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Schools recognized for improving culture, encouraging growth 

Caledonia — Principal Lance Jones said his Paris Ridge Elementary students embody “the reason any principal or teacher is in education. Just making those connections, giving high fives, hugs and hearing stories makes the day so meaningful.”

At Kettle Lake Elementary, Principal Megan Ballmer said her favorite thing to see on school mornings is her students receiving a warm welcome from the fourth-grade safety patrollers in front of the school.  

As Capturing Kids’ Hearts schools, all nine buildings strive to build meaningful relationships between staff and students and create a safe learning environment. 

Paris Ridge and Kettle Lake joined Dutton Elementary and Kraft Meadows Intermediate school recently as being named Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase Schools.

The award is granted following an evaluation of various performance indicators, with feedback gathered from staff and students to gauge the integration and impact of CKH processes. 

All four administrators from this years’ awarded schools in the district said CKH is part of a shared identity amongst the staff and students.

In a previous interview with SNN, students also shared the positive differences they noticed since the district launched a new CKH training for employees in summer 2022.

“The results are reflected in our continued improvement in academic achievement, decrease in disciplinary or behavior-related situations and the overall growth we see in students at the end of each year,” Jones said. 

Superintendent Dirk Weeldreyer said being recognized is a testament to the district’s commitment to fostering academic achievement and students’ emotional and social growth.

CKH also works hand-in-hand within existing Multi-Tiered System of Supports and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports frameworks.

Kraft Meadows Principal Steve Uyl said even when there are bumps along the road, his staff strives to create an environment where everyone is valued and appreciated.    

“Everyone shares the same goals and wants the absolute best for our kids,” Uyl said. “I believe this leads to a positive culture and allows our students to thrive.”

Dutton Elementary Principal Shawn Veitch said CKH has inspired a learning environment that students and staff want to be a part of.

“It starts when the kids get off the bus and teachers are there to give high-fives and hugs,” he said. “Our staff has such huge hearts to take care of one another, which translates to huge hearts to care for our kids.” 

Read more from Caledonia: 
Celebrating their blue ribbon school
‘I like to keep kindergarten playful and academic’

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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