01-11-2018 Cupcakes for Zoe fundraiser, Friday Jan. 12 at Watervliet varsity basketball games; Colo

Cupcakes for Zoe fundraiser, Friday Jan. 12 at Watervliet varsity basketball games

 On Friday, Jan. 12 during the Watervliet High School varsity basketball games the varsity cheerleaders are holding a fundraiser for the family of Zoe Phillips. They will have fresh cupcakes for a donation.

Zoe Phillips, a 9-year-old, was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma in August 2016. She is currently waiting to be accepted for a clinical trial somewhere in the U.S. The Watervliet High School varsity cheerleaders are hoping to ease some of the financial burden for Zoe’s family.

The games are at 6:00 and 7:30 p.m. in the WHS gymnasium against the Tigers of Lawrence.

WAITING FOR SPRING…Al Hartline snapped this photo recently at the Watervliet Municipal Airport. The airplane is owned by Jonathon Ammundsen


Coloma School Board approves Sinking Fund Millage Ballot Proposal

By Annette Christie

Following several months filled with information and consideration, the Coloma School Board voted during their Monday, January 8 meeting to place a sinking fund millage request for 1.25 mills for up to 10 years on the May 8, 2018 ballot.

At the December meeting the board was given a presentation from    Eduardo Blanc of TMP Architecture on the subject of requesting a Sinking Fund from voters in the district. This followed an introductory given by Superintendent Pete Bush previously.

Blanc told the board that to prepare for a sinking fund initiative it is necessary to assess and document the condition of the facilities and then to prepare a scope of work and some estimates to accompany those needs.  The next step would be communicating with the community and to inform their voters.

The district is facing some aged roofs which are causing problems. When the district looked at replacing the roof on the high school a few years back, the estimate was $1.2 million but this is just a fraction of what is needed.  “There is at least $5 million in repairs needed in the district today,” Superintendent Pete Bush said.

The district currently has a bond issue that voters put in place in 2012, to run through 2031.  This funded several improvements district wide.  They also have two separate Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) that are 0% interest funds for various improvements and updates.  While the lack of interest payments is attractive, the funds still have to be paid back out of the general fund and the district pays back over $400,000 a year.  Despite all of these things that have been done to improve the facilities, their financial needs continue.

If approved by voters, the district will have a set number of years that they know will bring in a steady funding source used for facility updates. With a sinking fund the district will not have to pay any interest and will spend the funding as it comes in.

Bush provided a comparison of the student foundation allowance that school districts receive per student.  It reflects the discrepancies between districts; New Buffalo School District receives $10,124 per student while Coloma School District receives $7,631 per student.  In 10 years, that amount has only increased $315 per student, not even coming close to the operation expenses increase over that same time period.

Bush told the board that nine out of 13 public K-12 School Districts in Berrien County have a Sinking Fund.

“The community deserves facilities that are well taken care of and with our general fund, that has been a challenge,” Bush said adding, “With a sinking fund, every dollar put in goes right into the district as an investment with no interest costs.” Bush suggested that if they are not successful with the sinking fund millage request from voters, a bond issue may be in their future at a high interest rate.

Bush has been in contact with the Berrien County Election Coordinator and informed the board that in order for the district to make the May ballot, the ballot language must be approved and submitted by February 13. They set a special meeting date of   Monday, January 22, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. to approve the final ballot language after legal review.  Bush will try and have costs to the district for the election by that night. If it is approved by voters, the district will collect their first payment from the millage in December 2018.

Intermediate School students to be graded on behavior

Administration and staff at the Intermediate School (4th and 5th graders) are finalizing the details for a new grade that the students will receive starting with the next marking period.  Students will be given a  citizenship grade which will look at behaviors such as taking turns, respect for teachers, turning papers in on time, raising their hand, following directions, organization, and treatment of other students.

The experiment will help students and parents understand that if their child receives an A in a subject, but gets an unsatisfactory in citizenship, this shows that they have content knowledge in the subject but may need to work on their behavior.

Intermediate School Principal Darla England said it will help the teachers to clearly identify what they expect of the students with regard to their behavior. England said, “It allows the teachers to assess their work without their behaviors affecting that,” England said.

