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Renovations, new hires & curriculum changes at Niles schools

NILES, Mich. -- Niles Community Schools is hoping the new school year means new opportunities.

“The summer was very exciting,” said Dr. Dan Applegate, superintendent of the district. “We had a lot going on in terms of construction, in terms of hiring new personnel, and our curriculum work that we do every year just to prepare the teachers for the upcoming school year.”

Some of the construction was celebrated on Tuesday, as the Ring Lardner Middle School community came together to dedicate the renovations that took place over the last few months.

The students have noticed their new lockers and the facelift the outside of the building got.

But Dr. Applegate said the changes at Ring Lardner, and others, like Howard-Ellis Elementary, go far beyond that.

“[New] flooring, our heating and cooling system, electrical, plumbing,” he said. “Much of the work, really, is behind closed doors, or if you want to say ‘above the ceiling work’ in the hallways, and in some schools, underneath the tunnel.”

The renovations to the 60-year-old infrastructure were made possible by a $40 million bond the community recently supported.

But Dr. Applegate said more is being done to improve Niles Community Schools.

He’s hired three administrators.

Ann Bingham is the new director of curriculum.

She previously was a math consultant for Berrien County RESA, and will now help a district in need of higher math scores.

Tracy Hertsel, the former superintendent of Cassopolis Public Schools, is the new director of student support services.

And Melissa Troup is the new director of special education.

She is a former teacher and assistant principal at Southside School who will now oversee the 600 students receiving special education from the district.

Dr. Applegate said the three positions had already existed, but they’re being enhanced, along with the curriculum, with these new hires.

“Our students did amazing things last year, which tells me we’re capable of doing a lot of things,” he said. “And I want to push to the next level. And I think the new hires, the new curriculum, and the new facilities that we have are going to help us do that.”

Dr. Applegate will join the Howard-Ellis Elementary School community on Thursday at 3 p.m. to celebrate the renovations there.

He said three other school buildings in the district are still under construction.

Dr. Applegate said all the change happening is a positive thing because it’s allowing the faculty and 4,000 students in the district to row in the same direction in ways they never have before.

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