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Vicksburg’s homecoming court: Luke Deal, Kayla Chisholm, Grant Balazs, Emma Vallier, Drew Habel, Brooklyn Ringler, Dalton Heath, MyKaila Scamazzo, Chase Willmont, Anna Bartholomew, Justin Plankenhorn, Faith Smith, JP Culver, Joanna Hassenger, Cody Hatridge, Tristin Abnet, Jackson Wilson, Sydney Taylor, Blake Sutherland, and Allie Spencer. Photo by Kris DeVries.

By Jef Rietsma

Elimination of a third-grade reading retention law is supported by research, Vicksburg Schools Superintendent Keevin O’Neill told his Board of Education at a February meeting.

“Senate Bill 12 passed through the full Senate last week. That bill would repeal the third-grade reading-retention law that has been in place for several years,” he said. “The meat of this bill is to just get rid of retention.

“The research is clear; retention of students is not a sound educational practice. Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of School Boards and many other associations are in favor of these changes.”

O’Neill also noted continuing legislative discussion related to teacher-evaluation laws. O’Neill said he hopes to have more to share on that topic at a future meeting.

He elaborated on Gov. Whitmer’s budget proposal, which was released in early February.

“It’s very favorable for the education community,” he said. “Some of the highlights include a 5% increase to the pupil foundation, that’s equal to $458 (and) that would bring the foundation up to $9,608 per student.”

He also said the proposed budget features an increase of about $80 million for special education statewide; increases for at-risk English language learners, intermediate school district operations and career technical education programming; and one-time funding to support teacher recruitment, retention and training.

“And then the big one, the early childhood Pre-K for all 4-year-olds … that was a big part of her proposal,” O’Neill said. “And, of course, increases for student wellness and other academic supports to address learning loss that occurred during the pandemic.”

O’Neill added that he is eager to see budget proposals from the House and the Senate, though he expects it will be some time before that information is yielded.

“The finalized budget will take time but I am very happy with this proposal from the governor,” O’Neill said. “I think it’s a great start and it is supported by many, many educational associations.”

In other action, board members heard an annual Middle School report from Principal Allison Dygert and assistant principal Joe Werkema.

Also, the board approved the purchase of a new steamer for the kitchen at Sunset Lake Elementary. The $27,000 item will come from Kalamazoo-based Stafford-Smith Inc.

In addition, the board OK’d a request for the high school band to go to Walt Disney World March 22-29. All expenses are being paid by participating students. Board members also approved a request for the district’s eighth-grade class to attend Cedar Point on June 12.

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