Monthly Archives: June 2016

Allendale Helps Ottawa County Rank Tops for Growth in Michigan

Despite a recession that reshaped Michigan, Ottawa County continues to grow—and Allendale Township is driving part of that success.

In March of this year, the U.S. Census Bureau released population data that offers a picture of growth and decline in Michigan.   Despite losing ground to a battered economy, Michigan managed a net growth of more than 6,000 residents between 2014 and 2015. Comparing towns in Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon and Newaygo counties, Allendale Township had the highest population growth in the area between 2014 and 2015, adding more than 1200 residents for a 5.8 percent increase in one year.Allendale water tower and flag

In Michigan, percentage growth in Allendale Township and Algoma Township were second only to Macomb Township near Detroit.

Other census facts include:

  • Ottawa ranks eighth for population among Michigan counties.
  • For growth in Michigan, Ottawa County ranks first, followed by Kent, Grand Traverse, and Livingston Counties.
  • Ranked 122 among large cities in the United States, Grand Rapids has a population of 195,097.
  • In the eastern part of the state, Wayne County posted a population loss of slightly under 11,000, the largest numeric decline of people in a county between 2013 and 2014 in the United States.
  • Growing at a rate of over 4.5 percent, the population of Ottawa County increased from 263,801 to 276,292 between 2010 and 2014.

Quoted in the Holland Sentinel, Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg, notes, “It is great to pick up speed as we pull away from the Great Recession and hopefully back to the major economic growth that we enjoyed prior to that devastating event.  Innovative Ottawa County employers have increased job opportunities in large numbers in recent times and of course our outstanding schools, unmatched natural resources, and low crime rate makes Ottawa County a top choice location for folks to gravitate to.

Continued growth is anticipated for Allendale and its schools.  Enrollment at Allendale Public Schools has grown steadily from 2,176 students in 2006-2007, to more than 2,600 students in the 2015-2016 academic year.  In the 2014-2015 school year, more than 50 percent of the graduating class enrolled in college or four-year university.

Located between the lakeshore and the Grand Rapids metropolitan area, Allendale has something for everyone, including outstanding educational and vocational opportunities through Allendale Public Schools.

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Allendale Staff Retirees Look Forward to Next Season of Life

Mrs Borst June 6 2016

After decades of dedicated service to the Allendale Public School District, several staff members are retiring this year. With plans to volunteer, go off-schedule, or spend time with family, the future looks busy for staff retiring this year, including:

  • With a lifetime of experience in Allendale, Elementary Teacher Annette Borst is retiring after 28 years of service to APS. Prior to APS, Ms. Borst taught in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and in Texas, in the Houston, Independent School District. Annette fondly remembers her first interaction with APS as a kindergarten student in Mrs. Carpenter’s class.  Moving through her school years at Allendale, then leaving and returning to Michigan, Annette offered her students and colleagues a seasoned perspective along with professional service and teaching skills. Highly engaged with her students and the district, Annette names “reading an actual book and sharing it with my class,” as a favorite memory—one that helped instill a love of literature in the children who passed through her classroom. Reflecting on her career and a word or two she might leave for others who follow, Annette suggests “carve out more time for family.”  Adding to that, Annette notes, “My faith is a big part of my life, I am proud of it.  I feel blessed to have served the children in this community…to have served.” Annette looks forward to being “off-schedule” for the first time in 35 years.  With ideas in mind for volunteer and possibly mission work, it seems clear service to her community will remain a big part of Annette’s life.


  • Since 1978, Kathy Murphy has served as an Instructional Aide. Working in elementary, middle school, and earlyMrs Murphy June 6 2016 childhood environments, Ms. Murphy loves her job working with children. Originally from Evart, Kathy moved to Coopersville, and then Allendale, starting with APS at the original campus building on Lake Michigan Drive. Kathy says she has seen a lot of changes over her 38 year tenure with APS, “some good, some not-so-good.”  A real plus, Kathy notes, is her observation that “children in Allendale are very kind to each other, loving, I am going to miss it.” As the Allendale Class of 2016 makes its initial career choices, Kathy remembers hers.  “I tried several times to get work as a secretary, it never happened.  This did.” Confident in her faith, and happy for how her career worked out, Kathy notes, “I was supposed to do this.” In the next season of life, Kathy plans to travel with her husband, spend time with her mother and 14 grandchildren, and garden.  Though she will miss her job, she has no question that it is the right thing to retire now.


