Monthly Archives: September 2015

Vicksburg Finishes Off Plainwell in Rain-Delayed Football Game

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity football team finished off Plainwell 22-7 in a game that stretched two evenings due to weather delay.

The Bulldogs opened the scoring Friday night 58 seconds into the second quarter with a 50 yard power run by senior running back Nick Wallace, who shredded several tackles as he rumbled his way for six.

The story of both nights was the defense that allowed yards, but prevented Plainwell points again and again. Senior linebacker Brendan Crawford came up with a key interception late in the second quarter that senior quarterback Brenden Lovell converted to points six plays later on an 11-yard scoring strike to junior wide receiver Blake Rankin.

Senior running back Seth Benson was successful on both two-point after touchdown runs.

At halftime the Bulldogs led 16-0, but then came the lightning. After several re-starts of the clock, officials were forced to call the game until the next evening.

On Saturday, Head coach Tom Marchese said the team went through pre-game preparations for the re-start of the second half like a normal game. “We’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do,” Marchese said of the team’s response to the weather delays faced by most teams in the Conference.

The Bulldogs received the kick in the Saturday restart in the third quarter. Vicksburg went on a lengthy drive that was capped off by a 12 yard run by Wallace for a touchdown to make it 22-0. The PAT was unsuccessful.

Plainwell responded with a touchdown on the next possession. The Bulldog defense made the Trojans work for every yard on the drive and it was the final score of the game.

Marchese said the defense played bend but not break in the Saturday restart. It ended up being a sound strategy. Plainwell had multiple lengthy drives that didn’t amount to anything. “We had two stops on fourth down, which was nice,” Marchese said.

The defense closed out the final seconds with two consecutive sacks on third and fourth down to finish off Plainwell. The Bulldogs will face Sturgis at home for homecoming this Friday.

Spotlight on Vicksburg Cultural Arts

Some of the people involved in the Vicksburg Arts Collaborative that now will move to the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center. Seated from left to right: Mary Marshall, Helen Kleczynski, Leeanne Server, Stella Shearer. Standing from left to right: Kathleen Hoyle, Cindy Cross, Josh Harrison, BenJammin, Dina Vibert, Kim Marston, Ruthie Dorrance, Carman Sweezy.
Some of the people involved in the Vicksburg Arts Collaborative that now will move to the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center. Seated from left to right: Mary Marshall, Helen Kleczynski, Leeanne Server, Stella Shearer. Standing from left to right: Kathleen Hoyle, Cindy Cross, Josh Harrison, BenJammin, Dina Vibert, Kim Marston, Ruthie Dorrance, Carman Sweezy.

There might be something in the water in Vicksburg. There’s definitely something in the air—the sounds of concert-quality music wafting across from the football field where the high school band rehearses. Or from a folk group playing the Pavilion where the smells and tastes of the Farmers’ Market mingle with the relaxed crowd on Friday afternoons. In the cool mornings when the sky scaffolds pink to blue, a local watercolorist captures it from the boardwalk along Sunset Lake. “It’s not just making a living, it’s about the art of living here,” said Leeanne Seaver, arts director at the new Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC). “Our Cultural Arts Center embodies the commitment of this community to promoting our quality of life and the arts in all their many expressions.”

Local artists and patrons have been meeting for months to envision a cultural arts center that would provide a mechanism for such expression. The effort has been sponsored by Vicksburg’s Downtown Development Authority. DDA Chair Steve McCowen said, “Vicksburg has always been known for its arts—from the high school theatre and music programs to the performances of the Gilmore Keyboard Festival to the annual Showboat. Our community is very proud of that tradition.”

