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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Making Tracks to Success!

There they were in the dried mud, practically side by side, tracks: Hoof prints from a horse, the track left by a bicycle, automobile tire tracks, and tennis shoe imprints.  As we move through life each one of us makes unique imprints on the world around us.  In the Columbia School District each one of our teachers, administrators and staff members make an imprint on the lives of students, help to shape the future of our children and improve the community through their positive spirit, caring, nurturing, diligence and hard work.

This spring six of our positive, fabulous, amazing staff members are retiring and they will be remembered by their footprints on the hearts those of us in of Columbia!  Initially hired by Options High School as a coordinator, Mrs. Schmidt has made a difference in the lives of many Columbia students. Certified to teach science, social studies and English language arts, Mrs. Schmidt has given our junior high students a firm foundation.  Since 1993 she has prepared her students by teaching them writing and reading.  As her students move on to high school, many of them come back to tell Mrs. Schmidt how successful they are completing writing projects at the high school level.  In addition, Mrs. Schmidt has been active planning and scheduling the junior high trips to Detroit and Washington D.C. each year, capping off the students learning activities.

Also retiring after 33 years at Columbia is Mr. Ron Guernsey.  Mr. Guernsey has taught English and history at CCHS and at the middle school level.  In addition, he has been a terrific, tenacious wrestling coach, with many of his wrestlers earning their way to the State competition.  Mr. Guernsey is currently preparing students for college English and writing courses through the Advanced Placement program.   Often, students comment on social media and in person, how Mr. Guernsey’s techniques and insight has prepared them for college.

Mrs. Bernstein is an amazing kindergarten teacher at Columbia Elementary School.  When I visit her classroom she is always involving her students in creative learning activities.  When working on graphing in math, Mrs. Bernstein had her students taste testing various types of M&M’s.  Rather than quickly completing the task, Mrs. Bernstein led her students through evaluating, graphing, reflecting and reevaluating the task, to vary the results from day to day.  Another example of her top teaching and learning activities was when she led her students through an integrated science and math activity.  The students had collected snow and made miniature snowmen.  Throughout the day, the children measured their snowmen with plastic blocks and discussed the melting process and the various forms water can be found in at different temperatures.  Throughout Mrs. Bernstein’s 23 year tenure as a teacher at Columbia, she has been a leader and mentor for new teachers.  She has shared her excellent teaching and learning techniques and helped to create a new generation of fabulous Columbia teachers.

For the past seven years Ms. Sachar has made her imprint on the lives and hearts of Columbia Central High School students through her excellent teaching techniques.  She joined the high school staff after retiring from another district.  She has taught French at CCHS and enriched the lives of students and adults from the Columbia community through her fun and educational trips to Europe.  Ms. Sachar has the unique ability to enlighten students academically, while motivating them to achieve success.

Also retiring is Columbia Elementary School principal, Mrs. Powell.  She has not only been a leader in Columbia, but she has been serving on the board for the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals’ Association.   Her volunteer leadership has extended in to the community through the Columbia Education Foundation and the Brooklyn Kiwanis Club.  She began at Columbia Middle School as a counselor in 1995.  In both her work as a counselor at the middle school and as the elementary principal, she has made a difference in the lives of many of her students.  She has been instrumental in providing professional development for elementary teachers in the areas of mathematics, English and emotional support. 

Brenda Schedeler has also given her a notice of retirement from her position as a Reading Recovery Specialist at Columbia Elementary School.  Mrs. Schedeler has made a positive difference in the lives of struggling readers for the past nine years.  As a former elementary teacher, she had a unique insight into academic supports for her students.  Her work with the Reading Recovery program has successfully transformed struggling readers into excellent and proficient students.

We are so thankful for our retirees.  They have given so much to the community and have left their imprints on the hearts and minds of our children.  They have been a blessing to the students at Columbia School District.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia Schools, please email me at or call 5175926641.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Critical Thinking at Columbia Schools!

