Category Archives: City of Wyoming

Migrant Legal Aid program, State Sen. MacGregor on latest WKTV Journal: In Focus

 

 

WKTV Staff

news@wktv.org

 

On the latest episode of In Focus, the Grand Rapids based Migrant Legal Aid organization, specifically director/attorney Teresa Hendricks and attorney Ben O’Hearn, discuss their group’s work to protect migrant workers’ legal rights and to give voice to a sometimes silent portion of our community.

 

Also on the episode, Michigan State Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-28th District, which includes the City of Wyoming) talks with host Ken Norris about his work for efficient funding for the state’s foster care system as well as subjects ranging from the state’s term limits law to his volunteer work for “Volley for Mitchell”, a charity volleyball tournament which has raised more than $100,000 for Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy.

 

 

 

The entire episode of “WKTV Journal: In Focus” airs on cable television in the Wyoming and Kentwood areas on Comcast WKTV Channel 26 and on AT&T Channel 99 Government channel.

The episode will continue its two week run Tuesday, Jan. 22 , at 6:30 p.m., and will again air on Thursday, also at 6:30 p.m., on WKTV channels but all interviews included in episodes of WKTV Journal: In Focus are also available on YouTube at WKTVVideos.

Godwin boys hoops, EK swim action on WKTV featured games schedule

WKTV offers on-demand viewing of Wyoming and Kentwood sports event government meetings, including the monthly Government Matters meeting. (WKTV)

Mike Moll, WKTV Volunteer Sports Director

sports@wktv.org

 

WKTV’s sports crew will be on the road early this week with an Tuesday, Jan. 23, OK Silver conference boys basketball showdown as Northpointe Christian (3-1 conference; 7-3 overall) visits conference-leading Godwin Heights (5-0; 9-1). Then later in the week, on Thursday, Jan. 25, the crew will be taking to the pool as Grandville will visit East Kentwood’s swim center for a meet.

 

And, just in, WKTV has added to its January schedule with a Tuesday, Jan. 30, basketball game at Wyoming Potter’s House.

 

Currently, each Tuesday game will be broadcast that night on WKTV Comcast Channel 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Each Friday game will be aired that night on WKTV 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat Saturday at 11 a.m. The games can also be seen on AT&T U-verse 99.

 

All games, as well as other high school sports and community events covered by WKTV, are available on-demand within a week of play at wktvondemand.com .

 

For a complete schedule of all local high school sports action each week, any changes to the WKTV feature sports schedule, and features on local sports, visit wktvjournal.org/sports/

 

Local high school sports events this week are as follows:

 

Monday, Jan. 22

Boys/Girls Bowling

Calvin Christian @ Godwin Heights

Kelloggsville @ Wellsprings Prep

Wyoming @ Wayland

Wyoming Lee @ NorthPointe Christian

Rockford @ East Kentwood

 

Tuesday, Jan. 23

Girls Basketball

Godwin Heights @ NorthPointe Christian

Kelloggsville @ Belding

Hudsonville @ Wyoming

Rockford @ East Kentwood

Holland Black River @ Potter’s House

Algoma Christian @ Grand River Prep

Zion Christian @ Tri-Unity Christian

Hudsonville Home Schoolers @ West Michigan Lutheran

Middleville T-K @ South Christian

Boys Basketball 

NorthPointe Christian @ Godwin Heights – WKTV Featured Game

Belding @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming @ Hudsonville

Wyoming Lee @ Hopkins

East Kentwood @ Rockford

Holland Black River @ Potter’s House

Algoma Christian @ Grand River Prep

Kalamazoo Heritage Christian @ West Michigan Aviation

Zion Christian @ Tri-Unity Christian

South Christian @ Middleville T-K

Boys Swimming

Caledonia @ East Kentwood

 

Wednesday, Jan. 24

Boys/Girls Bowling

Hopkins @ Godwin Heights

Wyoming Lee @ Kelloggsville

FH Eastern @ Wyoming

Hudsonville @ East Kentwood

Boys Wrestling

Wyoming Lee @ Godwin Heights

Kelloggsville @ Sparta

Zeeland East @ Wyoming

Caledonia @ East Kentwood

Girls Cheer

Godwin Heights @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming Lee @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming @ Hamilton

 

Thursday, Jan. 25

Boys Swimming

Grandville @ East Kentwood – WKTV Featured Game

South Christian @ Muskegon Mona Shores

Boys/Girls Bowling

Tri-Unity Christian @ Potter’s House

 

Friday, Jan. 26

Boys Basketball

Godwin Heights @ Zeeland East

Calvin Christian @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming @ East Grand Rapids

Belding @ Wyoming Lee

East Kentwood @ Grandville

Tri-Unity Christian @ Potter’s House

West Michigan Aviation @ Calvary Christian

Zion Christian @ Algoma Christian

Creative Technologies @ West Michigan Lutheran

Wayland @ South Christian

Girls Basketball

Covenant Christian @ Godwin Heights

Calvin Christian @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming @ East Grand Rapids

East Kentwood @ Grandville

Tri-Unity Christian @ Potter’s House

Zion Christian @ Grand River Prep

West Michigan Aviation @ Calvary Christian

Creative Technologies @ West Michigan Lutheran

Wayland @ South Christian

Boys Hockey

Kalamazoo United @ East Kentwood

Parma Padua Franciscan (OH) @ South Christian/BC/Wayland – Catholic Showcase

 

Saturday, Jan. 27

Boys/Girls Bowling

Godwin Heights @ Rockford

Wyoming @ Rockford

Boys Wrestling

Godwin Heights @ Northview

Wyoming @ Montague

Wyoming Lee @ Reed City

East Kentwood @ Lakewood

Girls Cheer

Kelloggsville @ Caledonia

Wyoming @ Caledonia

East Kentwood @ Caledonia

Girls Dance

East Kentwood @ St. John

Boys Hockey

East Kentwood @ West Ottawa

Parma Heights Holy Name (OH) @ South Christian/BC/Wayland – Catholic Showcase

Girls Basketball

Tri-Unity Christian @ Belding

 

Monday, Jan. 29

Boys/Girls Bowling

Potter’s House @ Godwin Heights

Kelloggsville @ Calvin Christian

Wyoming @ Christian

Wyoming Lee @ Belding

East Kentwood @ Grand Haven

 

County’s mental health services being cut as state distances itself from funding shortfall problem

Network180, the provider of mental and behavioral health services to Kent County, has its office in Grand Rapids. (WKTV)

By K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

As local health officials statewide seek to work with state officials to deal with funding shortfalls linked to state reimbursement for low income patients, Kent County’s community mental health provider, Network180, has begun belt tightening.

 

Having already made internal staffing reductions in reaction to a funding shortfall, Network180 executive director Scott Gillian said official notification began this week to its local partners that will have their funding reduced or eliminated — but that may be only the beginning of the local belt-tightening, he said.

 

“Even with the cuts, and we are currently looking at about $778K, we still have a $7 million deficit,” Gilman said to WKTV, adding that despite the funding deficit Network180 will be doing what it can to secure cash to make payments to providers. “We have to be really careful … We are the public safety net.”

 

(For more information on the issue, see previous WKTV stories on the announcement of the problem and more details of the problem.)

 

Meanwhile, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) maintains its existing funding contract with the local Lakeshore Regional Entity, through which state funds flow to the local Network180, is sound and needs no adjustment.

 

“Rates paid in Kent County have been certified as actuarially sound for the state by an independent actuary, Milliman (USA Inc.),” Bob Wheaton, MDHHS public information officer, said to WKTV. “MDHHS pays Lakeshore Regional Entity a monthly payment for each Medicaid and Healthy Michigan Plan eligible individual in their geographic region; those payments vary according to the number of people eligible in a given month. … As stated above, rates have been certified as actuarially sound, so there are no current plans to adjust the rates.”

 

The Lakeshore Regional Entity manages a contract with MDHHS to provide services to Kent, Allegan, Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Oceana, and Ottawa counties.

 

Combined, Network180 and a spectrum of independent groups provide support to persons with developmental disabilities, mental and behavioral health problems including addiction and substance use, and the family members who access services for those needing mental health assistance.

 

Scott Gilman, CEO of Network180. (WKTV)

While the Lakeshore Regional Entity and other state mental health networks have been under financial strain for several reasons in recent years, the basic cause of the current funding shortfall, according to Gilman, is the difference in state funding between two Medicaid programs: the older, established Disabled, Aged and Blind (DAB) program and Michigan’s newer Healthy Michigan. Healthy Michigan provides $24 per person versus the $270 received from DAB, according to Gilman. That has lead to a $9.7 million shortfall for Network180.

 

“The issue is that thousands and thousands of people have transitioned, that makes the rate we are paid not longer valid,” Gilman said to WKTV.

 

Wheaton, with MDHHS, has slightly different numbers as to the funding differential — $271.13 and $39.05 — and also says the number of people who have transitioned between DAB and Healthy Michigan is not the source of the local provider problems.

 

“It is not correct that Healthy Michigan Plan beneficiaries are mostly people who used to receive DAB benefits,” Wheaton said. “Former DAB beneficiaries make up a small percentage of the 669,000 Healthy Michigan Plan enrollees.”

 

Wheaton was unable to give the specific number of people who transitioned from DAB. He did go into more detail on the state’s contract with the Lakeshore Regional Entity and other similar entities across the state.

 

“Lakeshore Regional Entity is responsible for providing all medically necessary specialty behavioral health services to Medicaid and Healthy Michigan Plan eligible individuals in their geographic region,” Wheaton said. “The contract between MDHHS is a shared risk contract between the Department and Lakeshore Regional Entity. An increase or decrease in the number of individuals eligible for Medicaid or Healthy Michigan is part of the risk component of the contract; additional numbers of eligible results in higher payments and reducing numbers of eligible results in reduced payments.

 

“The contract between MDHHS and Lakeshore Regional Entity is a shared risk contract. Lakeshore is solely responsible for the first five percent of costs above their revenue. The next five percent of costs above revenue are split equally with MDHHS and Lakeshore Regional Entity both responsible for 2.5%. Any costs exceeding 10 percent of revenue would be borne solely by MDHHS.”

 

But, Gilman points out, a big part of the current funding problem is that the Lakeshore Regional Entity has exhausted its reserves not only due to the DAB-Healthy Michigan issue but to a separate but recent state funding shortfall for autism-related services.

 

“The Department (MDHHS) and the legislature recognized the problem and fixed it for fiscal year 2018, but it resulted in a loss of savings last year fiscal (2017) of approximately $6 million,” Giliman said. “So the savings was depleted and then with the DAB issue on top of that the savings for the Lakeshore Regional Entity is depleted completely. The projection for the LRE is (that DAB-Healthy Michigan issue will cost) $10 million.”

 

The appropriateness of the current contract, and differences in opinions on the revenue shortfall, may well be the crux of the matter as discussions continue between local healthcare providers and state officials.

 

An independent study — funded by Lakeshore Regional Entity and eight of the state’s other nine Prepaid Inpatient Health Plans (PIHPs) — by the Grand Rapids based Rehmann Group estimated a $97 million state-wide revenue shortfall, and a $7.8 million loss for the Lakeshore Regional Entity.

 

Be neighborly: One Wyoming brings back Winterfest community-wide event to seven neighborhoods

Students participate at one of the 2017 Winterfest booths. (WKTV)

WKTV Staff

news@wktv.org

 

After a successful debut last year, the One Wyoming Community Collaborative will present the 2018 version of its Winterfest community-wide series of events on Saturday, Jan. 27, with events planned any seven different locations but with one goal: to get people out and talking to their neighbors.

 

One Wyoming is made up of a collaboration of schools, businesses, local government, churches, nonprofits and residents to improve the quality of life in the community. It is best known for its successful 1-on-1 mentoring program.

 

Wyoming’s Winterfest is similar to National Night Out, which takes place in August. This years’s event will have seven different locations in various neighborhoods throughout the city. Each location has activities that have been planned by churches, residents and businesses of that neighborhood. Each site will have its own slate of events, but all will feature food, family-friendly activities, health related information and activities, and giveaways from businesses and other local organizations.

 

Where things are happening

 

The list of morning locations, open from 9-11 a.m., include: The Dock, located near Kelloggsville High School at 4669 South Division Ave. (actually Grand Rapids);  Wyoming Junior High School, 2125 Wrenwood St. SW; West Elementary School (with Calvary Church), 1840 38th St. SW; and Grace Bible College, 1011 Aldon St. SW.

 

The list of afternoon locations, open from noon-2 p.m., include: North Godwin Elementary School, 161 34th St.; Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center, 961 Joosten St. SW.; and Vanguard Charter School, 1620 52nd St, SW.

 

For more information about the event or about One Wyoming, visit onewyoming.com.

