Category Archives: Schools

School Board to Sell Schoolcraft Early Elementary Building

By Sue Moore

The future of the Early Elementary school building at 300 E. Cass Street in Schoolcraft has been in doubt for nearly a year since its closing in the fall of 2016. The school board took the first steps to sell it through a closed-bid process by the first of September.

It was built in the 1930s by the WPA and has served as a Schoolcraft landmark ever since. Lots of Schoolcraft residents have fond memories of their years of attendance when it housed the school district’s K-12 classes.

Although several entities have approached Superintendent Rusty Stitt about purchasing the building, he told the board, he recommended a bidding process, perhaps with the help of a local real estate broker and an attorney. The deadline for submitting bids will be September 1 with the bid opening set for that day.

Stitt was peppered with questions on the potential sale. Board members didn’t want the building to be offered to any other type of school that would compete with the community school system. This would include a charter school, a religion-based private school or even a pre-school. A deed restriction clause might be a possibility to assure that it wouldn’t be sold to a competitor institution, Stitt said.

Right now, the building is being used for storage. Trustee Jennifer Gottschalk wanted to ensure the school would not sell the contents. “We will get whatever we can removed from the building and even sell some of the equipment that we don’t need for future classrooms,” Stitt emphasized.

Gottschalk was also concerned about setting a minimum bid or whether the board would need to take the minimum bid. Stitt promised to work out these details with the broker and attorney before putting out a bid package.

Just as important to the discussion of selling the early elementary building was a request from the village of Schoolcraft for a 53-foot easement on the east side of the school property to service the village water system’s well head on Cass Street. Trustee Jason Walther wanted to be sure the board wouldn’t be locking in the future owner of the school property with an easement that would tie the developer’s hands. “We are making a decision for this future owner by our action to grant the easement.” It was explained that a parking lot could be constructed on an easement and that the village would be responsible to pay attorney fees for a survey before any contracts were signed.

Trustees Rochholz and Mastenbrook recused themselves from the vote to approve the easement with the village. Each serves on the village council as well as the school board.

Stitt recommended waiting on another request from the village to sell property for a second well head.

Historic Schoolcraft Building Will be Open for Tours

elem 8
Standing in front of the Schoolcraft Early Elementary building that is to be sold are former students who attended school in this building with the exception of Katie Redmond who is PTO president and her son Dean in the stroller. From left to right Dr. Jack Sauer who graduated in 1949; Paige Reid, a sophomore in high school; Katie Redmond, Gabe Redmond, age 9 and going into 4th grade; Darcy Bolles a 1999 graduate; Sue Hendriksma a 1967 graduate who is secretary-treasurer of the alumni association.

By Sue Moore

Wanted: A developer with great imagination, lots of cash who will keep the integrity of a revered building in the heart of Schoolcraft and remake it into something extra special.

For those don’t have a wad of cash but would like to revisit their school years in what has become known as the Early Elementary building, the invitation is extended. The school board is offering a series of open houses in which citizens can walk through and relive part of their childhood.

“There are so many memories,” said Dr. Jack Sauer, who attended when it served kindergarten through high school when he graduated in 1949. His dedication to the school system is well known as he returned after veterinarian studies to serve 42 years on the school board in Schoolcraft.

With 14 classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria and offices, the building is in good condition, according to James Weiss, chief of maintenance for the school district. “The teachers and custodial staff have taken great pride in the upkeep of the building.” Population growth in the community has stalled, thus there is less need for the classroom space, according to Darby Fetzer, school board president.

The east wing with the gym was built in 1938 by members of Works Progress Administration (WPA) at the height of the depression as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal to provide jobs for one breadwinner in each family. At the time, the school board had three women and two men on it, with Mrs. Bertini Mongreig as the president.

Subsequent additions added more classrooms along Cedar Street in 1950-51. Shortly after, two rooms were added to the south end of the building where shop class took place, said Nancy Rafferty, community historian.

For those desiring a final look at the interior of the Elementary School, school system officials are hosting self-guided open house tours on the following days:

Tuesday, August 29th (during the School District Open House) Visitors are welcome to take part in the Back-to-School Open House, at Roy Davis Field (football/track stadium) from 5 to 8 p.m.  The school band will be playing, the Schoolcraft Village Re-Route Vision and Future Developments and the School District Strategic Plans will be presented.  Dinner will be provided.  A bus will be available to transport visitors to the Early Elementary from Roy Davis Field.

Friday, September 8th from 8 – 10 a.m. (Coffee and donuts provided)

Monday, September 11th from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (Reception at 5:30 and the school board meeting will be held in Early Elementary gymnasium at 6:00).