The concept may creep into later grades as well but administrators believe this is a better place to start.  This starts the training of responsibility, positive behavior, and setting goals and objectives for the student to work on, something they can use in their future academic years.

The results of this new grading experiment will be shared with the School Board once those grades come out.

Math & Science Center funding

All school districts are being informed that previous funding from the State of Michigan to Berrien RESA for the Berrien County Math & Science Center at Andrews University is being discontinued. Bush said the district has been involved in this option for students for over 20 years. Bush said all of the funding has been discontinued to RESA.

To accommodate that loss, RESA has to look at options for replacing it.  They are looking at two different options: One in which all districts that send students to the program pay the same cost, regardless of how many students they have going there, or districts pay a per student fee.  Bush estimates that they have five or six students every year participating. The district also funds the transportation of the students to Andrews University.

While both Peter Olsen and David Ehlers spoke highly of the program, Olsen did note that if it isn’t viable for the district to afford, there are other opportunities for kids to excel in those areas. Bush will keep the board updated once RESA determines how to address the funding issue and what it will mean for the Coloma School District.

District report card

Starting January 9, parents will have access to the most recent dashboard for school transparency. In accordance with the State of Michigan “Every Student Succeeds Act,” districts are graded and must display their report card on their website for the public to view.  Bush said he did receive the results for the Coloma District but cannot yet see any other districts to compare the results to.

School Board leadership

The board maintained their officers again this year: President Heidi Ishmael; Vice President Apryl Watson; Secretary Doug Kraemer; and Treasurer Robert Hirsch.

After some discussion over some various committee appointments, the sub-committees of the board remained the same.  The board did approve appointing Nicole Hickmon to Berrien/Cass School Board Association as the district’s representative.

Al-Van Humane Society’s bi-annual Fur Ball fundraiser February 24

 Al-Van Humane Society will be hosting their bi-annual Fur Ball fundraiser on Saturday, February 24 from 7-11 p.m. at the Moose Lodge in South Haven. This Top Chef culinary competition between four of South Haven’s best restaurants will include a blind tasting of a featured plate from each, to which attendees will vote for their favorite dish and crown the winner.  Participating chefs and restaurants include Joel Gesiakowski from Taste, Carl Baker from Sophie’s Steakhouse, Greg Ruppert on behalf of Clementine’s and Allen Worman from Kitchen 527. “It’s a small town, and we all know and respect each other professionally,” stated Joel Gesiakowski of Taste. “I want to win this for Cappone, my 8-year-old Shiatzu.  We adopted him when he was just a pup, so small he fit in the palm of my hand.”

“I’d do anything for my Stevie,” added Carl Baker, from Sophie’s Steakhouse.  Stevie is a 7-year-old Maltese adopted from Al-Van by Baker several years ago. “Al-Van gives so many animals their second chance at life.”

The evening will start with cocktails and a special appetizer prepared by Edgar Suarez from Su Casa. Attendees will also enjoy a silent and live auction and music by Frank’s DJ service.  Tickets are limited and on sale now for $100 per person.  Tickets can be purchased at Al-Van Humane Society, Rescued Treasures, Decadent Dogs or any of the four participating restaurants. All proceeds benefit Al-Van Humane Society’s no-kill animal shelter.

Each restaurant participating in the competition will be offering “Kibbles & Bits” as a special menu item from January 8 through February 8.  For each Kibbles & Bits sold, $2 will be donated to Al-Van for the care of its shelter animals.  A friendly competition will take place during that month to see which restaurant can raise the most money for the shelter. Each chef will use their culinary skills to create a unique dish so be sure to dine at all four restaurants between January 8 and February 8.

Founded in 1968, Al-Van Humane Society (AVHS) is a no-kill, non-profit animal welfare organization whose mission is to compassionately serve the companion animals in our community by providing the best shelter, adoptive homes, education and resources available. It is an independent and private 501c3 non-profit organization. In 2012, the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance awarded AVHS the Most Improved Open Admission Shelter and AVHS adopted no-kill best practices. The shelter is located on 8th Avenue in South Haven. For information on Al-Van’s C.A.R.E.S. Capital Campaign and ways to donate, visit their website www.al-van.org.