05-14-2020 Watervliet High School Principal should be selected soon; June 12 set as graduation date;

BELOW FREEZING TEMPS RAISE HAVOC WITH LOCAL FARMERS… Pretty pink apple buds turned into Popsicles overnight when temperatures plummeted into the low to mid 20s in orchards at High Acres in Hartford on the Saturday night before Mother’s Day. Jason Meachum says, “A couple days early to claim a definitive catastrophe but all the signs are there. We cut 100 red delicious blossoms the afternoon after and found two alive. Where the irrigation was applied, we are predicting even more damage along with tree death.” The Meachums are field testing some experimental after-frost chemicals that have proven effective in the state of Washington, but only time will tell. A visit from Michigan State University Extension Small Fruit Educator Mark Longstroth provided a quick analysis of High Acres Concord grape crop, estimating a 50% loss. On a positive note no vegetable plants were out while the corn and soybeans remain unaffected as they had not yet broken ground. Additional frost warnings remained posted for this week. (Photo courtesy of High Acres)


Watervliet High School Principal should be selected soon

By Annette Christie

Watervliet Public Schools Superintendent Ric Seager told the school board at their Monday, May 11 meeting that he hopes to have a high school principal selected in the next couple of weeks.

Seager said there were 17 original candidates of which there were seven that went through the initial screening. Four of those individuals will be interviewed by a panel of administrators, staff, and board members. Of the four, two will be called back to make a presentation to the panel. “The goal is to have an accepted offer at the end of next week,” Seager said. Three of the individuals have been high school principals before. “It was a strong candidate pool and I look forward to the interviews,” Seager commented.

New staff introduced

Three new teachers were included in the virtual meeting for their introductions to the Board of Education. Seager said the district has offered contracts for three special education teachers. Taylor Bradley (a graduate from GVSU this spring), Jordan Wagner (currently in the Upper Peninsula but was born and raised in the Grand Rapids area) and Amy Brennfleck (currently in Colorado Springs, Colorado) will be filling vacancies at North Elementary and the high school.

School board election

Seager alerted the board that there are some candidates up for election this year. He announced to the board members that they will have board packets available in the office. He noted that July 21 is the deadline for them to file for the November ballot. Seager told the board that they will have to review some millage resolutions at their August board meeting.

April meeting overview

At the April meeting of the Watervliet School Board, administrators provided an overview of the district’s continuity of learning plan, given the Governor’s order to offer e-learning to students.

The elementary students were being provided paper learning packets. Supplemental technology support is also being provided to families.

Teachers and staff at the Middle School were attempting to bridge into online learning. There were 67 students that were identified as needing Chrome Books. Staff was surveying students and parents to determine technology needs.

High School students were receiving online instruction through Google Classroom and those that were lacking internet were being assisted.

The district hopes to receive funding through the CARES money for technology purchases.

It was announced that Deah Muth was selected as the Executive Secretary in the Superintendent’s Office.

June 12 set as graduation date; Coloma Schools finding a way to keep students engaged

By Annette Christie

The Coloma School Board was read different chapters by school administrators at their Monday, May 11 virtual meeting, but all from the same book – Keeping Students Engaged.

High School

High School Principal Mike Churchill said that teachers jumped right in on March 13 when instruction as they knew it changed. They began establishing e-learning processes and protocols to sustain learning. “Teachers did a great job and kids responded fairly well,” Churchill said.

Right after spring break their developed plan was submitted to Berrien RESA. The use of the Google Classroom platform was already prepared and had the ability for everyone to jump right in. Churchill noted that even some of those that were technically challenged, got on board.

Teachers are holding office hours, answering emails all hours of the night, and doing Zoom meetings with students as requested. Lobbies are open for people to pick up materials as needed. All e-learning, assignments are given on Monday morning and are due on Friday.

Churchill reported he delivered signs for seniors and teacher appreciation gifts were also distributed. “It was nice because we got to see families and kids from a distance,” he said. “Everyone has adapted and rolled with the punches very well as we have had to recreate learning as we know it.”

Junior High

Junior High Principal Wendy Tremblay said they have a lot of things going on similar to the high school. “Teachers were great about remote learning and a lot of the teachers were already familiar with Google Classroom,” Tremblay said adding, “The technology department has done a fabulous job.”

