Monthly Archives: September 2013

Vicksburg Pavilion Takes Its Final Form

Bob Smith and Richard Barnes loaded timber for the frame that came from Mike and Kathy Bechers’ woods. After the job was done they relaxed on the huge trailer load of wood.
Bob Smith and Richard Barnes loaded timber for the frame that came from Mike and Kathy Bechers’ woods. After the job was done they relaxed on the huge trailer load of wood.

By Sue Moore

An open-air pavilion, that has been two years in the making, is finally set to be erected beginning with piers and concrete being poured in September at the Vicksburg Historic Village site at 300 N. Richardson Street.

Site plans have been reviewed and approved, drawings completed and bids taken by Frederick Construction for the sub-contracting work. What remains for the project is to raise some more money to see it through to completion, according to Margaret Kerchief, president of the Historical Society which is overseeing the financial aspects of the building.

The greater Vicksburg community has pitched in to provide 2,100 meals for the volunteers who will be here in September to build the frame, according to Karen Hammond. She volunteered to solicit food from anyone who has a restaurant or experience in feeding large numbers of people. Over 21 groups or individuals have stepped forward to provide food, and more than 40 bakers have volunteered their expertise.

The project began as a gleam in the Lions Club, Farmers’ Market and Historical Society’s eyes. Hundreds of hours have been spent in producing at least three different iterations of the pavilion. The final 40 x 110 feet design began to take shape when Chris Newman, a Vicksburg Village Council trustee, came forth with the idea to ask the Timber Framers Guild (TFG) to help produce a post-and-beam frame that didn’t use any nails but relies on the old-fashioned mortise and tenon joinery method of building.

Newman is now the volunteer with the biggest commitment of time as he has provided all of the drawings for the engineering of the frame. He has convinced the TFG to get involved and been a big advocate for the methodology they employ.

The wood to build the frame has all been donated from local farms, in particular Mike and Kathy Beckers woods on W. Ave., and Matt and Julie Skryzpek’s farm on 34th Street. Richard Barnes has spent weeks and now months, utilizing his portable sawmill to cut the timber into the exact sizes required as specified by Newman. Tim Moore has donated his time as the resident forester on the project, with Randy Peters working to fell the ash trees that will be the primary wood used in the frame. Another big donation of time was from Matt Schabes who has designed and manufactured the “saddles” that are made of iron, that hold the piers in place.

Many dollars were raised in the early going with a major donation from the Vicksburg Foundation of $113,000. They designated $60,000 as an outright grant and required that $53,000 of it must be matched by local giving. The Lions Club pledged $10,000, Rotary Club $5,000, the Kalamazoo Foundation $10,000, village of Vicksburg of $25,000 and individuals another $21,000 for a total of $201,000. It is estimated that another $50,000 will be needed to complete the effort.

The Historical Society has been selling pegs that will be used to put the building together and will have them available at the Farmers’ Market, in stores downtown, and at the site on Richardson Street from September 12 through 22 according to Kerchief. “We are on the hunt for this large chunk of money that is needed to finish the project. The pegs represent a small portion of what is needed. We want to make sure the roof gets on before winter sets in, so the Pavilion Advisory committee has been tasked to raise the additional funds,” she said. Donations may be made online at

Timber Framers Guild Visits Vicksburg

Timber Framers Guild Visits Vicksburg The new pavilion will be constructed from timber donated by several Vicksburg area landowners, 30,000 board feet in the frame alone.

Over 60 timber framers from all over the country will come together on September 12, to fabricate nearly six hundred pieces and raise the frame on Saturday, September 21st.

The Vicksburg Historical Society (VHS) is orchestrating local support for this project, they are working hard to have everything in place to roll out the red carpet for the crew, providing meals, site support and entertainment. Margaret Kerchief, president and Kristina Powers Aubry, vice president of VHS have been the mainstays of the pre-planning, while the funding has been secured by the Pavilion Advisory Committee that was formed in the winter of 2012.

The need is great to finish the funding commitments according to Sue Moore who has been in charge of this fundraising group. Over $50,000 is still needed to complete the project she says, with putting a roof on the frame and finishing the concrete pad for flooring, the most urgent requirement.

The VHS has indicated that the necessary funds need to be in hand on a pay as you build decision making process.