The tradition continues with the launch of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) at 200 Main Street adjacent to Rawlinson Appliances. A special “sneak peek” at the gallery at 7 p.m. on September 10 features folk duo Chris and Jamie Ross. The official grand opening is at 5 p.m. on September 25. Building owner Julie Merrill has restored the space to its former dimensions as Reuben Smalley’s grocery store circa 1880. It’s an ideal setting for a variety of art, music, literary, film, and theatrical performance. All are invited to attend and support area artists and performers.  An award-winning line-up includes metal sculptor Raven Wynd; painters Kathleen Kalvig, Helen Kleczynski, Cindy Krill, and Carmen Sweezy; pottery by Dina Hadley and Lupe Smith; photography by Kim Marston; glasswork by Cathy Carter; and much more.  Jewelry artist Joe Fletcher’s work will be spotlighted. His is one of a kind—each piece evolves from the shape, color, cut or polished stone used in the creation.  Fletcher was most recently exhibited in Playa Y Oro, a downtown Kalamazoo Gallery, but he has now moved all his jewelry to the VCAC Gallery.  “I was attracted to the VCAC Gallery after I had read the article in The South County News,” Joe said.  “I live in Vicksburg and felt I would like to participate in the gallery as an artist and work with those having the same interest.”

The call for artists continues, and recruitment is going nicely. Legwork by DDA Director Kathleen Hoyle, who has produced art events all over southwestern Michigan, helped draw interest and establish credibility. Artist and sculptor Raven Wynd, whose award-winning work has been featured on-line at Tattoos By Raven on Facebook and in area shops, said the success of any gallery has a lot to do with who’s behind the effort. “Vicksburg’s Gallery has some great people like Kathleen involved, and Leeanne’s incredible enthusiasm is contagious.”

The September premiere event also showcases readings by authors including Kathleen Oswalt Forsythe with the Lake Effect Writers Guild. Contemporary jazz by Kalamazoo’s Nicholas Baxter and Jordan Hamilton underscores the finale of spoken art performance by Kelsey “KFG” Foster-Goodrich, winner of the All Talent Competition at The Mix.

For more information on volunteer opportunities, on how to become a VCAC featured artist, on the launch event, and the VCAC activities being scheduled for the rest of 2015, email or visit the website

Local OLLI Classes

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at WMU is back at the Schoolcraft Community Library for the fall. The classes being offered include:

• Creativity with Paper Crafting w/ Diane Kipp from Stampin’ Up. Sept. 14, 21, & 28, 1-3 p.m.
• I Bought an iPad…Now What? w/ Dawn Pincumbe. Sept. 22, Oct. 20, & Nov. 17, 12-2 p.m.
• Connecting Threads, Ancient to Modern w/ Georgia Kline. Oct. 19, & 26, 9-11 a.m.

Students may register online at, by phone with a credit card at (269) 387-4200, or in person by going to room #3202, on the third floor of Ellsworth Hall on the WMU campus.

At the Vicksburg library, Leeanne Seaver, director of the Vicksburg Creative Arts Center, is teaching a creative writing workshop on Wednesdays 10/7, 10/14, and 10/21 from 1-3 p.m. The course is entitled “Let Her Scream,” and will explore how to let words scream, tiptoe, plow, nourish, rage, massage, provoke, dance, induce and paint, according to Seaver. Class members will be writing, sharing and producing a finished piece that will be published a small chapbook during the last lesson.

DDA Capital Campaign Full of Enthusiasm

From left: Ron Smith, Bill Deming, Julie Merrill, James Earl, Kathleen Hoyle, and Ken Schippers review the map of the proposed trail through the village of Vicksburg.
From left: Ron Smith, Bill Deming, Julie Merrill, James Earl, Kathleen Hoyle, and Ken Schippers review the map of the proposed trail through the village of Vicksburg.

By Sue Moore

Raising $2.7 million in donations is a huge stretch for Vicksburg’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA). No other capital campaign in Vicksburg has ever attempted to raise that much money, according to Kathleen Hoyle, DDA director.

Can it be done in the short time frame she and the board have to match potential grants applied for from the state of Michigan? Hoyle is confident it can be done, because in her two years at the helm, she has seen the tremendous commitment of Vicksburg area citizens. “Our residents in the greater Vicksburg area show great pride in their community and the quality of life it represents,” she said.

“This small village isn’t dying, because the citizens, business people, school personnel and manufacturers are not going to let that happen, and thus this campaign is the result,” Hoyle said. “The volunteers who are heading up the capital campaign come from all walks of life in and around the village. Plus we have even more dedicated volunteers who are fanning out to solicit the much needed dollars. I’m sure we will reach our goal by the time the state lets us know that the grant is successful.”