She noted that they are helping parents manage the learning from home and while they are not expecting them to be teachers, they are walking them through what they should look for. “Teachers are spending a lot of time making phone calls, reaching out to families, making a connection any way they can,” Tremblay said.

She suggested that some of the parents are struggling and the school counselor is helping parents identify resources to help them. Staff is working on all of the year end field trips that the students were supposed to go on. They will be providing refunds to families.

Intermediate School

Karra Hafer, Intermediate School principal, said that remote learning is going well. Staff, students, and parents alike are adjusting to changes, tweaking the learning as needed, and can see what doesn’t work. The support staff is working with meal deliveries for all students and at the high school parking lot for the pick-up line. Trying to send the message to the students that they are thought of, staff and teachers are sending out videos sharing the message that the students are missed. Hafer is continuing to make the daily morning announcements, just electronically.

Elementary School

Elementary School Principal John Klein said that as of May 6, teachers have made contact with approximately 90% of students. The kindergarten roundup and preschool roundup will be held virtually this year.

School Board President Heidi Ishmael told the administrators, “Please pass on to your staff, we appreciate everything they are doing. They are our lifeline.” School board member Steve Groendyk added, “Everything they are doing is exceptional.”

Other business

Superintendent Dave Ehlers announced that the alternate graduation date, for now anyways, is June 12. The final decision will be made after May 28, when the Governor could extend the Stay Home, Stay Safe order. “I’d like to tell you that I had a good feeling about that, but I can’t,” Ehlers said.

The district is continuing to work on a summer migrant school plan which may be done through in-camp instructions where they will rotate the instructors with materials. The plan is to run the program for 30 days in July, beginning shortly after the 4th.

The board authorized a van purchase for the food service program out of their funding. The quote was through the Mideal program and will cost $32,083. Food service personnel are continuing to distribute thousands of meals to students who go to school in the district.

Sherry Turner presents her mother Jean Stainbrook as “Best Mom” (TCR photo by Annette Christie)


Best Mom Award goes to Jean Stainbrook

By Annette Christie A lifelong Coloma resident was honored and humbled to be named the Best Mom by the Tri-City Record this past Mother’s Day. Sherry Turner authored the submitted letter, honoring her mom, Jean Stainbrook. “My Mom, Jean Stainbrook, will be 95 years old in June, lives alone (although receives assistance from a wonderful part-time caretaker), is active and still tries to boss me whenever the occasion presents itself,” Turner wrote. Growing up, Jean had two sisters and one brother. She lost her husband about 10 years ago and says that the community of family and friends has been taking care of her needs almost every day since. She has a son, Gary, in addition to daughter Sherry. She is blessed with four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Sherry wrote in her letter, “How does one summarize 70-plus years of support, direction, teaching, discipline and love? We did have disagreements and arguments over the years but forgiveness eventually was the understanding and through it all, we have become best friends,” Turner said. As with almost everything else affected by COVID-19, Sherry has had to restrict the interaction with her mom. She wrote, “Now with the ‘stay home, stay safe’ pandemic, I haven’t been able to see Mom as often as I’d like and when I do, I wear a face mask, use sanitizer, keep distance and no hugging. Her words of praise and wisdom are wonderful to hear but I miss having my mother holding my hand, giving me a kiss and hug. I now realize these are valuable gifts, not to be taken for granted, and convey insights of all those years of her sacrificing and the unconditional love that reaches down into my soul and will be treasured forever!” Hopefully very soon, Sherry, and all of those with moms here on earth, will be able to get those hugs that are needed. Jean was presented with a bouquet of roses arranged by The Flower Basket in Watervliet as gift for being named Tri-City Record’s Best Mom in 2020.