5th Annual Harvest Festival Slated for September

By Kristina Powers Aubry

Sue Bertch inspects a 2012 Harvest Festeval vendors display.
Sue Bertch inspects a 2012 Harvest Festeval vendors display.

The Vicksburg Historical Society’s Harvest Festival is ready to open for family fun on Sunday, September 29, from 11 am – 4 pm at the Vicksburg Historic Village. This marks the 5th year for the free annual event to celebrate the fall harvest. Beginning in 2009, the Festival drew 700 visitors to the Historic Village Park to see animals, crafts, artisans, hear music, play games and purchase the finest of the area produce. Since that time the crowds have grown to over 1200 visitors last year and are expected to continue growing as the Festival gets bigger every year.

The popular Animal Zone will be back with everything from fuzzy petting critters, to exotic reptiles. Last year, a popular, new addition to the Zone was, Humphrey, the camel.

Humphrey will be back, along with the beefalo bull, and alpacas.

This year an interesting dairy exhibit will allow children and adults to get up close and personal with cows and goats.

For children of all ages, Gordon Miller, the magician will be performing his acts of amazement and Miss Kristy will be telling stories to those nestled on the carpet in the historic Township Hall. Over in the oneroom Strong School, those who may prefer a zoo of another stripe can try out the Musical Instrument Petting Zoo, where June and Wayne Kucks invite youngsters to hold, touch and strum instruments to become familiar with how music is made.

The food vendor zone will be luring in hungry visitors with the aromas of a variety of goodies from Chef Geff, Kurt Wiley, the Oswalt Family, and Guatemalan specialties.

The entertainment has been expanded to run the entire afternoon, including the music of BenJammin’ and Analisa, back for two concerts. The BenJammin’ family provides music and fun geared specifically for young listeners. Several local musicians with a variety of styles will also be playing to keep toes tappin’ throughout the day.

The historic buildings in the Village will be open for touring all day. Free wagon rides and Model A rides, for a small fee, will provide a fun way to rest the feet and enjoy old time transportation.

Many vendors from the popular Vicksburg Farmers’ Market will be selling their fruits, vegetables, cheeses, nuts, pasties, plants, baked goods and crafts. Many hand-made crafts will be for sale, as well as craft demonstrations, and information on local and areawide services and organizations. For the antique hunters the Antique Alley will be loaded with treasures from the past just waiting for discovery and taken home.

The Pumpkin Decorating Contest for youngsters 5–12 years old, will offer young artists the chance to decorate a funny, scary, pretty or originally decorated pumpkins and gourds for competition. All entries will be on display during the entire day. The popular Pie Baking Contest for bakers of all ages will bring out the baker in anyone willing to have a panel of judges sample their talents. Slices of the contestants’ pies will be for sale after the judging.

The new Community Pavilion framework will be erected a week before the Festival so visitors will have an opportunity to check out the timber-frame addition to the park while they enjoy the fun.

The Historic Village continues to be a place at which friends, family and local citizens can gather and enjoy the benefits of small town living and learn a bit about the past at the same time. The Harvest Festival is another of the interesting events held in the park. No matter what the weather, visitors have reported they have found the Harvest Festival a great way to spend an autumn afternoon.

Feeding the Timber Frame Guild Builders: ‘Lumberjacks’

Karen Hammond
Karen Hammond

By Sue Moore

Karen Hammond likes to call her Timber Framers Guild builders, “lumberjacks” whenever she calls her next victim to supply food for an anticipated crew of over 60 men and women who will be constructing the community pavilion in September.

To a person or business, she has gotten a positive response to potentially making over 2100 meals in the ten-day span that volunteer workers will be on the site at the Vicksburg Historic Village from September 12 to 22. People will be coming from all over the U.S. to learn or upgrade their skills at building in the old-fashioned mortise and tenon joinery that built barns and buildings for centuries. There are even some local residents who have volunteered to be part of the crew.

The logistics of three meals/snack/ fruit a day, for ten days are staggering if you have never done this before, but Hammond didn’t blink when asked to take on the responsibility.

She has said so many times to the committee that is working with her, the amazement she feels by the outpouring of help from whomever she has approached to bake, cook or supply food for the multitudes. There are also five vegetarians to be considered in the preparations, she indicated.

Her job was made easier in the beginning because Pastor David Downs of the Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church stepped up to offer their church as a meal site and allow the crew to use their showers. Pastor Ed Schmidt of Lakeland Reformed Church did likewise, as soon as he heard about the need.