 

First public meeting on Gezon Park master plan this Thursday

Gezon Park is one of four parks in line for improvements and renovations.

There are new possibilities on the horizon for Wyoming’s Gezon Park. The City of Wyoming’s Community Services Division is looking for ideas on the future design of the park at its first public meeting.

 

On Thursday, Jan. 18, the city plans to unveil the results of its initial electronic survey seeking input on recreation facility needs – more than 1,200 responses were received. The city is seeking further input at its first in-person meeting. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Wyoming Library, 3350 Michael Ave SW.

 

“With the growth in the City’s southern region, from developments at Metro Health Village to expanded residential housing along Wilson Avenue, we need the facilities of Gezon Park to align, not only the community needs of today, but well into the future,” said Rebecca Rynbrandt, Director of Community Services. “We received great feedback through our electronic survey and continue to look to the public to guide the conversation at our first public meeting.”

 

A second public meeting will take place Thursday, Feb. 8. Gezon Park currently has entrances at 1940 52nd St. SW to the north and 5651 Gezon Ct. SW to the south, spans 94 acres and currently features multiple athletic fields and small playground. The vast majority of the park remains undeveloped.

‘2017 was a busy year,’ Poll states as he announces his re-election bid

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By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma

joanne@wktv.org

 

With such accomplishments as resurfacing more than 40 miles of roads, the approval of four new hotels, the opening of 28 West Place and the passage to open the library millage for park improvements, Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll said “How can I walk away from that?”

 

So in his State of the City address last night, Poll, the longest-serving mayor in the City of Wyoming’s history, officially announced that he would seek his fourth term as mayor.

 

“So therefore, if the residents desire that I continue as their mayor, I will be placing my name on the ballot in this year’s election year, to serve four additional years,” Poll said during the Monday night meeting.

 

Poll has served as the Wyoming mayor since 2009. Before that, he served on the Wyoming City Council from 2001-2005 and 2007-2009.

 

After the Jan. 15 meeting when Poll presented his State of the City Address, he said that he is considering retirement from his full-time job. Poll is pharmacist for Family Fare.

Mayor Jack Poll

 

“So basically, during the next term, of the four years, I will be retired for about three of them, allowing me to be more of a full-time mayor attending more events for the city,” Poll said.

 

Also after the meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem and Council Member at Large Sam Bolt said he would be seeking his third term on the council.

 

“I still enjoy it,” Bolt said. Council Member at Large Kent Vanderwood, whose seat is also up for election this fall, was on vacation and did not attend the Jan. 15 meeting.

 

To a packed house of city officials and residents, which included Poll’s wife, Mary, and family members, Poll said he hoped to provide a “snapshot” of what has taken place in the city with his State of the City address, noting it has been “a very busy year.”

 

“This is a long list of accomplishments but it hardly scratches the surface when we consider all that city leaders and staff have done over the last year, primarily in collaboration with one another,” Poll said.

 

Highlights included:

 

• For infrastructure, the city completed two water main projects that total almost two miles of water main, resurfaced about 43 lane miles and added two miles of non motorized trails.

 

• For the water plant, which, according to Poll, continues to provide the highest quality water in the state, is looking to add a second Lake Michigan intake and a third transmission pipeline, expanding the plant’s capacity which will help the community to grow, Poll said.

 

• Parks and Recreation has focused on storm clean up and replacement of trees along with improvements at Palmer, Kelloggsvile, Lemery, and Pinery parks.

 

• The library milage allowed for new technology and LED lighting in the library and was opened by voter approval to allowed for park improvements for Ideal, Ferrand, Gezon and Jackson parks.

 

• The Planning Department has approved in 2017 four hotels, annexed 60 acres of industrial development, worked on the 28 West Place project and a number of other developments including The Havens. Inspections also approved permits for about $70 million new and renovated construction projects.

 

• The city also was able to implement a new medicare advantage prescription drug plan for retirees that will allow the city to reduce its longterm liability  by $42 million.

 

Public Safety continues to make community outreach its main focus. Police officers logged 6,000 visits to local schools, 8,500 business contacts and 7,000 physical business checks. The police department also has instituted a cadet program to recruit students. On the fire side, staffing at station 3 and 4 has allowed response times to be cut in half along with there being training on speciality skills for water, ice and trench rescues. Also a partnership with Metro Health – University of Michigan Health has allowed for a helipad to be placed at Station 3.

 

“We are blessed with employees who are so highly respected in West Michigan, across the state and even at the federal level,” Poll said. “I have watched the skillful handling of tragedies both natural and produced, deep thinking and solving of situations that seemed impossible. I can stand here today and say, we made it through them all. Our city is better today because these trials have become victories that make Wyoming a beacon of bright light shining in West Michigan.”

 

For the complete speech, click here.

 

For 2018, Poll said the city will continue to work on those areas with a number of opportunities and challenges on the horizon.

 

“Above all these things, financial sustainability remains our top priority and biggest challenge we face,” Poll said. “The city council and I will continue to look for ways to insure that we can provide services at the highest level to our residents and businesses.”

 

Poll said while many things have been discussed, such as a millage increase and an income tax, city leaders “don’t know yet what the best solution is. However through all the ideas we proposed, we ask that you, our friends and neighbors, and the partners that come along beside us, give thoughtful consideration and examine all sides of the issues…

 

“The only way we will continue to be a city of vision and progress is if we work through these challenging times together.”

State Sen. MacGregor, Migrant Legal Aid program featured on latest WKTV Journal: In Focus

WKTV Staff

news@wktv.org

 

Michigan State Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-28th District, which includes the City of Wyoming) has a business background, being a former small business owner and having graduated from Michigan State University with a business degree. So one thing he hates is late payment for work performed, a problem often faced by the state’s foster care providers.

 

During a visit to the set of WKTV Journal: In Focus early this month, MacGregor talked with host Ken Norris about his work for efficient funding for the state’s foster care system as well as subjects ranging from the state’s term limits law to his volunteer work for “Volley for Mitchell”, a charity volleyball tournament which has raised more than $100,000 for Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy.

 

Also on the latest episode of In Focus, the Grand Rapids based Migrant Legal Aid organization, specifically director/attorney Teresa Hendricks and attorney Ben O’Hearn, discuss their group’s work to protect migrant workers’ legal rights and to give voice to a sometimes silent portion of our community.

 

The episode will debut Tuesday, Jan. 16 , at 6:30 p.m., and will again air on Thursday, also at 6:30 p.m., and again next week on the same days and times on WKTV channels but all interviews included in episodes of WKTV Journal: In Focus are also available on YouTube at WKTVVideos.

 

 

The entire episode of “WKTV Journal: In Focus” airs on cable television in the Wyoming and Kentwood areas on Comcast WKTV Channel 26 and on AT&T Channel 99 Government channel.

OK Red boys basketball showdown on WKTV featured games schedule

WKTV’s Viebit service allows on-demand viewing of Wyoming and Kentwood government meetings, including the monthly Government Matters meeting. (WKTV)

Mike Moll, WKTV Volunteer Sports Director

sports@wktv.org

 

WKTV’s sports crew will be on the road early this week with an OK Red conference boys basketball showdown as West Ottawa visits East Kentwood on Tuesday, Jan. 16. West Ottawa will enter with a conference-leading 3-0 record (6-1 overall) while East Kentwood enters 1-1 (3-6 overall).

 

The remainder of the tentative January Featured Game broadcast schedule is:

Tuesday, Jan. 23 — Boys Basketball: NorthPointe Christian at Godwin Heights

Thursday, Jan. 25 — Boys Swimming: Grandville at East Kentwood

 

Currently, each Tuesday game will be broadcast that night on WKTV Comcast Channel 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Each Friday game will be aired that night on WKTV 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat Saturday at 11 a.m. The games can also be seen on AT&T U-verse 99.

 

All games, as well as other high school sports and community events covered by WKTV, are available on-demand within a week of play at wktv.viebit.com.

For a complete schedule of all local high school sports action each week, any changes to the WKTV feature sports schedule, and features on local sports, visit wktvjournal.org/sports/

 

Local high school sports events this week are as follows:

 

Monday, Jan. 15

Boys/Girls Bowling

NorthPointe Christian @ Godwin Heights

Belding @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming Lee @ Hopkins

Wyoming @ East Grand Rapids

Girls Cheer

Kelloggsville @ Comstock Park

 

Tuesday, Jan. 16

Boys Basketball

Godwin Heights @ Belding

Kelloggsville @ NorthPointe Christian

Wyoming @ Wayland

West Ottawa @ East Kentwood

Fruitport Calvary @ Potter’s House

West Michigan Lutheran @ Algoma Christian

East Grand Rapids @ South Christian

Girls Basketball

Belding @ Godwin Heights

NorthPointe Christian @ Kelloggsville

Wayland @ Wyoming

East Kentwood @ West Ottawa

Fruitport Calvary @ Potter’s House

Wellsprings Prep @ West Michigan Lutheran

South Christian @ East Grand Rapids

Boys/Girls Bowling

East Kentwood @ Caledonia

Tri-Unity Christian @ Wellsprings Prep

 

Wednesday, Jan. 17

Boys/Girls Bowling

Godwin Heights @ Wyoming Lee

Hopkins @ Kelloggsville

Byron Center @ Wyoming

East Kentwood @ Grandville

Boys Wrestling

Godwin Heights @ NorhtPointe Christian

Kelloggsville @ Belding

Zeeland West @ Wyoming

Wyoming Lee @ Allendale

East Kentwood @ West Ottawa

Girls Cheer

Wyoming @ Wayland

East Kentwood @ Grandville

 

Thursday, Jan. 18

Boys Swimming

East Kentwood @ Hudsonville

Boys/Girls Bowling

NorthPointe Christian @ Tri-Unity Christian

 

Friday, Jan. 19

Boys Basketball

Wyoming Lee @ Godwin Heights

Hopkins @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming @ Christian

East Kentwood @ Hudsonville

West Michigan Aviation @ Wellsprings Prep

Zion Christian @ Holland Black River

Heritage Christian @ Tri-Unity Christian

South Christian @ Unity Christian

Girls Basketball

Hopkins @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming @ Christian

East Kentwood @ Hudsonville

West Michigan Aviation @ Wellsprings Prep

Zion Christian @ Holland Black River

South Christian @ Unity Christian

Boys Hockey

South Christian/BC/Wayland @ Rockford

 

Saturday, Jan. 20

Boys Wrestling

Godwin Heights @ Hopkins

Kelloggsville @ Christian

Wyoming @ Jenison

Wyoming Lee @ Manistee

East Kentwood @ Holt

Girls Cheer

Kelloggsville @ Sparta

Wyoming Lee @ Sparta

East Kentwood @ Grand Ledge

Girls Dance

East Kentwood @ Wayland

Boys Hockey

East Kentwood @ Grandville

South Christian/BC/Wayland @ Petoskey

 

Monday, Jan. 22

Boys/Girls Bowling

Calvin Christian @ Godwin Heights

Kelloggsville @ Wellsprings Prep

Wyoming @ Wayland

Wyoming Lee @ NorthPointe Christian

Rockford @ East Kentwood

 

Godfrey-Lee Schools seek enhanced security, technology with millage request

Godfrey-Lee Schools will place a new sinking fund millage request before district voters in May. (WKTV)

 

By K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

Taking advantage of changes in state rules on how schools can spend sinking fund millage requests, and after unanimous approval by the Godfrey-Lee School Board this week, the district will put before voters on the May 8 ballot a 3-mill sinking fund request to address safety, security and technology issues.

 

An 2016 amendment to the state’s School Code allows expenditure of up-to-10-year, 3-mill maximum, sinking fund millage increases for additional school infrastructure uses such as technology and security upgrades in addition to building repairs and renovations.

 

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Polston, center, speaks to the State Board of Education recently. (Supplied)

Approval of a new sinking fund would “ease the general fund to allow as many dollars as possible to stay in the classroom,” Superintendent Kevin Polston said to WKTV. “A new eligible area of the sinking fund is technology. We currently use general fund dollars to pay for technology devices.  As we know, general fund dollars fluctuate and there is no guarantee as to what we will get from year to year. Much less keeping up with inflation.  The sinking fund will provide a sustainable means to provide current technology devices for our students across our K-12 system.”

 

The 3 mills would be collected for 10 years — 2019 to 2028 — and generate approximately $315,000 the first year. Polston said 2 mills would go toward maintenance, energy and safety and security, with 1 mill for technology.

 

Polston said a series of community meetings will be scheduled to discuss the tax request with residents.

 

“In regards to maintenance, as stewards of our taxpayers dollars, we need to maintain our buildings to provide the best learning environments we can for our students. If we do not follow a regular maintenance schedule, it will result in higher costs and less dollars going to the classroom,” Polston said.

