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Chelsea Schools consider partnership with Midwest Energy & Communications

Photo by Crystal Hayduk. Chelsea School District’s latest new hires are (left to right) Jeff Fitch, teacher consultant at Beach Middle School; Kristy Richart, kindergarten teacher at North Creek; and Diane Jordan, speech and language pathologist at North Creek and the preschool.

By Crystal Hayduk

Chelsea School District is considering a partnership with Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC), the company that is working with Lyndon Township following the passage of the Broadband Internet Bond in August, 2017.

Terry Rubenthaler, chief technology officer for MEC, addressed the board at its meeting on Sept. 10, introducing the company that was founded in the early 1900s to provide utility service to rural communities when larger companies were unwilling to make the investment.

He said that Lyndon Township chose to build a fiber network to bring broadband to the residents, who had difficulty obtaining adequate internet service due to the hilly geography and low population. The township selected MEC as their internet service provider.

MEC is located in Cassopolis, in the southwest corner of the state. It has a secure connection to downtown Chelsea, but Amtrak railroad is a barrier between Chelsea and Lyndon Township.

Chelsea School District already has a 12-strand fiber that crosses the tracks to North Creek Elementary, but they use only two strands. MEC would like to lease two strands of fiber; in return MEC would provide maintenance and repair for the fiberoptic cable for the school district.

Rubenthaler said there’s enough capacity on two strands to serve Lyndon Township. “There’s virtually unlimited data on a strand, depending on what you put on the ends,” he said.

Scott Wooster, director of technology. reaffirmed the safety of sharing the fiber network. “You grow the capacity by what you put on the ends, not by the number of strands,” he said.

Wooster said that the district has never had a contract to maintain the network, but has dealt with outages from such things as squirrel chews or downed lines on a “break-fix” basis.

Superintendent Julie Helber said that the district deals with a couple of squirrel chews a year, at a cost of a couple thousand dollars to repair each time.

The agreement to maintain the whole district’s fiber would be a cost-saving measure for the district, and access to high-speed internet will benefit students who live in Lyndon Township, making it a win-win for both parties, said Wooster.

The district’s attorneys will review the proposal. It is expected that the school board will vote on it at their next meeting.

Student liaison Jacqueline Taylor reported that the Chelsea High School Student Council has decided to “reinvent” the Homecoming Queen award into the Chelsea Excellence Award. She said this will break the gender barrier as it will be available to anyone.

Students will be nominated based on qualities such as character, kindness, scholarship, and leadership instead of based on beauty or popularity.

Students recorded a video to explain the new concept. It can be viewed here (
In other board news:

  • North Creek Elementary School Principal Kimberly Gillow introduced two new hires to the board. Kristy Richart, a graduate of the University of Toledo who has been a dive coach for Chelsea High School since 2015, is teaching kindergarten. Diane Jordan is a speech language pathologist who will work with students at North and at the preschool. She has most recently worked with local students through private practice.
  • Beach Middle School Principal Nick Angel introduced Jeff Fitch, the middle school’s new teacher consultant. Angel said Fitch is a “veteran educator who’s passionate about kids; who went back to school to get his degree to work with our most needy, most challenging, most rewarding students.”
  • The board commended Matt Pedlow for receiving the John Morton Excellence in the Teaching of Economics Award from the Council for Economic Education, and Principal Nick Angel for being chosen Principal of the Year by the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA) Region #2.
  • Board member liaisons for the 2018-19 school year will be as follows: North Creek – Shawn Quilter; South Meadows – Laura Bush; Beach Middle School – Dana Durst; Chelsea High School – Tammy Lehman.

Upcoming date:

  • The next school board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 at the Washington Street Education Center.
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