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10-year-old Shelby boy displaying optimism and toughness amid MIS-C battle
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Countless people throughout the world have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way or another. 10-year-old Dae’Shun Jamison of Shelby has been hit as hard as anyone, but he is somehow still able to stay positive.

“I’ve learned that he’s trying to make the best out of the situation,” his mother, Brittney Autman, said. “After all he’s gone through, he’s still able to smile.”

Dae’Shun is at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids recovering from one of the harshest known cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a new syndrome that has been heavily linked to COVID-19 since last spring. The syndrome is a rare complication of the coronavirus disease; just over 2,000 cases have been reported in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control, with 30 deaths attributed to it.

African American and Hispanic children appear to be especially vulnerable to MIS-C; the CDC said that they account for nearly 70 percent of MIS-C diagnoses. When children develop MIS-C, organs and tissues can become severely inflamed; that’s what happened to Dae’Shun. They became so inflamed that doctors were forced to amputate his right leg Jan. 15, and will have to take away his left leg and his hands Monday, Feb. 22.

Dae’Shun tested positive for COVID-19 in early December, but was asymptomatic. It wasn’t until he’d passed the two-week recovery window for the disease that his MIS-C symptoms manifested, on Dec. 20. (The CDC says that this is the most common timeline with MIS-C cases.) The next day, he was hospitalized, and he has been ever since, first at DeVos Children’s Hospital and now at Mary Free Bed.

Dae’Shun has autism, which complicated matters for Autman and doctors as they explained to him the amputations he would need, but Autman said on a GoFundMe page in January that he understood. It was a tough day for the young man, and certainly it was for Autman as well; the first few weeks of updates on Dae’Shun’s condition on the page read like a nightmare scenario for any parent.

“Me and a few other people at the hospital told Dae’Shun about what is going to happen...and he understood everything,” Autman said on the page. “He understood that when he wakes up, his leg will not look the same. Dae’Shun completely broke down in tears, which affected me in so many ways. I can’t believe this is really happening to my baby.”

However, since then, Autman said her son has displayed extraordinary strength and optimism. Dae’Shun attended New Era Elementary School prior to his hospitalization and has kept in touch with his classmates by sharing pictures back and forth. In every picture sent to the school, said principal Kara Vanderweele, Dae’Shun has been smiling and is often giving a thumbs-up.

He’s a happy boy by nature, Vanderweele said, saying that if one were to watch him playing at recess with his classmates, they’d never guess he has autism. When in class, Dae’Shun split his days between general education with his classmates and special education.

“He always had a smile on his face,” Vanderweele said. “He loved books. Paper was a release for him. He liked turning the pages of books. He liked the way it felt. He did everything everybody else did...He went out for recess. He ran, he played, and he jumped.”

In recent weeks, Dae’Shun has taken great physical strides, Autman said, which has, along with her son’s constant smile, kept her spirits up.

“Seeing him progress from where he was to where he is now, the smile on his face...That motivates me and keeps me going,” Autman said of her son. “I’m seeing him do all those things that he couldn’t do two months ago. He can sit up on his own. He can feed himself. He can move his arms. He couldn’t do that a month ago.”

Autman said that she and doctors have had preliminary discussions regarding prosthetics for Dae’Shun in the future, but with the unknowns in his case, they’re mostly taking a day-by-day approach to his care.

In the meantime, Autman is by his side every day, hence the GoFundMe page; she has been unable to work between being with him and also being with her seven-year-old daughter, De’iijah. The support has been remarkable; at press time over $59,000 had been raised for the family, and the ever-increasing goal amount has been raised to $80,000.

Support has also come locally. Staff at the New Era school did a collection to provide the family with gas money, gift cards, groceries and other supplies. The West Shore Educational School District provided a grant to the class, and Windridge Textile Printing in Shelby did a run of shirts that read “Dae’Shun Strong”, giving the school a discounted rate. Profits from the sale of the shirts go directly to the family, and Dae’Shun’s classmates were naturally first in line to buy them. Among the many get-well cards and photos they shared with him was a group photo of the class wearing the shirts. They’ve also shared a video encouraging their friend.

“It means so much to me,” Autman said of the local support. “I show him pictures of the kids of his school, (wearing the shirts that say) ‘Dae’Shun Strong’, and it makes him smile. I’m so thankful for the support I have. Without it, I don’t know what I would do.”

His class, naturally, had questions when Dae’Shun left them in December, and Vanderweele said they’ve tried to “stick to what we know” when discussing what has happened to their friend.

“We talk about the doctors doing their best, and when he’s healthy enough, we’ll see him again,” Vanderweele said. “He lives (diagonally) from Thomas Read (Elementary), or he did before he went to Grand Rapids, so we’d see him often.”

