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Tag Archive | "Dan George"

CTA celebrates 20th anniversary


L to R:  Dan George, CTA School Leader/Superintendent; Ron Rizzo, Director, Ferris State University Charter Schools Office; Lexie Coxon, former Superintendent; Dr. Richard Halik, Consultant for Board Policy, National Charter Schools Institute; and Dan Quisenberry, President of Michigan Association of Public School Academies. Courtesy photo.
This ceiling in the auditorium at CTA (which was formerly Jordan Chapel) is made up of planks from area barns. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

This ceiling in the auditorium at CTA (which was formerly Jordan Chapel) is made up of planks from area barns. Post photo by J. Reed.

When Lexie Coxon was told in May of 1998 that Ferris State University was going to issue a charter to Creative Technologies Academy to become a school for grades 7-12, she wasn’t sure how they were going to get the 120 students they needed to open. But they did it by the skin of their teeth—and opened with 122 that September.

“It was a tremendous challenge,” she said.

Coxon and others spoke about the school’s journey during CTA’s 20th anniversary celebration on Friday, May 11.

The property at 350 Pine Street, in Cedar Springs, was originally the home of Jordan College, founded by Lexie and her husband DeWayne. In 1966, they bought the property, and in 1967 they built their first building. Coxon explained how back then, they got building materials from area farmers who were tearing down their barns. A good example is in the planking in the chapel roof—it all came from area farmers.

In those early days of charter schools, Lexie and DeWayne’s son, Rob Coxon, told them to get a charter, they would need to have something unique. So they decided to go into being a computer based program. “We were one of the first schools to have computers for all students,” said Lexie.

She also noted that while most charter schools were for-profit, they wanted to remain a non-profit. And needing to have 120 students was tough—they had no money and no resources. But they made it work.

As time went on, they added in grades K-6. This year the school had 319 students K-12.

Lexie was also proud of the fact they have had 100 percent compliance with all of the paperwork that is needed. Ron Rizzo, with FSU, backed her up on that. “I don’t think there is any other academy that has had 100 percent compliance for 17 years,” he said. “It’s amazing. That means every document turned in on time.”

Rizzo said CTA was one of their original class of nine academies. “I’ve been here for 16 of those 20 years. It’s very welcoming. You truly are here for kids, doing what’s best for the trajectory of their lives. You should very proud of what you have accomplished here,” he said.

Dan Quisenberry, President of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies noted that CTA feels like family. “Charters were intended to be that—partnerships. Think of the kids’ lives you’ve impacted here. You are doing something important.” He also noted that charter schools are the “R&D” (research and development) of education. “Dan (George, current school superintendent) doesn’t view CTA as a competitor, but as a partner,” he said.

He noted that CTA teacher Kayla Campbell, who was recently named one of the top 5 charter school teachers in the state by MAPSA, represented CTA well. “We did a Facebook live announcement and I think you had every student in here. When we announced it, I thought this place was going to fall down,” he said.

Former teacher and coach Gary Bailey shared both some funny stories and some more serious thoughts. “Most coaches know that our success is measured by #s (winds and losses) after our name. But we know success is more than that.” He went on to share how a former student had sent him a video at 1:40 a.m. that morning, thanking him for being a mentor.

Kurt Mabie, a former educator who retired five  years ago from public education, said he’s been involved with CTA for 15 years. And he has been happy to work with Dan George and CTA via the Community Building Development Team. “Through collaboration, great things can happen,” he said. “Nothing happens on its own.”

One of those things is the recent donation of 10 acres to CTA by Fred and Carolee Gunnell. The property will be the future home of a new gymnasium for the school with a soccer field, and a couple of classrooms. And when it is not being used by the school, it will be open to the community, which fulfills one of the goals of the CBDT—to have a recreation center. 

George said that the planning, fundraising, and construction of that facility would be a major undertaking and their biggest project over the next five years.

