Category Archives: Schools

Vicksburg Tailgate Celebrates Back to School

By Sue Moore

This year’s seniors at Vicksburg High School were starting third grade when the annual Community Tailgate was first organized. The administration wanted to get athletes, parents and students in the mood to come back to school in the fall. The Community Education department had received so many requests from local businesses to show their wares to this same group that they decided it could best be accomplished by bringing all of these groups together for one rousing start to the year.

From that 2008 start, the event has grown to include over 30 booths and 1,200 attendees in 2017 and major sponsorships by Frederick Construction, the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, Denney Veterinary and this year, DeNooyer Ford and Paper City Development LLC/The Mill.

The Tailgate runs from 4:30-6:30 on Thursday, Aug. 30 between the Middle School and the High School walkway, preceding the football game between Vicksburg and Allegan at 7 p.m. with the Big Red Machine band kicking off the on-field excitement at 6:45. At the Tailgate, there will be free hot dogs, chips and water for all attendees along with trinkets and ice cream passed out by vendors in attendance.

The tradition has taken hold with parents, grandparents, teachers and students taking an opportunity to reacquaint, while learning what organizations and businesses in the community have to offer. It will also be a good chance to view the courtyard and high school parking lot improvements connecting the stadium and the school building. “It’s truly a community celebration,” said Alyssa Thompson, head of the district’s community education department.

Back to School Night in Schoolcraft

By Sue Moore

Schoolcraft has celebrated its Back to School night in August each year with food, a dunk tank, information about school activities and a lot of school cheer.

This year brought a new twist with the special “walk-ride-bike” challenge by Superintendent Rusty Stitt in an effort to raise scholarship money for the Community School Foundation. Stitt wanted to put an emphasis on scholarships as he himself benefitted greatly from those he received as a college student. This was his effort to “pass it on,” he said.

He spent the day walking and riding his bike while broadcasting his progress via Facebook, hoping to receive pledges as he gained momentum. He walked the victorious final lap into the Eagles Stadium.

He was excited to announce that the effort was within $1,000 dollars of reaching the goal of $10,000 at press time. for the $50 for 50-mile scholarship fundraiser. The donations will go to honor Schoolcraft students as they pursue post-secondary opportunities.

The new school year is emphasizing a program led by Matt McCullough, director of innovation, to involve students with the community. Students have worked successfully with Walther Farms, the Schoolcraft Historical Society and local businesses and will begin a seven-month stint with the South County News in October. The English Language Arts (ELA) classes in the high school and middle school will each take a month to prepare a news article to appear in the newspaper. It will be written by the students and submitted to the editor of the South County News along with a by line for the class and the student who ends up with the best story along with pictures they take.

The story assignments will come from ideas created by each class, researched and written by the students themselves. It may involve a survey of the community, school topics or even a subject appearing in the national news, McCullough said. Teachers helping with this effort include Kim Klocke, freshman English and life sciences; Mary Visser, 8th grad English language arts (ELA) and leadership; Kathy Taylor, 6th grade ELA; Doug Martin, 11th and 12th grade English; Tracey Branch, 10th grade and 12th grade English, Karin Lynch, 7th grade ELA.

Vicksburg Opens the Year with Totally New Data System

By Sue Moore

It wasn’t so long ago that student grades came home to parents via a kid’s willingness to hand over the report card for inspection. For the last 10 years, Vicksburg Community Schools has provided a portal providing online access for grades, assignments, teacher’s comments, discipline, and most anything else that is taught in the school that can be recorded.

A more robust new system being installed by the school district. The application, Skyward, promises even more features than the previous system. The challenge for school administrators, parents and students is to learn and adapt to the new bells and whistles.

That means training on every level must take place, almost in the blink of an eye. Teachers were given access to online training through Skyward’s Professional Development Center in May with practice modules. But it isn’t quite like the real thing that they will be exposed to on Aug. 30.

Students will be introduced to the program on Sept. 4, their first day of the new school year. Parents will be able to access the system on that same day with a tutorial to sent home with their child. The instructions will go home on paper, but that should be the beginning of a major decrease in the amount of paper copies going home in the future.

The parents’ responsibility is to check the information they see on the screen for accuracy and correct it if there are address changes, phone numbers or contact information to be updated. All of the data from the previous system, called Infinite Campus, had to be moved over during the summer so it’s important to check for accuracy, cautioned Don Puckett, Vicksburg’s technology director. Contact information is the only thing a parent or student can request to change. Kids can’t change their grades and a teacher can’t change another teacher’s information.

There will be a kiosk at the Community Tailgate on Thursday, August 30 for parents and students to experiment with, Puckett said. And a series of in-house trainers will be stationed in each school building for support and to answer any questions on navigation, grades and attendance entries.

Besides the student information side of the software, the financial offices of the school district have been integrated into Skyward. Steve Goss, assistant superintendent and finance department head, told the school board that it has been a challenging transition during the summer as his crew has been working between two systems. He believes this system will be a huge improvement.

The plan has been several years in the making with a committee designed to study the properties of the software and the cost. “Portage Schools has been using Skyward and that gave us an extra level of comfort,” Puckett said. “We just didn’t dive into the unknown. The goal is to get rid of the paperwork.”

Skyward is located in Stevens Pointe, Wisconsin and reports that it has 2,000 individual customers with 7 million students using its system in seven states.

Software System Seen from a Former Student’s Viewpoint

By Tanner White,
South County News student intern

For over 10 years, students and staff of Vicksburg Community Schools have used Infinite Campus, a computer application, for checking grades, recording attendance, and looking up schedules, among other features. Many were frustrated by frequent crashes, lockouts, differences in permissions between parents and students, and other issues that hindered effectiveness. Change was needed in order to allow a more reliable, simple access to school-related information.

