96 trees in school forest slated for harvest after ground freezes

By Ralph Echtinaw

The grandson of the couple who donated 20 acres of woods to St. Louis schools in 1968 expressed concern at Monday’s board meeting that this year’s tree harvest is too ambitious.

My grandfather wanted kids to learn about trees,” said Neil Pullman, grandson of Max and Vera Burnham, which is why the property was donated. Pullman is concerned because Maeder Brothers Sawmill (of Weidman) marked 96 trees in the woods off of Jackson Road between South Main and Croswell for harvest. He believes that may be excessive.

Pullman said his grandfather had such a love of forests that being in one was close to a religious experience.

“Max said he did more praying in the woods than he ever did in church,” Pullman said.

The board approved this year’s Michigan Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan last October, and the school district will get $8,000 from Maeder Brothers Sawmill for the wood.

Tree harvesting on the property known as the Emma Burnham Outdoor Center and Camp Monroe was last done in 2005, and before that in 1994.

Maeder Brothers Sawmill plans to remove three Beech trees, 37 Red Oaks, 38 White Oaks, 14 Sugar Maples and four Soft Maples after the ground freezes (to minimize damage caused by heavy equipment).

Mike Smalligan, who wrote the school district’s forest stewardship plan in 2014, now works for the state Department of Natural Resources and drove all the way from Chesaning to speak in favor of the harvest plan.

“I think you guys are doing a good job taking care of the school forest,” he said. “Having walked through the woods today I’m not alarmed or concerned. I’m not at all concerned about it ecologically or economically.”

Smalligan wants this timber sale to “be a showcase of good forest management and educational opportunities that a school forest provides. We would love to work with you on field trips out there to show the kids the woods before and after a timber sale. I’d like to bring politicians up from Lansing to showcase forest management and school forests and try to get the policymakers in Lansing to maybe give you folks a few more resources.”

Smalligan noted that St. Louis is one of many school districts in Michigan that have a school forest. There are “hundreds” of others, he said.

“I’m interested in other schools utilizing their school forests for education, recreation and even economic potential and helping young people explore the many different careers in Michigan forest management,” he said.

Referring to Maeder Brothers Sawmill owner Jim Maeder, Smalligan said, “Jim is a leader in the Michigan forest products industry. Jim is past president of the Michigan Association of Timbermen. He’s a current board member of the Michigan Association of Timbermen. That’s an association of 500 loggers, truckers and sawmills in Michigan. We’re very interested using this timber sale to showcase good land management.”

Grant application

Speaking of the school forest, high school students Jen Brown, Kiera Dowell and Chloe Baxter plan to make a presentation Saturday to a United Way panel that will award $5,000 to a school district for management of its forest. Dowell and Baxter (Brown was out sick) test-drove their presentation with board members Monday. They want to enhance the forest for a second-grad field trip. The three students are in an advanced biology class taught by Sandy Dubridge.

More grants

Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick announced the awarding of four more grants Monday. The district’s Future Farmers of America won $500 from Michigan Farm Bureau. Erin Busch-Grabmeyer got $500 from the Pine River Arts Council for an upcoming day-trip to Stratford, Ontario. Steve Lawhorne got $500 from the Pine River Arts Council for the Festival of Steel.

Katie Jenkins got a $2,500 grant from the SETSEG Foundation for her compassionate kids program. SETSEG is a non-profit group that provides service, scholarship, grants and other forms of financial support directly to Michigan public schools. Jenkins’ students work with staff and residents at Schnepp Senior Care & Rehab Center.

The school district was nominated by an anonymous local farmer for a $15,000 grant from America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education. “The grant is meant to help rural communities compete for the grant to enhance STEM education,” McKittrick said via email. (STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)

Dinner and auction

This year’s St. Louis Sharks Technology Foundation dinner and silent auction goes forth at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at city hall. Tickets are $30 and available at all school offices and online at http://www.stlouissharks.org/big_event.aspx 

Walking club

TS Nurnberger Middle School will be open to recreational walkers 4-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Feb. 25 and running five weeks. “We are having someone measure the halls so you know how many miles (you’ve walked),” McKittrick said. “Let’s get into our school, stay dry and warm and do some walking.”

New parenting class

Carrie Knause school offers a 13-week class for parents of students there beginning Thursday. The class will be taught by Rayna and Jeff Oswald. The sole cost to participating parents is $15 for a textbook.

“The purpose of the class is to assist parents in raising highly capable kids,” McKittrick said via email. “It is a proven 13-week course created to help build strong families by giving parents confidence, tools and skills needed to raise healthy caring and responsible children.”

Additions and subtractions

The board accepted the retirement of seventh-grade social studies and geography teacher Gayle Janasik, effective July 1. “Kids know her as GJ,” McKittrick said. “They certainly love her. She’s going to be missed. She said, ‘It’s been a wonderful 26 years but it’s time for me to move on. Thanks for all the support and friendship.’”

Danielle Coty resigned as JV softball coach: “She’s not able to make it work with her work schedule,” McKittrick said.

Teachers of the month

McKittrick announced teachers of the month for January:

Carrie Knauss: Julie Brown, first grade

Nikkari: Pam Hanson-Bender, social emotional teacher

Middle school: Homero “Ovie” Trevino, eighth grade social studies teacher

High school: Sara Beery

Superintendent evaluation

Board President Jeff Baxter announced the results of the recent evaluation of McKittrick’s performance (using the School Advance Administrator Evaluation system).

“There were 15 components being evaluated this year,” Baxter said, reading a prepared statement. “The goal areas fell under leadership, system alignment, processes and capacity building. Miss McKittrick received a 3.23 out of 4.0. This equates to an effective rating. That’s all I have for a statement.”

He solicited questions, but no one had any.

We are the champions!

McKittrick complimented the high school wrestling team that has now won the TVC West eight years in a row and the district tournament five years in a row. The poms squad took fifth place in the state tournament.


No one was absent.

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