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.”

Vicksburg’s Big Red Machine ends successful season

Big Red Machine seniors. Photo by Hillary Reitenour.

By Director Ben Rozier

In the last week of July, students reported for marching basics camp where they learned the basics of playing an instrument while marching with proper technique. This rolled into a week away in Indiana where the show “INK” started taking shape.

After a few football game performances, the Big Red Machine (BRM) headed out to compete. On the first competitive weekend they were able to take away a 2nd place award in Class A at Otsego High School, and with that, a best color guard caption award. They traveled that same day to Portage Central High School and captured first place in Class A, best color guard, best percussion, best marching, and best music. They were the best band that night in Portage, taking away the Grand Champion Trophy for having the highest score of any band performing.

The second competitive weekend saw the BRM travel to Cedar Springs and take all the awards again with first place in Class A. They traveled that same evening to Hastings and took best color guard and first place again in Class A competition, breaking a tie with Petoskey with their Best Music award.

The Big Red Machine kept it local for homecoming week and then hosted MSBOA festival which saw them receiving a Division I rating with all A’s on every judge’s sheet. That weekend the Bulldog Invitational was another huge success with 17 bands performing. The evening finished by featuring Vicksburg and Otsego High School’s drumlines in a faceoff.

The Big Red Machine finished its competitive season with a trip to East Kentwood, competing against 25 other bands. The Big Red Machine took first place in class A with a score of 96.6 while also winning the caption award for best music. By winning the class, the BRG completed the season with an 80% win rate. They competed against over 40 schools and were only beaten once. Also, by scoring a 96.6 this past weekend, the BRM earned the highest score in Vicksburg band’s history. It was an incredible season.

Competitions

Otsego- Second Place in Class A; best colorguard
Portage Central- First Place Class A; best color guard, best percussion, best marching, best music, Grand Champion
Cedar Springs- First Place Class A; best color guard, best percussion, best marching, best music, (no grand champion trophy given)
Hastings- First Place Class A; best color guard, best music
MSBOA Festival- Division I rating with straight A’s
Vicksburg Bulldog Invitational- no places awarded
East Kentwood-First Place, Class A, Best Music Award

Dates

District XI Middle School Honors Band (Plainwell)- November 7
Kalamazoo Holiday Parade- 11/19
Middle School Christmas Concert- 12/21
High School Christmas Concert- 12/22

Vicksburg schools puts stakeholder survey online

Vicksburg Homecoming Court, left to right: Daxton Rugg, Lucy Glerum, Molly Young, RJ Vallier, Abby Bush, Brycen Town, Lacey McConnaghy, Kenny Youngs, and Avery Barker. Missing: Cole Gebben.

By Jef Rietsma

Three years and a pandemic later, Vicksburg Community Schools is finally putting together a five-year strategic plan.

Superintendent Keevin O’Neill said establishing the plan was a high priority when he became superintendent in 2017. Not long after, the world was turned upside down.

“We started the initial planning in 2019, started putting some pieces into place and then COVID hit,” he said. “We kept putting it on the back burner because we felt, with the divide that happened with COVID, we just wouldn’t get the rich data that we wanted and needed.”

The online survey went out to staff and parents September 27 and closed October 2. Student surveys were given over several days. O’Neill said the survey is the first phase of the process.

O’Neill said “We wanted as much input from all our stakeholder groups as possible, honest input; good, bad and ugly. It’s all anonymous and the company we hired to do this does very good work. We wanted to make sure it was done independently of the district so we can get (candid) data.”

Data collection is being done by a Troy-based company, Emicity Market Research.

Once all data is collected, another company, Hulings and Associates, will step in and handle the second and third phases. Ultimately, the strategic plan will establish the district’s priorities based on what the community provides as feedback.

“We are excited to involve all VCS stakeholders in the process of developing a five-year strategic plan that will set our district priorities, establish agreements around intended academic outcomes and ensure continued innovation in teaching and learning,” O’Neill said, “to get to a point that will hopefully take Vicksburg Community Schools to the next level with more of a collaborative effort of everyone, which wasn’t possible the last three years, for sure.”

O’Neill emphasized the significance of having as much participation in the survey as possible. He said the results will help the district hear voices of all its stakeholders. “But the strategic plan is only as strong as the input we receive.”

Once adopted, the proposed plan is expected to cover a period ending in 2028.