The following is Sherry Turner’s letter in entirety: Mom: treasured forever Dear Editor, My mom, Jean Stainbrook of Coloma, will be 95 years old in June, lives alone (although receives assistance from a wonderful part-time caretaker), is active and still tries to boss me whenever the occasion presents itself. How does one summarize 70-plus years of support, direction, teaching, discipline and love? We did have disagreements and arguments over the years but forgiveness eventually was the understanding and through it all, we have become best friends. Now with the “stay home, stay safe” pandemic, I haven’t been able to see Mom as often as I’d like and when I do, I wear a face mask, use sanitizer, keep distance and no hugging. Her words of praise and wisdom are wonderful to hear but I miss having my mother holding my hand, giving me a kiss and hug. I now realize these are valuable gifts, not to be taken for granted, and convey insights of all those years of her sacrificing and the unconditional love that reaches down into my soul and will be treasured forever! Thank you MOM – You are the Best – I Love You! Sherry Turner

The following is another Best Mom letter received by the Tri-City Record for the contest: Mom with a heart of gold Dear Editor, My mom, Deb DeLaTorre, is the best mom a girl could have, or any kid for that matter. She always makes time to check in with all three of us kids every day. She makes sure she is at all of our school events, from football games, track meets, and band concerts. She’s always there to support her kids. She even goes to some of her student’s sport events to support them as well. Even during these tough times, she still checks in with her students and makes sure they have all the resources they need to succeed. She also is part of the North Berrien Fire Auxiliary, where she makes sure our fire fighters are hydrated during their long structure fires. My mom has taught me that hard work pays off and that family will always be there to support you. I know that I can come to her with any problem and she will give me the best advice. She has a heart of gold and I wouldn’t want to have anyone else as my mom! Ariel, Alec and AshLynn DeLaTorre

COVID update in Berrien County; Numbers still rising

By Annette Christie

At the weekly press conference held at the Berrien County Health Department last Friday, officials presented the current status of Berrien County with regard to COVID-19. On that day, there had been 376 confirmed cases, 22 deaths, and 216 recovered. To demonstrate the type of change that is continuing to occur, as of May 12 that number of confirmed cased had increased to 411 with 25 deaths and 258 recovered.

Health Officer Nicki Britten noted that people are growing weary of the restrictions, especially with warm weather upon us but declared all the safeguards in place are working. “It has been effective,” Britten said.

Dr. Loren Hamel said that there are currently about 20 patients in the hospital now and that the Spectrum Health System still has a lot of capacity. “We have two ICUs and a good number of beds available,” Hamel said. One of the areas that could present a substantial increase in numbers is nursing homes and long term care facilities and the Health Department is monitoring that closely. This is a national trend, not just in Berrien County. The numbers are demonstrating what was expected and as a lot more testing is being done it makes sense that the numbers will go up.

Another area that could present a problem is in the incarcerated population. Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit said that they are working closely with the Health Dept. and are using a symptomatic approach to testing with the inmates. There were 10 inmates that were tested and they all came back negative. He said they took a proactive approach early on with screening and ultimately restricting all visitors and non essential personnel in the jail. An arresting officer used to come in the jail with an individual but that doesn’t happen anymore. Heit noted that while they are taking every effort to keep the virus from spreading, even the best efforts may not be successful. Berrien County has arranged for a professional cleaning company to come in to clean what could be trouble areas.

Dr. Hamel commented that they are aware that people are growing tired of the quarantine, however, this is continuing. The west side of Michigan didn’t get hit as hard or as fast. Hamel said, “Our prediction is that we will continue to have increases. We have to drive the numbers of cases, the numbers of hospitalizations, and the numbers of deaths down,” Hamel said. He noted that around the country, there is a push to open but that he supports what the Governor is suggesting and we need to be really diligent.

As talks of re-opening have been more on the fore-front, so is the discussion of how to do that safely. Britten has been working with the business sector and economic development agencies on how best to re-open but keep good practices in place. Through an Emergency Operations standpoint, Heit said we are working on a safe re-opening and an economic recovery understanding that COVID-19 is highly contagious and dangerous.

Berrienreopens.org is a new website where business owners can find guidance and specific information on how to get these recommended safeguards in their business. Last week the construction and real estate industries were opened back up and manufacturing was to resume on May 11. Heit wanted to remind people that the executive orders are still in place and one part of those orders is to wear a cloth facial mask when in a closed public space. He encouraged people to visit the State of Michigan website, Michigan.gov to see all the executive orders and to become more educated on the actual content of them.

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