Common Bond Extended to Schoolcraft Elementary

By Sue Moore

Schoolcraft Schools’ Common Bond program is expanding to include students in third and fourth grades. The first event to celebrate the expansion of Common Bond will take place on Wednesday, December 11. It will focus on some team bonding activities, learning about individual differences and enjoying the entertainment of local magician, Alan Kazam, putting on his “I Can Do It” show.

Led by teacher Amy Green, Common Bond has been an extracurricular club at Schoolcraft High School for over 21 years. The club provides various activities for students of all abilities. Students who attend Common Bond events are provided opportunities to increase relationships with peers, gain a better understanding and tolerance of others’ differences and form friendships. All Schoolcraft High School students are welcome to participate in Common Bond. By doing so they learn to respect and work with others who are different than themselves. “It is a life skill all of us take to the streets every day as adults. The club has been a positive culture builder for students at the high school,” said Green.

Several years ago, the program expanded to the middle school with the help of special education teachers Chris Kato, Aaron Beery, and Alyssa McCoy. Most recently, Christine Fenner has been busy planning this first elementary-grade Common Bond event.

Schoolcraft Schools is dedicated to promoting and accepting an inclusive environment for all students. Common Bond is an extension of building this culture, Green pointed out. Common Bond’s theme is, “Be A Superhero, Join Common Bond!”

Big Red Machine to Play at the Sugar Bowl

IMG_9991By Sue Moore

Vicksburg’s marching band, affectionately known as the “Big Red Machine,” will perform with eight other bands during halftime at the Sugar Bowl game in New Orleans on January 1. The top teams from the Big 12 and the SEC are scheduled to play in this game unless one or the other has been selected as a Top 4 in the college football playoffs.

Every two or three years, Band Director Ben Rosier likes to plan a trip out of state over the Christmas holidays, preferably to warmer weather. “These are the memories students take from high school as they are being “cultured” while experiencing life outside of Vicksburg,” Rosier said. “Only high-quality ensembles are asked to perform in these events. We will be stopping in Memphis on the way to New Orleans for our two jazz bands to perform at Alfred’s jazz club on Beale Street. Early Dawgs and Top Dawgs will play in one of the most famous places outside of New Orleans for jazz performances.

“We will perform with eight other bands for the halftime of the Sugar Bowl.  Those bands are from Georgia (2), North Carolina, Alabama, Texas (3), and Kansas. We have the music and color guard choreography to practice.  We have utilized the tutorial times at the high school to take advantage of group rehearsal times,” Rosier said. “We will also have a Natchez Dinner Cruise and attend a dance award ceremony for the participating bands where we will accept any awards from the competitions such as parade and field show.”

The half-time show will feature the women’s suffrage movement’s decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy. The halftime finale honors this 100-year anniversary and all those that worked so hard to make it happen. This select group of young musicians and dancers from across the United States will perform two iconic female superstars’ great hit songs highlighting the Women’s Suffrage 100th Celebration: Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off!”

Nearly 130 students out of 180 in the band will make the trip by motor coach over December 28 through January 2. They have raised the money themselves to make the trip along with the parent chaperones who will accompany them.

“We will do a community service project through Hands On New Orleans, which will be a great afternoon of revamping a park that has remained ‘dormant’ since the likes of Hurricane Katrina,” Rosier said. “When we went in 2010 the students talked about the community service project more than anything else and I’m excited to do that with them again.”

Vicksburg School Board Talks Tobey Elementary Plans

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg School Board meetings rotate among each of its five buildings during the school year. This gives administrators a chance to highlight activities taking place in their buildings. In November, it was Tobey Elementary’s turn. The school is headed by Principal Mike Barwegen who loves to emphasize “the Tobey Way” in his report.

“We are working on becoming a National School of Character,” he told the board. “We emphasize character traits such as patience, integrity, honesty, having a safe and caring environment with a focus on kindness.” The school received a grant from the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation to purchase a tower garden planter to demonstrate how food grows from seed to table. Two students were present to give a demonstration about the garden and its new plants that are just sprouting.

In other business, Food Service Director Sarah Dyer has instituted some new and helpful ways to make sure students do not go hungry and can learn more easily on a full stomach. She has instituted “grab and go” salad options at the high school similar to those she started at the middle school last year. For breakfast, kids can take their grab bag into class or eat in the cafeteria. A new slushie machine has been installed in the high school that dispenses 100 percent fruit juice that she said the kids really love.

Auditors from Plante & Moran were at the meeting to praise the financial position of the school system and in particular Assistant Supt. Steve Goss’ department for a clean audit for the last two years the firm has been retained. “You showed an increase in the fund balance at 10.5 percent of total spending,” an auditor said. “The state average is 13.9 percent. We would encourage you to aim for 15 percent but know it isn’t going to happen right away. Enrollment has held steady and that is a good thing.”

SVSU Picks Educators for Gerstacker Leadership Program

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Laura Chang.