The Post asked George what he is most proud of accomplishing at CTA. “I can answer that in two ways, institutionally and personally. First, we are proud to be able to give the families of the communities we serve a quality choice for the education of their children while partnering, not competing, with our neighboring traditional public schools. That produces a shared focus on doing what is best for kids. Personally, I’m proud of the staff that has become my team over the last 8+ years. Their dedication, love of kids, professionalism, and pursuit of learning is unsurpassed,” he said.

For more on CTA, visit www.ctachargers.org.

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CTA Teacher named Michigan Top 5 teacher of the year


Mrs. Kayla Campbell was recognized as one of the top 5 teachers of the year by MAPSA. Photo by Becky Carlton of MAPSA.

Kayla Campbell, third grade teacher at Creative Technologies Academy (CTA) in Cedar Springs, has been named one of the finalists for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) Teacher of the Year award. 

In her classroom, Mrs. Campbell develops strong relationships and reaches her students in innovative ways by turning learning into an adventure. This year, for example, she turned her classroom into a spy lab and turned all of her students into spies—complete with secret-agent badges and mustaches—and had them use their language, math and other skills to solve a series of mysteries. When it was done, she had a classroom full of engaged learners who couldn’t wait to start reading mystery novels. That’s what true innovation looks like.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since preschool and I grew up playing school,” shared Campbell. “I had really good examples of great teachers throughout my education and now I’m teaching students and growing good people.”

“She makes things more interesting so it’s fun and not boring,” shared one of her current students, Jayden Danks.

And Campbell gets results. Each year her students regularly reach their annual learning goals in just a few months.

“Because of her work ethic and her love of kids, she’s become a master teacher,” praised Dan George, CTA Superintendent. “Her love of learning, her love of teaching, and her love of kids motivates students.”

At the end of April, Campbell was celebrated in Lansing along with the other four finalists, where she met with MAPSA, district legislators, and was presented with a joint proclamation from State Senator Peter MacGregor and State Representative Rob VerHeulen.

The others honored in the ceremony were:

  • Kristina Price, a third-grade teacher at Trillium Academy in Taylor, who was named this week as the 2018 Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year; 
  • Joe Griffith, middle-school social studies teacher at Honey Creek Community School in Ann Arbor;
  • Dave Sarkipato, math teacher at Wellspring Preparatory High School in Grand Rapids;
  • Jennifer Villwock, third-grade teacher at Woodland Park Academy in Grand Blanc.

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CTA signs papers on property donation


Fred Gunnell (left) and CTA Supt. Dan George (right) after the property closing on Thursday, March 1. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Fred and Carolee Gunnell, of Solon Township, are leaving a legacy of love with their donation of 10 acres to Creative Technologies Academy.

The donation was made official Thursday, March 1, at an emotional signing ceremony in the school auditorium.

The Gunnells, retired educators and longtime neighbors of the charter school, decided to donate the property to the school when they found out they wanted to expand.  

“Over the years, Carolee and I have always been involved in education,” explained Fred. They taught in Sparta, and then moved north when he took a job as an administrator at Michigan Tech. “We were gone for 25 years. The property here—80 acres—belonged to Carolee’s family. When we came back, we wondered what to do with it. We tried to give some away at one time [to another entity], but it was refused,” he said.

Over the years, the Gunnells have loved having the school as a neighbor. Fred was emotional as he spoke about it. “You feel like family,” Fred told CTA officials during the signing. “I’m glad we could do this.”

A local couple signed over 10 acres to CTA Thursday. Pictured (from L to R) is: Carolee Gunnell, Fred Gunnel, CTA Board President Cindy Patin, and Superintendent Dan George. Post photo by J. Reed.

School Superintendent and School Leader Dan George was also emotional as he read a statement to the Gunnells about what their generosity means to the school. “I believe the impact of your gift of 10 acres to Creative Technologies Academy is immeasurable at this point in time,” he said. “I had many friends in teaching and administration in traditional public schools when I took this job eight years ago, and have sought to continue and multiply those relationships. We provide choices, legitimate, rigorous, accountable choices for families. One of my goals early on was to have our Academy viewed as partners, not competitors, with the surrounding communities and schools in doing what is best for kids.

