Category Archives: Schoolcraft

Large Voter Turnout in Kalamazoo County Goes Mostly for the Dems

voteBy Sue Moore

Kalamazoo County went heavily blue for Democrats in some mid-term races last Tuesday, including rejection of Republican State Senator Margaret O’Brien’s bid for a second term. She lost to Democrat Sean McCann.

In contrast, the voters stayed with Republican state representatives in the 61st and 63rd districts, handing Brandt Iden his seat for a third term. Matt Hall won an overwhelming victory in the 63rd.

Further down the ballot, two elections that meant a lot locally were for Vicksburg’s Village Council and Schoolcraft’s school board. Rick Holmes, Carl Keller and Julie Merrill beat Denny Olson and Ron Smith for Vicksburg council four-year terms. In Schoolcraft, Darby Fetzer and Rachel Phelps edged out Michael Rochholz and Wade Rutkoskie for six-year school board terms.

John Gisler retained his seat on the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners but will be one of just three Republicans on the 11-member board that went overwhelmingly for Democrats.

In Wakeshma Township, the request for a 10-year road repair millage passed convincingly with 354 yes votes vs. 191 no votes.

Following are the actual vote counts:

Dist. 8, County Board

Candidate Party Votes
John Gisler Republican Party 6,043
Cody Dekker Democratic Party 4,249
Write-in Nonpartisan 3

Vicksburg Village Council

Candidate Votes
Rick Holmes 632
Carl E. Keller 569
Julie Merrill 680
Denny Olson 459
Ronald D. Smith 423
Write-in 17

Schoolcraft School Board

Candidate Votes
Darby Fetzer 1,111
Rachel Phelps 1,143
Michael Rochholz 1,034
Wade Rutkoskie 1,042
Write-in 19

61st State Rep District

Candidate Party Votes
Brandt Iden Republican Party 24,009
Alberta Griffin Democratic Party 22,725
Write-in Nonpartisan 164

63rd State Rep District

Candidate Party Votes
Matt Hall Republican Party 22,709
Jennifer Aniano Democratic Party 15,807
Ronald Hawkins Libertarian Party 1,059
John Anthony La Pietra Green Party 557
Write-in Nonpartisan 40

20th State Sen District

Candidate Party Votes
Margaret O’Brien Republican Party 48,197
Sean McCann Democratic Party 60,523
Lorence Wenke Libertarian Party 5,273
Write-in Nonpartisan 171

6th Congressional District

Candidate Party Votes
Fred Upton Republican Party 147,314
Matt Longjohn Democratic Party 134,069
Stephen J. Young U. S. Taxpayers Party 11,923
Write-in Nonpartisan 193





Schoolcraft Volleyball District Champions

DSC_9320fb copyBy Mark Blentlinger

Thursday, November 1st, in the gym of Schoolcraft High School, the Eagles were about to face off with the Comets of Kalamazoo Christian, for the District Championship. The 2 teams had seen each other twice previously in the season. The Eagles won the first meeting. The Comets were able to take the SAC tournament from the Eagles, in the second meeting, beating them 2-1, the weekend prior to the District tournament starting.

With the Championship and the continuation of the season on the line, both teams fan bases were in full force to cheer on their team. During the introduction of players, the lady Eagles tossed mini, autographed volleyballs into the crowd.

During play of these 2 teams, the atmosphere in the gymnasium was electric with every single point scored. Regardless of which team scored the point, the crowd would erupt as if that was the winning point.  Both teams were playing with so much energy, neither team was going to go down easy. The Eagles were able to come out on top in Set 1, winning it 25-15.  Set 2 was played just like the first, with the Eagles topping the Comets again, 25-15.

Set 3 started out with the Comets taking an early 7-3 lead.  The Eagles were able to work their way back and both teams went point for point with each other.  The Eagles were able to pull away taking Set 3, 25-19 and winning the District Championship.

After the game, Coach Onken remarked, “The girls came out in attack mode for the finals.  They really wanted this game, their constant enthusiasm showed that. The captains did an awesome job of keeping everyone pumped up and focused on the game plan.”  Onken was happy with the ball control and the attack, that was key. Tthe team minimized the unforced errors and kept the Comet defenders scrambling.

The stat leaders for the final were Andelyn Simkins and Maggie Morris having 11 kills each; Kayla Onken 6 Digs, Simkins 21, Kelby Goldschmeding, Madi Ballett 10 digs.  The team combined for a total of 8 aces and Kayla Onken led the team with assists at 28. Next up for the Eagles is Nile/Brandywine at Bronson, November 6th, at 7:30 for the Regional semifinals.

