Category Archives: Schools

Fetzer Resigns as Schoolcraft Board President Opening Vacancy

img_1126By Travis Smola

After 14 years of service on the Schoolcraft school board, Darby Fetzer announced her resignation effectively immediately on Monday.

“This is likely to be the most difficult decision of my professional life,” Fetzer said a letter to district leadership and staff. “I care deeply about this district.”

In a phone conversation Monday she cited several reasons for the decision including a desire to spend time on emotional intelligence (EG) programming workshops and to better care for her mother. “Never in my wildest imaginings could I have scripted it this way – campaigning hard with Michael Rochholz, being sworn in for my 4th term only to hear my inner “still small voice” loudly bellow that it’s time to be done,” Fetzer said.

Fetzer was not present at the Monday night board meeting, but offered to help with the transition and as a resource to the district as they need it. “I’m very excited for the future of Schoolcraft Community Schools and will look forward to watching more visions take flight,” she said.

At the board meeting, the trustees elected Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk as the new president. “I just want to say thank you for placing your trust in me to do this job only two years in,” Gottschalk said at the close of the meeting. “I feel very fortunate this group chose me to be the President this year. And I hope I can live up to the job.”

The board elected ­Jason Walther as the new Vice President, Ryan Ledlow as the new Secretary and Kathy Mastenbrook to remain in her role as Treasurer.

The Fetzer resignation now opens up a vacancy in the board which will be appointed by the board. The district is asking anyone interested in the position to submit a letter of interest and qualifications to the district office in the high school no later than Jan. 25 at 4 p.m.

Anyone with questions about the position is asked to contact Superintendent Dr. Rusty Stitt at 269-488-7390 or or President Jennifer Gottschalk at 269-207-2335 or The school board then plans to review all applicants and do interviews on Feb. 11 before their regular board meeting.

Shark Tank Gets Real for Schoolcraft Business Students

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Jager Doorn, Seyanna Smith and Alana Reed work on their solution to the Shark Tank contest that they won.

Schoolcraft High School’s Business Management and Administration (BMA) classes traveled to Davenport University Nov. 14 to participate in its annual Shark Tank event.

Students are given a category and must come up with an innovative idea, according to their teacher, Lori Pelton. This year the category was food and beverage. Davenport University’s professors are the “sharks” and students pitch their idea, the target market and the need for the product to the sharks, similar to the format of the TV reality show of the same name.The sharks then quiz the teams about their ideas.

Teams pitched their ideas to a room full of contenders for round one. The top 10 teams made it to the final round. Schoolcraft sophomores Alana Reed, Seyanna Smith, Jager Doorn, Team ASJ, were the winners.

Their idea was a camp bowl that can be heated or chilled by using a gear attached to a tree. It didn’t seem to fit in the food and beverage category, Pelton said, but judges accepted it.

Students go in to the competition not knowing the category. “They watch a few clips from the show in class,” Pelton said. “We have them practice getting a category and doing a pitch the day before we go, but to have a level playing field for all schools, no one knows the category before we get there.”

About 250 students from Innovation Central, Kent County Tech Center, Hackett Catholic Prep, Kalamazoo Central, Schoolcraft, University Prep Academy competed. Schoolcraft came out the first-place winner.

Nonla Taqueria, The New Beginnings of 321 N Grand St.

nonlaBy Schoolcraft 10th graders Hannah Kelecava, Taylor Abfall, Aiden Gray, and Hunter Martens

A new and upcoming restaurant, Nonla Taqueria recently opened in Schoolcraft. “Nonla Taqueria has a warm, welcoming atmosphere,” said Brandon Newland who has eaten at Nonla Taqueria a few times.

“The food at Nonla Taqueria is all fresh If you are in the need for a Mexican homestyle meal. Nonla Taqueria is the place to go because of its authentic Mexican food,” Newland said. The new restaurant will bring new experiences to the community.

“Many businesses have failed in the small town of Schoolcraft,” Newland said. “I feel like this one will really take off, bringing others into Schoolcraft.”

The restaurant owners have their own twist on the place. They made it their own by decorating and having a welcoming sense inside. “It is a very welcoming place where everyone wants to talk and you always feel like you are being helped,” Newland stated.

Chef Nguyen said “We saw that Schoolcraft would have many opportunities. We saw that the building we are currently in was sitting vacant and needed some love. Also, it is right off a busy street, so we thought Schoolcraft would be a great place.” With Christmas coming along many people will be out and about in town and after a busy day will want a nice meal. Also, Nguyen said that they are trying to figure out a Taco Tuesday deal to have soon.

