Follow by Email

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Enjoy Back-to-School with STEM!

Each summer my husband and I take a group of teens to Cedar Point.  The experience is enjoyable and educational.  One of the things I find fascinating is that depending on your vantage point, you see the park differently.  When you are on a fast ride you see the area as a blur, both right-side up and upside down.  If you are on the Sky Ride or the giant Ferris wheel you are able to see a lot of the park and a bit more of the detail.  However, if you tour the park on the ground by walking around, you see details you miss from a speedy or an elevated ride. 

Similarly, Columbia School District teachers, administrators and staff members focus on working closely with your child to ensure the important details are covered.  Whether your child is a preschooler enjoying learning about career choices, a sixth grade student learning about the parts of a cell or a Columbia Central High School senior learning the intricacies’ of solving a crime in the Forensic Science class, our teachers give their students the information they need to be successful. 

Our caring administrators work diligently to craft schedules, programs and educational learning opportunities to give students a firm foundation for a bright future.  The Columbia emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) includes engineering and robotics classes and after school programs, hands-on activities through the MLAG program (Michigan League of Academic Games) and opportunities to earn college credit through our STEM electives: AP Chemistry, AP Biology and AP Calculus.  New this year will be our robotics teams at each level, even at Columbia Elementary!  The STEM elements the students will learn will give them a greater understanding of how science, engineering, technology and mathematics are integrated and combined.

One of the programs for our students in kindergarten through sixth grade is the technology exploratory.  This class will give students the opportunity to learn more about educational technology including Chromebooks, iPads and applications that focus on learning strategies.  At Columbia Central High School students also have technology options.  These classes will give our high school students the opportunity to build their skills and abilities to provide a pathway to higher education and the work-force. 

In each of the areas of our district our teachers are dedicated to providing our students both a birds-eye view of their subject area, similar to the outlook from Sky Ride at Cedar Point, and the ground-level detail that will give our students a foundation for a successful future.  Make sure you have your child registered for the first day of school: Wednesday, August 22, 2018!  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District, our programs and opportunities for success, email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Columbia Students and Jackson County Early College!

The Columbia School District is participating in the Jackson County Early College (JCEC) program through a partnership with Jackson College.  This new early college program paves the way for Columbia students to move from a traditional k-12 approach to a more vigorous k-14 conduit that will be personalized for our students.

The Jackson County Early College program will assist students gain a post-secondary education while still in high school  They may take courses along a path to earn an Associate’s degree, certification, credential, or skillset.  The early college program is deliberately designed to guarantee transferability of credits to four year universities. Our program is designed so students may begin their college education as early as their freshman year and remain in the program through their 13th year to a maximum of 60 credits.

Our emphasis on positive learning and integrated technology helps to weave complex thinking skills into each area of the curriculum. The Jackson County Early College program will enhance the lives of our students and give them the best chance for a successful future!  If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities at Columbia School District email me at or call 5175926641.

The Shopping List!

Many of us make shopping lists.  Whether digital or on paper, our shopping list may include items like eggs, milk, dish soap and tissues.  As we arrive at the end of July and look towards the beginning of school, our lists could include purchasing items designed to help prepare our children for school: pencils, pens, crayons, glue sticks, and notebooks.  One thing every parent of our students should put on their list is to have them participate in one of the Columbia Summer Programs!

Learning can happen anytime, anywhere, anyhow.  This philosophy gives today’s students the   Columbia School District is committed to giving students the optimal learning activities to gain the knowledge they need to be successful in the 21st Century. 
opportunity to experience a different type of learning environment to help them be ready to start the school year.

We not only have great teachers and learning opportunities at Columbia, but our summer programs are a lot of fun!  The following sessions will give you some options to put on your end of the summer list!

