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Elementary administrative team off to strong start 

Sparta — Officially implemented this school year, Sparta’s two elementary schools are managed by one principal for both Ridgeview and Appleview and an assistant principal at each school.

Principal Mike Birely, who has served as principal at Appleview for 10 years, took over at Ridgeview as well last April following a resignation. Former Appleview teachers Beth Lehner and Kelley VanVliet, who got a trial run of sorts last school year, were named assistant principals with Birely’s support — Lehner at Appleview and VanVliet at Ridgeview.

“Beth and I had the unique experience of teaching part-time and helping in the office at Appleview,” said VanVliet, a teacher for 18 years, which includes five years in Sparta. “That is how this new job came about. We have an administrative team, so we collaborate and work together and do meetings together.”

Birely said he recognized leadership qualities in Lehner and VanVliet and approached them for help when he took over at Ridgeview. It is part of an effort in Sparta to develop talent from within. 

“It allows us to invest in them,” he said. “They’re both talented educators with a passion and desire to serve others, and they’re committed to doing a great job. There’s been a positive acceptance from staff.”

Lehner, who taught at Appleview for 17 years, said she appreciates having Birely’s support and knowledge.

Said VanVliet: “It’s nice to have that support and to really build a bridge between our two elementary schools, too. Because Sparta is an amazing place … The teachers here are passionate. They love our kids, and it’s a really great community, and we’re having a very positive start to the school year.”

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Jane Lally
Jane Lally
Jane Lally is a reporter covering Sparta. Recently retired after working in state government and other areas, she found her way back to the journalism field again. She graduated from Central Michigan University and spent most of her career in writing, editing, graphic design/print production and broadcast closed captioning. She has written for The Grand Rapids Press, The Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant/Alma, MacDonald Publications in Ithaca, Leader Publications in Niles and The Herald-Palladium in St. Joseph. She strongly believes in the importance of public schools as they bring communities together and make them stronger. She is happy to be able to tell the stories of Sparta schools.


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