By Travis Smola
The Schoolcraft school board approved the hiring of five staff members at its July meeting.
“We’ve been very busy in the district and we’re not done, but we have a number of folks we would like to recommend,” Supt. Rusty Stitt told the board.
The new hires include Samantha Epp, a social worker, Christine Fenner, elementary special education, Jo Noseda, art teacher, Marry Visscher, middle school English language arts teacher and Rob Ling, high school building trades. Several of the positions filled staff vacancies left by recent retirees. “It’s been my belief that we hire the best,” Stitt said.
The building trade teacher position is a particularly interesting one. Ling is already a familiar face to the district as the varsity wrestling coach, but he is not a teacher by trade. However, state requirements allow him to teach as long as he maintains effective ratings, has a building permit and 4,000 hours of experience in the last few years. Stitt is excited about the program, which partners with Habitat for Humanity and does its course work at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo.
“I think he connects with kids and we’ll try build that program up,” Stitt said. He said they would be bringing more staff hiring recommendations to the board in August.
The board also approved a $47,520 contract with Kalamazoo-based Gryphon Place for restorative practices. A type of counseling service, the high school piloted the program in the second semester last year. The program provides several services, including student conflict resolution. It also provides professional development for teachers and work to improve the culture of the school through anti-bullying programs and peer-to-peer mediation.
The new, 10-month contract extends Gryphon’s work to the middle school. “We’re very pleased with the work we’ve done thus far through a pilot,” Stitt said.
Board Vice-President Ryan Ledlow wondered if the work the culture building programs and other work Gryphon does will cut into class time for teachers. High School Principal Ric Seager wasn’t present at the meeting, but later said in an email that the bulk of the work is done by the restorative practices facilitator from Gryphon and will not cut into classroom time for teachers or students.
Stitt said the facilitator will also conduct a “suspension diversion program.” using RP practices in place of out-of-school suspension. These programs could also help suspended students in re-entering and adjusting to the school after such a suspension.
Stitt said the program may also include ad-hoc circles where students can have conversations and work to further improve the school’s culture and climate. The plan is for Gryphon Place to be in the school about 20 hours a week. Stitt expects it will be a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.
Finance Director Rita Broekema said the costs of the program are a one-time thing and will be paid for out of Title IV and At Risk 31A funds that come from the Federal government and not the school’s general fund.