During the week of August 6th, we have Art Camp for students in grades 1st – 6th and 7th through 12th grade taught by our art teachers, and Leaders In Training for grades 4th through 6th, taught by Miss Wing.  The week of August 13th features Academic Games Camp for grades 3rd through 6th, taught by Miss Wing and Ms. Weidenbach, Explore! for grades 1st through 6th, taught by Mrs. Friday, Mrs. Knaup, Miss Wing and Ms. Weidenbach, and Underwater Robotics taught by Mrs. Coughlin.  In addition, the Electric Science Camp is August 13, taught by Mrs. Liebau and Mr. Snow, but it is full.  Register for one or more of the programs today!  You may register online by accessing the Summer Programs on our website at .   If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities at Columbia School District email me at or call 5175926641.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Windmill!

Outlined against the early morning sky, the windmill stood tall over the farm.  For centuries, windmills have been working to create electricity, pump water and grind corn or barley.  Although an old idea, this is a new windmill.  The technology used in developing windmills stands as a stark contrast to what we normally think of as technology.

At Columbia School District we focus STEM with positive up-to-date technology to prepare our students for the future.  Our teachers work with their students using Smart Boards, iPads, Chromebooks, robotics, and 3D printers.  These technology based items enhance the learning environment for our students and provide excellence in education. 

Our focus on STEM helped form the basis for the Project Based Learning for our sixth grade students this year. The students worked closely with their teachers, Mr. Williams, Mr. Meschke, Mr. Learned, and Mrs. Friday.  The students used research to learn more about their particular scientific issue and then formulated a solution for this scientific concern.  One group of sixth grade students, Lorado, Savannah, and Izzy, used a video to present their project focused on garlic mustard, which is an invasive plant species in Michigan.  Izzy said they learned that garlic mustard spreads very quickly and soaks up the nutrients essential to other plant life.  She went on to mention that it prefers small clearings with sun and it pushes other plant life out of the area. This particular group of students completed a project based learning research last year as fifth grade students.  They learned about mute swans, which are the big swans with the orange beaks.  Their concern regarding the mute swans was that they are mean and attack other swans and even humans. Learning about science in the world around us helps support our students in preparing for life in the years ahead.  

As our students move into junior and senior high school they have opportunities to increase their scientific knowledge.  This year some of our junior high school students will have science electives along with robotics electives.  The opportunity to learn fun science, do experiments and the basic elements of robotics enhances the academic environment for our students.  As our students move into high school, they have the opportunity to continue their understanding of engineering through a STEM offering.  This year, Mrs. Samson wrote a grant to Lowe’s and received two laser printers.  It is amazing to see the students learn the principles of engineering and act upon their new understanding.

Columbia students have the opportunity to excel in mathematics through the combination of technology and math.  Our youngest students work on math principles through their classroom assignments and investigations, then follow up with targeted lessons on iReady through their computer portal.  Our older students may take Advanced Placement mathematics classes or math classes at Jackson College through our new Early College program.  If you are interested in learning more about our STEM opportunities, email me at or call 5175926641.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

STEM at Columbia School District!

One of the important areas of emphasis at Columbia School District is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).  Science is very important in society today.   Science impacts every facet of our lives, from the pavement we drive on; to the medicines we take; to the alarm clocks that wake us up each day.  Science has provided us with new plastics that make up our water bottles, bullet proof vests for our law enforcement professionals and parts for our automobiles.  Our students have the opportunity to take chemistry, biology, anatomy and physiology, physics, sports medicine and forensics.  Columbia Central High School offers the opportunity for our students to earn take college level science courses through our Early College and Advanced Placement programs. 

Globally, one of the things that science has provided is the basis for technological advancements, which paved the way for cell phones, computers and an impressive array of electronics.  Technology has given students new avenue for learning.  At the schools in Columbia we focus on integrating technology into every area: Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies.  Our students use iPads, Chromebooks, desk top computers and graphing calculators.  Technology allows our students to increasing their learning potential by performing research anywhere and anytime.  Some of the lessons our students perform are flipped lessons.  In a flipped lesson technology allows teachers to provide basic learning opportunities through technology, and then the students work together with their peers and teacher to put their learning into practice the next day. 

