By Travis Smola
State Senator Margaret O’Brien spoke at the Schoolcraft school board’s December meeting on a number of legislative issues currently before state legislators.
They included Senate Bills 584-586, awaiting review in the House, which would allow concealed carry of firearms in schools by individuals who receive enhanced firearms training. Trustee Michael Rochholz had expressed concerns over the lack of local control in the bills at the end of the board’s November meeting.
O’Brien voted for the bills, but acknowledged they are controversial. She believes the failure to get a local control amendment in the bill will be its downfall. Governor Rick Snyder previously vetoed a similar bill. “I am very confident in saying the governor would not support the legislation as it sits right now,” O’Brien told the board.
She said parents who contact her office are all over the board on the issue with some in favor and some who are not. “I wish there was a perfect answer,” O’Brien said. “I wish we didn’t have to deal with it.”
Other bills discussed at the meeting deal with charter schools, elimination of the state school board and school years starting before Labor Day.
O’Brien encouraged trustees to come to her with their concerns on any legislative issue, even if they don’t necessarily agree.
Superintendent Rusty Stitt said he appreciates that O’Brien seeks the perspectives on many issues from her constituents. Trustee Rochholz agreed, noting the senator’s passion for the people she represents.
Before the meeting, board members reviewed projects by high schoolers on the issue of sewers vs septic systems in the community. Cindy Kohl gave a short presentation on the elementary robotics Lego league’s success this year.
While some of the competitions centered on programming robots to do simple tasks, Kohl said others just focused on giving the young students a science-related challenge and seeing how they responded as a team. “These guys have worked really hard,” Kohl said. She noted they won a couple of teamwork awards for their efforts and will be competing in a state meet.
The board also saw a presentation from Dr. Holly Windram on the district’s new partnership with the Michigan Education Reading Corps.
The corps is an educational intervention program that uses trained tutors to provide one-on-one daily training with kindergarten through third grade students in reading. The goal is 20 minutes a day with a 100-minute-a-week target for students who are below target reading benchmarks.
“The reason why this got the attention of other states was the research that showed results,” Windram told the board. There are now 117 tutors serving approximately 65 schools in Michigan. Schoolcraft is the first in the county to adopt the program.
The program is supported from a grant, so the costs will not come out of the district’s general fund dollars.
Superintendent Stitt also gave a quick update on the facilities assessment underway by the Kalamazoo architectural firm C2AE and Christman Construction. The team has been in Schoolcraft once and observed pickup and dropoff traffic patterns at the end of the school day.
Stitt says a report on the assessment is expected by mid-January.