Program, scheduling, and staff changes at Ellsworth and Alba schools

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Preschool teacher Ellen Loper (left) and middle/high school physical education teacher Mark Drenth (shown at right with his family) joined Ellsworth Public Schools this year, while students in Alba met one new teacher and learned that all meals are now free to all students. Alba High School students will now have a trimester format, dividing the school year into three parts with three grading periods.


REGION – Students in both Alba and Ellsworth public school districts met new teachers on the first day of school earlier this week, and Alba High School students learned about significant changes to the school year format.

New to Ellsworth Community School (ECS) this year is preschool teacher Ellen Loper, and middle/high school physical education teacher Mark Drenth, according Ellsworth Superintendent Aaron Gaffney.

Loper, a Petoskey native and Lake Superior State University graduate, will be the new lead preschool teacher in Ellsworth's ages 3- and 4-year-old Great Start Readiness Program preschool classroom, Gaffney said.

"For the past several years Ms. Loper has been teaching in a Head Start and GSRP preschool classroom in the Petoskey area," he said. “We’re thrilled to have Ms. Loper joining our team of educators at Ellsworth Elementary. She’s a perfect fit for our community and families.”

The new preschool teacher echoed that excitement, and said, “I am very thrilled to join the Ellsworth teaching team and can’t wait for the year to start.”

The ECS Little Lancers preschool program begins on Monday, Sept. 16 and runs from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Drenth, who attended Ellsworth Elementary School as a child, will be a welcome addition as the new middle/high school physical education teacher at ECS, Gaffney said.

A veteran teacher with many years of physical education experience, including 22 years of teaching at Charlevoix Middle/High School until his recent retirement, Drenth has chosen to come out of retirement to take on Ellsworth's middle/high school physical education program.  

“Mark Drenth is a top-notch educator,” Gaffney stated.  “We feel very blessed that our students will have the opportunity to work with Mr. Drenth during the coming school year.”

Despite his recent retirement at Charlevoix, Drenth is looking forward to his time at ECS.

“Through participation in a wide variety of activities and sports, I hope to instill a passion for fitness and teach students health related physical fitness concepts that will lead to an active and healthy lifestyle throughout adulthood,” Drenth noted.

For more about Ellsworth Community School, call 231-588-2544 or visit:



In addition to new secondary mathematics teacher Liz Reynolds – a Michigan State University graduate who comes to Alba after teaching stints at Gaylord Saint Mary and Crawford AuSable school districts – all students in Alba Public Schools will now be eligible to enjoy both breakfast and lunch at the school free of charge.

The free meals are now available thanks to a federal USDA program which two Alba staff members applied for last year. The free meals will be available for students through the 2022/2023 school year.

Other changes in Alba this year include a significant change to the school year format. Instead of the traditional two semester calendar, Alba High School students will now have a trimester format, dividing the school year into three parts encompassing three grading periods, with the first trimester to end on Nov. 22, according to notes made by Alba Superintendent Rich Satterlee in the school district's September 2019 newsletter.

The changes in scheduling will also adjust graduation requirements for current and future high school students, with all 2020 graduates required to earn one additional elective credit, Satterlee wrote. Students graduating in 2023 and subsequent years will be required to earn four additional elective credits. The new graduation requirements will be in addition to the 24 credits already needed of students for graduation.

"It is believed that these changes will better serve the students of Alba Public School by providing opportunities for more elective courses," Satterlee noted.

Parents or students with questions are encouraged to contact Satterlee in his office or by calling the school at 231-584-2000.



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