Category Archives: Schools

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” Set to Open in March at Schoolcraft Performing Arts Center

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Schoolcraft students act out their parts for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” From left: Tim VanOrman, Merinda Edwards, Chance Evans.

By Sue Moore

The musical “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” was chosen by Director Leigh Fryling for Schoolcraft’s annual spring production. Curtain is at 7 p.m. on March 16 and 17 and 2 p.m. on March 18.

Fryling is succeeding a longtime Schoolcraft community institution: Christine Sargeant coached the school’s teenagers through many years on the stage of the Performing Arts Center at the high school.

Since Fryling was appointed to the job in November, she wanted to keep her first big play offering to the community simple, but fun and collaborative. “We are building all new rapport together with the students while keeping the tradition of great productions in Schoolcraft that Sargeant was known for. The Charlie Brown script is like flipping through the Sunday funnies. It’s full of vignettes of the comic strip. The music is upbeat consisting of jazz, classical, swing and even tango,” she said.

Playing the leading role of Charlie Brown is Tim VanOrman, who will sing and reluctantly dance, according to Fryling. “He can be a goofy kid but underneath is shy. He has a background in the Kalamazoo Civic along with his family’s participation in the theater.

Lucy is Merinda Edwards, a senior with her first lead role. She has been on the tech crew and been a stage manager in the past. “She is blossoming in the role, becoming the perfect Lucy in the process,” Fryling said.

Hayden Long plays Snoopy and has been in previous Schoolcraft productions but not in a leading role. “This was a surprise casting as he tends to be reserved. But when he auditioned with a song from ‘Into the Woods,’ he nailed it. He is eager to please and learn his craft,” Fryling said.

Others in the cast include Chance Evans as Linus, Isabelle Parker as Sally, Colin Evans as Schroeder, Beth Pavlak as Peppermint Patti and Hope Spencer as Marcie. Amelia Brown, Chloe Scott and Bridget Crofoot perform as Woodstock and company.

Fryling is well known in the area as an accomplished director and performer. She has sung for concerts at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center and was the founder of the Revelry Theater that has staged two plays in the Vicksburg Community Center. “I’ve turned over the reins of Revelry to Cassidy Haines and Ethan Waldron as I prepare for the Schoolcraft play and also have a baby in mid-August,” Fryling said. She is a substitute teacher looking to complete her master’s degree in English to take a full-time position.

Tarzan the Musical has High-Flying Effects

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Emily Towns, Alex Smith and Sydney Andres rehearse their roles for Tarzan the Musical to be presented by the Vicksburg High School’s spring theater production.

By Sue Moore

Tarzan the Musical, a high-flying theatrical production, will be gracing the stage of the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center in March. It is the annual musical offering performed by the Vicksburg Community Schools theater department each spring.

This one has a special twist: Teenagers will be flying through the air like Tarzan in the original musical based on Walt Disney’s epic animated musical adventure.

The $8,000 cost of the flying harnesses, wires and ropes to lend authenticity to the play has been a product of intensive fundraising by teens, their parents and Melissa Sparks, the director of the play. They needed the financial backing by March 1 and have been involved in at least one fundraiser per week since deciding to stage this entertaining musical play. This included coupon books, business sponsorships such as Panera Bread, cookie-dough sales, pop bottle returns and several other opportunities. They raised $350 by going table to table singing love songs on Valentine’s Day to diners at Main Street Pub.

They hit pay dirt with an appeal to the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, which awarded them a $3,000 grant, contingent upon raising the remainder of the funds by March 1. Sparks’ appeal was based upon having the right equipment to fully stage this challenging play. It involves 40 students on stage who range in age from fourth grade to seniors in high school. Another 20 to 30 students serve in the backstage production, which Sparks also manages. The musical director for the show is Dusty Morris, the high school vocal music director.

Lauren Burke, a senior, told the VCSF board that her years of participation in the theater program have taught her leadership skills and how to communicate on a high level. “It’s a welcoming environment where we can build each other up,” Burke said. She is the assistant director on this play and helped with the fall production of Shakespeare.

