News You Can Use

School Kicks off By Offering Early College Program

Early College Program, MCC, Muskegon Community College, Allendale Public SchoolsFor many Allendale students, high school means classes, sports, lab reports, and even prom. For others, it may mean working after school, volunteering in the community, or starring in the spring musical.

But this year there will be another item to add to the list for a handful of students hoping to take advantage of additional learning opportunities offered through Muskegon Community College.

Allendale High School is proud to launch the Northwest Ottawa County Early College program this fall, which will allow juniors like Joe Secord and Jason Marshall (pictured left) to spend just one more year in high school in exchange for a free associate’s degree upon graduation.

“The program was designed for anyone, but particularly for the student who may not desire a four-year experience or for the student who can’t afford a traditional college degree. This will offer the opportunity for high school students to earn a two-year degree with all tuition costs covered,” said Allendale High School guidance counselor, Mr. Jason Fogel.

Mr. Fogel began laying the groundwork for this program a year ago after a meeting with Jason Pasatta at the Ottawa County Intermediate School District. At that time, the idea was just a skeleton with piles of paperwork looming, but with more and more schools inching toward this destination, they knew that offering college coursework to Allendale students was an achievable objective.

Allendale is now part of the first 60 student “cohort” to join Muskegon Community College’s program. With Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Coopersville rounding out the cohort participants, the number of students allotted per school is determined proportionate to the school size.

To fill those slots, interested students must first take the MCC Compass Placement Test which determines whether the applicant is ready for the academic rigors of college-level classes while yet in high school. Accepted students will be bused to the Tech Center, where MCC professors will be waiting to provide instruction. At this writing, both Joe and Jason (pictured) are candidates for the program.

“I think it’s always good to get a jumpstart on your education,” said Joe. “I wanted to have a plan so I can get moving more quickly, which will help save money. I’d like to study to be a math teacher because I love math and being around math, but I’d prefer to help others rather than just do my own thing. It just feels right.”

Jason’s motivation is different, but still reflects the drive to keep moving and seize this unique opportunity.

“I’m actually almost done with all my high school credits and I need good classes to fill in space,” Jason explained. “I’d like to go into the medical field, so I’ll be taking a lot of math and science classes–for free!”

Principal Dan Remenap explains, “This program helps students earn a degree. That’s what’s most appealing for the kids. Once they have that, it can’t be taken away. It also gets kids focused on their career sooner, which is a good thing. Even if they decide to not pursue this program, just considering it helps them move in the right direction.”

Categories: Allendale High School, Allendale Public Schools, District Updates, News You Can Use | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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).

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Regional Infant Program Offers Services to Young Special Needs Children

Allendale Public Schools, Regional Infant Program, OAISD

Stryder works on his fine motor skills.

Would you know where to turn if your two-year old was failing to meet developmental benchmarks? Or if he struggled through tasks in ways that his older brother or sister never did?

We want you to know there is a place right in your own backyard equipped to help!

Housed in Allendale’s Oakwood Intermediate School, the Regional Infant Program serves children with special needs from birth to age 3, and is run through the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District (OAISD) with funding from the state and federal governments.

Allendale Public Schools, Regional Infant Program, OAISD

Carter plays with purpose.

Students are admitted to the program after a referral is submitted and needs are revealed. Parents can visit the “Early On” website  to begin the process and request assistance. Web prompts ask a series of questions which are designed to help professionals ascertain the presence and extent of a child’s needs.

If this process reveals a 20% developmental delay or greater, or if there is a diagnosis in place (such as autism), students are invited into the Regional Infant Program and an educational plan is designed with their parents. These plans are generally language enriched with a special focus on literacy.

Sondra Stegenga, director of the program, says that as with any difficulty or health issue, early intervention is key. “These are optional projects and services, but they’re free and we come right to your home!”

The OAISD, in collaboration with Michigan’s “Early On” program, offers a litany of support services to eligible children, including:

  • home visits
  • family training
  • speech & language therapists
  • autism support
  • comprehensive testing
  • physical & occupational therapy
  • transition groups to prepare kids for pre-school
  • …and others which can be found HERE.

If you’re wondering whether your child is on track for his or her age, please click HERE to see a list of important indicators (or this compilation from the CDC).

Parents, if you have been worried wondering about your child, start the New Year with a step toward answers and encouragement. START HERE for help.

