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Photo by Crystal Hayduk. SET SEG awards $2,500 Educational Excellence grant to #WhyYouMatter campaign. Left to right: Jacqueline Taylor, Michaela Maynard, Alannah Saxton, Travis Van Tighem, Laura Naar, Geo Rutherford, Jason Murphy, CHS Principal Mike Kapolka, and Bob Donaldson. (Not pictured: Nora Krusinski.)

By Crystal Hayduk

The Chelsea School District (CSD) Board of Education met in the media center at Beach Middle School in front of a crowded room on March 13. 

At the opening of the opportunity for public input, CSD Board President Anne Mann told the audience that the board is a meeting in the public; and while the board appreciates public input, there would not be a dialogue during the board meeting.

She said that people who want a response are welcome to contact the superintendent’s office to make an appointment.

Eleven people addressed the board, including paraprofessionals, parents, teachers, community members, and a director with the Michigan Education Association (MEA). Most of the speakers touted the benefits that students receive from paraprofessionals who “are a critical part of the learning team,” according to parent Nichole Warriner.

Special education teacher Tara Thorburn said that she supports food service workers and the auditorium manager, but she especially supports paraprofessionals’ desire to unionize because she works with them closely. She listed their numerous responsibilities, including “proactively de-escalating situations” and “administering lifesaving medications after safely catching a student having a grand mal seizure.”

Thorburn said that even when their work day is over, paraprofessionals think about and spend their own money on the students.

Chelsea High School (CHS) math teacher Lonnie Mitchell praised the new math lab, in which students receive additional help from paraprofessionals, as having “a fantastic rate of success.” He said these employees are among the “most loved people, who fight for and protect the kids.”

Sarah Proegler, a paraprofessional at North Creek, shared information with the board to clarify the reasons for the desire for unionization. She indicated an expectation to work 35 hours a week without benefits and the need for protection.

Kelly Powers, a director with MEA, also spoke to the board, reiterating the reasons support staff have asked to vote on unionization and the offer of a clause to permit other support staff classifications to join if they change their minds at a later date.

(Chelsea Update plans to pursue an additional story specific to the unionization request of paraprofessionals, food service workers, and theatre manager to be published at a later date.)

The CHS #WhyYouMatter campaign received the Education Excellence grant of $2,500 from the SET SEG Foundation in partnership with the Michigan Association of School Boards. SET SEG account executives Bob Donaldson and Travis Van Tighem presented the award to art teachers Geo Rutherford and Laura Naar, and counselor Jason Murphy, along with student leaders for the campaign – Nora Krusinski, Michaela Maynard, Alanna Saxton, and Jacqueline Taylor.

The SET SEG Foundation provides support to help students pursue opportunities to advance learning, leadership, and civic responsibility. The #WhyYouMatter campaign was one of 10 programs chosen from 250 applications statewide. Donaldson said that the grassroots effort stood out as an “amazing program with an amazing message.” (More information about #WhyYouMatter here.)

Kathryn McCalla, a teacher at Beach Middle School, presented information with the help of four students about leadership class, a single trimester elective course that runs three times a year. Leadership students brainstorm choosing a worthy cause, fundraising for the cause, participating in community service, and learning principles of leadership with the help of guest speakers who are also local leaders.

McCalla said the course is unique because it is “… student-driven, student-chosen, student-planned, and student-run. They have real world opportunities to experience successes and make mistakes.”

The rest of the middle school teachers have been supportive of the leadership students and their chosen charities, doing whatever it takes to help raise money. “They dance, get dunked, pied in the face, play dodgeball … I am still waiting for them to say no, but they haven’t yet,” said McCalla.              

In other board news:

  • The board approved two donations to support eighth grade students who need financial assistance to attend the 2017 Washington, D.C. trip: $1,550 from the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) and $1,500 from an anonymous donor.
  • The board commended Beach Middle School Principal Nick Angel for being chosen as the Administrator of the Year by the Michigan Association of Middle School Educators. (Related story here.)
  • Robert Atkins of KingScott presented a qualified low bid of $55,810 from Quality Asphalt on for the site work at North Creek Elementary School. The board will vote on it at the next meeting.

Upcoming dates:

  • The next school board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on March 27 in the board room at the Washington Street Education Center.
  • There will be no school for spring break from Monday, April 3 through Friday, April 7.
  • There will be no school on Friday, April 14.
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