Coloma School Board to host Community Forums on millage vote
By Annette Christie The Coloma School Board is hosting two upcoming Community Forums on the sinking fund millage request that will go before voters in the May 8, 2018 election. The two events will be held in the Coloma High School auditorium at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 26 and Wednesday, April 18. The voters will be asked to approve a 1.25 mill sinking fund request for the renovation and repair of district facilities, along with site and safety/security improvements. The Building & Site Sinking Fund would be used for specific repairs and improvements in the district. In the first five years of the sinking fund the district would plan to complete the following: A new roof on the high school and the main gymnasium; improved school security/safety in all buildings with the additions of cameras, improved doors/locks and site lighting, where needed; resurface parking lots at the junior high, high school and intermediate buildings; improve the playground at Coloma Intermediate for the 4th and 5th grade students, while also being available for the community to use after school hours; and improvements at Alwood Gym, including a new roof, bleachers, remodeled entry way and renovating the bathrooms. In addition, district officials would hope to address any needs with the aging boiler systems in the schools, renovate some of the older classrooms and hallways in the elementary and high schools, and any other issues that might arise over the next 10 years. In January of this year, the school board approved asking the voters for the sinking fund following several months filled with information and consideration. 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. In approving the millage proposal, the district could generate approximately $482,000 annually through 2027. This would cost the taxpayer of a home valued at $100,000, about $62 a year or $5 a month. In other business at the School Board meeting on Monday, March 19, the board approved two overnight trips for students. The eighth graders will have an opportunity to go to Mackinac Island in June. About 40 students will be going on the trip which rewards students for good citizenship and grades. The high school choir students will have an opportunity to sing at a Disney property after Thanksgiving this year. The plan is to be a part of the candlelight processional held at Epcot, however if the choir does not get selected for that premier performance, they will perform at a different park. Choir Director Rebecca Selvidge told the board that this has been in the works for four or five years. If selected, the Coloma High School Choir will perform collegiate level songs along with the Disney Symphony and Disney Choir. Selvidge said the choirs are up to the challenge of preparing “up to Disney standards.” The Board also approved applying for a grant from the Berrien Community Foundation for the Gatekeeper Suicide Prevention Curriculum. The curriculum will be presented to seventh graders and involves educating students and teachers on how to recognize the warning signs and how to respond appropriately. The program is designed for students at that grade level. The district has already obtained some grants for the program but not for the full amount. They are hoping this grant will provide that.
BEST BUDDIES… Coloma Middle Schoolers Caleb Ishmael (left) and Brodie McQuillan dressed up as leprechauns and hit the pavement coming in 4th and 5th in their age category of 14 and under at Saturday’s 5K race. (TCR photo by Lynn Attila)
OVERALL WINNER… of the Coloma St. Patrick’s Day Parade, scoring maximum points and taking home the Grand Prize of $200 and a trophy, was Ellie Current. A sleepy Ellie is shown with her dad, Garth Current. She is also the daughter of Rebecca Atherton. (TCR photo by Lynn Attila)
St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Coloma well attended
By Lynn Mainwaring-Attila St. Patrick’s Day dawned with the crisp bite of winter still in the air and an overcast sky. This did not deter over 200 participants from hitting the pavement for the third annual Coloma St. Patrick’s Day 5K Walk and Run. Many dressed in costume adding a bit of whimsy to the event. For the first-time computer chips kept track of each runner/ walker as they toured a scenic course that began and ended at the Coloma Township Hall. Those garnering top honors are Ron Dixon, Hartford and Pam Behm, Niles in the walking category and Boden Genovese and Ava Genovese, both from Coloma, in the running category. The staff at the North Berrien Historical Museum greeted nearly 60 children guiding them through a fun and informational Scavenger Hunt. Solving all clues provided each participant “Irish Treasure” to take home. The children were surprised when a real-life Leprechaun stopped by for a visit. A small faction of young children stopped by the Coloma Public Library enjoying stories about “The Old Country” and made a decorative headband to wear at that evening’s lighted parade. Volunteers from the United Methodist Church served close to 100 hungry honorary “Irishmen” an Irish stew dinner, raising $500. The money raised goes to HOPE Resources Food Pantry Building Fund (formerly North Berrien Food Pantry). Saturday’s highlight was the much- anticipated Lighted Parade. As