Schoolcraft superintendent given good rating

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft Board of Education, following discussion at an earlier meeting, confirmed its rating of Supt. Ric Frens as “highly effective” at its March meeting.

Briefly discussed during the meeting was a new standardized policy on athletic travel during the postseason. Finance Director Kendra Drewyor said the policy specifies what travel the district will cover for teams during postseason play.

Drewyor also gave a legislative update on news coming from Lansing, including an anticipated increase in per-pupil funding under Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed budget.

In the meeting’s closing, board President Jennifer Gottschalk noted the district’s facilities committee and representatives from TMP Architecture and Triangle Associates will continue to meet to discuss next steps for the old elementary building.

Schoolcraft High School slot car club gets into gear

The newly-formed slot car club at Schoolcraft High School began with a generous $500 donation from Phil Carpenter.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

One field trip. One interaction. That’s all it took to inspire a group of young men from Schoolcraft High School to pursue and start a Schoolcraft High School slot car club which now meets weekly at Schoolcraft High School.

“It all started during our sophomore year at a field trip to the Gilmore Car Museum,” says Xavier Palmer, the club’s president. “We were rotating in small groups to different activities and stations. One of the stations was a slot car track. We just couldn’t get enough of it.”

Then it got more interesting. The young men met and interacted with Phil Carpenter, who was leading the slot car station. “He explained all kinds of things to us. There were so many interesting aspects of the cars, the technology. It was cool.”

And then the challenge. Carpenter told the young men, “You get a club started, and I’ll donate $500!”

And they were off! The students held several meetings with Principal Matt Dailey who explained the steps to gaining approval for a school-related club. The students continued meeting and brainstorming.

In the meantime, they needed a sponsor. At first, Palmer says, “We asked any teacher or school employee if they could supervise us that day after school.” They continued to ask and continued to meet. SHS teacher Robert Wagler was touched by the determination and persistence of the group. He agreed to be their sponsor and provided a space for the track and setup. That was the break and stability they needed.

Eventually, they presented their proposal at a Schoolcraft school board meeting in late 2022. Their club was unanimously approved. And as promised, Carpenter presented the club with a $500 check in January.

“We weren’t really sure it was going to happen, but he came. And he said he will come again and spend more time with us,” says Jesse Keim, the club’s head technician.

When asked, the club members have different answers for what they enjoy most about the club. Bohdan Evans enjoys the engineering aspect of the cars and the repairs. Palmer enjoys the outreach and dialogue involved in starting and continuing the club. Keim enjoys the racing and technology. And Cody Copeland really enjoys and benefits from having the camaraderie with the group.

With the money, the club has purchased track and cars. Hobby Sports generously donated track and a gift card. Another teacher gave them some slot car track his family no longer used.

Wagler smiles as he listens to the young men share their enthusiasm for the club. “This is a completely student-driven activity. I just provide the space and some supervision. It continues to be a great experience for all of us.”

The club has several aspirations for the year. “We would like to get more students involved, and we would like to open the activity and room at a Common Bond Event,” says Palmer.

They would also like to add more track and materials.

The club would happily accept old slot car track, cars, even slot car parts. Contact club sponsor Robert Wagler at if you have materials you no longer use and could to donate to these young leaders.

Vicksburg’s homecoming court: Luke Deal, Kayla Chisholm, Grant Balazs, Emma Vallier, Drew Habel, Brooklyn Ringler, Dalton Heath, MyKaila Scamazzo, Chase Willmont, Anna Bartholomew, Justin Plankenhorn, Faith Smith, JP Culver, Joanna Hassenger, Cody Hatridge, Tristin Abnet, Jackson Wilson, Sydney Taylor, Blake Sutherland, and Allie Spencer. Photo by Kris DeVries.

By Jef Rietsma

Elimination of a third-grade reading retention law is supported by research, Vicksburg Schools Superintendent Keevin O’Neill told his Board of Education at a February meeting.

“Senate Bill 12 passed through the full Senate last week. That bill would repeal the third-grade reading-retention law that has been in place for several years,” he said. “The meat of this bill is to just get rid of retention.

“The research is clear; retention of students is not a sound educational practice. Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of School Boards and many other associations are in favor of these changes.”

O’Neill also noted continuing legislative discussion related to teacher-evaluation laws. O’Neill said he hopes to have more to share on that topic at a future meeting.

He elaborated on Gov. Whitmer’s budget proposal, which was released in early February.

“It’s very favorable for the education community,” he said. “Some of the highlights include a 5% increase to the pupil foundation, that’s equal to $458 (and) that would bring the foundation up to $9,608 per student.”

He also said the proposed budget features an increase of about $80 million for special education statewide; increases for at-risk English language learners, intermediate school district operations and career technical education programming; and one-time funding to support teacher recruitment, retention and training.

“And then the big one, the early childhood Pre-K for all 4-year-olds … that was a big part of her proposal,” O’Neill said. “And, of course, increases for student wellness and other academic supports to address learning loss that occurred during the pandemic.”

O’Neill added that he is eager to see budget proposals from the House and the Senate, though he expects it will be some time before that information is yielded.

“The finalized budget will take time but I am very happy with this proposal from the governor,” O’Neill said. “I think it’s a great start and it is supported by many, many educational associations.”

In other action, board members heard an annual Middle School report from Principal Allison Dygert and assistant principal Joe Werkema.

Also, the board approved the purchase of a new steamer for the kitchen at Sunset Lake Elementary. The $27,000 item will come from Kalamazoo-based Stafford-Smith Inc.

In addition, the board OK’d a request for the high school band to go to Walt Disney World March 22-29. All expenses are being paid by participating students. Board members also approved a request for the district’s eighth-grade class to attend Cedar Point on June 12.