2017-04-08 / Top News

Request on May Ballot Would Bring New Opportunities to Island Students

Island Superintendent Among Those Advocating CTE Millage
By Kevin Hess

Tuesday, May 2, a districtwide millage for Career and Technical Education will be on the ballot on Mackinac Island and on ballots for voters across Mackinac, Luce, and Chippewa counties, as well as Seney Township in Schoolcraft County. The proposal is 1 mill for 10 years and would benefit every school in the Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District (ISD). The same proposal presented last year was defeated by 400 votes, but school districts see the need for Career and Technical Education (CTE) training, and the easiest way to accomplish this is through an ISD-wide millage.

“Individual schools within the district cannot propose a millage like this,” said ISD Superintendent Dan Reattoir. “It has to be region-wide.”

The Eastern Upper Peninsula ISD ranks 53rd out of 56 ISDs in Michigan and last of the seven ISDs in the U.P. in terms of mills levied and money spent per pupil. EUPISD mills raise $404 per student, $482 less than the Michigan average. Passage of this millage would place the district sixth out of the seven U.P. ISD districts and produce approximately $2.3 million, increasing the amount spent perpupil to $740. Funds from this millage can only be used for CTE courses and would help schools in several ways. For schools that have CTE courses in-house, the funds would help to maintain those courses, expand them, and offer them to students from other schools. Schools without their own CTE programs will receive funds to send career and technical students to schools which do.

The school in the ISD with the most unique situation is Mackinac Island. Transportation issues are much different here, especially in the winter. Superintendent Dave Waaso believes the Island school could partner with local businesses and workers to provide opportunities for students.

“We would look to our local restaurants for food service, the hotels for hospitality, and construction teams on the Island for CTE opportunities, as well as others,” he said. “There’s enough going on here that I think we could provide our students with some great CTE experiences.”

The millage, he said, “will give students opportunities to learn a trade, especially those who don’t plan to go to college. They would be skilled and able to seek employment, or able to go into a vocational program and be better prepared and successful.”

Students across the area would benefit, school administrators say.

At Engadine, the district offers one course each in welding and small engine repair, so the millage would allow them to offer additional courses in these trades by funding the supplies and staffing. Engadine Superintendent Angie McArthur also anticipates opening these courses to students from other schools.

“Many students who travel to other schools for CTE programs,” she said, “now have to pay for their own transportation. The millage would help us to fund transportation for students and offer them more opportunities.”

Brian Reattoir, superintendent of Brimley Area Schools, says the millage would allow them to offer CTE opportunities to more students.

“Brimley budgets enough funds for 15 students to take CTE courses at off-campus locations,” he said. “The millage could significantly boost that number.”

Brimley and DeTour could also offer CTE courses on their campuses with the funding. DeTour could offer welding and computer science, while Brimley could offer courses in construction or hospitality. Brimley has a certified construction trades teacher on staff and a hospitality program available at Bay Mills Community College.

In Pickford, 30 students attend the Sault Area Career Center. Funding for transportation and tuition costs are paid through the general fund. The millage would provide specific funding for CTE programs, allowing the school to use the general funds for other things. Pickford Superintendent Angela Nettleton sees an opportunity to offer a CTE course that is not being offered anywhere else.

“I’ve seen a lot of interest in agricultural sciences,” she said. “This isn’t being offered anywhere outside of 4-H opportunities. We could use the millage to staff and supply this type of course.”

Administrators at Les Cheneaux Community Schools in Cedarville are exploring potential CTE partnerships with Les Cheneaux Culinary School and Great Lakes Boat Building School. The millage would offset transportation and tuition costs for Cedarville students. They would also use the millage funds to transport students to the Sault Area Career Center, maintain their current industrial arts classes, and expand work-release opportunities for students.

“The millage,” said Superintendent Randy Schaedig, “would give us access to programs being offered in neighboring districts, requiring less travel and different course opportunities.”

The St. Ignace Area Schools district offers students the opportunity to attend CTE programs at Cheboygan Area Schools. Cheboygan offers programs in automotive, construction, marketing, drafting, finance, culinary arts, teaching, welding, broadcasting, and woodworking. Five St. Ignace students are taking courses at Cheboygan, but they are required to provide and pay for their own transportation.

“I think more kids would be interested if we were able to pay for their transportation,” said Superintendent Don Gustafson. “Not everyone has the means to provide their own way.”

Owing to its distance from Sault Ste. Marie, Mr. Gustafson says Cheboygan makes the most sense as a partner.

The Sault Career Center has a good program, he said, but roundtrip travel would take two hours and the state has said the millage funds could be used outside the ISD.

If the millage passes, St. Ignace would also look to Les Cheneaux Culinary School and Great Lakes Boat Building School as potential partners.

The millage is being led and organized by the ISD, and it will act as the fiscal agent if the measure passes. The ISD will not spend the money, but distribute it to member school districts. A subcommittee of local superintendents would be formed which would make recommendations to the rest of the superintendents. Funds would be distributed on a per-student basis. The millage would also allow the ISD to hire a coordinator for oversight of work-study placement.

Superintendents see multiple benefits from this millage. De- Tour Area Schools Superintendent Angela Reed says students will be better prepared for life outside of high school, and other administrators echo her sentiment.

“Students will come out of high school with different skill sets that will be applicable to the work place right away,” said Mrs. Reed.

Adds Mrs. McArthur of Engadine, “We want to insure that our students can leave as skilled workers and be able to work right away within the local communities.”

“I think it is important for our schools to offer different opportunities for our students,” Mr. Gustafson said. “This is the best mechanism for us to expand these opportunities.”

Many superintendents see the CTE millage as a way to engage with students who do not want or plan to go to college.

At Pickford, Superintendent Nettleton said the millage “would allow students to leave our schools with career options they would already have the skills for because of CTE programming. It will help them fill the workforce in our local communities. It’s also a way to engage students that don’t learn as well through traditional classroom structure.”

Detailed information on the CTE millage proposal can be found on the ISD’s Web site at www.eup.k12.mi.us.

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