07-04-19 Paw Paw River Trail requires financial support for continual maintenance; Hartford Schools

WHS GRAD AWARDED SCHOLARSHIP… The Berrien County Republican Women’s Club awarded two scholarships at their June luncheon meeting. The recipients were Laurel Whitehead (left) and Alyssa Hobson (right). Laurel is a graduate of Lakeshore High School and will attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University majoring in Homeland Security. Alyssa is a 2018 graduate of Watervliet High School and currently attends Michigan State University majoring in Political Science. The scholarship recognizes students for their educational and extracurricular achievement.


UFO researcher to speak at Watervliet District Library

The Watervliet District Library will host an informative presentation on UFOs specific to Michigan, Monday July 8, from 7 to 8 p.m. Bill Konkolesky, State Director of the Michigan Chapter of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), is a long time researcher in the field and regularly delivers lectures on UFO phenomena.

Konkolesky will talk about Michigan’s many sightings, which are some of the biggest cases on record. The 1966 sightings over Southeast Michigan and 1994 sightings over Grand Rapids each had literally hundreds of eye-witnesses to them, including law enforcement and radar returns. Find out more about these incredible events as well as several other unusual and well-documented UFO sightings from the Great Lakes State.

Bill Konkolesky has also appeared in, or consulted for, televised UFO documentaries for the History Channel, Discovery Channel, Science Channel, National Geographic Channel, SyFy, and ABC. Additionally, he has contributed to numerous UFO books, magazines, and websites. Please contact the library at 269-463-6382 or info@wdlib.org, or follow them on Facebook for more details.

Paw Paw Lake Association meets Saturday, July6 The Paw Paw Lake Association will meet on Saturday, July 6 at 9:00 a.m. at Watervliet Township Hall, 4959 M-140. Members and guests are invited.

Vacation Bible School: Partying with Praise and Prayer! PARTY with Calvary Pentecostal Church in a Vacation Bible School setting. All children are welcome! They want to help your child connect with God. The children will learn how to build a strong foundation in prayer and learn what praise really means. Your child will learn how to connect with God on a personal level. The church will have games, hands on activities and serve ice cream, cotton candy and so much more! On the last day there will be a Fun Fair. There will be hot dogs, a cake walk and corn hole as well as other games and many prizes! Vacation Bible School is Thursday and Friday, August 8 and 9 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. The Fun Fair is on Saturday, August 10 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Calvary Pentecostal Church is located at 13 South Haver St. in Hartford. For more information please contact Kerri Archie at (269) 254-5929.

Guest Organist at Salem Lutheran Church, July 14 Salem Lutheran Church is honored to have Nicholas Quardokus, son of Timothy and Christine Quardokus of Bridgman, as guest organist on July 14. He is a graduate of Christ Lutheran School and Bridgman High School. Nicholas began organ studies in the eighth grade with Mark Steffens and later studied with Dr. Philip Peter. He has bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in organ performance from Indiana University and Yale University. Nicholas has played in churches and has performed in concerts throughout the Eastern United States. He has won top prizes in competitions and has played at both regional and national conventions of the American Guild of Organists. In August he will assume the full-time position of Assistant Organist at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York. Nicholas will be playing for the 9 a.m. Sunday Service with a reception in the Fellowship Hall after. All are welcome at 275 Marvin St., Coloma. In addition, Salem Lutheran Church is holding an Independence Day Picnic on Sunday, July 7 from noon to 3 p.m. in back of the Church.

ROYAL STORYTIME… On Wednesday, June 26 the Coloma Public Library hosted members of the 2019 Royalty of the Blossomtime Festival for a special family story time event. Blossomtime Royalty read stories and provided photo opportunities for over 40 children. There was a fun make and take craft included. Participants were welcomed to wear costumes, but it was not required. Here a story is read by Miss Coloma Samantha Scott.