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You’re Invited to the Next Allendale Elementary PTO Meeting

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale Elementary PTOHave you ever tried to play on a teeter-totters alone? It’s not much fun, is it? Without a partner to balance your weight on the other side, you’re grounded. Even with the energy that comes from well-timed jumps, the fun doesn’t last long without the presence of another.

The same could be said of young children on swings. Until they learn how to pump their legs, they are left waiting for someone to push them. They are left waiting for the momentum that comes from someone standing nearby to help.

The same can be said of our schools. Yes, our buildings can operate without the momentum that comes from community support, but they probably won’t reach the heights that are possible when a team of people are invested.

Yes, our teachers can do their jobs and make a difference in the lives of children on their own, but just like a one-sided teeter-totter, things are just more difficult.

That’s why we’re invited you to get involved in your child’s school this year.

The Allendale Elementary PTO exists to increase communication between school and home while raising money to support our schools. With attention focused at K-5th grades, the PTO is responsible for planning activities such as mother/son and father/daughter outings, the annual Fitness Frenzy, and organizing the spirit wear sale. A full list of PTO events and other information can be found here.

This Thursday evening the PTO has planned a “Parent Café.” This is not a typical meeting, but is described by President Aaron Haight as being “an educational program that will offer parents education on healthy and wellness, child safety, school success and much more.”

If you’ve thought about getting involved in the PTO but have been uncertain about doing so, Aaron offers some encouragement.

“I was hesitant about the PTO… as a working mom I was worried about being “judged” by the other moms, but I was welcomed right away. This is a chance for you to have a positive influence on your children’s school – you can be involved as much or as little as you like… some parents count labels. Some parents plan events. Some parents support our events. We’ll find a place for you!”

If you’d like to give PTO a try this year, why not start by attending a meeting? We’d love to have you!

  • WHEN? Thursday, November 1
  • WHAT TIME? 6:30 pm
  • WHERE? Oakwood Cafeteria
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“Good Time Friends” Offers Flexibility & Fun

When Janis Lutz enters the cafeteria at Allendale Elementary, she knows her morning will be filled with familiar smiles and tight hugs from the kids who join her each day at Good Time Friends. Her welcoming face has been a part of Good Time Friends for over 17 years and reminds each child that they are safe, cared for, and loved well.

Good Time Friends, Allendale Public Schools, after-school childcare program

Good Time Friends is a before and after-school program designed to support working parents who need childcare help during the early morning and late afternoon hours. Started in 1987, Good Time Friends has seen hundreds of students enjoy crafts, computer time, read-alouds, and playtime together.

Good Time Friends, Allendale Public Schools, after-school childcare program

Janis works with a student after school.

After just one conversation with Janis, you’ll hear her heart for the kids who seem to be loved as her own. “I just love the kids — being with them is where my heart is at. What I like is that we (the staff) get to grow with the kids. We get them when they’re little and get to see them get older. We have so much fun!”

Good Time Friends, Allendale Public Schools, after-school childcare programThe students of Good Time Friends love racing around the gym and playing games such as “lights on/lights off”, “spider in the web”, and “sharks in the water.” Parents appreciate that students have the opportunity to complete homework together and use the computer labs as needed. They also applaud the ratio of staff members to students, which at the moment stands around 1:12!

Janis shared that she’s never had a child who didn’t like coming to the program, adding, “Some parents worry that their child will be in tears or that they won’t enjoy their time with us, but that never happens. In fact, the kids often don’t want to leave!”

Good Time Friends, Allendale Public Schools, after-school childcare program

Students are welcome to attend the program on an as-needed basis after registering, whether that is daily, weekly, or sporadically based on the parents’ schedules. Drop-off begins at 6 a.m and care continues until school begins; afternoon care is provided if the school has a scheduled half-day, but otherwise supervision runs from the end of school until 6 p.m.

For more information or to register your child(ren), please contact Janis Lutz at 616-892-5579 or call Evergreen Elementary at 616-892-3465. Please scroll down to see more great photos of Good Time Friends!

Good Time Friends, Allendale Public Schools, after-school childcare program

Good Time Friends, Allendale Public Schools, after-school childcare program

Good Time Friends, Allendale Public Schools, after-school childcare program

Good Time Friends, Allendale Public Schools, after-school childcare program

Good Time Friends, Allendale Public Schools, after-school childcare program

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New Teachers and Staff Members Prepare for Success

From L to R: Kari Brose, Elena Berkemeier, Andi Lee, Laurie Bulleman, Terri Maness, Rachel Barker, Emily Verdonk

It isn’t every year that we have the privilege of welcoming so many new teachers to our district! This fall however, our ranks are swelling and we feel lucky to be introducing you to some of those teachers today. As we accommodate new state legislation mandating all-day kindergarten and increased requirements for foreign language, these teachers come aboard with highly specialized qualifications and hearts for reaching and teaching the next generation of Falcons. Please make them feel welcome and supported next time you see them in the hallways of your child’s school!