The solution is here. Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, a new and improved software system called Skyward will replace Infinite Campus. Skyward is software designed for management of schools from grades K through 12. Vicksburg students and staff no longer have access to Infinite Campus, but Vicksburg Schools plans to offer instruction and tutorials on the use of the new program at the beginning of the school year.

Vicksburg Schools’ communications director, Nicole Gutshall, said that the new system “Is a much better product for parents and students than its predecessor.” Some may be surprised by such new features as the ability for a student to find a locker number and combination, a college and career readiness tab allowing counselors to make recommendations and simple, paperless enrollment and registration forms. The time and hassle that will be saved by these features and many more are strong selling points of the program.

The collaboration between students, teachers, and parents may be the most important characteristic of the software. Parents who use Skyward now have access to more information than ever before. Parents may view grades posted by teachers, receive notice of their students’ missing assignments, and check attendance records to help their children succeed. Current and future users are encouraged to download Skyward’s mobile apps for iPhone and Android devices, available soon for Vicksburg Schools on the App Store and Google Play, to prepare for the 2018-2019 school year.

School Board Congratulates Clay Trap Shooting Team

vix school bd & clay trap shooters
The Vicksburg High School Clay Target Shooting team members were honored by the Vicksburg School Board at its monthly meeting in August.

By Sue Moore

The fastest growing high school sport in Michigan is clay trap shooting, according to Kip Young, who coaches Vicksburg’s club team.The Vicksburg School Board at its recent meeting honored the team, which finished 40th out of 180 competing at national finals in July. It will become a varsity sport in the spring of 2019, Athletic Director Mike Roy has said.

According to Neil Kreamalmeyer, “The school’s trapshooting has opened new doors for students, opened the eyes of parents in educating them of the opportunities the shooting industry has to offer student shooters. The sport brings closer family involvement, creating a positive atmosphere in encouraging their children in trapshooting competitive endeavors.”

In other business, Superintendent Keevin O’Neill announced that 218 students have registered for kindergarten and B-K who would graduate in the year 2031. This is close to the number of students who graduated in the class of 2018. About 14 percent of the new enrollment is coming from outside the district.

Vicksburg’s sex education classes go back to the 1980s with the state requiring a two-year plan for its Human Growth and Development program. Dennis Kirby, middle school assistant principal, was handed the job of chairing a committee in 2016 “with a goal of educating and changing behavior in a positive way to meet the reproductive health challenges of the future,” he told the board.

“We teach about AIDS/HIV, sex education and notify parents that they can observe or opt out. The committee’s concentration on the curriculum was centered on the elementary schools,” he said. “The main goal was to make sure there was consistency between the buildings in fourth and fifth grades and expand on what is taught to include three sessions at each of the grade levels during the year. We want to concentrate on the whole child with social and emotional pieces, not just the anatomy.”

Trustee Tina Forsyth questioned Kirby on how LBGT discussions are handled. “It’s not been brought up as yet,” Kirby answered. “We have guidelines from the state but not mandates.” Trustee Carol Lohman asked if the school should consider being pro-active on the subject. “We need to have a plan if it does come up.”

Trustee David Schriemer suggested focusing on healthy relationships. “This is like walking on eggshells. As a doctor, I’ve witnessed the abuse of power that can go on in a relationship that is manipulative. We need to show what a good loving relationship can be.”

Schoolcraft Chain Gang

chain gang
Schoolcraft’s high school football chain gang from left to right: Richard Goldschmeding, Skip Fox, David Krum and Jeff Bell have graced the sidelines for home games for almost 50 years.

The Soaring Eagle award recognized the four members of Schoolcraft’s home football “chain gang” – Richard Goldschmeding, Skip Fox, David Krum and Jeff Bell. All four have served the community and district in various ways, but of special note is the fact that high school buddies Fox, Bell and Krum have each served as a member of the chain gang for about 50 years.

Fox started on the chain gang after graduation in 1964. Bell came along in 1968 and Krum started in 1969. Fox and Krum were also long-time members of the Schoolcraft school board.

There was only one thing to say about that kind of dedication and Stitt summed it up: “That’s incredible!”

Laura Chang Named as National Award Winner by NEA

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Laura Chang receives even more honors as Michigan Teacher of the Year.

EAST LANSING – The National Education Association Foundation has announced that Laura Chang, a second grade teacher at Sunset Lake Elementary in Vicksburg, is one of 46 public school educators nationwide who will receive the California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence.

It’s the second major award for Chang this year. In May, she was named 2018-19 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

In nominating Chang for this prestigious award, Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart called Laura “a model for what excellence in education looks like.” Former Vicksburg superintendent Charles Glaes described Laura as “that rare classroom teacher whom principals rely upon, parents lobby for, colleagues admire and enjoy working with, and students love.”

Chang has been an outspoken advocate and practitioner of mentoring and collaboration with young teachers. “In her nearly 20 years in the profession, I am certain that her mentoring and advice to young colleagues has been instrumental in not only improving their teaching skills but keeping many of them in the profession as well,” said Herbart.
In an era of overreliance on standardized testing, Chang’s use of student data to drive instruction, while reminding new teachers to always teach to the students and not the test, has been well received by her colleagues and the education community.

In addition to classroom teaching, Chang helps facilitate professional development in the Vicksburg Community Schools, while continuing to improve her profession by teaching preservice and graduate level students at Western Michigan University.

Chang will receive her award at the NEA Foundation’s “Salute to Excellence in Education” Gala next February in Washington, D.C.