After that, it is hoped the building will be put to good use again, said Fetzer.

Sealed bid process:

RFP released to perspective bidders – July 25, 2017
Proposal documents due by 12 p.m. on August 29, 2017
Administrative review and proposer negotiations – August 29, 2017 through August 31, 2017
School Board review and award – September 11, 2017
Due diligence period – September 11, 2017 through October 11, 2017
Closing – on or before October 21, 2017

Vicksburg School Board Expects a Per-Pupil Cash Increase

By Sue Moore

Budget hearings take place annually for Vicksburg schools. Usually they are depressing because the news from the state has not been so good considering the per pupil foundation number that each school receives.

Although the state foundation number is still to be finalized, Steve Goss, the assistant to the superintendent believes there could be as much as a $120 per pupil increase. The Governor hasn’t signed anything as yet but the conference committee is indicating the foundation support would be around $7,631. Offsetting this good news is the anticipated reduction in Title I and Title II federal funding.

Pension reform legislation was passed and signed by the Governor with praise from the conservative Mackinac Center, but received across the board condemnation of the final bill by teachers and administrators, according to Superintendent Charlie Glaes. In the current school year, schools paid into the retirement system at a rate of approximately 25% of payroll.The budget as passed by the school board assumes 2,548 students, a drop of 32 youngsters for school year 2017/18. “We believe this is a shift in demographics,” Goss explained. There are lots of new houses being built but fewer kids moving into them. Schools of choice was not a consideration in this number Goss went on to say. The trend in enrollment history shows a slight to moderate decline from 2002 when the school had 2,750 students.

Total revenue under this scenario would be $26,442,014 and total expenses $26, 555.751. The fund balance of 8.6 percent of the budget is a little lower than it should be, Goss said. He would like it to be higher to cover any kind of unexpected happenings over the school year. The property tax levy is 18 mils, the maximum rate allowed. There has been a sizeable increase in taxable value for non-Homestead property. However, because property taxes are included in the state’s per-pupil funding, there is no additional revenue as a result of this growth.

Health insurance is the third largest part of the budget with Goss projecting $2,334,300 for 2017/18. The enhancement millage that was passed in May has come to be relied upon by the school district. “We would be facing dramatic program reductions without it.” Goss said.

Rochholz To Head Michigan Association of School Boards

058By Sue Moore

Mike Rochholz of Schoolcraft has long held an abiding interest in local government, having served in most every post imaginable in Schoolcraft. Beginning in July, he will take his knowledge to the state level as president of the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) Board of Directors.

He has served the Schoolcraft school board as trustee since 2000, taking a turn as president for five of the six years between 2008 and 2014. Coincidentally, his grandfather, Paul Sims, was school board president 50 years prior to Rochholz in 1959. He didn’t stay long at that post as Sims had purchased the PS Tavern in downtown Schoolcraft. He thought it was a conflict of interest to be in that business and on the school board, so he resigned shortly thereafter.

Rochholz moved up the ranks of the state association by serving on legislative committees in regional and statewide committees. He was involved in planning for the Kalamazoo County enhancement millage, demonstrating its impacts on schools in the area. He has constantly been advising the Schoolcraft school board on the many intricacies of what policy changes are being proposed in Lansing.

“Education is what democracy is built on. I want to be part of the discussion that leads to the best outcomes for our children and I want to help the community through other means,” Rochholz said. He served as Prairie Ronde township clerk from 2004 to 2008. He was on the zoning board of appeals in the village, Prairie Ronde Township and Schoolcraft Township. “I believe the collaborative effort is the best way to achieve results. We can do so much more by working together than being protectionist.”

The MASB board governs the association and oversees activities, establishes operating policy that furthers the mission of MASB and acts as the voice for more than 600 member school boards across the state. The focus of the MASB board is to provide quality educational leadership services and advocate for student achievement.

Rochholz has been a director of the MASB board since 2015, and had previously served as a director of that board from 2003-2007, rising to the office of president in 2007. He has been the only director in the 68-year history of the association to serve as president of the organization twice.

Rochholz has served on all of the association committees and has taken an active role in the support of educating and supporting services.

“Michael has devoted over a decade at the state level to help support elected boards of education around the state.  He has a great ability to set aside regional or personal issues and look at what will help all kids or all boards and push the organization in that direction.  I look forward to working with Michael over the next year as the president of this organization as he will always put the interests of the membership first,” Don Wotruba, the association’s executive director, said of Rochholz.

Rochholz has received the MASB President’s Award of Recognition; completing and exceeding the required amount of classes and education credits necessary to achieve the highest award attainable. He was appointed to the Schoolcraft Village Council in 2014, elected to the position in 2015 and re-elected to a four-year term in 2016.

