04-06-2017 Michigan education: Classes, conferences, mascots & graduation requirements; Hartfor

STANDING ROOM ONLY… at the recent Red Arrow Elementary Art Show in Hartford. Art Teacher Julie Rae Fisher Jacobusse coordinated the event through a third-party vendor who took on the task of framing and matting the students’ works, which in turn was avail-able for sale at the event. Any unsold art is then meticulously removed from the frames and returned to the students. Funds raised from the event will reload and expand Red Arrow’s art supplies stock. Woodside Upper Elementary hosted their Art Show on March 29. The huge turnout and exceptional sales success of the inaugural elementary shows has caught the attention of the middle & high school art department now considering the same format when they host a similar event later this spring.

Michigan education: Classes, conferences, mascots & graduation requirements…how issues impact local schools

By Jon Bisnett

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has released updated enrollment figures for the 2017-18 school year, with a couple area schools facing a Class ranking change for next fall. While at the same time, the head of the Michigan Department of Education seeks power to force the hand of schools bearing Native American mascots as Tri-City schools offer preferred graduation rates and face athletic conference realignment.


Michigan high schools with enrollments of 881 and above will now be considered Class A; while Class B schools will fall between 406 and 880. Class C runs 204-405, and those smaller schools with an enrollment at 203 or less are Class D.

Berrien County will see Lakeshore move back to Class A, after serving the past two years in Class B.   The Lancers did make the Class B state finals in boys’ basketball during that time.  Niles drops to Class B finding itself now the smallest school in the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference.

St. Joseph stands alone as the largest high school in Berrien County with an enrollment of 1,043, while non-public Watervliet Grace Christian sits at only 23 students as the smallest.

The largest school in Van Buren County is Mattawan at 1,171, with Covert firmly planted as the smallest coming in at just 140.  Edwardsburg is the largest in Cass County carrying 835 students, less than 5% away from the new Class A bubble.

None of the Tri-City schools are directly impacted by the revised MHSAA Classes, but now with Hartford moving to the more balanced demographics of the newly formed Southwest 10 Conference along with recent SAC schools Bangor, Bloomingdale, Decatur, Eau Claire and Marcellus; Watervliet and Coloma find themselves on the outside looking in as they now stand as the two southern most schools of a fractured SAC that has now essentially become close to a relabeled version of the old KVA League putting the bulk of their conference schedule versus Kalamazoo area schools. As Coloma and Watervliet readjust their fall football schedules, it is some conciliation that the Comets & Panthers cross-town rivalry remains intact after only a short absence.

It is worth noting that basketball and volleyball both use the Class system to determine their playoff qualifiers. Class rating comes into play as just a portion of the more complex formula used to place the football playoff seeds.

Mascot debate reaches Lansing

Michigan State Superintendent Brian Whiston is waiting for word from the attorney general’s office on whether he can cut funding for school districts with offensive nicknames if they don’t change them. In particular, he wants to force Paw Paw and Saranac to drop the “Redskins” monikers, which boards from both districts have recently voted to retain. Whiston told reporters this week if the attorney general says he doesn’t have the authority under current law, he will start lobbying the legislature for that power. He adds his office is working with Michigan’s Native American tribes on the issue. Whiston, speaking after the State Board of Education meeting in March, said he asked Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in February to issue a formal legal opinion on the matter. “We’re waiting for that answer,” said Whiston. “If it comes back saying ‘no we don’t have that authority,’ it could go to the legislature to determine if they want to give us that authority.”

If Whiston is granted the authority to issue them, the potential fines could ill-affect as much as 5 to 10 percent of a school district’s state aid payment.

Controversy over Native American mascots is nothing new in Michigan. The issue flared most recently in Paw Paw where the school board voted 4-3 to keep the district’s Redskins mascot and logo following a very ugly and public battle of the protagonists. Several heated board meetings preceded the vote, with pro “Redskins” supporters campaigning with yard signs and even going so far as to purchase a billboard on I-94 with the simple message “We Are The Redskins.”