Since 1962, intermediate school districts across the State of Michigan have worked with local school districts to maximize their resources and provide high quality education. There are seven intermediate school districts in the Upper Peninsula.
The 9,800 K-12 students in Marquette and Alger Counties are served by the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency, or MARESA. The AuTrain-Onota School District, with its 55 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, are one of 13 districts that receive support from MARESA. The agency can assist districts with teacher in-service training, financial services and administrator support.
The administrator of AuTrain-Onota Schools, Maryalice Boone, explained how MARESA's monthly superintendents roundtable helps her, her students and other administrators.
"There's a lot of sharing," said Boone. "It's good for me as a small school person to know what's going on in the bigger schools, and especially because we're K-8, to know what's going on at the high schools, because even though it doesn't directly affect us, it does affect our children as they move on to those areas."
Property owners in Marquette and Alger Counties pay .2 of a mill that goes into the agency's $3.5 million general operating budget. That budget is also supported by state funds.
Marquette and Alger County residents also pay 2 mills to support MARESA's $9 million budget for special education programs. Those programs are also supported by state and federal funds, according to MARESA Superintendent Steven Peffers.
"We collect those monies, and those monies are sent back to local districts to provide special education services," said Peffers.
Intermediate school districts host many teacher in-service trainings that discuss the constant changes in state curriculum.
"As we've been working through the last couple years, as districts all across the area have been, looking at English-Language Arts and Math, there's many programs that are offered that teachers can go to, that administrators can go to, to help us understand what's happening," Boone said.
At the end of June, Peffers is retiring as superintendent at MARESA after 32 years in education. He has led MARESA for the last 5 1/2 years.
"While I do miss the daily contact with students of all ages, it's still been a joy for me to be able to work with our 13 local districts and help them with the services they need to be great school districts," he said.
MAPS Superintendent Debbie Veiht has been selected to take over for Peffers on July 1.
Peffers explained a trend in education that MARESA has increased in their teacher training.
"The expanding role of technology in education, just in the last ten years, has been amazing, and I see that increasing," he said.
The work at MARESA continues through the summer. Later in June, over 200 teachers from Marquette and Alger Counties will gather for a conference at NMU. Then in August, all of the intermediate school districts in the U.P. will come together to host a meeting in Iron Mountain with over 100 school administrators.