Schoolcraft receives approval on ESSER III grants

The top ten students from Schoolcraft High School’s 2022 graduating class.

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft School District anticipates a $447,000 grant in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding for summer learning and maintenance of ventilation systems at the high school.

The pandemic-relief funding is being distributed through three formulas. The district has received ESSER-1 and ESSER-2 grants for hiring a guidance counselor.

Kendra Drewyor, the district’s finance director, told school board members about approval of the ESSER-3 grant at its April meeting.

Another grant through the program is awaiting approval, Drewyor said. It may be used for a category of students including those in low-income families, racial minorities or learning English. Drewyor noted the funds must be fully expended by July of 2024.

In other news, board President Jennifer Gottschalk was finally able to confirm to the village’s 4th of July committee that it may use a portion of school grounds for the fireworks show this year. The board and the committee had been going back and forth for a few months to find a solution. Until this month it wasn’t clear if construction would interfere with the proposed launch site or not.

Gottschalk also briefly discussed upcoming open positions on the board. Gottschalk, and Trustees Jill Hunt, and Randy Blankenship’s terms are expiring in December. Gottschalk and Hill’s seats are six-year terms. Blankenship’s is a two-year term. Hill cleared up some confusion by noting Blankenship’s term is incorrectly showing as ending December 2024 on the district’s website. Gottschalk and Blankenship both plan to run again. Hunt has decided she will not seek re-election to focus more on her career outside the board of education’s duties.

“We’re seeking more candidates,” Gottschalk said. “Rick (Frens) and I are going to discuss how we can get this out to folks in the area. I’ve talked to a few people who might be interested.”

Athletic Director Jeff Clark also briefly highlighted the extremely successful winter sports season that culminated with the boys’ varsity basketball team winning a state title. Clark noted the boys’ basketball team shot 75 percent from the field in the title game for both two and three-pointers.

“You don’t see that with any team, whether it’s pro, college; that was really good,” Clark said. “And the defense was just stifling.”

Clark didn’t have all the individual accolades from the season at the time of the meeting. However, he noted across all sports, the district had seven athletes earn honorable mention all-conference, eight first team all-conference athletes, and won two conference championships, three district championships, and two regional championships.

“All around, a really good effort by all our sports teams this past winter,” Clark said.

Vicksburg administrator describes May 3 millage

Discarded Juul Pods are a new form of litter. Vicksburg Community Schools joined a class-action suit against the manufacturer, alleging that their marketing specifically targets young people.

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg Community Schools Assistant Superintendent Steve Goss took advantage of the district’s March 14 board meeting to emphasize the significance of an tax renewal request on the May 3 ballot.

Goss said district voters will be asked whether to renew a non-homestead operating millage. Board members in January approved a resolution placing the matter on the ballot.

“Many people have probably started to receive absentee ballots, so we want to start getting the word out there,” he said.

Goss said the renewal is for non-homestead properties. It will impact businesses and vacation, rental or seasonal homes within the school district. He said the amount is 18 mills and up for renewal every five years. District voters have supported the renewal every time since it was created in 1994, he said.

“The millage is required in order to collect the full, per-pupil foundation allowance,” he said. “That local share for the non-homestead millage really comprises the first dollars of the per-pupil funding.”

For a matter of perspective, Goss said this year’s per-pupil foundation allowance is $8,700. Without the allowance, the district’s funding would drop to about $7,900 per student.

He said the 18 mills generate about $2.1 million annually.

“I just remind people to vote,” he added. “There probably won’t be a lot of other things on the ballot, so it’s one of those things that’s easy to forget about but it’s important that everybody, regardless of how you feel about it, it’s important to vote.”

In a separate matter, Goss said the district received three bids for electric-service upgrades planned in June 2023 at the middle school. The low bidder was Kalamazoo-based Moore Electric, which submitted a quote of $282,000. Goss said the company indicated a 40-week delay on its ability to secure parts and critical components, explaining the lengthy delay for when the work will be conducted.

In other news, Superintendent Keevin O’Neill recently spent a day and a half with legislators in Lansing. He said conversations ranged from budgets and tax cuts to teacher retention and school funding.

“Also, I was very strong regarding the evaluation requirements and the state, which need to be modified,” he said. “We had some very, very good discussions. However, we have a long way to go.”

He said the state will hold its revenue conference in May, which will give the district a clearer picture of its financial state for the 2022-23 fiscal year starting July 1.

Also during the meeting, the district agreed to join a class-action lawsuit against Juul, maker of electronic cigarettes.

The board also heard an annual report from Indian Lake Elementary Principal Sarah Bacalia. Indian Lake hosted the meeting.