Groundbreaking Celebration for New School!

Last Monday evening, not even the gray skies couldn’t keep spirits down as the Board of Education and Superintendent, Tom TenBrink, broke ground on the new school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

The Early Childhood Center [ECC] and Spanish Immersion program currently housed at Rosewood and Bursley Elementary Schools, will both be housed in the new building located near the corner of Baldwin and 28th Ave.

The new school – Jenison’s first new school since 1970! – will be a two-story, LEED certified building with 36 classrooms. It will also include modern security features as well as, assisted listening systems in each classroom, two playgrounds and two full-size ball fields.

Becky Steele, Rosewood and Bursley STEM teacher was on hand to capture student Samantha Eriks tell those in attendance what the new school means to hear and future Spanish Immersion students. Becky says, “Samantha has been a Bursley Spanish Immersion student since kindergarten, and is headed off to the Junior High in the fall.  Her fluency [as well as her poise, confidence, positivity, kind and helpful heart…the list goes on and on] certainly speaks volumes about the quality of the language immersion education that students get in JPS.”

This is a very exciting season for JPS and we can’t wait to monitor the progress and celebrate when our students and staff are filling the halls!

Rosewood Principal, Lloyd Gingerich, along with SI teachers!

ECC Principal, Lee Westerveldt, joined by two ECC students

Readers are Leaders!

MIII0041Don’t be surprised if you start to see stickers all over the Jenison community soon declaring, “JPS Reads” and you’ll probably want to join in on the fun!

Curriculum Director, Kristy Rogalla, Media Specialist, Jan Staley, Bauerwood Principal, Crystal Morse and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz are partnering to capitalize on the excitement and popularity of the James and Giant Peach initiative. With this next phase, all Jenison citizens will be challenged to set their own specific reading goal and when it is reached, they receive their own cling-on letting everyone know they did it!

MIII9995According to Ms Schultz, “It will be great to drive through our district and notice all the paws displayed in the front of homes.  Our community will shine with the importance of READING!” Of course, you can also brag about your reading skills by putting your sticker on your car and give a little wave to others who’ve done the same!

But if you think this is just for our students, think again! “This is not just a school based reading program, but a way to get everyone in the community excited and involved in reading. We have talked to business leaders and also our senior citizen community members to join in the fun of showcasing our love of reading here in Jenison. Our students and community members will even have the opportunity to share favorite authors, favorite books, or even share reading photos on Twitter at #JPSReads.”

Parents – you play a critical role in your child’s interest in reading! “Together…We are Jenison!! We believe that the love of reading often starts inside of the family and as a school district we are here to grow, build upon, support, and encourage that love of reading!  Together with our families and community we are committed to continuing to foster a love of reading and learning in ALL our children.”
“Not all readers are leaders, but…All Leaders are Readers.”  – Harry Truman

This phase of JPSReads runs from January 16 – February 27 and will kick off all this week.



1448499790-4841895-james_giant_peach_ticketsWhen Junior High theatre director, Holly Florian, chose James and the Giant Peach for this year’s winter performance fifth grade teachers, Michelle U’Ren knew that she wanted to read the classic story aloud to her class. She knew it would help them appreciate the show even more to be familiar with the story.

But it didn’t stay specific to Ms U’Ren’s class! It didn’t take long before a district-wide project was born! Other teachers were interested in reading the story to their classes as well and and soon, Holly, Michelle, and Jan Staley, media specialist, were organizing the first ever district-wide read aloud, which came to be known as JPS Reads!

All of the teachers are encouraged by the response so far. “The feedback from teachers, students, and parents has been really positive.  Perhaps the most exciting part is hearing the connections being made at home!  There are many stories of families discussing James and the Giant Peach during dinner and younger kids begging older siblings to tell them what happens next in the story.


Story brainstorming in Mary Veldink’s 3rd grade Pinewood classroom

When Ms Florian was considering scripts for the junior high performance she was excited about the visual and production challenges posed by James and the Giant Peach. “[It] stood out to me right away as being a fantastic option – the story is so wonderful, and the stage version has many featured roles, which gives lots of students a chance to show off their performing skills. It will also be a technical challenge! Figuring out how to create a giant peach that rolls off the cliffs of Dover and into the Atlantic ocean is going to be a creative challenge for the entire production team.”

