03-07-2019 State Champs! Comet bowlers bring home trophy; Lansing lawmakers consider Snow Day forg

State Champs! Comet bowlers bring home trophy

DIVISION 3 STATE CHAMPIONS BRING THE HARDWARE HOME… The Coloma girls’ varsity bowling team captured the state championship title Friday with a win over Birch Run. Team members include Paige Burgess, Narelle Hickmon, Lainey Meader, Ashley Ikerd, Emily Feldten, Carissa Richmond, and Morgan Hosbein. The team is coached by Carley Burrell. Meader also bowled her way to the state runner-up title in individual competition. See the Press Box Reports on Page 12,13, & 14 for all the local sports.

Lansing lawmakers consider Snow Day forgiveness; extreme winter weather prompts lawmakers to action

By Jon Bisnett Word comes out of Lansing of several pending proposals that would lessen the burden on Michigan schools when it comes to the potential to make-up snow days. Some legislators from both sides of the aisle feel the weather has been so extreme that the Snow Day rules should be bent. The most current Tri-City “Snow Days” scoreboard finds Hartford with a total of 11, Watervliet and Grace Christian at 10 and Coloma Public Schools with 9. Michigan law requires both 180 days of instruction and a minimum of 1,098 instructional hours by law. The state provides six days of standard allowable forgiveness. Schools may file a waiver request for up to an additional three days of forgiveness with the State Superintendent’s Office. To date, 175 waiver requests have been submitted, 77 have been approved and none have been rejected. Hartford has applied and received the 3-day waiver, leaving the district 2 days over, while Watervliet is still awaiting an answer on its waiver request. Coloma has yet to submit, using a mid-winter break day as a make-up and are currently just two over the limit. Superintendent Dave Ehlers says he’s holding on to his application to see if March is cruel or kind and once winter weather is clear, will submit for the two days they need. While many districts throughout Michigan have already reached or exceeded nine snow days, some are up to 16 or more, which means their students would have at least an extra week of school in June. Legislative bail out? One recently introduced piece of legislation would exclude days canceled during state-declared emergencies. If enacted, the five-day period from Jan. 28 through Feb. 1 could be forgiven across the state. “It is a unique extreme situation — the state government’s closed down, things are closed down — is it reasonable to have those school days count?” said Owosso Republican Rep. Ben Frederick, sponsor of one of the bills. State Representative Michele Hoitenga, a Republican from Manton, is drafting legislation that would allow school districts to choose between the 180 days or the 1,098 classroom hours, giving the local districts more autonomy in how they balance safety with educational mandates. Senate Majority Leader Republican Mike Shirkey is wary of wiping clear snow days. He did vote for the 2013 law that allowed for extra classroom hours. Shirkey told the Lansing Journal, “I do feel sorry for what we’re enduring from a weather standpoint this year,” he said. “But I’m not really interested in taking more school days away from our kids. We’re already in certain areas underperforming. They need all the school days we can get.” Precedent The state has granted leniency before, when in 2013, former Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that let schools with too many snow days avoid having to schedule extra days that June. Districts were allowed to schedule longer days to make up the difference. Supporters said at the time that adding extra days were a hardship for families that had already scheduled vacations and summer camps. Michigan Department of Education spokesman Bill DiSessa commented, “We recommend schools add days, not just hours, because our research indicates adding time to the end of a school day fails to promote true learning among students.” Governor Gretchen Whitmer told news sources last week that she is open to forgiving snow days that occurred during the state of emergency. How the pending legislation will play out is still uncertain at this time.

Room at county facility named Kenneth Wendzel Conference Room

y Annette Christie One of the longest serving commissioners serving the citizens of Berrien County was honored Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 by having a room at the Berrien County Administration Center named after him. Bainbridge Township man, Kenneth Wendzel was a Berrien County Commissioner from 1969-1998 and served as the Finance Committee Chairman for 20 of those years. Mr. Wendzel took it upon himself to assure that the budget was balanced and was personally involved in that process. He and many of his family members listened at the naming ceremony as many individuals stood up and acknowledged him for his years of service. Commissioner Jon Hinkelman, who today serves in a similar district as Wendzel served commented, “Surround yourself with people that shape you, Kenny was one of them.” Hinkelman added, “He taught me about how local politics were.”

