Category Archives: Schools

Charlie Glaes Retires as Vicksburg Superintendent

By Sue Moore

After 36 years of teaching and administering in the Vicksburg School System – and parenting his own children there – Charlie Glaes’ legacy might read as follows: “That I was able to take a great institution and work with others to make it better.”

Announcing his retirement as superintendent at the April board meeting, he told an audience of parents, students, teachers and administrators that “After a long period of soul-searching, I will retire at the end of this school year, on June 30. I look forward to the next phase of my life and the opportunities it holds.”

“I also know that I am leaving the District I love strong and poised to move forward boldly,” he continued. “A strong community such as Vicksburg creates the conditions for strong schools that thrive. Our school system has long been recognized as stable and innovative, high achieving and highly supportive; a district attractive to parents and staff.”

Glaes began his career in Vicksburg in 1982 as the suspension room proctor, a position the school board had created so students could continue learning while suspended. He had begun as a teacher aide in Three Rivers and then taught 2nd grade there for four years after graduating from Western Michigan University. Glaes was subbing and working full time on his Master’s degree in administration when Supt. Denny McMahon offered him the suspension room job.

As Vicksburg School Board trustee and then president for 34 years, Skip Knowles watched Glaes progress up the ladder of achievement within the school district. “He went from there to principal at Indian Lake elementary school for three years, Middle School principal for 15 years, assistant superintendent for three years and finally superintendent in 2004.”

“The suspension room offered me valuable experience,” Glaes said. “I worked directly with a lot of students who needed help, socially, emotionally and academically. In addition, they were often angry as they came in. I had to learn to let it roll off my shoulders. Their anger was not about me. We had to make it about helping them to solve problems if possible. It was huge preparation for going into administration, and dealing with angry parents, staff and students.”

Glaes came into the superintendent’s job just as the state of Michigan was tanking financially. “I didn’t like presiding over whittling away what we had accomplished over the last 20 years. We had built up so much [quality] and now we were cutting things. It was difficult to maintain the school’s fiscal integrity and still keep the programs in place that make a school district attractive to students. We were asking staff to make sacrifices in the elementary, middle and high school. Those were dark days,” Glaes recalled.

“We came out of it gradually and were able to maintain and even expand our amazing fine arts opportunities for which we’re known,” Glaes pointed out. That included the band, choir, art classes, film/video, drama and musical performances on display in the Celebration of the Arts presented every two years from the grade schools through high school. “Parents, grandparents and the community can see what is happening here, what kids are able to do when given these opportunities.”

The stadium project was another example Glaes cited as one that opened up a whole new era of sports participation in the schools in 2006. “The old field, built on a swamp, was a mess. The track was unusable, the bleachers were scary. We were able to utilize the first three years of the countywide enhancement millage at no further taxpayer expense.

“I remember the first day we could officially use it. The cheerleaders were practicing in the end zone, the football teams, the soccer team all practiced on the same day, then the marching band in the evening and finally members of the community out walking the new track. In the years before, we could barely let the football team on it to play on Friday nights.”

Glaes closed with his appreciation of the strong and inclusive culture in the Vicksburg School system. “Vicksburg provides the close relationships and caring of a smaller school with the depth and range of opportunities normally found in large ones. We help make all students college and career ready, so they graduate equipped to take the next step in their lives.”

The Vicksburg Community Reflects on Charlie Glaes

charlie glaes
Avery Slancik, a graduating senior, thanks Superintendent Glaes at the School Board meeting after he announced his retirement from the school system after 36 years.

By Sue Moore

“So glad you’re doing a story on Charlie, they don’t make them any better.” – Deb Vliek, a former administrative assistant in Vicksburg schools, now with Kalamazoo Regional Service Agency (KRESA).

“I’ve always been impressed with Charlie’s thorough attention to matters in front of him.  He shares the same values as the teacher’s union in having at the forefront of our decision-making ensuring that the education of our students is of the highest quality.  He is well-educated in both academic matters and about the employees in his district.  It will be difficult to find someone else so ingrained in the Vicksburg community to lead.” – Liz Ratashak, science teacher Vicksburg High School, president of the Vicksburg Education Association.

“As the father of a Vicksburg student, I have been attending the school board meetings for over 10 years. As a district, we will miss Mr. Glaes.  The board meetings were always professional, and from what I have witnessed, Charlie has moved our school district forward. Mr Glaes has positioned us to continue to move forward after his retirement.  I wish Charlie well.” – Steve Thomas, Vicksburg resident.

