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Chelsea Board of Education approves equity statement, meets new hires

By Crystal Hayduk

The Chelsea School District Board of Education heard many updates and approved a number of items at their virtual meeting on Oct. 12.

Misty Raatz, project manager, and Lauren Christenson, interior designer, of OHM Advisors shared information about the plans for the 300 Building at Washington Street Education Center and the media center at Chelsea High School (CHS).

A few of the changes in the 300 Building include a secure entrance, ADA accessibility, and ergonomic work areas. The media center’s design will provide collaborative, flexible zones; along with a transparent, modular wall to permit group spacing.

With board member Laura Bush absent, the board approved the following bids from OHM Advisors: $15,094.90 for the new furnishings in the 300 building; $154,312.08 for furnishings in the high school media center; and $58,094.03 for the creative wall system in the high school media center.

The board approved an official statement on equity. It reads: “As a Board of Education, we accept our individual and collective roles in creating change. We commit to using our positions — including the authority, access, and responsibility that come with them — to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the values of diversity, belonging, equity, and inclusion.

“We condemn racism and discrimination in any form. We will tirelessly work to interrupt and end harmful or inequitable practices and policies, eliminate implicit and explicit biases, and create truly inclusive, culturally responsive school environments where all adults and children feel a sense of belonging.”

Eric Robinson, a teacher in the district for the past 16 years, updated the board about technology and staff support in his new role as an instructional technologist. With extensive experience in both education and technology, he operates as the bridge between the technology department and the instructional staff.  

Robinson is proud of the district’s teachers, who must remain flexible as they cope with tremendous change as a result of the pandemic. Teachers had to learn a year and a half’s worth of professional development material in two weeks, he said.

Tech support for teachers currently includes access to an on-demand video library, Zoom or in-person visits from tech and instructional staff, and additional professional development as needed. The district website has resources for staff and families at https://www.chelsea.k12.mi.us/info-tech/index.

Hybrid model instruction requires teaching in-person and virtually at the same time, with students split among the groups. To facilitate this, classroom webcams on gooseneck stands function as the “eye” of the student at home. A special speaker and microphone help students to hear even when the teacher is mobile.

“It’s amazing to see how it’s worked out,” said Robinson. “The students are so resilient in considering this the new normal.”

Scott Wooster, director of technology services, told the board about the need for “robust internet connections” during remote learning. Both the main and secondary internet speeds will be increased—from 2.5 GB to 5 GB and 500 MB to 2 GB respectively. A new firewall is needed to protect the increased demand.

The board approved the purchase of a Cisco Firepower 2130 Firewall appliance from InaCOMP TSG for $26,656.80, which includes installation, warranties, and malware protection.

During the opportunity for public input, a parent asked the board to investigate a matter regarding her son who was physically assaulted by another student in mid-August. 

Both Superintendent Helber and Board President Shawn Quilter wrote in emails in response to Chelsea Update’s inquiry that discipline matters are confidential and are not discussed in public.

New Hires Introduced

Mike Kapolka, CHS principal, introduced three new staff members.

Courtesy photo. Jeff Rittenhouse.

Jeff Rittenhouse is the building trades teacher for the South and West Washtenaw Consortium. He earned a history degree from the University of Michigan (UM) and a master’s degree and teaching certification from Eastern Michigan University (EMU). He has many years of experience in education and the building trades. References said Rittenhouse acts with integrity and builds positive relationships with community stakeholders.

Courtesy photo. Tim Mann.

Tim Mann, a counselor at CHS, received his undergraduate degree in outdoor recreation and leadership management from Northern Michigan University, and a master’s degree in school counseling from the University of Detroit Mercy. He comes to the district with “eclectic experience,” including long-term substitute teaching and counseling, said Kapolka. Mann’s references said he is passionate about social and emotional learning supports.

Courtesy photo. Dorvia Thomas.

Dorvia Thomas-Hill, also a counselor at CHS, has more than ten years of counseling experience in a variety of settings. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from UM and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from EMU. Kapolka said Thomas-Hill’s previous work experience demonstrates her ability to function well with “a multitude of different hats.” 

In other board news:

Beach Middle School will begin hybrid instruction on Oct. 19. North Creek and South Meadows Elementary Schools began hybrid instruction on Sept. 28. The latest move places the district on Step 4 of the Phase Back-to-School Plan (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CszRTZ4Qg2iC-P4wapiE84YW7FiMHcFS/view?scrlybrkr=eabeb161).

A joint statement between the Washtenaw County Health Department and county schools was published on Oct. 13 (link here: https://chelseaupdate.com/washtenaw-county-schools-joint-call-to-action-letter/). The letter emphasizes the need for all residents to help keep the spread of COVID-19 low to facilitate students phasing back to in-person instruction.   

Helber said Count Day on Oct. 7 resulted in a preliminary count of 2,317 students; the district has a 30-day window to confirm an accurate count. (Related story here: https://chelseaupdate.com/chelsea-school-district-student-count-day-during-a-pandemic/.)

An operating millage is on the Nov. 3 ballot. The request is for renewal of 18 mills, which applies to non-homestead properties; primary residences will not be affected. (More information here: https://chelseaupdate.com/chelsea-school-district-non-homestead-millage-renewal-request-information/.)

The board approved a donation from the Knox family in excess of $1,000 to help purchase virtual learning supplies for Beach Middle School families in need.

Upcoming dates:

The Candidate Forum for the Chelsea School Board election will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15. The virtual forum is hosted by the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. A link to the Zoom webinar is posted at https://chelseamich.com/events/chelsea-school-board-virtual-candidate-forum-2020/?occurrence=2020-10-15.

The next regular board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 26, location to be determined based on health department COVID-19 guidelines.

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