Charlie Glaes Retires as Vicksburg Superintendent

By Sue Moore

After 36 years of teaching and administering in the Vicksburg School System – and parenting his own children there – Charlie Glaes’ legacy might read as follows: “That I was able to take a great institution and work with others to make it better.”

Announcing his retirement as superintendent at the April board meeting, he told an audience of parents, students, teachers and administrators that “After a long period of soul-searching, I will retire at the end of this school year, on June 30. I look forward to the next phase of my life and the opportunities it holds.”

“I also know that I am leaving the District I love strong and poised to move forward boldly,” he continued. “A strong community such as Vicksburg creates the conditions for strong schools that thrive. Our school system has long been recognized as stable and innovative, high achieving and highly supportive; a district attractive to parents and staff.”

Glaes began his career in Vicksburg in 1982 as the suspension room proctor, a position the school board had created so students could continue learning while suspended. He had begun as a teacher aide in Three Rivers and then taught 2nd grade there for four years after graduating from Western Michigan University. Glaes was subbing and working full time on his Master’s degree in administration when Supt. Denny McMahon offered him the suspension room job.

As Vicksburg School Board trustee and then president for 34 years, Skip Knowles watched Glaes progress up the ladder of achievement within the school district. “He went from there to principal at Indian Lake elementary school for three years, Middle School principal for 15 years, assistant superintendent for three years and finally superintendent in 2004.”

“The suspension room offered me valuable experience,” Glaes said. “I worked directly with a lot of students who needed help, socially, emotionally and academically. In addition, they were often angry as they came in. I had to learn to let it roll off my shoulders. Their anger was not about me. We had to make it about helping them to solve problems if possible. It was huge preparation for going into administration, and dealing with angry parents, staff and students.”

Glaes came into the superintendent’s job just as the state of Michigan was tanking financially. “I didn’t like presiding over whittling away what we had accomplished over the last 20 years. We had built up so much [quality] and now we were cutting things. It was difficult to maintain the school’s fiscal integrity and still keep the programs in place that make a school district attractive to students. We were asking staff to make sacrifices in the elementary, middle and high school. Those were dark days,” Glaes recalled.

“We came out of it gradually and were able to maintain and even expand our amazing fine arts opportunities for which we’re known,” Glaes pointed out. That included the band, choir, art classes, film/video, drama and musical performances on display in the Celebration of the Arts presented every two years from the grade schools through high school. “Parents, grandparents and the community can see what is happening here, what kids are able to do when given these opportunities.”

The stadium project was another example Glaes cited as one that opened up a whole new era of sports participation in the schools in 2006. “The old field, built on a swamp, was a mess. The track was unusable, the bleachers were scary. We were able to utilize the first three years of the countywide enhancement millage at no further taxpayer expense.

“I remember the first day we could officially use it. The cheerleaders were practicing in the end zone, the football teams, the soccer team all practiced on the same day, then the marching band in the evening and finally members of the community out walking the new track. In the years before, we could barely let the football team on it to play on Friday nights.”

Glaes closed with his appreciation of the strong and inclusive culture in the Vicksburg School system. “Vicksburg provides the close relationships and caring of a smaller school with the depth and range of opportunities normally found in large ones. We help make all students college and career ready, so they graduate equipped to take the next step in their lives.”

The Vicksburg Community Reflects on Charlie Glaes

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Avery Slancik, a graduating senior, thanks Superintendent Glaes at the School Board meeting after he announced his retirement from the school system after 36 years.

By Sue Moore

“So glad you’re doing a story on Charlie, they don’t make them any better.” – Deb Vliek, a former administrative assistant in Vicksburg schools, now with Kalamazoo Regional Service Agency (KRESA).

“I’ve always been impressed with Charlie’s thorough attention to matters in front of him.  He shares the same values as the teacher’s union in having at the forefront of our decision-making ensuring that the education of our students is of the highest quality.  He is well-educated in both academic matters and about the employees in his district.  It will be difficult to find someone else so ingrained in the Vicksburg community to lead.” – Liz Ratashak, science teacher Vicksburg High School, president of the Vicksburg Education Association.

“As the father of a Vicksburg student, I have been attending the school board meetings for over 10 years. As a district, we will miss Mr. Glaes.  The board meetings were always professional, and from what I have witnessed, Charlie has moved our school district forward. Mr Glaes has positioned us to continue to move forward after his retirement.  I wish Charlie well.” – Steve Thomas, Vicksburg resident.