They too have showers and together will prepare five meals between the two churches for the “lumberjacks”. Nancy MacKenzie and Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki are planning a neighborhood potluck dinner at Sunset Lake beach, and Evie Hall of Home Again Consignments volunteered early on to do a potluck at the Community Center where food would be supplied by many of her active customers.

In addition, aside from the needed three meals a day is a daily snack. Hammond has contacted Vicksburg’s finest bakers who have volunteered to make some of their special cookies and cakes to serve as the daily snack for the Timber Framers. It will take at least 13 to 14 dozen cookies to feed the crew each day.

Tina and Larry Forsyth have offered lodging and showers for the five women who will be working as crew members. It is unclear whether they will be camping on site with the men or accepting the Forsyths’ kind offer. Whichever way, it will be tent city on the grounds of the Historic Village.

To help defray expenses, the Historical Society has been selling pegs to the public that will go into the construction of the building. They will be available for purchase on site as well as the t-shirts that have been designed for the builders, to set them apart and provide a memento of their volunteer time.

Spectators are welcome to come by and watch the progress each day and possibly learn something about this age old practice of building. Those who might wish to offer their baking expertise could contact Hammond at 269-270-1522 or, as it is not too late to be a part of this monumental undertaking she said. Following is a spread sheet of the groups who have stepped up to feed the hungry crew. Karen Hammond.

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 7.02.04 AM

What’s In the Eagles Nest?

eagles nestBy Sue Moore

If there is a family in need in Schoolcraft, there are two of the most compassionate ladies known to human kind, available to help them locate resources.

Sue Kuiper and Nancy Rafferty along with a host of their best friends and dedicated volunteers, oversee the Eagle’s Nest. They are located in the former school administration building on Clay Street in Schoolcraft, which houses food stuffs, clothes, baby formula, diapers and giving, caring people. Along with their volunteers, they work closely to help sort out what is needed.

What isn’t apparent to the family in need is how all of the Schoolcraft community has come together to help them in a time of distress. It’s a heartwarming story of service to others in a small town with a big heart.

Five programs are housed under the Eagles Nest roof. This came about when Superintendent Rusty Stitt was about to move into his new digs in the high school. Village President Dan DeVries called a meeting in March of 2012, of the existing local non-profits to explore how they were doing with work space requirements. He also wanted to find out if there were redundancies in the delivery of services among the groups.

The invited groups were the Schoolcraft Community Schools, Schoolcraft Friday Pack, Schoolcraft Food Pantry from SCCS, Kindred Spirits, Kids’ Connection, Adam’s Kids, Schoolcraft Ministerial Alliance and the Vicksburg Foundation.

It wasn’t long after that when Kuiper received a phone call from Dr. Stitt, inquiring whether they might all want to be housed in the building he was about to vacate. Could all these disparate groups be able to work together, share space and get rid of the redundancies, he wondered. Because many of these services already targeted school age children, the location next to the elementary schools made the offer that much more enticing, Kuiper said. “He was the catalyst to bring us together.”

The Schoolcraft Food Pantry is a 501c3 under the umbrella of the South County Community Services. The Schoolcraft Friday Pack, INC. is a 501c3 nonprofit which includes three extended programs, Rose’s Clothing Closet, Adam’s Kids and the Homework Club which all work together in Schoolcraft.

“It has turned out to be the perfect location for groups to do community service, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the high school Key Club, the National Honor Society members, local families and church groups to come together to volunteer with the five groups that are now housed under the Eagles Nest moniker,” she explained. This was a bonus they didn’t expect.

“You see the need from a personal and human standpoint in this place, not just a picture on TV or in the newspaper,” she continued. “Your heart is connected to the people and you’re hooked,” Kuiper exclaimed. “There is a large group of women who love this community and are dedicated in making a difference by doing everything we can to help those in need. It’s our committee as a whole.”

eagles nest
The Helping Hands at the Eagles Nest

By Sue Moore

“The generosity of our local stores to the Eagles Nest has been amazing,” exclaimed Sue Kuiper, co-chair of the overarching organization.

For example, J. Rittenmaier Co., on south U.S. 131, started a food drive among their employees three years ago in the fall. We didn’t just get food, there were toys and financial donations matched by the company she exclaimed.

