Program recognized

DOLLAR BAY – The Dollar Bay High School Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics has won another award, and at their regular meeting Tuesday, the members of the Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Board of Education heard the details of the award.

Bob Staple, account executive for the Upper Peninsula region of School Employers Trust School Employers Group insurance agency, said the SOAR program received the SETSEG Education Excellence Award for Community Engagement for the robotics program, which has been used to help employees at the Isle Royale National Park determine the level of infestation of zebra mussels at the park’s docks and other locations.

Staple said 26 schools in Michigan received awards in eight categories. There is also an Intermediate School District category.

“Dollar Bay is the only U.P. district to get the award,” he said.

He’s very impressed with the work teacher Matt Zimmer and his students have done in the robotics class.

“What an innovative program,” he said.

Staple presented to the board a trophy, a sign indicating the district is an award winner, and a check to the district for $400.

“You’ve got a great school district here,” Staple said.

At a Michigan Association of School Boards meeting in the autumn, Staple said an overall Education Excellence Award winner will be chosen, and the SOAR program is eligible.

“This is only the first step,” he said of the Community Engagement award.

William Rivest, K-12 principal, said Zimmer and his students chose to submit an entry in the Community Engagement category because that is the purpose of the aquatic robot.

“They worked on it to improve the community,” he said.

In October, the SOAR program won a National Park Service Hertzog Award for Outstanding Youth Group for the Midwest Region. This past spring, the class won the NPS national award for the robotics program.

Board members also discussed the evaluation of the job Rivest is doing as principal.

Superintendent Jan Quarless said on a scale of 4, Rivest received a 3.95.

“We wanted to leave some room for improvement,” he said jokingly.

Quarless said Rivest has been very effective in making important improvements in the district.

“He’s done an exemplary and superior job here,” he said.

Among the efforts Rivest has been involved with in the district are overseeing the change from a semester format to a trimester format, which has been good for students, and the increase in use of technology for the schools.

Rivest has also been a good ambassador between the school board, administration and faculty and staff, Quarless said.

“He’s prioritized what our needs are,” he said.

Board member Larry Fallon said he especially appreciates the effort Rivest has done to ease relationships with the faculty, which in the past were difficult.

“Everybody’s on the same page,” Fallon said.

Rivest said although he appreciated the positive evaluation, many people are involved with making the district better.

“It doesn’t work without everybody together,” he said.

Quarless told board members about his support of a bill in the Michigan Legislature, which is intended to give local districts more control over how they design their curriculum.

Currently, Quarless said there are many state and federal requirements for course content, which local districts must meet to get certain funding, but those requirements may not meet the realities of the students in the district.

“It’s always that financial threat that’s out there,” he said.

Quarless said a recent survey showed 52 percent of Dollar Bay High School graduates go on to some sort of college education, but in Michigan only 27 percent of students starting at a two- or four-year college actually graduate.

“What are we doing with the other 73 percent?” he asked.

What is needed, Quarless said, is a greater emphasis on allowing some students to go into trade training, and a lessening of the requirement that all students be guided toward Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, classes, because not all students will do well in those classes.

In other business, board members:

chose President Dallas Bond and Vice President Richard Nye as representatives for the Copper Country Intermediate School District elections June 3.

approved the proposed 2013-14 CCISD budget.

heard from Rivest the district received a $5,000 Lowe’s Home Improvement Tool Box for Education grant to construct an outdoor classroom, which will include a greenhouse.

discussed two design proposals for a school crest, which have various symbols representing the district, including a lightning bolt to represent the district’s past mascot, waves to represent the nearness of water, a musical clef symbol to represent music education, a winged foot and basketball to represent athletics in the district and a book to represent education. Rivest said a final design decision will be made soon.