Community News

Mark Your Calendars: Community Field Day is May 31

undefinedAllendale’s Third Annual Allendale Community Field Day offers both community beautification and learning experiences for a fun, action-packed family day on May 31.

Spearheaded by Allendale Middle School science teacher Keith Piccard and GVSU Professor Peter Riemersma, the day seeks to harness the “power of many volunteers” to build an outdoor learning space that can be utilized by APS teachers, the community and young scientists everywhere.

Believing that valuable educational opportunities await outside the traditional classroom, especially in the sciences, both Piccard and Riemersma excitedly await a morning of community interaction that will pave the way for that completed outdoor space. Once gardens are tended and water tested, their hope is that these outdoor learning spaces will be continually improved and promoted for more frequent use throughout the school year.

As for the day’s agenda, participating families will be invited to join in these events prior to gobbling up a free lunch:

  • Stream Flow Measurement Wiers and Duck Race: weirs will be constructed and installed in the Sevey Drain running through campus so that participants can measure water velocity. Using this information, along with the distance to the finish line, families will make duck race predictions before racing their own yellow duck.
  • Minnow Traps: Local boy scouts will be on hand to help participants create minnow traps and learn how to use them. Minnow traps play an important role in estimating local fish populations.
  • Project Budburst Garden maintenance: volunteers are invited to play a critical role in maintaining the garden work that was completed in the previous two Community Days. A key part of this venture will be simplifying and streamlining the tasks needed to maintain those areas.
  • Many other fun, educational activitieslike a nature scavenger hunt, walking tours of school gardens and previous projects, water evaluation under digital microscopes, looking at aquatic macroinvertebrates, and water conductivity and turbidity.

For information about how you can get involved, please contact Peter Riemersma ( or Keith Piccard (

Hope to see you Saturday morning, May 31!


Categories: Allendale Public Schools, Community News | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Jill Wilson Named Principal of the Year!

Some of us spend a lifetime chasing after the next career move that will land us one step closer to our “dream job.”  We set goals and strive for excellence, but even with diligent effort, few of us will ever be regarded as the best.

But for Jill Wilson, Principal of Allendale Elementary School, she has achieved just that. This November, Mrs. Wilson received news from MEMSPA (Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principal’s Association) that she had been named Elementary Principal of the Year!

Jill Wilson, Allendale Public SchoolsEach year, MEMSPA selects one principal from each of its twelve regions for this recognition, with the board of directors and regional representatives making the final selections from a pool of nominations. Mrs. Wilson was nominated by Allendale Public Schools, as well as by several staff members individually, for being compassionate, caring, acting as a mentor and setting high expectations, among numerous others. Yet Mrs. Wilson knew nothing of these nominations until one day in November.

Mrs. Wilson recalls running into Tom DeGraaf, MEMSPA’s Region 12 Director, at a principal’s meeting in Ottawa County last month. Tom wasted no time in prompting her to attend the conference where the awards would be handed out. She remembers bursting into laughter at the thought, feeling that the talent and dedication of the other principals was so honorable that she would never be singled out among such a crowd. Yet Tom’s encouragement was the push she needed to reserve her spot at the annual MEMSPA conference at Traverse City’s Grand Traverse Resort.

Of course that decision proved to be a game changer because at the conference, Mrs. Wilson was awarded Region 12 Michigan Elementary School Principal of the Year! When hearing her name, Mrs. Wilson said she felt a “shot of adrenaline to continue to do as much as I can to impact staff, students and parents in a positive way!”

Reflecting on the evening and the weeks since, she tells us:

“I am very humbled by this honor.  I know that there are many other professionals in the field of education that are passionate about what they are doing and why they are doing it and are far more deserving than I may be.  I have spent 30 years in public education (29 at APS) and I can’t think of a place I’d rather be.  I hope that this award brings awareness of the need for continued support for our teachers, students, support staff and school community as a whole. Allendale Public School District is a place to highlight. An award such as this could not be possible without the love and support of my husband, three daughters and extended family.  They have been there to help whenever they could! I was thrilled to have my husband be able to join me at the event!” 

