JLAS District News

Postseason landscape changing for all Otsego County volleyball, basketball teams
By Brandon Folsom ~ Gaylord Herald Times

EAST LANSING – The postseason landscape will soon look much differently for the volleyball and basketball teams in Otsego County.

The MHSAA announced Thursday morning that starting in the 2018-19 school year it'll do away with its traditional Class A-B-C-D enrollment breaks it uses in volleyball, boys basketball and girls basketball and begin using the Division 1-2-3-4 system that most of its sanctioned sports already uses.

"This change (was approved) in response to a proposal by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan," MHSAA media coordinator Geoff Kimmerly wrote in a release. "Michigan's interscholastic volleyball community also has expressed openness to equal divisions in the past.

"All other tournaments – except football – are conducted using equal divisions based on enrollment and (are) determined prior to the school year. Football is the only sport requiring teams to qualify for postseason play, and its equal divisions are not determined until after the regular season ends."

The switch should be a boon for all four of Otsego County's MHSAA-sanctioned schools in Gaylord, Johannesburg-Lewiston, St. Mary and Vanderbilt.

For the Blue Devils, it means a more level playing field in their district and regional rounds. In the past, Gaylord has played a Class A tournament schedule against schools sometimes twice its size. Instead of facing schools such as Traverse City West and Midland Dow, for example, it'll most likely draw postseason opponents such as Kalkaska, Gladwin, Sault Ste. Marie and Ogemaw Heights, among others, that have a similar enrollment size.

Gaylord athletic director Christian Wilson anticipates its volleyball and basketball teams will be classified as Division 2 programs, similar to the Blue Devils' boys and girls soccer teams, baseball and softball teams and boys golf team.

"For Gaylord, it's a good thing for us," Wilson said. "We're going to see schools that don't have those giant enrollments of 2,300 or 3,000 students anymore. I think that levels the playing field for most schools. So, I think it's great for us, and it's a good thing and great for the whole state."

The new divisional format could pose one problem for the Blue Devils: extended travel.

Leveling the playing field makes Upper Peninsula schools such as Escanaba and Sault High more likely to be thrown into Gaylord's postseason brackets, whether it be in the district or later on in the regional.

"I could see an increase in travel because we do have a few more U.P. schools like Marquette, Escanaba, the Sault and Kingsford," Wilson continued. "Right now, Marquette is in our district, so we have a 1/6 chance of going to Marquette when they do the district draw. Now it could mean we'd have a 2/6 chance.

"But we're used to traveling, so that's not really a big deal to us. It'll only mean more travel expenses if that happens to be the case."

Of course, while travel could be the only negative for Gaylord, it'll be a benefit for Johannesburg-Lewiston, St. Mary and Vanderbilt.

In the past, J-L has played its volleyball and basketball districts in both the east side of the state at in cities such as Oscoda, Whittemore and Alcona as well as on the west side in cities like Maple City and Traverse City.

With the schools from those areas likely to draw D3 classifications, J-L could find itself playing against the teams it already sees in its baseball, softball and football districts (e.g. Hillman, Atlanta and Posen if it gets pulled to the east or St. Mary, Bellaire, Mancelona, East Jordan and Ellsworth if it gets pulled to the west).

That thinking poses one question: Who wouldn't want to see a J-L and St. Mary matchup in the postseason? That could be exciting for the area.

"We won't be going to Oscoda or Glen Lake anymore, and our districts will be a lot less to travel to," J-L AD Joe Smokevitch said. "You'll see us closer to home. Depending on where you draw the dividing lines, you could see us with St. Mary or Atlanta or Hillman.

"Personally, I think it's probably a lot better this way. I know we're a Class C school, but we're a small C and are a lot closer to being a D than we are a C. Right now, we're in the same basketball regional as Boyne City (a school that will be Class B next fall). This makes it more competitive for us."

Another positive for J-L is that it'll see bigger crowds at postseason games.

