School Beat – May 28, 2009

A ‘student stimulus plan’

by BLAKE R. BOWMAN
Principal, Lakes Elementary School

A few weeks ago, Michigan State University’s (MSU) men’s basketball team defeated Louisville to advance to the NCAA Final Four in Detroit. Recognizing that the Spartans’ magical run through the tournament was providing a lot of positive energy for an economically challenged region, MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo said after the game, “Let’s face it, every state’s been hit this year. It’s been a tough time, but ours has been hit maybe as hard as anybody’s. I’m just hoping we’re a silver lining. I’m hoping that we’re the sunshine. I’m hoping we’re something to embrace, to be involved with…”

The sun shone brightly on Michigan for the next week. I should know. I went down to Detroit for the Final Four games, and it was a spectacular environment down there. MSU’s athletic director, Mark Hollis, referred to the team’s achievements as the “Spartan stimulus plan.” And, for a week, it worked some awe-inspiring magic. But the Final Four is over now. For all the fun and exhilaration that we had, any true stimulus plan has to be based on something more lasting. The Federal government’s economic stimulus plan is slated to provide some much-needed relief for struggling programs, but even this is a one-time windfall. Where can we turn to find hope and inspiration that will stand up against the tests of time?

Take a look at the students of Rockford Public Schools. I’m the biggest MSU fan you’ll ever meet, but I missed the Louisville game because I was at Rockford High School with my two oldest children, watching the incredible musical performance of “Beauty and the Beast.” Sure, that performance is over, but every time you turn around in this town, you’ll find more of our students doing outstanding things.

At this year’s Community Expo last March, I was proud to watch many of my students from Lakes sing in front of a gym full of people. It was very exciting to watch them shine publicly! Most of Rockford’s schools were represented at that event. Rockford’s musical departments are executing amazing performances all of the time. North Rockford Middle School (NRMS) offered an Arts Night last month that spotlighted NRMS students who excel in arts ranging from painting and sculpture to band and choir to cooking and woodshop. Lakes Elementary had an Art Make-It-and-Take-It night on April 23. These kinds of opportunities dot the school calendars in every Rockford school all of the time!

You can’t drive into this town without seeing signs boasting our athletic state championships. Our students certainly shine in a multitude of athletic venues, but have you noticed that our Odyssey of the Mind elementary teams are also noted as World Champions? How about some lesser-noted accomplishments? Lakes Elementary soared past its goal for “March is Reading Month” as our students documented over 5,300 hours of reading at home. We won’t put up a sign for that, but all of the male staff members at Lakes have to grow a moustache because of it. That’s better than a sign any day! I had a kindergarten student ask me recently if I planted “beard seeds” on my face. With a new goatee, I didn’t know how I’d defend Dave Downer’s title (and tiara) as the defending Miss Relay last week! Speaking of Relay for Life, if you want to see the kind of character and passion that Rockford students possess, this amazing event at NRMS on May 15 and 16 would have blown you away by the student involvement.

So, I suppose that the “Spartan stimulus plan” can make the sun shine on Michigan for a week. But Rockford’s “student stimulus plan” will make the sun shine on us for a lifetime!

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