Polynesian Dance Program Shines Bright

Mikala Hough (Three Rivers, left), Cassidy Zinsmaster (middle) and Cece Roehm (right), with Dance Instructor Dawn Simpson speaking behind them.
Mikala Hough (Three Rivers, left), Cassidy Zinsmaster (middle) and Cece Roehm (right), with Dance Instructor Dawn Simpson speaking behind them.

By Linda Lane

Three girls in colorful Polynesian dance attire entertained the Vicksburg Community Schools Board of Education at its Oct. 12 meeting at Tobey Elementary School. The dancers demonstrated their talents and dance garb to the Board to highlight the 30th year of a successful Dance and Tumbling Program with the Vicksburg Community Education program. It was part of an annual report presented by program director Tonya Nash.

The other part of Community Education was addressed by Nash. It includes Bulldog Beginnings, a preschool program offered by the district, and assists 48 young children at risk and identified by early preschool learning indicators. Community Education offers a number of summer school classes to students as well.

“Our Polynesian Dance Program is the only one in all of southwest Michigan, one of only five in all of Michigan, and there are only a couple hundred programs in the country,” said Dawn Simpson. She is the Polynesian Dance Program instructor, teaching it for 25 years. The Dance and Tumble Program coordinator is Jami Buell, a former VHS graduate and student of the dance program since she was 8.

In addition to tumbling, ballet, jazz and tap, classes are also offered in Hawaiian dance, lyrical, musical theater, world fusion and hip hop. Thousands of students have enjoyed the stage spotlights in the past 30 years with the Community Education’s Dance and Tumbling Program.

“Enrollment for the Vicksburg Community Schools K-12 has seen an increase by 15 additional students” for the 2015-16 school year based on the formal headcount conducted in accordance with the State of Michigan, Superintendent Charles Glaes reported to the Board. However, “The Way” alternative education for high school students has seen a significant decrease from 102 down to 83 students according to Glaes. Because of the drop in The Way program, the overall headcount for Vicksburg Community Schools is slightly down for the K-Alternative Education entire headcount.

The Board also voted to support Kalamazoo County’s Local Housing Assistance Fund Millage which would help provide a subsidy for homeless families, and to assist in rent and coaching for local families within the district. The need for stable housing has a great impact on students’ ability to learn; students enduring “couch surfing” fall behind educationally when families become homeless.

In addition to highlighting the Tobey teaching staff, the school’s PTO and Parent Advisory Committee, Principal Mike Barwegen provided an instructional report to the Board designed around the staff’s theme, “Be a Superhero!” With an audio-visual show, Barwegen outlined Tobey’s Instructional Strategic Plan Overview with the Board. The most noteworthy improvements seen recently at Tobey include significant playground and playground equipment improvements, including a softball field, and Planetarium Show improvements.

Two field trips were also approved by the Board of Education: a Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Management Program trip to Disney World from Feb. 25-29 and the Film Class trip to Italy from April 1-9, 2016. All costs will be paid by participating students.

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