Engineering is of increasing importance and is directly connected with the other elements of STEM.  Our students have the opportunity to learn basic engineering principles through our science lessons.  Engineering principles are also taught in our robotics course, through our robotics teams and the high school principles of engineering course.  This week our elementary students are enjoying Robotics Camp.  Even the first and second grade students have the opportunity to experience hands-on robotics learning activities.  In August, fourth through sixth graders will enjoying learning about underwater robotics through our summer programs.  Columbia Central offers robotics teams to our students in junior and senior high school.  As a bonus to our elementary students we will offer robotics teams for fifth and sixth grade students.

As the final letter in STEM, M stands for mathematics, which offers a platform for technology and engineering, and is directly tied to science.  Math is in our everyday lives, from shopping for bargains, to driving our cars, to figuring out how much tax we owe on a purchase.  Math is not only used in the science, technology and engineering, it is used by artists and musician in their daily work.  At Columbia, we offer our students an opportunity to play in our Academic Games afterschool where mathematics, language arts, social studies are combined to provide an extensive learning program for participants. Our Columbia Central High School students are able to take Early College or Advanced Placement Calculus course.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia’s many STEM opportunities, email me at or call 5175926641.  You may sign up your child for underwater robotics through the Torch Bearer link on our website.

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.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Comfortable Learning Environment

Many of us have had a favorite pair of shoes.  When you need to be comfortable, you slip into those shoes.  It doesn’t matter what color they are or what style they are, you wear them because they are comfortable.  The Columbia School District focuses on having a learning environment that is comfortable for all of our students.  

Being comfortable at school is important for students.  Our students have teachers who care about their needs, and work together to increase their academic success.  Columbia teachers spend over 30 hours in professional development each year and countless hours collaborating with their fellow teachers to incorporate interesting and challenging activities and strategies into the curriculum.

Columbia classrooms are climate controlled in any season to enhance the learning environment for our students and teachers.  Comfortable areas for teaching and learning is more than just nice furnishings and pleasant spaces, they are also safe places.   Columbia has enhanced the safety of our buildings by limiting entry, through our secure entry vestibules, new windows, new doors and locks, and video cameras both inside and outside of our buildings.  

To help argument the structural elements of security, the Columbia School District has updated the security plan in cooperation with the Columbia Township Police and Fire Departments, worked with our teachers and staff members in training sessions, and practiced safety drills.  The district has also partnered with the Columbia Township Police Department to include a police liaison to work with our teachers, administrators, and students.  If you have questions regarding Columbia Schools, our safety practices or any of our programs, please email me at or call 5175926641.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Raising Funds for Columbia Students!

The Columbia School District Fourth Annual Golden Cash Bash was a success!  It began in 2015, as a fun-filled celebration of the fabulous programs and activities offered at Columbia!  The Cash Bash has raised almost $70,000 over the past four years.  This year the Columbia Community came together to raise more than $18,000! 

The funds raised are focused on two main areas: Scholarships for Seniors and 3A’s Mini Grants.  Many area individuals and businesses donated items, services, and vacation spots to the Cash Bash Silent Auction.  This year the Silent Auction raised $6,000 for Senior Scholarships.  The funds raised for the 3A’s Mini Grants, which stands for Academics, Arts, and Athletics, flow directly from the Cash Bash ticket sales and raffles held during the event.  This year, more than $12,000 was raised for the 3A’s Mini Grants.

Last year 18 seniors received scholarship funds from the funds raised from the Silent Auction.  With scholarship awards ranging from $100 to $500.  The students used their scholarships for books, tuition payments, and fees.  The generosity of the Columbia community has made a positive impact on more than 50 seniors over the past three years. 

