CASMAN, ISD boards hold annual meeting

MANISTEE — Communication is the key to the success of any partnership.

Manistee Intermediate School District superintendent Jeff Jennette and CASMAN Academy director Shelly VanVoorst lead a joint discussion of their two boards. The ISD is the chartering agent for CASMAN and once each year the two boards meet to discuss any issues that exist.

Manistee Intermediate School District superintendent Jeff Jennette and CASMAN Academy director Shelly VanVoorst lead a joint discussion of their two boards. The ISD is the chartering agent for CASMAN and once each year the two boards meet to discuss any issues that exist.

It is one of the reasons the relationship between CASMAN Academy and their chartering agent, the Manistee Intermediate School District, has been so good throughout the years. Once each year the two boards of education get together for a joint meeting to discuss any issues, concerns or other things that might need to be addressed.

Usually the meetings don’t have many problems arise because throughout the school year staff from both organizations interact in a variety of ways from education to finance. It keeps the lines of communication open and the feedback flowing in both directions.

On Tuesday evening, the two boards met at the ISD for their annual meeting. ISD superintedent Jeff Jennette praised the job CASMAN director Shelly VanVoorst has been doing at her school.

“Shelly is doing a great job as I have been here five years. She knows her business,” said Jennette. “She has their finances in good order and their academics moving forward. Charter schools like CASMAN give kids their basic needs, and it is a challenge every day.”

Jennette said all the K-12 districts in the county are doing book study this year on poverty and education that is being directed by ISD General Education director Kay Salyer. He said what they learning about is something that VanVoorst and her staff do on a daily basis at CASMAN.

“Shelly, her staff and the board have been living that for years,” said Jennette. “So kudos to you Shelly, as you have done a great job.”

VanVoorst praised the ISD for all the guidance and support they have given back to CASMAN over the years.

“When I call and have questions I get answers,” said VanVoorst.

ISD vice president Margaret Cloutier said the relationship has been working exceptionally well the past year.

“It’s nice to come to a board meeting and hear there isn’t any problems. It has been wonderful,” said Cloutier.

ISD board member Doug Parkes said about four years ago there was a time when CASMAN ran into some serious budget problems, but through some hard work that situation was corrected.

“The board and Shelley bought into it and it made a difference,” he said. “When you struggle financially it takes away from your real mission, but the board tackled that and fixed it.”

CASMAN board president Steve Parsons praised Manistee County Business Cooperative finance director Kris Mauntler for helping them work out of that crisis.

“She was instrumental in sitting down with the board to make sure we found a way to stay open, and it was huge,” said Parsons. “It truly is a partnership from our perspective, and we are very fortunate and thankful for the support you give us.”

Jennette said it also comes in the form of educational support from himself and general education director Kay Salyer.

“I know that Kay sat in on four of their school improvement meetings each year, and I tried to get to at least one of them,” said Jennette. “The staff is so exuberant and that is really nice. We know that all schools need to improve test scores, and they are working hard to do it.”

VanVoorst said the goal for next year is to still hit an enrollment of around 60 students, and they plan to graduate eight students this year.

ISD board member Lynda O’Shea asked where most of the CASMAN students came from in terms of school districts.

“The vast majority of them are from Kaleva Norman Dickson and the Manistee Area Public Schools districts,” said VanVoost. “We pull a few from Onekama and Bear Lake.”

VanVoorst said her whole goal is to support the other school districts as much as possible.

“I want to be a support to them and not a hinderance or competition,” said VanVoorst. “I really feel if the schools all collaborate and work together as well has we have been, it is only going to improve education in this county. I think it is working out well and hope I am projecting that out to the other schools because there are kids that just aren’t going to fit in traditional schools.”

ISD board president Mary Becker-Witt said she feels CASMAN plays a key role in the community.

“It is definitely a niche that is needed,” said Becker-Witt.

VanVoorst also pointed out that if any of the other districts took on their 60 students it would cause some dramatic shifts in their scorecards.

“So I think they see the benefit of us not being attached to them while still not being a competition,” said VanVoorst.

Jennette said that there is a price tag on every student in per pupil funding, but all the area superintendents want to do what is best for kids.

Becker-Witt said CASMAN has changed things dramatically in the last few years to improve its academics.

“(Students) now know you have to be serious about your education if you want to attend,” said Becker-Witt.

Parsons said the ISD has really shown that it cares about them.

“I have been on the school improvement team and have had the pleasure to attend those meetings during the year,” said Parsons. “The fact that you take that level of interest, roll up your sleeves and get involved is tremendous. Having that type of support and that kind of attention from the chartering institution is huge.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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