Brandywine superintendent thanks community for bond approval

Published 11:39 am Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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NILES — Brandywine school district officials took time at Monday’s Board of Education meeting to thank district residents for supporting the district’s $22 million bond issue proposal earlier this month.

The bond issue proposal approved May 7 will provide funding for a variety of new projects including secure entrances at all district schools, a new gym addition at Merritt Elementary and projects at the Middle/High School such as a new performing arts center, a new baseball field and a new Career Technical Education addition.

“Obviously, everybody is aware that on May 7 the community voted in favor of the bond proposal in a 2-1 vote,” Superintendent Travis Walker said. “I just want to take this time to thank our community for supporting education here at Brandywine, for supporting the schools.”

“I want to thank all those who played a role in this,” he added. “This process goes back well over a year. It was one and a half years ago that CARMI did the facility study and then we had community surveys and stakeholder groups that met. It was long and stressful but we’re very thankful for the support. This will benefit the community for years to come.”

Monday, school board members voted to start the process of getting the finances in place to start construction on the bond projects. They approved a resolution for the issuing of first series of the school and site building funds. The bonds for the $22 million worth of projects will be sold in two phases, one now and one two years from now.

Walker said earlier this month that the next few months will be busy ones for the district as plans ramp up to sell bonds and work out the details of the projects to be completed. The school board will be approving details of each project funded by the bond issue after getting input from staff, community members, students and recent graduates.

The board will also determine the sequence of projects that makes the most sense. He said he anticipates that it would be most logical to first construct safe and secure entrances at all three district schools. The cost there is expected to be $275,000 for each school.

Another first phase project likely to be undertaken is the construction of a new CTE addition at the Middle/High School at a cost of $6.75 million. The district currently offers machine shop, auto shop, cabinet making and millwork programs for south county students and could offer more with the bond issue approved.

Monday night’s board meeting also featured action, discussions and reports on a number of topics. Reports came from Walker recognizing district staff including assistant superintendent/chief financial officer Ray Wilburn’s certification by the Michigan School Business Officials organization.

Walker also reported on a recent broadcasting advisory committee meeting where people attended in person and virtually from around the country. “We were sharing some of the things other schools are doing in broadcasting, it was a really cool collaborative time,” he said. “We’re very excited about the future of broadcasting here at Brandywine.”

The presentation at Monday’s meeting came from middle/high school teacher Debbie Carew. She teaches the foundations of english language arts and other subjects to help students with their fluency in different skills. She showed some of the documentaries students made this year to represent passages they’ve learned in music, images and movement.

Action came on amending Walker’s superintendent contract to recognize changes in state law relative to evaluations, giving performance pay to teachers and administrators, setting the out of state tuition rate for 2024-25 as the state foundation grant, approving the Berrien RESA general fund budget and making the Clark Hill law firm the district’s policyholder.

In discussion items, board members debated possible changes to the board’s committee structure as well as a proposed new counseling app to be made available to students and staff.

Board members have talked recently about having board members be liaisons to various district committees. The discussion ended with Board President Elaine McKee and Board Vice President Thomas Payne saying they would meet with Walker to see what is feasible. Payne noted that the board’s goal is not to micromanage but to be better informed when decisions are made.

With the counseling/mental health app, Walker said district officials are looking at a couple of different apps to offer to students and staff. Board members asked about parents being notified of concerns raised and the importance of transparency. Walker said the main goal is to get support for students and see what issues need to be addressed by the district.

Walker announced that the district’s summer office hours will start June 10 and run through July 31. Building offices will be open Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Starting Aug. 1, the district will go back to regular office hours with buildings also open on Fridays.