The 3A’s Mini Grants have benefited our students by providing STEM activities, robotics parts, software programs to enhance learning opportunities, athletic items, field trips, and extra educational strategies.  The funds raised for the mini grants helped to extend the ability of our teachers and coaches to make a difference in the lives of Columbia children.  If you missed your opportunity to support the mini grants or the senior scholarships at the Fourth Annual Cash Bash, you may donate to the Columbia School District, 11775 Hewitt Rd, Brooklyn, MI 49230.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia Schools, call 5175926641 or email me at

STEM at Columbia School District!

It is time for us to celebrate a wonderful first seven months of the 2018-19 school year!  Working closely together with our community has helped to offer our students improved learning opportunities at Columbia Schools.  Many of our positive improvements reside under the umbrella of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  Teachers have increased their hands-on science teaching by using activities and strategies gained from work with the Battle Creek Math and Science Center curriculum. 

Our students from third through sixth grade have benefited by these STEM strategies and techniques.  One of the opportunities to engage students through innovative strategies is the Michigan League of Academic Games program (MLAG).  Columbia students have been working with Mrs. Thompson and Miss Wing learning math games that focus on computation, problem solving and set theory.  During March some of the participants will represent Columbia in the annual MLAG State Tournament where they will gain positive experience competing against students from across the state!

Aligning with the STEM focus at Columbia School District, Columbia Upper Elementary has two Robotics Teams and our Junior High School has two teams that provide our students with an opportunity to use the engineering and math concepts they learn in the classroom and apply it to building a functioning robot.  The students in robotics are given a challenge, so they build, program and operate their robot to complete the challenge.  Under the guidance of Mrs. Eastman, students at Columbia Junior High School have enjoyed participating in a coding and robotics engineering class that integrates technology, math, and physics into the curriculum.  In their technology class, students in Kindergarten through sixth grade have the opportunity to learn coding with Mr. Moore.  Students across the district have also enjoyed the STEM applications through our partnership with the Shop Rat Foundation and Consumers Energy. 

To support our students in this very important area of STEM, our teachers have participated in afterschool programs: Columbia Junior High School teachers tutor students across the curriculum in their after school program and Columbia Central High School teachers support  their students by providing expert assistance afterschool. Ms. Samson recently received a grant from Lowes for two 3-D printers to assist in STEM.

This is an exciting time at Columbia School District!  Our terrific teachers and staff members have partnered with our parents and community to provide all of these and many more excellent educational opportunities for our students.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District and our positive STEM programs, email me at or call 5175926641.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Student and Staff Safety is a Priority!

Columbia School District puts the safety of our students and staff members first.  Our administrative team has been diligently working with local law enforcement to thwart violent actions in our schools.  As a community of learners, Columbia School District believes that student safety is paramount.

At each of our schools, Columbia School District principals and staff members schedule and conduct lockdown and evacuation drills in cooperation with the Columbia Township police and fire department.  This past summer, Columbia School District administration collaborated with our local law enforcement and fire department personnel to update and improve our district-wide emergency response plan.  During the professional development time the staff reviewed the procedures for various types of crisis should a threat transpire.  This emergency response design is a dynamic plan and is updated with up-to-date information and advice.

Over the past six years, the Columbia School District Family has collaborated on increasing the safety of our students and staff members.  The secure entry vestibules, the camera and buzz-in systems at our main entrances allowing us to keep the perimeter doors locked throughout the school day, the video system in all of the hallways, the upgrades and collaboration with our local law enforcement and fire departments are evidence of our commitment and focus on the safety of our students and staff members. 

The Columbia School District needs your help.  While our teachers, staff and administrators have worked diligently to keep our schools safe, your awareness of posts on social media, comments you or your children may hear in school or at events, should be reported to the police, and our school office immediately.  Please make sure your children are aware of OK2SAY, which is a website available at, or report through a text to 652729, or call their toll free number at 855.565.2729.  A tip could also be emailed to 

The repeated reports of high profile acts of violence may upset children or teens.  The websites for school counselors and school psychologists both have resources and tips to assist you as you help your children process the recent school violence (  You may want to contact your child’s school counselor for assistance with concern regarding your child: Mrs. Diefenthaler is the counselor at CCHS and may be reached by email at; Mrs. Phelps is the counselor at Columbia Elementary and may be contacted at; Mrs. Schatzle is the counselor at Columbia Central Junior High and Columbia Upper Elementary and may be emailed at .