Not all teachers had a copy of the book but thanks to a grant from the Jenison Public Education Foundation, those teachers were provided a copy. Even our Spanish Immersion classrooms are reading the story in Spanish! In order to empower teachers, weekly emails are sent to participants offering suggestions for activities and ways to connect with other teachers in the project.  Each individual teacher can choose which activities they would like to implement within their own classroom. Lori Barr, Pinewood 6th grade teacher, is engaging students’ writing skills by having them write blog posts with their thoughts and questions. Check out their Letters to Ms Florian here

If you have ever wondered if reading at home matters, it does! “Statistics have shown that a powerful predictor of reading success is having a parent who personally reads aloud to their child 5–7 days a week. Our community read aloud, JPS Reads, will hopefully ignite the joy of reading and the community bond it builds within the classroom family…the hope is that this will then be talked about and become part of our individual family habits also.”

Congratulations to all the teachers, students and families who participated in the first JPS Read Aloud! We can’t wait for the play this January!



*Photo courtesy of

Say “Hi” to New Teachers!

This year we welcomed 23 new staff members to the Jenison family! Here you can meet some of them and feel free to say “hi” in person when you cross paths!


Anna Flood  |  Burlsey, 6th Grade

“I grew up in the area and have always heard amazing things about Jenison. As a new teacher to the district, I have noticed the strong community and support that surrounds education. I am excited to grow with my group of 6th grade students, and watch them use their abilities to be successful.”


mcelweeAlexa McElwee  |  Bursley Interventionist
“I have grown up in this community.  Living in Hudsonville, attending GVSU and now working in Jenison, I have seen this community from so many sides.  From being a child, to a student, and now as a educator.  This community stands behind you and support you in every way.  When I graduated the one thing I knew I wanted in the school I worked for was a huge community involvement.  When I accepted my position in Jenison, I knew I was going more than a community, I was joining a family.  Jenison is such an amazing school district who wants the best for the students and their families.

On the first day of school I was feeling like most students do when they walk in the door, nervous, anxious and excited.  I definitely had first day jitters.  I was nervous for joining a new team and for meeting new students who have never seen me before.  By the end of they day I was getting high fives and lots of hugs from all the Kindergartners as they walked by my room to head to the bus.  To see their faces light up each morning when they see me in the hall or working with them makes me so excited to see the relationships that are being formed.  This is going to be a great year.”

vandebergJosh VandeBerg  |  Sandy Hill, 4th Grade

“My family and I are very excited to return to the area!  My wife Amanda and I are from the area, but moved to Florida 9 years ago. We have 4 children Ben (10), Abigail (9), Hannah (6), and Levi (3).  All of our extended family lives in the area and my children are thrilled to live by their cousins.

I am a big believer of living in the community that I teach in.  Jenison is an amazing place to live and raise a family.  The schools are top-notch and we can’t imagine a better place to be. I am so excited for this school year because everyone that I work with truly cares about each other.  The district leaders, the team at Sandy Hill, and everyone I meet throughout the district is amazing. Jenison has a lot to offer its students.  I am currently involved in the robotic’s program and we have a blast using what we’ve learned in the classroom to solve a problem.

willieMaura Willie  |  Elementary Music

“I was drawn to JPS because of their excellence in music. I love how the district and community supports the arts in their schools. So far, I’m most excited for the year because of all of the collaboration I’ve seen. Everyone I’ve come into contact with has been eager to help each other and work together. ”


Jenny Huizenga  |  High School Math
“I was drawn to JPS because my children attend JPS and I love the schools and the community.  I am excited to be teaching in the community where I live.  The staff and students are amazing at Jenison and I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and get involved. “



Bridget Ehlich  |  Bursley Elementary, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“I was drawn to JPS by the reputation it has in the Greater Grand Rapids area as forward educators. I am excited about the year because I have already felt welcomed by the community and can tell that this is a good place to be as an educator.”

