11-16-2017 Coloma School Board meeting highlights students; Watervliet Public Schools receives audi

AWARD WINNING… Mem-bers of the 2017 Coloma Inter-mediate School Robotics Team with their advisor Melissa Da-vis. This is the first year for the team and they won the Innova-tion Award at the Robotics Competition held recently. (TCR photo by Annette Chris-tie

Coloma School Board meeting highlights students

By Annette Christie

The Coloma School Board received a nice treat at their Monday, November 13 meeting as the audience to their students’ talents.

The Varsity Singers performed one of the songs that they performed during the Veterans Program held this past Friday.  The new zero hour class allows students who want to take the class but didn’t have room in their schedule.  The Varsity Singers will be working on several more community outreach activities including during this upcoming Christmas holiday.

Two students in the high school worked with their machine tool teacher to find a remedy for a well cover problem on school grounds.  Brandon Sutherland and Dale Noack designed, measured, welded, and created a new well cover under the direction of teacher Chuck Luchies.  The item, which could have cost the school a whole lot more, ended up being about $600 in materials and about two weeks of the students’ work to turn it out.

Some Intermediate students showed off a trophy they recently received during a robotics competition.  This is the first year that students at the 4th and 5th grade levels have been able to do this activity. The project that the team created won the Innovative Solutions Award when they produced a prototype of an ozone cleaning product for water fountains in schools.  The team of nine students showed how they can keep their water fountains germ free.    School Board member Doug Kraemer said the Coloma team was impressive as they competed against the 22 teams that were at the event.

Weapon Free School Zone and cameras on buses discussed

Superintendent Pete Bush updated the board on some legislation that could allow concealed weapons to be carried on school grounds without any say from school districts.  Bush said the legislation has gotten through the Senate and is headed for the House.    Bush said they have heard that the Governor vetoed a bill similar to it years prior. While the Governor hasn’t expressed interest in it he hasn’t spoken out against it that they are aware of. Bush said if it passes, “We will no longer be able to be a weapon free school zone.”  Bush said he and many other school superintendents expressed their feelings against the bill to their Senator, however he voted in favor.

Some discussion was held following an inquiry as to how the cameras in buses were working. Bush said the cameras have been used on the buses and the video footage obtained has been used to clear some things up when situations have happened on the buses. Bush pointed out the bus drivers cannot see everything and keep their eyes on the road and the cameras have helped. They have run into a situation where a parent has asked to see the video footage of an incident their child was involved in but the school will not allow that due to other students’ privacy.  Elementary School Principal John Klein said that the video capability does clarify a lot of things when situations happen on the bus.  Junior High Principal Wendy Tremblay added that the quality of the footage is incredibly clear.

Action on proposal from Freshwater Church delayed

A proposal from Freshwater Church to make some improvements to the facility that they lease under the terms of a longer term lease, is still on hold.  Presented at last month’s meeting  Freshwater Church, which leases the old middle school north, asked the district for a more long term lease option and approval to make some improvements to the space they use, add air conditioning, and add some more permanent signage.

Bush took the proposal to their attorney for a legal review and the attorney had some questions and changes on parts of the proposal.  The board received the attorney’s suggestions and questions just this past Friday.  With that, the board decided to take more time to look over what came from their attorney before making a decision.   Justin VanFerrari speaking for the organization said he was fine with the board taking more time to review the proposal and agreement.  He said he is 100% behind the district and the board and that the church is not going anywhere.  Currently the lease for the two parties runs year to year.  Freshwater has been leasing from the district since 2010. The church pays the school approximately $5,000 – $6,000 annually.

New medical insurance puts savings in employees’ pay

Sara Ashley, Director of Business Services reported to the board that they have found a cheaper medical insurance company for their employees without cutting any of the benefits.  Ashley said they went to bid and received responses from five insurance companies for the same coverage for medical, visual, and dental.  By changing to the West Michigan Health Insurance pool, the district will be saving the money of their employees by putting the cost savings back into the employees’ paychecks. Bush said, “This doesn’t save the district a dime, but it saves our employees money in their paycheck. We just want to provide the  most affordable insurance with the best coverage.”

Other business

During the Superintendent report, Bush provided information to the board on the  new MASB Governance Standards which provides guiding principles for the Board of Education. Bush noted that with the work they have done over the last couple of years to create a vision and a strategic plan, they are already doing a lot of what is in the standards.

Bush explained that the Michigan Department of Education would like all school boards to adopt these standards that they recommend, display them, and pledge to follow them.

Bush also informed the board about the School Finance Research Collaborative Adequacy Study Panel.  This group is looking at how much it costs to educate a student. The group is made up of business leaders and education experts including school board members, people with doctorates, some who have been college presidents, served in the legislature, and statewide organizations.