Each week when I receive the newspaper there are advertisements for appliances from Sears, Lowes, Home Depot, Penny’s and other stores.  They advertise many models of refrigerators; there are side-by-side with or without ice in the door, French Door refrigerators with one or two drawers and regular basic no-frills one door refrigerators.  This week I looked at a low cost refrigerator that was advertised for $367, while another more expensive model was on sale at $2898.  Although all of the refrigerators keep our food cold, some have more options than others.  As you shop for a refrigerator, you would actively collect data and choices for your comparison.   As you compare and contrast the prices and options for the refrigerators, you would use the skill of critical thinking. 

In each classroom in the Columbia School District, students use critical thinking in their daily assignments.  Critical thinking is an important skill that will help our students be successful in all of their school subjects.  Let me offer some examples for you to work with your child on his or her critical thinking skills.

The first example is: Finding similarities in our daily lives.  Take a look around a room and find two things that do not seem to have anything in common.  You may say a lamp and couch.  Challenge your child to use his critical thinking skills to find a minimum of one thing that is similar in the lamp and the couch.  She may tell you that they both sit on the floor or that the lamp shade has a pattern with material and so does the couch.  You may repeat this in other rooms in your house or in outdoor settings.

A second try at increasing your child’s proficiency of their critical thinking skills is to play games.  You may choose word games to play in the car.  You may mix and match comparing and contrasting words like; river is to ocean like plant is to what?  You might choose games that your child can look ahead to predict the outcome like checkers or chess.  You may ask them, if you move there, then I might move here and where would you move next?

Finally, you may help your child and his or her friends make up a story or rewrite one they already know.  To write a new story together, have one of them begin something like, “I was walking in the woods one day and”, then the next person takes over, and each person puts in a sentence as they write their new story.  You may tell them what the last sentence should be, or let them write in a freestyle way.  Not only will they end up with an intriguing story, they will have fun!  When using their critical thinking skills to rewrite a story, you could choose a traditional children’s story like “Little Red Riding Hood” or one of my favorite, “Horton Hears A Who.” You could have them think about writing their story from the wolf’s point of view in “Little Red Riding Hood” or describe what happens to Horton or the Who in the next chapter.

Just like we use critical thinking in our daily lives to make large purchases like a refrigerator, our children use critical thinking skills to make decisions and complete their school work.  Your encouragement of their ability to think critically and assist them as they practice these skills will help to make them more successful students. 

If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District or our programs, please email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Successful Seniors!

Over the past several weeks, the Columbia Central High School senior class has begun to imagine their graduation.  They have pictured themselves crossing the stage and celebrating their success in high school.  As the day draws closer, our seniors not only think of graduation, but of their future opportunities and challenges.  The seniors are beginning to realize that having a strong academic background will get them off to a good start, and that they will also have to use wisdom as they apply all of their academic knowledge. 

This week our senior class will have the opportunity to participate in an interview process.   They have been practicing and thinking about this process.  During the interviews they will talk about their background, their plans and their hopes and dreams.  The community based interview panel will hear from our positive, intelligent students talking about scholarships they have earned, their volunteer experiences and where they will be next fall. 

Columbia School District students have distinct advantages not only because of the high academic standards at Columbia Central, but because of the caring, nurturing nature of their teachers and our exceptional programs.   The students in our Leadership program have learned to work together, organize positive community events and spend time volunteering with our elementary children. 
Recently the students in the Leadership program organized, planned and carried out the Hope Run.  After the daylong event was over, one of the young ladies on the planning committee mentioned that her experiences at Columbia Central have given her the confidence to get in front of the whole district student body and lead.  She and her team inspired the Columbia School District students and staff members to raise over $11,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Our graduating seniors have filled their high school experience by taking Advanced Placement courses so they are prepared to go to college.  Quite a few of our seniors have challenged themselves by completing AP Calculus and AP English.  Some of our seniors have mentioned their interest in science and how their experiences taking advanced anatomy, Advanced Placement biology, Sports Medicine and Forensic Science have given them a great base for their next step in college.  The Class of 2018 is a great group of young people full of promise and energy.  It will be exciting to watch them take on their future with tenacity!

If you are interested in cheering on our seniors as they walk across the graduation stage, join us at the Jackson College Potter Center on June 1st at 7:00 pm.  To have your child join the positive programs at Columbia School District, call me at 5175926641 or email me at

Monday, April 23, 2018

Thank You!

