Vicksburg Board Meeting Highlights

By David Schriemer, MD

The monthly Vicksburg School Board meeting held at Vicksburg High School in January was full of good news.

Superintendent Glaes reviewed information from Lansing that the state general fund and school aid fund revenues were greater than forecast. The school aid fund expects $89.9 million more than forecast for 2013-2014. Whether the legislature will see fit to restore funding to schools after years of cuts remains to be seen Glaes said.

Sunset Lake Principal Pat Moreno and instructional consultant Jamie Masco gave a quarterly update on gains of at-risk students at Sunset Lake Elementary. This year 42 percent of students at risk in reading are new to the school.   Interventions in small groups or even one to one are being done to give students extra instruction to help them catch up. As a result of careful planning, reading and math interventions at all grade levels are being done without taking students out of core instruction.  Already in one quarter, each grade level saw reading percentile rankings on the STAR Test increase by 9-24%. Below grade level nonreaders have become readers, a life changing event.

The high school reported on several very positive activities. Special education instructor Kellie Lindeman and student/mentors Breanne Bess, Madi Burns and Troy Dean presented the Peer to Peer program at VHS. General population students are trained to mentor students with special academic and social needs. Besides the obvious benefit to those receiving help, the mentors expressed how much they had gained from this experience. Dean expressed how this has confirmed his pursuit of a career in special education.

The program benefits the entire school by tangibly demonstrating that a person’s worth is not measured by academic achievement, athletic ability, appearance or popularity.  As a result, students are kinder to themselves and each other.

School Board Vice President Carol Lohman remarked how refreshing this interaction of students is. Not long ago, students with special needs were segregated from the general student population. It is her belief that the interaction of the general student population with special needs students promotes greater understanding.

High School Principal Keevin O’Neill gave an overview of VHS accomplishments: “High Standards, High Expectations, No Excuses”.

College and Career Readiness Week, held in the fall, is one deliberate effort to get students to raise their expectations. Students explore different colleges and careers and what it would take to get there. The week is fun and participants win college memorabilia and cash scholarships.

The rising expectations of students can be seen by increased participation in Advanced Placement (AP) classes that are taught at the college level. Students can earn college credits for these classes if they score high enough on the standardized AP exam at the end of the class. Students participating in at least one AP class increased from 199 students in 2010-2011 to 351 students this year. Because of the increased course offerings, increase in student participation and improved scores on AP exams, VHS was designated an AP Honor Roll School by the state of Michigan. No longer are AP classes perceived as just for ‘braniacs’ he said. AP classes are for all students. 75% of VHS graduates go on to college.

Michigan Merit Exam results were reviewed. VHS improved so much it has been designated a “Reward School” by the Michigan Department of Education. Reward Schools are schools that are either in the top 5% of schools on the Top to Bottom list or the top 5 % of schools making the greatest gains in achievement. VHS met the criteria for the top 5% of schools making gains and nearly met the first criteria as well, as it ranked in the 93rd percentile of all Michigan schools.

Beyond test scores, Mr. O’Neill reminded the board of the excellent way the school is represented by its honor societies and the excellence of its theatre, choir and instrumental music programs.

School Board President Skip Knowles commended O’Neill, teachers, staff and students for all their hard work and accomplishments.

VHS Spanish student trip to NYC June 12-15, 2014 was approved.

A resolution was passed to request KRESA to ask for renewal of the regional enhancement property tax. This tax has been in place for nine years. It is in the final year before a renewal vote is required.

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