Bush noted that the challenge is getting the funding to be adjustable in that it addresses the diversity that schools face in educating students from different home backgrounds, special education needs and poverty levels and the extra cost associated with such students.

The collaborative hopes to have the results released in early 2018. More information on the collaborative can be found at www.fundmischools.org.

Bush will also be seeking a board resolution supporting the work of the collaboration.

COMING SOON… Construction is well under way of the Casey’s General Store on M-140 next to Mill Creek Charlie’s. Friday last week, three gas tanks were buried. A spokesman for the popular Indiana convenience store said the new-est Casey’s, and the first in Michigan, is expected to be open by late spring. He said that right now the emphasis is to get all the concrete poured before winter. (TCR photo by Amy Loshbough)

Watervliet Public Schools receives audit report; Peer to Peer Program highlighted

By Annette Christie

The Watervliet School Board began their Monday, November 13 meeting with an overview of the budget. Superintendent Kevin Schooley noted there wasn’t much to point out in the budget at this point in the fiscal year; however, there is a little additional revenue in the miscellaneous income including ticket sales which are up approximately $12,000.

The 2016-2017 Audit report was presented by Alex Schaeffer of the firm Kruggel and Lawton. The firm gave an unmodified opinion which is the top opinion a school can get. Schaeffer said, “It is basically a gold star in the term of audits.” The firm reviewed the bond fund accounts in their audit process and those passed the audit as well.  Schaeffer said that they did an independent audit of the nutrition fund, and that fund also received an unmodified opinion. Schaeffer said the majority of the districts’ expenses are put back into teaching kids. He commended the staff and administration stating that the audit was prepared quickly and the staff changes did not affect the efficiency of the audit process, adding that sometimes it can.

Lauren Andrews and Alecia Hickman who are the advisors for the Middle School Honor Club brought forward a trip request for the Honor Club.  The 7th and 8th grade students who earn all A’s and B’s and complete community service are allowed to be a part of the Honor Club and participate in the trip. The trip is scheduled for May of 2018 and they will go to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The students did have a chance at fundraising for the trip with a mum sale this fall.  Andrews said they plan to release the trip in February and will take participants until the bus is filled. She said there is room for 51 on the bus. One of the board members asked about the chaperones and Andrews responded that there will be 1 adult to 12 students.  The board approved the trip.

Peer to Peer Program

The curriculum spotlight this month was the Peer to Peer High School Program. The program pairs high school students with students in younger grades that are part of an individualized education program (IEP). Schooley said of the program, “This seemed to catch fire not only with the high school kids but throughout the district.”

Wendy Staffin, the Peer to Peer Coordinator brought forward four amazing young adults to talk about what they are doing across the district.

The four students introduced the program which was invented in the 1970s and intended for kids with autism. Ultimately the program was made possible for every student with an IEP.  The Michigan Department of Education designed a curriculum for the program.  The high school students in the program are given weekly assignments and are able to do crafty, creative tasks with their peers that go with the curriculum.  The older peers are assigned to an individual classroom, they are not there to teach or aide, but to be a friend to the students and to help model good behavior.  There are 26 high school students in the district working with other students from young 5’s to 10th grade.

Kyla Geisler is assigned to an English class. She reminds the kids about assignments due using ways including social media. She rewards them when they are doing well with baked goods.  She explained that she has seen a difference in the students with their behavior and their preparation for routine tasks.

Tyler Eyerly is assigned to a math class and spoke of how he helps the students learn with fun ways of learning.

Emma Yazel works in a 5th grade classroom.  She works with the students on their reading; she reads their journals and provides grammar reading advice for middle school.

Courtney Little works with three different classrooms and helps the students understand math facts and helps to keep them on task.

The board commended the students and the advisor on their work in the program.

Other business

In other business, the board approved an overnight trip for the wrestling team.  Schooley told the board they have done this for the past 10-15 years so that they can participate in a wrestling tournament.

The board also reviewed and approved the first reading of a new policy and procedure for how to handle Interscholastic Sports.  At the first introduction of this subject to the Board of Education it was determined that there wasn’t a policy or procedure for interested groups to follow when wanting to bring an idea to the school board. The policy and procedure includes all the steps from presentation to appeal.  There was some discussion on how an appeal was handled given that the policy dictates that it goes before the Athletic Council. The Athletic Council is made up of the athletic director, coaches, administrators, teachers, boosters, and board members.  Following the discussion, the board approved the policy unanimously.

Coloma Township meets North Berrien Fire Chief

By Annette Christie

The Coloma Township Board shared a moment with North Berrien Fire Chief Mike Mattix at their Wednesday, November 8 meeting. Mattix has been on the job for just over two months.