“Your gift and generosity extends far beyond property and finances, and the potential site for our Student Activities Center. I believe your gift to CTA recognizes and legitimizes our role as partners in the community. It says to us, and others, that you believe in us. How do you put a value on that? We are so grateful for that gift of trust and we are honored that you recognize and share our love for kids and our partnership with community. On behalf of the students and staff of Creative Technologies Academy, please accept our sincere thanks from the bottom of our hearts.”

George said he has always had a dream for the school to have their own gymnasium. This property, just to the west of the school, will give them space to build it, and include some extra classrooms in the complex. They would also like to add a soccer field. George said that when they are not using the Student Activities Center, it would be available for the community to use as well.

Next steps will be to come up with the exact plans for the property, and raise money for the project. 

Other parties involved in the closing Thursday included realtor Leon Stout, and Jodi Ellis, of Sun Title.

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CTA Receives Compliance Award


Arthur Willick, presents Dan George with compliance award.

At the regular board meeting for Creative Technologies Academy on Wednesday, September 13, field representative Arthur Willick of the Charter Schools Office of Ferris State University presented Superintendent Dan George with an award for the Academy’s 16th consecutive year of 100% Compliance. “Each year, the Charter Schools Office recognizes those Academies and their Boards who achieve 100% compliance in submitting documents to Epicenter as required by federal and state law and the charter contract,” explained Willick. “This is not an easy task, since compliance can entail hundreds of required documents, but it is a very important one and we congratulate those involved in this process.”

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Creative Technologies Academy names new 6-12 principal


Jennifer Colin, new 6-12 principal for CTA.

Creative Technologies Academy, 350 Pine Street, in Cedar Springs, completed a search and announced the appointment of Jennifer Colin as the new principal of grades 6-12 of the Ferris State University-authorized public school academy.

Ms. Colin begins her new position July 26. The opening was created with the departure of Mrs. Carrie Paddock, the principal administrator of curriculum, assessment, and instruction for all grades. Paddock left CTA on July 1 after twelve years as a teacher and administrator to pursue an administrator/instructional coaching position with Choice Schools, a charter school management company. CTA is restructuring the responsibilities of its administrative team with this transition. Dan George remains as Superintendent/School Leader. Former Dean of Students, Autumn Mattson will assume the title and responsibilities of K-5 Principal and Colin will be the 6-12 principal.

Superintendent Dan George believes Colin’s experience in leadership in one of the most successful public school academies in the state makes her well suited for this position. “We are excited to welcome Jennifer to fill the 6-12 principal position,” shared George. “We had four strong finalists for this position. Jennifer comes to us from West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science where she has served for 14 years, most recently as the interim Secondary Principal for the last year. Jennifer received the Power of One Award from WMAES in 2012 as ‘the employee who goes above and beyond her position, is an inspiration to others, reaches out to the community, and is respected by peers, students, and families.’ She brings a broad range of educational experience and knowledge to CTA.” Colin initiated and established a CTE program in cooperation with Davenport University to provide the opportunity for WMAES students to gain college credit and facilitated Advanced Placement courses to that school’s curriculum.

Colin’s credentials include a Bachelor of Psychology from Taylor University, a Master of Social Work from Grand Valley University, a Master of Education in School Counseling from Grand Valley State University, and a Master of Arts in School Principalship from Central Michigan University. She holds a K-12 School Administrator Certificate, a School Counselor License, and a Master’s Social Worker Clinical and Macro License from the State of Michigan. She has also received specialized training in the Future Leaders Institute.