 

“In addition, there are new technologies that have lower operating costs, but have an initial up front cost.  An example is through the sinking fund we will install LED lighting in all of our buildings. LED lighting provides an enhanced learning environment at a significantly reduced operating costs and longer lifespan.”

 

The district’s previous sinking fund levy, 1.9976-mill, approved by Godfrey-Lee voters in 2009 is expiring.

 

According to the district, the average home value for a residence in the district is $67,169 and a homeowner with a homestead exemption is currently paying $67 per year and with the extra mill requested would see an increase of $34 for a total of $101.

 

Wyoming’s VerHulst announces he will not run for re-election

William VerHulst

Joanne Bailey-Boorsma

joanne@wktv.org

 

At the January Wyoming City Council work session this week, 1st Ward Councilmember William VerHulst announced he would not be seeking re-election this fall.

 

VerHulst said due to health issues, which caused him to miss the Jan. 2 meeting, he has made the decision to not run for his current seat. VerHulst has served as the city’s 1st Ward Councilmember since 1993.

 

Wyoming’s First Ward encompasses Precincts 1 – 9. That area covers most of the eastern edge of the city which is Clyde Park Avenue to Eastern Avenue north of 36th Street and from Burlingame Avenue to Eastern Avenue south of 36th Street.

 

Mayor Jack Poll

Besides the 1st Ward Councilmember seat, seats also up for election will be the mayor’s, currently held by Jack Poll, and two council-member at large seats currently held by Kent Vanderwood and Sam Bolt. Bolt also is currently serving as mayor pro tem.  Vanderwood and Bolt have not made any announcements on whether they will seek re-election. Mayor Jack Poll is expected to make an announcement on if he seeks to run for re-election at his State of the City Address set at the  next council meeting Monday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. at Wyoming City Hall, 1155 28th St. SW.

 

Those interested in running for any of the council or mayor seats need to file with the Wyoming City’s clerk office by 4 p.m. April 24. The clerk’s office is located in the Wyoming City Hall, 1155 28th St. SW. Candidate packets are available at the front desk.

 

The primary election is set for Aug. 7 and the general election is set for Nov. 6.

Local leaders start new year at Chamber’s January WKTV Government Matters meeting

WKTV’s Viebit service allows on-demand viewing of Wyoming and Kentwood government meetings, including the monthly Government Matters meeting. (WKTV)

WKTV Staff

news@wktv.org

 

Discussion ranging from national security to local mental health care were presented Monday, Jan. 8, as part of the Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Government Matters meeting.

 

At the meeting, a representative of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters’ office talked about Sen.s Peters and Debbie Stabenow (both D-Mich.) attending the activation ceremony of the 272nd Cyber Operations Squadron at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base on Jan. 6. The 110th Attack Wing at Battle Creek “will bolster efforts to protect Department of Defense networks against cyber threats,” according to supplied information.

 

Also at the Government Matters meeting, Kent County Commissioner Harold Mast discussed the current funding shortfall for Network180, the county’s provider of support to persons with developmental disabilities, mental and behavioral health problems including addiction and substance use, and the family members who access services for those needing mental health assistance. Network180 is currently dealing with a nearly $10 million shortfall due to changes in State of Michigan reimbursement of Medicaid policies.

 

The monthly meeting brings together government leaders of all levels to discuss issues of importance and presents those discussions through WKTV’s live, delayed and on-demand broadcasts.

 

The Chamber’s Government Matters meetings include representatives of the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming, Kent County, local Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, and, often, representatives of other regional, State of Michigan and Federal elected officials. The next meeting will be Feb. 12 at Wyoming City Hall.

 

The meetings are on the second Monday of each month, starting at 8 a.m. WKTV Journal will produce a highlight story after the meeting. But WKTV also offers replays of the Monday meetings on the following Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Comcast Cable Government Channel 26. Replays are also available online at WKTV’s government meetings on-demand page (wktv.viebit.com) and on the chamber’s Facebook page.

 

Responding to funding shortfall, Kent County’s mental health provider begins cuts, service reviews

The Kent County Family and Children’s Coordinating Council heard a presentation by Scott Gilman, executive director of Network180, on Jan. 2. (Supplied by Kent County)

By K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

Kent County’s community mental health provider, Network180, has already made internal staffing reductions and will likely cut funding from several community-service groups and projects after a now-started period of review and decision-making.

 

Combined, Network180 and a spectrum of independent groups provide support to persons with developmental disabilities, mental and behavioral health problems including addiction and substance use, and the family members who access services for those needing mental health assistance.

 

The bad news for Network180 employees, with more than 30 full-time equivalent positions cut — and the potential of more bad news of other providers — was detailed during a presentation Jan. 2 at the Kent County Family and Children’s Coordinating Council by Scott Gilman, executive director of Network180.

 

The basic cause of the funding shortfalls, according to Gilman, is the difference in state funding between two Medicaid programs: the older, established Disabled, Aged and Blind (DAB) program and Michigan’s newer Healthy Michigan. Healthy Michigan provides $24 per person versus the $270 received from DAB. That leads to a $9.7 million shortfall for Network180.

 

The scheduled and potential cuts will also be part of the agenda at a meeting of Network180’s Board of Directors, which is chaired by County Commissioner Harold Mast, whose district includes portions of both Wyoming and Kentwood.

 

Kent County Commissioner Harold Mast, right, at a recent Wyoming-Kentwood area Chamber of Commerce Government Matters meeting. (WKTV)

“We are going to be facing with roughly $11 million deficit for this fiscal year, which started in October, or we are going to start running out of cash in May and June,” Mast said Monday to the Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s Government Matters meeting. “It is a complicated issue, (state) Sen. (Peter) MacGregor and, I know, (state) Sen. (Dave) Hildenbrand and a lot of other government officials, are trying to figure out what we can do to help it. But we are at a stage where we can’t continue to operate the way we are.

 

“It is not just our county, it is the seven counties in West Michigan, the Lakeshore Regional Entity. It is throughout the state,” Mast said Monday. “It is an issue of funding, the way the funding is given from the department of (Michigan Department of) Health and Human Services (MDHSS) for Medicaid eligible individuals. That has changed dramatically in the past year, and it just needs to get fixed. But in the meantime, we are running out of cash, so we are going to start cutting back some services.”

 

The Lakeshore Regional Entity manages a contact with MDHHS to provide services to Kent, Allegan, Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Oceana, and Ottawa counties.

 

“It is difficult for us because at the same time we are in a cost-cutting mode, we are also in a reinvention mode,” Mast said. “We really need to move forward … with an integration of physical and mental health, because that is what we need to perform better mental health services.”

 

And while funding for Network180, and groups and programs it funds, flow through the Kent County Commission, Mast admitted that, while there will be discussions on the situation, there is likely little the county can do to blunt the likely service cutbacks.

 

Mast said that likely only the state can solve the problem.

 

“Over the course of the last couple of months, as we saw it coming … we were confident until probably October, that the state was going to rectify what we thought was an easily solved issue,” Mast said to WKTV at the Jan. 2 meeting.

 

But “they have not recognized the discrepancy in the reimbursement rate. First of all they have resisted any acceptance of our study … they said even with that, you still have enough money. You should have enough money in your reserves. Well, we don’t … So we are at the cusp of a worse problem. All of a sudden its has come to a head, we have got to take some action, because we (Network 180) are going to run out of money … we are not going to be able to pay our bills.”

 

An independent study — funded by Lakeshore Regional Entity and eight of the state’s other nine Prepaid Inpatient Health Plans (PIHPs) — by the Grand Rapids based Rehmann Group estimated a $97 million state-wide revenue shortfall, and a $7.8 million loss for the Lakeshore Regional Entity.

 

And, Mast says, there is likely nothing the county commission can do to rescue Network180, and the Lakeshore Regional Entity it is a member of.

 

“We (the county commission) have not had that discussion, that would be a difficult discussion, I think, whether the county would be willing to ante up,” Mast said. “I our case, it would be $10 or $11 million. We would have to have some pretty good guarantees because that is local tax money. We have not had that discussion.”

 

The County Commission has not had any discussions on this issue, according to a Jan. 9 statement from the county. “There are still a number of regulatory issues that would need to be addressed (i.e. we may not be able to use County funds to supplant Medicaid funding). We continue to work with the State to find a resolution.”

 

There is some discussion, Mast added, that the Lakeshore Regional Entity might be able to get a commercial loan of some sort in the short term with the promise of state funding flowing in and paying the loans back. “But there is not guarantee of that,” he added.

 

For a more detailed discussion on the topic, see additional story here.

 

Wyoming vs. S. Christian hoops doubleheader on WKTV featured schedule

Last year, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools inducted six new members into their Hall of Fame prior to a boys basketball game at Lee High School. (WKTV)

 

WKTV Staff

sports@wktv.org

 

Key conference games, as well as Wyoming Lee’s annual Hall of Fame games, are on the schedule this week as WKTV’s sports crew will be on the road Jan. 12 with a doubleheader of boys and girls basketball at Wyoming High School when the South Christian Sailors challenge the Wolves in a pair of key early year OK Conference Gold games.

 

On the girls side, Wyoming enters with an 0-1 conference record, 4-3 overall, after opening up OK Gold play with a tough 49-46 road loss at Thornapple Kellogg Friday, Jan. 5, and before another road game Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Forest Hills Eastern. South Christian will enter 1-0 in conference after a 59-29 home win over Forest Hills Eastern Friday, 5-2 overall, before hosting Grand Rapids Christian Tuesday.

 

On the boys side, Wyoming enters with an 1-0 conference record, 4-2 overall, after opening up OK Gold play with a 67-37 win at Thornapple Kellogg and before a home game Tuesday, Jan. 9, against Forest Hills Eastern. South Christian will enter 1-0 in conference, 4-1 overall, after a 56-50 win Forest Hills Eastern Friday and before a road game at Christian Tuesday.

 

Wyoming Lee will host Kelloggsville on Friday in the school’s annual Hall of Fame game.

 

The remainder of the tentative January Featured Game broadcast schedule is:

Tuesday. Jan. 16 — Boys Basketball: West Ottawa at East Kentwood

Tuesday, Jan. 23 — Boys Basketball: NorthPointe Christian at Godwin Heights

Thursday, Jan. 25 — Boys Swimming: Grandville at East Kentwood

 

Currently, each Tuesday game will be broadcast that night on WKTV Comcast Channel 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Each Friday game will be aired that night on WKTV 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat Saturday at 11 a.m. The games can also be seen on AT&T U-verse 99.

 

All games, as well as other high school sports and community events covered by WKTV, are available on-demand within a week of play at wktv.viebit.com.

 

For a complete schedule of all local high school sports action each week, any changes to the WKTV feature sports schedule, and features on local sports, visit wktvjournal.org/sports/

 

Local high school sports events this week are as follows:

Monday, Jan. 8

Boys/Girls Bowling

Kelloggsville @ Godwin Heights

Unity Christian @ Wyoming

Wyoming Lee @ Calvin Christian

Catholic Central @ Tri-Unity Christian

 

Tuesday Jan. 9

Girls Basketball

Godwin Heights @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming @ FH Eastern

Caledonia @ East Kentwood – WKTV Featured Game

Holland Black River @ Grand River Prep

West Michigan Aviation @ Martin

Zion Christian @ Holland Calvary

West Michigan Lutheran @ WMAES

Hopkins @ Tri-Unity Christian

Christian @ South Christian

Boys Basketball

Kelloggsville @ Godwin Heights

FH Eastern @ Wyoming

Wyoming Lee @ Calvin Christian

Caledonia @ East Kentwood

Covenant Christian @ Potter’s House

Holland Black River @ Grand River Prep

West Michigan Aviation @ Martin

West Michigan Lutheran @ WMAES

Hopkins @ Tri-Unity Christian

South Christian @ Christian

Girls Cheer

@ East Kentwood – Falcon Invite

 

Wednesday, Jan. 10

Boys/Girls Bowling

Godwin Heights @ Belding

Kelloggsville @ NorthPointe Christian

Wyoming @ Zeeland East

Potter’s House @ Wyoming Lee

Boys Wrestling

Godwin Heights @ Coopersville

NorthPointe Christian @ Kelloggsville

FH Eastern @ Wyoming

TBA @ Wyoming Lee

Hudsonville @ East Kentwood

Girls Cheer

Godwin Heights @ NorthPointe Christian

Kelloggsville @ NorthPointe Christian

Wyoming Lee @ NorthPointe Christian

Boys Hockey

Catholic Central @ East Kentwood

 

Thursday, Jan. 11

Boys/Girls Bowling

Wyoming Lee @ Tri-Unity Christian

Boys Swimming

West Ottawa @ East Kentwood

 