Schoolcraft Soccer Wins First District Semi-Final Game


By Travis Smola

Schoolcraft soccer made marked improvements over last season. That culminated in the team’s first District semi-final win in an aggressively-played, 4-0 contest against Constantine.

“The boys played a great game today,” Head Coach Chad Earles said after the victory. “We got a little sloppy towards the end of the first half, but we got up early on them with two goals. Constantine, they’re a tough team. They played hard, they played very physical.”

Sophomore Myalz Berkheiser opened the scoring for the Eagles. Senior Chandler Guiter added to the score with two goals of his own. Senior Buddy Kelecava gets the credit for the last goal. It came on a shot that Constantine accidentally deflected into their net. The game marked the first time the Eagles have won in the semi-finals and first time they’ve made it to the District finals.

It’s a marked turnaround from last year when the team was losing by large margins. This year they’ve kept all but one game close while tallying an 8-9-1 record with a 4-3-1 record in the conference.

The boys moved on to face Dowagiac the following week in the District Final and got out to an early lead on a Jacob Steeby goal. But the Chieftains ultimately took the game 3-1 and ended the Eagles’ season.

“Our stats don’t show how good of a team we actually are,” Earles said. “We’ve lost a lot of close games because we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”

Stadium Options a Separate Issue

By Travis Smola

Schoolcraft’s Facilities Planning Committee included construction of new tennis courts in the two major options for new school buildings. But the committee also presented three options for the district’s aging athletic facilities.

School board secretary Jennifer Gottschalk made it clear these options were a separate issue from the two options they presented for new elementary and middle school facilities.

The most expensive of the three is a new stadium which comes with an estimated cost of $7 to $7.5 million.

The other two options are for renovating the stadium and adding a new track. The cheapest option at $4-4.5 million would be to renovate and build a new 6-lane track. The other option at $5-5.5 million is to renovate and build a new 8-lane track.

Eight lanes is now a more standard size and would allow the school to get through track events more quickly. An 8-lane track would also allow Schoolcraft the possibility of hosting a regional event, something that can’t be done on a 6-lane track.

One option on the stadium is to simply do nothing with it as far as a new bond issue is concerned. At least one attendee at the meeting wanted the focus to be purely on education. Gottschalk said she feels the same. “We may have to go out and fundraise to fix our track,” she said.

Schoolcraft Students and Staff Train for School Shootings

alice 2
Tracey Branch one of the English Language Arts teachers in Schoolcraft shows students how to barricade a classroom door against an active shooter possibility.

By Schoolcraft 11th grade English Language Arts students Dalton Adams, Kaitlyn Parker, Savannah McDonald, Dawson Shearer, Bowen Steen, Josh Stokes

In August, teachers at Schoolcraft Community Schools began training for a new school shooter protocol called ALICE, an anticipated improvement to their previous lockdown procedure. The intense two-hour training introduced teachers to five options should they ever face a shooter in their school building.

ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate – the five options staff and students could use in order to stay safe from a potential intruder. While not a set of steps to be followed in a prescribed order, the ALICE acronym does provide staff and students with an easy way to remember their different options in a rapidly developing, stressful situation. “It allows us to use our own judgement and put our kids’ safety first,” said Schoolcraft Elementary teacher Amy Desmond.

Prior to the start of the school year, members of the Portage Police Department visited each building and trained the staff, putting them in realistic situations so they could compare the old lockdown strategy with the new ALICE training.

To make the training realistic, police fired real guns loaded with foam bullets while school staff – outfitted in long pants, tennis shoes, and safety glasses – responded with the appropriate ALICE option according to each situation. Alert and Inform options include verbal notification or the use of technology such as cell phones or the school’s PA system to keep people informed. Lockdown involves barricading doors with desks, chairs, and tables to prevent or delay a shooter’s access, possibly allowing for the Evacuate option, if it’s safe. Counter, the most frightening option, calls for quick action as students and teachers throw objects like books, laptops, or staplers at a nearby shooter to disorient him, inhibit his accuracy, buy time to escape, or possibly subdue him to secure the weapon.

“It was frighteningly realistic but empowering because we were given tools that not only will help save our own lives but could help save the lives of many of our students,” said Middle School secretary Shannon McDonald.

“Being shot at by real guns, although they were loaded with foam rounds, was sobering and unsettling,” said high school English teacher Doug Martin. “No one laughed. No one giggled. Huddling under a table with another teacher while hearing those rounds approach your classroom and hiding spot was terrifying.”

