2017-12-09 / News

Positive Start to School Year as Superintendent Bob Lohff Settles In

By Jacob A. Ball

Working in a small community has many benefits for Superintendent Bob Lohff, who has been settling into his new position at Mackinac Island Public School. So far, though, nothing has been more enjoyable for him than getting to know each student individually.

“I knew every [child’s] name the first week,” he said.

With the support of his staff and school board, Mr. Lohff has been evaluating the district’s programs and activities to determine where updates and increased attention could make a difference. He said support from other school administrators in the Eastern Upper Peninsula has been invaluable to him.

His changes, so far, include new policies for cellular telephones and late homework, to create more consistent expectations, and introducing new science materials. He’s making progress and plans for a more comprehensive third-grade reading program and expects to develop it soon.

School secretary Barb Fisher says Mr. Lohff has gained the respect of the staff and, likewise, Mr. Lohff says he is impressed with his staff. The willing involvement of teachers in community events, he notes, is a great advantage to the students.

“We get so much support from the community,” he added. “It’s fascinating how much the community helps this school.”

He said he is developing a productive relationship with school board members, many of whom he knew from having been a health teacher and athletic director here from 2009 to 2012. He tries to speak with board members at least once a week, he said, and keeps in touch with school administrators at Brimley, where he also used to work, and with Superintendent Donald Gustafson and Principal Gregg Fettig at St. Ignace.

Mr. Lohff purchased new science materials and textbooks for all classrooms and that has led to new educational activities. An example is a lesson in which fourth-grade through sixthgrade students are challenged to construct an enclosure to protect an egg from damage when it’s dropped from a considerable height. Other science-related programs include a recycling program in teacher Richard Waite’s class, in which students track school-wide waste and learn how to reduce their impact on the environment.

“It’s really nice to be able to see them engaged in learning,” Mr. Lohff said. Under one of the new policies, students can bring cell phones to school, but not into classrooms. Phones can be used only during lunch or between classes. There previously was no phone policy.

The other new policy says seventh grade through high school students have just five days from the due date to turn in late homework. Beyond that, they receive a grade of zero. In the past, students could turn in weeks of assignments before the end of a semester and still receive credit

Mr. Lohff also wants to provide more education about the problem of bullying.

Activities since the beginning of this school year have included an elementary pupil field trip to Lake Superior State University for a play, an expanded music program involving middle school students, and a Thanksgiving dinner cooked by and for the kindergarten through third grade students.

On the trip to Sault Ste. Marie, organized by Mrs. Fisher, kindergarten through sixth-grade students attended a performance of “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” at the LSSU Arts Center. Grades four, five, and six will visit Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City on a spring field trip next year.

The expanded music program, intended to get students more excited about the performing arts, allows for alternative instruments and musical styles as well as traditional band and orchestra arrangements. A Mackinac Island Community Foundation grant of $1,616 will help pay for the expanded program.

The school Christmas program, Thursday, December 14 at 7 p.m., will feature performances by students from every grade, led by music teacher Heather May.

The school received a $9,000 donation from Anne and John Gault, organizers of RunMackinac events, the proceeds from the Great Turtle Trail Run.

Mr. Lohff said five teachers have moved into the new school duplex, completed in the fall. Leases for the units, specifically built for Island schoolteachers, were signed during the November 16 school board meeting. The duplex features two three-bedroom units that have been leased to teachers Gregg Neville, Piotr Buniewicz, Jennifer Schrader, and teaching assistant Adam Riederer.

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