Jennifer had this to say about joining the CTA family: “I believe all children have the potential to achieve success. It is our job as educators to work with students and their families in providing the opportunity and help that they need to learn, grow, and become young people who contribute in making our world a better place. Creative Technologies Academy shares this important mission. I chose CTA because they are passionately committed to investing in the lives of children by offering a whole-person approach to education which values developing the minds, character, and self-concept of its students.”

Ms. Colin is married to William Colin, and they have one son.

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Dan George honored by NCCAA


Dan George with Ben Belleman, NCCAA Director of Member Relations.

Dan George, Cedar Springs resident and Associate Head Coach for the Grace Bible College men’s basketball team, was honored with the NCCAA Game Plan 4 Life Award this past week in Louisville, KY. This is the highest honor given to an athletics staff member in the NCCAA at the end of each year. Here he is shown with Grace Head Coach Gary Bailey.

Dan George, Grace Bible College’s Associate Head Coach for men’s basketball, was honored Thursday night, June 1, at the National Christian College Athletic Association’s National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, with the “Game Plan for Life Athletic Staff Character Award.” It is the highest honor given by the NCCAA to athletic staff and is awarded to one male and one female athletic staff member in the nation each year. Dan is the only assistant coach to receive the award in its history. The purpose of the award is to honor athletic staff members who epitomize the Christian character qualities of Love, Integrity, Faith, and Excellence. Dan has served Grace with Head Coach Gary Bailey in a program that has won 10 regional championships and 5 national championships during that time. But the GP4L award is prestigious because of its emphasis on more than winning games. It honors those who have a lasting impact on people they serve.

In nominating Coach George for this award, Coach Bailey said, “Dan agreed to be an assistant coach for a year in which I took the job for one season to help them [Grace] out while they looked for their full time coach. That one year has turned into 12 (and going) and Dan has come along side each and every year in leadership of this team.  He is the only assistant coach in the Grace Athletic Hall of Fame. Dan has invested in kids and students’ lives for over 40 years working in either college or K-12 school settings. He currently is the Superintendent at a local charter school [Creative Technologies Academy]. He has served on numerous boards including his home church and Pineview Homes, a home for abused, neglected and delinquent boys for 42 years.  A year ago Dan started a chapter of Polestar Outdoors in west Michigan, a national organization that mentors youth in the outdoors. He is very active in other community service projects in and around his home town of Cedar Springs, Michigan.”

Dan is also a good role model for the players. “He is the ultimate ‘lead by example’ man,” said former player Caleb Combs. “Although many coaches and teachers will often get caught in the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality, Dan walks the walk. This is evident not only while he is on the court, but more importantly, off the court.”

Grace President Ken Kemper spoke about the difference that Dan has made. “Dan has full time employment elsewhere, and volunteers an enormous amount of time to mentor and work with the young men on our campus. His love for the game, and even more so, his love for ministering to young men through the game of basketball has made a huge impact on many young men and their families.”

Finally, long time coaching rival and NCCAA National Chair for men’s basketball, Jon Mack, whose University of Valley Forge teams lost in three national championship games to Gary Bailey and the Grace Tigers, had this to say about Dan George:  “I have been privileged to compete against Dan George and the Grace Bible College Men’s Basketball team over the past decade. Many of those competitions were for NCCAA national and regional championships. Although we have been winless in postseason competition against Grace Bible College, I have personally experienced great spiritual victories that have shaped my faith and purpose with God through the direct and indirect influence from Coach Dan George. Coach George has reflected love, integrity, faith, and excellence regardless of the result. It is very evident that the central focus of his heart is Christ and it’s reflected in how he influences people. I have personally experienced his love for me by his encouraging words during discouraging moments in my life over the past years, including the present. I am forever grateful to Coach George for his eternal investment in my life through the game we call basketball.”

Congratulations, Dan, and thank you for the impact you make on the community around you!

