Watervliet native appointed to Trump Administration
Valerie (Dell) Huber, daughter of Merton and Donna Dell, was recently appointed by President Donald J. Trump to the position of chief of staff to the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C. The acting Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS, Don Wright, said Huber’s “wealth of professional experience in the field of public policy will serve her well in this position.”
According to its website, the department, under the leadership of Cabinet Secretary, Tom Price, is the nation’s principal agency for protecting and promoting the health of all Americans and for providing essential human services to those most in need. HHS is responsible for almost a quarter of all federal outlays and administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined.
In terms of annual budgets, HHS would rank sixth among all the world’s economies, demonstrating the vast responsibilities it has to protect the health of all Americans.
Huber is a 1976 graduate of Watervliet High School and a national abstinence education advocate. She took the oath of office on June 5 and is honored to serve her nation and its citizens in this capacity.
Coloma school year ends on high note
By Annette Christie
Principals in the Coloma School District gave the school board a review at their meeting on Monday, June 12 of how year-end went and all of it was positive.
Graduating seniors took place in a walk through the elementary school. While it was a volunteer event in their caps and gowns, Principal Dave Ehlers announced that all seniors participated. He commented that while they changed a few things with the graduation service, it all seemed to be well received as he heard no complaints.
Intermediate School Principal Darla England told the bard that they just finished a “Comet Crusade” which she described as Amazing Race on steroids. The students were put into teams with fellow students that were unknown to them and the physical and mental challenges encouraged them to work together. England said they were especially thankful for all the parent volunteers that came out to help on that day.
They also finished the day with a “Read Out”, where students could choose to go anywhere outside on the grounds to read for the allotted time. They brought beach towels and chairs to make themselves comfortable for their dedicated reading time.
England said that the 4th graders had expressed some anxiety over using the lockers with combination locks next year. England arranged for a visit and lunch with the 5th graders so they could be shown and could experiment with the lockers. The 4th graders expressed that they were less anxious following the task.
Elementary School Principal Krista Bethke said that this year’s Field Day went very well and also applauded all the parent volunteers and the PTO for their help. She said that the Summer Literacy Camp will take place once again for students who need a little extra focus on reading.
The district’s food service program will be providing breakfast and lunch from June 19 – August 11, while various camps and summer programs are taking place. The free service is available from 8-8:45 for breakfast and 11 – 11:45 for lunch, although those times may be adjusted as needed. Students that are attending band camp this year will be fed also, which is new this year.
The board approved a bid for grounds/lawn services from Precision Cutz, LLC at a cost of $11,880 for mowing from July 1 – November 30. Precision Cutz will do all of the grounds with the exception of the athletic fields, which school personnel will maintain.
They also approved the purchase of equipment for a remodel at the elementary school in the amount of $24,188.91 as well as a new dishwasher table and installation at the intermediate school. The funds will come from the food service budget, out of the fund balance.
The board approved a resolution which supports the Berrien County 5th Year Early/Middle College program for the 2017-2018 school year. The program allows for seniors to continue one more year at the local school, but is enrolled full-time at Lake Michigan College at the same time. These students will end up after five years of high school, with not only a high school diploma, but an associate’s degree as well. Last year two students from the district were enrolled in the program, with an increase to four students this year.
Recently an audit was completed on the 2012 Bond issuance. As of June 30, the fund balance from those bond proceeds was $8,800. The district will be looking at how to effectively use those funds in the coming months.
Superintendent Peter Bush provided a budget staffing update as the district looks to end its fiscal year. A budget amendment will be necessary to accommodate some sick time payouts that had to be made for some recent retirements.
While a recent overview of the budget showed approximately a $167,000 deficit, some work has been done to decrease that. With the recent action in Lansing, it looks as though the district might get an extra $28,000 in student count funding. Some staffing retirements could allow for less expensive salaries as well as not filling a vacancy. After review and tweaking, the district might actually end up $38,000 to the good. This will all be discussed and finalized at the upcoming Annual Budget Hearing being held on June 26 at 7:00 p.m.
SILENT SALUTE… Hartford Fire Department #1841 joins Watervliet Fire Department Tower #2190 to salute the life of Retired Hartford Chief Harold “Cocky” Walker Jr. on Tuesday, June 13 at the Hart-ford United Methodist Church. Firefighters from as far as Kentucky came to mourn the passing of Walker whose service to the department spanned over 40 years. See obituary on Page 6. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)
Watervliet Board of Education approves Middle School Soccer Club, retirees recognized with Golden Apples
By Kristy Noack
Watervliet Middle School Panthers interested in playing soccer this fall won’t have to travel far to have fun. The Watervliet Board of Education approved a measure Monday, June 12 to allow the creation of a Middle School club, the use of school district facilities to accommodate home games, all in an effort to show their support of the youngsters who want to play soccer for Watervliet.
The request for support initially came at last month’s school board meeting where a group of parents expressed a desire to have the club sport offered at Watervliet. The board tasked Superintendent Schooley, Athletic Director Ken Dietz, and Transportation/Maintenance Director Mark Isbrecht with determining whether the school could support the club with existing facilities, what the cost to the district would be, as well as whether the district would face an increase in liability.
Schooley advised that space for the sport would be available near the bus garage, behind the middle school, or at North Elementary. The estimated cost to the school to implement the club sport rang in at $500 – $750 annually in supplies and hourly work. There was no increase to the district in terms of liability.