  • Serving APS for 28 years, Kitchen Team Leader Denise Vruggink is also leaving APS this year. Originally from Denise VrugginkAllendale, Ms. Vruggink began her career with APS at the original campus building on Lake Michigan Drive. Starting as a Substitute in Food Services, Denise worked her way up.  As she retires, she leaves a position where she oversaw food services in the middle school—supervising food service staff, and ensuring more than 330 children per day had lunch, and oftentimes, breakfast too. Reflecting on what she looked forward to at APS, Denise notes, “What keeps me going is the people you work with.  We have fun at our jobs, and the rewards you get from the kids, to see them, and get to know them.  Through my years, I picked up students that needed a little extra TLC, say a few extra words, and as time goes on, they are your friend.“ In years when budget constraints were not as tight, Denise remembers the benefits of attending conferences, networking, and hearing how other school districts handled issues. As parting advice, Denise says, “have fun at your job, be flexible, and roll with the punches. Every day is a different day.” With seven grandchildren to keep her busy, Denise is happy to retire, but unsure how she will feel when school starts in the fall.  She has plans to camp, read, walk, and take it one day at a time.  Denise relates that she promised one granddaughter that when she graduated from eighth grade and moved on from the middle school—that Denise would move on too.  On her last day of work at APS, Denise held a large bouquet of beautiful red roses that her granddaughter—now moving into ninth grade—brought her that morning.  Now, they are both moving on from middle school.


  • Elementary Principal Jill Wilson has dedicated 32 years of service to APS. Originally from Jenison, Ms. Wilson began Jill Wilsonwith the district as an Elementary Teacher in Special Education.  After that, she transitioned through positions including first grade Teacher, lower elementary Assistant Principal and then Principal, Literacy Coordinator, and Reading Recovery Teacher.  For several years, Jill has been the Elementary Principal at Springview and Evergreen elementary schools. Singling out a favorite memory is tough for Jill.  As she notes, “Every single day that I have been here has been refreshingly different.  If you have the privilege to work with children, they will keep it fresh.” Commenting on the support she received throughout her years at APS, Jill says, “We have a wonderful school district, so much to be proud of.”  Jill adds that she has a wish that “those who legislate need to be in the schools talking to the amazing educators who are impacting our students.” As she leaves one road for another, Jill reminds us, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Moving forward, Jill plans to reduce intensity and open up time to make more choices.  Hoping to give back more to a family that has been supportive throughout her career, Jill is looking forward to travel—and being the best grandma that she can. In closing, Jill says, “I want to thank the Allendale community for your support and encouragement.  It is hard to think of leaving, but I am confident that amazing celebrations will happen in the years ahead.  Thank you for blessing my life in so many ways!”


  • Employed by the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District (OAISD), physical therapist Linda Stone, who worked primarily in the elementary setting, is retiring after more than 20 years serving APS children and families.


Thank you and best wishes to all those retiring this year from Allendale Public Schools.


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Heads Up, Helmet On—It is Biking Season!

As we head into summer, it is a great time to remember bicycle safety tips to keep you, and your friends, safe during the summer biking season. This spring, a bicyclist was struck by a truck in the parking lot of Allendale High School.  Luckily, there were no serious injuries.  The incident offers an opportunity to understand steps motorists and cyclists can take to avoid a crash.

Summer bike tips bike rackA couple of good tips for drivers include:

  • Watch: As low-profile vehicles, bicycles are hard to see.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorists often turn in front of cyclists, and fail to detect them in a landscape that may be occupied by trucks, pedestrians, and motorcyclists.
  • Don’t drive distracted: Recent statistics show roadway fatalities increased significantly in 2015—distracted driving could be one reason.  Keep your eyes—and your attention—on the road.  You could avoid a fatal mishap.
  • Be seen: Be sure to use turn signals and ensure your brake lights work.  Slow down and give bicyclists plenty of room on the road when you pass.