"My crowds have been minimal the last few years," Smokevitch said. "Only a few people come to the games, like parents and grandparents, because they have to travel from Alcona, Oscoda and Whittemore to get here. That's just a crazy amount of travel.

"We'll draw bigger gates if we're playing schools closer by. The biggest thing with this is the travel is going to be different, and that's a good thing."

The MHSAA also announced the following changes it'll adopt for the upcoming 2017-18 school year:

• In football, for the semifinal and final matchups, the home team and visitor will be determined by playoff point average instead of the previous regional advancement. In addition, the MHSAA will allow 11-player semifinal games to be played either Friday night or Saturday as opposed to only on Saturday.

• In golf, a Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) rules official is required to be present at each Lower Peninsula regional tournament to assist with rules issues.

• In hockey, a 23rd active player can be dressed in uniform if that player is a goaltender. Previously, only 22 active players could dress and sit on the bench. Also for hockey, helmets must be worn by players and officials at all times while on the ice except while standing for the national anthem or during post-game ceremonies.

• In soccer, the MHSAA has eliminated overtime and shootouts during the regular season. Leagues and conferences will be allowed an overtime option for their end-of-season bracketed tournaments, but overtime in those cases must not exceed two 10-minute periods plus a shootout.

• In swimming and diving, the MHSAA has reduced the number of regular-season wins required by a diver – from five to four – to earn a berth in the diving qualification meet.

• In volleyball, any 12th-grade athletes with no remaining interscholastic eligibility left in any sport can wear a school uniform in one all-star game sponsored by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association during the summer.

• In wrestling, team regional sites will now be selected from the four qualifying teams based on a yearly rotation among the districts.

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J-L junior joins summer Air Force seminar, preps for academy
By Arielle Breen - Gaylord Herald Times

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Madison May set her sights on joining the U.S. Air Force Academy and has been working toward that goal for the last two years.

May, a Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools junior, said she is applying to the prestigious academy and hopes to hear a response of acceptance next spring. In the meantime, she is preparing and is finishing up 11th grade coursework early so she can attend the Air Force Academy’s Summer Seminar Program June 11-16 in Colorado.

“It’s pretty much a week of academy life, so it’s like a preview (of the academy) because the following summer I will be entering the actual academy,” May said.

May’s interest in the academy started with a career day event during her first year of high school and a comment from her uncle about the Air Force’s academy.

“Militaries have always interested me, and I think it’s cool and it’d be an honor to serve my country. And the Air Force Academy gives me something to work for and it’s a challenge that I want to achieve,” May said. “So that’s really (what) my driving goal for this whole thing is. I’ve gone downstate to certain Air Force Academy forums to learn more about it — I’ve gone to congressional representatives’ (meetings).”

May is also seeking nominations from Michigan’s U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow as well as U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Summer seminar students take classes, do physical training and take practice fitness assessments to see if they are interested in the academy, she said.

May said she is also planning to take her ACT and SAT tests in Colorado since she will be out of state at the time of the test and said she plans to arrive several days before the seminar to become acclimated to the elevation and altitude in the area.

“I’m even taking standardized tests out of state just to help me improve my application — I came to school early and ran a mile to work on my time, I’ve got up in the morning and I have some weight (equipment) at my house and I will do that. I have a pull up bar at my house, I have a treadmill at my house,” May said. “After school, I practice (track) and after practice on some days I have college (dual enrollment).”

The academy is a four-year program and if May is accepted, she said she wants to give back after the academy.

“I hope to get into the academy — and depending on what career I choose, I will serve a minimum of up to 12 years of service just to kind of repay the academy. And then after that I can do whatever I want, but I want to stay in the Air Force and serve my country,” May said.

For the Air Force Academy’s class of 2017, there were 9,706 applicants and 1,475 received offers of admission with 1,191 applicants admitted, according to the Air Force’s website.

In the academy, students average 81 crunches along with 43 pushups and need to shoot a basketball at about 42 feet for women, according to the admissions’ fitness requirements.