Our sincere congratulations to Mrs. Wilson for this tremendous honor! We’re blessed to have you serving students in Allendale!

Jill Wilson, Allendale Public Schools, MEMSPA

Categories: Allendale Elementary Schools, Community News | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame Adds to its Ranks

With the lower level of Main Street Pub buzzing with anticipation, Saturday evening’s Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame dinner kicked off with drinks, hors d’oeuvres and an estimated one hundred people dressed in their Sunday best.

Allendale Public Schools

Allendale Public Schools

Designed primarily to honor the contributions of Allendale Public School Alumni, Dr. Jonker explained that the awards have been extended to include the service of APS-associated individuals, such as parents and staff. Having learned from other nearby school systems like Rockford and Ypsilanti, he explained that some of the magic of this recognition comes “…when students see what’s out there. They better understand what they can achieve when they have role models that came from Allendale who can inspire them.”

Allendale Public Schools

This year, five people were inducted into the Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame, three of whom were alumni and two of whom were honored for their service. Dr. Jonker noted that, “Our Allendale Public Schools Foundation committee really wanted to have a way to honor alumni who have made contributions, not only to the community but beyond.”

Today we extend our congratulations to Robert “Gene” Elkins, Betty LaBrecque, Robert Jackson, Nicholas Ceglarek and George Suchecki.

Allendale Public Schools

Robert “Gene” Elkins, who was honored posthumously, was a WWII vet instrumental in the establishment of Allendale High School. After serving as a principal from 1961-1964, Gene went on to serve as APS Superintendent from 1965-1985. His widow, Dorothy, expressed gratitude for the honor, saying that without the efforts of her husband, “there would be no Allendale High School.”

Betty LaBrecque, a 1988 grad, has worked tirelessly on dozens of parent-led committees, coordinating the work and donations of other parents, most recently as AHS Music Booster treasurer, vice president and president. She shared that she had a great high school experience herself, so her goal was to make high school a positive experience for her kids, too. Over time, Betty got more and more involved, doing things for her own children and the kids she “adopted.”

“The thing I like most is walking through the hallways and hearing the kids yell, “Hi Mrs. LeBrecque” and run up and give you a hug. It makes it all worthwhile — it is an honor.”

Robert Jackson, a 1977 grad, is perhaps better known as the 1987 “Cincinatti Man of the Year” after nine years of playing professional football for the Cincinatti Bengals. Now a motivational speaker, Robert said it felt nice “coming home,” though he wished his team members could have joined him.

“I didn’t make the holes or make all the passes myself — it was always a team. That’s the way we grew up, it wasn’t just one person”. Robert is also a 2009 inductee into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame.

Nicholas Ceglarek, a 1991 grad, began teaching and working as an administrator in Rockford in 2002-2003. In 2003, Nick was awarded the GVSU Outstanding Administrator Award, after which time he worked as a superintendent in Baldwin, Fruitport and then Hudsonville, where he serves presently.

“It’s  hard to describe what this means to me. It’s an honor and it’s humbling to be recognized when you realize that there are so many worthy, unbelievable people that graduated from Allendale Schools who have gone on to do great things. Allendale has been such a treasure for me and has really shaped who I am. I’ll always have a heart here.”

George Sucheki was appointed as the first principal of then-newly-formed Allendale High School in 1969. He went on to continue in that role until 1990! Following his time as principal, George worked as the Computer and Tech Director from 1994-2001. During his career, he has also served as middle school basketball coach, golf coach (after being instrumental in starting the program) and State Champion softball coach.

When asked about the honor, George became emotional, saying, “It means a lot. My heart was always in Allendale. It never really left.”

Congrats to all of these 2013 inductees!

