recent report from the federal Education Department.
The report indicates 1.3 million fewer students are enrolled in public schools compared to pre-pandemic numbers, which equates to a decrease of more than 2.5 percent.
Wanting to be proactive when it comes to addressing this issue, Plainwell Community Schools created a Home Outreach Coordinator position and hired longtime district employee Tammy Glupker to fill that role.
“This position continues our work with families to improve and strengthen relationships between our district staff and the students and parents we serve,” PCS superintendent Matthew Montange said. “Relationships are a pillar of our district beliefs and practices, and this position specifically works with families who may need additional resources, information or specific concerns.”
Glupker has been with the district for 14 years, most recently serving as the principal at Renaissance High School.
During her time at Renaissance High School, she was also the director of adult education, director of community education, a truancy officer and the principal of Plainwell’s Virtual Learning Academy for K-5 in 2020-21 during the pandemic. 
“We are all excited to have Tammy in this role,” Montange said. “She brings a wealth of experience combined with a passion for kids and families. We believe this is an asset that most other district do not have and that this position will have a positive impact on our district.”
Glupker believes the Home Outreach Coordinator position is simply an extension of her previous work in the district.
“I’ve always sought to find solutions for students who aren’t experiencing childhood, youth or education in a traditional way,” she said. “For me, this is the next way to do something that really matters.”
Wanting to establish “respectful interactions” with families, Glupker started by sending out an introductory letter to more than 160 families who’ve left the district during the past few years.
“The letter explained that I plan to help get them re-engaged in whatever way would work best for their family in their situation,” Glupker said. “It also invited them to head off my next attempts to contact them by contacting me.”
Several families took advantage of that invitation by reaching out to Glupker.
“So far, my interactions have been really pleasant,” she said. “Folks seem surprised and impressed that Plainwell Schools is showing this level of care.”
Montange echoed those sentiments.
“Parents appreciate the direct contact from the district and having someone available who is offering to listen to their concerns and help them return to Plainwell or to school in general,” he said. “Tammy excels at developing relationships with families and creatively planning for their specific needs.”
Glupker said many families have expressed various fears and anxieties when it comes to returning to school, with many “what if” questions arising.
“Schools have taken the worst sort of hit within the past few years,” Glupker aid. “Respect, trust and decency are declining. As educators we know we have to model whatever is lacking that much more. We can’t wait for it to be shown to us, but we must demonstrate it ourselves and often.”
Montange said the Home Outreach Coordinator role will continue to evolve as Glupker gets a better handle on the issues facing the families with whom she is engaging.
“This position will continue to develop as Tammy expands what she is able to accomplish with her caseload and our families,” he said. “The goal is to retain families in the district followed by returning families that have made the decision to leave in recent years. 
“This also helps us to identify specific reasons why families are choosing a different district or private school so that we are able to develop strategies to better meet the needs of these families.”
Glupker believes her new position will allow the district to evaluate and make necessary changes to its current customer-service model.
“I’ve always felt like maybe we—the universal we in education—could do more,” she said. “In the short-term, we have this opportunity to collect really good information about our students’ and families’ experiences; to answer questions like, ‘did anyone seem to notice you’d become disengaged?’ and ‘what sort of conversations or assurances will begin to belay your anxieties?’
“In the short and long term, we collect data that will inform our best practices going forward. Of course, great evidence that what I’m doing is working would be a recovery to our pre-covid enrollment numbers.”

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