But the academy has more than just high fitness standards; May said she also needs to ensure she dedicates her time to other endeavors like bettering her leadership and school grades. The academy’s application addresses school work, leadership and character.

“Another part is there’s a ton of different deadlines for different people, different things at different times,” she said. “That’s another part of the academy that they’re testing you on is the little details like that and that’s just the start of the actual academy.”

For her leadership niche, May is serving as the vice president of student government at J-L, she is a National Honor Society chapter officer and she is the captain of her Relay for Life team.

And as for showing her character, she has nearly 200 hours of community service through Otsego County United Way.

The academy application takes about a year from start to finish, and May said while the summer camp should help her gain a slight edge with her academy application, it does not secure her admission.

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To: All Johannesburg-Lewiston Area School Families

From: Katy Xenakis-Makowski, Superintendent

Re: Make Up Days

The State of Michigan requires 180 student days of school and 1,098 hours of instruction
with 6 days being allocated for snow day cancellations. This year our district had 10 cancellations
with some delays and early dismissals.

We applied to the State of Michigan for forgiveness due to the difficult winter and the difficulty in
rescheduling days. The State granted Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools 3 additional days
forgiveness for the 2016-17 school year.

With the addition of those 3 days to the 6 given by the State each year, we are still required to add
time and one day to our calendar. We will be making Tuesday, June 13th, currently a half day into a full day of
school and adding Wednesday, June 14th as a full day of school. June 14th will be the last day of school
for students.

Thank you for your support and understanding. Please ensure students attend school on the 13th and 14th
of June as full school days. High school exams will be administered June 12th, 13th and 14th. School
attendance has a direct correlation to school success. Ensure student success by keeping attendance rates high!

Your Partner in Education
Katy Xenakis-Makowski, J-L Superintendent


VFW Post 1518 Ron LeBourdais received a check for more than $3,500 recently
from the Johannesburg-Lewiston Veterans' Appreciation football game against
Gaylord St. Mary's in October of 2016. Players wore special patriotic jerseys, which
were also sold, during the game with the name of a loved one who died or served
in the military and which branch they served in. They also sold stickers for the event.
The check presentation took place during the monthly Veterans Appreciation coffee
at the Gaylord Regional Airport, and LeBourdais said the money would go toward the
VFW's Building Fund.


Dear Parents and/or Guardians:

The district has begun using Alert 2, a system that works with PowerSchool, to alert
families of emergencies and unexpected school closings. To customize your contact
information and/or options for receiving alerts, please follow the directions below:

  • Log into PowerSchool

  • Select Alert Solutions 2, bottom of left side of screen

  • Select "Contact Preferences" tab to select how you would like to receive information,
    via phone, email, or text. Click "X" in the upper right hand corner of each column
    to delete contact numbers/emails that you do not want to receive notification.

  • Select "Subscriber Information" tab to make changes to your contact numbers/emails.
    Changing information in Alert 2, does not make changes in PowerSchool.

  • Selections MUST be done for each child, individually.

We hope this new communication tool is beneficial in keeping families aware of school closures
and/or emergencies. If you do not know your PowerSchool Unique Access ID and Password,
you can contact your child's office.


Katy Xenakis-Makowski
Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools

Highland Games help Cardinals' Kroll land with Ashland University
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — Taylor Kroll was competing in a Highland Games competition in Ohio when she ran into Jessica Bridenthal.

Bridenthal was a former All-American for the Ashland University (Ohio) women's track and field team and took an interest in Kroll as a young thrower.

Kroll was unsure of her college future at the time, and Bridenthal filled in the Johannesburg-Lewiston senior about the benefits of throwing for the Eagles.

"We were talking about colleges, and she was like, 'You need to go to Ashland,' and she kept bugging me about it," Kroll said. "(Bridenthal was) like, 'You need to go, you need to go. It's the best school there is.'

