I hear so many of you, the great people of this school community, say over and over again "It's all about the kids." No matter where I go-to business groups, to community events, to ballgames and extracurricular activities, to fund raisers, to our school buildings, to just "dropping in" or meeting you on the street-the welfare and education of our youngsters, our students, is uppermost in so many of your thoughts and your prayers. We continue to struggle with many unique issues in our school district while working hard and long to solve them every day a little bit at a time. It's like "chewing the elephant" and it's "very hard and tough." After so many years of leading schools and other large organizations, I can "shoot from the shoulder," look you in the eye, and tell you "flat out" that our situation is not what I would describe as "normal." There are many reasons for this and I continue to "sort them out" and work on them every day. But what is really interesting and amazing to me is that the vast majority of people here, you folks, are very caring, hard working, fun-loving, family oriented, intelligent, and very "normal" human beings. And our youngsters, our students, are that way too. In fact, those characteristics and capabilities are exhibited to a greater degree here than many other places I have been very familiar with. Here are a few examples:
I attended the youth football (Jaguars) fund raiser recently and there was a concern about many tickets being unsold and whether all cash prizes could be given in full. The great people present teamed up to buy unsold tickets and the "lucky winners" turned around and gave back most all winnings to the youth football program to insure the funding goal would be reached and exceeded.
This past weekend, the library "sponsored" a wonderful student competition called "Battle of the Books." Teams of youngsters from different schools had read several outstanding books and were "drilled" through four rounds of several very specific questions about the stories they had enjoyed. All teams did extremely well and exhibited terrific spirit, teamwork, and pride. Their memory and comprehension were really tested. Nice "donors" from the community paid the cost of supporting this competition and the use of the facilities. This happens all the time. Great people step forward and insure that good things happen and work together to help others. Likewise, some of the teacher minigrants for projects directly affecting student learning and performance that weren't funded by my wife and I were covered by other "anonymous donors" and by businesses that were asked to help.
There are so many other community groups that work hard to raise funds for excellent projects, many of which benefit our schools and programs. Our Lions, Elks, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, United Way, Legion, and Rotarians (whose big auction is this weekend), and many more, as well as our Bobcat Boosters all work so hard to "make good thing happen" for us all. And our churches and their leadership also do so many things that positively affect the people of this area. It is truly incredible! It's all interrelated-our relationships with each other as well as the responsibilities we accept-bring results that we can all take pride in.
With spring weather finally here, I hope everyone will get out and take in a junior high or high school track meet, girls soccer match, or a baseball or softball game. It's great to watch the youngsters perform. I invite you to visit our buildings where our students have completed most of the performance testing that the state requires each year. They are continuing to prepare themselves for future challenges, whether those involve advancing to the next grade or building or going on to college, future training, or even the armed forces. They have accomplished so many good things this year with the great help and guidance of teachers, coaches, advisors, and staff members .
I have been exploring the idea of a Houghton Lake Schools Alumni Association with Gordon LaFontaine who is very committed to our community and our young people. There are so many graduates of our schools, not only locally, but around the state and country, that have gone on to great accomplishments but still retain that "Bobcat Pride." Reconnecting with those "Bobcats" through a newsletter, publicity, recognition and some special activities sounds like an idea that supports the things I have talked about here. We will keep you posted.
I wanted to briefly remind everyone of our important Annual School Election on May 8th. The 18 mill renewal vote for five years on non-homestead property taxes represents almost 1/2 of our total school revenues to run our schools each year ($7,565,000 or 48% estimated next year). It is our "lifeblood millage" and does not affect primary homesteads or residences but is levied on businesses and second homes or vacation property. The ISD Special Education millage vote to restore 0.6373 of a mill back to its legal rate of 0.75 of a mill after reduction over time by the Headlee Amendment will directly help HLCS special education programs and services for our students. It would help provide over $70,000 a year for the next 5 years to offset over a $1.5 million shortfall each year in funding our own special education programs that now is paid from our general school funds. That millage if passed would cost between $5 and $10 a year for homes valued between $100,000 and $150,000 (assessed at $50,000 to $75,000). That would be about the cost of one meal at a local restaurant. It truly is "all about the kids" as we look forward to solving our school district issues and problems into the future. Please plan to vote on May 8th. I invite you to attend sessions the next two Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at the board office if you have any questions on the election. I also am willing to come and provide information to any group or organization about these millage issues and our schools or to take calls or visits at the office at any time.