Please continue to be vigilant, offer suggestions and work collaboratively together as the strong resilient Columbia community that we are.  As you process the recent events with your children and families, please keep the Florida in your thoughts and prayers.  As always, if you have questions or concerns, please email me at

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Enhancing the Columbia Learning Environment!

Recently I watched a home renovation program on the television.  It was interesting how the people looked at homes that were in poor shape, and then through the magic of television in a half hour, the home was completely renovated and looked like new!  They tore down walls, replaced windows and doors and painted everything.  In the end, their new house was beautiful and very functional!

Similarly, in beginning June of 2014, the Columbia School District launched a renovation of our educational learning spaces funded by the bond project of November 2013.  Much like the television renovation programs, we tore down ceilings and walls, removed windows and doors, replaced the heating and cooling systems, rewired the electrical and technology infrastructure, installed updated plumbing and fixtures, purchased updated student and classroom technology, installed new lockers, reroofed the buildings, constructed safer parent and bus drop-off and pick-up areas, installed new casework and classroom furniture, fabricated new tennis courts and track, and painted the walls. Much like the excitement we see on the faces of the participants in the renovation television programs; our community members, students and staff members feel a renewed sense of pride following our school building makeovers.

Columbia School District has always enjoyed positive support from the community, parents and students.  During the month of February, Columbia supporters will be holding the Fourth Annual Cash Bash to raise funds for Academics, Arts, and Athletics for items that weren’t purchased through the bond projects, but are important to continue to enhance the learning environment for our students.  In the past three years the friends of Columbia have raised over $50,000 for classroom mini grants and student scholarships through the ticket sales, raffles and silent auction at the Golden Ticket Cash Bash.

Mini grants have funded special STEM field trips, robotics activities, curriculum project supplies, flexible seating, and lots of new books! The students and teachers are looking forward to this year’s Cash Bash to raise even more funds to continue to provide all of the great activities and resources that deliver classroom enhancements. If you would like to support the Fourth Annual Golden Ticket Cash Bash by donating an item for the silent auction, or would like to attend the event, call Monika at the Columbia Administration office: 5175926641 or email her at  If you have questions about Columbia School District email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Support Columbia Students: Purchase a Cash Bash Ticket!

Would you support Columbia School District with a donation for our annual Silent Auction at our Fourth Annual Cash Bash or by purchasing a ticket?  Get ready for fun and fellowship at the Golden Ticket Cash Bash on February 24th at the Gene Davis Banquet Center!  Last February our Columbia School District family came together to raise over $17,000 for Senior Scholarships and Mini Grants for Academics, Arts, and Athletics.   This year we are eager to raise even more for our great Columbia students. Tickets for the Cash Bash are available for $80 for two people.  You may obtain a ticket from any of the Columbia School District offices or administrators. 

Funds from the ticket sales and raffle games at the Cash Bash are dedicated to provide some terrific new exciting innovative items for academics, arts, and athletics through teacher mini grants.  All of the funds raised through the silent auction were as a direct result of the generosity of our donors and supported scholarships for seniors. 

Last year our community of donors gave gift certificates, vacation destinations, tickets to sporting events, and other great items that were auctioned at our event.  If you are able to donate, please send the donation and the estimated retail value to the following address: Columbia School District, 3 A's - Academics, Arts, Athletics Fundraiser 2018, 11775 Hewitt Rd, Brooklyn, MI  49230.  If you will need your donation picket up or if you have any questions, please call Monika at the Columbia School District administration office at 517-592-6641 or email her at

Sunday, January 14, 2018

JCEC: Paving the Way to College or Career

The Columbia School District is participating in the Jackson County Early College (JCEC) program through a partnership with the other public school districts in Jackson County.  This new early college program paves the way for Columbia students to move from a traditional k-12 approach to a more vigorous k-14 conduit that will be personalized for our students.