"She actually went to Ashland to play basketball. She had an injury and basically didn't want to play basketball anymore. She started throwing for them and became the second best thrower they had."

Kroll visited Ashland and got to know the school's coaches.

Afterward, she was sold on Ashland as the place she wanted to throw for in college.

The senior made the decision final during a special event Wednesday at the high school, as she signed her national letter of intent to join the Eagles' track team.

She said her experience as a Highland Games thrower, under the tutelage of local throwers Dale Gehman, Jay Holloway and Jason Cherry, helped her get noticed by college coaches and prepare her for the rigors of college-level throwing.

"I had to get myself out there," Kroll said. "Most of the coaches I met saw me in the Highland Games or found my records, and I had to get myself out there and work hard.

"Based on what I do in the Highland Games to what I do in track right now, they (college coaches) can basically say, 'You're doing this already in the Highland Games, now let's put it to the collegiate (level), like hammer,' and stuff like that."

Kroll has also enjoyed success as a thrower at J-L.

She has broken the school record for the shot put and discus multiple times over her three-year career. Last season she put the shot put record at 36-01.25 and the discus record at 115-04. She has qualified for the Division 4 state championship in each of the past two seasons.

She hopes to continue setting records this spring, too, as well as gear up for what she hopes to be a strong four years of competing at the next level.

"I want to break the school record again, both of them, and get them up there," she said. "I want to place well at the state track meet.

"(When I get to college), I want to be the best thrower that I can be."

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Hall of Fame profile: Neff found home as successful coach, teacher at J-L
By Jeremy Speer - Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — When Bob Neff finished his interview at Johannesburg-Lewiston High School in 1977, his first call was to his wife, Patricia.

"Well, honey," Bob said on a Saturday in August. "I'd be teaching four classes, would be the assistant principal and officer, and I'd be the head football coach and JV basketball coach. Plus, I'd be getting about a 40-percent pay cut."

"She said, 'you said yes, right?,"' Bob added. "She wanted to be up in Northern Michigan as much as I did. And we never regretted a day. I reported to football practice on Monday."

Sometimes an educator/coach finds the perfect fit for his family. That was exactly the case for Neff, who will be inducted into the Greater Otsego County Area Sports Hall of Fame next weekend.

"This was a great school with great teachers and a great education for my kids," Neff said. "I also became addicted to trout fishing. It became harder and harder for me to go back downstate every year.

Neff had success both in football, coaching the Cardinals from 1977 to 1982 and in boys basketball, where he led J-L from 1982 to 1994.

In football, the most vivid success came in 1978 where Neff and Jim Payne, another 2016 Hall of Fame inductee, led the Cardinals to a Northern Lakes Conference championship. The key game came in a 14-12 victory against Central Lake. In the season finale, the Cardinals edged No. 5-ranked Posen 9-8 in a non conference battle as Willis Gelow kicked the first field goal in school history.

Other key victories were a 16-14 win against state-ranked Onekama in 1980 and a 14-6 win against Posen in 1981 that actually helped rival St. Mary earn its first-ever playoff bid.

But Neff's most memorable win came in 1982 when the Cardinals beat rival Atlanta, ranked No. 6 in the state, 18-0, snapping the Huskies' streak of 29-straight regular season victories on the Huskies' homecoming.

"I was an intense coach, but the kids responded to it because I was fair with all of them," Neff said. "My motto was always that I was a teacher first and a coach second. Not all coaches were like that."

Neff also helped engineer some impressive basketball victories, including during a special 1984 season which saw an 82-78 overtime victory against Lincoln Alcona where Jeff Shoff set the school record with 49 points. Later that season, the Cardinals downed Atlanta 72-70 for the district championship, battling back from a 13-point halftime deficit. It was the icing on the cake on a challenging season that saw J-L face seven ranked schools while playing an independent schedule.