“I had the privilege of working with Charlie through my involvement with the VCSF. I always found him to be an approachable, capable leader; genuine and personable with a great sense of humor. Whether serving the VCSF as a trustworthy, knowledgeable facilitator or capturing rubber ducks at the Annual Duck Derby fundraiser, he was passionate about his job and the district he served. Happy retirement Charlie!!” – Kim Klein, former president of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation.

“Oh my goodness, I did not realize Mr. Glaes was retiring!! Of course, I would love to contribute! As a long-time student of Vicksburg Community Schools, I appreciate all of the hard work Mr. Glaes has put into improving the district. As a student who did drama, I am deeply thankful for his appreciation of the arts and his constant support and encouragement. He is always incredibly kind and it is a pleasure to know him.” – Andrew Phelps, graduate of the class of 2017 and now a student at Spring Arbor University.

“Charlie has been a very responsive, dedicated and informed superintendent for the Vicksburg Community Schools. His leadership has been strong and positive. I will miss his infectious laugh and positive outlook even in the face of adversity. He has given unselfishly to make Vicksburg schools a leader in this area. I will miss him. I wish him well in retirement.” – Carol Lohman, 34-year school board member.

“Charlie has been an inspirational leader and mentor over the last nine years that I have worked with him. I have come to admire these traits in Charlie: wisdom, integrity and grace.  I will miss him tremendously.” Gail Van Daff, Vicksburg Schools curriculum director.

“Charlie has contributed substantially to children across the Kalamazoo RESA service area by advocating for high quality shared programming in areas such as special education, education for employment (our area’s career/technical education program), education for the arts and the professional development for educators. He is a leader among leaders.  His wit, wisdom, and unwavering commitment to children will surely be missed.” – Dave Campbell, KRESA superintendent.

“We have shared many great experiences and some very tough ones as well. Words just can’t truly express the value of working with him. Charlie has kept us on the cutting edge, never forgetting what is in the best interest of kids. He has been a compassionate, firm and highly respected leader and I consider his retirement a huge loss for all of us. I have been privileged to work with him his entire time in Vicksburg and he is a true Bulldog!” – Skip Knowles, school board president.

“I always admired Charlie’s ability to put people at ease while also moving them forward.   He gave Vicksburg the full measure of his dedication and abilities and I am certain he is leaving an indelible mark.” – Pat Reeves, former Vicksburg superintendent and associate professor, WMU.

Schoolcraft Schools Facilities Study Identifies Problems

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Schoolcraft High School’s track, stadium and tennis facilities were singled out by the facilities advisory committee in need of upgrades.

By Travis Smola

Results of a 2017 study of the Schoolcraft school district’s facilities were presented to the public at two meetings in April by a committee including the school board, a facilities advisory committee, Brian Crissman of Christman Construction and two architects from architecture and engineering firm C2AE.

One thing they sought to make clear: There is no project. Right now, they are just presenting their findings to the community. “We are not going to be ready for a project next year,” Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk said. “We’ve got to come up with a process. This is going to be painstakingly slow.”

Trustee Jill VanDyken-Hunt said one of the options is to do nothing at all.

C2AE and Christman worked together with architects, mechanical and electrical engineers to walk through all the existing facilities at Schoolcraft schools. They looked at everything, including interior and exteriors, mechanical and electrical systems. They also looked at food services and education technology and adequacy.

The group gave each facility a score on a scale of 0-100 with higher being better. The high school fared the best, scoring 83 in part because it was built just 19 years ago. The older elementary building scored 61 and the middle school got a 53.

“While they are well-maintained, we are talking decades old,” Steve Jurczuk, project manager and architect at C2AE said.

Jurczuk said things like mechanical systems are either at or beyond their end of life spans. In particular, the boilers at the middle school are of great concern. “Those are getting near end of life,” Jurczuk said. “We’re well beyond where we should be.”

Also a big concern is security. In all three buildings, once someone is through the main entrance, the person can go anywhere without interacting with office staff. One possible solution: Creation of a security vestibule at the middle school where visitors would have to interact with office staff before being able to roam the building.

For the elementary and middle school, C2AE took photos during school dismissal times that show safety issues of children having to enter or cross into an active street to get to their parent’s vehicles.

C2AE also said the middle school cafeteria creates scheduling issues. Because of the size of the room, there is only room for approximately 100 students at a time to eat lunch. This results in four different lunches, which cuts into class time. It also means lunch staff must work longer hours.

Other issues with the elementary and middle school include a flooding problem in the back parking lot, old windows that are not energy-efficient, storage issues in many classrooms and doors to classrooms that are not fire rated.