Dollar General on north U.S. 131 has benefitted every program here with food, coats, Halloween costumes and all their outdated items, pulled from the shelves, she continued. They even have a donation box set up by the front door. Our local Harding’s gives us good deals on food and have been there with help from the very beginning of the Food Pantry, Nancy Rafferty co-chair, pointed out. The Lions Club, National Honor Society and Jim Stamper of Heirloom Rose have all been generous with their food and clothing drives.

The Family Valley Church in Portage as part of their Love Week event, came in to sort clothes and move winter clothes from storage to the display racks where people can choose sizes and items they need. Pfizer employees spent a day here last year doing the same thing. Bob Crissman helped to build the racks that hold the clothes, as well as the large shelves for food inventory. The Autism Spectrum Disorder students come from the high school and middle school to help with the Friday backpacks, and get on the job training of sorting, labeling and loading the contents of the bags for children to take home with them over the weekend. This past year they served 63 K-12 students.

“Christmas is a happening which we didn’t anticipate,” Kuiper said. “The outpouring of donations for families in need just warms your heart. Even a ten year old decided to donate a winter coat from his savings,” she pointed out.

Schoolcraft football outlasts Constantine 37-28 to stay unbeaten

Schoolcraft's defensive unit stepped up in the fourth quarter Sept. 6 against Constantine.
Schoolcraft’s defensive unit stepped up in the fourth quarter Sept. 6 against Constantine. Photo by Jef Rietsma

By Jef Rietsma
South County News contributor

SCHOOLCRAFT – Schoolcraft varsity football team’s pursuit of a Kalamazoo Valley Athletic Association title passed a major test and remains intact following a 37-28 win over league nemesis Constantine Sept. 6.

The back-and-forth affair was poised to come down to a white-knuckle, “last team to have the ball could be the winner,” ending. But the Eagles’ stifling secondary took advantage of an exhausted Constantine offense in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

“We kind of made plays at the end of the game, a big pass and we mixed it up enough to get them off balance,” coach Terry Haas said. “Our defense really hung in there and made some big plays and big stops at the end to hold on to the win.”

The victory puts the Eagles at 2-0 and serves revenge on the opponent that dealt Schoolcraft its only loss of the season a year ago: a 40-27 defeat in the second round of the playoffs.

Haas said his team and its fans had good reason to engage in what developed into to a raucous, on-field celebration.

“We’ll certainly enjoy this one, then move on,” Haas said. “Right now, we don’t care about whether or not we’ll see Constantine in the playoffs, we’re just going to enjoy this one and keep our focus on a league championship.”

Coach Terry Haas goes over strategies with his defense during a timeout in the Sept. 6 contest against Constantine.
Coach Terry Haas goes over strategies with his defense during a timeout in the Sept. 6 contest against Constantine. Photo by Jef Rietsma

Prognosticators who forecasted a close game were on target for three quarters. Schoolcraft took a 14-8, first-quarter lead, thanks to a crucial fourth-down conversion during its second possession of the game and a turnover during a later series.

After giving up a 97-yard touchdown run to Constantine’s sophomore quarterback Matt Hasbrouck and falling into an 8-0 hole, the Eagles mounted a nine-play, 62-yard drive to cut the deficit to 8-6. The series was highlighted by a 25-yard pass play to Trevor Stoddard and capped by a 6-yard run by senior Charlie Schultz.

Senior Brennan Vaughn later helped put the Eagles on top, as he recovered a Constantine fumble and ran 66 yards to the Falcons’ 10-yard line. Two plays later, a pitch to Schultz from four yards out – coupled with a 2-point conversion pass to Stoddard – resulted in the home team’s six-point lead.

Schoolcraft broke a 14-14, second-quarter tie on a series of just four plays, covering 67 yards. Senior Cody Mikel created his own highlight reel, with runs of 25 and 31 yards to make it a 21-14 game.

A third-quarter possession covered 65 yards in four plays for Schoolcraft, which saw senior quarterback Tom Hurst score on an eight-yard run. Hurst then connected on a pass to Nick Cakmakci for the two-point conversion and a 29-21 margin at the 7:27mark.

Schoolcraft would not relinquish its lead, and it put the game out of reach with a short pass play to Vaughn, whose speed turned it into a 47-yard pass play for a touchdown. Senior Blake Zemek’s run for the two points concluded the game’s scoring. The series was set up by a Vaughn fumble recovery on a muffed center-to-quarterback exchange near midfield.

