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MCC, LHS recognized in Best High Schools in America list

Mason County Central and Ludington high schools have been recognized as some of the best in the nation in a list published by U.S. News & World Report.

The annual Best High Schools in America list uses six criteria to determine which schools make the list: college readiness, college curriculum, math and reading proficiency, math and reading performance, underserved student performance and graduation rate.

It’s the second time MCC has made the list in three years, after failing to meet the criteria in 2018, and Principal Jeff Tuka said it’s an honor, and a credit to both the teachers and the students of the high school.

“I’m extremely proud of our students for working toward the six criteria,” Tuka said.

“I’m proud of our teachers for working to get this designation back,” he said, noting that MCC did not make the cut in 2018 and emphasizing the significance of meeting the criteria once again.

“I think it says something to be small and rural and still be able to offer educational opportunities,” Tuka said.

Tuka said there are several teachers and administrators who deserve credit for the designation, including MCC Schools Superintendent Jeff Mount.

“I want to relay credit to Mr. Mount … for having a philosophy of exposing kids to post-secondary education while they’re in high school,” Tuka said.

He said the school’s relationship with West Shore Community College and the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program offered by the West Shore Educational District have increased college preparedness among graduating students.

Through its dual-enrollment program, the school has also piloted a college entry class at WSCC to give seniors a better sense of what to expect when they start college.

“We have a great relationship with WSCC and CTE, and our students are able to take full advantage of these opportunities getting two-year and four-year degrees, as well as vocational and trade certificates,” Tuka said.

Tuka said high school counselor Joan Vidak also deserves credit for the designation.

“A lot of schools in the country get this but it means we’re designated as one of the best,” Tuka told the Daily News. “It brings us great joy to say that we’re one of the best high schools in America and we’re proud Spartans because of it.”

Tuka said school officials learned about the designation in the spring, and ordered banner to announce the good news.

The banner is now placed above the main entrance to the high school off of Broadway Avenue.

For Ludington High School, the designation marks a “three-peat,” as this is the third time in as many years that LHS has been included in the list.

Principal Dan Mesyer said it was exciting to learn of the school’s achievement, and said there will be a banner announcing the news to students at the school’s entrance.

“This is a k-12 award,” Mesyar said. “It is a team effort with everyone on the staff going the extra mile.”

The U.S. News & World Report list of Best High Schools in America reviews and ranked more than 17,000 public high schools in the United States, analyzing the schools’ ability to educate students from different socio-economic backgrounds while exposing them to challenging courses as make their way to graduation.

“We have set the bar high,” said Mesyar, who added that he found out about the award in late spring.

He added that U.S. News & World Report considers graduation rates, advanced placement scores and participation, SAT scores and dual-enrollment when compiling the list.

He said this year the staffs approach is “back to the basics,” and said the school must be doing something right.

Daily News Asst. Managing Editor Jeff Kiessel contributed to this report.

Provision's Beach Shack caters to beachgoers

Summer’s winding down, but Provision’s Beach Shack at Stearns Park beach is still catering to beachgoers by renting out paddle boards, kayaks, chairs and umbrellas — as it will continue to do until after Labor Day.

The beach shack has been owned by four different owners, who mainly owned bait shop businesses. The current owner, Jeff Hodges, said he thought owning the shop would be his retirement plan when he made the decision to buy it more than 30 years ago.

“It was a unique opportunity to buy this and there was no other one like it,” Hodges said.

Hodges said it’s a unique location right on the beach. Wayne Dewyar, an employee at the shack, said a lot of people like it because it reminds them of other beach shacks in tropical places.

“Lots of people take photos of it with their camera,” Dewyar said.

Weather is a depending factor on how business goes, according to Hodges.

“Good weather means business,” he said.

Rainy and cold weather can close down the shack. In fact, weather impacts all of Hodges’ businesses, including the Village Café and Pub in Pentwater.

“June was bad (in terms of sales),” said Dewyar.

Business improved in July and August as a result of better weather.

However, he said, “Now that school is starting soon, and there are more windy and cooler temperatures, August sales have been down (again) recently.”

Dewyar said the shack got a new coat of paint this year, and that has made a difference, attracting more customers.

The newly painted shack draws people for rentals and photos. Hodges and Dewyar were also thinking of having bike rentals next year.

Dewyar has worked for the shack for three years, but his grandfather worked at the shack when it was a bait shop from 1956 to 1961.

“My grandfather would be psyched to know I am working here,” Dewyar said.

The beach shack opens at Memorial Day and closes for the season after Labor Day, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., weather depending.

Connexion Point to host Walk for Recovery Awareness

In observation of National Recovery Month in September, and to honor individuals and families who have experienced or been affected by substance abuse and addiction, the Connexion Point treatment and recovery organization is preparing to host its second Walk for Recovery Awareness on Saturday, Sept. 7.

The walk will take place from noon to 2 p.m. in the walking loop at Cartier Park, and Abbie Vida, Connexion Point’s communications coordinator, said everyone is welcome.

The event, which organizers hope to turn into an annual tradition after a successful first year in 2018, is an opportunity for togetherness and fellowship. It also is a time to educate people about addiction, chemical dependency and recovery.

“It’s about breaking a stigma,” Vida told the Daily News.

The theme for the walk is Communities in Recovery, which Vida said is an important phrase that signifies understanding and compassion.

“Knowing that our community is in recovery is knowing, for example, when you get a job, you’re going to run into more people who are in recovery than people who are in active use,” she said. “It’s knowing that you can go to your employer and tell them that you’re in recovery and you’re not going to be looked down for being in that lifestyle.”

