Board of education briefs on safety, security

By Travis Smola

School safety was again on the Schoolcraft board of education’s December agenda as Superintendent Rick Frens gave a short update on the results of a security assessment performed in November.

For security reasons, Frens said he didn’t feel comfortable sharing all the safety areas that were discussed in the assessment at a public meeting. However, he noted that the district’s employees received high marks on their dedication and commitment to the safety of the students.

Assessors made suggestions about improvements in window and glass treatments, improvements to room numbering, additions to emergency classroom go bags and an audit of the school’s PA system.

The assessment also suggested fixing a few door hardware issues and improvements to the school’s communication systems, something the district is already working on. It just bought some new digital radios to help with connecting classrooms with the office in an emergency, “putting some things in place even before the report came out that we had some areas we had to work on in communications,” Frens said.

For emphasis on how quickly things go bad in an emergency, Frens held up his cell phone: “These are not effective, especially in a crisis.”

Frens gave the board members packets with a more detailed breakdown of the assessment and the suggestions going forward. He also noted that the high school will receive wiring for a security camera system over the winter break, something that Frens has been pushing for since his arrival in the district.

“We’re feeling good about the direction we’re going, but we certainly have areas to improve on, and to always pay attention to,” Frens said. “Safety is our number one goal.”

In other news, board members and staff expressed thanks to Trustee Jill VanDyken-Hunt for her service during six years on the board. VanDyken-Hunt’s term expired in December, and she elected not to run for another term. At the end of the meeting, she thanked her fellow trustees and the community for their support during her term.

“We have done a lot in six years,” VanDyken-Hunt said. “We had a rocky start. We were not in a great place. And we have truly landed in a great place. I’m proud of it.”

Vicksburg welcomes new staff members

A portion of the new staff at Vicksburg Community Schools.

By Jef Rietsma

Nearly two dozen new members of the Vicksburg Community Schools family were introduced at the district’s Dec. 12 board of education meeting.

The formal introduction of new staff is typically done in December, affording the seven-member board an opportunity to place a face with a name.

Superintendent Keevin O’Neill said the following list represents only those who were in attendance at the board’s monthly meeting. He noted several current employees have taken over new jobs within the district but were not introduced with new staff. For example, former fourth-grade teacher Amanda Lewis still works at Sunset Lake Elementary School but now serves as its student services coordinator, a new position.

“I’m very excited about our December meeting, as usual, because we get to welcome some very new and talented people to the Vicksburg Community Schools family,” O’Neill said.

Board President Skip Knowles offered a welcome to the new staff members. He also had a message for VCS alumni.

“It’s good to see some of our Vicksburg grads back, it’s always good to have you all come home,” he said. “It is great, we’re proud of you, we think you’ve made a good choice and it makes me feel very good to hear that you feel supported because that is the name of the game. What you do is important. Welcome.”

Vicksburg High School

Nicole Bruggema, math teacher and freshman volleyball coach
Megan Schlabach, CTE agriscience teacher
Lauri Gordon, SEL Coordinator/Student Services

Vicksburg Middle School

Michelle Wistinghausen, science teacher
Joe Wing, media specialist
Joe Werkema, assistant principal
Matt Brussee, social studies teacher and intro to computer science
Ryan Vallier, special education
Alexa Neumann, English and ESL teacher
Jenna Khan, middle school and high school Spanish

Sunset Lake Elementary School

Alex Schmidtendorff, second-grade teacher
Kelly Sanchez, third-grade teacher
Kristen Snook, media specialist
Jill Braman, first-grade teacher
Cristina Ebert, third-grade teacher
Rebecca Wing, fourth-grade teacher
Rasman Gertners, special education
Brenda Warner, first-grade teacher
Samantha Witters, fifth-grade teacher
Kristin Kite, fourth-grade teacher

Tobey Elementary School

Tabby Sears, kindergarten teacher

Indian Lake Elementary School

Bailey Hawkins, third-grade teacher

Schoolcraft board eyes grants, student counts

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft Board of Education in a short October meeting learned the district will seek safety and mental health services grants, met a student group interested in forming a slot-racing club and heard a report about a successful alumni career fair.

Finance Director Kendra Drewyor in a short report of the district’s finances noted Schoolcraft’s pupil counts continue to look strong. “We continue to have good school of choice numbers. That’s a huge component of our enrollment numbers,” Drewyor said.

Drewyor also reported the state’s budget went into effect the prior Saturday, October 1. She said the district would be pursuing new safety grants and funding meant for mental health services. Drewyor noted they don’t have exact numbers on how much this funding would entail, but the once they’ve been approved, the district will essentially get per-pupil funding for these purposes in the next few months.

In his monthly report, Superintendent Rick Frens brought up a board policy, which essentially states that every time the district receives a gift over $500, the board must vote to accept it. In this case, the cross country team received a donation of new uniforms. The board approved the donation with some of its other regular business items.

High School Principal Matthew Dailey had a few news items to share in the meeting’s closing minutes. He briefly introduced a group of students who recently became interested in slot car racing after a visit to the Gilmore Car Museum. The students are still in the informal organization phase, but Dailey noted they will be looking to make it an official after school club in the future.

Dailey also highlighted a great turnout for the district’s first-ever alumni career fair. The number of graduates who came back to speak to current students about their career paths was more than they had expected. He said his email inbox was inundated with messages from around the county talking about how successful the event had been.

“It was really powerful to see alumni come back. It wasn’t just one or two alumni, we had upwards of 30 people come back as Schoolcraft graduates,” Dailey said. “The Eagle nation is out doing great things. It’s just great to have people come back and talk about those things.”