01-12-2017 Watervliet school board members receive tokens of appreciation; Coloma School District ne

GIVE ‘EM A BREAK… Morgan Sells, a kindergartner at South Elementary, doles out Kit Kats to Watervliet school board members during Monday’s meeting as part of School Board Recognition Month. The students at South Elementary gave candy to the members to thank them from the bottom of their “Sweethearts.” (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


Watervliet school board members receive tokens of appreciation

By Kristy Noack

Members of the Watervliet Board of Education were celebrated Monday during the district’s regular school board meeting as part of the School Board Recognition Month. Students from the middle and elementary schools and staff from the high school were on hand to bestow tokens of appreciation upon the board members.

Gift certificates, cards, and candy were presented. In one of the cuter displays of appreciation, a video of South Elementary students was created in which the kids were asked, “What does the board do?” and “What is the school board?”

Officers elected; Attila-Hyska joins the board

 During the organizational meeting prior to the regular school board gathering, new officers were elected.

Bill Spaulding was appointed to the role of Board of Education President. Spaulding previously held the vice-president position. Andy Bodfish was nominated and elected to the vice-president role. He formerly held the position of secretary.

Matt Clay was appointed to the position of secretary. Clay’s prior role on the board was that of treasurer. Marilyn Barchett was elected treasurer.

Other appointments were made to various committees. Barchett will chair the Negotiations/Personnel Committee and will be joined by Clay and Kate Attila-Hyska. Troy Boone will act as an alternate.

Attila-Hyska replaced outgoing board member Tim Lynch whose last meeting was in December.

The Capital Projects Committee will be chaired by Bodfish. He will be joined by Ted Tees and Boone, with Clay acting as the alternate.

Bill Spaulding will chair the Superintendent Review Committee. Boone and Attila-Hyska will be part of that committee in which Clay will act at alternate.

The Finance Committee will be chaired by Spaulding. Clay and Barchett will assist on the committee with Tees named as alternate.

The Board Policy Review Committee will be made up of members Barchett, Boone, and Bodfish, who will act as chair.  Clay was named as the alternate.

Clay will continue as the ISD representative for the Berrien/Cass School Board Association. Attila-Hyska and Clay will serve as the curriculum representatives. Bodfish will act as the alternate for this committee.

The Watervliet school board meets the second Monday of the month at 6:00 p.m. Meetings are typically held in the middle/high school library. Due to construction, the meeting place has been alternating between South and North Elementary schools.

The board pays some bills

  Watervliet schools superintendent Kevin Schooley reviewed the General Fund revenue and expenses for the month of December. Schooley advised the district received additional delinquent tax payments. Miscellaneous income showed a bump in revenue for the district. The e-rate program generated a $17,491 rebate to the district. The e-rate program is sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission and works to provide discounts for telecommunications to schools.

The board approved paying General Fund expenses in the amount of $1,658,976.68. Of that, $736,033.46 was related to payroll expenses within the district.

Other big ticket items for the month included a payment of $15,007.29 to GMB, the architect handling the Phase 2 construction bond project. Miller Davis, the contractor for the project, was paid $567,318.62, which is then paid out to subcontractors.

The concession stand and bathrooms at Panther Stadium received some much needed improvements, which cost $5,970.

School resource officer approved; Talks with City and Township continue

The board agreed with Schooley’s assessment that a school resource officer is needed and approved a resolution allowing the superintendent to continue working with the City of Watervliet and Watervliet Township to secure the necessary personnel.

Watervliet schools will spend no more than $30,000 on the position. This, coupled with a request for $20,000 from the City and $20,000 from the Township, will cover the cost of the position.

The officer will work at the Watervliet schools creating drug awareness programs and will facilitate communication with students on stranger danger and cyber bullying, among other things. Schooley maintained that a school resource officer “benefits the school and I think it benefits the police department. The relationship piece (between the officer and the students) is the biggest bonus. And, I appreciate the City and Township’s support in this.”