C2AE Buildings Group Leader and architect Bob McGraw said the stadium, track and tennis courts all have problems that need to be addressed, especially the courts. “The tennis courts are in very poor condition and those need to be reconstructed,” McGraw said.

The track surface has divots in many places in the surface. McGraw said the standard now is an eight-lane track, while Schoolcraft’s is only six. The extra lanes allow more events to be run quicker and in shorter time.

The press box also has ADA issues and the wood bleachers are in rough shape. There are also areas where the concrete is deteriorating.

For now, the groups will work to collect feedback from the community on how to proceed before their May board meeting where the results will be discussed further.

Community Provides Feedback on Facilities Study

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Audience member Jenny Sportel in the center, commented on the facilities study. Seated on her left is Tracey Branch and Doug Ryskamp on the right.

By Travis Smola

After presenting their findings to the public at the two April meetings, the Schoolcraft school board and facilities advisory committee immediately began looking for feedback from the people in attendance.

Surveys put out by the board and committee showed many residents believe the elementary and middle schools are in good shape. But consultants said the results of the study have shown otherwise. That’s why the meeting was held – to show members of the public the exact conditions at the schools. “We as board members thought it was really important to bring the community along with us,” Trustee Jill Vandyken-Hunt said.

One of the biggest concerns immediately expressed concerned the middle school boiler issue and why maintenance has not been kept up on it. Board Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk said there isn’t enough money to address the issue. A new boiler will cost approximately $1 million.

She said the district spends approximately $500,000 a year on maintenance already and other money that they have on hand is often already slated for things like teacher salaries.

“We need to think about a long-term goal and band-aids are not fixing the long-term problems we have,” facilities committee member Wade Rutkoskie added.

Schoolcraft village Trustee John Stodola said he was struck by the age of the buildings and noted they weren’t really designed for the larger classes and technology of today. “A new boiler won’t fix that,” Stodola said. He said his opinion was to build new because he hopes his grandchildren will have children in the district one day.

Several parents in the audience with young children agreed and said the issues brought up were of major concern because they planned to be in the village for the long haul. One mother said she is willing to make some extra sacrifices to pay more for the good of the community.

Kelli Brussee, a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school, spoke about handicap accessibility within the elementary and middle schools. “I have a student in a wheelchair. It’s hard,” Brussee said.

Gottschalk addressed a question about a possible location of new buildings, noting the district owns a piece of land near the high school that might be suitable.

More than one audience member expressed concern that school-of-choice parents aren’t paying taxes that would cover any project. The board acknowledged this is true, but elementary principal Matt Webster said those students bring along federal and state funds that go into programming.

“It’s not that they’re walking in free of charge and we’re just burdened with this debt to educate them.”

Before the meeting ended, those in the audience were handed community support surveys asking what specific projects they would support and what they would not. The survey also asked their level of support for the formation of a committee to develop a bond issue proposal.

A bond issue isn’t the only possible option. Another is a sinking fund. But trustees noted a sinking fund would probably be used to address existing options. A bond issue would be needed for new buildings.

The board continually emphasized there are no plans of yet, and one option is do nothing at all. They urged those in the audience to talk to neighbors, family and friends about the issue. A final report and committee determination will be made at the May board meeting.

Historical Society Opens for the Season

By April Bryan, Depot Museum Curator

New displays, more open buildings, and a special exhibition will help Vicksburg Historical Society, Depot Museum, and Historic Village launch its 50th season, opening May 24 at 300 N. Richardson Street. Vicksburg’s hometown history hub will welcome visitors Thursday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. through December.

A special exhibition, “Then and Now: Our Changing Landscape in Photographs”, explores the ways Vicksburg and its surrounding areas have changed over time. The exhibition pairs historic photographs and real photo postcards with current snapshots to contrast the face of Vicksburg yesterday and today.

It asks questions: Where was Vicksburg’s first frame building and what’s on the site now? How does downtown look today compared with the late 19th century? What businesses operated through the years in the spaces where you shop, eat, work, and play today? These questions and more are answered in this new exhibition, which also draws on related artifacts from the museum’s collection.

“Then and Now” highlights sites including the Sun Theatre, Dancer›s, the White Front, Vicksburg Governor Works, the Fulton Hotel and Lee Paper Company. This special exhibition, displayed in the Depot Museum, is presented free of charge and may be enjoyed when the Depot is open or by special reservation.