Training for high school staff differed from training of elementary staff, due to the age of the students. High school teachers were trained to work directly with students to help barricade classroom doors and throw things at a shooter; elementary staff members were trained to barricade the door themselves while small children help their teacher by supplying objects to distract an intruder and disorient him once inside a classroom. Elementary principal Matt Webster visited each classroom and read a book to young students called I’m Not Scared… I’m Prepared! by Julia Cook. The book allowed elementary staff to teach the children what to do in such a situation without scaring them.

Many students in the district agree the new procedure seems to make more sense than the previous lockdown-only procedure. It allows people to follow natural instincts in a “fight or flight” situation. Schoolcraft junior Carter Griffioen said, “It is a lot better because rather than sitting in a corner like ducks, we are actually able to do something about it.”

The ALICE training procedure has been adopted by several schools to improve the former “shut the door and hide” lockdown procedure. More trainings and drills are scheduled for Schoolcraft staff and students to practice together later this year.

Schoolcraft Facilities Committee Narrows Choices to 3

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft Community Schools Facilities Study Committee has narrowed down its options on how to address the district’s aging elementary and middle schools.

The committee has been meeting and working with Christman Construction and architect C2AE for over a year to narrow the number of options for the buildings from eight to three.

Each would call for a bond issue.

Option A is building a new building, approximately 88,000 square feet, housing preschool through sixth grade building on property next to the high school. This option would also add a seventh and eighth grade wing and middle school gym at the existing high school. The cost of this project is estimated at $36-38 million.

Option B would be a $39-41 million 117,000 square foot building to house preschool through eighth grade.

If the district chooses to go with either of these new building options, the existing buildings will be demolished. Their sites will be returned to grass. The costs of demolition are figured into both of those estimates. After demolition the district could either keep or sell the land.

If the district chooses the higher cost, the committee estimates a millage increase of 3.5 mills, $3.50 per $1,000 taxable valuation. The current millage is around 4 mills and has been steadily declining since 2010. With the increase, the levy for a home with a market value of $100,000 and taxable valuation of $50,000 would increase about $175 a year.

The committee also included what it calls a “baseline option” for simple additions and remodels to the existing elementary and middle school buildings. This option is the cheapest, coming in at a cost of $32-34 million. The baseline would just address the mechanical, electrical and handicap accessibility issues of the buildings.

“That’s a lot of money just to fix things,” School Board Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk said.

Brian Crissman of Christman construction agreed, saying the baseline didn’t even address issues like classroom size. “The problem with the renovations is it doesn’t solve all the problems,” Crissman said. “You still have a 50-year-old and 60-year-old building.”

At the school board’s regular meeting the following week, Gottschalk said the study committee would not support the baseline option at all because of the issues it would leave unaddressed. The baseline was included to show how new facilities could be provided for slightly more money.

A telephone survey will be conducted in November to further gain insight into what the community will support. The plan is to consider placing a bond issue on the May ballot, although Gottschalk said it might be put it off until August or November 2019.

“We’re not going to rush,” she said. “If we don’t get it right this first time, we’re toast.”

Common Bond Enjoys Success in Schoolcraft Schools

common bond 2
Pictured here are from left to right: Brendan Stoddard, Brady Flynn, Karson Leighton, Carter Graber, Logan Rinderspacher, Trey Schneider and Ryan Engle.

By Sue Moore

A huge gathering of students in support of those with disabilities celebrated the 20th year of the Common Bond organization in October. They were served pizza and drinks, played on a bouncy house, met with an artist doing drawings of kids’ faces as fast as she could, and took turns on a bull riding machine.

Common Bond is a club for Schoolcraft students which brings together students with disabilities and those who will mentor them during their years in middle school and high school. It is led by special education instructor Amy Green, a dedicated teacher of 31 years in Schoolcraft.

Coaches of the football, volleyball and cross-country teams delayed practice so all of their athletes could come to support Common Bond. The crowd of students swelled to at least 100 during the after-school party.

The mannequin in the picture, named Eugene Green, has become Common Bond’s mascot. He has become a symbol in the high school building to represent all of the clubs and activities. What started as a place for Common Bond announcements has evolved into a school mascot that has every school club shirt, athletic jersey, and marching band uniform. Eugene has shown up at school events and even the prom. He’s a fun icon that sports tons of outfits, wigs, hats and fun costumes. Amy Green is in charge of dressing the mannequin for each special occasion.