Holt faces opposition with new standardized test schedule

By Haley Kluge
The Holt Journal

On Jan. 7, the State of Michigan announced statewide test changes coming in spring 2016.

Through the transition of testing materials, parents, students and school districts face turmoil with the new demanding test schedule.

Students begin testing at the elementary level, making each grade level feel the affect.

Temporary switch to M-STEP

Michigan implemented a temporary test in place of the MEAP. Testing includes third, sixth and eleventh grade students and will begin when students return from spring break.

Last year’s school budget required the Department of Education to issue a new request for proposals for a state assessment. After a proposal for the smarter balance assessment was denied, the Math, Science and Technology Enhancement Program (M-STEP) was created as an interim test for the spring of 2015.
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Bill offers chance at change to teacher evaluations

By Haley Kluge
The Holt Journal

A bill in the Michigan Senate would have the potential to restructure teacher and administrator evaluations in schools. Proposed by State Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, Senate Bill 103 is in discussion.Currently, teachers are primarily judged on two main guidelines – classroom evaluations made by administrators and student growth based on test improvement.

If the bill is approved, teacher evaluations would continue to revolve around student growth data, but would drop from the current 50 percent to 25 percent during 2017-18. It would increase to 45 percent in 2018-19.

“My son came home and he says ‘I Teacher Evaluationsdon’t think it’s fair that Mr. Cronkite is being judged on how the kids are taking these tests,’” Holt mother Tara Ragauss-Page said. “He goes ‘Look at this kid, that kid gets in trouble every day, he’s never paying attention, he’s never doing what he’s supposed to do. That’s not Mr. Cronkite’s fault. He’s worried for Mr. Cronkite because of this random kid in the classroom.

With Michigan’s switch from the MEAP to the Michigan Student Educational Program or M-STEP program, standardized testing has become an increased debate.

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Non-homestead millage goes to a vote

By Haley Kluge
The Holt Journal

On May 5, voters will decide the fate of Holt Public School District’s recent millage proposal, which would increase taxes for non-homestead properties.

Affected properties include businesses, some vacant lots, vacation homes and commercial or industrialized properties. Those properties’ taxes would increase approximately .68 of a mill, or 68 cents for each $1,000 taxable value of a property, according to Holt Schools’ official fact sheet.

A business worth $100,000 would pay an increase of $68 this year.

Millage

“We’ve looked at our budget implications since 2004, and there are revenues that we don’t collect,” Superintendent Dr. Johnny Scott said. “It’s going to continue to do that; we’re looking at the efficiency and organization of finances. We have to be more conscious of how dollars are being spent and where they are being spent at.”

The millage would allow the school district to collect 18 mills, which would be a restoration of the levy of 1997. It would be in place for 10 years.

“It should be a grand slam,” Holt mother Amy Dalton said. “It shouldn’t be as complicated as people are making it. I think some people just think ‘no more taxes’ and they don’t look beyond that.”

The side effects of other ballot items are also a concern.

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Superintendent discusses testing, linked program, millage at monthly coffee

By Haley Kluge
The Holt Journal

In a corner table of Mike’s Village Restaurant in Dimondale, Holt Public School’s superintendent Dr. Johnny Scott sat with four parents as he hosted his monthly coffee for community members. Nearing the end of his position, Scott discussed opting out of standardized testing, the ACT to SAT switch, Lansing Community College’s linked college program and the upcoming millage vote.

Opting out of standardized testing

After spring break, students will return for a three-week testing period for the M-STEP standardized exam for English, math, science and social studies. Due to the extensive testing schedule, parents are exploring the option of pulling their students from participating.

“When it (M-STEP test) first came out, there was some ambiguity from the state about whether districts have the option to opt out,” Scott said. “Now, we don’t have the opportunity to do that, so the school district is in this quandary as a school system where we don’t have the authority, and our board doesn’t have the authority.”

Since Holt’s schools do not have the authority to excuse students from testing, parents are looking for alternative options.

“Parents don’t have the ability to opt out without affecting the participation rate of the district,” Holt parent Tara Ragauss-Page said. “It doesn’t mean that they don’t have the ability to opt out, it means that they can’t opt out without it affecting the district.”

Despite the effect on the district, some families don’t want to subject their children to continuous testing.

“I refuse for my students to take this test,” Holt mother Amy Dalton said. “If you want to have them sit in front of a screen for hours, that’s your call. But in my mind, that is child abuse.”

Holt is struggling with excessive standardized testing as a whole.

“It’s non-stop evaluation,” Dalton said. “If you think back on the teachers who had the greatest impact on you, it was all of the square dancing and the plays and all of the things that you do that there’s no time for anymore because all they’re doing is testing.”

For now, Holt will continue the state mandated tests as scheduled.

“We struggled as practitioners to relate how standardized scores relate to what we do in the classroom,” Scott said.

There is no decision whether students will be allowed to opt out of the testing.

ACT to SAT Change

Starting in spring 2016, Michigan will now participate in the SAT as the standardized statewide test. Before then, the SAT will be revamped. During that time, the SAT is being revamped as a whole.