Throughout the season, visitors can explore new displays and see recent acquisitions added to the Historic Village buildings. Get some vintage retail therapy in the General Store, relive sweet memories in the Sweet Shop, and picture yourself as a student in the one-room Strong School. Uncover snapshots of your friends and family within the yearbooks, newspapers, and photo albums lining the Depot shelves. Enjoy a picnic in the Gazebo, toss a ball with your pup, and take a romantic stroll throughout the village. Kids will have fun boarding the cherry red caboose and sounding the new interactive Ford brakes in the Village Garage.

Grant Applications for United Way Funding are Available

The Vicksburg United Way committee is ready to receive applications for funding in 2018, according to the new chairperson Fawn Callen. She has agreed to take over for veteran Laura Howard who was deeply involved in the fundraising campaign and allocating the locally raised proceeds.

This year, the community will have $22,098 to allocate. What is raised in Vicksburg stays in Vicksburg, Callen pointed out. Of the total, $11,124 was raised by the schools, with a large increase in teacher participation—from 27 percent of the staff giving to 40 percent.

Assisting in the decision making will be another new member: Alyssa Thompson, Community Education Director for Vicksburg Community Schools who has taken over for 20-year veteran Tonya Nash. Travis Cree from Zoetis, Danna Downing from South County Community Services, Carol Lohman and Sue Moore have been long-time members of the United Way committee.

Last year, the committee allocated funds to provide outreach to isolated seniors to make sure they are receiving the help they need with food, transportation, crisis intervention and financial assistance. This service was provided by South County Community Services. New back-to-school shoes were provided for 85 children through a partnership with Generous Hands and First Day Shoe Fund.

To receive a grant application form or to turn in a completed form, contact Fawn Callen at Applications are due by May 31.

Italy comes to Vicksburg in Many Different Ways

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Kaye Bennett of Vicksburg is in a Venice gondola while on a trip to Italy. Photo by Bill Krasean.

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) has partnered with the Kalamazoo Italian American Club (KIAC) to bring the arts and culture of Italy to Vicksburg residents and visitors May 14 through May 19.

“All week long, you’ll see Italian special menu items at Rise-N-Dine, Italian-inspired soaps and lotions at PET Emporium and special window displays at Home Again Consignment. You’ll hear Italian music and see Italian art all around town,” said Syd Bastos, the center’s executive director.

Starting Monday, May 14, at 6:30, the Arts Center will host a free Italian Game Night at the Gallery, 101 E. Prairie in downtown Vicksburg. Vince Westra from the KIAC will teach people how to play Scopa, a popular Italian card game, and there will be a tournament with prizes for winners. The KIAC will also bring other popular games for display during this event.

Wine is an important beverage in the Italian community; Tuesday, May 15, at 6 p.m. Jaspare’s will be hosting a wine tasting. Wine experts will be on hand to share the significance of wine in Italian-American families. Food will be paired with this event. Tickets are $20 per person. Seating is limited and reservations are required.

“Sicily is known for its sausage. Although we can’t take you there, we found the next best thing,” Bastos said. Chris Capalbo will share how Italians make sausage on Wednesday, May 16 at 6 p.m. at Youz Guys Sausage, 8847 Portage Road. “Not only will we get a peek at their traditional methods of hand-crafting sausage, we will be able to sample some of their unbelievable sausages. Although this is a free event, space is limited so you’ll want to reserve a spot,” she said.

On Thursday, the community will have a chance to meet author Bob Cinabro, long-time Kalamazoo city attorney and city commissioner for two terms after that. He will talk about his book, “An Ellis Island Story: The Cinabros – A Recollection” at the Vicksburg District Library at 6:30 p.m. Stop by the Distant Whistle for Trivia game night at 8 p.m. “We hear that there might be a few questions about Italy,” Bastos teased.

Love old movies? Linda Adams selected “Three Coins in the Fountain” for the Vicksburg Library’s Movie Afternoons for Adults program on Friday, May 18 at 1 p.m. This movie garnered two Academy Awards in 1954 and stars Clifton Webb and Dorothy McGuire. It’s a classic and follows the story of three American women sharing an apartment in Rome.
If all of this talk about Italian roots sets people to thinking about their own roots, Adams invites them to join the Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society at the Vicksburg Library on Saturday, May 19 at 1 p.m. to learn how to get started with their own genealogical search.