Haas conceded going for the two-point conversion on what would be his team’s final score of the night was a gamble.

“They were offsides, so we had a yard and a half to go and we figured if we could get up nine, it’s a two-score game and that makes a different mentality in the offense, especially when there’s under four minute to go,” Haas said. “Then they have to throw the ball and that’s not their nature. It’s a gamble, for sure, but you play the game to win and that’s what we tried to do.”

His counterpart, Shawm Griffith, said all things considered, he was surprised to head to the locker room at the half with a lead.

“We’re a young team and it showed tonight,” he said. “We came out and we were tired. I can honestly say that might be the first time in 20-odd years of coaching football at Constantine that I’ve looked out and seen a tired football team … especially in that second half.”

The Eagles amassed 219 total yards on the ground, led by Mikel with 83 and Cakmakci with 55. Meanwhile, Vaughn (48), Stoddard (25) and Cakmakci (13) accounted for the all 86 receiving yards in seven attempts by Hurst.

Schoolcraft hits the road Friday to Olivet, where the Eagles hope to continue their unbeaten season.

Quilt Trail Expert Visits Vicksburg

Kitch Rinehart, Vicksburg's quilt lady, holds up books written by Suzi Perron
Kitch Rinehart, Vicksburg’s quilt lady, holds up books written by Suzi Perron

By Sue Moore

“Women buy into quilt trails and men buy into the barns and farms,” Suzi Perron says while describing why this movement is catching on throughout the US.

She should know as the author of a book titled Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement, with a second edition in the making. That is why she was paying a visit to Kitch and Hugh Rinehart, the founders of the Vicksburg Quilt Trail. She saw a photograph of the barn quilt on Kathy Shook Mitchell’s barn at South 42nd St. in Fulton, and right away knew it was exactly the image she wanted to feature on the cover of her 2014 calendar.

Perron applauded the Rineharts for setting such high standards for the barns they have recruited to hang art on to make up the Vicksburg Quilt Trail. Perron cites the family involvement that Kitch has encouraged. The quilt has more meaning to both the viewer and the individuals displaying it. “It’s quality not quantity that makes for a successful quilt trail,” Perron believes. She has been documenting this art form for the last five years. This has meant viewing over 3,000 quilts and hundreds of trails throughout the United States.

Although quilts are as old-fashioned as they come, the idea of a Quilt Trail first originated in southern Ohio, east of Cincinnati, through the vision of Donna Sue Groves in 2001. She hung a block on her barn to honor her mother who had an Appalachian heritage. “Groves had a vision, got the people together from the Arts Council, sold the idea to the farms in her rural area, and saw the inspired project become a reality,” Perron explains.

This spawned so many other trails that Perron now has the official book on the movement and is writing a second one. It was Groves who got her started, proclaiming that she wanted Suzi to tell her story even though they did not know each other officially until they signed a contract for the book with Ohio University Press.

Perron was an English teacher in the Atlanta school district up until the end of 2013, when the success of her writing endeavors hit her square in the face with a “Wow, I can do this!” revelation. That is, go on the road to promote the book and calendars, plus make some dollars on the side by speaking at the many quilt clubs and guilds along the way.

She and her significant other purchased an RV and set out on the road a few weeks ago. Calamity came quickly, however, as their vehicle caught fire on I-94 outside of Michigan City, Indiana last week. Soon they were visited by police and fire equipment, and ultimately were a day late getting to Vicksburg as their RV had to be left in Elkhart for repairs. From here, they headed out to Canada and many places beyond to spread the word about the beauty of quilt trails.

Perron says she will be talking about Vicksburg’s trail because she likes the brochure that gives each quilt owner’s reason for choosing a particular design with the meaning explained as well. “There is a wonderful sense of community in Vicksburg’s trail, beautiful barn yards, great color and design in each one,” she notes. “Quilts used to be the essential comfort it

Schoolcraft Spirit Store to Open This Fall

By Morgan MacFarlane

Lori Pelton in the Eagle's Spirit store.
Lori Pelton in the Eagle’s Spirit store.
A school store will open in the high school cafeteria this week in Schoolcraft. It is under the direction of Lori Pelton who teaches the business management and administration class as well as the business operations unit.