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Holt schools win $4,624 school safety grant

By Haley Kluge
The Holt Journal

On March 20, Holt Public Schools received a $4,624 Michigan State Police Competitive School Safety grant to improve school security.

Holt’s initiative includes purchasing cameras and intercom systems to protect perimeters of K-12 facilities.Schools Chart

“At this point, that extra money will allow us to purchase the additional equipment to help fill in holes of our security,” Holt’s co-grant writer and Executive Director of Finance and Business Services Kim Cosgrove said. “That’ll work to help us towards our endeavor to do what we can do to secure all of the perimeters of our buildings.”

Over $46 million worth of improvements were requested from 289 applicants, including a $30,000 proposal from Holt Public Schools.

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Delhi invited to join Greater Lansing Taxi Authority

By Haley Kluge
The Holt Journal

Taxi MapOn March 3, Delhi Township Committee of the whole hosted Marie Wicks, East Lansing City Clerk, to hear a proposal about the initiation of the Greater Lansing Taxi Authority.

“The goal is to regulate taxi service,” Township Supervisor C.J. Davis said. “There is a tremendous demand that only runs for college students. You can’t get one in the middle of the day, and there are difficulties and issues in East Lansing, so Lansing came up with this proposal to try and spread the protection to Delhi Township.”

The initiative would force cab companies to cater to surrounding areas, including Delhi, Delta and Meridian Township, rather than staying exclusively to East Lansing.

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‘Anything Goes’ at Holt High School

By DeAnna Sanders
The Holt Journal

"Anything Goes"- Act 1

“Anything Goes”- Act 1

As students begin planning of summer festivities, Holt High School brings some fun to the end of the school year by performing an original Broadway production. The production “Anything Goes” was created in 1934. It invites its audience to enjoy a love comedy about the right guy trying to get the right girl taking place on a cruise to England.

Monty Bishop, director and music teacher, said, “The production is intended to provide the students some fun and an great out-of-the classroom learning opportunity.”

Rachel Stacey, senior and assistant director, said, “The actors learn first of all how to be more confident in themselves because even if they don’t feel confident they have to act like they are, which at the end of the day whether they know it or not gives them confidence. They also learn how to work with people they do not necessarily like and how to problem solve.” Continue reading

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Kiwanis park in need of updates

By DeAnna Sanders
The Holt Journal

Thomas Miller, park commissioner on the left. Mark Jenks, director of parks and recreation on the right.

Thomas Miller, park commissioner on the left. Mark Jenks, director of parks and recreation on the right.

The greenery isn’t the only element of Holt’s Kiwanis Park that needs attention. The Delhi Charter Township parks commission is seeking money to renovate park restrooms.

The park commission keeps the parks up and running, providing them with new facilities and maintenance.

According to Thomas Miller, park commissioner, the  board is also looking for a grant to give Kiwanis park, the township’s original park, a new bathroom.

Mark Jenks, director of parks and recreation, said, “The condition of the bathroom is not family accommodatable.” “It’s 60 to 70 years old.” Jenks continued, “With or without the grant we need to do something.” Continue reading

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Board set to replace Scott, who shares memories

Criteria for the next superintendent. Established by the board.

Criteria for the next superintendent. Established by the board.

By Katie Morang
The Holt Journal

As the Holt School District prepares to say goodbye to its superintendent, Dr. Johnny Scott, it is preparing to welcome its next superintendent to Holt Public Schools.

Since the beginning of January, the school board has been in the process of finding its next superintendent. The school district has chosen the Michigan Association of School Boards to aid in the search and conducted surveys in the community to find out what the people want in their next superintendent.

The school board finalized its findings from the surveys just last week and gauged the response from the community.

“We had quite a bit of response to the community surveys in both the online responses and the public forum,” said Trustee Julie Bureau. “It was actually pretty awesome to see the wide variety of comments that people gave.”

“People certainly want more communication and to know that their voices are heard,” said Trustee Doug Needham. “One thing we are lacking severely in is just getting the community in touch with some of the administration about some of the policies that have taken place over the years. Even though we might be doing something very well, the fact that the community hasn’t always been aware of that has caused a problem.”
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Township considers video streaming of board meetings

By Katie Morang
The Holt Journal

The township board met April 7 to discuss recording and posting videos of meetings.

David Leighton, owner of Leightronix, a company that provides audio and video recording equipment, was at the meeting to answer questions.

“I’ve been a resident of Delhi Township for a long time, and we, as a company, had donated this technology to Delhi Township sometime ago,” said Leighton. “One of the responsibilities of being a corporation in the area is to give back to the community, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here.”

Leighton and his company originally offered to donate their services and equipment to give Delhi with the ability to record and stream its township meetings, it never materialized.

“Some folks had previously expressed interest in this, but it never really gained any traction. This is a new concept and it’s one of those things where you have to have the momentum in order for it to work,” said Leighton. “There is renewed interest in leveraging this technology so I was simply here as a courtesy to the township, to answer their questions and to explain how it all works.”

Leighton and his company provide services for many other municipalities in the area. He works with the city of Oak Park, Sterling Heights, Okemos Public Schools and many more.
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