Friday, Jan. 12

Girls Basketball

Godwin Heights @ Hopkins

South Christian @ Wyoming – WKTV Featured Game

West Michigan Aviation @ Potter’s House

Holland Calvary @ Grand River Prep

Calvary Christian @ Zion Christian

West Michigan Lutheran @ Creative Technologies

Tri-Unity Christian @ Covenant Christian

Boys Basketball

Godwin Heights @ Hopkins

South Christian @ Wyoming – WKTV Featured Game

Kelloggsville @ Wyoming Lee – Hall of Fame Game

West Michigan Aviation @ Potter’s House

Holland Calvary @ Grand River Prep

Calvary Christian @ Zion Christian

West Michigan Lutheran @ Creative Technologies Academy

Tri-Unity Christian @ Covenant Christian

Boys Wrestling

Wyoming Lee @ Kelloggsville

Boys Hockey

East Kentwood @ FH Central

Rockford @ South Christian/BC/Wayland

Boys/Girls Bowling

Potter’s House @ Muskegon Orchard View

 

Saturday, Jan. 13

Girls Cheer

Godwin Heights @ Wyoming

Kelloggsville @ Allendale

Wyoming Lee @ Allendale

Boys Wrestling

Kelloggsville @ Fruitport

Wyoming @ West Catholic

East Kentwood @ West Catholic – Dunneback Invite

Boys/Girls Bowling

Kelloggsville @ Lowell

East Kentwood @ Rockford

Boys Swimming

East Kentwood @ Kalamazoo Loy Norrix

Boys Hockey

West Ottawa @ South Christian/BC/Wayland

 

Monday, Jan. 15

Boys/Girls Bowling

NorthPointe Christian @ Godwin Heights

Belding @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming Lee @ Hopkins

Wyoming @ East Grand Rapids

Girls Cheer

Kelloggsville @ Comstock Park

 

South Christian students lead effort to honor veterans at recent basketball game

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By K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

It is common practice to honor the flag prior to the a high school basketball game, to stand for the playing of the national anthem. But South Christian High School pushed honoring America, and American service members and veterans, to an whole other level at a game last month when it hosted a special veterans recognition ceremony.

 

At the Sailors’ Dec. 15 game when it hosted Caledonia, a special ceremony between the girls and boys games honored U.S. Navy SEAL David Warsen, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012, and well as other servicemen and women that have sacrificed their lives. It was also a benefit for the David Warsen Foundation and Warriors Set Free, a Grand Rapids based organization for veterans run by veterans to help deal with PTSD, suicide, anxiety, depression, and other life issues.

 

The event was the creation of two South Christian students, seniors Andrew Haan and Will Warsen.

 

David Warsen “was a cousin of my friend Will, my partner in organizing the event,” Haan said to WKTV. “I know Dean VanderMey who is on the board at Set Free Ministries, I told him about this project and he referred me to Steve Prince, the main person at Warriors Set Free, which is an offshoot of Set Free Ministries.”

 

For Prince, it was not his first time working with the David Warsen Foundation and it all fit perfectly with his ministry’s mission.

 

“I was invited to the South Christian event by Andrew Haan, his brother is connected to Set Free Ministries,” Prince said to WKTV. “I have also attended several events with the David Warsen Foundation.  A large part of my ministry is spreading the word about what we are doing, so being at that event helped to inform more people about our mission. I also spent some time (at the game) talking with people who are already connected to Set Free Ministries and military vets.”

 

Warriors Set Free —  “Where the hurting and the Healer connect”, according to its website — “is a (Christian-based) ministry run by Veterans for Veterans. Typically a Veteran will only be comfortable talking to another Veteran about the experiences they have had in a war or military service.  Trying to explain your military experience to a civilian has its challenges.  We remove that problem by training Vets to help Vets. Our director, founder and volunteers are all Veterans.”

 

For more information about the David Warsen Foundation visit davidwarsenlegacy.com and about Warriors Set Free visit setfreeministries.com .

 

New year, new WKTV featured games part of upcoming sports schedule

Ice hockey is on WKTV’s coverage schedule this week. (WKTV)

Mike Moll, WKTV Volunteer Sports Director

sports@wktv.org

 

The New Year has started and with it most local high school basketball teams began the conference portion of their schedules.  WKTV will continue to be there bringing its viewers at least one Featured Game matchup each week, so, as always, if you can support your local school and its student-athletes in person do so, but then join in on the broadcasts.

 

WKTV’s sports crew will be on the road Jan. 5 with a doubleheader of boys and girls basketball, with Grand River Preparatory High School at Wyoming Potter’s House on the girls side, and Kelloggsville High School at The Potter’s House High School on the boys side. Then on Jan. 6, the crew will be at South Christian High School for a boys hockey game against Catholic Central High School.

 

The remainder of the tentative January Featured Game broadcast schedule is:

Friday, Jan. 12 — Girls and Boys Basketball: South Christian at Wyoming

Tuesday. Jan. 16 — Boys Basketball: West Ottawa at East Kentwood

Tuesday, Jan. 23 — Boys Basketball: NorthPointe Christian at Godwin Heights

Thursday, Jan. 25 — Boys Swimming: Grandville at East Kentwood

 

Currently, each Tuesday game will be broadcast that night on WKTV Comcast Channel 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Each Friday game will be aired that night on WKTV 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat Saturday at 11 a.m. The games can also be seen on AT&T U-verse 99.

 

For a complete schedule of all local high school sports action each week, any changes to the WKTV feature sports schedule, and features on local sports, visit wktvjournal.org/sports/

 

Local high school sports events this week are as follows:

 

Tuesday, Jan. 2

Boys Basketball

Grandville @ Wyoming

 

Wednesday, Jan. 3

Boys Wrestling

Godwin Heights @ Spring Lake

Kelloggsville @ Spring Lake

Wyoming @ Hamilton

East Kentwood @ Grandville

Girls Cheer

Godwin Heights @ Wyoming Lee

Kelloggsville @ Wyoming Lee

Girls Basketball

Benton Harbor @ Godwin Heights

Boys/Girls Bowling

Calvin Christian @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming @ South Christian

Belding @ Wyoming Lee

 

Thursday, Jan. 4

Boys Wrestling

Calvin Christian @ Wyoming Lee

Boys Swimming

@ East Kentwood

Boys Basketball

TBA vs Grand River Prep – GR Drive Winter Classic @ The DeltaPlex

Girls Basketball

WMAES @ West Michigan Lutheran

 

Friday, Jan. 5

Girls Basketball

Calvin Christian @ Godwin Heights

Holland Black River @ Kelloggsville

Wyoming @ Middleville T-K

East Kentwood @ Grand Haven

Grand River Prep @ Potter’s House

West Michigan Aviation @ Tri-Unity Christian

TBA vs West Michigan Lutheran — GR Drive Winter Classic @ The DeltaPlex

FH Eastern @ South Christian

Boys Basketball

Calvin Christian @ Godwin Heights

Kelloggsville @ Potter’s House — WKTV Featured Game

Wyoming @ Middleville T-K

NorthPointe Christian @ Wyoming Lee

East Kentwood @ Grand Haven

TBA vs Grand River Prep — GR Drive Winter Classic @ The DeltaPlex

West Michigan Aviation @ Tri-Unity Christian

Zion Christian @ Holland Calvary

FH Eastern @ South Christian

Girls Cheer

East Kentwood @ Hudsonville

Boys Hockey

East Kentwood @ Muskegon Mona Shores — Stan Konrad Tournament

South Christian/BC/Wayland @ Lansing Catholic

 

Saturday, Jan. 6

Boys Wrestling

Godwin Heights @ Allendale

Kelloggsville @ Wyoming

Girls Cheer

Godwin Heights @ NorthPointe Christian

Kelloggsville @ NorthPointe Christian

Wyoming Lee @ NorthPointe Christian

Boys/Girls Bowling

Godwin Heights @ Fruitport

Kelloggsville @ Fruitport

Wyoming Lee @ Jenison

Boys Swimming

East Kentwood @ East Grand Rapids

Boys Hockey

East Kentwood @ Muskegon Mona Shores — Stan Konrad Tournament

Catholic Central @ South Christian/BC/Wayland — WKTV Featured Game 

 

Monday, Jan. 8

Boys/Girls Bowling

Kelloggsville @ Godwin Heights

Unity Christian @ Wyoming

Wyoming Lee @ Calvin Christian

Catholic Central @ Tri-Unity Christian

Wyoming seeks input on Gezon Park Master Plan

The City of Wyoming is seeking input from residents on a new master plan for Gezon Park..

By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma

joanne@wktv.org

 

Ever wanted an ultimate Frisbee court? Hoping to have a splash pad at your park? How about more walking trails? Now is the time for Wyoming residents to speak up as the City of Wyoming asks for their input on what Gezon Park should offer.

 

Through Jan. 11, the City of Wyoming is seeking Wyoming residents’ input on a new master plan for Gezon Park.

 

The Gezon Park project is part of the library millage proposal that Wyoming voters approved in May. Voters approved a proposal that allowed the city to open up its current library millage to help with park improvements. About .16 of the .39 library millage, about $800,000 a year, is being used to help pay a 15-year bond of $4.4 million.

 

The master plan will be the basis of the future park development plans. Residents are encouraged to take a survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/GezonParkMasterPlan. The survey only takes about a couple of minutes to complete. The survey will be available until Jan. 11. After the survey information has been processed, there will be two public meetings on the park as well. The first is scheduled for Jan. 18 at 6:30 p.m. KDL Wyoming Branch, 3350 Michael Ave. SW. The second will be on Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at Metro Health University of Michigan Health Conference Center, 2225 Main St., located in the hospital.

 

Gezon Park, which includes 94 acres with two entrances, 5651 Gezon Ct. SW and 1940 52nd St SW, actually had a site plan developed in 1996. However much has changed since then, noted Wyoming’s Director of Community Services Rebecca Rynbrandt, who oversees the parks.

 

“With the growth in the City’s southern region, from developments at Metro Health Village to expanded residential housing along Wilson Avenue, we need the facilities of Gezon Park to align, not only the community needs of today, but well into the future,” Rynbrandt said. “We really look to our community and area residents to guide this process so Gezon can be exactly what is needed for the area.”

 

The walking path at Gezon Park during the summer.

While Gezon Park runs from Gezon Parkway and 52nd Street, only the entrance areas have been developed. The north end of the park (the 52nd Street entrance) serves as a neighborhood park with basketball courts, a picnic shelter, playground area and walking trail.The south end of the park (the Gezon Parkway entrance) is an active sports park with baseball, softball, and football fields along with restroom facilities. The vast majority of the park remains undeveloped. The City of Wyoming Water Treatment Plant is located adjacent to the park on the City property as well.

 

Gezon Park is one of four parks included in the proposed park improvements. The other parks are Ferrand Park, a pocket park on Byron Center Avenue; Jackson Park, located at 1331 33rd St. SW; and Ideal Park, located at 5843 Crippen Ave. SW.

 

 

For more information about Gezon Park or the greater Wyoming Parks system or program, contact the City of Wyoming Parks and Recreation Department at 616-530-3164 or parks_info@wyomingmi.gov or visit www.wyomingmi.gov.

School News Network: ‘You’ve Gotta Be There Everyday’

The first Parkview attendance celebration was a red-carpet affair for students like these kindergartners (from left) Major Weese, Benjamin Ramey, Taeja Gibson, Angel Gonzalez and Marianna Brault being recognized on stage. (All photos courtesy of School News Network.)

By Erin Albanese

School News Network

 

Parkview Elementary students shined, smiles spreading from ear to ear, as they walked down the red carpet laid out for them during a celebration of their success in getting to school nearly every day, all day.

 

Along with the grand Hollywood-style entrance, names of 260 kindergartners through fourth-graders were announced as students walked on stage in the Dan Heintzelman Fine Arts Center, honored for being in class 95 percent or more of the time during the first marking period. They then watched a movie with their families and went home with goodie bags. Beverly Reformed and Wyoming Park United Methodist churches sponsored the event.

 

The celebration, the first of three planned this school year, promotes family involvement in attendance, said Teresa Dood, Kent School Services Network community coordinator She works on the school’s attendance team with Principal Katie Jobson, social worker Micah Bell, KSSN clinician Staci Wolters, and Sarah Wildman, success coach for the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Attendance is a critical piece to success in school, Dood said. “Kids miss critical building blocks when they miss school and days add up so quickly.”

 

About 8 percent of Parkview students were chronically absent for a range of reasons during the first marking period. The team takes multiple steps to remove barriers that are keeping children from school.

 

Those include transportation; unstable housing and homelessness; a parent who works third shift; and illness, anxiety and mental health issues. The staff goes as far as to help with car repairs, walk students to school, and connect families with health-care professionals. They make sure classrooms are stocked with hand sanitizer, tissues and cleaning wipes.