MASB was officially organized in 1949 to advance the quality of public education in the state, promote high standards in providing educational programs, help school board members keep informed about education issues, represent the interests of boards of education and promote public understanding about school boards and citizen involvement.

School Board Renews Superintendent Stitt’s Contract

By Brian Freiberger

The Schoolcraft Board of Education at its June meeting renewed the superintendent’s contract for another three years and approved schools of choice for the 2017-2018 school year.

Rusty Stitt has been superintendent for six years. The new contract will be active through the 2019-2020 school year. The new contract will provide pay of $121,516 annually.

The schools of choice renewal means all students who are residents of the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency other school districts – Climax-Scotts, Comstock, Gull Lake, Galesburg-Augusta, Kalamazoo, Parchment, Portage and Vicksburg – will be allowed to enroll at Schoolcraft for the 2017-18 school year. This decision is reviewed annually by the board.

Applications for children from other districts are being accepted for all grades except for sixth grade. Kindergarten, third and fifth grade have limited seats available, according to the Student to Teacher Ratio Guideline Proposal from Schoolcraft.

Schoolcraft decides if a grade is open or closed depending on projected student-teacher ratios.

High School Principal Ric Seagar at the meeting presented results of the class of 2017 Exit Survey. Students judge the school based on their experiences and what they are doing after high school.

The class of 2017 graduated 88 students that will explore many different career paths.

Seven percent of students are employed full-time and are not enrolled in further education currently. Three percent enlisted in the military. Another three percent are furthering their education at a trade, technical, or business training program. Of the remaining, 33 percent are enrolled in a two-year technical or business training program and 54 percent are attending a four-year college or university.

Now that the students know where they are going, what do they plan to study?

The most popular selection was health and science at 34.2 percent followed by business and economics at 20.8 percent, creative and performing arts at 16.7 percent, social sciences and education at 11.1 percent, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at 11.1 percent, communications at 8.3 percent, construction at 6.9 percent, computer and networks at 4.2 percent, environmental and natural resources at 1.4 percent. The remaining 13.9 percent of the 88 students are undecided.

During the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school year Schoolcraft increased its number of students taking four or more courses for college credit from 46.6 percent to 55.6 percent. Schoolcraft also saw a slight increase of students taking zero college credit from 16.4 percent in 2016 to 19.4 percent in 2017, according to the survey.

While at Schoolcraft High, 85 percent of students said they felt comfortable talking to teachers, principals, counselors or other adults in the school when needed.

According to the survey, 72 out of 88 seniors said that Schoolcraft High School was a positive experience, and 74 percent of them said that they are satisfied with their high school experience.

The survey also asked what students would change to better Schoolcraft. The most popular answers were improved lunches, less technology, more rigor and more arts.

Schoolcraft Class of 2017 Donates to Eagles Nest

Project Graduation donation 2
From left to right: Volunteer Jolie Warnaar, students Jared Lynch, Emily Williams, Morgan Warnaar, Chrissy Winkel and volunteer Megan Walsh.

By Brian Freiberger

The class of 2017 at Schoolcraft High School donated $1,000 each to two nonprofit organizations which help underprivileged and special needs students in the district. It also left behind a contribution to the class of 2018.

One of the two contributions went to the Schoolcraft Friday Pack, which provides underprivileged children with weekend meals and snacks during the school year. The president of Schoolcraft Friday Pack, Jolie Warnaar, said that the donation will feed up to 72 children for three months.

The second $1,000 donation went to Common Bond, a program in which students spend time with special needs children, hanging out and doing fun activities. “If they need help they know that they can come to us,” said Megan Warnaar, a 2017 Schoolcraft graduate, about the importance of Common Bond.

The contributions came from funds left over from Project Graduation, a fundraiser that allows graduating seniors to have an exciting activity at the end of their senior year. This year’s class raised $17,000, and rented two charter buses to spend the day at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.

Classes typically raise between $15,000 and $23,000 each year, according to Warnaar. “They knew that they would have some money left over. Instead of raffling off prizes to give to students as in years past, the class decided to donate the money.”

The class of 2017 also left $1,500 for the class of 2018, “My goal for them next year is to continue to do something charitable. That’s why I think it is important,” said Warnaar.

Schoolcraft graduates Chrissy Winkel, Macayla Rhoda, Emily Williams, Morgan Warnaar and Jared Lynch represented the class of 2017 when the checks were presented. “Hopefully by donating this money, we are giving an example for the classes below us,” said Lynch.

“It’s a heart-warming and great accomplishment for the class of 2017,” said the students.