Dustin Morley  |  Junior High ELA
“I first heard about Jenison Public Schools while I attended Grand Valley State University ten years ago and heard nothing but good things about the district and community ever since. After moving from the Detroit area to West Michigan I was very excited when a long-term substitute position opened at Jenison Junior High. The building and district felt like home for me from the first interview for that position.  After being a long-term substitute for a year and a half, I couldn’t be happier to now be a full time teacher at Jenison Junior High School. I’m particularly looking forward to getting more involved with the school and community this year.”


Rachel Nichols  |  ECC Special Education

“I was looking for a district that wanted to everything possible to benefit their students. I talked to some friends and they all were so pleased with Jenison and what they are doing.  So far it has been great everyone has been so friendly and welcoming it has been an amazing start to 2016/2017 school year and I am excited to continue!!!”

Anna Siegel  |  Pinewood + Sandy Hill Special Education

“What drew me to JPS is the success of the district and the sense of community. I am in two different elementary buildings throughout the day this year, and so I am excited to interact with many different staff and students this year!”

Kristen Dantonio  |  Pinewood, 5th Grade

“I was drawn to Jenison because I was told that it was a district that cared about people. It is a district that puts relationships first and I knew that I wanted to be part of that. I am most excited to get to know my students and coworkers at Pinewood. It has been a great year so far and I am excited to see how those relationships will grow.”


Christina Salinas  |  Rosewood, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“The wonderful Jenison community and Spanish Immersion program drew me to JPS.  This year I am excited to see students continue to grow in their literacy skills in Spanish and English.  I am also excited to work with the supportive teachers and staff at Rosewood Elementary. I have learned so much from them already. Their dedication and passion for teaching is contagious!”

We’re so thankful for all of our teachers and all that they do for our students and families! Thank you to the new teachers for bringing your talents and passion to Jenison!

Bond Dollars Hit the Road!

miii9763Last May the Jenison community voted in support of a Bond proposal that allows the district to keep up with the growing needs of our students, teachers and community. One of those very important [and practical!] needs was replacing ten buses in the current fleet which took place this summer.

According to Kip Medendorp, Director of Transportation, buses should be replaced every fifteen years to keep up to date on mechanics as well as gas mileage. However, with multiple needs facing the department, new buses had been put on hold until the recent Bond vote when the purchase of ten buses was able to move forward.

miii9745The old buses were sold at auction in July – the oldest of which was 23 years old [maybe some of our Jenison parents used to ride those Jenison buses?] and all of them experiencing some rust issues. The new buses are already out on the road and Mr. Medendorp says that both drivers and students are happy to have them and consistently show respect to the new equipment. One important safety feature on the new buses is a “sleeping student alarm” that requires drivers to walk to the back of the bus and push a button confirming the bus is empty within a certain amount of time. This, in addition, to the department’s policy to check for remaining students will continue to keep our students safe!

miii9782The transportation department isn’t stopping at new buses, though! The bond vote will also provide a new radio system and equip all buses with a GPS system. This will allow for the department to be able to locate a bus when needed. Additionally, they are planning to purchase tablets to be given to substitute drivers which will detail the route and each stop, replacing a print out that subs use now.  Finally, they are looking into putting cameras on every bus and joining an app for parents called, “Where’s my bus?” that would allow parents to locate their child’s bus at any time.

In accordance with the overall goal of improved communication, the department provides many online resources. You can visit their website here for information and complete their Transportation Request of Change form here. This school year, over 500 parents completed the form online saving the team and parents time!

Through the support of the community and the dedicated team in the Transportation Department, the whole student is honored, served well and kept safe from the beginning of their day to the end, “We try to make all the kids happy; we’re the first ones they see in the morning, the last in the afternoon and it’s a source of pride for our drivers to contribute to the students’ experience”.

miii9767-2Thank you to the Jenison community for your Bond support and to our bus drivers and transportation staff for keeping our kids safe! Don’t be shy when you see the Jenison buses on the road, give them a wave to say you’re thankful too!


District-Wide Book Fair is a HIT!

