A Letter to Legislators – Public Schools Are Integral Part of a Community

The following letter was sent to our legislators.

Hello Representative Bumstead and Senator Hansen

It has been several months since I have submitted Newaygo Lion Pride Points to you.  Please let me know that you received this.

As I am sure you have heard, a few weeks ago, the Newaygo community experienced a tragedy when four women’s lives taken in a tragic car accident.  Six students lost their mothers in this accident and countless others lost their aunt, cousin, and/or friend.  The students and staff at NPS immediately began reaching out to these families in an attempt to provide whatever help they could.  Students and staff at the schools began planning fundraisers to help offset funeral costs and other expenses.  A benefit spaghetti dinner, a middle school dance, proceeds from a high school dance, selling “paws” for $1.00 to be posted, and many other fundraisers have occurred to help these families.  Of course, area businesses immediately stepped up and made donations and held events to raise funds for these families as well.  These events in and of themselves would be enough to make one pause and be grateful and in awe of this school community.  But… the kindness and generosity doesn’t stop there!

On February 13, two girls’ basketball rivals (Newaygo and White Cloud) stepped on the court for a regularly scheduled contest.  This was no regular high school game, however.  This fundraiser was for a completely different cause.  The event was promoted as a Cancer Awareness game to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.  T-shirts were sold in advance and money was collected in honor of the coaches and team members who lost loved ones to cancer.  What was amazing is that in light of everything that has occurred in the Newaygo community in the last month, the school and community once again responded.  Consider this note I received from Ms. Rita Seabrook (reprinted with permission).

Dear Peg and Newaygo Public   Schools, When asked yesterday in our building staff meeting about the strengths in our district, I said the people, those that work in the schools and our community members.  I   didn’t realize until last night the extent of the power the people of our two small communities have.The players were excited to run a miracle minute for one of White Cloud’s varsity player families.  Within one minute our two communities sponsored that family   with a financial donation of $1,133.73!  I sit here with tears in my eyes, goose bumps on my arms and pride in my heart.  The people from our small towns are one of our greatest strengths!This donation will also be matched for the family from two of our small local businesses.  Grand total then, over $3,000.00 in just one minute.  Makes me wonder, working together, what could we do with more time.

Thank you to all who helped us help the family.

Swelling with Lion Pride & Indian Spirit,

Rita Seabrook


As you read my thoughts and Ms. Seabrook’s note, please consider the following:

  • The school/community connection is a deep bond forged through many years of partnerships.  This occurs because local control is vital and the belief that those who are “closest” to the decisions and actions, have the most impact.
  •  Here in Newaygo, our community works with our public school system to support our young people in their growth and provide them with assistance in pursuing their dreams.  The adults here show this by their words and their deeds.   The entire Newaygo community and school system believes in and rallies around our students.  I ask that you continue to support public education in all areas with policy decisions that foster local control.
  • I quote Dr. Mike Paskewicz:  “Improvements in public schools happen when the local community gives permission. Permission is granted when local communities trust their school district. Trust between our community and our schools is one reason why public schools work.”  
  • When the over-emphasis on test scores continues to dominate policy-makers decisions, please share this email, and remind your colleagues that there are many aspects of a strong school and community.  Living in a democratic society where care and concern are exhibited for fellow citizens is just as, or perhaps more important than, political sound bites on test scores. 

 With Pride and Respect,

Peg Mathis