A new group of 11 K-12 education leaders committed to professional growth will join the Saginaw Valley State University Gerstacker Fellowship program in 2020. Among them is Vicksburg’s Laura Chang, who was selected as Michigan’s teacher of the Year in 2018-2019.

As part of the initiative, the teachers, principals, and program administrators from across Michigan will receive concentrated leadership training over a one-year period. The experience will include a trip to Japan in June.

This trip will send participants to educational institutions, where participants learn about international educational systems and corporate settings. There, they discover how leadership plays out in different cultural and economic settings.

The program was established in 2005 with a $1.5 million endowment from the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation of Midland. Participants are known as Gerstacker Fellows. They meet monthly on weekends.

Experts in the field instruct the group on subjects such as organizational leadership, ethics, finances, communication, human resources, entrepreneurship and education with a global perspective.

Travel costs to and from Saginaw for Chang are funded by a grant from the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation’s Bardeen Teacher Incentive program.

Vicksburg High School Food Drive for SCCS a Success

First hour Computerized Manufacturing food drive
Pictured from left to right: Seth Crabtree, Luke Becker, Tristin Decker, teacher Lorrie Jancarz, Noah Haines, Jacob VanderBor, teacher Greg Mills, Collin Crandall and Benjamin Welch.

The totals are in. The week of November 18, was a very busy and productive week for the Computerized Manufacturing class at Vicksburg High School. Instructor Greg Mills’ students in the class were diligently bringing in many food and personal care items for the annual food drive for South County Community Services (SCCS). The National Honor Society sponsored the drive with hundreds of items collected.

The students answered the call for donations and brought in so many items that they took first place school wide. It was a head-to-head competition with other classes throughout the week. These students realized that there are many families that need assistance with food and personal care products. The students stepped up to the plate to make this food drive a success, according to Mills.

“We are very proud of this class for their generosity,” Mills said.

Schoolcraft Volleyball Loses in Tough State Championship

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While trying to hold back tears, the Schoolcraft volleyball team accepts its runner-up trophy in the state volleyball Division 4 championship contest. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

Schoolcraft’s volleyball team ended a run to the Division 3 state championship with a Nov. 23 loss to Monroe St. Mary Catholic Center’s Kestrels at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

The Eagles in the semifinal a day earlier had won the right to compete in the championship game by knocking out the Saginaw Valley Lutheran Chargers in a convincing win in three sets: 25-10, 25-11 and 25-12.

The Schoolcraft and Monroe teams met on the same court five years ago, also with the Kestrels on the winning end of the match. This Eagle squad hoped to avenge that loss, not only for themselves, but for the 2014 team. If successful, they would bring home the Eagles’ second state championship. The first was in 2008.

Instead, the Eagles lost in one of the most hotly contested contests in all four of the divisions competing in the state finals.

They came into the match with a record of 47-6-1 and were the SAC champion. The Kestrels came with a 48-2 record and were the champions of the Huron League. They had overcome the Beavers from Beaverton 3-0, with sets of 25-20, 25-17 and 25-7 to advance to the championship.

The Eagles jumped out to a big 10-4 lead before Kestrels Coach Karen O’Brien called a time out to give her athletes a small breather and to get calmed down. On the other side, Coach Erin Onken was telling her girls, “Keep up the pressure! Keep playing our game!” The Eagles seemed calm and collected, just taking it a point at a time. Monroe SMCC was able to come back in the set, tying the score at one point 16-16. The Eagles continued to stay the course. They were able to keep focused and continued to feed off the strong fan base that came to support them. Andelyn Simkins placed a soft shot that bounced off of three Kestrels to go out of bounds, giving the Eagles Set 1, 27-25.

In Set 2, the Kestrels were able to string together some points and jumped out to a quick lead 6-3. The score kept bouncing back and forth, but the Kestrels seemed to always find a way to stay one point ahead of the Eagles. Monroe was able to fight its way to the win in set 2, 25-21, knotting the total at 1-1.

Set 3 was again back-to-back points, with one team going up by a point, then back to a tie. Each team struggled to pull away. At this level, both teams were in the finals because of their excellent communication, great defense and ball placement. Andelyn Simkins showed why she was named runnerup in the Michigan Miss Volleyball nomination and a future WMU Bronco with some of her placement kills.

Schoolcraft gained some serious momentum and pulled away, stringing five solid points, making it 21-16, until SMCC called a timeout to gather themselves. Schoolcraft maintained the point distance. Andelyn Simkins again placed a soft kill right on the floor, leaving three Kestrels looking at each other. That point sealed the set for the Eagles, 25-19. The match was now 2-1, in favor of the Purple and Gold.

Set 4, SMCC struck hard and early, knowing it had to win the set in order to force a tiebreaker. If the Eagles were able to seal the win in set 4, then they would capture the Division 3 State Championship. The score was once again close, within a point back and forth. No one was able to pull away until the Kestrels opened it up, notching the score at 25-18 and forcing a tiebreaking 5th set.

Set 5 would decide the Division 3 Volleyball State Championship. Both fan bases screamed, waved pom poms and chanted fight songs to help their team get fired up.