MIII8484Last month parents and students enjoyed the first Jenison District-Wide Book Fair at the JCA! After considering the amount of time and resources used in the fall at individual elementary school book fairs, Jan Staley, Elementary Media Specialist, and her teams decided to pool their talents and hold one fair for all schools instead. After more than seventeen years of separate events this event was a trial run for the team but it ended up to be a successful one too! Scholastic publishers [partners in the event] were also anxious to see how it turned out as this hadn’t been done by any other school before!

MIII8483The event saw sales of more than $19,000 and Jan explains how that money will be distributed: “We usually made between $2,000-$4,000 per building with our separate fairs. With the District Wide Fair every school met their goal, and was given a profit bonus too.  Depending on student count each school was given between $700-$1,100 in free books from Scholastic Publishers and $500-$900 in cash profits for future collection development.”MIII8450

The wide selection was the number one joy for shoppers. The most popular titles being Rangers in Time, Dr Kitty and Serafina and the Black Cloak which all ran out of stock and had to be ordered. “Instead of just 5 or 6 cases of books that a normal fair has, we had 22 cases of books and just as many or more boxes of books for table displays.”

While Scholastic only publishes paperback books, Ms Staley has the current electronic reading trends in mind as well. Last year she submitted a grant and she is piloting a circulating eBook collection at Bauerwood.  “If stats show it is being used well we will develop a collection for other buildings.”

If you are worried that you missed this epic book event, fear not! The fun will be repeated next year.  “Having the Book Fair at the JCA was SUPER successful!   In fact, I’ve decided that for next year we’ll have both Book Fairs, which are normally in the individual buildings, at the JCA.  Our fall fair will be on Dec 5, 6 & 7 and our spring fair will be the end of April 2017.”

Mark your calendars for next year and a HUGE THANK YOU to the volunteers that helped make this event possible and bringing the excitement of reading to every Jenison student!







Michigan Supreme Court Visits Jenison!

MIII9140Last week the Jenison Center for the Arts was the site of an oral hearing of the Michigan Supreme Court. 1300 Ottawa County high school students, nominated by their teachers, were present for the arguments presented by legal council for both parties. Although the state’s highest court will take a couple of weeks to make a ruling this was a very unique opportunity for the students and the community of Jenison to host this important part of the judicial process.

MIII8975The visit came to fruition after the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office applied through Court Community Connections, a public education program begun by the Court in 2007. The case before the Court was Peter Deacon vs Pandora, the online music streaming site, whom Mr Deacon believes violated his state’s privacy rights when they sold his information to Facebook.

Superintendent Tom TenBrink was very proud to host this amazing event. “To see the Supreme Court in action right here in Ottawa County is a tremendous opportunity.” After the oral arguments were presented audience members were invited to ask questions during a Q & A session with the Justices and attorney’s and representatives from each visiting school were also able to join the justices for an intimate luncheon prior to the hearing.

185 Jenison students were invited and Celia Webers, Jenison junior, says that while they learn the basics of the court system in class “this is really good to be able to apply it and be in what we’re learning. We learn the terms but we don’t know how it works.”

Senior Parmida Davarmahesh is considering a future in law and was excited to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. “It really exposes me to how the court works and what my job and future career, if I become a lawyer, will look like.”  And junior James Groelsma adds that in class they are able to study the more well-known cases but this gave them the opportunity to study a case that’s a little more abstract, albeit timely. “It’s cool be part of something that hasn’t been decided yet. It’s not a clear decision; it’s an argument.”

MIII8966Mr Abram Brosseit, Government and Social Studies teacher, sees this as a great opportunity to honor Jenison students who have shown an interest in political science. “We want to give them the chance to see what it looks like in a world outside the classroom. A lot of students have come to me over the last few months as they know more of the facts of the case, they’re understanding that there’s arguments to be made on both sides and I’ve seen students really engaging in critical thinking in a very applied way. This isn’t an abstract question on a test, this is happening in front of them.”

We are very proud to not only host the MI Supreme Court Justices at the JCA, but especially the students and teachers who gained invaluable insight into the judicial process that happens around them every day.

Thank you to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office and the MI Supreme Court for involving our students in your work!



Board of Education Appreciation Month!


