High school wood shop making toys, plaques, shelves, cabinets and more

By Ralph Echtinaw

St. Louis School Board members received gifts Monday from the high school wood shop run by Phil Maxwell.

The small wooden tractors and cars were among more than 600 such toys students made this year. Half were given to kids after the Dec. 2 Christmas parade. The other half were given to Breckenridge students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Students are also making plaques and trophies for athletic tournaments, plaques for veterans, picture frames, Hope House countertops, a Shark closet, middle school cabinets and book shelves at Nikkari Elementary. 

“It’s kind of turned into a little business, and it’s a neat thing,” said Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick. “What they’re doing is they have a business project (and) they give a quote to the people they’re creating the product for. And they are invoicing them and getting some dollars back. It’s amazing. I love where it continues to go to.”

Phil Maxwell is also a pastor at the First Baptist Church of St. Louis.

Asked for comment, Maxwell said (via email): “We look like a business, but I would not say we are a business. We have the potential to recoup expenses, but I don’t see this shop as being a profitable business. I work to present the concepts of a business because I want our students to learn what it takes to work hard and to be able to be employable. We do take orders as a business would, but the cost for the orders is to cover the cost of the materials. But we have had some people give a donation. We will be creating the plaques for our athletic department, and we will bill them, but it will be a fraction of what it would cost them at retail.”

Where does the lumber come from?

“We have some generous people that have given us lumber since our shop started,” Maxwell said. “Dan Slater at Log Cabin Lumber has been a huge supporter of our program and given us a lot of lumber over the years. He is also the one that we buy lumber from. Recently, Nick Carter Trucking has donated the lumber that made most of the toys for this past Christmas project.”

What’s on the horizon for the wood shop?

“We will be building fundraising projects for some local organizations in the coming months,” he said. “I am also hoping to do a fundraiser for our shop building corn hole games. Also, we will start planning for next year’s veterans day, Christmas toy give away and a couple bigger cabinet jobs for our school district. We also have 29 more Schnepp Senior Care cabinets that we hope to finish up this year.”

If you’d like to donate to the wood shop program, be it financially, with lumber or equipment, Maxwell suggests you contact the school district.

Community education

Community education is getting back in gear at St. Louis schools under the leadership of Community Education Director Dave Biehl.

The schedule isn’t finalized, but several offerings are being prepared for next year, including an adult volleyball league (1-9 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 16 to March 20), basketball grades 3-6 (Jan. 15 to Feb. 19), cardio drumming (Jan. 7), walking club, hunter safety, middle school golf, beginning yoga, sign language, elementary baseball/softball and sign making (Jan. 18).

“That’s a great kickoff to build upon,” McKittrick said.


McKittrick said it’s becoming difficult to move custodians around between buildings because four out of nine of them work for an independent contractor called Caravan Facilities of Saginaw. 

“We are having trouble with keeping a consistent staff with our custodians contracted with an independent contractor,” McKittrick said.

The board approved the Caravan contract in 2018, and it expires June 30, 2022. 

Whether the contract is renewed or not depends on an upcoming cost/benefit analysis. “We will go out for bid as well as crunch numbers to see the cost differential to bring back custodians back under St. Louis,” McKittrick said.

Capital improvements

The district is preparing a multiplicity of capital improvement projects for the coming year or two, thanks to the bond proposal approved by voters this year.

Projects include lighting, roofing, the greenhouse, exits, exterior signs and more. McKittrick plans to solicit bids by end of January. 

Additions and subtractions

The board accepted the resignations of High School Principal Eric Huff, who took an assistant principal job with Alma High School, Title Parapro Lynn Wood and assistant boys track coach Josh Kreider.

Hired were Varsity Baseball Coach Joe Vedrode, Varsity Softball Coach Jason Biehl (“I think Jason is a great match for our kids,” McKittrick said), Carrie Knause Parapro Elizabeth Vedrode, Varsity Pom Pon Coach Madison Shattuck (“I think she is motivated to continue to get our poms team the way it used to be,” McKittrick said) and Carrie Knause Special Education Parapro Kevin Stabenow. FYI, Shattuck is a 2017 graduate of SLHS.

The Carrie Knause parapro job came open as the result of a cascade of moves triggered by the retirement of administrative assistant Vickie Cross. Sara Moulton replaced Cross. Parapro Sherri Zimmermann replaced Moulton, thus making room for Stabenow.

Categories: Uncategorized

2 replies »

  1. It’s nice that even as bad as the last few years have been, we can still get spots of good news.

    People need to be reminded we are all one community.


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