The SRO would be hired by the City of Watervliet police department and would be contracted with the school for 180 to 185 days, which would cover a typical school year.

Auditorium is complete; Classrooms next

 Miss Watervliet contestants and organizers are breathing a sigh of relief. Schooley reported that the middle/high school auditorium is complete and will be ready for the pageant on Saturday, January 14 at 6:00 p.m. Schooley said, “The auditorium is back! It’s refreshed, it’s nice, and the oak stage front is beautiful.” Additional improvements included a new sound system and new energy efficient lighting.

In other good news, the final three classrooms currently under construction will be complete within two weeks. Additionally, other punch list items, including painting and dialing in the controls on the heating systems, are continuing to near completion.

NEOLA and Pensive take center stage

 The board approved a measure to contract with NEOLA. NEOLA is a company that provides school districts with assistance developing and revising policies, implementing policies, and support with administration.  By contracting with NEOLA, Watervliet will have concise, current policies established. Once complete, the policies can be added to the school’s website. An individual could then search for a specific school policy. NEOLA will also assist the district when there are legislative changes that affect any local policy. The cost to contract with NEOLA is $23,400, with a yearly maintenance fee of $2,500.

Pensive, a new program that third grade reading teachers at North Elementary are currently utilizing was introduced to the board by Dave Babcock and Lori Romeo.

The teachers explained how the program allows them to track their students’ progress in reading. Because of the detailed nature of the program, it allows teachers one-on-one reading time with students. The teachers can then document progress being made or areas of concern. These notes can be shared with parents. The program can track the student’s comprehension and fluency.

Coloma School District needs to fill another board seat

By Annette Christie

The Coloma School Board is down one more member as Kelly Clements announced at their Monday, January 9 meeting that she would be stepping down.  Clements was elected as the Coloma City Treasurer last fall and it was determined that the two offices of city official and school board member are incompatible offices.

This follows the resignation at last month’s meeting from Dave Vollrath for the same reason.  Vollrath had been elected as a Berrien County Commissioner and it was at the training for that office that he learned of the incompatibility for a school board member.

The district had posted the opening for Vollrath’s position and accepted applications through Friday, January 6.  Superintendent Pete Bush said that there were four letters of interest.  Board member Bob Hirsch said he was impressed with all four letters.  Board member Apryl Watson said she would like the board to interview all four candidates.  A special meeting was set up for next Monday, January 16 at 6:00 p.m. for the interviews.  The board hopes to render a decision following the interviews.  Those that are selected to fill the terms will do so until December 31, 2018.  If they would like to continue to serve in that capacity, they would need to run for office in the fall of 2018.

With this being the first meeting of the year, the board leadership was re-visited with the same result.  Board President is Heidi Ishmael, Vice President Apryl Watson, Secretary Doug Kraemer, and Treasurer Bob Hirsch.

Committee assignments were also made and while President Ishmael noted that there will be two new members on the school board soon, she wanted to fill the committees, recognizing that they could make adjustments later.  The assignments are as follows:  Berrien/Cass School Board Association Representative Apryl Watson; MASB Legislative Liaison Doug Kraemer; Building & Grounds Committee Kraemer, Ishmael, and Watson; School Improvement Committee Hirsch, Kraemer, and Watson; Finance Committee Bill Stowers, Kraemer, and Hirsch; Personnel Committee Hirsch, Ishmael, and Watson; and Athletic Committee Stowers, Ishmael, and Kraemer.

All of the administrators presented the school board with appreciation in recognition of School Board Recognition Month during their portion of the meeting.

Intermediate School Principal Darla England told the board that they have started a “Multiplication Club” for the fourth and fifth graders that need more help in that area.  The club will meet during recess time.  She also announced that the fourth and fifth grade science teachers each received a $400 grant from Menasha to be used for science supplies. The funds will be used for experiment equipment and for the membership into a software program that the students can use for science related learning and fun.  In February, they plan to start a chess club for students and will have a competition near the end of the year.  Any student would be able to participate in the club that will utilize learning skills through the game of chess.

