LAS Board of Education Recap: Marsha Wilcox Award, Cherry Creek Elementary, The Big Give

On Monday evening in the administration building, community members gathered to stay informed on Lowell Area Schools latest news during its monthly Board of Education meeting. Absent from the meeting were board member Dan Stephens and board president Brian Krajewski. Laurie Kuna subbed in for Krajewski for the evening and brought the meeting to order at 7 pm.

Marsha Wilcox Community Service Award

The Marsha Wilcox Community Service Award is given annually to a community member who goes above and beyond to support public education. This year, there were multiple recipients.

The first award went to Noel and Jill Dean, who were not in attendance. The Deans have a long history in Lowell, and many know Noel for his 22 years coaching the Lowell varsity football program. The second was given in memoriam to Tony Stencel, a longtime Lowell resident who was known to many as “The Voice of the Red Arrows” for his decades spent as an announcer for LAS athletics.

Many of Stencel’s family members were there to receive the award in his honor. LAS Superintendent Nate Fowler said that Stencel modeled very well Lowell’s community values and thanked Tony for “…showing by example your love for your hometown.” Kuna added a thanks to Stencel’s family, saying, “Thank you so much for sharing him with us.”

Cherry Creek: Student Leadership Team, Parent Advisory Committee, Kids Hope

Next up were principal Craig Veldman and Coordinator of Student Support Jennafer Slanger from Cherry Creek Elementary to present some updates and information to the board.

Veldman started out by showing a slide of some data pertaining to last year’s second graders. He said this was a class who, as kindergarteners and first-graders, had their education disrupted by the pandemic and then started at a new school (making the move from Bushnell to CCE) just before this data was gathered. In the fall of 2021, these students took the MAP test and did not score well. Veldman said the second grade teachers came together and went above and beyond to get these students the extra help they needed in a variety of ways. By the spring, when they took the MAP test again, the students showed a 99% growth/improvement in their math and reading scores.

Veldman also talked about the fact that during the pandemic, he felt that families and parents didn’t “have a whole lot of choice” in their child’s education due to public health orders and schools adhering to those orders. He and his team wanted to find a way for students and their parents to have a voice, and so the Parent Advisory Committee and the Student Leadership Team were formed.

The Parent Advisory Committee at CCE is made up of eight parents with representatives from each grade level. Veldman said the purpose of the committee was that these parents could act as a “sounding board” for the school.

There to speak about the newly formed Student Leadership Team were two CCE fifth-graders, Max Brown and Ellie Burton. The team is made up of two representatives from each of the five fifth grade classes at CCE. The students will have monthly meetings where Slanger says, “…they run the show.” The students will meet to discuss ideas, areas of improvement, projects and plans for their school. At their first meeting, the kids came up with their team vision: “Providing Cherry Creek students a voice to make our school a better place.”

Slanger then presented briefly on Kids Hope, a mentoring program that is facilitated by Heather Kresge from Impact Church. Seventeen volunteers from the church were paired with at-risk students from CCE needing a positive role model and will meet once a week. The program is meant to be ongoing, with the hope that these mentors will meet with their students throughout their elementary school years.

As part of his curriculum update, Dan VanderMeulen presented to the board information about The Big Give. The Big Give is an organization started by Matt Wilber, owner of seven Fit Body Boot Camp locations in West Michigan, that partners with district social workers to identify students and families in need. This year, 98 families with students at Bushnell and Cherry Creek will be given $250 each for Christmas gifts and needs. The Big Give will shop for, wrap and deliver the presents to the families.

Public Comments

There were no public comments at this meeting.

Other Meeting Items

  • The board passed a summer tax resolution for 2023. Fowler explained that this was not a new resolution, and that its purpose was to spread out LAS’s cash flow over the summer months, as no state aid is received during that time.
  • A motion passed unanimously to accept a bid from Corporate Live for $41,000 to replace the current soundboard at the high school’s Performing Arts Center. The soundboard there now was installed in 1995 and was not functioning well. Corporate Live is a local company and also gave the lowest bid.
  • LAS is still in need of full-time bus drivers and some additional bus drivers to serve as substitutes. Bus driver negotiations were taking place the evening after the board meeting due to their contract expiring in 2023.
  • Middle School construction is on track to open the choir room and adjoining hallway after Christmas break. Fowler said that the “face” of the building along Foreman is taking shape nicely.
  • Newly elected board members Jennifer Dougherty and Jared Blough will begin their positions at the January meeting.

Board Communications

Gary Blough, who is retiring from the board, said congrats and welcome to the newly elected board members.

Tom Kaywood said thank you and “awesome job” to Max and Ellie for their presentation about the Student Leadership Team.

Pat Nugent said thank you to the community members who exercised their right to vote in the recent election, but that he was disappointed in the “constant efforts” from both Republicans and Democrats to turn a nonpartisan race into a partisan one. He said that he didn’t like or agree with postcards that came from statewide groups endorsing certain candidates or the yard signs endorsing three candidates that he said were paid for by “people who didn’t have the decency to identify themselves.” He said that now that the election is over, he hoped community members could set their differences aside and allow the board room to work. He said he wished that the antics at board meetings would now calm down and asked specifically that the community not wear certain colors to meetings to support certain groups and not to come just to clap for or support one group or person but not others.

Kuna said she wanted to echo Nugent’s statement and said that we were all here for the kids. She said she hoped that we could all move forward in a positive manner and look for ways to get better because we can always improve.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:06 pm. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 12 at 7 pm in the administration building. There is a BOE work session meeting that is open to the public on Monday, November 28 at 6 pm, also in the admin building.

1 Comment

  1. Pat Nugent made a thoughtful statement about the recent school board elections turned political. Moving forward I would hope that our community wakes up and does what’s best for our kids. We have a history of doing such with positive results.

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