1. Elena Berkemeier joins our middle school and high school Spanish team this year after having graduated from Grand Valley State University in December of 2011. Ms. Berkemeier holds a Teaching Major in Spanish degree along with a minor in psychology and spent last winter in a long-term subbing position at Grandville Middle School. She is excited to have her own classroom and get to know her students, the other staff members, and the Allendale community.

Elena is the oldest of six children from Jackson, MI, but has been living in the greater Grand Rapids area for seven years. A “little-known fact” about her is that she is half Nicaraguan! Make sure to ask Ms. Berkemeier about her heritage when you welcome her!

2. Terri Maness will be joining the Kindergarten team in our Elementary school.  With a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Mrs. Maness has taught pre-school, 1st grade and Kindermusik classes. She most recently served as a Title I interventionist at Allendale Elementary School, and shares that she is “so looking forward to creating a wonderful atmosphere in my classroom for our Kindergarten children to learn, grow, sing, play, create and make new friends.”

Terri lives in Allendale with her husband Jim, their 4 children ranging in age from 10 – 20 years, and their dog, Snickers. She enjoys hiking, biking, playing tennis, singing, playing the flute, entertaining friends, and watching her children grow. Allendale is thrilled to have you, Mrs. Maness!

3. Rachel Barker will be joining the fifth grade teaching staff at Oakwood Intermediate. She has a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and Learning Disabilities from Hope College, and worked most recently as a special education instructional aide at Oakwood. When asked what she’s most looking forward to, she replied, “… getting to know my students and helping them set and achieve academic and personal goals (… and going to fifth grade camp!).

In her spare time, Rachel also works as a group exercise instructor, teaching Pilates and PiYo classes at SnapFitness and at Grand Valley State University. She draws her inspiration from her grandfather, Les, who is going to 93 in September and continues to exercise daily. She shares that her grandfather has taught her “…a great deal about perseverance, commitment, and being thankful for each day.”

Mrs. Barker lives in Allendale with her husband, Drew, and their two cats. Please stop in and give her a warm Allendale welcome!

4. Kari Brose joins us this year as a fourth grade teacher at Oakwood in a job share capacity with Ms. Carrie Helmholdt. Mrs. Brose majored in science with a mathematics emphasis and Elementary Education minor. She joins us after having also taught third grade at Griffin Elementary in Grand Haven Area Public Schools. When asked what she’s looking forward to this school year, Mrs. Brose shared, “At the beginning of each school year I really look forward to meeting all my new students and really getting to know them. It is so exciting to watch them grow and learn throughout the year.”

Mrs. Brose lives in Allendale with her husband, their four children, and a “great big dog”!  Please join me in welcoming Kari next time you’re at Oakwood Intermediate!

5. Mrs. Andrea (Andi) Lee adds to our Kindergarten and Developmental Kindergarten ranks with degrees in Special Education, Elementary Education, and an Early Childhood Endorsement from GVSU. She comes to us after having taught one year of Kindergarten in Grant, MI and two years of preschool in Newaygo, MI. Like many of the others we’ve interviewed, Mrs. Lee most looks forward to meeting her students and their families, and watching the student growth that will take place over the course of the year.

Andi and her husband currently reside in Sparta, MI.  A “little-known fact” about Andi is that she collected real cash registers as a child! (yes — the grocery store kind!)  Welcome, Mrs. Lee!

6. Laurie Bullerman joins our district family as an Occupational Therapist with a Masters Degree in the same from Western Michigan University. Laurie last worked in a pediatric clinic in Cedar Rapids Iowa for 2 years. She looks forward to getting settled in a classroom and getting started with her “kids.”

Later this month she and her husband, an engineer at Johnson Controls, will be moving into their new home in Hudsonville with their Bernese Mountain dog, Ollie. She calls herself a compulsive cleaner and vacuums her home twice a day! Remember to take your shoes off when you welcome Laurie to our team!

7.Emily Verdonk comes to us as a High School Vocal Music Teacher. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Western Michigan University and has previously taught middle school/high school vocal music in Nekoosa, WI. She is most looking forward to meeting all of her students and getting to know them as they learn and make music.