Schoolcraft High School’s Spanish teacher, Melissa French had some very positive feedback. French said “People are likely to visit this restaurant because they have really good food that will draw people in. The community and people outside of the community know the Nonla name because they have two other restaurants that are well known, this will push them to try the third.”

Being in a small town challenges restaurants to stay in business. For example, there have been many other, different companies and restaurants in that space. Some people are questioning how this restaurant will maintain its well-being in the small town. “It’s important for small towns like Schoolcraft to have restaurants other than chain restaurants. This allows for people to experience different kinds of food which makes this restaurant special to our small town,” stated French. Also, French said that Nonla will bring bright new energy to the community.

Nonla Taqueria has had good success in the community so far and the people here have been spreading the good word around. Hopefully Nonla can hold ground at the new destination and make a big positive impact on the people visiting and eating there. Don’t hesitate to pull in their parking lot and try something new.

Schoolcraft Approves New Classes for May Term

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Lucas Hamelink, Brenna McDonald and Cole Bailey are seated in front of their science teacher Donya Dobbin as they get ready to present the story of their accomplishments in robotics to the Schoolcraft School Board. This group placed 5th out of 36 teams in middle school robotics competition in Constantine and were picked for the playoff. They lost in the finals but placed 2nd in alliance competition.

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft school board unanimously approved a raft of new class options for high school students during the May term of the school’s new unbalanced calendar.

The board approved the move to a three-term semester in April. The new courses will be held during the shortened 30-day term to end the school year.

High School Principal Ric Seager showed the board a list of approximately 70 new courses the school will offer Some include credit recovery courses to earn back credit if students struggled earlier in the year.

But a big focus with the shortened semester is bringing back electives. There are old favorites like engineering and computer-aided design and some new, interesting ones like classes that deal in earth science, geology, zoology, psychology, history, literature, sports, music and marketing.

One of the more creative new offerings is forensic science. Teachers will create a mock crime scene and students will have to analyze it in detail. “It’s not just a game of ‘Clue,’” Seager said. “They’ve got to learn how to do fingerprinting and know how to do fiber analysis, hair analysis, how to do electrophoresis, a kind of DNA analysis.”

They’re also bringing back classic home economics-styled classes in baking and cooking. Other courses will cover things like digital art and photography. They will also offer yearbook for the first time in years.

Students will be required to take at least two courses dealing in core academic areas such as math, science, English or social studies. All the courses meet state content expectations. Students can also take up to two college courses. All freshmen will be required to take a career development course to help plan for the future.

Board President Darby Fetzer asked where the inspiration for the courses came from. Most of the teachers in attendance cited a passion for the subjects being covered. Seager said they also made sure each of these courses connected back to something they felt was valuable to teach students and would help them see their teachers in a new way.

They will have a parent meeting to further explain the new courses sometime in December. But Seager said he worked with this kind of schedule and elective-heavy semester before and said it re-energized students and staff who were burned out before summer break. “Who doesn’t want a change late in the school year?” Seager said.

The board also heard from Kelly Hipskind and Patrick Poer, co-founders of Sun FundED, a company that seeks to offer solar panels to public schools and universities at a reduced cost. Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk expressed heavy skepticism of the program, especially with the facilities study still on-going.

The board made no decisions on the matter, deciding to wait to see if there would be a potential bond issue in May before it considers solar energy.

Festivity in the Midst of War

warxmasResearched by Schoolcraft 10th graders Harmon Devries, Carter Graber and Carl Taylor; Written by Hayden Long

War conjures images of bloody battlefields, destruction, grit, and sacrifice. But is there a side of conflicts we pay less attention to? For example, what did those on front lines do to celebrate the holidays? Christmas for example? Were they able to observe the holidays? Or did the violence, tension, and savagery of war win out?

In the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army needed victory. In the winter of 1776, the odds weren’t looking all that good. The British had taken New York, and with it, the upper hand of the war, with the aid of Hessian mercenaries. Many American soldiers considered deserting as winter and the enemy closed in. Then, in a surprise Christmas Day attack on Hessian-occupied Trenton, New Jersey, the Americans crossed the ice-pocked Delaware and captured the town and 500 Hessian mercenaries. While it was a battle, it won more than territory: The capture was a boost to the revolutionaries’ morale, a reason to continue the fight.

As the bloody American Civil War carried on, troops on both sides longed for a shred of comfort and normality amid the carnage. In Union camps, the troops decorated their Christmas trees with what they could scrounge, goods like salt pork and hardtack biscuit. When Union General William Sherman captured Savannah, Georgia, in December 1864, his troops attached branches to heads of their horses as “antlers”. They rode these “reindeer” to provide Savannah residents with much-needed provisions.