“I had the privilege of working with Charlie through my involvement with the VCSF. I always found him to be an approachable, capable leader; genuine and personable with a great sense of humor. Whether serving the VCSF as a trustworthy, knowledgeable facilitator or capturing rubber ducks at the Annual Duck Derby fundraiser, he was passionate about his job and the district he served. Happy retirement Charlie!!” – Kim Klein, former president of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation.

“Oh my goodness, I did not realize Mr. Glaes was retiring!! Of course, I would love to contribute! As a long-time student of Vicksburg Community Schools, I appreciate all of the hard work Mr. Glaes has put into improving the district. As a student who did drama, I am deeply thankful for his appreciation of the arts and his constant support and encouragement. He is always incredibly kind and it is a pleasure to know him.” – Andrew Phelps, graduate of the class of 2017 and now a student at Spring Arbor University.

“Charlie has been a very responsive, dedicated and informed superintendent for the Vicksburg Community Schools. His leadership has been strong and positive. I will miss his infectious laugh and positive outlook even in the face of adversity. He has given unselfishly to make Vicksburg schools a leader in this area. I will miss him. I wish him well in retirement.” – Carol Lohman, 34-year school board member.

“Charlie has been an inspirational leader and mentor over the last nine years that I have worked with him. I have come to admire these traits in Charlie: wisdom, integrity and grace.  I will miss him tremendously.” Gail Van Daff, Vicksburg Schools curriculum director.

“Charlie has contributed substantially to children across the Kalamazoo RESA service area by advocating for high quality shared programming in areas such as special education, education for employment (our area’s career/technical education program), education for the arts and the professional development for educators. He is a leader among leaders.  His wit, wisdom, and unwavering commitment to children will surely be missed.” – Dave Campbell, KRESA superintendent.

“We have shared many great experiences and some very tough ones as well. Words just can’t truly express the value of working with him. Charlie has kept us on the cutting edge, never forgetting what is in the best interest of kids. He has been a compassionate, firm and highly respected leader and I consider his retirement a huge loss for all of us. I have been privileged to work with him his entire time in Vicksburg and he is a true Bulldog!” – Skip Knowles, school board president.

“I always admired Charlie’s ability to put people at ease while also moving them forward.   He gave Vicksburg the full measure of his dedication and abilities and I am certain he is leaving an indelible mark.” – Pat Reeves, former Vicksburg superintendent and associate professor, WMU.

Top Students Named in the Class of 2018

vix top 10
Seniors from left to right: Tanner White, Avery Slancik, Rachel Brewer, Connor Seifert, Autumn Locey, Chase Young, Morgan Preston, Anna Schriemer, Emmaline Miller, Alex Smith, Austin Bresnahan.

By Sue Moore

Eleven of Vicksburg’s most accomplished high school students of the class of 2018 were presented by Principal Keevin O’Neill to the School Board at its meeting this month. Each was noted as an academic award recipient and member of the National Honor Society. The top four students were asked to name their significant educator as part of the Excellence in Education scholarships they received. Eight of the students won four-year scholar-athlete awards.

Morgan Preston took the highest honors as valedictorian with a GPA of 4.38. She was a starter on the volleyball team the last three years, earning all-conference honors and 2nd team all-state honors. She expects to continue her volleyball exploits at San Angelo University in Texas next year. Her interests are in English and political science as her college majors. She chose Eric Teall as her significant educator because his door was always open to help her with her questions in his English classes. Her parents are Matt and Tammi Preston.

Autumn Locey, named salutatorian with a 4.30 GPA, spent all four years at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC). She was in the marching band and earned a bio-med science award for a research paper on zebra fish embryos. Her plans include studying biology at the University of Michigan with a desire to go into medicine. Her significant educator was Cheryl Hach from KAMSC and her admonition to her fellow students was to “always challenge yourself by trying to be the best you can be.” Her parents are David and Tracy Locey.

Alexander Smith chose his significant educator as his father, Troy Smith, who teaches film/video in the high school. “It was an easy choice as he pushed me to learn the making of films, which is what I want to do in my future endeavors,” Smith said. He starred as the lead in Tarzan, the school’s most recent musical, participated in marching band, choir and stage management and won Best of Show in the Michigan Student Film competition. He is undecided about his higher education but knows he wants to concentrate on making films. His mother is Shannon Smith.

Austin Bresnahan earned three varsity letters as a senior in football, basketball and baseball for the Bulldogs. He will showcase his skills in the Addix All-Star football game in June as a linebacker. He was co-captain of the football team and will continue to play at Kalamazoo College, where he will major in business and marketing. He chose Daryl Zartman as his significant teacher because “he is fun, a good guy who tells the best stories of anybody.” His parents are Tom and Deb Bresnahan.

