Dowagiac schools purchase new vehicles with Pokagon donationPublished 8:00am Thursday, July 3, 2014
While the district’s fleet of buses may be the backbone of their transportation system, the yellow giants are not the only machines that play a crucial role in the daily operations of Dowagiac Union Schools.
Staff and teachers make frequent use the transportation department’s group of pickup trucks and minivans to ferry materials and students across buildings. After years of service to the district, though, of a few of these workhorses were in need of replacement.
Thanks to a little help from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, the district was able to do just that, purchasing a new Ford F-250 and Dodge Grand Caravan earlier this year, for a combined $47,000.
“These purchases don’t show off the glamorous side of education, like buying new iPads or smartboards would,” said Superintendent Paul Hartsig. “However, in order to make the district run smoothly, we need trucks to plow and vans to transport small numbers of children.”
Funding for the purchases was provided to the district last year via revenue sharing with the Four Winds Casino Dowagiac, which is owned and operated by the Pokagon Band. As mandated by the state law, the tribe is required to share 2 percent of annual revenues with various community entities, including the schools.
“There was a need present in the district for those vehicles, though a lot of times they are among the last things we look at,” Hartsig said. “However, we knew last year that money was available for us to solve that problem.”
The new truck is replacing an older vehicle that transportation was forced to decommission due to years of use. Maintenance crews use these vehicles for a number of purposes, including hauling heavy machinery between school facilities, Hartsig said.
“We have a very talented and committed maintenance department,” he said. “We try to keep as much work in house as possible.”
The new van is also replacing a decommissioned vehicle, joining their two other active minivans. The school uses their vans to transport several students, such as small sports teams, to events, when it would be more cost effective versus using a bus. Teachers also use them to carpool to local conferences, Hartsig said.
The district and the Pokagon Band work together frequently to improve the education of Dowagiac’s children, Hartsig said. In addition to past grants from the Pokagon Fund, the two entities signed an agreement in 1990 supporting the future use of the district’s Chieftain mascot, with the school formally adopting a redesigned logo created by Pokagon artist Ron Mix.
The school expects to receive a larger amount of casino funds this fall, as the business will be open an entire year by the next dispersion cycle.
“We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship,” Hartsig said. “The Pokagon Band is a huge part of the community. We’re proud to call ourselves the Chieftains.”