The late 1980s were special for Neff as he was able to coach his son, Mike. A 68-63 victory against Onaway that saw Mike score his 1,000th career point with a go-ahead free throw is a tremendous memory, as was a 78-61 victory against St. Mary in the regular season finale.

"He made it look like I knew what I was doing," laughed Bob when discussing his son. "I was very hard on him because I couldn't show favoritism. But it was great coaching him."

He retired from teaching history, geography and government in 2002 and lives with Patricia and near his two children, Mike, who is a teacher in the Gaylord Community Schools system and Valerie, who is a school psychologist with Public Schools of Petoskey. The Neff's have five grandchildren who Bob is happy to report "all are A students and good in sports."

Previously to coming to Johannesburg, Bob grew up in Lansing and played football at Olivet College, where he was a starting guard. His first teaching and coaching job was at Olivet High School, where he spent seven years.

Neff joins Jim Payne of Johannesburg-Lewiston, Tom Pratt and Terry Walker of Gaylord High, Matt Collins of St. Mary, Gina Robinson of Vanderbilt and the 1999 St. Mary football team as members of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016. Stuart Clark will be awarded the Distinguished Service Award. They’ll be inducted during an Oct. 15 ceremony at the Eagles Hall in Gaylord. The cost for the dinner is $35. Social hour starts at 5:30 p.m.

Purchase tickets by contacting Jeff Shoff at (989) 350-5750 or Tom Johnson at (989) 614-1298.

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Cardinals' Peterson gunning for top-2 finish at MIHA regional
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

Johannesburg-Lewiston freshman Taylor Peterson has her sights on making it out of the Division D regional this weekend.

The 14-year-old is the Cardinals' lone equestrian rider, but she took second overall in the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association district earlier this fall.

The finish qualified her for the regional Saturday and Sunday at Western Michigan Fairgrounds in Ludington, and from there, she hopes to advance to the state championship Oct. 13-16 in Midland.

"The districts went well," Peterson said. "Our first show, we were in first place and in our second show, we were in second place, but we were only six points behind first place. It was close with Central Lake, but I took second place overall in my division.

"We did really good, and we did good enough to make it regionals."

There were only four teams in Peterson's division, but there were nine teams in all and 28 different riders who competed against her.

She competed in showmanship, saddle seat, hunt seat, western, trail, reining, barrel, flag race and stake race.

"She really did awesome and was able to beat out older, more experienced showman," J-L coach Stacey Holzshu said.

"As a one-rider team, Taylor has to do every class and learn a new pattern in between every class. It takes a lot of focus and concentration, plus added pressure trying to remember the pattern and not forgetting anything."

Peterson said she kept a calm head to take second during the district.

"The mindset was I just really wanted to make it to regionals, and that was my goal for this year," she said.

"I practiced every other day. I practiced all summer and went to local horse shows and showed at those to get ready for high school equestrian."

Peterson will try her hand at all 13 classes at the regional.

"I need to practice every day and get in the top three for most of my classes, or even higher — that'd be better," she said. "I just need to get in the top two in the regional to get into the state championship in my division."

Peterson developed her passion for horses by being around family.

"My dad's side of the family has always done horses, and I've loved horses since I was little," she said. "They got me into horses, and I've been riding ever since.

"I got my horse, Len ny, in December and have been riding him for eight months. I just enjoy doing it and like to show. I just love horses."

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Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools Receives $2,500 Education Excellence Award
to Grow Title 1 Literacy Book Bags Program

Schools prepare for new statewide science teaching style
By Arielle Breen - Gaylord Herald Times

NORTHERN MICHIGAN — Schools around Michigan are preparing to transition to new state-required science standards that are required to be implemented by the 2018-19 school year.

Katy Xenakis-Makowski, Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools superintendent, said teachers have been part of committees tasked with deciding these state-wide changes known as Next Generation Science Standards.

“(It’s) more analytical, more hands on,” Xenakis-Makowski said about the shifting focus. “It’s not just defining terms anymore, it’s applying the terms that you’re defining and that’s just shown to help with learning any way (through) application. I always said if the kids can teach somebody else how to do it— then they obviously understand it.”