Thank you!  Each day we use these two small words to appreciate people around us.  No matter where you are, the sentiment is the same, we appreciate what you are doing!  Other ways of expressing our thankfulness include: Merci beaucoup, Gracias, Grazie, Danke, Dank u,  Obrigado, or a simple “Thanks!”

In 1952 the last week in April was set aside to recognize secretaries through National Professional Secretaries Week, with the Wednesday of that week especially promoted as  National Secretary’s Day.  This important week filled with a chorus of “Thank You!” is now recognized as Administrative Professional‘s Day.  The recognition of Administrative Professionals was the work of very thankful and forward think gentleman named Harry F. Klemfuss.  Just as Mr. Klemfuss was appreciative of his staff, the teachers, support personnel , administrators and students at Columbia School District send a heartfelt “Thank You!” out to all of our administrative professionals!

Columbia School District has many wonderful, helpful, cheerful people in our organization. Since this is Administrative Professional’s week, I would like to introduce you to five very wonderful people who make Columbia Schools special. Monika Cook is the administrative professional to the superintendent and the Board of Education. Parents who call the Columbia School District have the pleasure of speaking with her as she offers assistance.  Although this is her first year as the administrative professional at the superintendent’s office, she has worked for the district as the Upper Elementary administrative assistant, classroom aide, and ABC room aide. She enjoys working with parents, students and teachers. Her pleasant smile and easy going manner helps put even new students at ease. We are pleased to have Monika in the office at Columbia School District!

At Columbia Upper Elementary School the administrative professional is Lori Hunter. She is the first person our parents and staff members see when they walk into the office. Her pleasant demeanor is reassuring to parents of ill children and teachers who need some support. Lori Hunter has worked for the Columbia School District for almost 20 years. She told me, “I enjoy working for Columbia School District because of the small community. Over the years I have developed sincere relationships with students and families across the district.” She continued by saying, “I have the best job!!!  In what working environment can you receive so much love every single day?  I adore all the hugs that I receive in a day. The students at CUES are the best. They are kind and respectable. I am so blessed to work with a group of amazing teachers, staff and the best Principal ever!!” One thing is evident to anyone who sees Lori work with children; she exhibits a loving caring spirit to all!

At Columbia Central High School we have the dynamic duo: Nianne Prendel  and Debbie Russell! Mrs. Prendel has worked in the Columbia School District with various responsibilities, and has been in the CCHS office for several years.  She assists Mrs O’Neil and is the hub of communication for parents, teachers and students at CCHS.  Students appreciate her calm demeanor, quick smile, and helpful assistance when they are in need.  She is kind to students and staff and is willing to assist them with any concerns that they have.

When students think of Debbie Russell, they think of her laugh and cheerful demeanor.  After working for the Columbia School District for 26 years, she still enjoys her job. She said, “I like a lot of things about Columbia Schools but my favorite is the students. My husband and I moved to this community in 1979, my children all graduated from Columbia Central High School, I have seen a lot of changes to this community and district and I’m very proud to be a part of the Columbia family.”

New to Columbia Elementary School as the administrative professional is CCHS Alum Carol Ladd.  We are so happy to have Mrs. Ladd at Columbia!  She brought experience as an elementary administrative professional with her and has made the transition nicely!  She keeps things organized and moving quickly at Columbia Elementary School, assisting the principal and teachers.  Her cheerful voice and understanding is reassurance for even the most concerned child and parent. 

At Columbia Options High School and Adult Education, Bill Miles is the new administrative professional.  He brings with him experience and expertise from his former position in another district.  His organizational ability is essential as he registers students six times per year!  His steady voice and kind demeanor enables him to assist students with their various concerns.  He is able to keep track of students as they work through their online curriculum, or attend in the classroom setting at Options.  He is a tremendous asset to the students, teachers and principal at Options!

Let’s make this week a time when we say “Thank You” to our wonderful and caring administrative professionals!  If you have any questions about Columbia School District or would like to register your child, please email me at or call 5175926641.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Columbia's Top Quality Teachers!