The Jackson County Early College program will assist students gain a post-secondary education while still in high school  They may take courses along a path to earn an Associate’s degree, certification, credential, or skill set.  The early college program is deliberately designed to guarantee transferability of credits to four year universities. Our program is designed so students may begin their college education as early as their freshman year and remain in the program through their 13th year to a maximum of 60 credits.

Courses in the program will be taught on a college schedule.  Many college courses will take place during the traditional school day, while some will be evening or weekend classes.   Students may ride buses to and from Jackson College along with our Jackson Area Career Center students.  If the courses are in the evenings or weekends, transportation will be the responsibility of the student.  Students will be able to continue to participate in any courses offered at Columbia Central or Options High School if appropriate based upon each student’s schedule.   Each student will pay for their own college textbooks.  

Participation in the program begins with students preparing for taking college classes by satisfying prerequisites.   This program is open to all Columbia students, including students who attend through the school of choice program, even if they do not reside in Jackson County.  Columbia Central and Options High School students and parents will be invited to informational meetings to learn further details of the JCEC program.  If you have questions regarding the Jackson County Early College program or any program at Columbia School District, you may email me at or call 5175926641.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Recognizing the Columbia School Board

Recently I was reading about the duties and role of the school board.  On one of the websites, they depicted the work of school board leaders as “helping kids soar to success.”  I had never heard that description, but it is perfect!  Officially our school board members listen to the community, make policy and set the budget.  However the magic of our school board is their “helping kids soar to success” activities.  Inevitably, you will see them at musicals, band concerts, and football and basketball games.  They attend community meetings, parent teacher conferences and the Hope Run. 

January is School Board Appreciation Month.  This month gives us an opportunity to recognize the service and selfless time given by seven individuals in our community for the benefit of our schools. As the board members help kids soar to success, they continually imagine the future for our students. We all have hopes and dreams for each child in our community to have a successful future.

January is a great time to focus on the crucial and critical role the school board plays in Columbia School District.  Their focus on success for all of our students, takes dedication. Their actions and decisions affect the present and future lives of our children.  Their service to the community includes caring for students, parents, staff members and administrators.  They carefully examine all sides of a policy or an issue prior to making a decision.  Through their decisions, they are laying a pathway for the future of our school district.

School board members take their responsibility and public trust very seriously, dedicating an enormous number of hours to their work both in and outside of board meetings. Attending school functions, preparing for board meetings, reading financial reports, agendas and proposals, and making a host of difficult and challenging decisions are just a few of the regular activities board members participate in through their service.

Today, more than ever, school board leaders are faced with the overwhelming charge of providing a quality education at a time when financial constraints weigh heavily on the health of school district budgets. In an era of unprecedented choice in education, school boards are also tasked with charting a course that provides long-term, sustainable success for current and future students in all of Michigan’s public schools.

This year much of the focus of our seven school board members has been collaborating with the teachers, administration, community and superintendent to establish a Strategic Plan.  They spent countless hours working and focusing on increasing student achievement. 

The 2018 School Board is made up of seven energetic, tenacious community members, who are: Bob Wahr, Garry Applegate, Mark Fish, Jodi Collins, Dave Slusher, Bev Fish and Michael Moore.  These seven fine individuals make up an efficient and effective board that has taken on the huge responsibility and challenge of working together to lead the way in the Columbia School District.  Their ability to work as a team will help increase the effectiveness of the district and give our students the optimum opportunity to succeed now and into the future.

As we go through the cold and snow month of January, please join me as we celebrate the continued commitment of the Columbia School Board members by telling them “Thank You!” for all of their hard work and determination.  You too may become involved as a volunteer and make a difference in the lives of our students through our PTOs, booster clubs, Buddies Reading program, and athletic programs.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District and our programs, please email me at or call me at 5175926641.