NEW BUFFALO — “New” news seemed to be the theme of the New Buffalo Area School Board of Education meeting on Monday, June 13, with discussion about choosing a new board member, a new food cart offering additional choices, and a new entrance to the Elementary School.

After hearing brief introductory statements from six of the seven candidates who have applied  to fill a vacant seat on the board, a special meeting was called for Tuesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. during which the new member will be chosen by the board.  In the interim, the candidates will submit their answers to written questions prepared by Superintendent Jeff Leslie.

At the May 21 meeting, board members will have the opportunity to ask questions and make nominations. To be seated, a candidate must receive four votes to be selected or the Berrien RESA will select the new member who will serve until the next school election in November 2020.

The vacancy was created when Treasurer Pano Arvanitis, serving his second term on the board, resigned on April 22 after he was selected by the board from eight candidates as the district’s business manager to replace Dan Coffman, who is retiring.

The six candidates speaking at Monday’s meeting included:

• Paul Ciccarelli is a 15-year resident of the area with two children in sixth and eighth grades. He has been coach of youth sports, is a member of the New Buffalo Township Library Board and is manager of Dunes Club. He noted his special interest in special education due to his own needs as a student and those of his son.

• Sue Rahm, a NBAS graduate, has three children who graduated from NBAS and three grandchildren currently enrolled. She was an active member of parent associations and class sponsor and continues to volunteer in support of the sports program. She is co-owner of two real estate offices and likes numbers.

• James McCafferty, a 30-year resident of the area, retired as a manager in the steel industry and became an attorney in 2000 with a practice in domestic relations. He served as a pro bono guardian for more than 80 children and mediated more than 400 cases in Juvenile Court. He described himself as a volunteer, businessman and trainer but not a “yes” man.

• Jude Stahmer moved to New Buffalo Township three years ago after retiring from a business career. She wants to become more involved in the New Buffalo community since she is about to end her role as chair of a University of Wisconsin foundation board that focuses on improving graduation rates for first generation college students. She is experienced in sales, fundraising and financials.

• Kathie Butler is a lifelong resident and currently New Buffalo Township Deputy Clerk and member of the New Buffalo Library Board. Both she and her husband are NBAS graduates, as are her son and daughter and parents and grandparents. She is experienced with Michigan’s state tax funding system and previously worked for the NBAS superintendent’s office. She was active in the drive to build the current school buildings, the formation of the area’s day camp program and continues with the Blessing in a Backpack program and with the youth sports programs.

• John Haskins is a lifelong resident and 1995 graduate of the district. He has four children enrolled in the school district and coaches youth sports and volunteers for other school activities.

• Candidate Caitlin Rosinko was not present at the meeting.

The meeting began with a presentation by Food Services Director Patty Iazzetto who reviewed her group’s efforts in creating good lifelong eating habits, beginning with breakfast and stressing balanced menus.

Iazzetto thanked the board for its support for 12 years of free breakfasts, a program that is “a great help to families.” She said the district serves 155 breakfasts daily, with another 45 servings provided through the new mobile cart which can be found in the entranceway for those who miss the cafeteria breakfast or during morning breaks. Beginning July 1 through Aug. 2, free lunches will be offered to anyone 18 years and under.

Daily menus are prepared for three lunch choices at the elementary level and six to eight choices for middle and high school students. New this year is the Bison Power Lunch which she said is similar to offerings at a popular coffee shop. Iazzetto said the department keeps track of 28 students with food allergies and works with those families to make sure the right precautions are taken.

Additionally, Food Services provides snacks for the Bison After School Enrichment program and the middle school Homework Club, oversees the vending machines which are available during after-school hours and helps the Bison and Band Boosters operate their concession stands. Additionally, there are 650 student and staff lunch accounts to manage and service is provided for 36 special events during the year, such as Apple Crunch Day, Donuts for Dad, Muffins with Mom and Veterans Day.

The meeting also included presentations by Abonmarche representative Evan LeDuc who reviewed preliminary plans for both the new security entrance at the Elementary School and a new building to house STEAM-related classes and equipment.

The proposed Elementary School changes, for which the board approved spending $18,300 for preliminary plans, include a new configuration of the current entranceway with outdoor enhancements and better ADA access, relocating the administration office and BASE headquarters. The total project is expected to cost between $180,000 to $200,000 and be completed in the summer of 2020.

The second project includes new building to be erected next to the pickle ball court to serve students from the robotics team, the building trades classes and performing arts programs with space for a robotics field, classrooms and storage. LeDuc described ways in which students can be involved in all phases of the construction. The board approved spending $95,000 for preliminary documents for the project, which is expected to cost $1.3 to $1.5 million.

At the start of the meeting, Chris Sokol Beushausen represented the faculty in saluting Curriculum Coordinator David Kelly for his support to the staff. She noted his help in setting up materials for special education, his problem-solving ability, open-door policy and support of the teen peer program, professional development opportunities and tips on mentoring new teachers.

The board approved hiring Kurt Raducha as Social Studies teacher (chosen from 22 applicants).  Leslie said he has 19 years classroom experience and is graduate of Western Michigan University.

The board heard the first  reading of the routine changes to board policies: Nondiscrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity; Anti-Harassment, Nondiscrimination and Access to Equal Educational Opportunity; Anti-Harassment; Sexual Violence; Parent and Family Engagement; Title I Services; Parent and Family Member Participation in Title I Programs; District and School Report Card; P.A. Annual Reports, Postsecondary (Dual) Enrollment Option Program; Employment of Professional Staff; Employment of Substitutes; Assignment and Transfer; Controlled Substance and Alcohol Policy for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers; Use of Medications; Interrogation of Students; Emergency Removal, Suspension, and Expulsion of Students; Expulsions/Suspensions; Due Process Rights; Student Seclusion and Restraint; Procurement; Prevailing Wage Coordinator and  School Calendar.

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