 

Superintendent Tom Reeder applauds as first-grader Kiara Thomas enters the building

Aligned with County-wide Goals

The countywide goal is for students to miss no more than five days per school year, said Mark Larson, Kent ISD’s truancy and attendance coordinator. Last year, Kent County education leaders — including a group of district superintendents, representatives from Kent County Juvenile Court, the Kent County School Justice Partnership and others — created a new policy with common definitions.

 

According to a study in Berrien County, replicated in other areas, top reasons students are kept home include parent-diagnosed illness, which includes the sniffles or other mild symptoms; routine dentist and doctors’ appointments for which parents pull students out midday and then don’t return; and parents placing a lack of value in attendance, including having older children stay home with younger siblings.

 

“When you look at it through that lens, it’s important the whole family values regular and consistent attendance,” Larson said.

 

Kristin Jacob and son, kindergartner Josiah, walk the red carpet to applause

Keeping Track of Days Missed

At Parkview, Dood and the staff review attendance records weekly, noticing patterns of absence early.

 

“Attendance is often an iceberg issue and really there are a lot of underlying things the family is struggling with,” Dood said. “When we talk to families, we try to look at it in a solution-focused manner: ‘What can we do to help you?’

 

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to attendance, it really needs to be individual.”

 

Sometimes the solution is just to stress the importance of attendance, beginning in kindergarten, to parents who have an “it’s just kindergarten” mentality. Stressing appropriate bedtimes is also important.

 

At the Parkview celebration, parents posed for photos with their children. Tim Agema, father to third-grader Ellie and first-grader Landon, said attendance is a priority for them. The reason? “Of course, education,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. You gotta be there every day.”

 

“Once you fall behind it’s hard to keep up. Every day matters,” added Kristin Jacob, mom to kindergartner Josiah.

 

Second-grader Sa’riyah Brown also knows why it’s important to be in class: “If you’re not there you don’t get to be smarter.”

 

Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.

 

Parents also deserve recognition for making sure their students are in school as much as possible.

Making a difference: Local state legislators’ key public policy efforts in 2017’s

Wyoming and Kentwood’s local state government representatives were busy in Lansing in 2017, often on legislative action they felt passionate about. (Michigan Municipal League)

By. K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

When it comes to working on public policy in Lansing, Michigan state legislators try to vote knowledgeably on wide range of issues. But they often have focal points for their efforts; legislative bills which they champion because they consider them uniquely important or, often, have a personal connection.

 

As 2017 comes to a close, WKTV asked the two state senators and two representatives who represent the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood to tell us about one of their legislative efforts that rose above the routine job of public policy and governance.

 

The answers ranged from combating the state’s opioid epidemic to supporting foster care parents, from protecting people by protecting their pets to a deeply held belief in the sanctity of the unborn.

 

Sen. Schuitmaker seeking an decline in opioid abuse

 

For Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker — Senate President Pro Tempore, R-26th District, which represents the city of Kentwood and Gaines Township in Kent County — a chance meeting with a constituent who lost her child to opioid abuse led her to focus on the issue and to work on several fronts to combat what some call an epidemic.

 

State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-26th District)

First, Schuitmaker sponsored legislation to allow law enforcement and first responders to carry the life-saving Naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. Then, in 2015, she was appointed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force, which issued several recommendations including the use of the Michigan Automated Prescription System to deter over-prescription problems such as so-called “doctor shopping” and “pill mills.”

 

Senate Bills 166 and 167 are expected to be signed by the governor soon.

 

“Every community across our state has experienced the devastating effects of prescription drug and opioid abuse,” Schuitmaker said to WKTV. “My colleagues and I have heard from parents of victims, individuals who have suffered from addiction, medical specialists, law enforcement and many others.

 

“Though many tragedies have happened in recent years, Senate Bills 166 and 167 are a culmination of hard work from every end of the spectrum to help put an end to this crisis. … This legislation will put an end to pill mills and other illegal operations by creating a paper trail for every Schedule 2 through Schedule 5 controlled substance. A quick, three-second search gives health care professionals a complete outline of a patient’s controlled substance prescription history; allowing them to see if something doesn’t look right.”

 

Rep. Brann takes love of animals to legally protected level

 

Anybody who knows Rep. Tommy Brann — R-77th District, including the City of Wyoming and Byron Township — knows he often explains his stands on issues with stories about people in his community if not in his restaurant. In this, his first year working in Lansing, he says one of his “pet” efforts was the introduction of House Bill 4332 and House Bill 4333, which increases the penalties of animal cruelty.

 

“I call HB 4332 the ‘Howie Bill’ because it changes the definition of animals to reflect them as companions in law, which is how I saw my dog Howie,” Brann said to WKTV. But the bill really has more of a backstory than just the legislator’s dog.

 

State Rep. Tommy Brann (R-77th District)

“While clearing tables at my restaurant and I overheard at booth #99 customers talking about the best way to get revenge on someone was to kill their dog,” Brann said. “This had a major impact on me, because of how much pets mean to me.  Animal abuse should not be tolerated, and the proper, humane treatment of animals is good for society. According to multiple studies, there is a correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence.”

 

According to Brann, HB 4332 and 4333 make it a crime to knowingly kill, torture, or mutilate a companion animal, knowingly administer poison to a companion animal, or threaten to do any of those things, with the intent to cause mental suffering or distress to a person or exert control over a person. The bill also increases penalties for some existing animal abuse crimes, and expands some existing crimes. The legislation keeps some penalties against animal abusers the same but adds three tiers to the sentencing guidelines, and there is no minimum sentencing guidelines.

 

The House passed HB 4332 (92-15) and 4333 (90-17) and are currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee for review, he said.

 

Rep. Johnson follows his beliefs with anti-abortion effort

 

Rep. Steve Johnson — R-72nd District, which includes the City of Kentwood — is also in his first year in Lansing. And while he has had a busy year and been active on many issues, he was Christian conservative before he was elected and will be whenever he finally leaves state government. So his support of right-to-life issues are strong.

 

State Rep. Steven Johnson, left, talks with WKTV Journal: In Focus host Ken Norris during a 2017 interview. (WKTV)

“The first piece of legislation I introduced that I’m very passionate about is HB 4221, which would prohibit the state from sending money to clinics in Michigan that provide elective abortion services,” Johnson said to WKTV. “Protecting the sanctity of life is a responsibility I take very seriously. Our budget in Michigan should not be used to fund abortion clinics, whether directly through state-generated revenue or indirectly with money we receive from the federal government.”

 

HB 4221 is currently awaiting a vote in the House Appropriations Committee, he said.

 

Sen. MacGregor works to support child care efforts

 

As chairman of the Department of Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Peter MacGregor — R-28th District, which includes the City of Wyoming — has been working to reform the Child Care Fund for several years, most recently and specifically through Senate Bills 529 and 530.

 

State Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-28th District)

MacGregor has “worked closely with the Child Care Fund and the groups involved with taking care of this vulnerable population of children for over five years,” according to a statement from his office to WKTV. “What started out as a meeting to examine slow payments to counties and non-profit service providers from the state, eventually morphed into a two-year workgroup with the goal of changing the Child Care Fund payment system.”

 

Michigan’s Child Care Fund (CCF) provides financial reimbursement to counties for community-based programming and placement costs for youth with an annual budget of approximately $400 million. The workgroup included the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, county courts and other county representatives, and non-profit child placing agencies.

 

SB 529 and 530 amend the Social Welfare Act to improve the reimbursement process. The Child Care Fund pays for costs associated with foster care/child welfare and the juvenile justice services.

 

“Currently, it’s a convoluted system both in function and process where there is a 50-50 cost sharing between the state and counties,” according to the statement. “The goal of this legislation, which will transition to a state pays first system, is to make the system more efficient and to clarify the process relative to what is reimbursed.

 

“It’s been a delicate balance because separately each member of this group plays a different role in caring for the children and in how they use or oversee the fund.  However, the communication, commitment to work on solutions and the time put into the proposed solution has really been amazing.”

 

SB 529 and 530 had overwhelming support in the Senate and are expected to gain a positive the state House of Representatives vote January 2018.

 

Deltaplex’s high school basketball tourney highlights WKTV’s sports schedule

West Michigan Lutheran and West Michigan Aviation Academy, shown in a WKTV featured game from last year, are among the small high school teams featured in the Drive Winter Classic. (WKTV)

 

WKTV Staff

sports@wktv.org

 

The WKTV sports broadcast team is in the midst of taking a holiday break, returning with basketball Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, and hockey the next day. But there is some local high school action this week and next including several local basketball tournaments highlighted by a special small-high-school basketball tournament at a big-time venue — The Drive Winter Classic at The Deltaplex Arena in Grand Rapids.

 

“The tournament was put together to feature the talent in small school basketball,” Eric Frohriep, President of the All-Star Officials Association, said to WKTV.  “The Grand Rapids Drive have been working with me to put this on. … The officials are donating their game fees to raise travel expenses to work the National Dwarf Games in Orlando, Fl., this summer.”

 

The bracket for the tournament will begin at The Deltaplex on Thursday, Jan. 4 at noon with a boys game between Grand River Preparatory High School and Calhoun Christian High School. That game will be followed, at 4 and 6 p.m., by another boys game featuring West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science (WMAES) and Holt’s Martin Luther High School, and then by a girls game between WMAES and West Michigan Lutheran High School. (The Calhoun Christian girls team has a bye and will automatically advance to the tournament finals.)

 

The tournament will conclude Friday, Jan. 5, at The Deltaplex with the boys championship at 1:30 p.m. and the girls championship at 3:30 p.m.

 

All games are $5 to attend. and following the girls title game, fans can also Fans buy tickets for the Wisconsin Herd vs. Grand Rapids Drive game at 7 p.m.

 

The consolation game of the boys bracket will be played at West Michigan Lutheran, with the boys game at 6 p.m.

 

The girls team of Cedar Spring’s Creative Technologies Academy is also participating, but is not a MHSAA school so are not in the tournament portion of the Classic, Frohriep said. They are playing the Calhoun Christian girls at 2 p.m. at The Deltaplex on Jan. 4, and playing the loser of the girls opening round game at West Michigan Lutheran, also on Jan. 5.

 

For more information visit about The Deltaplex Arena visit deltaplex.com. For more information on the All-Star Officials Association visit their Facebook page.

 

Small high schools will also be the focus of the return of WKTV’s high school sports coverage in the new year.

 

WKTV’s sports crew will be on the road Jan. 5 with a doubleheader of boys and girls basketball, with Grand River Preparatory High School at Wyoming Potter’s House on the girls side, and Kelloggsville High School at The Potter’s House High School on the boys side. Then on Jan. 6, the crew will be at South Christian High School for a boys hockey game against Catholic Central High School.

 

Currently, each Tuesday game will be broadcast that night on WKTV Comcast Channel 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Each Friday game will be aired that night on WKTV 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat Saturday at 11 a.m. The games can also be seen on AT&T U-verse 99.

 

For a complete schedule of all local high school sports action each week, any changes to the WKTV feature sports schedule, and features on local sports, visit wktvjournal.org/sports/

 

Local high school sports events this week are as follows:

 

Wednesday, Dec. 27

Boys/Girls Bowling

Godwin Heights @ Catholic Central – Baker Tourney

Wyoming @ Catholic Central – Baker Tourney

Kelloggsville @ Catholic Central – Baker Tourney

East Kentwood @ Catholic Central – Baker Tourney

Girls Basketball 

Godwin Heights vs TBD @ Kelloggsville Holiday Tourney

Boys Basketball 

TBD @ Wyoming Lee – Rebel Basketball Tourney

 

Thursday, Dec. 28

Girls Basketball 

Godwin Heights vs TBD @ Kelloggsville Holiday Tourney

Boys Basketball 

TBD @ Wyoming Lee – Rebel Basketball Tourney

East Kentwood @ Muskegon Reeths-Puffer

 

Friday, Dec. 29

Boys Basketball 

Godwin Heights vs FH Central @ Cornerstone University

Potter’s House @ Holton

Boys Hockey 

Muskegon Mona Shores @ East Kentwood

Girls Basketball

Potter’s House @ Holton

 

Saturday, Dec. 30

Girls Cheer 

Kelloggsville @ Delton-Kellogg

Girls Basketball

East Kentwood @ Detroit Northwestern

 

Missed Wyoming’s Stubby Overmire Benefit and Card Show? The WKTV sports crew has got you covered

1968 World Championship Series Detroit Tigers team member Mickey Stanley

By Mike Moll

WKTV Sports Director

 

WKTV will once again bring you highlights of the Stubby Overmire Benefit and Card Show with a program set to premiere on WKTV 25 Dec. 27 at 7 p.m.  The program will run again Dec. 30 at 11 a.m. and Jan. 1 at 1:15 p.m.