Second Row: William Waalkes, Paul Peppel, Craig Jenison, Eric Hartman First Row: Amanda Peterman, Geoffrey Brown, Craig Rockwell Not Pictured: Adam Tountas, newly appointed trustee

Public education is the backbone of American society, and local school boards are deeply rooted in U.S. tradition. It’s the foundation on which our democracy was built. Today local school boards continue to do the most important work of their communities—that of educating our youth.

As citizen leaders, members of the Jenison Public Schools Board of Education continue to face complex and demanding challenges. Their extraordinary dedication to Jenison Public Schools is greatly appreciated. The job of a school board member is tough, the hours long and the thanks few and far between. Too often we’re quick to criticize school board members without really understanding the complex nature of their decisions. We often forget about the personal sacrifices school board members make in fulfilling their responsibilities. Jenison School Board members contribute hundreds of hours each year leading our district. The time spent in board meetings represents just a small fraction of the time school board members spend helping to lead our district.

The month of January is set aside to time to thank them for their untiring efforts. This is a time to show our appreciation and begin to better understand how local trustees work together to prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders. Join with others from our district and throughout the state to salute the men and women who provide grassroots governance of public schools.

Please take time to show your appreciation to the Jenison Public School Board members who faithfully and with great passion provide leadership for our school district. The members of the Jenison Public Schools Board of Education include:

Mr. William Waalkes, President

Dr. Craig Rockwell, Vice-President

Mr. Geoff Brown, Secretary

Dr. Eric Hartman, Treasurer

Mrs. Amanda Peterman, Trustee

Mr. Craig Jenison, Trustee

Mr. Adam Tountas, Newly appointed trustee

As further evidence of their dedication, be looking for a post at the end of January on an important, upcoming Bond Issue.

Thank you, Jenison Board of Education members for putting our students and their education at the top of your priority lists!  We are so grateful for you!

Your Change Can Change Hunger 2014

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In an increasingly hectic world, today is unique in and of the fact that it’s intended for us to slow down, take time off from the regular hustle and bustle and to stop and reflect on what we’re thankful for.  It may be something simple like a day off from work and school or a chance to eat your mom’s almost famous stuffing or the chance for a Lion’s win or it could be something much more profound like being thankful for having a meal at all.

At first glance, it may not seem as though there is an issue of hunger in our community but organizations like Hand2Hand, based locally in Hudsonville, remind us that many families in Jenison are among those in need of the basic necessities like regular meals.

But thanks to our schools and Student Council leaders, we are combating this need with compassion, generosity and a little bit of fun.

Hand2Hand Backpack filled to the brim for a lucky student!

Hand2Hand Backpack filled to the brim for a lucky student!

Schools district-wide participated in various fundraising projects from November 14 — 21 to raise money for Hand2Hand that will be directed specifically to Jenison families.  It seems hard to imagine but many of our children risk going hungry over the course of a weekend due to financial strain.  Hand2Hand works with principals to identify children in need and each Friday they confidentially distribute meals for the weekend.  During the 2013 – 2014 school year over 86,000 backpacks were given to West Michigan children!  Excited recipients are taking home healthy options such as fruit, soup, pasta, granola bars, boxes of cereal and more.  “That’s really where our focus is.  To make sure that our friends and peers have those things to take home for the weekend.”  Mrs. Mallory DeFouw, JJH Student Council Advisor

Each school coordinates different fundraising projects to get students interested in and excited about giving.  At Jenison Junior High the Student Council partnered with teachers to build friendly competition between 7th and 8th graders.  Money is collected during 5th hour so as to capitalize on those extra coins leftover from lunch.  Special events such as Hat or Pajama Days where students can choose to pay $1 to participate and the funds also contribute to the Junior High total for YCCCH.