Anna Schriemer earned many honors, chief among them was being selected for Principal O’Neill’s Leadership award. She was also chosen as the DAR Good Citizen and science student of the month, served on the Student Senate organizing blood drives, Homecoming and pep rallies. Her claim to fame she was pressed to announce, was setting the passing record in the Powder Puff football game last fall. She was a standout volleyball player. In July, she will leave for a three-week study abroad to Ghana, where her job will be to promote kids’ rights in education. She plans to attend Calvin College to study psychology and medical science while playing volleyball. Her parents are David and Paula Schriemer.

Tanner White was elected senior class president and president of the National Honor Society, and earned his Eagle Scout honors when he was a sophomore by constructing benches for the playground at Sunset Lake Elementary school. He organized his troop members to beautify the playground with landscaping and building improvements. He was a member of the football team, the clay target team and serves as an announcer for the lacrosse games this spring. He plans to attend Kalamazoo College with a focus on communications and a Spanish minor while playing football for the Hornets. His parents are Todd and Tracy White.

Emmaline Miller served as vice president of the National Art Society in Vicksburg and has been in the marching band for four years. She has earned her silver award in Girl Scouts and is working to achieve the highest award scouting offers, the “Gold,” as she has been involved in scouting for the last 14 years. She has completed 50 hours of volunteer work at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. She will attend Grand Valley State University in the Frederick Meijer Honors program majoring in psychology and minoring in art. Her parents are Gary and Suzanne Miller.

Rachel Brewer spent four years with Vicksburg’s competitive cheer team, participated in choir and volunteered to teach Bible school at her church. She will attend Western Michigan University to study biomedical sciences and Spanish with the intention of going on to medical school. Her parents are Steven and Margaret Brewer.

Chase Young took 11 AP classes and played lacrosse for four years. He has become an entrepreneur while in high school, selling “beats” online for hip hop. He intends to go to the University of Michigan in hopes of attending law school. His parents are David and Jody Young.

Connor Seifert was a two-time tennis champion for Vicksburg, playing second singles and fourth singles. He is on the varsity lacrosse team. He is an Eagle Scout and has produced a pair of videos to teach students with severe autism. He volunteers at Valley Family Church with middle school students as a camp counselor. He is debating on studying aviation or engineering at either Western Michigan University or Michigan State University. His parents are James and Katie Seifert.

Avery Slancik is on the all-state academic team for softball, having been on the varsity team for four years, and participated in travel softball for nine years. She volunteers with her church and hopes to play varsity softball while majoring in neuroscience at Hope College. Her parents are Mike and Amy Slancik.

Vicksburg Band Boosters Promote Raffle

vix band raffle
Band Boosters are looking to replace many of the large brass instruments such as this mellophone.

By Sue Moore

“Who can resist free money?” asked Craig Rolfe, announcing the Vicksburg Band Boosters spring raffle with cash prizes of $2,500, $1,000 and $500. Tickets cost $10 each, with proceeds allocated to replace many aging instruments in the program.

The instruments needing replacement are sousaphones, mellophones, marching cymbals, concert double French horns, concert tubas and a bass trombone. Band Director Ben Rosier estimates the cost at more than $100,000. “The school budget simply cannot finance that need, which is where the Boosters organization can step in,” Rolfe explained. This is a pre-sale raffle with tickets available from Rolfe at his law office on E. Prairie Street, several other area venues, band families and the high school main office.

Fundraising coordinator Kelly Noteboom is in charge of the raffle with a goal of $25,000 to be put toward instrument purchases. The band will again field over 200 members for the 2018 marching season. Several years ago, the Boosters had a fundraising drive to buy all new uniforms as an initial purchase. When the band grew to over 200 more uniforms were needed. The community responded with enough donations so the band had new uniforms for all of its members beginning in 2016.

Other fundraisers have included the Glo-Run in the fall and trips to Disney World fundraisers. The band has applied to march in the 2018 Thanksgiving Day Macy’s parade in Detroit.

Annual Dance Recital Presented by Community Education

dancers 9.JPGBy Sue Moore

A highlight of the spring season is seeing all the little kids – girls, mostly – turned out for their dance recital in dance costume and other finery.

The Vicksburg Community Education Department sees this as the culmination of its dance classes for the school year. It occurs on Saturday, May 5 with separate performances at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center.

Parents, grandparents and friends fill the seats to capacity even though it may be a beautiful Saturday morning and afternoon outside, according to Director Jami Beulle. The dancers range from ages three to 18, including five high school seniors who have been in the program since their early years. They perform one routine that they’ve been practicing since about January.