 

Denny McLain, a member of the 1968 World Championship Detroit Tigers team

Stubby Overmire was born in Moline, Michigan, but went to high school at Wyoming Lee in the mid 1930s.  Overmire went on to become a major league baseball player from 1943-1952 including seven seasons with the Detroit Tigers from 1943-1949.  Overmire would have turned ninety-eight this year, but passed away at the early age of fifty-seven in 1977.

 

Each year for the last twelve, Wyoming Lee baseball head coach Ty Emelander, along with a host of many others, has put together the Stubby Overmire Sports Card Show and Auction, usually in November, as a fundraiser benefitting not just the baseball team and its facilities, but other athletic departments in the school as well.  What is now a two-day event is called by many of the participating vendors, to be one of, if not the largest show in West Michigan. 

 

Tom Matchick, another member of the 1968 World Championship Detroit Tigers team, with WKTV Sports Director Mike Moll

WKTV had cameraman/producer Gary Vande Velde, sound man Doug Hansen, and sports director Mike Moll attended the 12th Annual Stubby Overmire Sports Card Show and Auction, held on Nov. 18 and 19, to not only get entertaining video of the products available, but also to interview multiple vendors along with Stubby’s daughter Jane Overmire Keller, baseball coach Emelander, Lee football coach Tom DeGennaro, and a host of others.  Highlighting the event were the guest appearances, autographs, and interviews with three members of the 1968 World Championship Detroit Tigers team. Also there was super utility man Tom Matchick along with all-star center fielder turned World Series shortstop Mickey Stanley, who made his second trip to the event, Denny McLain, who was baseball’s last 30-game winner having posted a 31-6 record in 1968 was there, just as he has been for every one of the twelve years. In this year’s WKTV special, you will hear humorous stories from all three players from not just the 1968 championship season but others as well.

 

Stubby Overmire’s daughter Jane Overmire Keller.

This year’s program was dedicated to Shirley Peuler.  Shirley recently passed away unexpectedly and was the wife of 60 years to longtime WKTV volunteer Ray Peuler, who is called by many “the godfather of WKTV broadcasting.”

 

2017 Holiday Greetings

While at the 2017 Wyoming Gives Back holiday event and the 2017 Kentwood Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, WKTV was able to capture several holiday greetings from officials and residents. Below are just some of those sending out their holiday wishes to West Michigan. To see all of the Wyoming holiday greetings, click here. To see the Kentwood holiday greetings, click here for the ones from the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and here for the ones from the Kentwood City Commission.

 

Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley

 

 

Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll

 

 

State Rep. Tommy Brann

 

 

Kentwood City Commissioner Betsy Artz

 

 

Wyoming Mayor Pro-Tem Sam Bolt

 

 

Kentwood City Commissioner at Large Richard Clanton

 

Wyoming City Council member Rob Postema

 

 

Kentwood Second Ward City Commissioner Tom McKelevy

 

 

Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt

 

 

Kentwood 1st Ward City Commissioner Emily Bridson

 

 

Wyoming Assistant City Manager Megan Sall

 

 

 

 

County encourages residents to give the gift of safety by signing up for Smart911

As the holiday season approaches, the Kent County Dispatch Authority is encouraging Kent County residents to take the time to speak with loved ones about the benefits and importance of signing up for Smart911™.

 

A free service provided by KCDA, Smart911 lets users create a private and secure safety profile that 911 will reference during an emergency. This information may include photos, detailed medical information, cell phone numbers, vehicle descriptions, pet information and other data that can be critical during an emergency situation, and enables faster and more effective emergency response by law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services.

 

“Smart911 helps responders use the minutes that count during an urgent situation for a better, faster response,” said Wyoming City Manger Curtis Holt, who serves as the chair of the Kent County Dispatch Authority. “This service is now free to all Kent County residents and has proven to save lives nationally. Taking a few minutes to get you and your family signed up now might save your lives in an emergency later.”

 

Connected to a mobile phone number, Smart911 allows residents to link both home and work addresses, which can then be passed on to responders in the field for a more detailed, rapid response. All information is optional, and each user has the ability to choose what is included.

 

Since Smart911 was introduced, emergency dispatchers have credited it with several “Smart Saves.” One incident earlier this year resulted in a successful intervention for an 18-year-old, who called 911 saying she had drunk alcohol and taken pills and was unable to move. The dispatcher was able to reach her through her Smart911 profile, reaching out to an aunt who was able to get her to the emergency room.

 

“I can’t say it enough: The benefits of signing up for this service are immense,” Holt said. “When you use your mobile phone to call 911, an address is not displayed to the call taker, slowing down the emergency response. In so many emergency situations, minutes and seconds matter, and the additional information in a safety profile allows help to get there faster – and arrive better prepared.”

 

Smart911 is currently available in 40 states and more than 1,500 municipalities across the country. The service has been credited with positively impacting emergency outcomes, including prevention of several life-threatening incidents in which the discretion of conversations with 911 were critical to the outcomes. After making initial contact with 911 dispatchers via phone call, discrete details in these situations were able to be confirmed by text message via Smart911 after the call.

 

This service was made available to Kent County residents for the first time earlier this year, but as the holiday’s approach, KCDA is hoping residents will take the time to have conversations about Smart911 with loved ones.

 

“This holiday season, what better gift than giving your family additional peace of mind in case of an emergency?” Holt said. “I certainly can’t think of one.”

 

Kent County residents are encouraged to create their safety profile with Smart911 at www.smart911.com to ensure their information is available to 911. It takes approximately 10 minutes to complete the secure online form that will be stored in the confidential Smart911 database. All information is kept private and protected and is only available to 911.

 

About Kent County Dispatch Authority

 

The Kent County Dispatch Authority was formed in 2007 to address issues that related to 911 services in the County. KCDA develops policies and procedures for administering 911, creates the annual operating and capital budget, establishes goals and objectives through a strategic plan for future technological or operational enhancements, distributes 911 surcharge funds and other initiatives to maximize efficiency of 911 services. For more information, visit www.kent911.org

 

About Smart911

 

Currently available in 40 states and more than 1,500 municipalities, Smart911 allows citizens to create a free Safety Profile online for their household that includes information they want 911 and response teams to have during an emergency, such as their address, medical conditions, pets, etc. When an emergency call is made, a citizen’s Safety Profile is automatically displayed to the 911 call-taker. Last year, 25 million 911 calls were assisted by Safety Profiles. All information is kept private and secure, only appearing when the associated number calls 911.

School News Network: She collects books, and lets students choose them

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By Erin Albanese

School News Network

 

English teacher Katie Sluiter’s Wyoming Junior High classroom is a testament to the power of words, in the books eighth-graders eagerly grab from her library and in the writing she did to get those 1,000 popular works onto her shelves.

 

Through blogging and writing for an educational website, Sluiter connects with fellow teachers worldwide. Five years ago, feeling inspired after attending a workshop led by renowned educator Penny Kittle, she posted to her blog, Sluiter Nation, about a transformation she envisioned.

 

Maddy Roosa has learned to like reading because she has many books to choose from.

“I have this new dream that I want to change my classroom from making kids read books that either they don’t care about, they don’t relate to or they can’t even read because they are below grade level, into a place where kids are reading voraciously,” she wrote.

 

Sluiter created an Amazon Wish List of popular Young Adult books so people could donate to her classroom. She was intent on morphing her library, which contained titles like “Moby Dick” (“No kid is going to check out ‘Moby Dick'”), into a sought-after collection of titles and genres.

 

“Books started coming in like crazy from all over the world,” Sluiter said. “I went from 104 lame books to a few hundred higher-interest books in a matter of months.”

 

It opened up a new world of reading to her students — and a new world of teaching to Sluiter.

 

“Creating the classroom library is definitely the best thing I’ve ever done as a teacher. It definitely brings joy to my students and obviously to me,” said the 15-year Wyoming Public Schools educator.

 

She recently presented on several topics and led a roundtable discussion on creating choice with a curriculum in place at the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English, in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

Matching Teens with Books

As Sluiter’s classroom library grew by way of continued donations, a grant and Sluiter’s second job writing for The Educator’s Room, she enhanced her teaching to include strategies students respond to with enthusiasm.

 

They are given ample time to read books of their choice in class; they form book clubs; they listen to “Tuesdaaaay…Book Talks!,” during which Sluiter introduces popular new books with quick summaries. Her students have even gone Book Speed Dating, checking out an array of books quickly, circling yes, no or maybe, junior high-style, on paper, to decide which books are perfect matches.

 

Those matches are sometimes just what a student needs, she said. She’s seen students find books they can relate to because they are finally reading about their culture or shared experiences, or they learn about people different from them and developing new perspectives.

 

Sluiter recently brought in a brand new stack of 60 books, sorted according to genre. After class, students lined up to check them out, eager to get their hands on new fantasies, historical fiction, teen dramas and thrillers.

 

Eighth-grader Maddy Roosa checked out “Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson. “I’m a lot more interest in reading now,” Maddy said. “I usually don’t like books, but the Tuesday Book Talks make them more interesting.” “A Child Called ‘It’,” by Dave Pelzer, is her favorite read so far this year.

 

Sluiter’s overarching mission is to help students succeed in school and life, and to reach even reluctant readers, like Maddy.

 

“If we value reading we need to give our kids time to read,” Sluiter said. “All the research says that reading and becoming better readers is the key to success in high school, college, career.

 

“The more you read and the better reader you are is really the measure of where you are going to go.”

 

To help students at every level including special education, Sluiter has graphic novels and audiobooks for listening to while reading.

 

A Buffet of Choices

Once Sluiter saw the effect of choice reading on her classroom, she realized an even larger potential. “I started meshing the idea of choice and writing with choice in reading. What if my classroom was a big choice fest?”

 

Since then, students have been given freedom to choose writing topics while still meeting eighth-grade English standards.

 

Student Sadie Duron said she loves the freedom, while knowing “we still learn what we need to learn.”

 

“I really love it because not everybody likes the same topics,” Sadie said. “Everybody gets to choose what they want to read and the topic. I feel like I’ve been writing more. After I read a good book I want to write about it.”

 

Wyoming Junior High teachers say Sluiter’s enthusiasm and creativity have caught on.

 

“Katie Sluiter creates such excitement about books and reading that I’ve had a student of mine ask to go check out a book she had in her classroom library,” said eighth-grade English teacher Shantel VanderGalien. “She is a wonderful teaching partner and I love to brainstorm with her about creative ideas we can incorporate into our curriculum.”

 

Eighth-grade teacher Melissa Janz said Sluiter connects with students who have great difficulty reading and writing.

 

“She does such a great job with developing a love of reading even with our most reluctant readers,” Janz said. “She is always ready to learn and try various reading strategies in the classroom that would possibly reach the students who might not ‘get it’ the traditional way.”

 

A sampling of books in Katie Sluiter’s classroom

 

Reading Inspires Writing

Sluiter has seen stronger readers become stronger writers, and she sees the impact of sharing her own hopes, dreams and vulnerabilities in writing. When she started blogging in 2007, she soon identified as a “mom blogger.” Now a mother of three, she wrote about parenting issues and personal struggles, including pregnancy loss and postpartum depression.

 

Over the years, she stretched her focus to include education in writing for fellow teachers.

 

“I started writing quite a bit more openly about myself, and realized my process for writing was very similar to what I could be teaching my students. That’s about when I started writing along with my students and showing them a little more of my vulnerable side as a writer. It got much better writing out of them.”

 

She also was inspired to write about her craft and how she works to meet the needs of her students. “I really enjoyed writing about my job, what I do here, and what goes on in my classroom — the stuff that fills my heart and why I love education even though it’s hard.”

 

A full heart and full bookshelves: Sluiter shares both with her students every day, proving again and again that the power of words can help fill and refill both.

 

Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.

Kentwood’s newest commissioner, disability advocate on latest WKTV Journal: In Focus

 

WKTV Staff

news@wktv.org

 

What do you do when your running for a seat on the Kentwood City Commission and then your opponent drops out? Tom McKelvey, who in November won the 2nd Ward position, tells WKTV Journal: In Focus host Ken Norris what he did — still get out and meet people, and try to get up to speed on city matters as quickly as possible.

 

Also on the latest episode of In Focus, Madeline Schaab, a project specialist for local non-profit Disability Advocates of Kent County, discusses what her group does to promote accessible and welcoming communities, and what the public can do — including just keeping snow off the sidewalk in front of your house.

 

The episode will debut Tuesday, Dec. 19 , at 6:30 p.m., and will again air on Thursday, and again next week on the same days and times on WKTV channels but all interviews included in episodes of WKTV Journal: In Focus are also available on YouTube at WKTVVideos.

 

 

The entire episode of “WKTV Journal: In Focus” airs on cable television in the Wyoming and Kentwood areas on Comcast WKTV Channel 26 and on AT&T Channel 99 Government channel.