Jess Schmidt, a junior, talked about his love of the journey in theatre when he first was chosen for a part in seventh grade; he has been in many others since then. “I’ve met all of my friends here.”

The flying equipment will be installed on March 8 with a crew from an Illinois company present to do the work and instruct the cast on the safety requirements. The actual play will have a run on March 16, 17, 24 at 7 p.m. and a matinee on March 25 at 2 p.m.

The play is an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ book and work of Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwan. The production features heart-pumping music by rock legend Phil Collins, with award winning hits like, “You’ll Be in My Heart” for an unforgettable theatrical experience performed by students who have tremendous musical and stage capabilities, according to Sparks.

“This is a wonderful group of young people,” Sparks said. “They are inclusive, supportive, and build community as they work together. This show is about acceptance of each other, be it amongst the gorillas or in humankind. This is what I’ve been teaching in my 18 years of theatre at Vicksburg. They can be loved for who they are, supportive of each other and build an atmosphere of acceptance.”

Starring in lead rolls are Alex Smith as Tarzan, Sydney Andres as Jane, Emily Towns as Kala the gorilla mother, Jess Schmidt as Kerchak the gorilla father and R.J. Robertson-DeGraff as the dance captain.

Winter Homecoming Court

The winter homecoming courts were recently selected at Schoolcraft and Vicksburg high schools.

Schoolcraft Elementary School Closes Due to Flu

By Linda Lane

With over 80 children out with the flu, the pre-kindergarten through fourth grade Schoolcraft Elementary School closed on Tuesday, January 23, for the day. The Eagle Zone before- and after-school program was also closed for all grades. The elementary school had 22 percent of the children out with various forms of the illness – vomiting, fevers, chills or headaches.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen this happen in my tenure here,” Rusty Stitt, superintendent of the Schoolcraft Community Schools reported. “We contacted the Kalamazoo Health Department, and their recommendation was to close school if over 20 percent of the students were sick.”

Families called in to report illness status and district staff contacted approximately 25 percent of the elementary school families before deciding to reopen the school. Many of the illnesses began the previous week, but once the attendance was expected to be in an acceptable range, Schoolcraft reopened the Elementary school and the Eagle Zone program.

The district reminded families on Facebook, “If students require a medication, either over the counter or prescribed, to alleviate stomach symptoms or reduce a fever then that child should NOT be sent to school.”

The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department (KCHD) Epidemiology Unit reported a significant spike in flu-reported cases by county school districts. Pre-Christmas numbers were around 300-350 cases of reported flu illnesses, but by the week ending January 21, the number shot up to over 1,100 cases reported. The first two weeks in January were way above the four-year average in the total number of flu cases.

Chief complaints of flu symptoms reported include fever, weakness, dizziness, fever, lightheadedness and chills. KCHD warns that influenza can be contagious for up to five days after symptoms are first experienced; it recommends people stay at home for 24 hours after their last fever or flu symptom to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. People are also urged to consult with their primary physician if they experience flu-like symptoms and not go to an emergency room to also reduce the risk of spreading the flu.

School Board Reseats Officers for 2018

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft school board decided simply to re-seat its four officers rather than holding new elections at the January board meeting.

Trustee Michael Rochholz moved to keep Darby Fetzer as president, Ryan Ledlow as vice-president, Kathy Mastenbrook as treasurer and Jenifer Gottschalk as secretary. The vote which followed was unanimous.

“Thank you for allowing me to be your president again this year,” Fetzer said near the meeting’s conclusion. “I’m looking forward to a strong year in 2018.”

The board also approved an evaluation of Rusty Stitt as superintendent. The boaard held its evaluation on December 12 and awarded him a 97 out of 100 highly effective rating. The board said Stitt has made significant progress in communication and members are recognizing his community leadership as well.

Trustee Rochholz said he enjoyed the evaluation process and the discussions it brought about. “I look at that evaluation process not just as an evaluation of Rusty, but an evaluation of all of us,” Rochholz said.