Paw Paw River Trail requires financial support for continual maintenance

What do 17 municipal, tribal, and civic organizations spread throughout Berrien and Van Buren counties all have in common? They have all made a financial commitment to fund the Paw Paw River Water Trail (PPRWT) in 2019. This water trail for canoes and kayaks is 68 miles long, including two dam impoundments in Paw Paw, and runs from the Village of Paw Paw in Van Buren County to Benton Harbor. Below Maple Lake Dam in Paw Paw, the river runs for 66 miles through an extensive and wildlife rich floodplain forest unique in Southwest Michigan. Along the way the river runs through or near the communities of Lawrence, Hartford, Watervliet, Coloma, Riverside, and Benton Harbor, which have all enthusiastically embraced the concept of a recreational paddle trail through an environmentally significant natural area. After two years of funding, through an appropriation from the state legislature, 2019 is the year that the immensely successful PPRWT transitions to a local funding model. Marcy Hamilton, senior planner at Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, explains why this is important, “Although we have cleared a paddle pathway through log jams on more than 50 miles of river each of the last two years, there has to be annual maintenance every summer to take care of trees that fall over the winter. It is wonderful that so many communities and stakeholders along the Paw Paw River recognize its recreational importance and are willing to commit to yearly maintenance.” To get a sense of how many people are using the water trail, all anyone has to do is drive past bridge crossings over the Paw Paw River on a nice weekend in the summer. Everywhere there are parked vehicles with empty kayak racks on top. Another measure of the water trail’s popularity is its Facebook page (@PawPawRiverWaterTrail) which has over 1,400 followers. The popularity of the PPRWT actually creates a problem early in the season when warm weather encourages people to go paddling before the river level has gotten low enough to allow contractors to remove downed trees newly fallen over the winter. Hamilton cautions paddlers to always check the water trail website (www.pawpawriverwatertrail.org) to determine which segments are most appropriate for their paddling skill level and to learn where pathway clearing work has taken place. Paddlers are encouraged to report downed trees on the trail’s Facebook page or contact the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission at 269-925-1137 x1521. Another indicator of community support are the many improvements at launch facilities along the water trail ranging from the new universal access kayak launch at Sunset Park on Maple Lake in Paw Paw to the new Berrien County park in Watervliet, which also has a universal handicap kayak access. And just in the last few weeks, construction has begun on the recently approved kayak park in Riverside in Hagar Township which will also feature a universal handicap kayak launch. In addition, the Village of Lawrence has installed portable restrooms at their park downtown that serves as a trailhead for the water trail. While at first it was challenging to get everyone on board, Hamilton applauds the wide variety of stakeholders that have come together to support implementation of the PPRWT. Townships, cities/villages, economic development and chamber organizations, the Two Rivers Coalition and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi are all participating. But it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Some communities are contributing funds that SWMPC uses both to hire contractors to clear the pathway in their area and to pay for promotional activities. However, the communities of Coloma and Watervliet (both townships and both cities) are funding their own pathway maintenance and contributing a pro rata amount to SWMPC for promotion of the water trail. Hamilton is confident the many communities who are supporting the water trail this year will appreciate its importance and continue to fund maintenance annually. She points out that there appear to be two distinct groups using the water trail. One group is tourists from outside SW Michigan and obviously their use of the water trail has a beneficial economic impact on local communities. But the other user group is local residents, some of whom are discovering the natural beauty of the Paw Paw River for the first time. According to Hamilton, some townships decided to financially support the water trail because there were no local parks for their residents and the water trail was a very cost effective way to provide a local recreational opportunity. With the rapidly growing popularity of paddling throughout the nation, the Paw Paw River Water Trail seems like an idea whose time has come.

