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Saturday, October 27, 2012

How is Education Like a Old Fashioned Flour Sack?

The other day I read a poem that was historical in nature.  The author, Marilyn Cox is a writer and historian who lives out west.  Marilyn’s poem was entitled; “In That Long Ago Time When Things Were Saved.”  In her poem she described many uses for a cotton flour sack: book bags, curtains, pillow covers, bibs, diapers and kerchiefs.  The lady who sent me the poem commented on how she and her sister would go to the store and carefully pick out the flour sack that was the prettiest.   She mentioned that the gentleman who ran the store would move the flour sacks around so the girls could get the perfect pattern, then they would anxiously await the time when their mother would use the empty sack to make a beautiful dress for them.    

When I read the poem I thought of all of the disposable items we have in our lives and compared them to the almost infinite uses of the flour sack… I missed some, dish rag, dish cloth, grease rag, juice strainer, a sling and I am sure many more!  One of the things in our lives that is not disposal is our education.  No matter how many years we live, we will always have our education.  Imbedded in our country’s very essence is the tradition of teaching our children and working collaboratively to provide them the best in a lasting, non-disposable education.  Education has been important in the growth of America. Puritan settlers established America’s first public school in 1635 in Massachusetts.  By the beginning of the 1900’s most children in America were attending school and many were preparing for college.  Schools have continued to evolve, expand services and grow stronger academically.

At Columbia Schools we begin with our preschool program which is available for both three and four year olds. The preschool curriculum is designed to provide essential learning activities during an important developmental time in our children’s lives.  For our elementary and middle school students, in addition to the core curriculum, we offer music, physical education and by working with our PTO are able to offer our students art education.  Our students benefit from services which help students by supporting them in our Reading Recovery program or through speech classes, Links or the resource room program.  Many Columbia friends and neighbors are treasured volunteers in our Buddy’s reading program and spend time each week reading with one of our great young students. 

At Columbia Central High School we support students who struggle, while also providing enrichment courses for students who want to be challenged.  Our students in Advanced Placement courses study all year long before taking a test in the spring.  Depending on their score the students could earn college credit.  In addition, our offerings in engineering, chemistry, music and art (to name a few) provide the extra challenge for those who are interested in excelling in a particular area.  The Clarklake campus houses our Options alternative education program along with online courses and our Adult Education program.

The education our students receive is of highest quality and will last them a life-time.  Just like the numerous uses of the historical flour sack, education will serve our students in many ways over their lives.  Please continue to support Columbia Schools by volunteering, attending events or voting for the upcoming non-homestead millage proposal.  If you have questions about how you or your child could participate in our life-long education program or would like to partner with the Columbia School District or to register your child for school, please email me at or call me at 517.592.6641. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Changing Seasons in School Funding

As I rounded the corner, there it was a beautiful mix of colors and sizes of plants.  At the edge of the road grew bright yellow goldenrods, immediately behind them was a cluster of wheat grass just beginning to turn brown and standing tall behind them was a group of reeds and cattails.  That scene was only three weeks ago.  Last week, the goldenrods were gone and the wheat grass had withered.  The bright spot in the landscape was the vibrantly decorated trees! 

 This time as I rounded the corner and cruised up the hill the brightly colored leaves were peaking over the edge of the road, lightly waving in the fall breeze.  Each day as I have driven up that incline I have noticed the trees becoming more vibrant with their leaves almost leaping off of their branches, bursting with color!
Just as the colors of the leaves have gone from green to a rainbow of reds, oranges and yellows and the season has changed, so has the way schools are funded and the amount of funding received from the state. It all began in November 1978, when Michigan voters approved the Headlee Amendment which was considered earth-shaking tax reform in those days. 

Following the passage of the Headlee Amendment, the next step in school funding reform was in March of 1994, when state voters approved school-finance reform legislation (Proposal A), which replaced local property taxes with state level taxes, principally the sales tax. Proposal A revamped how schools would be funded and also provided educational reforms. Proposal A promised a minimum per pupil foundation allowance, more equity among local school districts, lower property taxes and more school accountability.  Proposal A dramatically decreased the amount of property taxes paid by Michigan residents and limited future increases.

Property is now determined by the state to be homestead or non-homestead. Homestead property is considered to be a Michigan resident’s home. Business property, rental housing, and vacation homes are considered to be non-homestead property. Property that is not a homestead and not qualified agricultural property can be assessed up to an additional 18 mills for local school operating purposes.

The result of the school funding reform has achieved less than stellar results as of late.  In 2003, the minimum school foundation allowance was $6700 per pupil and was designed to narrow the spending gap between low and high spending school districts.  Now, nine years later the foundation allowance received by the Columbia School District is only $6966 per pupil.  While Proposal A was ground breaking legislation and allowed the major share of the tax burden to be lifted from homeowners, the funding allowance for our district has not continued to increase much over the past several years.  In fact, funding for our district was rolled back from $7316 in 2011.  This year we remain a whopping $350 below the 2011 level.  Meanwhile we have tightened our budget, costs have risen and the loss of funding per pupil is crippling. 

Currently those who have property which is classified as non-homestead are levied 18 mills for local school operating purposes.  On November 6th, Columbia School District will have the renewal of the 18 mill non-homestead property tax on the ballot.  Please remember that this renewal does not apply to a Michigan resident’s home or qualified agricultural property and the renewal is essential to fund learning opportunities for our children. 

If you have questions about this article or how you may partner with the Columbia School District or please email me at or call me at 517.592.6641.


Saturday, October 6, 2012


I clip coupons, save them and sometimes I even organize the coupons by type.  Even with my attempts to organize my coupons, they only defray the expense of the item if I take them with me to the store.  Once I get to the store, I have to make sure I select and purchase the exact item specified on the coupon and it doesn’t help if the coupon is expired. If the coupons are for a specific store, I have to make sure that I bring the correct coupon to the particular store.  It definitely takes a lot of concentration and organization if you want to make it worthwhile.

The other day I was speaking with a friend of mine and he began to talk about all of the money he was saving with coupons.  He said that he had a lot of items in his garage and basement and to let him know if I needed anything.  Seeing the quizzical look on my face he told me that he was an extreme coupon clipper.  As we talked about his hobby further I found it amazing to hear about all of the great deals he was able to obtain by using coupons, often in combination with store sales. 

Almost immediately I began drawing correlations between couponing and students and their homework.  As parents we remind our children to do their homework, watch them work on it, see them put their completed assignment in their folder, and then wonder why they didn’t get credit for it.  Of course, our children are just like we are when we forget to take our coupons to the store, they forget to take their assignments to class and turn them in to their teacher. 

As a parent, we may improve our children’s educational performance by working with their teachers.  In the same way I find it necessary to use concentration and organization to help me in my attempt at couponing, it is important to instill these same traits in to our children to help them become better students.

In a recent conversation with a parent she told me that she had met with her child’s teacher.  During the meeting she was able to describe some concerns she had about how her child learns.  In exchange, just like my friend gave me some insight on how to improve my use of coupons, the teacher was able to give the parent some tips about how she could provide educational support at home. 

Our teachers have worked long and hard to come up with good solutions to help our students gain proficiency in their school work.  They spend time in professional development sessions to help them build the strategies they use with students.  Similarly to the way I learned tips about how to improve my use of coupons, teachers who attend seminars gain new insight and learn alternate approaches regarding their work with students.

If you have questions about how your child is progressing as a student or how you may support them at home, check with your child’s teacher.  You may see them in person or you find their email at click on the link to their specific school and then click on “Faculty” in the border on the right.   If you would like to partner with the Columbia School District or to register your child for school, please email me at or call me at 517.592.6641.