School board elects SeurynckPublished 9:30pm Monday, July 19, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Dowagiac Board of Education Monday night unanimously elected a slate of 2010-2011 officers, including President Larry Seurynck, Vice President Michelle Helmuth, Secretary Stacy Leversen and Treasurer Mark Dobberstein.
Seurynck, a former teacher who operates Wood Fire Italian Trattoria, attended with his wife, Kathleen, because July 19 fell on their 30th wedding anniversary.
Seurynck, re-elected to his third four-year term May 4, succeeds farmer Randy Cuthbert, president since 1998.
Dobberstein, who recently left banking for Nate Wines controller, follows Seurynck as treasurer.
Helmuth and Leversen retain their 2009-2010 offices.
Also joining the board from the May 4 election is Julia Smith of McKenzie Street, who has lived in the Dowagiac area for about a dozen years and has a daughter starting her junior year and another beginning middle school in sixth grade.
Smith succeeds Bill Lawrence, who did not seek re-election after three terms.
Smith, a Cassopolis graduate, is the daughter of a teacher and works as assistant judicial secretary to Cass County Circuit Judge Michael E. Dodge.
“I’m excited about this new experience,” she told the board.
There were other new faces at school board, such as Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel and Athletic Director Scott Lawler.
Daniel commented he’s “proud” of his new community and came away from meeting community members impressed that “many hidden talents” exist which will help propel Dowagiac forward to new success.
Assistant Superintendent Patti Brallier reported that all six Dowagiac schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward 100-percent compliance by 2014, with elementaries Sister Lakes, Patrick Hamilton, Kincheloe and Justus Gage graded A and Dowagiac Middle School and Union High School rating Bs.
“This is good news,” Brallier said, but with the caveat that “we still have work to do” because AYP ups the “ante” each year.
“When you dice it down,” she said, “we still have improvements that need to be made.”
Seurynck, “excited” by the opportunities fresh faces Daniel, Lawler and Smith represent, predicted, “We’re going to see big changes in Dowagiac schools. We have a lot of energy.”
Seurynck also stated that changes which flow down from federal and state levels always seem to “point a finger” at the teaching staff, when they’re not the problem.
Seurynck wants to make school facilities more accessible to the community, more transparent and its meetings more intimate, such as closing the physical gulf between the board table and the audience for dialogue.
Another goal is celebrating district successes more.
The new president dispelled a rumor circulating in the community that Sister Lakes is under consideration for closing.
No buildings are at present, he said. Perhaps fueling speculation is that the principalship remains vacant from Matt Severin’s move to DMS co-principal with Mike Frazier.
In other business at the annual reorganizational meeting, which lasted about 35 minutes, the board reviewed assignments to its seven standing committees and made some preliminary revisions.
Board members also voted to hold a work session from 8 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24, with administrators and coaches.
Dowagiac Education Association President Keith Klann indicated he might have to send a designee because of jury duty.
The district endorsed parents fundraising for Celebration Graduation 2011.
Their first event is a Mexican dinner July 24 at Sister Lakes Elementary School.
Officers include Chair Kelly Weaver, Co-Chair Pennie Hammond, Treasurer Linda Preston and Secretary Laura Haley.
Assistant Superintendent Hal Davis advised that while the district offers no direct financial support to Celebration Graduation, the endorsement provides the committee some liability insurance coverage.
The meeting calendar for 14 Mondays in the coming school year was adopted: Aug. 16, Sept. 20, Oct. 18 (Daniel’s first evaluation), November retreat at Pathfinders on a date to be determined, Nov. 15, Dec. 13, Jan. 24, Feb. 28, March 21 (Daniel’s second evaluation), April 18, May special work session with the superintendent on another date to be determined and June 20.
Regular meetings start at 7 p.m. in the middle school cafeteria on Riverside Drive.
Under personnel, the board accepted the resignations of Veronica Blaschka, English teacher, DUHS; and Amanda Merriman, kindergarten teacher.
In addition to hiring Jennifer Ayres to teach fourth grade at Sister Lakes, there were two co-curricular appointments: Bill Anderson, girls varsity volleyball coach; and Emily McLaughlin, girls varsity basketball coach.
Depositories for district funds in 2010-2011 include Huntington National Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Michigan Liquid Asset Fund, 1st Source Bank, Dowagiac Area Federal Credit Union, Honor Credit Union, Flagstar Bank, Citizens Bank and United Federal Credit Union.
Legal advice will be provided by St. Joseph attorney Tom Fette, Thrun Law Firm of Lansing and Clark-Hill of Grand Rapids.