Finally, Saturday night, the VCAC will be presenting Destination: Italy at 5:30 p.m. at the Main Street Pub’s Banquet Room in downtown Vicksburg. While listening to live classical music, enjoy Italian scenes through the eyes of photographer Shirley Weyrauch and pastel artist Helen Kleczynski. The KIAC will provide a pesto-making demonstration by Jack Bellware to whet guests’ whistle for a gastronomical tour of Italy, specially created by Michael Moore and his staff. The tour continues with a fabulous dessert tour of Italy from Via Gelato. Guest speaker Bob Cinabro will talk about the split personality of Italy. Tickets must be reserved in advance through the Arts Center and are $30.

Contact Syd Bastos at (269)501-1347 for further information and reservations for the wine tasting, sausage tour or dinner event. Ciao!

Grace Connect Clothes Closet to Open in May

By John Fulton

Grace Community Church is opening a free clothing option in May for those in need. Corinne Straka is the director of Grace Connect Clothes Closet, a community outreach program sponsored by the church.

Straka moved to Vicksburg five years ago and met Sheri Louis of Generous Hands. “Our conversations often turned to the need for providing clothing to needy families in the South County area,” Straka said.

The clothing will primarily be for kids based on size range instead of age range. The sizes will generally range from 2T- 20. “The clothing will be free and people will be given a couple of outfits,” according to Strika.

The church is accepting donations of gently used or new clothing from size 2T-20. Socks and underwear are also requested, but must be new and in packages. The community may also support this outreach by donating $10 gift cards from Meijer or Walmart.

The Clothes Closet is planning on opening Thursday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. beginning May 10. It will be at Grace Community Church. Donations will be received at the same time and location. Please watch the Facebook page for grand opening information. Search for Grace Connect Clothes Closet.

John and Julie Homan are the volunteer coordinators. If you would like more information about receiving clothing, donating or volunteering, please contact Homan at 269-806-0093.

Vicksburg Farmers’ Market Sets Opening Day in May

more greensBy Sue Moore

Hungry for some fresh asparagus, rhubarb, maybe salad greens? It’s been seven and a half months since the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market closed for the season. It will be back in business each Friday of the week, beginning May 18 and going until the end of September, according to co-market manager Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki.

It will be several weeks into operation before strawberries and other ripe fruits and vegetables become available at the market, she noted. For now, there will be beef, pork, lamb, eggs, honey, maple syrup, butter, cheese, gelato, bread, cookies, soaps and natural skin creams, just to name a few items available.

The market sits in the heart of the Vicksburg Historic Village alongside N. Richardson Street and will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. with food truck vendors providing delicious take-home meals or prepared food just to eat at the market.

Music offered by the Kalamazoo Folk Life Society will kick things off the first week and for most weeks after that. Their special brand of entertainment helps to energize all those folks looking to purchase fresh and wholesome fruits and vegetables. Their appearances each week are underwritten by the Main Street Pub and arranged by June Kucks, Vicksburg’s resident musician from the Society.

Over 35 vendors have signed up for the 2018 market with some old faithfuls and some new, largely unknown vendors. The market is embarking on its ninth year in Vicksburg and fourth year in the specially built community pavilion. It has a new split rail fence built around the east and south side by the Vicksburg Lions Club to further indicate parking places for customers, including handicap spaces.

The first Friday of the month from June through September will include a “Makers” group of vendors who sell crafts and homemade items. “The plan is to offer food demos on these first Fridays, much like we did with Creekside Grille and Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s culinary institute in 2017,” Meyer-Niedzwiecki said.

The market board is composed of local volunteers who help to grow the market each year. They are Bret Green, president; Kay Anderson, secretary; Kim Klein, treasurer; trustees John Kern, Joe Oswalt, Bob Smith, Rob Peterson, Kurt Wiley and Sheila Buitenhuis. The website is

Vicksburg Garden Network Blossoms

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Donna Simonton displays her tomato crop from her Community Garden plot.

By Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki

The flowers are in bloom brightening up the winter doldrums with splashes of color. Dreams of fresh veggies and herbs float through gardeners’ heads as they pore over seed catalogs and review the garden bounty from last season. April is all about clearing out the unwanted, digging in what was left behind to add to the richness of the soil running through gardeners’ fingers and rakes.

The Vicksburg Garden Network is inviting new gardeners to join them for the exercise, fresh air, good times with fellow gardeners learning new tricks and getting inspired. Plots are now available in the Heritage Garden, located in the Vicksburg Historic Village, and the Pantry Garden, located next to the Leja Business park.

Anyone with an interest in eating as local as it gets, munching a salad grown with your own hands, cooking with herbs guaranteed to spice up many a dish? For info on getting involved, call Carol (269) 568-0580. What could be better than a free plot and quality time spent with others in the great outdoors right here in the village of Vicksburg?