As you’d expect, Dae’Shun’s younger sister misses him; Autman said some days, her daughter gets upset and wonders when Dae’Shun will come home, and at those times she has to encourage her daughter to be strong, just as she does for her son. Brother and sister remain close; the two regularly FaceTime one another, and she recently got to visit him in the hospital for the first time since he was sent there.

It’s not clear now where the end of the tunnel is for Dae’Shun, nor what further difficulties he will face when he reaches it. However, as the shirts say, there can be no doubt that yes, Dae’Shun is strong.

Braxton Platt Resigns from Hart City Council
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HART — Newly elected Hart City Councilor Braxton Platt announced his resignation, effective Feb. 7 via letter Tuesday, Feb. 9.

“When I ran for city council, my intentions were to serve my full term; however, life has changed”...”I am moving for work purposes and shortly will not be a citizen of Hart. I love this place. It is my hometown, and it’s been an honor and privilege to serve this city.”

The council has 30 days (March 9, 2021) from the effective resignation to fill the vacancy or a special election is required. The term to be filled expires November 2024. The position has been posted on the city’s website and Facebook page. Applications are available online or at the city hall.

The council at its Feb. 9 meeting approved changing the date for the annual Board of Review (BOR) from Monday, March 8 to Tuesday, March 9.

“With the city now using a county assessor, he has multiple units to be present for. Hart was asked to change to the new date,” said Hart BOR member, Fred Rybarz.

The council was also asked to approve a resolution allowing residents to protest property tax assessments by mail. Rybarz said, “This resolution came to us from the state (pursuant to MCL 211.30 (7) of the General Property Tax Act), but the information we received is very incomplete. I’m not sure if this is for this year only. In the past it’s always been in person. If we receive a letter, how do we respond? In a letter, a phone call and if so, can we leave a message? I’m in favor of leaving our procedures as is for now. It’s another example of the state wanting to change something without enough thought or information.”

Councilor Catalina Burillo asked, “Why snail mail? With all our modern technology can they do it online?”

Councilor James Evans said, “I’m in favor of allowing protest by mail, but I think we’d need to provide a certified letter in response back to the property owner. People will have a chance to call in as well this year, which is more than they’ve had before.” Council decided not to take any action on the resolution until further information can be provided.

In other business, Power System Engineering (PSE), electric utility consultants out of Madison, Wis. gave an initial presentation to the council regarding bringing broadband internet to the city. Both City Manager Lynne Ladner and Economic Development Director Nichole Steel have been in discussions with PSE for a number of months. The comprehensive presentation addressed many areas, from the basic, such as the definition of broadband; to the complex, such as analysis models and cost estimates. The Oceana County Economic Alliance is currently surveying Oceana County to gather more information from the community on broadband internet. Given the complexity of such an endeavor, the presentation was just the beginning of many discussions to come. A work session was set for Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. prior to the next council meeting to begin discussing offering broadband within the city.

Council also discussed the need to look at the Industrial Park Amended Restrictive Deed Covenants of 1992 related to building construction. These covenants surfaced after the last lots were sold a couple of months ago. The new owner wishes to construct an insulated pole building, however, the covenants of 1992 do not allow that.

“I would like to see us look at the timeline of this document, the status of the board that is mentioned — I didn’t know there even was a board, look to the planning commission and our city consultant to make sure these are even constitutionally legal anymore,” said Councilor Rob Splane.

“Maybe Lynne could reach out to any past board members that are still around and find out what the thinking was.” Councilor Evans said, “If the board no longer exists, are we opening ourselves up without an active board?”

“We want to encourage businesses to settle here and create jobs, but also need to respect the parameters current industrial park businesses have followed,” said Splane.

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No one injured in Hart fire
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No one was injured in a house fire in the City of Hart early last Friday afternoon.

The fire at 211 Wood St. just east of State Street was reported at approximately 1:30 p.m., said Hart Area Fire Chief Dwight Fuehring. He did not know the property owner’s name, but said the home was insured.

Fuehring was uncertain if the structure would be a total loss, saying that would be up to the insurance company to decide. The home had water and smoke damage on the second floor and water damage on the first floor. Fuehring said the attic and roof were destroyed and that the home is inhabitable. He said it is suspected that the cause was electrical, but the cause remained undetermined Monday.

Firefighters also were hampered by the frigid temperatures which caused icing, making it difficult for firefighters to get on the roof and prompting firefighters to bring in the Shelby-Benona ladder truck. Fuehring said the rear stairs also iced over and one line froze on a pump.

The Hart Police Department contacted the Red Cross to assist the family. The Oceana County Sheriff’s Office assisted with traffic control. In addition to the Shelby-Benona department, the Hart Area Fire Department was assisted by Pentwater, Walkerville, and Ferry fire units.

“Overall, all departments did a great job,” Fuehring said.