Allendale Public Schools

Categories: Allendale Public Schools, APS Celebrations, Community News | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to School Fair Makes Waves as Summer Ends

With sunlight filtering through trees and the calendar signaling the end of another summer, hundreds of eager families filled Allendale Township Park last week Wednesday to take advantage of the community-wide Back to School Fair.

firetrucks, allendale back to school fair

Organized by Tammy Walker of the ABC Coalition, an Allendale non-profit, this year’s fair brought together local businesses, church and para-church organizations, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, and both Allendale Public and Allendale Christian Schools. Groups like New York Life offered free child ID’s and the Sheriff’s Department gave horseback rides; several other businesses followed suit with their own freebies and giveaways.

horse, signups, allendale back to school fair

“This event shows what our community is all about. Each year it’s such an amazing evening — we’re lucky to have this kind of event!” said Tammy Walker.

Dr. Daniel Jonker, Superintendent of Allendale Public Schools, agrees:

“An event like this demonstrates the strength of our community partnerships and reminds us all of the people who come around students and offer to help each year.”

Run entirely on donations (each business pays $25 to host a table), the Back to School Fair gave a free Scholastic book and ice cream treat to each student. Additionally, it gave teachers the opportunity to connect with kids and families before school began, while welcoming those new to the area.

signups, allendale back to school fair

Allendale Middle School PTO volunteers Carlene Coone, Melissa DeHoop, and Karin Morgan used the evening to introduce themselves to incoming 6th grade parents, asking them to sign up and get involved in the school. Melissa, for instance, had two children in the middle school last year and shared that families who met them first at the park were much more eager to follow-up at the school.

“Teachers are working so hard that serving in the PTO, helping with funding and helping to plan activities is one way for parents to support the teachers,” said Carlene.

books, signups, allendale back to school fair

Kids explored the fire trucks, police cars and ambulance on hand while the new police sergeant and his deputy used the interaction time to talk about safety and rip tides in Lake Michigan. The excitement of the kids was palpable and parents were thankful for the opportunity to get some questions answered at the transportation table.

“I’m excited to see my friends again! ” said Grace Hilton, a 3rd grader, who attended with her grandpa.

We send our thanks to everyone who made this year’s Back to School Fair a fun, successful event! Strong communities build strong schools, and we are blessed to have both.

icecream, signups, allendale back to school fair


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You’re Invited to the 2nd Annual Allendale Community Field Day!

Allendale Community Field Day, Allendale Public SchoolsBirds and bats and butterflies — oh my!

The Second Annual Allendale Community Field Day is preparing to take flight, inviting community members to join in creating a diverse and healthy ecosystem on the Allendale Public School campus.

Grand Valley State University professor Peter Riemersma and Allendale Middle School Science teacher Keith Piccard have focused this year’s work on “Things That Fly,” and will spend this Saturday, May 18 doing three things:

  • constructing bird feeders
  • building bat houses
  • planting butterfly gardens

The two men have worked tirelessly to get a small team of community members to volunteer in ways that strengthen the program. They wish to thank:

  • Allendale Boy Scout Troop 39 for their help with bat house preparations; special thanks to Eagle Scout Alex Silas
  • GVSU Engineering Students for their work on new bird feeder designs
  • Dr. Amy Russell, GVSU Biology Bat Consultant
  • GVSU Illustration Student Kayla Traina for her lovely Flyer Design
  • Holli Ward, Butterfly Consultant
  • The Vruggink Family Garden and their help with plant germination intended to attract butterflies

Mr. Piccard and Professor Riemersma are passionate about getting students outside to better connect the science they learn in class and the real-life application of that knowledge. 

“My curriculum hasn’t changed,” said Mr. Piccard. “I’m still actively involved in stream ecology, and these projects will only help to further those interests as well. We just want to get more people involved in doing science and data collection outside. Everyone’s welcome! Students from other schools and even homeschooled kids are invited to take part in this community field day.”

