Archived Story

New faces fill vacancies in district as school begins

Published 4:13pm Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another academic year is upon students, parents, teachers and staff in the Dowagiac Union School District with the first day slated for Tuesday.

Students and parents will notice a few new faces in the school hallways as classes start, including three new principals. Replacing former Principal Paul Hartsig is new Union High School Principal Pieter Hoekstra. After Dawn Conners moved into the administrative position of deputy superintendent, the district’s board of education hired Cathy Stone as principal at Kincheloe Elementary School. Former Principal Gretchen Hart filled her vacancy as principal at Sister Lakes Elementary School with Mike Campbell.

Included in the new administrative mix is also former teacher Nichole Hulett, who was named assistant principal at Dowagiac Middle School.

“The major thing I’m looking forward to is getting the kids back in the building,” Hulett said. “I miss interacting with them; it’s not the same without them here.”

One new thing students will focus on this year at the middle school is a positive behavior-intervention system called CHAMPS.

“It will help us create a positive culture in the classrooms and hallways,” Hulett said. “It’s proven to increase academics and help kids and teachers out, too.”

Hoekstra said he is looking for students to take on more remediation at school, including more freshmen accountability.

“It’s no secret that across the state, and even the country, freshmen are falling off the wagon,” Hoekstra said. “If we can get them in here and started off right, that will carry on through the rest of their high school years.”

Doug “Colonel” Pearson will be instrumental in that program, working as a part-time student advocate.

“We need to start thinking outside the box,” Hoekstra said. “We want to start teaching responsibility and passion for their education.”

Other changes at the high school include cell-phone usage. Previously, cellular devices were prohibited. However, Hoekstra said that with a little “give and take,” cell phones may be used responsibly during students’ lunch hours.

“As long as they are using the cell phone with responsibility, lunchtime is OK,” Hoekstra said. “However, there will be a strict lock-down on cell phones in the classroom.”

Hoekstra also said cell-phone use during lunch is strictly limited to the cafeteria. Also, students who purchase parking passes within the first two weeks of school will receive a discount. After the two-week period, Hoekstra said there will be a crack down on students without passes.

Need-to-know Info

First Day for all students: Tuesday, Sept. 4 (full day)

Start Times:

Union High School:

Start: 7:30 a.m.

Dismissal: 2:16 p.m.


Dowagiac Middle School:

Start: 7:42 a.m.

Dismissal: 2:30 p.m.


Justus Gage Elementary:

Start: 8:43 a.m.

Dismissal: 3:38 p.m.


Kincheloe Elementary:

Start: 8:48 a.m.

Dismissal: 3:43 p.m.


Patrick Hamilton Elementary:

Start: 9 a.m.

Dismissal: 3:55 p.m.


Sister Lakes Elementary:

Start: 8:55 a.m.

Dismissal: 3:50 p.m.

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