Vicksburg School Board Congratulates Laura Chang

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Laura Chang, Vicksburg and Michigan’s Teacher of the Year in 2018/19.

By Sue Moore

Laura Chang, finishing her stint as Michigan Teacher of the Year, gave the Vicksburg School Board at its June meeting her insights on what she called a life-changing experience.

“I served on several state level committees with one that will be ongoing for special education. I was able to facilitate workshops with diverse learners around the state, often with the topics tied directly to the Vicksburg school system in one way or another,” she said.

“Our national group of teachers spent a week together in California. They are all passionate teachers, immersed in professional learning. We examined equity while working in teams to figure out how to get the necessary resources when and where we need them,” she said.

A trip to the United Arab Republic (UAR) brought her in close contact with that country’s teachers who were concentrating on STEM education. She spent a week in Washington, DC with 56 other teachers of the year while they concentrated on professional learning. The group visited the White House, toured its West Wing and met with Betsy DeVos, secretary of education in the Trump administration.

“My life changed the day I was announced as teacher of the year last May. I have been an advocate for teachers and our school district, allowed to grow while also pursuing my Ph.D. during this time.

Ben Rosier, high school band director, presented the “state of the band program” to the board members. There are now between 185 to 192 in the marching band. He and Ravenna Kaylor teach the three concert bands, a symphonic band, a wind ensemble and two jazz bands. They are in need of new instruments and have partnered with the Band Boosters and the Vicksburg Foundation to purchase $64,000 worth of instruments, he said. They have raised $75,000 for the new trailer that will house instruments, uniforms and everything the band needs for travel to competitions and on its trip to New Orleans in 2020.

Trustee Tina Forsyth asked about starting an orchestra program. Rosier said he would love to have one but the cost might be the limiting factor. Trustee Rudy Callen wondered how big the band could get without sacrificing quality. “It’s all about student leadership,” Rosier explained. “They own the band and take it to a competitive level. The students have to buy in with their peers leading them. That’s very important.”

Skip Knowles, board president, remarked that he has seen how cool it is for students to be in the band. “There is lots of pride. It’s the passion that Ben has. His program is great training for life.”

In other business, Superintendent Keevin O’Neill presented a home school partnership between Vicksburg Community Schools and Lighthouse Connections Academy that the administration is preparing for board approval at the July meeting. He said the benefit would be in helping kids who are out of district gain access to elective online courses. “This partnership supports our mission to maximize the success and potential of all students and provide a way to give kids a more well-rounded experience,” O’Neill said.

Steve Goss, assistant superintendent reported on the budget process for the 2019-2020 school year. “There is a little more uncertainty this year with regard to the budgeting process, particularly with per pupil funding, which will not be determined until the state of Michigan finalizes its budget. The proposed budget for 2019-2020 assumes per pupil funding will closely resemble the Michigan House proposal, only recently released. Enrollment is projected to be flat, and compensation levels are subject to collective bargaining, which is currently in process.”

The school levies 18 mills, $18 per $1,000 taxable valuation, on non-principal residence properties.That raises $1,936,000 in revenue and is required in order for the school district to receive its full allotment of state funding. The total revenues and expenditures for the 2019-2020 fiscal year are projected to be $28,499,079 and $28,450,301, respectively.

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