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St. Louis students to see new faculty, staff faces Monday

By Ralph Echtinaw

A near record number of resignations and hirings in St. Louis schools were approved Aug. 19 as the district prepares for the beginning of the new school year tomorrow.

The school board accepted five resignations and approved nine new hires in addition to granting tenure to Rebecca Budka, Emily McPhall and Justin Sahr.

Budka and McPhall just completed a five-year probationary period with St. Louis schools, a requirement for tenure. Sahr had tenure from his last job and needed just two years in St. Louis to complete his probationary period and be recognized. 

Among the new hires were high school Principal Eric Huff and middle school principal Steve Taylor.

Huff, 36, of Alma, is a 2001 graduate of Alma High School and 2005 graduate of Albion College, where he played football (defensive line) for four seasons. His last eight years were spent as as Alma High School’s athletic director and as a health and physical education teacher. Huff and wife Amanda have three children ages 9, 5 and 8 months.

Taylor, 43, of Riverdale, should be familiar to many St. Louis students and parents, as he is moving up from middle school science teacher to middle school principal.

Taylor grew up in Riverdale and graduated from Alma High School and Alma College, majoring in biology and minoring in natural science. He went on to get a master’s degree in school principalship from Central Michigan University.

Taylor has taught sixth, eighth and tenth grade science in St. Louis schools for 20 years.

“I am really excited to be the new TSN Middle School principal,” he said via email. “It has been a productive and rewarding first month getting ready for the start of the school year. Being able to lead such a great school with awesome students and a dedicated staff in such a supportive community is truly an honor.”

Taylor and wife Amy (a third grade teacher in Ithaca) have two children. Daughter Abby is a senior at Alma High School and a three-time state swimming qualifier. Son Colby will be an eighth grader in St. Louis next week and expects to play basketball and run track.

The rest of the new hires are:

Megan Stowell: High school English teacher. (Comes to St. Louis from Big Rapids public schools.)

Adam Landis: High school health and physical education teacher. (Taught one year in Colorado and moved back here.)

Phil Maxwell: Part-time high school woodworking teacher. (Maxwell currently is the life coach at the high school and has an after-school woodworking program. “We were able to draw enough interest in wood shop to hold it two hours within the school day,” said Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick.)

Tyler Harless: Sixth and eighth grade science teacher and wrestling coach. (He taught for three years in Battle Creek before returning to Gratiot County where he grew up.)

Valerie Shaw: Middle school resource room. (Comes to St. Louis from Clare.)

Sheila Welling: Fifth grade teacher at Nikkari. (Taught a year in Florida, then worked in Alma as a behavior consultant.)

Lindsay Teems: Bus driver.

Leaving the district for new challenges are:

Kristin Long, who was a high school health and physical education teacher in addition to being varsity girls basketball coach and middle school girls track coach. She relocated back to her home town to be with her fiancé.

Sarah Mikesell, Nikkari fifth grade teacher. She took a teaching position in Saginaw.

Nicole Crandall, Carrie Knause special ed paraprofessional. She moved to Tennessee with her husband.

Nicole Koczenasz, JV girls basketball coach. She moved to Florida to play softball.

Sara Shattuck, middle school cheer coach.

Athletic Director Scott Hemker told the board that he has fall sports coaches in place but still needs coaches for varsity and junior varsity girls basketball, varsity baseball, varsity softball, middle school cheer, middle school girls track and varsity boys track assistant.

Free meals

Once the resignations and hirings were approved, the board heard from Dining Services Director Charles Clevinger, who was pleased to announce significant growth in meals served in the 2018-19 school year.

Students getting breakfast at school increased 21 percent over the previous school year. Students getting lunch at school rose 29 percent over the previous school year.

This is attributable to St. Louis schools qualifying for a federal program last year that compensates Clevenger, an independent contractor, for providing free meals to all students.

St. Louis qualifies for the program because more than 40 percent of families in the school district are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a. food stamps) and/or Medicaid.

Clevenger, who also provides food service to Ashley schools, said federal government reimburses him based on the number of meals.

Clevenger receives $3.31 for each of 81.6 percent of meals served and 39 cents for 18.4 percent of meals served.

The summer lunch program was successful, too, with a daily average of 358 meals served (16,115 in all).

Attendance: Only Carrie Beeson was absent.

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