Professor Riemersma agreed, noting that he has spent this entire school year on sabbatical to promote the goals of expanding science and connecting it to the world around us:

“We’re not just putting up a bat house or a bird house because it’s nice to look at — we want this to impact education. We’re working hard to create an infrastructure that will support those goals.”

Funding for this year’s Allendale Community Field Day come from Professor Riemersma’s personal grant monies, a $1,700 Allendale Community Foundation Grant, and PTA dollars.

If you would like to join the fun and build a bird house, bat house, or help to plan butterfly-attracting flowers, you’re invited to attend for FREE! For all the latest news, be sure to “like” them on Facebook!  Click HERE to do so.

Saturday, May 18: 10 am – 4 pm 

Lunch provided at the event

(rain date: May 25)

Categories: Community News, The Sciences at APS | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Butterflies and Bats Invade Allendale Public Schools

Nothing heralds spring quite like the flutter of butterfly wings in the daytime and the rhythmic beating of bats’ wings at dusk. They remind us that buds and blossoms and new life are parading back into our landscapes and bringing warmer weather with them.

backyard butterflies, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale Community Field Day

But aside from the beauty of butterflies and the oddity of bats, each of these creatures serves an important purpose in our ecosystem, and we are excited to share those roles with our students in a series of learning experiences planned for this upcoming week.

In preparation for next week Saturday’s Second Annual Allendale Community Field Day, we are honored to welcome Ms. Holli Ward of Michigan Butterflies LLC to Allendale on Thursday, May 9 from 11:30 until the end of the school day. Ms. Ward will be visiting our Springview and Evergreen Elementary Schools to teach students about butterfly larvae, eggs, general life cycle details, migration patterns of Monarchs, food requirements, and more.

Ms. Ward’s visit will take place in the school’s gymnasium and will allow her time to interact with all of our elementary students — that’s over 800 kids! Stations will be set up to offer an interactive and hands-on experience for everyone.

Mr. Peter Riemersma, co-founder of the Allendale Community Field Day with Mr. Piccard of Allendale Middle School, is overseeing much of the planning for the event and was able to secure grant monies to cover the cost of Ms. Ward’s visit. He hopes to inspire APS students to join our field day after working with butterflies and learning about the important role they play in our ecosystem. (Further details about the 2nd Annual Field Day will be published next week Tuesday).

Bat Conservation, Allendale Public Schools

Allendale Intermediate students will also have the opportunity to learn about winged creatures on May 13 during two assemblies put on by Bats of the World.  During these assemblies, fourth and fifth graders will explore the importance of bats, their habitats, thoughts on conservation, and will investigate some of the adaptations bats possess to help them navigate their nocturnal lifestyle. Students will additionally enjoy meeting an African fruit bat, a Jamaican leaf-nosed bat, and a local insect-eating bat.

Mr. Riemersma and Mr. Piccard express their gratitude to the Allendale Elementary School PTO whose support covered the majority of the expense of this visit. They hope that students will be eager to help install bat houses during the community field day on May 18!

Please check back next week for details about our Community Field Day!

[click here for this week’s photo credit}

Categories: Allendale Elementary Schools, Community News | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Time for Family Fitness Frenzy!

APS, Family Fitness Frenzy, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale Elementary PTO

Photo taken at FFF 2012.

Allendale’s 5th Annual Family Fitness Frenzy is revving up to once again promote health, an active lifestyle, and general wellness in the community. With activities planned from 9 am – noon this Saturday, March 16, families will enjoy the freedom to come and go at a pace that best fits their schedules.

Parent Volunteer Coordinators Wendy Williams and Melissa Fennell have worked tirelessly for months, along with with a team of parent volunteers, to put together a memorable — and meaningful — event for all who attend. While executing a successful fundraiser for the Allendale Elementary PTO is at the top of their list, they say that offering a day filled with fun and games is a close second.

“We hope the students, families, teachers, and community enjoy the updates our planning team made this year. We have put in a lot of thought and time, and considered lessons learned from past events. … Our hope is to create an atmosphere that brings everyone together.”