The other day I was listening to a speaker and he told a story about a pot.  As he held up the old commercial steel pot, he said that although it was over 20 years old, it was still in good condition and would last many more years producing great meals at the soup kitchen.  He asked us to think about how many things had been cooked in the pot and how it had fed many people over the years.  Then   This pot was a top quality commercial pot, built to last.  As he continued his talk, he mentioned that while we may purchase pots and pans that may seem more glitzy or appear to be a great deal, if they were made of low quality, of sub-par materials, or of poor craftsmanship, they will eventually bend and break.
he talked about the quality of the pot.

Similar to the quality pot, Columbia School District is built on quality.  Columbia School District has many excellent highly qualified teachers teaching our children.  Earlier this year Columbia Central High School teacher Mr. Kevin Miller was nominated for the Michigan Teacher of the year for the American Legion.  His nomination was based on his impact on the Columbia community.  The quality of the Columbia Central Leadership program, like the quality of the pot, has stood the test of time and impacted the community by providing the Forum program for the high school students, which has been reproduced at other Jackson County high schools.  In addition, the activities and community impact strategies Mr. Miller instills in his students through the Leadership program changes lives for the better.  The Leadership students sponsor blood drives, facilitate the Hope Run, and work with the Brooklyn Buddies.  Mr. Miller’s contributions to the community also include his coaching, and especially his many years of coaching varsity softball and football at Columbia Central.

Columbia School District has many quality teachers, staff and administrators.  This past spring Mrs. Angie Hogle was awarded Teacher of the Year by the Brooklyn-Irish Hills Chamber of Commerce.  Her positive enthusiastic focus on educational opportunities for her students is infectious!  When you enter her room you see the children engrossed in one of many learning opportunities and Mrs. Hogle leading the way.  Over the past couple years Mrs. Hogle has written grants and worked to accumulate STEM activities to enhance the learning environment for her students.  In addition, to her work with students during the school year, Mrs. Hogle spent time the past two summers teaching robotics to first and second graders in our summer program.

Living by the motto, “let a book be your ticket to the world”, Mrs. Schmidt has opened the eyes of Columbia Central junior high students to the world around them.  She helps students who never have been interested in reading to love getting into the next book.  Her students have had an opportunity to expand their ability to write and several of her students recently placed in a county-wide a poetry contest.  Many of her former students who have moved onto college, often talk about their junior high English class and give Mrs. Schmidt the credit for teaching them to be a great writers.

One aspect of the quality education Columbia students receive is the opportunity to experience using technology.  Mr. Moore teaches technology in education to kindergartners through sixth grade students.  His students use Chromebooks, iPads and learn how to create web pages, write code, and create technology.  In addition to his work during the school day, Mr. Moore works with students in our football and track programs.

Together the highly qualified teachers at Columbia make a difference in the lives of our children each and every day.  Columbia has stood the test of time, being an impressive successful educational learning environment filled with quality employees: amazing teachers, and many fabulous instructional aides, staff members, and administrators.  Just like the top quality pot, lasting the test of time, Columbia will continue providing excellence in education for years to come.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia, email me at or call 5175926641.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Funding: The Key to Success in Education

Keys, keys, keys.  We all have keys to various things; cars, the house, and the office. In education, funding is one of the main keys to excellent teaching and learning environments.  On Tuesday, May 8, 2018, Columbia School District voters will have the opportunity to vote on an operating millage renewal proposal.  You may have some questions regarding this proposal, so here are some questions and answers: 

How does this fit into the overall School Funding Structure at Columbia?  Michigan schools are funded under a structure created when Proposal A was approved statewide by Michigan electors in 1994. Under the plan, Michigan schools are funded with a total of 24 mills on non-homesteads. This is made up of a state-wide millage rate of 6 mills on all property and 18 mills on non-homestead property when approved by local voters. When proposal A passed in 1994, the school operating property tax rate on homesteads decreased by 84 percent, from 37.92 mills to 6 mills. The school operating rate on non-homesteads decreased by 37 percent, from 37.92 mills to 24 mills.