THE APPLES OF THE DISTRICT’S EYE… The Watervliet Board of Education recognized eight employees Monday night who retired from the district during the 2016-2017 school year. The retirees were presented with Golden Apples as a token of the district’s appreciation for their service. Pictured (from the left) are: retiree Peg Farac, Board President Bill Spaulding, retiree Randy Lowe, reti-ree Mary Kane, and Superintendent Kevin Schooley. Other retirees who were recognized but not able to attend Monday’s meeting were: Barb Roe, Mary Buck, Kathy Golladay, Dianne Moker, and Joanne Scheid. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
Another consideration the trio reviewed was the effect the creation of a club soccer program would have on other fall sports offered at the school. At this time, that variable is still unknown.
During Monday night’s initial sign-up for the club, 18 youngsters expressed interest in playing. Another registration event will be held later this month. The club’s registration is due by the end of the month. A second club soccer team might be deemed necessary if there is overwhelming additional interest.
Board Trustee Eric Laws commented his concern “the board should be more focused on a higher level.” He put forth a motion that tasked Schooley and Dietz with drafting a procedure to establish guidelines by which the board can evaluate the creation of sports programs within the district. Laws recommended the first draft of the procedure be available for review by the October board meeting. The motion passed.
Golden Apples awarded to retirees
Also on tap Monday night was the recognition of eight school district employees who retired during the 2016-2017 school year.
Randy Lowe spent 15 years at the middle school as a custodial/maintenance employee. Schooley called Lowe “the MacGyver of the middle school/high school building and a dedicated leader.”
Watervliet Middle School Principal Dave Armstrong said Lowe excelled “not just at the maintenance stuff. It’s how he interacts with the kids.”
Peg Farac retired after 32 years in the high school. She was a special education teacher, and Schooley referred to her as “dedicated, hard-working. Peg, as sweet as she is, has the work ethic of a prize fighter.”
Mary Kane spent 24 years at North Elementary School. She was involved with school improvement and the implementation of technology. “On a personal level,” Schooley remarked, “she’s been a leader in that building and it was huge for my development.” Schooley began his career as a principal at North School before becoming superintendent.
Barb Roe held various jobs within the district during her 16 year tenure. She concluded her career at South Elementary working with special education students. The board agreed Roe will be missed.
Mary Buck was a paraprofessional for 36 years at South Elementary. Schooley said, “She is a historian of how things evolved” at South school.
Kathy Golladay will be leaving the high school’s food service department after 29 years in the district. Schooley stated that Golladay is conscientious and caring.
Dianne Moker retired last September after 10 years as the district’s Finance Coordinator. The board complimented her on diligence and careful consideration of the district’s financial state.
Joanne Scheid retired last November as the district’s payroll clerk after 29 years. Schooley said, “She took care of the people that took care of the kids.”
School Resource Officer approved
Acting on a recommendation and thorough evaluation process, the board approved the hiring of a School Resource Officer. Filling the position will be Bruce McKamey. McKamey is a licensed police officer and lives in Three Oaks.
The city and townships of Watervliet agreed to enter into an agreement with the school district to share in the cost of having an officer at the school during the school day. The city and township each pay $20,000, while the district picks up $30,000 of the cost of the position. The position will begin with the 2017-2018 school year.
Approvals granted for an overnight trip and student handbooks
Jennifer Hollandsworth, the middle and high school band teacher, was on hand to request the board approve an overnight trip to New York City for the band and choir students.
The trip will be held April 25, 2018 through April 29, 2018. Students will hear a performance by the New York Philharmonic, see a Broadway musical, and will participate in clinics with Broadway artists. Currently, 49 students and 11 adults have signed up for the trip. Hollandsworth’s request was granted.
The board also approved student handbooks for North and South Elementary schools, the middle and high schools, as well as the athletic department for second reading.
The union that includes secretaries, custodians, and paraprofessionals has negotiated with Superintendent Schooley for a new agreement that begins July 1, 2017 and will expire on June 30, 2020. The contract allows for 2% salary increases each year and requires the district to institute state statutory hard cap figures. The Master Agreement was approved.
The district authorized the payment of bills in the amount of $1,326,159.99. Of that figure, $711,096.77 represented payroll expenses.
Summer construction update provided and bids approved for new projects
The district will undertake three major projects this summer that are financed through the balance of monies still available from Phase 2 construction.
The board approved site work that will include a walkway built along the outside of the high school track. This will make traversing the area between the parking lots and Panther Stadium easier for fans and visitors alike. The improvement will take four to six weeks, and equipment to start the work has already been moved on site. ICR of Watervliet was the low bidder at $22,975 and was approved to do the work.
Both elementary schools will have new flooring installed this summer, as well. The schools will also get new gym floors. Professional Floor Installation of Berrien Springs was awarded the contract for a price not to exceed $101,800.
As that scope of work is taking place, abatement of the last of the current floor tiles, installed in 1954, will occur. HBC Specialized Contracting was awarded the work for $21,551 and was the lowest bid of the six received.
Additionally, hallway carpet at the middle school will be replaced. Other summer improvement projects at the school will include the installation of hand rails along the bleacher seating at Panther Stadium, upgrade of phones district-wide, and evaluation of wireless access points.
Teaching contracts extended
The Watervliet Board of Education approved extending probationary teaching contracts to Jessica Grossman and Alaina Bongiorno.
Bongiorno will teach at North Elementary, while Grossman will teach science at the middle school.
The next school board meeting will be Monday, July 10 at the high/middle school media center.