Brandywine school board honors winter sports standouts

Published 6:18 am Wednesday, March 27, 2024

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NILES — Brandywine’s state championship runs the last few weeks overshadowed Monday’s Brandywine Board of Education meeting. Board members and Superintendent Travis Walker honored the high school’s wrestling champions as well as the boys basketball state champions and girls basketball state championship runnerups.

Walker and board members took the opportunity to honor the student athletes during the meeting and also commend the Brandywine community for their support of the high school athletes.

Walker noted that he and his family went to all the state basketball finals for 15 years, from the time he was in grade school.

“From the time I was a kid, we went to state finals every year,” he said. “We got down there Thursday morning and stayed till Saturday night.”

“I don’t recall a lot of communities over those years showing up the way Brandywine did,” he said. “Being down on the court and seeing the sea of maroon and gold, was really awesome and powerful. I want to thank the community for their support.”

“I heard comments from the MHSAA and MSU about how polite our students were,” he added. “For the athletes, the cheerleaders, the band, the staff and the community, it was truly a community event.”

In action and discussion at Monday’s meeting, board members handled a number of issues including changing the structure of board committees and talking about the board’s recent strategic planning retreat. They also discussed bond underwriters, the second budget amendment of the year and an early literacy grant.

The budget amendment to be approved at the board’s April meeting sets general fund revenue at $18,755,313 and expenditures at $18,966,833 for a shortfall of $211,520. The original budget approved last June had a larger shortfall of over $300,000.

Assistant Superintendent Ray Wilburn said the district will end the year with a fund balance representing 19.7 percent of expenditures which is considered a healthy fund balance.

Board President Elaine McKee suggested “in the spirit of collaboration and transparency” that the board consider going back to working as a committee of the whole so all board members can work on various topics and issues. She also suggested that board members serve as liaisons on various boards in the district.

Walker said while it would be a great benefit for board members to gather information to bring back to the rest of the board, the board should be wary of opening itself up to charges of micromanaging. He suggested board members serve as individual liaisons to the different schools and programs to attend special events.

He said board members should take an “eyes on, hands off” approach.

Board Vice-President Thomas Payne disagreed somewhat.

“I think involvement from board members is crucial in the decision making process,” he said. “I know there’s a fine line between micromanaging or the perception there of and actual micromanaging. but I think the involvement and even input can be crucial as a board member.”

Payne said he thought the board could address the micromanaging perception as it comes up. “I don’’t think we should be necessarily fearful of the perception of micromanaging but establish the criteria and parameters to avoid it,” he said.

With the recent strategic planning retreat held at Southwestern Michigan College’s Niles campus, McKee said it was a great day of reviewing what has been put in place and the many goals the district has hit so far.

“We got a pulse that we’re still in line with the strategic plan and we’re heading forward positively,” she said.

Walker thanked the district staff who took part.

“There are things in the plan we have been very intentional about,” he said. “It was good to hear about the things that are in accordance with plan that have happened very naturally. That was good to see.”

In reports, Walker spoke about the new Bus Right app that will go live after spring break. He said the new app will allow parents to check on the location of their kids, where buses are and whether they’re running late. Bus drivers will be able to send messages to parents.

Walker reported that the student art exhibit is at the Niles District Library through the end of March and that the BACC at the high school is now open every morning from 6-7:30 a.m. to the public. People will be able to use the gymnasium, track and weight room during that time period before school starts.

Merritt Elementary Principal Matthew Severin reported on the upcoming Kindergarten Roundup. It will be held April 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Merritt for parents to get information about signing up their children for the coming school year.

Mike Kachur of Kachur Tree Service spoke about possible volunteer landscaping opportunities at the high school. His company recently donated their services to do tree work around the high school and some of the lawn areas. He said they will donate the top soil if people want to come out and volunteer to spruce up the site.

Kachur suggested that community volunteers could come out periodically to the high school and other district schools throughout the year to pick up trash and do other cleanup.