APS, Family Fitness Frenzy, Allendale Elementary PTO

GVSU Lakers Football interacting with kids at the 2012 Family Fitness Frenzy. We’re thrilled to welcome them back!

Events planned for this Saturday are FREE, but you are asked to register upon arrival. Games and activities will include:

  • Laker Football
  • Go Lakers Cheerleading
  • “You Think You Can Dance?”
  • Eye Olympics
  • Simon Says & Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • Kick it! Kickboxing
  • “Get Your Move on!”
  • La Pita Fresh
  • Energy Explosion!
  • 2 Intense Gymnastics
  • Cup Stacking

Each of these activities was made possible by the generosity of our community sponsors, without whose help the event could not take place!  A complete list of our sponsors can be found by clicking HERE. Please remember to thank them!

As in the past, T-shirts were allocated based on students raising at least $30 toward the event and will not be available for purchase at the Family Fitness Frenzy. If your child has brought a T-shirt (or two) home already, please make sure to wear them to the event!

Saturday’s entertainment will also include drawings for many prizes. A pledge of $30 will get your student’s name entered into the raffle for one of these great prizes! (flyer courtesy of the FFF planning team). Pledge money supports all of Allendale’s K-5 classrooms and prevents our students from having to sell candy, wrapping paper, or cookie dough to raise money.

Melissa and Wendy look forward to another terrific event and wish to thank everyone who played a part in this yearly community event.

“We could not have done this without our amazing planning team! I believe we had the best team ever — everyone clicked and rocked their roles by going above and beyond!”

We hope you’ll be able to join us for another exciting Family Fitness Frenzy!

Details again are:

Saturday, March 16

9 am – noon

Allendale High School Gymnasium


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Mark Your Calendars: Feb. 26 is Family Literacy Night!

We’re approaching the end of February: a month of roller coaster weather marked by cloudy days and dark nights. Are you tired of dreary evenings and the monotony of winter?

Are you ready for a break in your routine?

Ready to inspire your kids and model literacy in your home?

Then join us for Family Literacy Night!

Allendale Public Schools, Family Literacy Night

Next Tuesday, February 26, Allendale Public Schools will be hosting a Family Literacy Night in partnership with the Allendale Rotary Club’s Annual “Amazing Reading Bus” Spaghetti Dinner. The Rotary Club will be dishing out Italian goodness from 5 – 7 pm in the high school cafeteria, with all proceeds going to the Allendale Township’s summer literacy program. Tickets for dinner are as follows:

Adults $7

Children (age 6-12) $4

Kids 5 & under eat FREE!

Allendale Public Schools, Family Literacy Night

After dinner you’re invited to make your way to the Ceglarek Fine Art Center where we’re pleased to welcome a very special guest: local author Mark Newman!

Mr. Newman, who refers to himself as an “environmental superhero”, writes about issues close to the hearts of those of us living in the Great Lakes Basin. With vivid illustrations brilliantly finished at the hands of Newman’s dear friend Mark Heckman, his Sooper Yooper books about invasive species incorporate biology and environmental awareness in exciting, kid-friendly language.

Sooper Yooper, Mark Newman, Allendale Public Schools, Family Literacy Night

Mark will present his interactive talk from 7 – 8 pm and will also sign copies of his books which are currently available at a discounted price. For ordering details, contact your child’s teacher before Wednesday, February 20.

If you have questions about our Family Literacy Night, click HERE for more details, or contact Mrs. Buck at 616-892-3475 (x 5149).

Categories: Community News, News You Can Use, Reading Initiatives | Leave a comment

Allendale Rotary Sponsors Fundraising Dinner for APS Scholarships

rotary logo, Rotary InternationalWith our clocks promptly turned back and the days grower colder and shorter, perhaps nothing would help warm us and bring some much-needed sunshine than contributing to a great cause.

