NEW BUFFALO — When school starts Tuesday, Sept. 3, New Buffalo Middle School students will have a new principal, but one with a familiar face.
Lindsey Diebolt was named to the position during the Monday, Aug. 12, New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education meeting in what Superintendent Jeff Leslie said was basically a formality. She has been serving as assistant secondary school principal since she joined the district in July 2017.
“She’s been a godsend these last couple of years. She’s done a phenomenal job supporting Wayne (Butler, middle/high school principal). Last year I had given her the responsibility for the middle school. This just formalizes it,” Leslie said.
Also during the meeting, six members of the Class of 2019 were added to the State of Michigan Seal of Biliteracy Plaque that hangs outside Spanish Teacher Kelly Weidenmiller’s classroom. The six that qualified for the honor are: Emma Wolf, who received her seal during graduation ceremonies, and Max Folino, Althea McGreehan, Fatima Ortega, Brenden Stark and Joe Turcotte.
Wolf took the Stamp 4s test, which results were known before graduation. The other five qualified by earning a score of four or five on the AP Spanish Language and Culture test, which results were returned in July.
New Buffalo is the only school in the area that offers the Seal of Biliteracy honor recognizing students who meet the English Language Arts requirements from graduation and demonstrate an intermediate high proficiency in another language in reading, writing, listening and speaking, which is considered to mark the difference between being biliterate versus simply bilingual.
“I am so incredibly proud of all the hard work and dedication that these students have shown through their Spanish education. The level of language proficiency to earn this seal is the level of a college-level junior or senior Spanish major. The level is incredibly high, in fact just one level below that necessary to be a Spanish teacher,” Weidenmiller said.
Also on Aug. 12, local resident and avid hiker Pat Fisher updated the board on his progress in developing and maintaining the four miles of nature trails through the nearly 75 acres of natural environment, including the adjacent Turtle Creek Preserve, which surround the elementary school. According to Fisher, the trails are used by students and teachers plus many others, including local hikers, cross country track teams, cross country skiers, snowshoers and “even a juvenile black bear for a short while.”
“The rich diversity of plant life we have is incredible. I can’t overemphasize the importance of the ecosystems we are protecting and the biodiversity they are providing,” Fisher said. He added that a sign and marker system was recently installed on the west side trails, with the east side trails soon to follow. The system includes coordination of marker coordinates with Berrien County 911 to assist law enforcement, emergency and rescue personnel.
Fisher noted the support he has received from the school board, administration and staff as well as community organizations ranging from the Harbor Country Hikers, Rotary Club and scouting organizations to Chikaming Open Lands, New Buffalo Volunteer Fire Department and New Buffalo Township Library staff.
Board President Chuck Heit thanked Fisher for all his work. He said it was nice to see the land put to use, noting much of property is part of a large parcel sold to the district at a reduced rate years ago for the building trades program. However, due to problems with the wetlands, much of the land cannot be used for that purpose.
Fisher also updated the board on the natural prairie habitat recently planted in the old ball field at the elementary school and shared the page-long list of native plants that will be found there. The project is funded by a grant from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partner for Fish and Wildlife Program.
During his superintendent’s report, Leslie noted that work on resurfacing the parking lots at the Middle/High School, including improved drainage, would be completed by the end of the following week. He said the new generators were installed at each school, adding, “Now that they are in and we have spent all that money, the city will never lose power again.” He was referring to an outage over a weekend last October that highlighted the need for back-up generators.
Leslie also told the board that NBAS was ranked 29th among the top 50 districts in Michigan by the website Niche. St. Joseph Public Schools was ranked 13th in the state and Lakeshore Public Schools was rated 40th. Niche based its rankings on achievement on M-STEP and SAT tests, college readiness, teacher quality, facilities, student and parent perception, health and safety, and student opportunities.
In other business, the board gave the first reading of several policies. Board Member Lisa Werner said all of the policies are required by law although many don’t apply to NBAS. The policies, which will be available for review in the Superintendent’s Office, include: Definition, Closed Session, Drug-Free Workplace, Curriculum Development, Reproductive Health and Family Planning, Employment of Professional Staff, Employment of Substitutes, Schools of Choice Options Provided by Federal Law, Attendance, New School Construction/Renovation, Crowdfunding, School Safety Information, Emergency Operations Plan, Food Services and Transportation for Field and Other District Sponsored Trips.