The projects total an estimated $7.3 million to build another stretch of the trail through the village, widen the sidewalks downtown, beautify the area with planters, seating and upgrade parking lots with striping, lighting, and shrubbery. “The results of this campaign will not only benefit the Vicksburg area. We see this as having a strong economic impact in the entire south county area,” Hoyle said.

Hoyle and the DDA board, along with Village Manager Ken Schippers and Village President Bill Adams, have spent all year planning the trail course and obtaining letters of endorsement for easements from landowners. The major portion of the grant dollars for the trail would come from the Department of Transportation (MDOT) with a smaller amount requested from the Department of Natural Resources. Hoyle has been in constant contact with the decision makers in Lansing and believes that the DDA stands a really good chance of being approved some time in November. If that happens according to plan, the timeline for having the matching funds in hand must be before the end of the year. That’s the reason for the big push for the capital campaign in September and October, she said.

Hoyle and Adams went knocking on doors in August to set up campaign committees. Their persuasiveness convinced the following citizens to take an active role in the campaign: Ted Vliek, Historical Society president, and Kristina Powers Aubry, past president of the Historical Society as co-chairs. Their campaign cabinet consists of Ron Smith, family division; Bill Adams, foundation division, Steve McCowen, special gifts division; Gary Hallam, business division; Steve Goss, vendor division; and Mary Ruple, community division. Their base of support includes over 80 volunteers to raise funds.

If the grants are awarded, there is a lot of preliminary work to be done with permits needed from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) which would be good for one year and a half. The trail itself would be 10 feet wide, with an asphalt base. A trailhead is planned where people can park cars, get maps, or sit and rest. Bathroom facilities are in the plan to be built on Historical Society property, just east of the current trail.

If all goes well, some construction could start in fall of 2016, with the major portion of the trail to be completed in 2017, Hoyle says. After that, she expects to go full steam ahead with the downtown renovations.

Schoolcraft Starts School Year with New Administrators

Administrators gather before school in Schoolcraft. From left: Rusty Stitt, superintendent; Matt Webster, elementary principal; Ric Seager, high school principal; Jeff Clark, athletic director; Chris Ebsch, early elementary principal/technology support; Dave Powers, middle school principal.
Administrators gather before school in Schoolcraft. From left: Rusty Stitt, superintendent; Matt Webster, elementary principal; Ric Seager, high school principal; Jeff Clark, athletic director; Chris Ebsch, early elementary principal/technology support; Dave Powers, middle school principal.

By Sue Moore

Returning students in Schoolcraft will see a host of new faces at the administration level this year with changes everywhere except at the top. Superintendent Rusty Stitt will start his fourth year at the helm.

New middle school principal, Dave Powers, comes from Hudsonville near Holland, where he served as principal. He lives in Battle Creek so this will be a closer drive and a new challenge. “I’ve immersed myself in the Schoolcraft culture and climate already, and find that wonderful things are happening here. With the Leader in Me program introduced by Amie McCaw, I find the students have learned to take ownership of their life, where the teachers are not the taskmasters, they have become the facilitators. They can help students get ready for vocations we don’t even know exist today,” he said.

Chris Ebsh, who was the middle school principal, has moved to the early elementary to work with Amie Goldschmeding and take charge of technology support throughout the system as director of innovation in teaching and learning.

To take McCaw’s place in elementary school, the district has hired Matt Webster from Huntley, Ill. His wife’s parents live at Gull Lake, so he has family close by. “I’ve found that Schoolcraft is friendly, a tight-knit community with lofty goals and exciting people to work with who are driven to do good things,” he said. “This community values education and wants to make great things happen.”

Ric Seager, the high school’s principal is not quite as new, since he started mid-year in 2014-15, replacing Kristin Flynn. There have been five different principals in four years, so he said it was important to respect the work done before him by being deliberate about any changes. “I’ve been able to identify where the challenges are and put an emphasis this year on our Middle College offering that Schoolcraft pioneered as part of KRESA’s desire to offer students an associate’s degree from KVCC through four years of high school and one year of advance degree studies in arts and letters. There is a significant cost savings to the students if they choose to go in this direction,” he said.