Elementary Principal Krista Bethke updated the board on the school’s kindness and compassion drive, which made it possible for some community members to have extra funds and gifts for Christmas and for the North Berrien Food Pantry to add to its inventory.  She touched on the re-implementation of Minds in Motion which she is working on with the gym teacher, Mr. Allen. Recently the students have had to have indoor recess and this program uses stations and music for physical activity inside the school.  Bethke was able to make space available so the program could be utilized again.  “Different research shows that getting them up and moving is beneficial for them in the classroom and academically,” Bethke said.

Bush announced that the district’s metal works program recently received a $20,000 grant from the Upton Foundation.  The funds will be used to purchase equipment for the after-school program.

Bush provided a presentation on student growth percentiles, a tool being used by the state to evaluate test results of the students taking the MSTEP tests.  The test was first taken state wide in the spring of 2015 and again last spring. It replaces the MEAP test.   The number being evaluated is based on how a student did last year and the percentage of growth seen by the child the following year. Students state wide are placed in categories with other students that scored the same as they did in one grade level.

Based then on the scores of the students, district wide, and with 50 being the student growth percentile (SGP) average state wide, Coloma students scored the following: Language Arts 51 SGP, Math 53 SGP, Science, 58 SPG and Social Studies 54 SPG.  The district then as a whole is showing a growth above the 50th percentile in all subjects.  Bush said while they are pleased to be above the state average, they will continue to improve on the student growth, one of the district’s strategic goals.

Bush gave an update on the progress toward the district’s strategic goals, the number one being to increase student achievement and reduce gaps. Bush said that the teachers and administration have worked collaboratively to develop and deliver a guaranteed and viable curriculum.  Throughout all buildings, teachers have begun to identify strategies and put in place interventions to work with students who are struggling.  Each of the buildings has a slightly different intervention style program but all with the same goal, to improve students academically.

Two days a week in the high school, students can take set aside time to go see teachers, go to the cafeteria or the library, with it almost being like a study hall.  Seniors are getting the time to sit down and talk about their futures whether it is in college or in the workforce and are to set goals and make plans.  Tests can be made up; missing work can be completed and turned in and students get more focused one-on-one time where needed.     For students who do not need the extra make up time, it still allows them time for reading or quiet time as needed.  All areas where there are students are supervised.  Principal David Ehlers said that they are seeing improvement and students with troubled grades are going up.

In the Jr. High, all of the students are assigned to go somewhere.  The extra time allows for things like Social Studies Olympiad, or extended lessons in science that there is not time for in the daily curriculum.   Students have time in the library, band students have time for additional rehearsal, and those needing extra time for physical education get it.

In the elementary and intermediate grade levels, this intervention happens every day with every student and weekly or bi-weekly evaluations of their grades and progress is being done.  England said that teachers are always working together to identify which students need what, meet the needs of those students where they are at and get them to the next step. Bethke said at the elementary level they are focused mostly on reading.

Creating a new district-wide website with improved communications to all parents and students was another one of the strategic goals.  This included improved district and building newsletters, notifications, branding the district, and improving district signing.

The district’s new website rolled out in October and Bush said early reports are that people like it. Newsletters and communications have improved from the schools and the district.  The 2nd district-wide newsletter will be coming out soon as they approach another semester.   The district has begun using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. The school messaging system that was used previously was replaced and is a lot easier to use and more efficient in getting information out to parents such as when there are school closings. Bush said they are continuing to brand the district through radio advertising and are attempting to spread the good news about the district in the local newspapers as much as possible.

Another goal was to create a campus community and with that came a big push this year to “Promote Comet Pride!”  Things such as having K-12 participation in an event as homecoming help to boost that pride from the youngest to the oldest student.  Bush said they hope to do something similar with the upcoming Winterfest activities and graduation.