The store hours of operation will be 7:30 – 8:00 am, during both lunches, and after school from 3 -3:30 pm. It will also be open during school events such as concerts and athletic contests along with a cart that can be taken around to other buildings, said Pelton at the August school board meeting.

Pelton said students will take turns working different positions, including cashier, marketing manager, general manager, inventory control person, product researchers, purchasing agents, and other general business positions as part of their classroom work.

The store will carry items like PTO spirit wear and snacks, said Pelton and will accept credit cards. By using the Square, a device that reads credit and debit cards, it will be easier to keep track of transactions she assured the school board. The PTO will be assisting the store with start up funds.

“The Eagle Spirit Store will give our Business students a workbased learning experience. The goal is to have students learn what it takes to run a retail store. It will include pricing, marketing, inventory, product research, and accounting principles. We are excited to start this new adventure at SHS,” she explained.

The School Board also approved weighted grades for the high school starting with the class of 2015. Mikayla Grunwell, a Schoolcraft High School senior remarked that, “Weighted grades seem to have been a concern for a long time, I remember them being an issue when I was a freshman, I am glad to see the classes below mine will now have them. Weighted grades can make a huge difference in GPAs. Having weighted grades gives colleges a more accurate picture of a students’ academic career.”

States Standards and Associated Assesments Represented by: Common Core

John O'Toole, K-12 science/math & assessment coordinator and Charlie Glaes, superintendent of Vicksburg Schools.
John O’Toole, K-12 science/math & assessment coordinator and Charlie Glaes, superintendent of Vicksburg Schools.

By Sue Moore

Children have returned to school this week. Who knows what the expectations are for their child to learn during the course of this school year? Have you heard of the term “Common Core”? Not many have, only those directly connected with K-12 education in Michigan and possibly the legislature are conversant with the term.

Common Core is the education model and assessments that are set to be implemented by the state governments in the spring of 2015, according to Dave Campbell, the newly minted superintendent of the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA).

Strictly speaking, it is a set of standards that every child in Michigan and the U.S. should be capable of knowing, as set by the U.S. Department of Education. Each state was asked to implement the yardsticks by spring of 2015. To date, 45 states have accepted the funding carrot held out by agreeing to institute the standards and devise tests to measure them.

Michigan is one of the exceptions although the Department of Education adopted a new teacher evaluation system and new student growth assessments months ago, albeit a year and a half late.

The legislature is still debating the merits of the standards. Oct. 1, 2013 is the deadline to decide, thus leaving school districts in a quandary. The Legislature has refused to allow the implementation by declining funding to develop the corresponding testing apparatus to determine if the student and school have made the requisite steps forward.

“It’s all about the local control mantra,” says Charlie Glaes, Vicksburg’s superintendent of schools. “We don’t even have the fiction of local control anymore,” he continues.

“Michigan never adopted a state mandated curriculum, they just built the MEAP test to embarrass the heck out of you! It’s a mess and often misused.”

“The legislature is distrustful of public schools. Recently they have done more micro-managing yet they are saying they want local control. The real push is to replace local control with “vendor control” but it is being portrayed as Federal control. The publishing companies and vendors running Charter schools with “online academies” are also involved in this stalemate,” Glaes points out.

The MEAP is administered in the fall when students have had the summer off. It is supposed to test their advancement in the previous year but that lapsed time doesn’t give them much chance to get up to speed, Glaes contends, so it’s difficult to show growth from September through May.

“Testing is very important to be designed and built for quality assessments. It is costly and time consuming, but with this delay in funding, we don’t know when or how a test will be forthcoming. Still, we are moving forward toward implementation,” he says.

“Common Core’s premise is a more standardized and higher level set of learning expectations across the nation. It is clear as to what needs to be taught at each level and makes clearer to teachers the content and expectations that are more rigorous than in the past.

We can’t afford to wait and see, he says. Parents may notice that the bar is being raised in Vicksburg. Students are being challenged to think and apply at a higher level in every grade.

The Common Core will challenge a child’s thinking skills and ask them to apply what they are learning to the real world amid the need to raise their achievement levels upon graduation. The tests are computer based with immediate feedback to give a base level of what the student knows. It is called adaptive testing and was developed in Oregon. “Our kids are competing with young people throughout the world now days. This requires a strong set of curriculum and expectations,” cites John O’Toole, K-12 science/math assessment coordinator for Vicksburg.

