02-02-2017 Hartford Public School Board moves into 2017 with optimism

 Hartford Public School Board moves into 2017 with optimism

By Jon Bisnett

The Hartford School Board kicked off 2017 with the Annual Organizational Meeting held January 12 that began with the swearing in of Jason Meachum and Rick Vawter who both prevailed from a field of four candidates vying for board seats in the November election. With his reelection, Meachum now has become the elder statesman of the board, first elected in 2006. Vawter is in fact no stranger having served on the board several years prior including a time as board president.

EVERY STUDENT MATTERS, EVERY MOMENT COUNTS… is the mantra of the 5-Year Strategic Plan for Hartford Public Schools, led through the 2017-18 school year by trustees pic-tured (from the left): Back row – Rick Vawter, Kurt Kuehnle, Jason Meachum, Ben Chambers, Mike Banic; Front row – Ginny Wesaw Rice and Lisa Johnson. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)


The board then went about the business of selecting officers. Ben Chambers will again serve as president with Mike Banic as vice president. Jason Meachum continues to serve as secretary along with Kurt Kuehnle who assumes the role of treasurer for the first time.

The Board also welcomed new Student Representative, junior, Olivia Zeimer.

Board compensation was set at $30 per meeting, representing no increase from the prior year.

Personnel Updates

The business session of January 19 began by recognizing one staffer while saying farewell to another.

Travis Vagts, 2nd Grade teacher at Red Arrow Elementary, was awarded the Golden Keyboard Award in recognition of his superior utilization of technology in the classroom. District tech gurus Kim DeBoom and Rob Steffey presented the award noting Vagts extensive use of video production with his students to the extent of “green screen” technique to create high quality videos crossing lines of several subjects in the classroom.

Superintendent Andy Hubbard announced the unexpected resignation of Middle School ESL Paraprofessional Andrea Trevino. Hubbard commended her work in the classroom in the short time Trevino has been in the position citing familiar matters as the cause for her departure.

Other Business

Final board approval was granted to the Class of 2017 Senior Trip to Orlando, Florida May 5 – 8.  Fifty of 61 seniors have committed to the 4-day, 3-night trip to the Sunshine State.

Technology bids for the construction at the Woodside site were awarded to MOSS Communications in the amount of $138,827.26 for classroom AV systems and to Amcomm Telecommunications for cabling infrastructure at a cost of $67,400.

First reading of NEOLA updates to the District Policy Manual was read into the record.

A brief discussion of the methodology for sale of the Red Arrow property led to the matter being tabled and slated to be revisited in February.

The board also gave approval for conference expenses for new Trustee Vawter to attend training sessions.

Bond Update

Hubbard and Mike Hallgren jointly reported that construction is moving along as expected at the elementary site.

High School and Middle School is still experiencing some bugs in the new energy management system. Hubbard stated as he has previously that contractors are working diligently to correct the issues while a half million dollar check sits locked up in Business Manager Hallgren’s desk to be released only when the system is all working correctly.

Administrative Reports

Principal Ed Dickenson reports participation in the After-School Literacy Program is running from 40-60 students weekly in support of the State of Michigan’s push for K-3 literacy. The program began January 10.

Red Arrow students will travel to Indiana University South Bend in February to attend a play. February will also see the Jump Rope for Heart program for K-2 students.

Woodside Principal Brad Geesaman has in-house staff training coming up in February. He is working on getting an illustrator to put on a program for students and parents. Students in grades 3-5 will travel to Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo for a hockey game on February 20. The trip in prior years was a reward for attaining reading goals and has been remodeled into a good behavior award instead.

Geesaman and Dickenson take part in a Principal Swap one day a week to help familiarize students, staff and the administrators with their new roles when the two buildings merge in fall of 2017. The new K-5 building will bear the name “Redwood” as the result of a naming contest held recently. Anyone in the community could submit a potential name. The administrators chose the finalists which were ultimately voted on by the students who will attend school there.

Middle School Principal Joel Messenger recapped recent events including a 3-part series of speakers focusing on the OK To Say anti-bullying program.

Science teacher Bruce Pennington secured a grant from Target that will allow his class to visit the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

Several Middle School girls will visit Southwestern Michigan College to attend the Girls Can Day which focuses on non-traditional careers for women.

Messenger also thanked Nicole Meachum for the formation of Hartford’s first Middle School National Honor Society chapter to recognize academic excellence at the MS level.

Student Representative Olivia Zeimer reminded that Winterfest 2017 is coming up on Friday, January 27 with a variety of spirit days in the preceding week.

Superintendent’s Report

Andy Hubbard led off with the recent results of the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy ranking Hartford as #3 in Van Buren County and scoring #87 of 639 Michigan Public High Schools.

Hubbard recently visited the classroom of Project Lead the Way and was thoroughly impressed with the collaborative student work that builds STEM values into a challenging yet fun arena to ply their newly found problem solving skills.

Survey report for year around school

Hubbard also reported the District survey of opinions of a revised school year which eliminated the block summer vacation and spaced breaks throughout the entire calendar year; 188 responses to the survey were received and ran mostly positive as did comments left on the District Facebook page. Hubbard reminded that in order for the modified school calendar to become a reality, all Van Buren County Schools must approve the change.

President Chambers called for a motion and subsequently took the board into closed session for the purpose of a student hearing.

COLOMA LIONS SUPPORT FOOD PANTRY… recently the Coloma Lions Club gave the North Berrien Food Pantry a donation of $500.00 to help support the work of the organi-zation. Pictured is Lion John Whisler, President presenting the check to Carole Sternaman, Director along with Lion Secretary, Dale Kreitner. The donation is a continuation of the history of the Coloma Lions Club supporting the entire Coloma community plus many state projects such as Leader Dog and Project Eversight which provides eye screening in area schools.


Senior Services

Hartford United Methodist Church

425 E. Main St., Hartford

Monday, February 6, lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m.; Bingo & Euchre/cards, 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, February 7, lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m.; Cardio Drumming, computer help and Euchre/cards, 1:00 p.m.; Knitting, 1:30 p.m.

Friday, February 10, 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.

HARTFORD RECOGNIZES SERVICE… Larry Anchor was honored by the City of Hartford at a recent commission meeting for decades of service to the community as firefighter, City Fire Board Representative and keeper of the Hartford Loan Closet. A 50-year pin and custom precision writing instrument were presented by Mayor Ted Johnson; the Board of Commissioners approved resolution saluting Anchor as well. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)


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