It’s also a time to remember those who have lost their lives to addiction and chemical dependency, and to celebrate the efforts of individuals who are in treatment, attempting to overcome addiction. Signs bearing the names and images of those people will be placed along the walking loop for participants to view — a reminder that, if they’re struggling, they’re not alone.

Vida said Connexion Point is offering something new to walkers this year — for a $10 donation, organizers will make personalized signs to place along the loop during the walk.

“It’s really nice for people to be able to stop and see their loved ones and stop and take pictures,” Vida said.

Following the walk, a special “surprise” speaker from the community will talk to attendees about their experience with addiction and recovery.

“We will have a community member who will tell a brief story of her journey in recovery,” Vida said. “That will be very impactful for a lot of community members to hear.”

Connexion Point’s own Dr. Michelle Kuster — an addictionologist who works with the community using therapy and Suboxone treatment to combat opioid addiction — will give a presentation recognizing individuals in recovery.

Vida said funds from the Walk for Recovery will go toward several projects — including a still-in-development recovery center that has been a goal for Connexion Point for years — but donations will primarily be used to help people in recovery who are going through transitional periods and could use some financial support.

“We have a number of different things that we’ve been working toward, but the biggest one is gap funding, which is meant for people who, for instance, are coming out of jail,” Vida said. “Most of the time, those people don’t have anything, and the idea of gap funding is that it’s set aside for people who show success in our programs ... and it’s to help them get on their feet and looking for work.”

Vida added that the Walk for Recovery is a good opportunity for anyone who has dealt with addiction and recovery or hopes to learn more about how those issues impact communities.

“We just feel that this is a great event for the community to come to, even if they don’t have a strong understanding of what recovery is and what it means to the community,” she said. “It’s a great start-off for people.”

In order to have a sign made in honor of a loved one, contact Connexion Point and make a donation by Friday, Aug. 30.

With the exception of the cost of ordering signs, the event is free.

For more information, visit or find Connexion Point on Facebook.

Notable for Friday 8-23-19

Serita’s Black Rose to perform at final LACA summer concert Wednesday

The inaugural season of the Ludington Area Center of the Arts’ Summer Concert Series will come to a close on Wednesday, with a performance by Serita’s Black Rose starting at 7 p.m. at Waterfront Park.

A self-professed “Funkateer,” Serita Crowley of Serita’s Black Rose is from Grand Rapids, and plays a mix of funk, rock, blues, neo-soul and americana.

Crowley, along with her partner Jon Hayes are at the group’s core, and have been performing together for nearly two decades.

With featured veteran bass vocalist Robert Pace and timekeeper Mark Weymouth, they play much of the timeless “feel-good music” from the ’60s and ’70s that everyone can enjoy, according to a statement from LACA.

The LACA Summer Concert Series is a free family friendly concert series at Waterfront Park in downtown Ludington.

The series has featured world class jazz, blues, pop/rock and R&B music from internationally acclaimed touring artists.

The performance hall at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts, 107 S. Harrison St., will serve as the venue for Wednesday’s concert in the event of inclement weather.

The concerts are free to attend and open to the public, but organizers will accept donations to help fund the arts center and its programs.

Community members and area business interested in supporting the LACA Summer Concert Series are asked to send their pledges to: LACA Summer Concert Series, 107 S. Harrison St., Ludington MI 49431 or call (231) 845-2787.

City details Loomis Street rebuild

The City of Ludington published a letter to residents and community visitors Thursday in which City Manager Mitch Foster detailed the planned reconstruction of Loomis Street this spring.

The construction project is expected to take place from April to August 2020, according to the preliminary schedule in the letter.

The city is planning to replace the entire road surface, curb and some of the sidewalk on Loomis Street from Rath Avenue east to Delia Street. This will include all intersections within the project limits as well.

“This section of road is well past its design life and requires a full replacement,” Foster stated in the letter.

In addition to the roadwork, the city will also replace the sanitary sewer and water main. The water service lines — which connect buildings to the water main — would be replaced as well, including the pipes up to 18 inches inside people’s buildings and homes in the project area.

Foster told the Daily News on Thursday that he believes the city will pay for the water service line replacements.

The repaving portion of the project is budgeted for $486,800, which includes a $375,000 Small Urban Grant from the state, Foster said. The design and engineering costs are expected to be $40,000 to $50,000 for the roadwork, which also includes replacing and adding more street lighting on Loomis Street, he said. The project is also budgeted for an additional $20,000 in engineering costs related to the utility replacement, he said.

The city has contracted with the engineering firm Prein & Newhof of Muskegon to do the project design and to assist with project administration and construction observation. Prein & Newhof is scheduled to do the design work from now through December.

The contractor that will do the construction for the project has not yet been hired. The city is expected to receive construction contractor bids during February.

“Until construction starts, this project will have very little impact on you,” Foster added in the letter. “You may see survey crews in the area and drilling rigs completing soil borings. City staff and Prein & Newhof may reach out to you to discuss the impact of this project, specifically the replacement of your water service (if applicable).”

Foster said residents and businesses can help the project by staying informed.

“Please keep an eye out and respond to any communications from the city regarding this project. We will be requiring written permission to access your property (if located along construction route) in order to replace the water services and will be contacting you to discuss this. Please inform us of any concerns or questions you have so that these can be properly answered,” Foster stated.

“We understand that construction projects can be disruptive, and we want to make this as easy for the City of Ludington residents, businesses and visitors as possible,” he said.

Foster said the information letter has been emailed to businesses along Loomis Street and posted online on the city’s website and Facebook page. Residents in the project area will receive the printed letter in their mail.

For more information, call Ludington City Hall at (231) 845-6237.