If you agree, we’d like to invite you to join us this Wednesday night from 5-8 pm when the Allendale Rotary Club will be hosting a spaghetti dinner at the Lake Michigan Drive Peppino’s Restaurant. 

Cost for the dinner, which includes salad, bread, and spaghetti, is $7.99 per adult and just $3.99 per child. The best news is that when you break bread with us, 75% of your bill will help bolster the Rotary Scholarship Fund for Allendale High School! This money will allow them to continue awarding scholarships to outstanding AHS Seniors who plan to attend a Michigan college or university in the fall of 2013.

According to Rotary Coordinator Nick Grinzinger, the Allendale chapter strives to give away 2-3 scholarships each year, ranging from $500 – $1,500. Designed to off-set the rising costs of higher education, scholarship winners will be chosen based on leadership abilities and volunteerism. They will also be looking for students who live by the Rotary motto: Service Above Self.

Students interested in applying for a scholarship should contact the Allendale Rotary Club after the New Year to request information. All applications will be due by March 29, 2013.

We hope to see you tomorrow night!

Rotary Spaghetti Fundraiser, Allendale Public Schools

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Allendale Partners With “Wounded Warrior” Project

All photos this week courtesy of Ms. Jennifer Hodges (2011 game)

Listening to the National Anthem slice through a crisp autumn night reminds us that there were thousands who went before us to preserve our freedoms. It’s hard to remain unmoved by the sight of veterans saluting the flag they risked their lives to protect … while many of us sat comfortably in our living rooms watching history unfold on our flat screen televisions.

Have you ever wished there was something you could do? Some small way you could give back? An avenue for your family to get involved to say thank you?

This week, Allendale High School is giving you that chance!

For the past few years APS has partnered with the nationwide WoundedWarriorProject.orga non-profit organization dedicated to the mission of fostering “the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.”

By providing wounded vets with a backpack filled with basic needs, the welcome they receive from Wounded Warrior Project [WWP] is the first some of our servicemen and women receive upon their return home. Providing relief and counsel for those struggling to re-adjust to life, hosting family support and restoration retreats, and helping vets secure jobs via Warriors to Work are just a few of the things this organization spearheads.

Allendale is using this Friday’s Homecoming football game to raise money to support the Wounded Warrior Project. We are welcoming veterans from the Allendale community to join us and be recognized for serving our country (see sign up information below). Community veterans will receive a goodie bag, a Wounded Warrior Project t-shirt, and food at the game.  Last year over forty-five veterans participated and proceeds from the evening totaled $10,000! This year we’ve set our sights on raising $15,000!

Will you help us reach that goal? Here’s how you can get involved:

>>Come to the football game and participate in our silent auction. This year we are auctioning off a custom-painted bike!

>>For just $10 you can purchase a WWP T-shirt. Wearing your shirt = free admission into four athletic contests:

  • This Friday’s Homecoming Football Game (Sept. 21)
  • Sept. 25 Volleyball vs. Belding
  • Jan. 25 Boys & Girls Basketball vs. Coopersville
  • Jan. 30 Wrestling vs. Coopersville

>>For $15 you can sponsor a veteran.

>>Donate money to grow the work that Wounded Warrior is already doing. Consider doing this as a family. Discuss the project with your children over dinner and make this Homecoming about more than a parade or a coronation–make it a teachable moment!

>>Thank our community sponsors: Tolman Auto, Mainstreet Pub, Master’s Financial, Solid Rock Debt Services, Allendale True Value, Allendale Pack and Mail.

We look forward to a special night where we can recognize the athletes on the field and the service people who braved the battlefield. We are honored to participate in the 2012 Wounded Warrior Project on campus. Please come and help us fill our stadium with much-deserved applause!

If you are a veteran interested in participating, please contact Ms. Jennifer Hodges:

Football game tailgating begins at 5 pm; Veterans should plan to arrive at 6:30

Categories: Athletics, Community News, Special Projects at APS | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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