CRYSTAL FALLS—Last Aug. 7. Forest Park voters approved a $995,000 bond measure to raise money for school improvements. The proposal received 52.4 percent support from the voters.
After the March 25 School Board meeting, Board President Jim Nocerini and Secretary Deb Dibvoky updated the public on what has been done so far and what is in the works.
The bonding revenue is earmarked for technology improvements and to remodel, equip and furnish school facilities—including lighting, security, energy, improving school sites and for school buses.
By state law, the funds can’t be used to pay salaries or for repair, maintenance or other operating costs.
Most people who visit the Forest Park schools head for the Eddie Chambers Gym—either for sports events or community programs—and some of the first improvements were made to the gym.
The district has installed P-rails on the grandstand. They are P-shaped railings for the public to use for support as they go up and down the steps. P-rails have been installed at other gyms in the region, and Forest Park will have the first ones in the local area.
The school district has also installed extra half-steps in the grandstand aisles, to make the climb a little easier. When the public visits this spring for Memorial Day or graduation ceremonies, both improvements will be completed.
School officials have made other changes in the gym. The main grandstand has been motorized—they will be moved into position with a motor, not by workers physically pulling out the bottom row. This will make the seating more stable. In another, the basketball backboards have been motorized; before, they had to be hand-cranked into position.
In all cases, Forest Park’s custodial staff worked with the installer. In fact, the staffers took over the installation after learning how the mechanism worked. This saved some money and taught the staff how the improvements need to be maintained.
“Anything our maintenance men can do,” said Nocerini, “they’re doing it, to save money on labor costs.”
Another big priority is renovating the high school science lab. FP teachers have been working with the architect, and their research included visiting science labs at other schools in the region, looking over their equipment and discussing what the teachers like and dislike.
Divoky said the new 27-station science lab will be wired and prepared for the 21st century, with hookups for computers, broadband, interactive whiteboards and space for future systems. That work will be done this summer, with the lab ready for next fall.
In fact, there will be two science rooms—a classroom and a lab next to each other, with windows allowing a teacher to monitor both rooms.
The bonding is also funding other improvements:
--New computers and servers.
--A new school bus, already delivered.
--A new freezer for the kitchen, already installed.
The bonding will be paid back over eight years—millage of 0.12 mills in the first year and 0.62 mills after that.
All improvements are being made under the supervision of three board members and the superintendent, who watch the budget and meet once or twice a month.
• Student advisor Harold Payne reported on Forest Park’s latest MEAP standardized test scores, whether scores increased or decreased, how Forest Park’s scores compared to the state average, and the percentage of students whose scores increased and decreased in reading and math.
Michigan Merit Exam scores were also reported. The MME scores showed an increase in writing scores and decreases in reading, math, science and social studies. FP was above the state average in writing and science; below average in reading, math and social studies.
The ever-changing state testing took place in October, but Superintendent Becky Waters said that starting in 2015 the tests will take place in spring, near the end of the school year.
Board members also reported that a consortium of states is pooling resources to create a Smarter Balanced assessment, based on a common core. Sixth and seventh graders will test in April. There also is a new ACT assessment for grades 3 to 10 this spring in English, math, reading and science.
• The board approved a letter of understanding with its AFSCME union and also adopted NEOLA policies and a copy machine contract.
The AFSCME letter is to realign maintenance/custodial and transportation supervisory positions on a trial basis for the rest of this school year.
• Forest Park students can expect to pay 25 cents more for school lunches during the 2013-14 school year. The increase is to keep up with the reimbursement rate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
• Board members have learned that North Dickinson is looking for a Spanish teacher and suggested that Forest Park could share that position.
• Forest Park’s basketball teams and coaches were praised for “a phenomenal year.” Both the boys and the girls teams won district titles, and the girls team also won its second straight regional title, finally losing to eventual Class D state champion St. Ignace at the quarterfinals.
Board President Jim Nocerini included the school’s cheerleaders, who cheered on Trojan teams as much as four nights in a week, and the student body in general for their noisy support of the Trojans. “They were fantastic this year,” he said.
• The Business Professionals of America group was also congratulated for its success at the state tournament. “We have a number of people to thank,” the board president said.