By Ralph Echtinaw
St. Louis Schools plan to take on debt in August in the form of a bond issue to enhance infrastructure, technology, safety and “whatever we need in the classroom,” said Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick.
McKittrick announced the bond proposal at the school board’s January meeting. No millage increase will be necessary to pay off the bond, she said.
“Our team, composed of a project manager, construction manager, engineer, architect, SLPS maintenance director and I, are working together to develop our needs assessment and find out budgetary numbers for the individual projects,” McKittrick said via email.
“The staff provided valuable input by giving suggestions/ideas for their individual buildings. Once the needs assessment is complete, I will work with both of our board financial committee and board facilities committee to determine the scope of the project. Once that is complete I will be able to share the project scope with the community in order to provide the evidence, rationale and necessity for the bond.”
Nikkari Elementary Principal Eugene Binder will head up the district’s effort to apply for a school safety grant from the Michigan State Police. Binder has until March 27 to submit the grant request. Grants are limited to a maximum of $50,000 per eligible school building. St. Louis schools could conceivably qualify for $150,000 in all. The total grant pool is $10 million, but it must be shared with every qualifying school district in the state.
Summer reading program
The district purchased the Kids Read Now summer reading program for grades first through third, thanks to a $14,825 grant. “Students will be able to pick out books which will be sent to their house over the summer,” McKittrick said via email. “The program also offers support for parents to keep them involved with their student over the summer.”
The program may be expanded to include kindergarten students if a supplementary grant of $5,000 is awarded.
The district will also be able to hire staff to monitor the books being sent to students’ houses and support parents, if the $5,000 grant is approved.
McKittrick and the board observed a minute of silence in honor of former superintendent Eugene M. Nikkari (1963 to 1988), who died Jan. 15 in Big Rapids. Nikkari Elementary is named after him. “It’s been said his word on a matter was more credible than a written contract,” McKittrick said.
Smith Family Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. Visitation is 2-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, at the funeral home (117 N. East Street).
Follow THIS LINK to read Nikkari’s obituary.
December teachers of the month
Carrie Knauss: First grade teacher Rachel Brasher
Nikkari: Resource room teacher Debra McLaughlin
Middle school: Todd Starry
High school: Resource Room teacher Summer Nobis
Additions and subtractions
The board approved the resignation of Jason Luneack as middle school paraprofessional and high school boys basketball coach. Luneack’s sudden and unexplained (to this reporter anyway) departure sent Athletic Director Bryan Anderson scurrying to find a replacement on short notice. He appealed to former coach Doug Knauf (1996 to 2014) and received an affirmative response. Knauf has already coached four games since his return. “We needed to seek out a coach who could step right in and was familiar with our facilities,” McKittrick said. “So we did reach out to Doug.” It remains to be seen if he will continue into next school year or be merely an interim coach.
“I cannot tell you at this time if he will continue coaching,” McKittrick said via email. “This will be a discussion between Doug and the athletic department to make that decision. However, we are very happy to have Doug back on the sidelines working with our student-athletes.”
The board filled the middle school paraprofessional. position Luneack vacated by hiring Ed Hoyt; who “has worked a number of positions in our district and certainly has a love for kids,” said McKittrick.
The board also approved the resignation of substitute bus driver Dale Hamilton, who “needed to resign before the end of the year,” McKittrick said.
Jeff Baxter, Don Kelley, Kelly Bebow, Valerie Kerr, Carrie Beeson and John Pavlik were present. Carrie Salladay was absent.