There are six instructors plus Beulle on the staff and 250 students enrolled in classes., which includes students enrolled in more than one class.  Morning and afternoon shows have different dancers showcasing their work.

Schoolcraft Ponders New School Safety Training Program

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft school board viewed a presentation from Portage police detective Bryan Taffee about a school safety program being considered for Schoolcraft schools next fall.

The program, called ALICE, is a training program designed to prepare students and staff in the event of an active shooter in the building. It has been taught at about 4,200 U.S. public schools. “Most of our students here shouldn’t have to worry about these things, Taffee said. His wife is a teacher and he said he never imagined a day he’d have to worry about the safety of her or their kids at schools. “Those days are gone.”

Board Vice President Ryan Ledlow had suggested bringing the program to Schoolcraft after he went through the training at Portage schools. “Having gone through it, it’s a really good program,” Ledlow said. “The training was phenomenal for the staff.”

ALICE is an acronym for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, the steps that can be taken in the event of an armed intruder into the school, though not necessarily in that order.

“Hopefully you never have to get close to using them,” Taffee said. But the actions have been shown by research to make such situations more survivable. Evacuation is the preferred option and it’s fairly simple. The children are taught to run as fast and as far away as they can.

Options like lockdown teach students and staff to lock and barricade doors to prevent the intruder from entering. Counter is a last resort. Taffee stressed that this portion does not teach fighting. Instead, it teaches distraction techniques that can interrupt and disrupt a shooter.

He said the simple act of throwing something across a shooter’s view could distract them long enough to give time for people to escape.

Training is taken to an even more intense level for staff members. In a drill, a police officer begins the scenario by shooting blanks outside the building. Inside the building, a participant uses an airsoft gun to fire slow-moving pellets.

It sounds extreme. but Taffee said it helps empower people and helps them understand how they will react under the stress. He also said teachers can opt out of this scenario, noting that If they’re frightened, they won’t learn anything.

He compared it to any kind of emergency preparedness. “It’s like practicing at home for a fire,” Taffee said. “The more you do it, the easier it gets, the more efficient it gets.”

Ledlow said the training got him thinking about things he hadn’t considered before, such as what to do after barricading a door. “It brings a larger sense of comfort to know there are some options and you’re increasing survival,” he said.

The program isn’t the only thing that can be done to make things safer. Taffee said simple policy changes like locking classroom doors can immediately make the schools safer.

Superintendent Rusty Stitt said an informational meeting will be scheduled in the future so parents can ask questions. “We believe this is the right approach as we move forward,” he said.

Common Bond Party with Champ the Golden Retriever

common bond group
Students and mentors as part of Common Bond gather around “Champ” the Golden Retriever who is in front. He is with Amy Seager his owner, in purple.

By Sue Moore

“He’s loving me because he just kissed me,” exclaimed Hudson Willoughby, a three year old attending the Common Bond gathering in Amy Green’s classroom in Schoolcraft schools.

Willoughby was the recipient of Champ’s love. Champ is a golden retriever puppy who was invited by Green to come to her monthly party for Common Bond students. Members play group games, enjoy music and refreshments each month during the school year. Common Bond is an extra-curricular club that matches student mentors with students with challenges attending Schoolcraft High and Middle Schools. Students were able to spend lots of time with Champ petting him, practicing tricks with him, and walking him on his leash. Smiles were had by all, according to Green.

Champ’s owner is Amy Seager, wife of Ric Seager, Schoolcraft high school principal. The Common Bond party was built around Champ with the goal for all the students and their mentors to blend together. The parties help the students interact so they can’t tell that anyone’s ability stands out against another. Seager, who has had plenty of challenges due to illness, was a reading specialist at Kalamazoo Central High School and an Instructional Literacy Coach at Sturgis Public Schools before she retired.

Ric and Amy have had several golden retrievers in the family going back 15 years. When Amy was diagnosed with third stage ovarian cancer, they figured it was time to add to the family’s menagerie, which includes two-year old Drake, also a golden retriever. Champ is in training to be a therapy dog and it’s clear he already has this task readily in hand, showing his patience and love for children at the Common Bond party. When he is fully trained, Seager plans to take him to the West Michigan Cancer Center and other schools where the six-month old puppy can strut his stuff.

“Dogs can bring a sense of calm,” Seager explained. “The kids were very gentle with Champ, so it’s easy for him to return their love.” About 75 students in middle and high school in Schoolcraft are members of Common Bond. Many serve as mentors for the 10 kids in Green’s classroom, which centers around those in the school with special needs.