“We focus on what they need to know to be successful,” Glaes adds. “It’s very important to challenge schools to do a better job. The Common Core is clearer, more rigorous and more focused. A national panel of higher education, secondary and elementary experts worked to develop these and kept schools informed through KRESA. We were allowed input on drafts and changes were made, based upon input from local schools.

Parents involvement is critical, Glaes implores. We need them to be closely attuned to what their kids are doing in school and letting us know if they have concerns. It’s important that they understand the difference in Common Core as an ongoing process. We are not trying to hide this in a box and all of a sudden spring it on them when school starts,” he says.

Vicksburg High School Named to AP Honor Roll

vicksburg school
By Sue Moore

Vicksburg High School and Tobey Elementary were named “award schools” for 2013 while Sunset School received a “focus” delineation which means more work needs to be done according to Superintendent Charlie Glaes at the August school board meeting.

“This means we have met state standards in achievement levels,” he said. One of the determining factors of the award designation is having Advanced Placement (AP) classes available to juniors and seniors. Board President Skip Knowles commented that AP courses are good for students to take to challenge them along with receiving college credits that help then to alleviate the high cost of attending college. If students can pass a college level course in high school, that gives them credit and can therefore finish college that much quicker he said.

“We applaud the extraordinary efforts of the devoted teachers and administrators in the Vicksburg School District, who are fostering rigorous work in advanced placement (AP) offerings. These educators have not only expanded student access to AP course work, but they have enabled more of their students to achieve on a college level—which is helping to create a strong college-going culture,” said College Board President, David Coleman.

The College Board calls for continued commitment to expanding the availability of AP courses among prepared and motivated students of all backgrounds. They encourage greater readiness for AP, and then to take care of students within AP courses by providing support, mentorship and encouragement.

Vicksburg’s inclusion on the 3rd Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of AP data, from 2010 to 2012 by the College Board.

Specific criteria for the honor roll include:

1. Increase participation and access to AP by at least 11 percent

2. Insure that the percentage of non-white students did not decrease by more than 10 percent.

3. Improve performance levels when comparing the percentage of students in 2012 receiving a 3 or higher to those in 2010, unless the district has already attained a performance level in which more than 70 percent of the AP students are scoring a 3 or higher.

The Board held its first reading on several policies that needed to be updated to fit new state laws. One policy that board member David Schriemer showed concern was a religious celebration phrase which prohibits using any kind of scripture quotes in school presentations.

He had recently used a reference to the scriptures in his speech at the Celebration of the Arts in April. He wanted to make sure that this policy change would not impinge upon any type of presentation in the future.

Second reading of the proposed policies will take place at the board meeting in September.

Legislative Action Needed to Fund Common Core Assessment Tests

By Sue Moore

campbell“Parents, the public and our taxpayers, want to know how their public schools are doing,” says Dave Campbell, the newly appointed Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA) superintendent. “They are highly interested in comparisons. It’s all about having the data in understandable form and being able to compare apples to apples,” Campbell asserted.

“The U.S. has had 50 different assessments since ‘No Child Left Behind’. We live in a global economy now and it’s impossible to tell how our students are doing compared to those in other countries. Education is not what our grandparents were used to,” he said.

Campbell contends that Common Core is not a Federal mandated program, since 45 states have chosen to join and adhere to standards set by the two consortiums of educators.

Michigan joined the Smarter Balance group, along with a majority of other states, to adhere to the testing instruments they set forth. The other test is called PARCC and is very similar in nature so it will be possible to compare across 45 states, once 2015 rolls around,” he said.

“They test a higher level of writing and critical thinking. I believe that schools got gamed with No Child Left Behind. It has been the laughing stock,” Campbell said. At the least the MEAP test in Michigan, has been quite strong compared to what many other states had as their standards to be tested he implied.

Some members of the Michigan legislature are trying to derail the assessment system that its own Department of Education has developed using Smarter Balance as its assessment tool by withholding funding. The school districts are moving forward on their own to implement the higher standards, according to the Vicksburg and Schoolcraft superintendents.

Whatever happens, will largely mean that the MEAP test will be given in 2013, just as it has been, until the money is there to go with the apples to apples test that has been developed by the Smarter Balance consortium.