The last time Michigan had revised science standards was a decade ago, and Xenakis-Makowski said schools had a similar transition with other focuses like math.

“This has been several years in the making, and there have been educators involved in making some of these decisions,” Xenakis-Makowski said.

She said while schools have known the changes were coming, administrators had to wait for final approval from the state department of education.

“So now (the state) has approved them (the changes) they’re going to be implemented but they don’t expect (schools) to do it all at once,” Xenakis-Makowski said.

According to a press release, the Michigan Board of Education heard more than 800 responses to a public survey and hundreds of comments from public information sessions.

Xenakis-Makowski said the transition isn’t simply just new standards, but the changes also mean teachers need new training.

“There used to be math and science centers in different counties that supported math and science instruction because it is so technical,” Xenakis-Makowski said. “With all the cuts that have been made in education, most areas don’t have math and science centers anymore. So it’s difficult to get some of those supports.”

Instead of strictly relying on state-run info sessions, Xenakis-Makowski said she plans to tap into network connections from her years as an administrator by combining outside grants to help teachers learn innovative teaching styles.

Brian Pearson, Gaylord Community Schools director of curriculum, said the move is something Gaylord administrators have also been anticipating.

“The GCS science department started transitioning to (Next Generation Science Standards) last year around this time,” Pearson said in an email. “I see the impact to schools being positive. NGSS still have a focus on physical, life and earth science but utilizes cross-cutting concepts such as energy and matter, scales and proportions and models to tie the different disciplines together.”

He said the new standards strive for more real-world application, and problem solving elements of science and engineering.

“The state (has) yet to determine what assessment will look like, but the shift in curriculum should make learning science more relevant to the student,” Pearson said.“The (new standards) have a great amount of emphasis on knowledge utilization and analysis in place of comprehension and retrieval. The actual science disciplines are not dramatically different.”

Xenakis-Makowski said a large part of the style transition comes down to resources for teacher training and time for teachers to learn new skills.

“People say teachers only work 9 months out of the year — baloney!” Xenakis-Makowski said. “They work all summer. Good teachers, that’s their life’s mission and that's what they do— and June, July, and August you’re figuring out your plan because you can't possibly do it while you’re teaching. So (they) are trying to hone in on those skills.”

She said the new standards are meant to make Michigan comparable to other states and countries.

“Really when it comes down to it, what (the state is) saying is our students aren’t on a level playing field with kids in other countries because on all these tests we’re not as high (scoring),” Xenakis-Makowski said. “What they don’t tell you is we’ve never been that high. It’s not like our kids are suddenly dropping off it’s just that ... while we know that our students don’t score as high as students in China on this test — they’re more innovative, they’re more creative, there are more entrepreneurs in the United States. So it’s a balance.”

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Every vote counted: J-L sinking fund millage passes by one vote
By Arielle Breen - Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — One vote — it is what the Johannesburg Lewiston Area Schools sinking fund millage vote came down to after Tuesday's election.

Superintendent Katy Xenakis-Makowski was surprised the millage passed by the narrowest of margins — 511 to 510.

“I think it's unfortunate it was that close, though I'm glad it passed based on what we have,” she said.

Carol Havrilla, Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools executive assistant, said while the preliminary numbers are in, the school had to wait a little longer for the official sinking fund millage vote results.

“We have to wait until we get the official board of canvassers (signature) on the dotted line, and we don’t have that yet,” Havrilla said Tuesday. “Until we have that document from the board of canvassers in our hands — we don’t know.”

Cheryl Neilsen, Montmorency County clerk and election coordinator, said the official vote confirmation numbers were expected Thursday. The unique J-L district covers parts of three counties — Otsego, Montmorency and Oscoda.

Neilsen said township precinct workers drop off envelopes with totals for the canvassers who triple check the township votes.

