Monday, June 3, 2019

Graduation Day!!!

It's the best day of the year!

Seriously - for educators, there may be no more poignant and meaningful day then graduation day.  We are part of a profession that rarely gets to see the full fruits of our labors.  On a day to day basis, lessons are being learned and knowledge is being imparted.  Yet we often have to take a deferral on being able to see those lessons in action from our students.  We may have to wait until a day, many years later, when we run into a former student somewhere random and find out what they're up to and how much they appreciated the work that we put into helping them succeed.  Those are great days, but they tend to be relatively few and far between compared to the numbers of students we serve!

Graduation day puts many of those rewards right in the forefront.  Our community gets to celebrate the accomplishments of our kids in a big way.  There's a reason that we use "Pomp and Circumstance" as part of the musical tribute, as that's what the ceremony is about.  Whether we had them in kindergarten or AP Calculus, everyone in the educational system plays a role in getting those kids to the stage where they get handed a diploma and have their moment in the spotlight.  It's not the end, but boy is it a great moment along the journey we call life. 

On June 2nd, we had dozens of graduates clad in red approach the stage at Benzie Central for their moment in the spotlight in a very full gymnasium.  I can hardly describe the feeling of pride, seeing these amazing young people taking their literal first steps into a much bigger world.  Watching the varied reactions to the moment is a joy and a privilege.  Some strut across the stage with confidence, while others are more clearly nervous.  Whatever the individual reaction though, they all are taking literal and figurative steps that are leading them into new and uncharted personal territory.  That's part of what makes it so magical.  It's a shared experience, a ceremony, a ritual by which our society defines itself. 

So congrats to our Benzie Central Class of 2019.  And equally as important, thank you to the amazing community who supported them in this endeavor.  The outpouring of support, the thousands of pictures, and the tens of thousands of hugs, handshakes, high fives, and fist bumps that were occurring all over campus Sunday afternoon were a testament to the love and support that we enjoy as part of the Husky family.  We are #OneBenzie, and it shows every day, but probably never more so than on graduation day.  After all...

It is the best day of the year!






Monday, May 6, 2019

Election Day Tuesday May 7th!!!

Greetings #OneBenzie Community!


Tomorrow is the day!  Tuesday May 7th is Election Day for Benzie Central Schools.  If you haven't been aware of the bond proposal on the ballot - you can check out the web page here with information to help you learn more.  Polls are open from 7AM to 8PM.

Ultimately, this bond proposal is about thinking forward.  It's about generation solutions, not temporary band-aids.  There is a very distinct reason the future planning committee chose the slogan Strong Schools = Strong Communities as our rallying cry for this effort.  We believe that strong schools serve as a foundation for our community.  Having quality school buildings and infrastructure contributes strongly to having a quality school district.  And by extension, a quality school district leads to higher property values, a stronger workforce, a vibrant economy, and an attractive environment for business and economic development.

And what will this investment cost our taxpayers?  A modest increase in your tax bill of 1/2 of a mill compared to the current rates.

We are fortunate to live in the Benzie County region for a lot of reasons.  We have unsurpassed natural beauty, endless recreational opportunities, and an amazing group of people in our community.  We also have a strong tax base which allows us to keep our tax rates low - indeed over 40% lower (even after this modest increase) than the average school district in the state of Michigan.

Please be sure to get out there on May 7th and make your vote count!









Monday, April 1, 2019

Benzie Central's Future - How did we get here?



I think it’s important for our community to understand how and why this bond proposal came about.  When I first came to Benzie Central in the 2016-17 school year, it was well known and understood that we had some significant infrastructure issues coupled with budget concerns.  It was critical that we right-size the district and formulate long term plans to ensure our viability. To that end, we held a series of community forums and meetings.  From these meetings, a Future Planning Committee was formed to ensure our own community was actively involved in  formulation of both short-term and long-term plans.

We have had dozens of community members participate in our future planning sessions that have taken place regularly over the past two years.  The dialogue has been rich, and we have considered MANY different potential paths forward as we chart Benzie Central’s future.  In the end, we had strong consensus on the path forward that you will see on the ballot on May 7th. 