Hart schools receives $518,000 technology grant
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HART — Technology is constantly changing. As soon as one new device or technology rolls out, it starts to become obsolete. Hart Public Schools Technology, whose last major tech overhaul was completed in 2010 with the addition of smart boards in every classroom, was awarded a $518,000 grant in November from the Thompson Foundation, a private foundation founded in 1999 by Bob and Ellen Thompson of Detroit.

“The Thompsons sold their asphalt business (the largest in Michigan) and retired. Since that time they have created numerous grants for both schools and colleges. This specific grant was for rural schools and technology. It’s more than just devices,” said Hart Superintendent Mark Platt. “It is heavily focused on student learning and teacher development.”

At a time when the way education is being done has completely changed, the grant could come at no better time it seems.

“The grant funds will be used for several areas and in three ‘tiers’. Teacher workstations are the early tier. In early February, the admins were trained for two days in Grand Rapids and later in the month, we will have a core team of teachers trained as well. The second tier focuses on replacing the audiovisual equipment in every room along with continuous professional development. The third tier is a segment for our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and robotics programs. One of the major components will be to introduce a Learning Management System (LMS) called Schoology. It is owned by our Student Management System (SMS) PowerSchool. This becomes a one-stop-shop for students, teachers and parents in regards to curriculum content, daily progress on achievement and standards-based report cards in real-time. We will be able to embed technology into Schoology to help enhance the instructional delivery as well,” Platt said.

School board member and one of the district’s robotics team mentors, Chad Coker said, “The process started about a year ago. The district received a letter from the Thompson Foundation that said we were ‘qualified’ to apply for a grant, but on the surface it sounded almost too good to be true. We looked further into it and talked to other schools to be sure it was legit. After learning it was totally legit, we applied. By the beginning of this school year, we’d learned we were in the Top 10 contenders, at which point we had a round of interviews and more paperwork. Then in October we were named in the Top 4, and a team from the foundation did an on-site visit. Thankfully, Hart is in a really solid position financially. I hated to say we needed the money, we aren’t desperate, but I knew we could do some really good things with the grant. The foundation is most interested in partnering with ‘Best Practice Schools.’ This grant involves not just the purchase of hardware, but ongoing professional development. Currently, Grass Lake Public Schools is their benchmark for a ‘Best Practice School.’ I told them ‘we’re not looking to do this, we’re looking to do this better than anyone else.’ The money comes in different stages. I, of course, am really excited about the $50,000 that the Robotics Team will receive. We’ll be able to purchase some equipment that will take our teams to the next level.”

“The grant covers a three-year timeline. The funds are released to us as we progress through the grant steps,” said Platt.

“It will be really important for the school to follow through,” said Coker.

Hart Public Schools Technology Director Jason Gale said, “The grant isn’t about buying more equipment, it’s about leading change, curriculum, instruction and how assessments can be differentiated through the implementation of technology. It’s focused on helping teachers expand their skill sets through professional development and making learning more student-centered versus just the traditional teacher in the front of the classroom. The grant will be broken down into three different phases. Phase 1 is professional development for the building administrators, including myself, on such topics as the instructional vision of the district, modern skills for success and creating steps for implementing the technology integration district-wide. At the end of this month, we will be sending some teaching staff to be our research and development team, where they will start using the new LMS (Schoology). Then, Communications by Design Consulting (CBD) out of Ada, will come into the district and start doing shoulder to shoulder coaching for six days. Phase 2 will include the second part of training for administrators, along with a transformation orientation for all teaching staff. Other steps to full implementation will start this summer with the installation of teacher devices ($63,200); classroom audio-visual upgrades to be installed by December ($208,000); then next school year (2021-22) shoulder to shoulder coaching will take place with staff. Phase 3 will include more shoulder to shoulder coaching along with $50,000 to go towards STEM and Robotics programs in Hart. Fifteen teachers will be selected to attend CBD’s three-day, Project-Based Learning (PBL) Academy in Ada,” Gale said.

According to the CBD website, the academy allows teachers the time to plan a full PBL unit, rooted in their content standards, while also exploring new strategies and activities they can implement with their students.

“Students will be trained in the new LMS by teaching staff and information will be provided to parents on how to use it to its fullest extent as the programming rolls out.”

“Moving forward, everyone across campus will be involved, as this is the kind of work that you do with people. The collaboration and expectation will be very high, and this will not be easy work. However, growth requires a certain amount of challenge and at times discomfort. This includes me as well. It is time for me to learn right with everyone else. We have had a chance to watch the growth in staff with technology this year due to the pandemic, and it is truly going to be exciting to watch everyone grow and get better at the craft and science of education and educating with technology,” said Platt.

“I am very excited to have this opportunity for our students to be able to have their learning environment change with the times. The school district is dedicated to supporting this initiative and will be hiring a person to continue the technology coaching and integration for our staff in the future,” Gale said.