Courier-Leader & Flashes

VBISD pays tribute to three

On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the Van Buren Intermediate School District Board paid tribute to VBISD Board member, Frances Sage, center, who participated in her final VBISD Board meeting after 45 years. Following the meeting, Sage, as well as recently retired VBISD Superintendent Jeff Mills, far right, and the late James “Jim” Crandall, were also honored in a “Recognition Pathway” ceremony. Crandall’s wife, Gayle, is shown at far left.
Courier-Leader photo/Paul Garrod

By Paul Garrod
Staff Writer

LAWRENCE – On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the Van Buren Intermediate School District Board paid tribute to VBISD Board member, Frances Sage, who participated in her final VBISD Board meeting after 45 years.
Following the meeting, Sage, as well as recently retired VBISD Superintendent Jeff Mills and the late James “Jim” Crandall, were also honored in a “Recognition Pathway” ceremony.
Sage served a total of 45 years on the Van Buren Intermediate School District (VBISD) Board of Education, from 1977-2022, which included 21 years as board president.
“Frances has a lifetime of public service in the betterment of her community, including a term on the Gobles Board of Education. During Frances’ tenure, VBISD has seen exceptional growth and has become one of the premier ISDs in the State of Michigan, particularly in the areas of career and technical education, migrant education, and special education. Frances led VBISD with a hard-working, caring, and compassionate attitude. She supported students and families with quality decision making throughout her entire tenure. Frances Sage will forever be a ‘champion’ for the educators in Van Buren County,” said current VBISD Superintendent David Manson.
Mills said he had the opportunity to work with Sage for 21 years at the VBISD. “When I was superintendent, I would visit Frances monthly at her home in Gobles to review the board of education packet and address other topics with her. Every meeting she would always ask me about my family and how my wife, Amy, was doing and my daughters, Sasha and Sabrina. In addition, we would talk about her family and all the activities that her grandchildren were involved with. From our conversations, I truly knew that I made the right decision to join the VBISD organization,” said Mills.
Mills concluded, “Frances attended many functions that were held at the VBISD, and you would always see her greeting the students and guests. I am not sure if anyone will ever be able to match the tremendous impact that she has had on the lives of so many people in Van Buren County, and the VBISD organization. She has a heart of gold, a very special touch, and a smile that warms the whole room,” said Mills.
Mills served as VBISD superintendent from 2005 to 2021. Mills grew up in Mt. Pleasant, MI, where he attended school and graduated in 1982. Mills attended Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI, and graduated in 1986 and 1990 with a bachelor’s in business administration and a master’s in general education administration.
Prior to becoming VBISD superintendent, Mills spent nine years at Allegan County Intermediate School District as director of administrative services and five years at VBISD as director of operations and finance. During Mills’ 16 years of leadership, the VBISD saw tremendous growth in the number of programs and services offered throughout the county, including the construction of multiple buildings. “Despite these tangible accomplishments, Jeff will be remembered most for his compassion in putting staff health, wellness, and families first. The VBISD family is truly better because of his leadership,” said Manson.
Crandall served 24 years on the Van Buren Intermediate School District Board of Education from 1997-2021, until he unexpectedly passed away on Dec. 29, 2021. Crandall was born in Canton, IL, but spent the majority of his life as a Lawrence resident, where he met his wife, Gayle. Manson said, “While Jim was a shrewd businessman, he was also extremely kind, compassionate, and easy to get to know. He helped make Bloomingdale Telephone Company a multi-million-dollar business, he founded Quality Assured Plastics, Inc., and he developed the Lawrence-Crandall Business Centre. Jim was instrumental in ensuring that Van Buren Tech was located in Lawrence when VBISD purchased his land in April of 1973 for $20,000.”
Manson added, “While Jim had many great business accomplishments, he may best be remembered for his witty humor, compassionate decision-making, family first attitude and unending support of the VBISD community.
Mills said of Crandall, “Jim loved his family so much.… But not only did he love family, he really enjoyed being on the (VBISD) Board of Education. To lend his experience and vision in helping make the Van Buren Tech the best Career and Technical Center in the State of Michigan. I was honored to be able to know Jim and the quality person that he was…The organization would not be where it’s at today without the vision, energy and hard work by both Jim Crandall and Frances Sage. They both helped make this a place that has forever changed the lives of so many staff and students who have entered the doors,” said Mills.

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