03-23-2017 Eric Laws joins Watervliet Board of Education; Middle School/High School Open House set f

Eric Laws joins Watervliet Board of Education; Middle School/High School Open House set for April 29

By Kristy Noack

Eric Laws was appointed to the Watervliet Public School’s Board of Education Monday in the first meeting held at the middle school/high school media center following Phase 2 construction. He filled the seat vacated by Kate Attila-Hyska.

Laws is currently employed by the Whirlpool Corporation as an engineering manager at the Edgewater Technology Center in St. Joseph. He has been with Whirlpool for 13 years.

Eric Laws


Laws is originally from Tennessee and has lived in Watervliet for four years. His wife Angela is employed by Watervliet Public Schools as a fifth grade language arts teacher at North Elementary. The couple has two daughters, McKaylen, a first-grade student at South Elementary, and Lauren, a fifth-grade student at North Elementary.

The board received “four quality candidates,” according to Superintendent Kevin Schooley, for the open position.

Schooley touted the experience Laws has with “team building skills and data based decision making” as characteristics that will benefit the board.

In addition to his seat on the board, Laws was appointed to the negotiations/personnel, superintendent review, school board policy review, and curriculum committees.

Trustee Troy Boone was replaced on the school board policy review by Laws. Boone has upcoming commitments that may conflict with regularly scheduled meetings. Boone received a new role on the negotiations/personnel committee. He previously held the role of alternate; he will now serve as a regular member.

Open House set for April 29

Schooley provided the board with a Phase 2 construction update. The remaining items open on the contract are simple punch list items including touch up painting, replacement of outlet covers, and the like. There are no large to-do items open. According to Schooley, “We’re about done.”

Schooley also advised that an open house will be held Saturday, April 29 from 10:00 a.m. until noon. The middle and high schools will be open for the community to roam the halls to see the improvements in infrastructure and technology.

The board’s facility committee will be meeting soon to review a list of potential projects. Schooley reported there is $1.8 million in additional scope money still available for projects. Some of the money has been received through rebates, and the district has until June 2019 to complete any projects it decides to undertake.

1:1 computing initiative approved

The board approved the 1:1 computing initiative at a hardware cost not to exceed $130,000. The program, which essentially recommends one laptop for each student in grades nine through 12 to use in and out of the classroom, was researched by Curriculum Director Susan Toothman. According to Schooley, the cost of the program has been approved by the district’s bond council and financial advisor.

Toothman spent six months researching the 1:1 program. She advised the board that Chrome books would be offered to the students, and plenty of thought and research has gone into determining the merits of the program. Teachers will be offered boot camps to learn the computers, and Watervliet personnel will be collaborating with Eau Claire and Coloma to see how their 1:1 programs have fared. The plan is to distribute Chrome books to all high school and middle school teachers and administrators first, with students receiving the computers in the fall of 2017. Additionally, discussions were held with parents, staff, and administrators, site visits were held at other schools, and policies were created regarding the acceptable use of the computers.

Schooley noted that the dissemination of computers “is not replacing a teacher. It’s facilitating (the classroom experience).” He also noted that providing computers to each student will aid in “kids becoming a good digital citizen.” Trustee Matt Clay commented, “I think it’s a very valuable tool for the students.”

Approvals for financials, senior trip

The board members approved $1,253,276.78 for February expenses. Of that figure, $703,495.55 is related to payroll expenses throughout the district.

Additional bills paid included $18,048.00 to EDUStaff for substitute teachers, $125,982.15 to Miller-Davis for Phase 2 construction work, $4,320.10 to HEI Wireless for the installation of cameras in school vans, and $7,915.14 to the City of Watervliet for water and sewer services.

The Class of 2017 received approval for a two-night trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. The trip will occur May 26 through May 28. Class advisors Kathy Litaker and Rhonda Lee will supervise the trip. The cost to the 25 seniors attending will be $175 per person.

Curriculum spotlight: South second-graders showcase science fun

Second grade students from South Elementary were on hand to demonstrate gravity. Second grade teachers Rebecca Dobbs, Amy Iliff, and Linda Zuniga explained how the teaching of science has changed from a book learning/memorization format to a more hands on experience.

Students are tasked with creating projects to help them learn about science topics. For instance, second-graders created blueprints on index cards of a parachute to demonstrate gravity. The students showed board members how their parachutes were constructed based on the blueprints and what materials they used.

Carole Fetke, principal at South Elementary, said, “It’s exciting to see how much (students) do with (science). It’s exciting. It’s very cool that they can articulate and use the vocabulary.”

Dobbs shared, “Now that (students) are more hands on, they are more engaged. They’re excited.”

Watervliet is 52 out of 639 Michigan high schools

Superintendent Schooley advised the board that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy released its 2016 Michigan Context and Performance report card. The study reviews Michigan high schools’ four-year average of state standardized test scores.

Watervliet finished with a 92% and is in the top 10% of Michigan high schools. Numerically, Watervliet ranked 52nd out of 639. Board President Bill Spaulding said, “(The ranking) is a testament to our teachers. We couldn’t be prouder of the administration and teachers.”

Mark your calendars!

There is plenty of things going on for the students within the Watervliet district. On Monday, March 20 South School will host their variety show. The next day, Tuesday, March 21, North Elementary will hit the stage. Both events will take place at the high school auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, March 24 will be a busy day in the district. From 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. a spaghetti supper fundraiser will be held at North Elementary. The fundraiser will benefit Mrs. Cathy Bingaman’s family. Bingaman is a counselor at North School, and the family needs a wheelchair accessible van for her daughter who suffers from Rett Syndrome. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for children and can be purchased at North School.

Also on the 24th is the middle school talent show. The event will be held at the high school auditorium and kicks off at 6:00 p.m.

Stop by the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, Michigan to view the annual Elementary Arts display. Under the direction of Mrs. Laws, a fifth-grade teacher at North Elementary, 40 entries by Watervliet students in the Young Rembrandt’s program were accepted into the exhibition. The works of art will be displayed until March 25.

FUN WITH SCIENCE… South Elementary second-grader Bryce Teitsma, with the help of teacher Amy Iliff, showed Watervliet Board of Education members just how much fun science can be! Teitsma demonstrated how a handmade parachute was constructed and the effect gravity had on it. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)