“(Wednesday) afternoon the canvassers sat down with those envelopes, counted them up," Neilsen said.

She said the canvassers verify all the vote printout sheets called tapes and check for any discrepancies.

“(Wednesday) they went through all the totals tapes and verified the numbers and came up with the totals to certify,” Nielsen said. “Then, that’s the report that the canvassers then fill out to certify the election that (says) that these are these are the final numbers that we came up with.”

She said voter turnout was approximately 20 percent between Atlanta and Johannesburg. Oscoda County's Greenwood Township had the highest voter turnout with nearly 28 percent of registered voters casting votes.

“We had very low turnout,” Neilsen said of her county.

Official voting results provided by Neilsen from each of the townships within the school district include:

• Albert Township (Montmorency) — 249-213

• Charlton Township. (Otsego) — 128-124

• Vienna Township (Montmorency) — 28-28

• Chester Township (Otsego) — 27-9

• Dover Township. (Otsego) — 19-13

• Greenwood Township (Oscoda) — 60-123

Xenakis-Makowski said the sinking fund millage will be a great asset toward improving the school.

"We can move forward with the initiatives to protect our students and keep them safe,” she said before the vote.

The millage includes a 2.3-mill levy — down from the current 2.32-mill bond levy — and is expected to help the schools cover needed repairs to things like the roof and doors.

The sinking fund can only be used toward building repairs, upgrades, site work and remodeling.

The approved sinking fund millage is not a renewal or additional levy and residents will not see the millage on their tax bills until July 2016.

Herald Times staff writer Mark Johnson also contributed to this story.

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Johannesburg-Lewiston 2015 Sinking Fund FAQs

A sinking fund millage is a limited property tax that is specifically designed for addressing building repairs and upgrades. Essentially, it is an avenue that allows the community to provide financial support to schools to pay for necessary repairs and updates to school buildings that cannot be paid from the general fund. 
The sinking fund proposal is for 2.30 mills for five years beginning in July 2016.

Sinking fund millage is not a bond or loan that requires interest payments. 
Instead, the revenue from the sinking fund millage is used from year-to-year as the taxes
are collected to pay for building projects (pay-as-you go method). 

This millage proposal is on the Tuesday, November 3, 2015 ballot.


J-L names Xenakis-Makowski new superintendent
By Judy Wagley Special to the Herald Times

“It’s a great day to be a Cardinal!”

That is what the Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools board, staff, parents and students collectively thought Monday after the board met and officially confirmed Kathleen Xenakis-Makowski as the new superintendent of the district.

Xenakis-Makowski, who has been at the helm of the Rogers City Area Schools since 2011, was selected from nearly 30 candidates from around Michigan and beyond. She will oversee the faculty, staff and nearly 750 students at Johannesburg and Lewiston elementary schools and Johannesburg middle and high schools.

“I am very fortunate and blessed with this opportunity and look forward to working with the school board, staff, students, families, and community to continue the programs of excellence in Johannesburg-Lewiston Schools,” she said.

Xenakis-Makowski will succeed Rick Holt, who is retiring after serving as superintendent for the past three years. She has already been working closely with him to make the transition.

“I couldn’t be more excited about Kathleen taking over here at J-L,” Holt said. “She is an experienced and successful superintendent and principal. She is no stranger to hard work and the day to day operations of a school, and she understands Northern Michigan. I couldn’t feel better about the choice.”

Xenakis-Makowski was raised in Troy and graduated from Troy Athens High School. She went on to Central Michigan University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in science and geography. After a long-term substitute position in Cadillac, she taught in the Onekama Consolidated Schools from 2000 until 2009. There she held a variety of positions including varsity coaching, teacher technology integration, department head and union president. She also served on curriculum committees and worked as a social studies consultant for the Manistee ISD.

Concurrently, she completed a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction through Michigan State University.