dusk began to fall, 38 parade entries gathered near the fire department with hopes of winning medals, trophies and “gold.” Marching bands, floats, royalty and a plethora of local “Irishmen” entertained an ample crowd down Coloma’s main street. All gathered at the Coloma Fire Station for cookies and hot cocoa while waiting for judges’ scoring to be tabulated. Overall winner, scoring the most points over all participants, was Ellie Current. The toddler, competing in the Decorated Vehicle Division with her goat, won $200 in gold $1 coins and a trophy. Ellie is the daughter of Garth Current and Rebecca Atherton. Other winners by category were: Municipal Division – North Berrien Fire Rescue, first place; Watervliet Fire Department, second place; Coloma Public Works, third place. Marching Band Division – Coloma High School Marching Band, first place; Knight Wind Medieval Street Performers, second place; Coloma Lioness Club, third place. Float Division – Coloma Lions Club, first place; Freshwater Church Band, second place; Coloma/St. Joseph KOA, third place. Costumed Individual – Watervliet Snow Prince and Princess, first place; Ivy Miller, second place; Lass from Watervliet, Jolie Bertuca, third place. Decorated Vehicle – Honors Credit Union, first place; Coloma Schools, second place; Leprechaun Wishes, Lyla Current, third place.
END OF THE RAINBOW… North Berrien Fire Rescue won first place at the St. Patrick’s parade in the Municipal Division. (TCR photo by Lynn Attila)
Upton, House advance school safety legislation; Bipartisan bill would improve early detection, intervention, and notification technology
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, joined his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives in voting to advance H.R. 4909, the STOP School Violence Act, by a 407 to 10 vote. Upton had previously co-sponsored the bill. “When we send our kids off to school, we expect them to arrive back home safely. This bipartisan legislation addresses flaws in the system that fail to prevent violence in school. It represents a common-sense step that students, teachers, and law enforcement should all agree on,” said Upton. “Importantly, this legislation will provide an historic investment in school safety plans including prevention training for teachers and administrators, the formation of crisis intervention teams with mental health professionals, and better coordination between schools and law enforcement. We won’t completely solve the problem of school violence overnight, but this is a great start.” Upton has met with students, parents, and teachers at schools in Berrien, Kalamazoo, and Van Buren counties in the weeks since the tragic Parkland, Florida, shooting to discuss ideas for curbing violence at schools. H.R. 4909 is a bill to help schools and communities stop violence before it happens by supplying $500 million for state-based grants focused on early intervention and school safety infrastructure. The Department of Justice would be authorized to make grants to states for the purpose of training students, school personnel, and law enforcement to identify potential signs of violence in order to prevent individuals from hurting themselves or others. The legislation also permits the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems, and formation of school threat assessment and intervention teams to help schools find and assess threats before tragedy strikes. H.R. 4909 is supported by groups such as the Sandy Hook Promise. H.R. 4909 also includes language from H.R. 4811, the Securing our Schools Act. This bill, co-sponsored by Upton, would authorize the Department of Justice to offer grants to local school districts for buying and installing SOS, or panic buttons, in classrooms. This notification technology will act as both a deterrent from, and front-line response to, situations that place children and educators in harm’s way. H.R. 4811 is supported by groups such as the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Education Association.
Rep. Beth Griffin files for re-election in District 66
State Representative Beth Griffin officially announced her plans to run for re-election as the Representative of Michigan’s 66th House District. “Serving the families of Southwest Michigan as their voice in Lansing is truly an honor,” Griffin said. “Michigan has made tremendous progress over the last several years. Although our economy is improving and new jobs are being created, I understand that there are some families still struggling. There’s more work to do, and I look forward to listening to my constituents, working with my colleagues, and getting the job done. I will continue to fight for efficient, effective, and accountable state government.” Representative Griffin’s focus in her second term will be on increasing the number of skilled trade opportunities and good paying jobs, making sure our public schools receive the funding they need, reforming auto no-fault insurance, and further investing in our roads and infrastructure. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to make life better for the hardworking people of Southwest Michigan,” Griffin said. Rep. Griffin is currently the State Representative for the 66th House District which includes all of Van Buren County, Alamo Township, Cooper Township, and the city of Parchment in Kalamazoo County.