by DAVID KELLER
School Board Trustee
Rockford Public Schools
I asked myself that exact question a few months ago when the snow was coming down and we hadn’t seen sunshine in several days. In addition to the winter season dragging on, our state economy was heading south, along with many of Michigan’s residents to look for warmer weather and better opportunities. So why do we live here? Why have we picked West Michigan, in this community of Rockford to reside and raise a family?
The answer for me is… my children. This is where I want to raise and educate my children. My wife has lived in Rockford her entire life, I’ve been here for the last 20 years, and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We have a great community and public school system. While I may be biased, there are not many school districts in this state that can boast the accomplishments that have made Rockford Public Schools the great school district that it is.
Rockford Public Schools (RPS) and its students are exemplary. To note just a few accolades and accomplishments, I didn’t have to dig too deep. Every RPS building has been recognized as a State and/or Exemplary National Blue Ribbon School-RPS is the only Class A school district in Michigan to earn this recognition. For four straight years, every school building in the Rockford school district has earned straight A’s through the Michigan Education YES! Accountability system-only one other school district in West Michigan has earned this recognition.
Rockford High School has had eight students recognized as National Merit Finalists over the past two years. One hundred and one Rockford students competed in this year’s Michigan Math Prize Test, nine of these students made the top 1,000 (out of approximately 12,000 taking the test) and our teams finished first and second in our division.
RPS had 12 teams qualify for the state competition of the Odyssey of the Mind program. Ten of these teams “placed” in the competition and five of these teams qualified for the world competition (the entire state of Michigan qualified only 15 teams to the world competition).
Our band and choir students consistently earn the highest ratings at all competitions. They have performed in such places as Carnegie Hall (N.Y.), Mormon Tabernacle (Utah) and events in Washington, D.C. During Rockford’s academic awards ceremony held in April earlier this year, over 1,000 students from Rockford’s freshman through senior class received academic awards-quite an accomplishment.
In the athletic arena, our students have achievements that many schools would be envious of. Rockford has accumulated 144 conference championships, 68 district championships, 70 regional championships, and 26 state championships in various team sports. Some of the recent state championship notables were in football, wrestling and water polo. We have also had many students compete to win individual state championships in their field. I don’t have enough room to list all of the conference, district and regional championships held by many of our Rockford sports teams. You need only to visit the high school gym and view the east wall to see all of these accomplishments-pretty amazing stuff.
All of these accomplishments may not otherwise have been obtainable without the hard work and dedication of our teachers, administration, support staff, coaches and volunteers. These individuals have high expectations for our students and have the ability to bring out the best in them. Not enough can be said about their commitment to our students.
And enough can’t be said about the community and the support that they give to Rockford Public Schools and our students. The bond that was passed in May 2008 will benefit RPS for years to come, and as you can see when you drive around our community, new construction has already started at many of our schools. This community is made up of many wonderful families that care about their children’s education and the Rockford school system. Education starts at home, and without having parents who stay highly involved with their children’s education, Rockford wouldn’t have the student success that we have today.
As I’m sitting here outside on my deck writing this article in the warm spring sunshine, winter seems long removed and I’m thinking to myself… all of the above, that’s why I live here. There aren’t many communities in the state similar to Rockford, and I want to extend my thanks to our Rockford teachers, administration, staff, volunteers, families, and all of the other individuals who are involved with and support Rockford Public Schools. You are what make this community of Rockford a great place to be.