Hartford Schools on the road to improved communications

Hartford Public School parents, faculty and staff, and residents of the community can expect enhanced communication on school activities to help propel student success to a new level. HPS Student Information Coordinator Kim deBoom and Superintendent Andy Hubbard worked closely with Sandy Cokeley, Founder of SCoPE School Surveys, to evaluate existing communications relative to the National School Public Relations Association’s Benchmarking Project’s Rubrics of Practice and Suggested Measures. Cokeley analyzed performance data from surveys and focus groups completed by parents, faculty and staff, and members of the community to determine where existing communication practices are working, where they are not, and measures that can be taken to improve overall district communications. The Hartford Board of Education learned at their monthly business meeting on Monday, June 17 that the results revealed that the district is operating from a position of stability, and that staff communication with parents is strong overall. It was reported that people rely heavily on the Green & White Newsletter, and the automated messaging system and HPS Facebook page managed by deBoom, with Facebook communications effectiveness scoring well above the national average. Results indicated a positive response to the HPS website in that information is easily accessible. Cokeley suggested creating a centralized calendar and staff directory, updating the site regularly, and reconfiguring navigation so that users can find what they need from a centralized point to make the site even more effective. Crisis communications also received a high score, with an emphasis on timeliness, and that both English and Spanish translations are sent simultaneously. Sending out more frequent updates, whether there is significant information to report or not, may help ease tension during a crisis and improve the overall process. Survey results revealed that faculty and staff have a very strong sense of pride and allegiance to the district, and are proud to work at Hartford schools. To strengthen internal staff communications and cultivate knowledgeable faculty and staff ambassadors for the district, the board agreed to create a standardized template for all three schools to feed information into the existing staff newsletter. This can help ensure staff is well-informed about policy, roles and responsibilities and other key information with respect to school operations so they can respond with confidence when questioned by parents and the community. HPS already has a formal employee recognition program in place, and Cokeley suggested expanding the program to include informal recognition among staff to ensure they know the work they do is meaningful and valued by the district. Enhancing trust in district leadership is also key to effective communications. Regular visits to each school from the central office can help faculty and staff feel more engaged and comfortable with leadership and understand the rationale behind leadership decisions that can help directly improve performance. Strong community relations efforts can help gain additional trust and support for the district, which in turn can enhance student success. “The Back to School Bash, Education Foundation, and senior luncheons have gone a long way toward strengthening community relations,” explained Cokeley. “The senior luncheons are a powerful program that is working really well, and by further interacting with seniors, like sitting with them to share and listen to ideas, will make it that much more effective.” To forge stronger bonds with the community and enhance trust in district leadership through visibility and transparency, Cokeley recommended that HPS extend community outreach by sending press releases to local organizations to highlight school successes; attending township, City Council, and Chamber of Commerce meetings, and organizational meetings, such as the Hartford Public Library, Lion’s Club and Rotary Club. She also suggested frequenting local businesses and community gathering places, such as McDonald’s, to interact with the community at large on a personal level. Cokeley recommended inviting residents to community universities to provide information about school curriculums, special education, sports, financials and other information that may help garner more enthusiasm for district operations and encourage two-way communication. She also suggested that the district form a Communications Advisory Board comprised of staff, parents and community leaders to solicit ongoing input to boost communications and student success to a new level. To more proactively share information, deBoom suggested inviting the community to sign up for reminders about school activities and creating an email subscriber list to expand direct channels to the community. The board agreed to focus initially on developing the Communication Plan and key messaging, communications training, enhancing the employee recognition plan, and improving visibility to parents and the community at large. “This will take time,” said Hubbard. “We will focus on these areas to start and then move forward to standardize communications across the board.” The board will address a plan of action at the July retreat. Hubbard thanked deBoom for helping Cokeley with the communications assessment. “What Kim does she does exceptionally well, and we thank her for her help throughout the whole process.” Board President Ben Chambers concluded, “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s nice to know that the foundation we do have in place is working well and we can build on that foundation to improve future communications.” Hellos and goodbyes For the 2019-2020 school year, HPS welcomes Beth Hodges, Kelsey Wright and Joey Weaver into the fold. Hodges, the new Assistant Principal at Redwood Elementary, comes to Hartford via Three Rivers, Michigan and Florida. She has 20 years of experience, including seven years in a leadership position. Hodges is also fluent in Spanish. “Beth was one of 20 candidates that appl