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Positions Available


Substitute Positions Available

Teachers and Classroom Aides

$90-110/day – Temporary Teachers

Creative Technologies Academy is seeking interested individuals that could work as substitute teachers for the Academy. We have daily substitute teaching opportunities for this school year. To qualify to substitute teach in our school, applicants must have a transcript indicating completion of 90 credit hours from a four year college or university with a minimum 2.0 GPA or hold a valid or expired Michigan Teaching Certificate. All interested individuals should contact Dan George, Superintendent/School Leader at dgeorge@ctachargers.org.

$10.00/hour – Temporary Classroom Aides

For additional information regarding classroom aide requirements and position details, contact dgeorge@ctachargers.org .

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Coffee Time Schedule


 

Please join Dan George, CTA School Leader/Superintendent, for coffee and donuts. This time is set aside for parent-driven, small group conversation regarding school concerns, policies, suggestions and more. Please RSVP to dgeorge@ctachargers.org.

8 – 9:00 a.m. – CTA Cafeteria

Monday, Feb. 13

Monday, March 13

Monday, April 10

Monday, May 8

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Creative Technologies Academy names new business manager


Lori Oestrike, new Business Manager

Lori Oestrike, new Business Manager

Kim Burge, retiring Business Manager

Kim Burge, retiring Business Manager

Creative Technologies Academy completed a search and announced the appointment of Lori Oestrike as the Business Manager of the Ferris State University-authorized public school academy.

Oestrike began her new position January 4. She succeeds the school’s current and outgoing Business Manager, Kim Burge, who is retiring but will remain in the position until the end of January to ensure a seamless transition.

CTA School Leader/Superintendent, Dan George believes Oestrike is well-suited for this position.

“We are excited to welcome Lori Oestrike to fill the Business Manager position,” shared George. “Lori comes to us with all the credentials and experience we are looking for and we look forward to working with her.”

Oestrike comes to CTA from Ionia County Intermediate School District where she served as their Fiscal Services Coordinator for eight years. Prior to that, she served with Central Montcalm Public Schools for six years. She received her Masters in Accounting at Liberty University and completed her undergraduate degree at Davenport University. Oestrike has earned the Chief Financial Officer certification through MSBO (Michigan School Business Officials).

“Creative Technologies Academy is dedicated to developing students in character, scholarship and leadership as stated in their mission,” commented Oestrike. “I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to effectively integrating my skills and education with that of the team at CTA to meet future goals and learn and grow together.”

Burge, who has been with CTA since its founding year in 1998, was one of the schools’ first hired employees. While overseeing the finances of the school, she also handles human resource responsibilities and oversees the Food Services department and the Energy and Maintenance department—all of which Oestrike will now assume responsibility for.

“Kim has loyally served CTA since the first year of the school’s existence, and she has served our community as CTA’s representative in Rotary,” commented Dan George. “We wish her the best in her retirement.”

“It was a challenge when the school was first founded to get it up and going. The school has grown and stabilized and I’m glad that it is in a good position both financially and academically,” shared Burge. “I’m confident that it is being left in good hands with Lori.”

Oestrike is married to Richard Oestrike, and they have one son.

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Cedar Springs duo leads Tigers to regional championship


Two Cedar Springs men, Gary Bailey (right) and Dan George (left) are the head coach and assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids. Last weekend they celebrated their ninth regional championship.

Two Cedar Springs men, Gary Bailey (right) and Dan George (left) are the head coach and assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids. Last weekend they celebrated their ninth regional championship.

Gary Bailey, Dan George continue to build Grace basketball tradition

Two Cedar Springs men continue to build the basketball tradition at Grace Bible College—winning nine regional championships in 11 years of coaching. But the twist in the tale is this: in the beginning, they didn’t intend for the coaching jobs to be permanent.

When Gary Bailey, of Cedar Springs, took over as head coach of the Grace Bible College men’s basketball team in 2005, his intention was to take the job for a year. His son, Kirby, was a senior and an All-American for the Tigers, and Bailey saw his role as a transition one for that one year. He called his former college coach and long time friend, Dan George, currently school leader and superintendent at Creative Technologies Academy, and asked him to be his assistant.