The arena watched two very talented volleyball teams play their hearts out, spiking and diving for the ball. The Eagles at one point were down 3-6, but were able to come back and make it 7-6. The Kestrels forced some errors on the Eagles, bringing the score to 10-10 in the 15-point set. The Eagles went up 12-11, when SMCC called their final time out.

Both teams battled hard and by that point in the match, extremely tired. The Eagles fell hard in the tough tie-breaker set, 12-15 to take the Division 3 State runner-up title with a record of 48-7-1 for the season.

After the teams were awarded their medals and trophies, Eagles Coach Onken said, “We can tell they studied film on us knowing where the weak areas and strong areas were. The game came down to a serve-and-receive battle where both teams made their share of errors. If we were to play them again, maybe we beat them in five. These two schools would go more than three sets every time. We have a ton of respect for SMCC. I feel we came out ready to battle.

“I am very proud of this team and think of all of these girls as my family.”

Jordan Love is Schoolcraft’s Full-time Athletic Trainer

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Athletic Trainer Jordan Love tapes Abbi Curtis’ ankles before she dresses for a volleyball game.

By Sue Moore

“Having Jordan Love, Schoolcraft’s athletic trainer full time in the building has brought a reduction of injuries to our athletes,” said Nate Ferency, head football coach and physical education and nutrition teacher. “We consider her a coach and part of our football staff and its program.”

“She is a professional and kids have a lot of respect for her. She helps with pain management and [diagnosing] injuries. Sometimes the athlete doesn’t know if he is injured or where the pain is coming from. Love can get kids back on their feet as quickly as possible so they can be safe and perform at 100 percent of their capabilities. She is a huge asset for us,” Ferency said.

This is the first year the school has paid to have a full-time athletic trainer. Until 2019, certified graduate assistant athletic trainers were sent to area schools through Western Michigan University and Bronson’s Orthopedic teaching unit. They were graduate students while learning on the job. That changed at the beginning of the academic year because WMU was re-positioning its program. Bronson took over and agreed to pay half of the salary of a fully credentialed athletic trainer while asking the school to contribute the other half. Schoolcraft instituted a $50 charge for each athlete which helped to fund the position.

Love was chosen, since she had spent the previous two years working on her master’s degree from WMU as Schoolcraft’s graduate assistant athletic trainer. She received a small stipend that just about paid for gas to get to the school. She was the obvious choice to take the full-time position, said Superintendent Rusty Stitt. “Everyone loves Ms. Love.”

“I ended up at a great place,” Love exclaimed. “This school just fits me. I see about 220 athletes a year even some students from the band and drama club.” She is now reaching out to students in the Middle School but doesn’t have any facilities there for treatment. “I just wonder what we could accomplish if there was a bigger athletic training room, possibly with a window in it so I could see what’s going on outside.”

Love talks with athletes about the importance of hydration and good nutrition so they can perform at the highest level. “Wrestlers get suggestions from me for meals that their moms can cook but then I hear the lament ‘Oh, you want me to cook a separate meal for my son?’ My answer is each athlete needs the proper nutrients to get through the day. It helps to offset any injuries they might incur.”

She has a budget of about $500 for supplies such as tape for ankles. “I’ve never been denied if there was a demonstrated need. The bigger items have been funded by the Schoolcraft Booster Club. During her first two years of training, Love kept a tracking system of the injuries she treated. From it, she was able to show that in total, her work saved $80,000 per year for families in medical expenses. That’s because they didn’t have to take their kids to a doctor’s office for diagnoses and treatments that she could administer.

Impact testing is administered to each student which sets a baseline to help evaluate concussion. It is given by Love every two years for students in all contact sports. “I have the final say as to whether an athlete can compete, based upon what I observe and what the tests show,” Love said. “I am trained for injury prevention, but concussions are different.”

The program has a strong relationship with Bronson Orthopedics. It’s a direct line and works well to get kids in to see a specialist whenever she thinks it is needed. Recently, she was able to call upon Dr. Stacey Majoras in an emergency when two Watervliet football players received major injuries on almost the same play in a Schoolcraft game. “She was on her way home from a long day of work but came immediately to reaffirm to the parents of the two boys that my diagnosis was accurate and they were treated correctly.” Dr. Majoras oversees the athletic trainers in Vicksburg, Three Rivers and Schoolcraft. Brad Toepper is the Bronson athletic trainer in charge of the overall program and both frequently are on the sidelines during games.

Love’s 40-hour week usually results in far more than that, especially when Schoolcraft’s teams compete at a higher level, such as the football team in the Regional championship and the volleyball team playing for the state championship in its division. The softball team was the runner up state champion in a Lansing playoff last spring. Love is on tap for all home and away games.

“My job is to manage the phone calls and texts along with seeing to each athlete’s needs. The principal is not a fan of me taking kids out of class so I manage treatment on their time as best I can,” Love explained. “The kids will tell me, ‘you have so many rules, Miss Love.’ Yes, I do but I’ve got to keep this place running good.

“As their athletic trainer and health care professional, I appreciate the respect parents and coaches give me,” Love said.