 

WKTV coverage of WMA vs. Lee doubleheader part of high school sports schedule

 

By Mike Moll

sports@wktv.org

 

The WKTV sports broadcast schedule will give you three games over two nights as our coverage truck makes visits to East Kentwood and West Michigan Aviation this week.

 

Tuesday night the truck and crew will be heading to East Kentwood for a boys basketball game against East Grand Rapids. Game time is 7 p.m. Friday night, the crew will be at West Michigan Aviation, where both the girls and boys teams will be hosting Wyoming Lee. The crew will then take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off before returning in the new year.

 

Currently, each Tuesday game will be broadcast that night on WKTV Comcast Channel 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Each Friday game will be aired that night on WKTV 25 at 11 p.m. and repeat Saturday at 11 a.m. The games can also be seen on AT&T U-verse 99.

 

For a complete schedule of all local high school sports action each week, any changes to the WKTV feature sports schedule, and features on local sports, visit wktvjournal.org/sports/

 

Local high school sports events this week are as follows:

 

Monday, Dec. 18

Boys/Girls Bowling

Godwin Heights @ Hopkins

Kelloggsville @ Wyoming Lee

Christian @ Wyoming

Girls Cheer 

East Kentwood @ Grandville

 

Tuesday, Dec. 19

Boys Bowling

Wellsprings Prep @ Godwin Heights

Wyoming @ Middleville T-K

Boys Basketball 

Wyoming Lee @ Tri-Unity Christian

South Christian @ Calvin Christian

East Grand Rapids @ East Kentwood – WKTV Featured Game

West Michigan Lutheran @ Barry County Christian

Grand River Prep @ West Michigan Aviation

Girls Basketball 

Calvin Christian @ South Christian

East Kentwood @ East Grand Rapids

Grace Christian @ Zion Christian

West Michigan Lutheran @ Barry County Christian

Manistee Catholic Central 2 tri-Unity Christian

 

Wednesday, Dec. 20

Girls Cheer 

Godwin Heights @ Muskegon Mona Shores

Wyoming @ Muskegon Mona Shores

Boys Basketball 

Catholic Central @ Godwin Heights

Boys Wrestling 

Wyoming Lee @ Comstock Park

Wyoming @ Holland

Kelloggsville @ Calvin Christian

Rockford @ East Kentwood

 

Thursday, Dec. 21

Boys/Girls Bowling 

Wyoming @ Allendale

 

Friday, Dec. 22

Boys Basketball 

Wyoming Lee @ West Michigan Aviation – WKTV Featured Game

Wyoming @ Kenowa Hills

Cedar Springs @ Kelloggsville

Lansing Christian @ Potter’s House

Girls Basketball 

Wyoming @ Kenowa Hills

Lansing Christian @ Potter’s House

Wyoming Lee @ West Michigan Aviation – WKTV Featured Game

Boys Hockey

East Kentwood @ Catholic Central

 

Saturday, Dec. 23

Boys Wrestling 

Kelloggsville @ Martin

 

Monday, Dec. 25

CHRISTMAS DAY

 

Tuesday, Dec. 26

Boys Basketball 

Godwin Heights vs Covenant Christian @ Cornerstone University

 

Government Report: Sen. Peters blasts, Rep. Huizenga backs FCC ‘net neutrality’ vote

By K.D. Norris

kdn@wktv.org

 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich. District 2) often disagree on topics, sometimes through intermediaries such as occurs at the monthly local Government Matters meetings. So it is no surprise that the two local federal government leaders take very different views on the Federal Communications Commission’s vote last week to abolish so-called “net neutrality” rule.

 

The Federal Communications Commission voted Dec. 14, to repeal rules it had established in 2015 under President Barrack Obama’s tenure which regulated broadband businesses, including cable television providers, that connect consumers to the internet.

 

The agency scrapped net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone services.

 

Peters, in supplied material, blasted the decision; Huizenga supported the FCC action. Couriousily, however, both seem to say the final decision should rest with federally elected officials.

 

“Today’s FCC vote to scrap net neutrality protections is an anti-consumer decision that disadvantages small businesses and everyday internet users,” Peters said in a statement issued Dec. 14. “This action could usher in a two-tiered internet, where large corporations that can pay for a fast lane have the power to slow down or block content, and consumers and small businesses are relegated to the slow lane.”

 

But Huizenga, during an interview on West Michigan’s WHTC radio just prior to the FCC action, said “The Obama Administration literally went back to 1930s utility law that was set up to regulate Ma Bell, which doesn’t even exist, and then layer that onto the internet.

 

“That is not how we got a dynamic internet, how we got a free and open internet. So this is completely the wrong direction to go. … (with) the FCC is regulating it, it is the wrong place to be doing this. It previously had been under the Federal Trade Commission, and the Obama Administration wanted to put the government in control of the internet. That, to me, seems to be a mistake.”

 

Both Peters and Huizenga say they believe their opposing point-of-view is based on what is best for a “free and open internet”.

 

A Dec. 15 statement to WKTV from the Brian Patrick, Huizenga’s communication director, said: “It was President Bill Clinton working with a Republican congress that created a light touch regulatory structure for the internet which led to the greatest engine of innovation and commerce the world has ever seen. Congressman Huizenga believes the entire internet ecosystem, including tech companies, edge providers, and ISPs, should be held to the same standards when it comes to ensuring a free and open internet for consumers.”

 

Peters sees a free and open internet differently.

 

“We live in an increasingly interconnected world where a free and open internet has never been more important to Michigan’s economic success. Michigan families and small businesses rely on net neutrality protections to ensure they can achieve their goals — whether it’s reaching customers in new markets, accessing educational opportunities or connecting with loved ones around the globe. Net neutrality levels the playing field, and without these protections, consumers and entrepreneurs will face unnecessary hurdles to the economic opportunities the internet provides.”

 

However, both Peters and Huizenga also say the issue should be decided by federal action if not new legislation.

 

“In response to today’s decision, Senator Peters joined his colleagues in announcing a plan to introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would reverse today’s FCC action and restore the agency’s 2015 net neutrality rules,” the statement from Peters’ office stated. “CRA resolutions allow Congress to overturn regulatory actions at federal agencies with a simple majority vote in both chambers.”

 

While Huizenga said, also from the WHTC interview, “I believe Congress does need to be involved in this. I have been and will continue to be so, as an advocate for making sure we have a free and open internet.”

 

Wyoming High hangs a banner for Alpha Wolf ‘champions of character’

Julyssa Barajas-Gutierrez is surrounded by her family after winning the Alpha Wolf honor at Wyoming High School. (WKTV)

By. K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

There are now 30 names on special purple and white banners hanging in the gym at Wyoming High School, including recent additions Julyssa Barajas-Gutierrez and Adrian Ngo.

 

But none are football or basketball players; they are “Champions of Character”.

 

Barajas-Gutierrez, a sophomore, is a band member, a person known for helping other students in and out of class, and, according to one nominating student, “the nicest person I’ve ever met.”

 

Ngo, a senior, is member of the National Honors Society and the National ART Honors Society, is seen as a roll model by many other students, and, according to one nominating teacher, is “composed of the desire to encourage others so all might feel success.”

 

On Dec. 7, as they have at the end of each semester for the last three three school years, Wyoming students and teachers honored six exemplary students with the Alpha Wolf 11 Champion of Character Award — two sophomores, two juniors and two seniors.

 

Wyoming High School’s recent Alpha Wolf ceremony included a special flag ceremony. 9WKTV)

The ceremony was attended by the student body, special guests from the Wyoming community, City of Wyoming city and public safety leaders, school district administration and the Wyoming Board of Education members. There was also a special flag ceremony.

 

A special guest at the recent ceremony was the staff of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan and its executive director, Christy Buck, who spoke about the group’s Be Nice initiative. The program works in schools and the community to provide simple, common sense, ways to prevent suicide and be proactive to other dangers resulting from mental illness.

 

The Alpha Wolf program was led by teachers Jonathan Bushen and John Doyle, who started the program three years ago modeled on a program at Grandville high school, where he kids attended. But many teachers and staff members were involved.

 

As announced to the crowd, the Alpha Wolf is a rare and special breed — a power unto him or herself. They’re at their strongest when they empower their peers. Proactive in helping others and ever striving to set a high standard for those around them, they lead by example, going the extra mile to help a schoolmate feel welcome, spreading good cheer to all and displaying good character. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Alpha Wolf is an 11 in everything they do.

 

In addition to Barajas-Gutierrez and Ngo, the other first semester Alpha Wolfs were sophomore Erika Hernandez, juniors Becca Hanson and Gabriela Martinez Bello, and senior Brooke Elzinga.

 

Hernandez is described as someone who “settles for nothing less than excellence in all things” but “when a classmate is struggling in class, this student is the first one there to help and give encouragement.” Bello, who is also Miss Belleza West Michigan 2017, was described as “a gifted speaker this wolf is; she speaks not only for what is right, but for the rights of all.” Elzinga is described “as a leader, a member of student council, a cheerleader, a friend to all. Everyone knows this student is the definition of an Alpha Wolf.”

 

Hanson, in a supplied essay written after winning the Alpha Wolf award, explained the uniqueness of being so honored.

 

“In the past, I have sometimes been noticed for my grades and for my activity in extracurriculars, but I have never been noticed for my character and was not expecting to be seen as a good person,” Hanson said. “People receive awards for what they do, that’s the premise of awards, but this award, it’s different. This award celebrates who a person is and separates the receiver from what he/she has done — so powerful because many people feel like they are their accomplishments, not themselves.”

 

Kelloggsville, KDL join together to open high school library to the entire community

By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma

joanne@wktv.org

 

The new library is scheduled to open Jan. 9 with an official open house as part of the Jan. 17 Kelloggsville Rocket Family Night. The event is from 5:30-7 p.m. at the high school, 4787 S. Division Ave.

 

The state-of-the-art library was part of a $33.9 million bond proposal passed by Kelloggsville voters in February 2015. About $29 million of the bond proposal was dedicated to the high school with major changes that included a redesigned entrance on Division Avenue along with a new gym and an indoor track facility. The goal, according to Kelloggsville Director of Curriculum Tammy Savage, was to have all these facilities open to the public.

 

A room with a view: the new state-of-the-art library at Kelloggsville High School.

“Our community members don’ have access to a library in walking distance,” Savage said of the decision to have the library open to the community. “It is over four miles to the Wyoming branch and over five miles to the Kentwood branch.”

 

Kelloggsvile officials approached KDL and brought library representatives in for a tour of the new library facility.

 

“At KDL, we are always looking for ways to make library services easier and more convenient for the residents of Kent County and we know that transportation can be a barrier for the folks in Kelloggsville, especially the young children who have parents who work all day,” said  KDL Director of Branch Services and Operations Lindsey Dorfman. “So we are really happy to bring KDL services right to their backyard.”

 

KDL has 18 partnerships with various local municipalities including the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming. The partnership with Kelloggsville will be similar in that Kelloggsville owns the building and will be responsible for the care and maintenance of the facility just like Wyoming and Kentwood. KDL operates the library services within the buildings such as the staffing, collections and technology. Dorfman said the unique element to the Kelloggsville/KDL partnership is that the staffing with a be a team effort between the two organizations.

 

There are a lots of places for students to study and collaborate.

With the focus being on equity of service, according to Dorfman, the collection at the new Kelloggsville branch will be similar to what other KDL branches offer. It will have a range of books from preschool to adult along with the Beyond Books Collection that includes iPads, Go Pro cameras and even ukuleles. Also KDL programming such as KDLville Play and KDL Lab Spaces will be available. Both students and community members also will be able to reserve materials from other KDL branches that can be delivered to the Kelloggsville branch along with access to the Michigan Electronic Library (MEL), which allows patrons to order books from all over the state and have them delivered to their neighborhood library.

 

Savage said the Steelcase Foundation gave the district a $250,000 grant for seed money to get the community library project started. And while the library has not officially opened, response to the remodeled high school and the library facility has been overwhelmingly positive, Savage said.

 

“We had an open house in early October and we had over 200 people here for the open house at the high school and people were very excited about what they saw here,” Savage said. “Again, this is a fabulous space that [has been] renovated and then to have things like this, a 6,500-square-foot media center be here and know it is going to be open to the community…our community is very impressed and very happy about this.”

 

The KDL collection will include materials for all ages, pre-school to adult.

The Kelloggsville Library, which has its own entrance on the north side of the high school or to the right of the high school’s main entrance, will have community hours that will include three evenings, 3-8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and every other Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Additional hours will be added during the summertime.

 

For more information on programs and hours at the new KDL Kelloggsvile Branch, visit the branch’s page at kdl.org/locations/kelloggsville-branch.

 

City of Wyoming lifts precautionary boil water advisory for affected areas

 

 

UPDATE: The precautionary boil water advisory for affected areas near Burlingame & 44th has been lifted. Residents are free to use their water as normal.