The goal was to strike a balance between ensuring long term viability and improvement while maintaining a strong focus on being good stewards of our taxpayer resources.  We wanted to keep any taxes levied at the lowest level possible while ensuring that we had sufficient funds to accomplish needed improvements that would sustain and support Benzie Central students and the community for generations.

This plan seeks only a modest increase in overall millage rate (3.0 mills up from our current 2.5 mills) to generate over 47 million dollars.  The committee felt that this was the best “bang for our buck” and has worked hard to help our community neighbors see the immense potential return on this investment.  We have already seen a great outpouring of support including endorsement from our Benzie Area Chamber of Commerce and many other groups and individuals.

If you’d like to learn more about the proposal and the projects that Benzie Central hopes to accomplish with the support of the community, I invite you to attend one of our upcoming Q&A sessions regarding the bond proposal.  They will be held on the following dates:

 DATE             TIME                LOCATION

April 10th         6PM                 Betsie Valley Elementary (Library)
April 17th         6PM                 Lake Ann Elementary (Library)
April 18th         7PM                 Benzie Central High School (Auditorium)

On April 18th, Benzie Central resident and 101st District Representative, Jack O’Malley, has graciously offered to attend and speak to the importance of the bond proposal as well.  We appreciate his support and attendance!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Bond Projects and Questions

Greetings Benzie Central Community!

So there's a buzz developing in the community around the Benzie Central bond election coming up on May 7th.  Last week, we had an open community forum around the issue and we received some press coverage on both UpNorthLive and 9&10 News, and it was also featured on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Traverse City Record-Eagle.  Of course, our local Benzie Record-Patriot has also provided ongoing coverage as well and has had several articles not only related to the recent events, but to those leading up to our decision to seek the bond in the first place.

As these events have unfolded, I've been hearing lots of questions about our decision making process and why we settled on the solutions up for voters' consideration.  Here's a few common themes that I'd like to address..

1.  Why not just renovate Platte River or Crystal Lake instead of building a brand new school?

- This is a good question and there are a number of reasons.  Remember that a large committee, made up of stakeholders from around our region grappled with these issues before presenting the recommendation to our Board of Ed.  What we collectively recognized was that both of these older buildings had major long term issues and would require millions of dollars to renovate.  While the renovation costs initially may be lower than new construction, over the long term, the building(s) would continue to need far more ongoing maintenance and be far less efficient than a new building.  While these practical reasons are important, we also strongly considered the educational needs of our kids.  As anyone can imagine, education (like most things) looked FAR different in the 1950's when these buildings were designed and opened than it does today.  A new building will have design considerations to incorporate our growing understanding of how children learn. 

2.  It seems like we're always being asked to pay more...  Why does the district need this?

- I don't know many people who genuinely enjoy paying taxes.  That is why we at Benzie Central believe very strongly in being good stewards of the dollars afforded to us.  We want to ensure we are not being extravagant with our spending while still affording our children the world class education they need to be successful in the future.  Folks need to know that, overall, Benzie Central is currently levying 2.5 mills for capital projects and expenditures.  We are asking residents to commit to 0.5 mill additional, for a grand total of 3.0 mills over the next 30 years.  Statewide - the average millage amount people pay for capital projects in their school district annually is approximately 5.4 mills.  Even with this proposed increase, Benzie Central residents will pay over 40% less than the average Michigan homeowner for the district's capital needs.  Around our region, Benzie is right in the "middle of the pack" related to millage rates and will continue to be there with this modest proposal.

3.  Why should someone who doesn't have kids in the schools care about or support this proposal?

- While I certainly hope that people do care about what happens to the children in their community, there are reasons well beyond this simply being "good for the kids".  The relative strength of a community and the economic well-being of a region is intrinsically tied to the quality of the school system there.  While schools certainly cannot alone dictate the future of the region, make no mistake, our success and that of our community are bound together.  Quality schools attract young families which in turn attract business investment and promote economic growth.  Quality schools also are inherently tied to property values as any realtor will surely confirm as well.  The community stakeholders involved in this process as well as our Board of Education have set forth in this project with the mindset of "Strong Schools = Strong Communities".  This is a primary driving force behind the commitment to the project.