SERVICE RECOGNIZED… Berrien County Board Chairman R. McKinley Elliott (left) hands the plaque to Kenneth Wendzel (right) honoring him for his years of service to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. Wendzel is one of the longest standing members of the board serving from 1969 until 1998. A conference room in the Berrien County Administration Center is now named the Kenneth L. Wendzel Conference Room. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)

Rolland Oselka, of the southern portion of Berrien County, served with Wendzel and said that he was tough but fair. “Looked after the taxpayer money like it was his own,” Oselka commented. Former Berrien County Sheriff Forrest “Nick” Jewell said Kenny was a man of his word and while it sometimes may hurt, he balanced the budget. Without meaning any offense against anyone else, “I wish we had more people in office like Ken,” Jewell expressed. Former County Administrator John “Mike” Henry said Wendzel had a feisty nature for spirited debate, but when the discussions were all over and the vote was taken, it was never taken personal. “It was always about the issues and never the people.” Chairman R. McKinley Elliott added, “It was the Wendzel model.” Henry said adding, “He always had the best interest of the county at the front of everything he did.” Former Berrien County Prosecutor Dennis Wiley, now the Honorable Dennis Wiley presented a certificate of appreciation to Wendzel from the Berrien County Trial Court. “The honor today is long overdue,” Wiley said. Commissioner Jon Hinkelman read the following resolution as passed by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners: WHEREAS, Berrien County Policy ADM-1260 provides the policy and procedures for honoring and recognizing distinguished servants of Berrien County; and WHEREAS, Kenneth L. Wendzel was nominated to be honored in this manner in recognition of 30 years of uninterrupted service as a Berrien County Commissioner, 20 of which were in the position of Finance Committee Chairman; and WHEREAS, per policy ADM-1260, the Memorialization Advisory Committee met on February 14, 2019 to review the application and unanimously endorsed the recognition of Kenneth L. Wendzel. NOW THEREFORE be IT HEREBY RESOLVED that the Berrien County Board of Commissioners in honor of Mr. Kenneth Wendzel’s years of distinguished service to Berrien County, the State of Michigan, and the United States of America authorizes renamed Conference Room #4C, the Kenneth L. Wendzel Conference Room.

Following the speeches and presentations, Wendzel gave a word of advice to the current Commissioners, “Never buy anything you can’t pay for. Ask yourself, do you need it?” “I thank the board for the honor you have given me,” and in his humbleness said, “I hope I deserved it.” The plaque that will adorn the entry to the conference room reads as follows: Kenneth L. Wendzel Conference Room – Dedicated to the honor and legacy of Kenneth L. Wendzel who proudly, admirably and faithfully served the citizens of Berrien County for 30 years as a Berrien County Commissioner. He was a leader, inventor, visionary, humanitarian and concerned public servant who gave freely of his time and talents. Mr. Wendzel is credited with steering Berrien County’s financial position into the strong, solid place that it is today. With foresight and authority he instilled a sense of financial discipline into elected officials and department heads alike which securing sufficient funding for the fundamental services that Berrien County provides its citizens. His leadership and meticulous nature led to additional appointments on the Economic Development Board, the Loan Administration Board, and the Building Authority, of which he remains the Chairman. Mr. Wendzel believed deeply in the democratic principles upon which this Country was founded. His service reflects great credit upon himself, his family, Berrien County, the State of Michigan and the Nation. Kenneth Wendzel served as a Berrien County Commissioner from 1969-1998 and as the Finance Committee Chairperson from 1979-1998. He and his wife live in Bainbridge Township.

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