In World War I, at least one Christmas was remembered fondly by soldiers as a brief and pleasant respite from the horrors of modern warfare. The famed Christmas Truce of 1914 occurred along many points on the Western Front between British and German troops. Liquor, rations, cigarettes and friendly banter were exchanged, with impromptu soccer games, burial of dead comrades and Christmas carols, sung in unison in two languages.

In World War II, many soldiers expressed frustration about fighting overseas by painting messages like “Merry Christmas, Hitler!” on bombs to be delivered to the enemy. But some acquired a day off if their unit wasn’t in direct combat. They received mail and packages from loved ones, perhaps with cookies and socks. Cooks made special Christmas and Thanksgiving meals for soldiers. Holiday breaks in the daily routine boosted morale, helping soldiers make it through the war.

In the Korean War, soldiers couldn’t spare the time to celebrate the holidays. They focused on surviving. In the freezing winter of 1950, for example, United Nations troops fought for their lives between Nov. 27-Dec.13, encircled by the Chinese troops in the Chosin Reservoir. Don Paradine, of Schoolcraft and a veteran Marine in the battle, remembers that it was “Very cold…flat cold … you just never thought you were going to get warm again.” UN forces retreated, and a hope of advent festivities was crushed beneath fleeing military leather boots.

Christmas during the Vietnam war was often surreal. North Vietnamese troops attacked the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies during the winter holiday, but the Allied troops still found time to celebrate. Men recounted decorating Christmas trees with battlefield debris – used ammunition boxes, spent artillery shells.

Soldiers of many nations have endured horrific trials and have managed to uphold the holiday spirit. If they found refuge in these our holiday traditions, can we, too, in these troubled times, look to the holidays as a source of hope?

Concept Molds Participates in Business Classroom

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Business class students from Schoolcraft High School tour the production area at Concept Molds led by Mike Rochholz on the right.

By Sue Moore

“What do you do here?” is what Director of Innovation Matt McCullough asks Schoolcraft businesses when he walks in the door. Not that he’s an inspector of some sort; he works for the Schoolcraft school system with a plan to have students and business owners get to know each other.

He follows up by asking business owners what problems they face. If the answer fits one of the high school’s classroom study areas, he’ll suggest a match-up. That lesson will focus on student based learning within the prescribed state education standards and the businesses’ needs.

It has spawned some insightful and interesting relationships such as one he started between the high school and Concept Molds on U.S. 131. He involved the high school second-year business class taught by Lori Pelton and a ninth-grade physical science class taught by Donya Dobbin.

The company’s need was identified: how to recruit younger employees, perfect for a class of soon-to-be graduates who divided into two teams to come up with recommendations. They met with Mike Rochholz, the business’s liaison for this injection molding company, in early November.

The first suggestion was no surprise: Young people don’t read newspapers! So, they suggested advertising on social media, using videos, web sites, static media and Twitter to promote. Facebook is cheap but falling out of style and Linkedin is antiquated, they said. Know your target demographic was the message that the teenagers drilled home. And another conclusion: Keep your word.

The team suggested that recruits would be attracted to a livable wage, good benefits, job stability, open to advances, scholarship help and interestingly “don’t be stuck in the same job every day.” A suggestion box was their idea to keep employees involved. They wanted a connection to management that includes decision-making and having a stake in the company’s effort to succeed.

They recommended group interviews to determine competitiveness. For branding, they mentioned that Concept Molds should upgrade its signage – which actually happened just days before the students made their report. They thought the grass along the building on U.S. 131 was high and needed mowing. The students didn’t know what injection molding means. “What happens in here?” one student asked. “I’ve driven by for years and didn’t know what it was.”

Rochholz took all of these comments to heart, said they were helpful, then took the students on a tour of the facility that employs about 25 people. Concept Molds supplies the automotive industry and medical manufacturers with products such as molds for hospital components that require lots of little disposables. “We have room for growth but want to be careful how we grow as we plan for sustainability,” Rochholz said.

VHS Homecoming Court

2018-10-05 05.47.11Vicksburg’s Homecoming Court, seated in front, from left to right: Sydney Andres, Hailey McConnaghy, Grace Wile, Isabelle Oswalt, Abbey Lafler. Standing, from left to right: Zachery Russe, Jonathan Warner, Mason Glerum, Trenton VanDerBor, Joey McCowen. Joey McCowen and Grace Wile were chosen as king and queen at the halftime of the Vicksburg-South Haven football game.