4.  What about our retirees and second-home owners?  What benefit will they see from this project?

- As noted above, residents of Benzie County are all in this together and all benefit from the betterment of our community.  Whether a resident is part-time or full-time, retired or working, young or old, generational family or recent transplant, we all hold some common value and affection for this region and recognize what a privilege it is to call this amazing area home.  Ensuring that the next generations of young people in the county have a quality education is an investment into the future of our county, as we need educated and motivated young people to continue to help invest in the region to keep it thriving.  We want ALL Benzie Central residents to be active with our school district.

If you have other questions or concerns, I invite you to email me at olsonmp@benzieschools.net and I'll continue to update our FAQ document online and see about answering them directly.

Thanks for reading!





Friday, February 8, 2019

Snow Days - AGAIN!

Remember when snow days were something that kids (and a lot of adults) looked forward to?  Me neither!  Those days of yore seem so long ago right now...  It's been a remarkable string of events over these past few weeks that have led to the traditional script flipping.  Now, it seems, kids are doing "school day" dances instead of "snow day" dances.  I don't think anyone is wearing their PJ's inside out, putting spoons / crayons in the freezer, or flushing ice cubes down the toilet right now.

I'm with you all and want to go to school.  As soon as Mother Nature decides to calm down a bit - we're going to make it happen.  And thanks for not shooting the messenger!

So what happens now?  I've communicated several times this year regarding what happens with snow days and referenced that in my latest blog post.  There will be a new letter going out next week with new updates.

The most important thing to know now is that we are officially into "make up territory".  The first and most important piece of info to know is that we will now be going to school on Monday, April 22nd.  This day was originally scheduled to be a day off of school following Easter Sunday, but was reserved for snow day makeup "if necessary".  Well - it's officially necessary!

Please also be aware that, after today, any additional "days off" for any reason will need to be made up in June.  This includes "snow days", but there are other unlikely circumstances that could result in school cancellation as well including such things as power outages, student / staff illness, etc.  Please note that our current last day of school is scheduled for Wednesday June 12th.  If we do need to make up days, let's hold out hope that we can keep it to 2 or less and make it out before starting a new week!

Finally - please be aware that while there are some conversations happening in and around Lansing regarding the unusually brutal nature of this winter across the state, that until such time as any official action is taken - it's best to maintain our current course and plan for these make up days.  Should any changes occur - I will continue to reach out to you.

Take care and be safe.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Thoughts other than Snow Days

It seems all that anyone wants to talk about these days - SNOW DAYS!  We're talking about them in the hallways at school and in the aisles at the grocery store.  Some kooky superintendents are even singing about them.  But I'm happy to inform you that we're not going to talk more about them at this time.  If you'd like more info though on how Benzie Central is handling these critical issues, please see out letter on Snow Days here...

The great thing about Benzie Central is that there's never a shortage of things that our students and staff are doing to be proud of.  If you haven't already, you should check us on on Facebook and Instagram where Mrs. Crossman is constantly featuring stories that will make you proud to be a Benzie Central Husky!  Did you know that our Football and Girls Basketball teams, aside from their success in their sports, were recently featured on the news for their support of Special Olympics via the Traverse City Polar Plunge?  Or that our newly formed middle school robotics team recently took home the "judge's award" and finished in the top half of a competitive field in their first competition?  Perhaps you haven't heard about an amazing new grant funded program at Betsie Valley that saw purchase of 30 sets of cross country skis for use in PE and at recess so that our kids get great exercise even in the dead of winter!  I could go on, but you get the idea.

Schools in general are often criticized for not doing a great job of promoting what it is we do.  We often get caught up in the day to day and forget to celebrate when our students and staff do truly amazing and remarkable things.  Benzie Central is working hard to make sure we DO take the time and energy to celebrate the amazing things that our community does every day.

I truly am proud to be a Husky.  You should be too!