Ebsch started the pioneer offering in the middle school by planting the seed in 2014-15. Students will be able to move into high school, already thinking about what career path they might like to take. He uses the analogy of a tree with a sturdy trunk, which has branches reaching out in several directions. “It matters that the student in this program is on a path with the tree trunk being the solid foundation and the branches offering a strong skill set, to be sure of what is needed in the work world,” he said.

There is another big change at the high school level with Jeff Clark as athletic director, taking over for Doug Flynn who was AD for two years. Clark is the middle school science teacher and will continue in that role while taking over as AD half days. He also coached in the middle school so is familiar with what the coaches need in the way of support. “The life lessons learned on the on the athletic field will be useful in the student’s career later in life because of the successes they have had in Schoolcraft’s athletics,” he pointed out.

Since Schoolcraft has gone all electronic with iPads throughout, the next step was to build a course management system online, according to Ebsch and Seager. Students, parents, and teachers will now have resources electronically at their fingertips. This includes the ability to turn in assignments electronically with weekly learning targets set out by their teachers online. Grades for all assignments will be posted online. Students will be able to message their teachers and take tests online as well. “They will be able to get quicker feedback from teachers with these tools that help students and parents. It’s a journey in the learning process,” said Clark.

Officer Petersen Keeps Vicksburg High School Safe

Mark Petersen, Vicksburg’s school resource officer.
Mark Petersen, Vicksburg’s school resource officer.

By Sue Moore

“You’re a pretty cool dude, although I haven’t been around police officers to know that much, but hey, that’s what I think about you.” That’s from a Vicksburg high school student’s evaluation sheet about Officer Mark Petersen, the school’s resource officer.

Other evaluation comments generally thanked Petersen for the work he does to keep order in the parking lots and hallways and his one-on-one talks with students. The comments were presented to the Vicksburg school board at its August meeting.

“Dear Officer Petersen,” Ashley Vader, 11th grade, wrote, “I think you have a great impact on our school. Your job is very important in the sense that you are here to keep us safe (of which I have yet to see you ever fail at doing). For me personally, I feel better knowing that you are in the building in case something does happen and you could easily call an ambulance. You also have helped control the drug use at this school and I feel you have culturally changed the school. On the other hand, giving students speeding tickets for going three mph over the speed limit in the parking lot is a bit much. Thank you for all your work, you do a really great job!J”

A few years back, when the village and schools were struggling to balance budgets, they were on the verge of discontinuing the resource officer’s job. The Vicksburg Foundation stepped in the breach with funding for the next year and more support afterward so the village and schools could continue the position.

At the meeting, Petersen reported on his purpose, goals, duties, benefits, accomplishments, and total stats for the year. “With the increased violence throughout the U.S., my goal is to work closer with not only the schools but with the local child care facilities in the area. I will also continue to work closer with student/staff safety, continue the assistance with ‘lock-down’ and security procedures.”

It was evident that the teachers appreciated his efforts too. Tim Callahan, government instructor in the high school wrote, “Mark’s effect on student success is as valuable as any teacher. He helps students survive difficult classes, peer pressure, depression and other problems that hurt their odds for success by making himself approachable and available. He is a good listener, giving all of his attention to what students say without interrupting them.”

Krista Ragotzy, art education teacher in the high school, said, “With the presence of Officer Petersen in our building and the relationships he has formed, I feel safer. I hope the position he holds in the schools continues as I believe it is in the best interest of the safety of our students, staff and community.”

Sunset Elementary School second grade teacher, Laura Chang, had this to say: “His presence at Sunset has been incredibly beneficial for students, teachers, and families. He can be seen on many mornings greeting students as they come into school, talking with parents and staff in the lobby before school starts, and patrolling the very congested morning parking lot. Safety is a real issue in elementary schools and Officer Petersen’s presence helps to keep our students safe and secure. Students are very comfortable with his familiar face as he pops into classrooms routinely throughout the day. He has worked hard to develop a trusting bond with my students that will yield payoffs in the future curing their potentially difficult teenage years.”

Petersen is especially commended for the work he does with special needs students. “Frequently he tracks the progress of At-Risk students and meets with individuals encouraging them to develop successful learning strategies, organizational skills and self-advocacy,” according to Callahan.

