Brandywine adopts new cell phone policy, hires assistant elementary principal

Published 4:34 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2024

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NILES — A new cell phone policy is coming this fall for Brandywine students.

Brandywine Board of Education members approved the change along with the rest of the student handbook  at Monday’s board meeting. Brandywine Middle/High School Principal Evan Winkler outlined the cell phone policy change before the vote. He said the change came after teachers expressed concern about how distracting cell phones are in the classroom.

     “Teachers say that phones are constantly going off in the classroom and students are looking at their phones during lessons,” he said. “The new policy states that phones have to be turned off and in backpacks or lockers.”

     Winkler said the information about the policy change will be pushed out to students over coming weeks. He noted that he expects parents to welcome the new policy. “Parents tell us to please take the phones if they are a distraction,” he said. “We hope it will increase student engagement in lessons and with other students and also increase test scores.”

     The new cell phone policy was welcomed by parent Heidi Moore. She called it a great thing but said district teachers and staff may see more behavior problems as students get away from what she called their cell phone “addiction”.


Also Monday, board members hired a new elementary school assistant principal. Melissa Foster is the new assistant principal, coming from the St. Joseph school district where she has been a seventh and eighth grade science teacher for the last nine years. She started her teaching career in Edwardsburg where she taught for five years.

     Superintendent Travis Walker called the search for a new assistant principal as “incredibly challenging” as they had 13 or 14 people apply. He said 10 applicants were screened and six were interviewed. He said Foster came highly recommended and he is excited about what she will bring to the district.

     Board members heard a presentation about the Berrien Talent Collaborative from Berrien RESA Superintendent Eric Hoppstock and Assistant Superintendent Chris Machiniak. They outlined what the Berrien Talent Collaborative is about and what it means for area students.

     Hoppstock said that several entities have come together to form the collaborative, including Berrien RESA, Lake Michigan College, two area chambers of commerce, area businesses and manufacturers. He noted that the purpose of the collaborative is to both train students for jobs and careers and to provide area companies with the skilled workers they need.

     He provided statistics highlighting the need for more career and technical education. He said of every 10 students enrolled in kindergarten, two will drop out, eight will graduate from high school, six will take some college classes and three will earn a college degree. His conclusion: seven of 10 students need more career and education information.

     He noted that while regional unemployment is trending down and the regional labor force continues to grow, there are still more job openings than people to fill them. The Berrien Talent Collaborative goal is to provide students with the skills they need to fill those jobs to both help companies and keep young people in the area rather than moving away.

     Machiniak outlined some of the CTE (Career Technical Education) programs currently available and future plans for more. He reported that 17 public and private schools take part in the CTE initiative and that 16 different programs are being offered in school, airport, community college and government settings.

     Brandywine currently hosts seven programs in the arts, audio-video technology and communication, business management and administration, manufacturing, transportation, distribution and logistics. Students can also gain CTE skills at Lake Michigan College’s Hanson Tech Center as well as the Bertrand Innovation Center recently purchased by RESA from LMC.

The Berrien Talent Collaborative also works directly with manufacturers and other entities to offer apprenticeships which benefit students by helping them learn skills for high wage jobs without going into debt, he said.

Also Monday, the board received a bond issue project update from Zachary Bosma of the Christman Company. He said bonds for the $22 million worth of projects approved by voters in May will be sold in two series, one this year for three projects to be done in 2025 and one in 2025 for five projects to start in 2026.

As for the work itself, he said drawings and specifications are being developed for bid packages. Once bids go out and are received back, Christman, architectural consultant Carmi Design Group and district officials will go over the bids and make recommendations to the school board.

The board also discussed but did not act on board policy updates, milk and bread bids, adult meal prices and substitute teacher rates. Action on those items will come at a later meeting.

The board’s next meeting is Aug. 5 at the Middle/High School Media Center.