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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.