Reflecting on that request, Dan explains, “I said, OK, I’ll do it for a year.” But the Tigers surprised everyone that first year, transforming a mid-season mediocre record to an overtime regional championship victory, and then went on to shock the national tournament’s #2, #3, and #1 seeds in successive games and won the national championship on a last second buzzer beater tip in by former Cedar Springs High School player, Jimmy Booth.

I think we got hooked,” says Dan, with a smile, “so we decided to hang around for more than that one year.”

The Grace Bible Tigers celebrated winning the regional championship last weekend, and are poised to win it all this season.

The Grace Bible Tigers celebrated winning the regional championship last weekend, and are poised to win it all this season.

One year has been extended to 11 and the two show no signs of retirement, yet. This past Saturday, the Tigers won their ninth regional championship in those 11 years with a dominant 79-49 win over Maranatha Baptist University. Bailey was named regional coach of the year for the seventh time to go with two national coach of the year awards and the prestigious Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan College Coach of the Year in 2011.

Bailey and George added a run of four consecutive national championships in 2009-2012, which included a streak of 69 consecutive NCCAA victories, a record that most people in the NCCAA say will never be broken, and brought their total to five rings in 10 years, and this year’s Tigers appear poised to challenge for a sixth.

The Tigers have become a highly respected small college program with a reputation of a willingness to play anyone, anywhere, and being competitive when they do. Signature wins in the last eleven years include victories over Ferris State University, Davenport University, Cornerstone University, and perennial MIAA powerhouses Calvin College and Hope College.

Although the small school does not give athletic scholarships, their schedule annually includes a number of high profile programs that do give athletic scholarships, and Bailey and his coaches have been able to assemble and develop some outstanding talent in the last 11 years. This year’s schedule included Coastal Carolina University, an NCAA Division 1 national tournament team last year, several NCAA Division II schools, including two in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Grand Valley State University, Northern Michigan University, and Saginaw Valley State University, and several NAIA programs. The Tigers also played a preliminary game at the Palace of Auburn Hills on the night the Pistons retired Chauncey Billups’ jersey. The guarantees provided by playing these larger schools help fund the Tigers’ ambitious travel schedule and the tough schedule helps them attract and develop talent that other schools have overlooked.

One of those overlooked players was Allen Durham who played high school ball at Wyoming Park High School, won three national championships at Grace, spent most of this year with the Dallas Mavericks organization, and is now starring in professional play in France. Most of Grace’s high profile games are played early in the season and toughen the Tigers in preparation for the very difficult NCCAA games and end of the year tournaments.

There is little doubt that the success of the men’s basketball program has had an impact off the court as well. The college was recently recognized as the fastest growing Bible college in the United States. The coaching staff has also emphasized community service and the team tackles several projects a year. One of their favorites is an annual visit to Pineview Homes, a home for delinquent, abused, and neglected boys in Evart, Michigan. Each Christmas season, the Tigers spend several hours with the boys in an afternoon and then attend their Christmas party and dinner. Pineview Director Paul Derscheid, says it is something the boys talk about weeks before in anticipation and months afterward they are still wearing their autographed Grace shirts.

Both coaches are members of the Grace Athletic Hall of Fame with Bailey being inducted in 2013 and George being inducted in 2014. While acknowledging satisfaction in the accomplishments and appreciation for the awards and recognition, Bailey is quick to give credit to those who have assisted in this journey.

For George, it is more than the rings and thrill of championships that keeps him going. “It’s the relationships you build along the way, with fellow coaches, with players, and even opponents,” says Dan, “and it’s the opportunity to mentor and influence young men in the things that are more important than basketball.”

Bailey echoes that sentiment. “Our rewards are far beyond wins and losses. It’s the opportunity to see young men develop on and off the court, and become outstanding husbands, fathers, and contributors to society.”

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