In 2009, Xenakis-Makowski took on the job as elementary principal at Rogers City Area Schools, where her duties included directing federal programs and special education. Since 2011, she has served a dual role as elementary principal/superintendent.

During that time, she began an education specialist degree through the University of Michigan-Flint and is currently nearly two-thirds of the way through the program, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

Under Xenakis-Makowski’s leadership, Rogers City Area Schools made improvements to facilities and academics by using bonds and millages. The district is now a Multi-Tiered System of Support District, focusing on systems to reach all learners through the implementation of a tiered system of supports both academically and for behavior intervention.

“We also have completed renovations to make buildings more energy efficient and up to date,” she said.

Xenakis-Makowski and her husband and family enjoy the benefits of living in Northern Michigan

“We enjoy the outdoors, particularly boating, camping, fishing, as well as winter activities of skiing and snowmobiling,” she said. “My husband is an avid hunter and has succeeded in teaching all of our children his love of hunting and all three are pretty good shots. We have two golden retrievers who offer unconditional love and travel with us just about wherever we go.”

Xenakis-Makowksi said her immediate plans as she makes the move to Johannesburg-Lewiston include moving to the area, getting to know the people, families, staff, and buildings and “studying and observing the great things that go on in the schools and community. “

“Johannesburg-Lewiston Schools have great programming and achievement,” she said. “I am excited to become a part of that excellence and welcome getting to know all of the people that continue to work so hard in supporting that excellence.”

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New weight room is a perfect fit at J-L High School
Judy Wagley - Special to the Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston High School is getting stronger every day.

The students there are pumped up about the new and improved fitness center in their school.

About 15 months ago, J-L school board member Frank Claeys said he noticed some students going into a room near the gymnasium.

“I didn’t even know what it was,” he said. “Out of curiosity, I went in and saw that it was a weight room, and the equipment was kind of in a state of disarray. Some of it was unsafe and not working. I said to myself, ‘We have to have good equipment for the kids to use.’”

Claeys began the painstaking task of repairing and replacing the weights and machines. As word of the project spread, the community flexed its collective muscles and opened its wallets and checkbooks.

“When people found out that in this day and age of ‘sit on the couch and play video games,’ those kids wanted to get out and exercise, they became incredibly generous to make it happen,” Claeys said. “It’s a positive thing; it really is.”

Claeys thanked the Dr. Patrick J. McNamara Fund of the Otsego County Community Foundation, the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, Otsego Memorial Hospital and many other local businesses and individuals who contributed nearly $26,000. He noted their investment is paying off.

The upgraded facility includes 13 pieces of fitness equipment — some new and some refurbished — including four racks and leg press, lat pull and seated rowing machines, as well as an assortment of free weights and dumbbells. More equipment is on a wish list, and will be added as additional funds are collected.

The fitness center is truly “Michigan made.” The new equipment was purchased from Rogers Athletics in Farwell, and made in Clare.

“And we found out the plant manager in Clare was a Joburg graduate,” Claeys said.

Now, side by side, students and some faculty members have been lifting, pressing and pulling their way to a healthier lifestyle in a place that is convenient for those who live and work in the rural school district.

Some are working out with JLHS math and special education teacher Cody Proctor, who is assisting with weight training programs, and will continue through the summer. Some are using apps on their smart phones that guide them through specific strength routines.

All are excited about getting fit, strong and healthy.

“We come in here a lot in the morning and have been working really hard, said Max Roberts, a J-L football player. Roberts noted that he has seen more non-athletes and more girls than ever before taking advantage of the fitness center. “Now a lot more people can use it, and we’re just getting started,” he said.

Any J-L student, eighth grade and up may use the fitness center year round. The goal is to create and encourage a culture of health and wellness for all in the J-L schools.

“It’s the coolest room in the school,” said student Ethan May. “More people are definitely coming. It’s starting to become more of a thing.”

For information about supervised summer fitness center hours at J-L, call (989) 732-1773.

New Weight Room at J-L!

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Updated 5/22/17