Stockbridge Series: a small town school district ensuring educational opportunity

Stockbridge is a village similar to many places around the state. The economy is tough, industry has gone, and the school system is one of few ways kids from the town can get a leg up. This is an inside look into this small town school district trying to make sure their kids have educational opportunity, even in the face of shrinking state aid and a tough economy.
 In addition to Sarah's reports, the Stockbridge project has moving and interesting radio stories, audio diaries, and photography from youth journalists at Stockbridge High School. 

heritage exploratory academy kids and project
Heritage Exploratory Academy

We've written here about some new thinking on "grit" and how to set a kid up to have enough to make a difference in their future success. 

Angie / Eagle

Over the last year, however, money in the district has gotten really tight. Superintendent Carl Heidrich shows me charts and bar graphs outlining these difficulties  in his office. The office is one of the few things that will actually remain in the middle school next year.  

Kary Gee

Part of the State of Opportunity's mission is to hear the stories of listeners as they experience their local communities. One of the best kinds of community engagement happens when we teach new skills or help others enhance the skills they already have.  What reporter Sarah Alvarez and Michigan Radio intern Logan Chaddee found in working with the 17 young people in Elizabeth Cyr's journalism class is that they have a wealth of insight into interviewing their peers and getting at the "real" story.

Stockbridge Series: Is college readiness enough?

Feb 14, 2013
Logan Chadde

The schools in Stockbridge, Michigan have in some ways a sad task in educating their youth. Because Stockbridge is a rural village with very little economic opportunity preparing kids to succeed often means preparing them to leave town.

Teachers and administrators at the high school there don't think it's enough to try to prepare thier students for college. College is expensive, and though most of the kids will pursue higher education of one kind or another, paying for it can be tough. 

So teacher Duane Watson and a few others are heavily invested in technical education. Watson has three rooms he teaches in, to call them classrooms might give the wrong impression.  In one of them, the only desks are broken ones people hope his students will fix. 

It's a garage and I was impressed that three full cars could fit in it before Watson corrected me.

“Four actually, and one compact utility tractor, a snowplow going on a truck, a completely student fabricated tandem-axle trailer, and an alternative fuel vehicle-a battery powered golf cart." He said as he laughed about the golf cart experiment.

This shop is part of a serious effort by Watson and the schools in Stockbridge to keep technical classes from slipping out of the curriculum, like they have at a lot of other places. Plenty of the equipment in the auto shop was donated by schools who shut their programs down.

Angie Eagle


When Gabe Schray was in middle school in Stockbridge, he admits he was kind of a mess. He got bullied, in part because he was a new kid. He moved to Stockbridge to live with his dad after he had to leave his grandparents house.

“Yep, my grandfather he died in front of me, so, you know, " said Schray.

That trauma and the social difficulty he had made school almost an afterthought. He continues, "So honestly I just did homework when I felt like it. What the teachers said didn’t matter to me because of what was going on outside of school. My grades were very poor because of that. You know the reflection was so clear it was like a mirror. The more that was going on the worse my grades were.”

Schray started to get it together after his freshman year of high school. He says joining the football team saved him. He's a senior now, and he is well-liked, funny, confident and going to a good college next year.

New research suggests Schray was lucky, because by tenth grade if kids don’t believe they can achieve after high school it’s likely they won’t. That’s even more true for low-income kids, and almost half the kids in Stockbridge are low-income.

Many kids start to set their expectations low or downgrade their dreams in middle school, and it sticks. They pick up on and care about others expectations for them.

In Stockbridge the middle school doesn't seem to be held up as a point of pride in the community like the other schools. Middle school principal Brad Edwards describes it this way, “Kind of like the middle child if you will. Just kind of gets left out." 

Sarah Alvarez

Robin Lowe Fletcher grew up in Stockbridge and she now owns one of the beauty salons in town. Fletcher and her husband have one son in high school and one in kindergarten.

Before kindergarten they were really worried about their youngest, Brenden. The school was supposed to be good, it’s been recognized by the state as a "reward school" and has a solid reputation.  But they thought people there might not help their son succeed, or that they might find ways to keep him out of their school.

Rural Stockbridge provides pre-K springboard

Feb 11, 2013
Logan Chadde

Locals joke that the village of Stockbridge, Michigan is a 45 minute drive from anywhere. Apart from a few small businesses there’s really nowhere to work and a lot of families struggle to get by. In rural places like Stockbridge families rely on the public community schools for the educational opportunity that is one of very few ways kids from these towns can get a leg up.

Stockbridge gets described as "country," meaning the landscape and the mindset of the people. But of course that is too simple of a characterization. There is mud bogging with 4x4's and custom vehicles for those who are interested, but there's also a nice coffee shop that serves a great latte. Even so, without a plan or an education it can be easy to get stuck in Stockbridge without money, a job or a future. 

Stockbridge Youth Journalists; A small town full of history and closeness

Feb 10, 2013

I’m the “new kid”, for the first time in my life. I moved two and a half hours away from my hometown Armada. I was starting school soon; afraid I wasn’t going to fit in. I had my sister, a year younger than me, was by my side but, that didn’t stop my nerves from jumping all over the place.

We took a tour of Stockbridge High School a week before school started. The outside light dimmed the halls as we walked around with our mom and the school principal dodging chairs, desks and cleaning equipment.

Stockbridge Youth Journalists: New kid in a small town

Feb 10, 2013

Less than a month ago, my parents decided to move my brother Jordan to a different school. Without hesitation, I told them that I was going too. My brothers and my sister are my world. Wherever they are, I want to be near. At any rate, we were going to transfer, together. A few days later, part of my life completely changed. I felt vulnerable and abnormally timid. I was the “new” kid at Stockbridge High School.

I have been living in Stockbridge all my life, going to Stockbridge schools. In my time in Stockbridge I have not seen anyone use drugs.

I have heard a few people talk about using drugs, but just a few. This gets me bewildered when kids outside of the Stockbridge district call us meth-heads and druggies. 

I’m not saying nobody in Stockbridge schools uses drugs, but we’re not living in the middle of a Breaking Bad episode.