I thought schools no longer received funding through property taxes, so why are they talking about a millage renewal?  Funding for school districts changed significantly in 1993/94 when Proposal A was passed by the Michigan voters. Under Proposal A, the State pays the majority of the cost, but to receive full funding, schools must levy 18 mills on non-homestead property in their district.  What does “Non-Homestead” mean? Non-homestead represents industrial, commercial and some agricultural property   and “second homes.” It does not include a family’s primary residence.

Is this a new tax? No. This millage was approved by the voters in 2012. The district has voter approval to levy 18 mills on non-homestead property through December 2018.  How much will this cost my business?  This renewal will have little effect on your current taxes. For a business with a taxable value of property established at $200,000 the tax cost would be $3,600 ($200,000 ÷ 1,000 x 18 mills), similar to what you are paying today.

Will my residential school taxes increase?  No. This tax is on non-homestead property and does not apply to your primary place of residence.  What if the millage is voted down?  The revenue generated from the 18 mills totals over $4,499,712 or about 1/3 of the school district’s budget. If this millage does not pass, the State will not replace the funding and Columbia School District will be forced to reduce or cut programs to offset the loss.

What is the ballot language? This proposal will allow the school district to continue to levy the statutory rate of not to exceed 18 mills on all property, except principal residence and other property exempted by law, required for the school district to receive its revenue per pupil foundation allowance and renews millage that will expire with the 2018 tax levy.  Shall the currently authorized millage rate limitation of 18.3361 mills ($18.3361 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property except principal residence and other property exempted by law, in Columbia School District, Jackson, Lenawee, Washtenaw and Hillsdale Counties, Michigan, be renewed for a period of 6 years, 2019 to 2024, inclusive to provide funds for operating purposes; the estimate of the revenue the school district will collect if the millage is approved and 18 mills are levied in 2019 is approximately $4,499,712 (this is a renewal of millage that will expire with the 2018 tax levy.

If you have other questions, please email me at or call 5175926641.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Columbia Central Students Learn CPR

The phrase “Safe Schools” has many implications.  In addition to having locked doors, video cameras, safety apps, an updated crisis response plan, and our new school liaison resource officer, Columbia School District has taken further steps towards a safer school district.   Earlier this year, I collaborated with our some of the Columbia Central Jr – Sr High School teachers to provide Hands-Only CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) training to our seventh, eighth, ninth and twelfth grade students.

Why teach Hands-Only CPR to our teens?  Although rare, each year sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) affects children and teens.  More than 300,000 people in the United States die of SCA and it remains the leading cause of death in America. 

CPR was developed in 1960, when three researchers from Johns Hopkins University Hospital tried combining chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Since then, CPR has saved many lives each year.  Although millions of people around the world know CPR, most of our teens had not learned how to do hands-only CPR.  Hands-only CPR allows people to do chest compressions to circulate oxygenated blood through a victim’s body while a rescuer is waiting for EMS to arrive.  Without CPR a victim of SCA has little or no chance of survival.

In addition to learning how to do hands-only CPR, our students became acquainted with an AED (Automated Electronic Defibrillator).  Columbia Central High School has three AED’s and the students learned where to find them and how they operate.  They also learned where the AED’s in the other buildings are kept. 

During the informational hands-only CPR session, the Columbia Central High School students learned about the cardiac chain of survival: Early recognition and calling 911, early CPR at a rate of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute, early defibrillation, advanced emergency care, and advanced cardiac care. 

Are you interested in learning CPR?  The Columbia Township Fire Department does a great job of teaching CPR.  Many Columbia School District faculty and staff members have participated in the CPR training from the fire department.  The American Red Cross also offers classes in CPR and first aid.  The Columbia Community Fitness Center will host CPR classes in the next few months.  Until you have an opportunity to take CPR, there are apps available from the App Store: “my CPR trainer” app is free and has a learn and practice button, and the American Red Cross has a free app with first aid and a small section on hands-only CPR.  In addition, the American Heart Association has a nice video available free on the internet that illustrates hands-only CPR.  Just like our students, it is important to learn CPR; the life you save may be someone you love!  If you are interested in learning more about the programs and courses at Columbia School District, email me at or call 517-592-6641.