Petersen’s report showed 63 traffic stops, 13 citations, 50 verbal warnings, 23 criminal complaints, some misdemeanor complaints, 14 student counseling sessions, and 38 classroom presentations.

During the summer when school is not in session, Petersen has been working the streets, literally. He has made a point to stop in downtown businesses to chat with the owners and staff and generally show his presence in case there is a need. He says he has been thanked many times over by the business people. The village police force night crew has also made a special attempt to make sure the doors are locked and secure, according to Police Chief Eric West.

“It’s good to know our efforts are appreciated,” Petersen said. “We don’t always hear that.”

New Leadership at Sunset Lake Elementary

Amie McCaw, new principal at Sunset Lake.
Amie McCaw, new principal at Sunset Lake.

By Sue Moore

Amie McCaw is the new principal at Sunset Lake School. She is not new to Vicksburg. She has lived in the Vicksburg community since 2000 and was a teacher in the system before moving to Gull Lake and then to Schoolcraft as elementary principal.

In a building that houses over 500 students and 36 staff members, her goal for the 2015-16 school year is to get acquainted with her teachers with one on one meetings. She prides herself in having an open door policy and will work to visit the classrooms each week. “I need to get to know each teacher’s style and their instructional focus in the classroom,” she said.

While in Gull Lake she experienced Steven Covey’s “Leader in Me” concept that she then brought successfully to Schoolcraft during her three years there. Also among her goals will be to see how this concept can be instituted at Sunset by working through the team of teachers and support staff. The concept Covey teaches is for the adults to let go and let the voice of the kids come out as leaders in their own right. Once the students understand that they can take command of their own destiny, great things can happen in the classroom, McCaw said.

McCaw congratulated the Sunset staff, headed by Principal Pat Moreno and Instructional Consultant Jaime Masco, in moving the elementary from a state designated ‘focus’ school in just two years to being released from this status in 2014-15. It involved a tremendous dedication to closing the learning gap of all the students from the highest to the lowest testing students, she acknowledged. “The teams’ commitment to work day and night has paid big dividends.”

She also mentioned the work of the PTA. This volunteer group of parents has really made a difference in the physical attributes of the building and the playgrounds. According to Lucas Hilliard, PTA president, $25,000 of that organization’s fundraising money has been spent in the last two years to upgrade outdoor equipment and construct an indoor climbing wall.

“We did simple things like soccer poles, funnel ball installations, and basketball hoops. Big things got done too, with playground chain link fencing for safety purposes built around three sides of the building, and cutting down of brush and trees on the south side that had become overgrown,” said Hilliard as he ticked off the list of PTA accomplishments. In all these efforts they were assisted by donations from parents, the Vicksburg Rotary Club, the school administration, and private individuals. The PTA workers who helped out included Rob Moughton, Steve Buell, Jeff Visser, and Boy Scout Troop 251 through Tanner White’s Eagle Scout project.

McCaw was born and raised in Mendon, where her father and two uncles started TH Plastics, when it was known as the Haas Corporation, then Lear Siegler. A brother, Chris Haas, is president now and her husband Mike is vice president. She is equally proud of another brother, Joe Haas, who is an attorney in Sturgis and recently named Citizen of the Year. Yet another, Dan, is a middle school principal at Lake Orion. She said he is a great asset to her as the brother she often goes to as a resource. “I’m hoping to become even more involved in the Vicksburg community, just like my parents and siblings have taught me, through their efforts in Mendon, Lake Orion, and Sturgis,” McCaw said.

Benches at Sunset School

From left: Lucas Hilliard and Tanner White occupy the newest of three benches built as rest stops on the walking track at Sunset School. White did this in partnership with the PTA as part of his Eagle Scout project. The bench has a concrete pad with the finest lumber he could find to purchase for the three benches, so they will last at least through his lifetime, he said.
From left: Lucas Hilliard and Tanner White occupy the newest of three benches built as rest stops on the walking track at Sunset School. White did this in partnership with the PTA as part of his Eagle Scout project. The bench has a concrete pad with the finest lumber he could find to purchase for the three benches, so they will last at least through his lifetime, he said.