“I see that kids are willing to give up their dollars that they would normally spend in the vending machine, they give to Hand2Hand; kids would bring in their own money from their savings accounts.  That just speaks volumes to the types of kids we have in the Junior High.”  -Mrs DeFouw

Student Council officers and representatives passionately stand by the effort to support this important work and aren’t afraid to look inward in the process.  “It makes you thankful for what you have when you see that other people don’t have has much as we have.  For me to think that [someone] is scared to go home on the weekend and not have enough food, it just makes me want to give because I know that that can be kind of a scary feeling to not know.”  Maddie Tease, 8th graderBursley 4

“Sometimes we take it for granted that there are people who aren’t as fortunate as we are.”  John Maday, 8th grader

“In Elementary, I didn’t really realize that people in my community could be hungry too, it’s not just other places.”  –Maddie Tease

It’s also important to remember that the holidays are not the only time to give or to remember those in need.  “It’s not just a concern this month.  It’s not just an issue this month. Hand2Hand Ministries needs the support all year long in order to provide for these families.”

Last year Jenison raised $11,960.65 for Hand2Hand and the goal for this year was $12,000.  And while the totals are still being counted, we can confidently say that the efforts of all of our students is appreciated and is making a difference right here in our midst!  Thank you Jenison students and families; you inspire us!

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Junior High Student Council members with their change [& a backpack!]

Pinewood students smile proudly with their contribution!

Pinewood students smile proudly with their contribution!

Superintendent Tom TenBrink and the ECC Top Collecting Class!  Way to go!

Superintendent Tom TenBrink and the ECC Top Collecting Class! Way to go!

The team at Bauerwood with Mr TenBrink and their collection!

The team at Bauerwood with Mr TenBrink and their collection!

The winning class from Rosewood!  Brilliant work!

The winning class from Rosewood! Look at all that change!  Wow!

The Bursley crew with their collection! Super impressive work, everyone!

The Bursley crew with their collection! Super impressive work, everyone!

Sandy Hill Top Collecting Class -- Kindergartners!  Amazing!

Sandy Hill Top Collecting Class — Kindergartners! Amazing!

Hand2Hand Volunteers taking a quick break from distribution.

Hand2Hand Volunteers taking a quick break from distribution.

If you would like to join Jenison Students by supporting the work of Hand2Hand please visit their website for direction on giving monetarily or with an in-kind donation.

Thank you, Jenison Board of Education!

First row left to right: Geoff Brown [5 yrs], Bill Waalkes [15 yrs], Paul Peppel [10 yrs] Second row left to right: Craig Jenison [24 yrs], Amanda Peterman [1 yr], Eric Hartman [5 yrs], Craig Rockwell [8 yrs]

First row left to right: Geoff Brown [5 yrs], Bill Waalkes [15 yrs], Paul Peppel [10 yrs]
Second row left to right: Craig Jenison [24 yrs], Amanda Peterman [1 yr], Eric Hartman [5 yrs], Craig Rockwell [8 yrs]

This month we take time to honor the Jenison Board of Education and say a well deserved, ‘thank you’ for all of their hard work and dedication to the students and educators in our district. These volunteers give their time and energy selflessly as servant leaders, striving to help make Jenison an amazing place to learn and grow.  Each member of the Board brings their unique experience and expertise to the table and have been extremely dedicated throughout their years of service.

Among their many accomplishments in the past year are the following highlights:

  • opening of the Jenison Public Schools Center for the Arts
  • settling a two year master agreement with our three employee groups
  • hiring approximately forty new professionals

Too often the personal sacrifices school board members routinely make are forgotten. The time spent in board meetings represents just a small fraction of the hours they spend helping lead our district. Their efforts to help ALL children succeed by improving teaching and learning in our district are truly appreciated.

I have been very blessed to have the opportunity to work with such gifted, dedicated, and compassionate men and women who serve on the Board of Jenison Public Schools. The strength of their leadership and determination that Jenison Public Schools excel in everything that we do continues to set the bar high for all of us who serve the children and parents of our school district. Our Board of Education members are committed to insure that all decisions always focus on what is best for the children who attend Jenison Public Schools. As we celebrate School Board Education month, it is important that everyone take the time to thank our board members who work so diligently on behalf of Jenison Public Schools.” — Tom TenBrink

Thank you, Board of Education, for your passion and dedication to the families of our district. We honor you, this month and all year long!

You can join the School Board at their next meeting on Monday, January 13 at 7:30pm in the Jenison Center for the Arts Board Room. As always, their meetings are open to the public.