Area schools to benefit from state STEM grants

LANSING — The move is on at the state level to put more funding toward Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational programs in Michigan Schools.

This week the MiSTEM Advisory Council announced  21 grants totaling $3 million were awarded including  $500,000 one to the West Shore Educational Services District (ESD) that will also benefit some Manistee Area Public Schools students.

West Central STEM director Kathy Surd, who works out of the West Shore ESD, said they were thrilled to receive the award.

“We are grateful for this award by the MiSTEM Advisory Council to provide any school in Michigan the opportunity to bring computer science to their students,” said Surd. “Our local schools have had great success with this program and it is a pleasure to share their success with the entire state of Michigan. By partnering with a nonprofit organization like, materials can be accessed by schools at no cost allowing for long-term sustainability of the program.”

Surd said there is a Manistee teacher working in the program teaching Advanced Placement (AP) classes that provide college credits to students. She said they hope to expand in the upcoming year in that area.

“Manistee Area Public Schools has a teacher, Troy Nezki, teaching the AP Computer Science Class this current year and is a member of our program,” said Surd.  “Applications are just out for next summer and the pool hasn’t been selected yet. There may be more coming from the Manistee area, but the final list of potential teachers won’t be decided for that yet.”

The interest is high in Manistee County for more STEM offerings and at the last Manistee Intermediate School District meeting, general education director  Lisa Lockman said they were planning a meeting with Surd to look at opportunities in that area.

“Kathy Surd, our West Central STEM Region Director, will be presenting to both our superintendents and principal groups on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) opportunities the schools can use to support student learning,” reported Lockman.

West Shore ESD superintendent Dr. Jason Jeffrey said the amount of this grant shows the name they have made around the state in promoting STEM opportunities.

“The regional superintendents have made a commitment to preparing all students for success in career and post-high school education or training,” said Jeffrey. “This includes the development of employability skills and technical skills including those through the program. We are excited to put these funds to their best use to help students achieve.”

The movement to these types of classes was evident by the fact that 78 grant applications were received this cycle making it a very hotly contested grant. The state set aside money in the 2018-19 School Aid Act for the MiSTEM Advisory Council to distribute grants for proposals to implement programs listed in the STEMworks database. That database is a list of high quality STEM programs in the state that have gone through a review process to be put on that list.

Manistee students will also receive the benefits of another pare of this grant process. The Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District (WMISD) also received $162,884 for use on math recovery programs.

The WMISD and the Manistee Intermediate School District share a superintendent in Dave Cox, and the two districts often share training and the use of staff. Manistee ISD general education consultant Kim Rinehart said WMISD’s math consultant Jodi Redman provides services in that math recovery to local schools.

“WMISD provides Math Recovery services us to our ISD and to Manistee Area Public Schools through various arrangements,” said Rinehart. “Jodi is the math consultant for both WMISD and Manistee ISD.”

State Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, said it is important that schools receive this funding to help them continue moving forward teaching students about subjects they will need in the future.

“STEM education is vital to this generation and for those to come,” said VanderWall. “It is wonderful to see these schools rewarded for their commitment to grounding our students in this critical knowledge.”

The MiSTEM Advisory Council said in a statement that they see the potential in programs like the ones that were awarded grants:

“These experiences align with the Council’s four pillars of a successful statewide STEM ecosystem. We are very excited that our students will be able to access these experiences. As proud as we may be about this initial success, we are even more encouraged by the widespread potential that will be harnessed and directed toward the further advancement of STEM education for all of the students throughout the state.”

Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles also issued a statement about the grants saying the STEM focus will help Michigan become a Top 10 education state in 10 years.

All the implementation plans selected for funding align with the Top 10 plan’s goal of implementing high-quality classroom instruction through a child-centered instructional model with a strategy to enable public schools’ students to engage in integrated STEM programming.

“Giving Michigan students the opportunity to learn and work at high-quality technical levels improves our ability to be leaders in education and industry,” Alles said.


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

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