Ms. Verdonk feels extremely blessed to live close to family in West Michigan. Both of her parents live in South Haven, an older brother lives in Grand Rapids, and a younger brother attends University of Michigan. Emily loves birds and has two of her own: parakeets named Brahms and Bronte. She practices yoga regularly and frequents South Haven for its beaches and beautiful sunsets. Please give a warm welcome to Emily next time you hear music in the hallways!
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Open Houses Are Around The Corner!

Fall. This one word conjures images of pumpkins and changing leaves, sack lunches and bus stops. For students, the turning of seasons undoubtedly carries with it a range of emotions and an array of questions. Our school Open Houses are designed to calm fears, answer questions, and remind students that school is the place where old friends return and new ones are waiting to be made … all in an environment of learning and discovery.

This year, as in years past, each building will host its own “welcome back,” and we hope you’ll make every effort to attend. Principals and teachers will be on hand to address concerns and join you in your excitement. Planned for parents and kids alike, we think you will appreciate gaining the familiarity that comes with a sneak-peak at classrooms, schedules, and lockers.

*Note that where “orientation” is included in the description, there will be a planned format beginning at the start time. We hope to see you there!


D-K/K: August 28, 6:30-8 pm

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS: 1st – 3rd Grade Open House & Orientation: August 27, 6:30-8 pm

OAKWOOD INTERMEDIATE: 4th – 5th Grade Open House & Orientation: August 29, 6:30-8 pm

MIDDLE SCHOOL: 6th – 8th Grade Open House & Orientation: September 4, 6:30-8 pm

HIGH SCHOOL: 9th – 12th Grade Open House & Orientation: September 5, 6:30-8 pm

NEW OPTIONS: Open House & Orientation with Ice Cream Social! September 5, 6:30-8 pm

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Allendale Community Field Day This Saturday

This Saturday the grounds of Allendale Middle School will come alive with students, parents, and community members joining our efforts to launch the nationally run “Project Budburst” on our very own campus.

Shovels will be slicing the earth and carving out new places for native plants, trees, and flowers that will help our students learn about the different stages of plant “phenology” (studying the natural cycles of plant life as they relate to climate). After students make observations together, their findings will be entered into a database for scientific study across the country!

If this sounds exciting, YOU CAN HELP!

This Saturday from 10 am – noon you are invited to join in our First Community Field Day as we begin a “garden” space that will be used for years to come!

  • NO SHOVELS NEEDED! We will provide all the tools you’ll need!
  • PLANTS WILL BE WAITING AT SCHOOL! In an effort to plant only native species, we will provide all the foliage to plant.
  • MEET IN THE EAST PARKING LOT AT AMS: Look for the crowd!
  • NOT A GREENTHUMB? NO PROBLEM! We’ll be here to help!
  • WEAR DIRT-FRIENDLY CLOTHES!  Leave your new stilettos at home!

In exchange for your efforts, Dr. Riemersma and Mr. Piccard will be providing a FREE LUNCH to all who are willing to roll up their sleeves and help!

Saturday will be a day of planting more than trees: we’ll be planting the future…together. Join us!

~ ~ ~

If you have questions or would like to help by sponsoring some of the activities of Saturday’s Community Field Day,

please contact Dr. Riemersma or Mr. Piccard for details.

[Dr. Peter Reimersma]:   |   [Mr. Piccard]:

If you missed last week’s feature article on Project Budburst, you can read more about the program HERE.

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May 8 Is Voting Day!

Whitney Houston became famous when she so beautifully declared that “the children are our future.”  The words of that song touched a generation and are still so true today. We at Allendale Public believe it is our privilege and duty to “teach them well,”  but we need your help to continue to provide the quality education your family has come to depend on.

Two weeks from today our community will again have the opportunity to exercise its right to vote when Allendale Public Schools’ millage renewal is on the ballot. This 18 mil levy will provide our district with critical funds needed for operational expenses such as servicing buses, paying for heat and light, meeting payroll, and purchasing books and supplies.  Because this is a millage renewal and not a new millage, we are able to receive these funds without raising taxes to homeowners whose primary dwelling is in our district.

Never before has this millage been so crucial. A successful renewal would keep over $2,400,000 dollars in our district, and that means those dollars will be used to teach our students well.

Please remember to vote on Tuesday, May 8!

Categories: Community News, News You Can Use | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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