Albion Recorder & Morning Star News

MPS Board of Education update

New cafeteria tables and salad bar approved for Harrington Elementary as well as E-Sports computers for Albion students and Flex Farm Units at the Opportunity High School will produce greens and microgreens for OHS and eventually Harrington

By John Hendler

At the start of the Marshall Public Schools Board of Education Business Session held May 20 at the Marshall Opportunity High School in Albion, Albion College staff and students gave a presentation on this year’s Maemester program.

Maemester is spelled as such in honor of Albion’s Mae Ola Dunklin who was the first Fritz Shurmur Center for Teacher Development director.

Karen Hoaglin from the Fritz Shurmur Center noted that this is the 18th year for the program where education students from the college work in the MPS schools.

“This would not be possible without the generous donation from Bob and Sarah Maxfield as well as our partnership from Marshall Public Schools and our mentor teachers who graciously give up their classrooms to us and their time,” said Hoaglin.

At the meeting, 19 students spoke to share their Maemester experience with the board.

“Mae Ola Dunklin was the guiding force behind us creating this partnership,” noted Sue Ellen Hencke, the Albion College chair of the Education Department and a Maemester co-teacher.

Albion College Professor Betty Okwako-Riekkola, who teaches the elementary section for Maemester, gave a rundown on what students do in the program.

“Between January and April, the students, known as teacher candidates, work collaboratively with mentor teachers to design a three-week, integrated, experiential unit plan,” said Okwako-Riekkola. “They take part in field trips, invite guest speakers and are involved in community engagement. A ton of cool stuff. And then in May, the teacher candidates stay for three weeks where they are immersed in the classroom, shadowing the mentor teachers.”

May 20 was the first meeting since the $90 million MPS Bond failed to pass with voters.

MPS Communications Specialist Ian Gilyard-Schnaitman gave a presentation about the breakdown of the bond vote and future plans to engage the community on the needs of MPS.

The bond failed by 589 votes, an improvement over the failed 2021 bond issue that was rejected by 630 votes.

“We were really hoping for a good 500-vote cushion coming out of the city of Marshall and so when we saw those vote totals come in (66 more yes votes), we knew it was going be a rough night,” said Gilyard-Schnaitman. “We see we have some issues in the townships (no townships had a majority of yes votes as did four of the six city of Albion precincts) and so we’re going to continue to figure out what we need to do to build that bridge between Marshall schools and the [other] 13 townships (and precincts) that we serve.”

Following the vote, the district launched a “Thought Exchange” that ran May 8-18 that had 235 participants, offering 127 thoughts. Seventy-four percent of the people who took part in the Thought Exchange voted in the election.

Gilyard-Schnaitman shared a summary generated by the Thought Exchange: The responses indicate a general dissatisfaction with the focus on athletics over academics. Many respondents felt that the bond was too large, and that the economic climate was not conducive to such a proposal. Several respondents suggested that future proposals should be broken down into smaller, separate proposals for different issues, allowing voters to choose what they support. Additionally, respondents from both communities expressed concern about the perceived millage inequality between Albion and Marshall.

Gilyard-Schnaitman also announced that the school district will be hosting Community Conversations forums beginning Monday, June 3 at 5:30 p.m. at Marshall High School Auditorium; Tuesday, June 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Crowell Elementary in Albion; Monday, June 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Opportunity High School Community Room in Albion; Tuesday, June 11 at 5:30 p.m. the Marshall Middle School Auditorium and a Virtual Event on Wednesday, June 11 at 7 p.m. at

Also at the meeting, the Board passed several action items including:

Cafeteria tables for Walters, Gordon, Hughes, and Harrington elementaries. Each building would receive nine oval-shaped tables and one oval-shaped ADA accessible table.

The remaining portion of the board approved budget allowed MPS to add new cafeteria tables for the Opportunity High School, Marshall High School and Marshall Middle School. With board approval on this action item, every school in the district will now have new cafeteria tables. Food Service fund balance dollars in the amount of $115,640 will be used to purchase the cafeteria tables.

District electronic LED landmark signs. Many of the building landmark message board signs are out of date or have damaged parts. Over the last eight months, the district has looked into local vendors who can support the district in designing updated signage.

Fritz Signs out of Spring Arbor designed a prototype of a sign that is consistent throughout the district. Fritz is an established sign company that has knowledge of best practices for sign development (design, construction, LED components, etc.).

Some benefits of digital signage are:

– Digital signage allows MPS to rapidly share important information with students, parents, staff and visitors in a highly visible manner. They can display emergency alerts, school closure details, event reminders and other critical announcements that enhance safety and keep the community informed. The LED screens naturally draw attention in a way that traditional signs and bulletin boards cannot match.

– Beyond essential communications, digital signage opens up avenues for creativity in promoting school pride and student engagement. MPS can showcase student artwork, achievements, club activities and more in vivid multimedia displays. This enriches the entire school environment and culture.

– Digital signs reduce ongoing costs compared to constantly printing out paper flyers, banners and posters. The content can be updated from a central management system.

– For MPS schools, this cutting-edge technology positions the school district as an innovative, forward-thinking district that prioritizes effective communications and an enriching educational experience.

The board was asked to approve a sign budget not to exceed $358,000. Signs would be paid for through ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) III funds.

District E-Sports computers for Albion students. MPS currently offer E-Sports computers in Marshall for an afterschool program that takes place every Thursday. The district would like to offer the same after school program for students in Albion.

E-Sports officially stands for electronic sports, not to be confused with video games. E-Sports takes video gaming to another level with organized competitive gameplay between two teams, governed by their own strict set of rules and guidelines. E-Sports requires teamwork, communication, critical and strategic thinking, creativity, sportsmanship and leadership — much like traditional sports. ESSER funds will be used to purchase 10 E-Sports computers at a cost of $14,300.

Marshall Middle School basement repairs. In the building at Marshall Middle School, underneath the area of the boys locker room, HiTec Office and hallway to the south of rooms 108 and 109, there is groundwater flowing into the basement. The sump pump that was originally installed to keep the basement dry has become inadequate for the job as the ground water level in the area has risen.

The accepted bid proposal for installing a system to keep the area dry, including perimeter drains, new pump or pumps and the associated plumbing and electrical, as well as all finish work in concrete and/or brick and blocks was awarded to Hunter Prell in the amount of $76,673.41.

Opportunity High School Flex Farm. The Flex Farm purchase is the first step toward providing OHS students an opportunity to explore careers in sustainable agricultural entrepreneurship. The purchase of the Flex Farm units (one by MPS food service and one by a gift from the Cronin Foundation) will produce greens and microgreens for OHS and eventually Harrington Elementary. Combined with the Opportunity Farm (also funded by the Cronin gift), OHS students will be able to procure, grow and prepare food for the building and MPS community.

Harrington Elementary Mobile Salad Bar. MPS Food Service would like to purchase a mobile salad bar for Harrington Elementary. The salad bar will keep the school in compliance with USDA’s offer versus serve requirements. The total cost of $9,464.75 will come out of the Food Service budget.

New MPS hires announced at the meeting were: Savarra Bailey, Marshall Middle School teacher; Audrey Cooley, Marshall Middle School science teacher;  Allison Leathead, Marshall Middle School special education teacher; Craig Pennock, Harrington Elementary Young 5’s teacher; Sarah Sawyer, Walters Elementary fifth grade teacher; and Sara Weeks, Marshall Middle School teacher.

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