During a presentation on the general fund, the issue of an aging middle school boiler came up. The boiler recently developed a stress fracture that needed a small weld repair. Fortunately the fracture occurred over the winter break.

Stitt said he would like the contracting firm C2AE, currently doing the facilities study, to take a second look at the boiler. Rochholz and Gottschalk agreed, although Gottschalk noted she’d like to avoid the likely difficulties of replacing it during the winter months if at all possible.

Mastenbrook said trustees are assuming a building project will come out of the facilities study. But if it does, it might be up to two years out and she believes assuming the boiler will last two more years might be a little risky. Stitt said they aren’t bringing a recommendation; he is just looking to start a conversation on the issue.

Vicksburg School Board Takes a Bow

Vicksburg School Board members from left to right: Rudy Callen, Carol Lohman, Deborah Hasha, Skip Knowles, David Schriemer, Tina Forsyth and Wil Emmert.

By Linda Lane

Vicksburg Community School’s administration and staff honored the Board of Education at the January meeting, presenting each member with a Bulldog sweatshirt for service to the community. Two board members, Skip (Virgil) Knowles and Carol Lohman, have served since 1984. Will Emmert has served since 1993, Tina Forsyth since 1999, David Schriemer since 2005, Rudy Callen since 2010 and Deborah Harsha since 2014. “That’s a total of 137 years of experience!” said an audience member.

“This School Board has been such a pleasure to work with over the years,” Superintendent Charlie Glaes said, “with not one board member having a single-issue agenda or an axe to grind. Every board member comes to the table with the best interests of all the students at heart.”

Skip Knowles agreed, “It takes a team to make things happen, and we’ve really got a great team between administration, teachers, and the school board. Having everyone working together makes the job easier.”

Warren Lawrence presented the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation’s Annual Report. With 20 various endowment funds and scholarship funds, the VCSF will distribute nearly $71,000 in scholarships and educational grants to Vicksburg students.

Glaes noted two pieces of legislation currently being considered by the Michigan Legislature as House bill 5393 and Senate bill 746, dealing with athletes transferring to another district to play sports. The current ruling is that athletes must wait 180 days to be eligible to play in the new district; the bills would remove the delay. Both bills are in committee discussion and it is unclear if they will make it to a Legislature vote.

Held at Vicksburg High School, Principal Keevin O’Neill gave an extensive presentation outlining the school’s performance. Some noteworthy items included being named an AP Honor Roll School, one of only 23 districts in Michigan. It was the third time for the school; this year was the second in a row.

Puhalski Receives Scholarships to Holy Cross College

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Reilly Puhalski.

By Sue Moore

A love of learning was a factor for Schoolcraft senior Reilly Puhalski as he received a scholarship to Holy Cross College in South Bend, Ind. He also received a merit award scholarship from the school; together they will help to defray 80 percent of the tuition when he starts next fall.

To earn them, he went through a half day of group and individual interviews with the college provost, development director and dean of students. The two awards are the Trustee Scholarship, the college’s highest merit award, and the Blessed Basil Moreau Award, one of Holy Cross’ prestigious signature scholarships. It recognizes students who have demonstrated a love of learning and active inquiry.

Puhalski carries at 4.0 GPA and is a member of Key Club, National Honor Society, Freshmen Academy as an upper classman mentor and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He is also dual-enrolled at KVCC, where he has earned over 30 college credits. He has played four years of football, basketball and golf. His senior seasons in football and basketball were cut short due to an injury in the Saugatuck football game. He also injured his ACL in the Constantine football game.  He participates in a St. Martin of Tours youth group. Reilly plans to major in civil engineering. Holy Cross has a partnership with the University of Notre Dame for students interested in the field.

He chose Holy Cross because of its close relationship to Notre Dame, he said. Holy Cross is part of a Tri-Campus Experience with the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College. A student at Holy Cross College can take full advantage of academic and social resources at the two neighboring institutions.

His parents are Gina and Scott Puhalski. His mother teaches 5th grade in Schoolcraft schools.