Consider these points on bicycle safety:

  • Protect your head: Your neighborhood street is no softer than the highway.  Be sure to wear a properly fitted helmet even to bike to a friend’s house.
  • Don’t ride distracted: Just like driving, distracted biking is dangerous.  Listening to music drowns out road sounds.  Checking your cell phone is no safer on a bike, than it is in a car.
  • Be seen: Wear bright clothing, use reflective gear and tape on your bike.  Most fatal biking accidents occur between 4:00 PM and midnight.  Be sure you have good lighting on your bike if headed out at twilight, or after dark.  Use hand signals.
  • Assume you are not seen: Never assume a motorist sees you.  When passing parked cars, keep enough distance to avoid a suddenly opened door.  When crossing a street, or making a turn, be sure oncoming traffic sees you—before you proceed.

AHS Director of Operations and Transportation Gary Torno adds that bicyclists should be aware that drivers of cars, trucks, and buses all have blind spots where bicyclists cannot be seen.  Mr. Torno also notes, “Helmets are very important piece of equipment in case an accident occurs it will at least provide some head protection from the hard surfaces [bicyclists] may encounter.

Across the country, and in Michigan, biking is a popular way to get where you are going.  Always be a Roll model and remember to share the road—whether you are a motorist, or a bicyclist.  Have a great, safe, summer!

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Allendale Robotics Team Meets with Governor Snyder

Robotics team with Governor Snyder

(L-R) Back row:  Ethan Potinsky, Pierce Marshall, Ethan Dowd, Governor Snyder, Morgan Luurtsema, Kalib Edwards, Sam Austin, Kyle Edwards (L-R) Front row: Elyse Muma , Grace McMonagle

Capping off another successful year, members of the Allendale Robotics program had the opportunity to meet with Governor Snyder on May 11, 2016.

The invitation-only event took place at the community FIRST practice field donated by JR Automation at Innocademy in Zeeland.  Included were seven local FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams and three FIRST Tech Challenge (FRC) teams.  Allendale Robotics members had a chance to meet personally with Governor Snyder—who drove the AHS award-winning 2016 robot.

Chad Potinsky at Worlds April 2016 cropped

Chad Potinsky, AHS Robotics Coach at St. Louis World Championship

FIRST stands for For Inspiration of Science and Technology, and was formed in 1989 by entrepreneur Dean Kamen, best known for his invention of the Segway.  FIRST is a non-profit organization that creates robotics-based programming for young people to promote science and technology, along with personal self-confidence and life skills.

Held in St. Louis this year, the FIRST World Championship took place in April with more than 20,000 student participants from around the world—including Allendale, Michigan.

With extensive experience mentoring the Holland robotics team C.H.A.O.S. (which stands for Creativity, Hustle, Achievement, Opportunity, Success), community member, parent, and engineer Chad Potinsky, developed the AHS program to include all four groups of the FIRST initiative, including:

  • FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC): Grades 9 – 12
  • FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC): Grades 7 – 12
  • FIRST Lego League (FLL): Grades 4 – 8
  • FIRST Lego League Jr. (Jr. FLL): Grades K – 3

Two of the most important values students acquire through the FIRST program are “gracious professionalism” and “coopertition.”  Gracious professionalism emphasizes the value of good work and respect for others, while coopertition encourages FIRST participants to “display unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition.

The AHS program welcomes members from surrounding areas, including Allendale, Coopersville, Jenison, and the Home Schooling community.

Supported by Governor Snyder and the state, some FIRST initiatives are trialed in Michigan.  Notes Coach Potinsky, “In Michigan we have seen a tremendous growth in all programs of FIRST.  Programs are run differently and set an example for the rest of the country.  In 2009, FIRST in Michigan (FiM) organized and introduced the District model.  This allowed teams to participate in more events closer to home for less funds than the traditional Regional Model.  Since then, the District model has expanded in the U.S.”

Commenting on the expansion of Michigan FIRST teams, Mr. Potinsky adds, “The grants that the Governor and the state have made available triggered large growth.”  Coach Potinsky said he hopes FIRST will soon add sustainability to its agenda, given the high cost of nurturing and running FIRST teams after start-up.

Commenting on the AHS program, Mr. Potinsky states, “For Allendale, having all four programs has been a great stepping stone opportunity for the kids.  We are now seeing real results of that.  The biggest challenge for us is funds, mentoring, and coaching resources. “

FIRST is more than robotics—it is collaborative teamwork, community outreach, fundraising, design, presentation, wiring, building, and driving.  As Mr. Kamen has pointed out, “It is the only sport where everyone can turn pro.”

If your child is interested in FIRST—or if you are interested in helping out—contact Coach Chad Potinsky  today.





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