By Ralph Echtinaw
After almost 20 years with St. Louis schools, Athletic Director Scott Hemker has resigned to take a job with Success Virtual Learning Centers.
Wasting no time, the school board hired Bryan Anderson away from Alma High School at last Monday’s meeting to succeed Hemker.
Anderson has been the “success mentor” for at risk children at Alma High School since 2016.
Hemker had this to say at the school board meeting: “Almost 20 years ago I got a phone call from my aunt who was living in St. Louis. And she said, ‘Scott, I know you’re going to school to be a Spanish teacher, and they need somebody.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s great, but I haven’t graduated from college yet.’ She said, ‘Take the number just in case.’
“So I took it and put it in my pocket. And we were up camping at Otsego Lake, and I thought I guess I’ll call this number. I found it in my pocket. And I walked down to the payphone, talked to Jackie Kelly in the office. And she said, ‘Yeah, I’ll put you through to Mr. (Tom) Steere’ who was principal at that time. He called me a couple days later and told me to drive up to his house. He was home roofing that day and took me to lunch at Tacho’s. And we talked a little bit. I was just coming back from studying abroad in Mexico. And he offered me a job. I said, ‘Look, I’ve got to student teach yet, so I’ll do it until you find somebody.’ And here we are 20 years later.
“They actually had a Spanish teacher hired, and the person changed their mind. I don’t know who that person was and where they ended up, but I’m incredibly grateful that happened because this has been 20 of the best years of my life. I’ve loved every moment here; the good, the bad, the worse. I’ve been able to grow tremendously as a person, a coach, a teacher, an administrator, a professional, and I want to sincerely thank all of our board members who have been supportive of our programs.
“I’ve travelled all over the world because of the support of our board. There are a lot of schools that don’t let kids do the things that we do. And I think for the size school that we are, the things that we offer, I think they’re very special. We have special administrators and special teachers. The high school staff is phenomenal. I love this place very much. And I think, for me, the challenge is finding a way to not put work first and for once put my family first for a while.
Addressing Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick, Hemker continued: “I thank you for understanding. Jen, I have enjoyed tremendously working with you and the friendship and everything we’ve done to build our school and programs. I thank you for those opportunities. I’m going to be spending some time with Bryan (Anderson, his replacement). I’ve got 25 pages of notes typed up. We’re going to be working close together. I’m going to do everything I can to help that transition because I don’t want to see anything fall through the cracks. I want the best for our kids and everybody here. Thank you very much.”
A little later Hemker remarked “I’ll be around. Maybe I’ll be on the school board someday.”
Hemker’s new job won’t require him to move from St. Louis, and he will do much of his Success Virtual teaching via computer video connections.
Hemker won’t be among strangers at Success Virtual, as former St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kristi Teall quit last June to take a job there.
Roslund Prestage audit
Derek Miller of Roslund Prestage gave the board an overview of his audit of school district finances, concluding that “the financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the respective financial position of the government activities, each major fund and the aggregate remaining fund information of the district.”
The school district’s fund balance (analogous to a savings account) is $1.337 million, or 12.64 percent of expenditures. That is considered a safe range to be in.
The district’s revenue comes mainly from state government ($8.666 million), then property taxes ($1.236 million) and other sources ($313,000).
The board approved this year’s Michigan Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan, which will bring in $9,000 to $10,000 through the sale of select trees in the school district’s wooded lots on Jackson Road, known as the Emma Burnham Outdoor Center and Camp Monroe, said Director of Maintenance Scott Dennison.
“The plan is to ensure a healthy, beautiful forest for generations to come,” Dennison said via email. “On occasion, that means the calculated removal of mature trees to promote the development of younger species of trees. The trees are harvested at a time and in a manner that is safe and cause little damage to the forest. Only the main logs are removed while the tops are left to protect seedlings and smaller saplings from deer. As the tops decompose it also provides valuable nutrients to the soil and other ecological cycles.”
Dennison told the board he also plans to “remove the walnut trees south of the football field parking because they’re such a mess. That will bring in a little income, too. It’s really hard to say what it is until those trees are down because you don’t know what’s on the inside. Our plan is to plant some maples and something a lot less dirty than the walnut trees.”
Tree harvesting in the property on Jackson Road was last done in 2005, and before that in 1994.
The board approved an overnight field trip to Mackinac Island for the fourth grade classes of Alyssa Camp, Haylie Conley and Rebecca Budka.
Budka told the board that 63 questionnaires were sent to parents of fourth graders in preparation for the trip. Of the 58 who responded, 98 percent said they’re comfortable with an overnight trip. Sixty-two percent said they could pay up front. Twenty-eight percent said they can make monthly payments. Seven percent said they would need help.
“We have done this six years in a row, and it’s been a great success,” Budka said.
Additions and subtractions
The board approved the hiring of Courtney Wood as middle school sideline cheer coach, Andrew Jennings as eighth grade boys basketball coach, Madison Doolittle as JV girls basketball coach and Mike Filipiak as varsity softball coach.
Don Kelley, Kelly Bebow, Greg Walterhouse, Carrie Beeson, John Pavlik and Carrie Salladay were present. Jeff Baxter was absent.