 

By City of Wyoming

 

Due to a drop in pressure in the City of Wyoming water supply, bacterial contamination may have occurred in the water system. Bacteria are generally not harmful and are common throughout our environment. Corrective measures are currently being undertaken to correct the situation.


What should I do?

DO NOT DRINK THE WATER WITHOUT BOILING IT FIRST. Bring all water to a boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and preparing food. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Continue using boiled or bottled water until further notice.


What happened? What is being done?

These precautionary actions are being taken due to the loss of water pressure in the water distribution system caused by a water main break on December 12, 2017. Whenever a water system loses pressure for any significant length of time, precautionary measures are recommended. When a pressure loss occurs, water from inside a building may backflow into the water supply system.


Working in the trenches to restore water pressure

The City is working to get pressure restored, and water staff will be taking other remedial actions such as flushing and collecting bacteriological samples from around the system. The samples will be collected to determine that the water quality meets the state drinking water standards. We will inform you when tests show no bacteria and you no longer need to boil your water. If all goes well, water pressure should be restored by the end of the day today. Bacteriological test results should be available by the end of the day tomorrow. When water is restored, please remove your aerators and flush your water outlets for a minimum of 5 minutes.


This boil water notice shall remain in effect until results from the sampling verify the water is safe to drink. Customers will be advised when the boil water advisory has been lifted.


For more information, please contact Jaime Fleming, Laboratory Manager with the City of Wyoming at 616.261.3572. Please communicate as necessary with other people who may drink this water

WKTV Journal: Kelloggsville and KDL form a partnership, Mark Wood visits Kentwood Public Schools

 

In the recent WKTV Journal newscast, we talk to officials from Kelloggsville Public School and the Kent District Library about the new collaborative project to make the Kelloggsville High School library open to everyone in the community. We also visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for a look at its 23rd annual Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the Word exhibition. Lastly, renowned musician and original member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Mark Woods visits Kentwood Public Schools for a concert that was electrifying and had everyone dancing, especially the musicians.

Citizen group opposed to voting district gerrymandering on latest WKTV Journal: In Focus

 

 

WKTV Staff

news@wktv.org

 

In Michigan politics two almost conflicting aspects of our election system are coming into conflict as the current politically directed voting redistricting system — often called gerrymandering — is being opposed by a group seeking to place a ballot initiative before the voters in 2018 which would change the system.

 

On the latest episode of WKTV Journal: In Focus, a public affairs talk program hosted by Ken Norris, he speaks to the leader of the ballot initiative group Voters Not Politicians.

 

Katie Fahey, president and treasurer of Voters Not Politicians, a non-partisan ballot committee seeking to put before voters in 2018 a proposal to end gerrymandering in Michigan, talks about the state’s current system of drawing election district maps, and how and why the plan Voters Not Politicians is advocating for would change the redistricting system.

 

Network 180’s director of network services Ross Buitendorp talks with program host Ken Norris. (WKTV)

Also on the latest WKTV Journal: In Focus, a new county Mental Health Court program — involving law enforcement, courts and the county’s pubic mental health and substance use disorder services provider,  Network 180 — aims to change the system for the betterment of all. So also on the latest WKTV Journal: In Focus, Network 180’s director of network services Ross Buitendorp talks about the effort.

 

The episode will continue airing Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., and will again air on Thursday at the same time on WKTV channels but all interviews included in episodes of WKTV Journal: In Focus are also available on YouTube at WKTVVideos.

 

For the video of Network 180’s Ross Buitendorp at WKTV visit here.

 

The entire episode of “WKTV Journal: In Focus” airs on cable television in the Wyoming and Kentwood areas on Comcast WKTV Channel 26 and on AT&T Channel 99 Government channel.

 

City, state leaders clash (politely) at Chamber’s December WKTV Government Matters discussion

WKTV’s Viebit service allows on-demand viewing of Wyoming and Kentwood government meetings, including the monthly Government Matters meeting. (WKTV)

By K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

One of the unique aspects of the Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Government Matters meetings is that you sometimes get differing views on the same issue — for instance, local city and state leaders in a debate on the current difficulties for local governments dealing with inequities in state revenue sharing.

 

The monthly meeting brings together government leaders of all levels to discuss issues of importance and presents those discussions through WKTV’s live, delayed and on-demand broadcasts.

 

At the Monday, Dec. 11, meeting at Kentwood City Hall, City of Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley and City of Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt offered their assessment of state government actions when it comes to an abundance of regulations and a lack of consistency and clarity when it came to historic and current state revenue-sharing.

 

“There was a promise made on state revenue-sharing … (now) we can’t count on that,” Holt said at one point. “We used to have a partner in the state” government.

 

Among the other multi-level government discussions topics at the meeting — and available on the WKTV video — were the status of federal tax reform, the impeding Kent County action to hire a new top administrator, and economic development Wyoming’s 28th Street areas, including the old Klingman’s building.

 

The Chamber’s Government Matters meetings include representatives of the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming, Kent County, local Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, and, often, representatives of other regional, State of Michigan and Federal elected officials. The next meeting will be Jan. 8, 2018 at Wyoming City Hall.

 

The meetings are on the second Monday of each month, starting at 8 a.m. WKTV Journal will produce a highlight story after the meeting. But WKTV also offers replays of the Monday meetings on the following Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Comcast Cable Government Channel 26. Replays are also available online at WKTV’s government meetings on-demand page (wktv.viebit.com) and on the chamber’s Facebook page.

 

Wyoming hosts Great Candy Cane Hunt this Saturday

The Great Candy Cane Hunt is Saturday, Dec. 9.

Santa is coming to Wyoming for a special event: the annual Great Candy Cane Hunt set for Saturday, Dec. 9.

 

There is still time for people to register for the hunt, which is from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Registration is $4 for resident hildren 3-14 years old ($6 for non-residents). Additional family members who are over the age of 14 may attend and enjoy lunch for $2.

 

The annual event features a candy cane hunt, lead by St. Nick himself, outside the Wyoming Public Safety Department, 2300 DeHoop Ave. Activities including lunch will be moved inside to the Wyoming Senior Center, 2380 DeHoop Ave. SW.

 

Pre-registration is required. To register or for more information, call 616-530-3164.

‘Wyoming Gives Back’ program kicks off the season in the City of Wyoming

Major Jack Poll looks over the donations from last year’s Wyoming Gives Back.

Grab a toy and head to the Rogers Plaza Mall Thursday for the City of Wyoming’s 7th Annual Wyoming Gives Back.

 

Each year the City of Wyoming partners with local businesses to celebrate the holiday season and collect toys for the Salvation Army Angel Tree. Last year, more than 400 toys were collected for donation and with the generous support of the participating busi­nesses, the City raffled off nearly $5,000 in prizes.

 

Event attendees who bring a new, unwrapped toy as a donation to the Salvation Army Angel Tree will receive a raffle ticket in exchange for a chance to win prize packs that contain hundreds of dollars of gifts donated by Wyoming businesses.

 

“We use to have just an annual Christmas lighting program by city hall and then we decided to find a place to get it move inside and we would get a bigger crowd,” said Mayor Jack Poll. “Then we combined with some of the organizations that collect toys over the last few years and it is a great event for the city.”

 

The annual event will take place from 6- 8 p.m. and will benefit the Salvation Army Angel Tree.

 

“I love it,” said Wyoming Councilmember Kent Vanderwood. “It’s just great to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season with all the great residents of the city.”

 

“That is what Christmas should be all about,” said Salvation Army Lt. William Brutto. “It should be about family. It should be about giving. It should be about helping others. So for the whole City of Wyoming to come together and help others is a fantastic time for the holiday season.”

 

Wyoming Public Safety officers and firefighters will be at this year’s event.

More than 20 businesses are hosting tables this year. The Salvation Army will be providing cookies and hot chocolate to event attendees. Residents are encouraged to bring their children to meet and visit with the Wyoming Police Department, the Wyoming Fire Department and, of course, Santa Claus!

 

A lineup of local choirs and bands is scheduled to share the sounds of the season. The lineup includes the Salvation Army Band, Tri-Unity Christian School Cherub Choir, Godwin Heights High School Chorale, Godwin Heights School Treble Choir, San Juan Diego Choir and the Wyoming Public Schools Jazz Band.

 

For more information on the event, visit www.wyomingmi.gov or call  616-530-7272.

School News Network: Districts scramble to find bus drivers

Dean Transportation is looking for 50 drivers to serve Kent County schools

Diane Kallemeyn prefers to work as a substitute bus driver for Wyoming Public Schools, but is now covering a permanent route. She arrives at 6:30 a.m. to transport hundreds of students across the district and to Kent Career Tech Center, racking up about 80 miles each day she drives. With a few breaks in between, she finishes driving after school in the afternoon.

 

“Right now, we are short drivers so I am on a run every day,” she said.

 

So are many other subs. Area schools are experiencing the nationwide shortage of bus drivers, putting transportation departments in a pinch to get students on the bus in the morning and back home after the final bell at a reasonable time. In Kent County, subs like Kallemeyn are covering routes, dispatchers are driving, and retirees are filling in to transport thousands of children every day. They’ve also consolidated runs and are constantly seeking applications for new hires.

 

“We’ve tried to be creative,” said Don Hebeler, Wyoming director of operations and support services, who advertises job openings with yard and marquee signs and district-wide emails. He recently had three new drivers going through the training process for four open routes.

 

Consolidating routes and relying on retirees are some ways districts are covering shortages

Countywide, Dean Transportation is looking to hire 50 drivers to serve Grand Rapids, Sparta, Cedar Springs and Kent City public schools as well as Kent ISD programs. The Lansing-based firm contracts with those school districts and others statewide. Statewide, Dean needs to hire 100 drivers total.

 

“We’ve seen this for a few years now,” said Ashleigh Wright, Dean hiring specialist. “We are working toward closing the gap by increasing advertising and increasing flexibility with training. We will train non-credentialed drivers and pay for training.”

 

Wyoming Public Schools bus driver Diane Kallemeyn is a substitute currently covering a regular route because of the bus driver shortage

Why a Shortage?

 

School officials named several factors at play. More positions in the job market are now available than a few years ago, plus there are strict requirements and fewer perks for drivers than in the past.

 

With the national unemployment rate at 4.1 percent, people are more easily finding full-time work without frequent split shifts.

 

‘We are still in need of five drivers. We could use more subs too.’ — Laura Tanis, Kentwood Public Schools transportation supervisor

 

New hires don’t receive traditional pensions as they did years ago, Hebeler said: “When a lot of my drivers started they got full benefits and a pension.”

 

In Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, one of Kent County’s smallest districts, they don’t have enough drivers cover field trips and athletic events, said Scott Bergman, supervisor of operations, transportation and custodial services. The district, which parks its fleet at the Wyoming Public Schools bus garage, often uses drivers from Wyoming, Kelloggsville and Dean Transportation to cover needs.

 

“There needs to be increase in compensation for both custodians and bus drivers,” Bergman said. District driver pay starts at about $14 per hour.

 

The biggest challenge, Wright said, is finding candidates that meet all requirements: a good driving record including no history of driving under the influence or careless driving; at least seven years experience driving commercially; a valid Michigan license; a passed background check and fingerprint clearance. Candidates must pass a federal Department of Transportation physical and drug and alcohol screening.

 

“The number of folks who apply and get through the process is one or two out of 10,” Wright said.

 

Kentwood Public Schools began the school year with 10 open bus driver positions, of 36 total positions in the district. Since then, five were filled. “We are still in need of five drivers. We could use more subs too,” said Transportation Supervisor Laura Tanis.

 

Don Hebeler, Wyoming Public Schools director of operations and support services, stands near the bus fleet. He and directors statewide need more drivers

Enticements for Recruits

 

Starting driver pay from district to district ranges from about $14 to $18 per hour. A minimum of hours is often required to qualify for insurance. Dean Transportation wages start at $16 an hour and guarantees a minimum of four hours per school day. Dean also offers full benefits, including health, dental, vision, a 401(k) plan and paid time-off to all drivers.

 

Caledonia Public Schools, a district covering more than 100-square-miles, has recruited drivers with the offer of a $250 referral bonus and $500 sign-on bonus. The effort led to hiring five part-time substitute drivers who cover field trips, vacation and sick days and after-school athletic events. Two more substitute drivers are still needed, said Transportation Director Brenda Witteveen.

 

Godfrey-Lee’s Bergman pointed out another issue may be contributing to the shortage. “It’s an awesome responsibility to be a bus driver,” he said. “You are responsible for the safety of those children from the the time you pick them up to when you take them home.”

 

In today’s fast-paced society, people are commuting in a rush. “We’ve had two dozen people go through our red lights (on buses) since school started and they came within feet of our kids,” Bergman said. “Everyone is in such a hurry these days.”