A plan to improve capital and facilities and update technologies has moved forward sooner than expected.  The school board voted to update the transportation department by leasing six new buses over the summer, which allowed four very old buses to be replaced. In addition, a new school van was purchased for the transportation department. Just last month the board approved the purchase of a new scrubber for the Jr./Sr. High schools which allows for better facility upkeep.

As far as upgrades to technology, Bush was proud of the advancements the district had made.  All students in grades 6-11 have in class access to Chrome Books.  The older students are able to take their Chrome Books home. Bush displayed the original timeline for these technologic upgrades, of which were finished ahead of schedule.

Following the presentation to the board, they went into closed session for the Superintendent’s evaluation of his mid-year progress.

Watervliet City Commissioner resigns to accept staff position

By Annette Christie

A special meeting of the Watervliet City Commission was called to take care of some staffing situations. The meeting held on January 3 was to accept the letter of resignation of the Deputy Clerk and to fill that position. Crystal Bartel submitted a letter of resignation on December 19 with an effective date of January 1 as her last day.

Bartel wrote in her letter that she had accepted a position that is not far from her home. She resides in Plainwell.

With the meeting subject being the possibility of hiring Commissioner Melanie Marvin as a full-time employee, Marvin excused herself from the discussion and the room. Once the motion was made to offer Marvin a full-time position doing utility billing, payroll, and other duties as needed, Marvin returned to the meeting.

Marvin resigned her seat on the City Commission to accept the full-time position. While she has another employer, she will be giving two-week notice. Marvin will be paid $aidin.kher emmanother emmployer16.50 per hour.

Marvin said following the meeting that making the choice to step down from the Commission was a difficult one for her. As Marvin has served in different capacities on a part-time temporary basis over the years she stated, “I love working at City Hall but also loved being a City Commissioner, this was very emotional for me,” Marvin said. Most recently Marvin had been brought in to help with the water billing. Marvin said some mistakes had been made with the water billing that she was working with Bartel on to try to correct. In addition she has done some grant work and other duties as needed. The City does not currently have a City Manager on staff.

Marvin’s term on the City Commission was set to expire at the end of 2018. The Mayor will likely appoint someone to fill her term.

Water billing delayed

Water customers of Watervliet City will be receiving their water bills late. Due to a complete audit of all water accounts, it is necessary to delay the billing. Once customers do receive their bills they will still have the standard 27 days to pay.

Senior Services

Hartford United Methodist Church

425 E. Main St., Hartford

Monday, January 16, lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m.; Bingo & Euchre/cards, 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 17, lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m.; Cardio Drumming, Euchre/cards, & computer help, 1:00 p.m.; Knitting, 1:30 p.m.

Friday, January 20, lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m.; Euchre/cards, 1:00 p.m.; Knitting, crocheting, & needlework, 1:30 p.m.

All seniors, age 60 and older, residing in Van Buren County are eligible to participate in these programs and activities.

Any questions or comments, please, contact Senior Services Paw Paw office at 269-655-8000. Rides are available through Van Buren Public Transit with no less than 24-hour advance notice at (269) 427-7921.

North Berrien Historical Museum presents Exploring the Grand Galapagos, January 17

 Escape the winter blues at the North Berrien Historical Museum. Explore the tropical Galapagos Islands with Sarett Nature Center’s Director Dianne Braybrook on Tuesday, January 17 at 7:00 p.m. Refreshments will follow.

Laying on the equator, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands contain 15 separate islands and numerous endemic wildlife species. Wildlife highlights of the islands include: the Galapagos tortoise, Galapagos penguins, marine and land iguanas, Darwin finches, waved albatross, flightless cormorants and blue footed boobies. Join Dianne as she relives her adventures of walking, snorkeling and “panga” riding at this wildlife enthusiast travel destination.

No RSVP is required for this free program. For questions, contact the museum at (269) 468-3330 or at kristen@northberrienhistory.org.

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