As the final bell rang at White Pines Intermediate School on Wednesday afternoon, shouting and laughter could be heard throughout the school’s hallways.
Moments later, students burst through the doors, several breaking out into a run with smiles spread across their faces.
Wednesday marked the final day of the 2020-21 school year for Grand Haven Area Public Schools.
Spring Lake Public Schools celebrated their final day last week, while Fruitport Community Schools’ final day is this Friday.
White Pines Principal Mike Shelton walked along the sidewalk in front of the school, waving at buses as they departed for the final time this spring.
“We’ve done a lot of really fun things this year,” he said. “It’s been fast-paced, ever-changing, but the kids are pretty resilient, and the kids made this year pretty fantastic. It’s great to put all these feelings together and celebrate a great year.”
Longtime GHAPS bus driver Kim Damaska walked around blowing bubbles as students prepared to board her bus. She also handed out bubbles to students as a way to let them celebrate the end of the school year.
GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Over the past three years, the new and improved Bucco has been a staple at Grand Haven High School’s athletic events and other activities.
There’s one caveat to the school’s mascot – nobody knew who was inside the costume.
That all changed May 27, during the Class of 2021 graduation ceremony, when GHHS Principal Tracy Wilson announced Bucco’s true identity to everyone.
Patrick Donley has been suiting up as Bucco since his sophomore year. In fact, Donley is the first and only student to wear the new costume.
Previously, GHHS staff and students wore just the Bucco head, but there wasn’t a formal process to being the mascot. However, once the transformation from Buccaneer head to a $6,000 full hat-to-boot mascot costume was announced in 2019, Donley couldn’t resist the opportunity.
“They made an announcement that they were looking for people to become the mascot,” he said. “I came down to the office and was the first one on the list.”
Despite being involved in several other extracurricular activities – including the robotics team, theater and choir, and an inheritor of Dagorhir (a club where members engage in battles using foam weapons) – Donley found time to perform as Bucco, all the while keeping his identity confidential.
The 6-foot-tall, shaggy-haired Donley noted it was quite a challenge to keep the mascot identity top secret.
“How many 6-foot eccentric guys with long brown hair are at the high school?” he asked. “It’s not a very long list.”
Donley said he loved being able to duck out of certain school activities to suit up, and being anonymous was his favorite part about it.
“It was just awesome,” he said. “Truly a fun time overall. Everyone loved Bucco, and playing around with the visual humor was so cool.”
Over-exaggerating movements and using ridiculous visuals were well suited for Donley – “I definitely have a different sense of humor than the rest of my classmates,” he said.
As Bucco, Donley performed at basketball, hockey and football games. Although he wasn’t allowed to go on to the playing field during games, he found other creative ways to interact at events.
“I saw the marching band line up at a football game one time, and they never said anything about joining them,” Donley said. “So I joined in with them on their march to the stadium.”
Interacting with fans, playing games like “rock, paper, scissors,” and having dance competitions are all memorable times for Donley. One of his favorite stories was when students were convinced that Bucco was the principal’s son, Brock Wilson.
“I’ve never met the guy, but I can only imagine what it was like,” Donley said.
Donley also created a Facebook account called “Bucco Bucco” during his sophomore year, which has since has gained more than 1,000 friends. He says the account became more difficult to role play than originally intended, but he still had enjoyable interactions like game requests.
A U.S. Marine Corps recruiter messaged him through the Bucco page.
“He was bugging Bucco about joining the Marines,” Donley said. “I told him I’m not interested because the Navy is where it’s at.”
Because of his dedicated school spirit and willingness to attend a variety of events, Donley received a white cord to wear at commencement.
Still undecided about his plans for the fall – he’s considering Michigan Tech University – Donley joked that the money he’s spent on water bottles while being Bucco would’ve paid for his tuition.
Although the costume’s head includes a fan and the suit features a cooling vest, it was often unbearably warm inside. It was designed by GHHS alumnus Paul Trap, an editorial cartoonist for Baseball America magazine.
Donley put the costume on for the final time at the 2021 GHHS senior parade.
“How many people can say they were at the front of a parade?” he said. “Leading the class in that Jeep was a ton of fun.”
The first in-person Grand Haven City Council meeting in more than a year wasn’t without a bit of controversy.
One of the council’s action items Monday night was to reappoint Nancy Nagtzaam to the Duncan Park Commission. Her appointment was eventually confirmed, but not before a lengthy discussion regarding her character and whether she was fit to hold a public office in Grand Haven.
The conversation was initiated by Councilman Dennis Scott, who was opposed to her reappointment.
Scott cited a discrimination complaint that was made against Nagtzaam late last year. According to the council’s meeting minutes from Nov. 2, Scott had opposed her original nomination because of comments regarding the decision on a deer cull in the city. The complaint against Nagtzaam was brought before the city’s Human Relations Commission that same month.
The complaint, according to minutes from the Human Relations Commission’s Nov. 19, meeting, centers on an email that Nagtzaam had allegedly written 6-8 years ago to former Mayor Geri McCaleb. Nagtzaam is accused of using derogatory terms toward McCaleb, and writing: “My hope and prayer every day is that you die from some terrible cancerous disease.”
Prior to council’s vote on Monday, Scott made the request to have the Human Relations Commission take another look at Nagtzaam and her past.
Mayor Bob Monetza said the focus Monday should be on Nagtzaam’s performance since being appointed to the park board, as opposed to what she may have said or done prior to that appointment.
“This is about her reappointment as opposed to her original appointment,” he said. “So, I feel like we should be focusing on how well she has done on the commission.”
Scott said that he doesn’t share Monetza’s opinion and that the issue of her character remains. He said he believes she has never apologized for it.
Councilman Michael Fritz said people do things in their past that they may later regret, but Nagtzaam has moved forward and is working hard on the park commission.
All but Scott voted in favor of Nagtzaam’s reappointment Monday night.
Monday’s council meeting took place at the Community Center instead of City Hall, as city officials anticipated a larger-than-normal audience.
In addition to making appointments and reappointments that evening, the council accepted a $15,000 grant from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation Relief and Recovery Fund for homeowner repair programs. They also approved the July 9 Merchant and Makers event request for Chinook Pier; and a proposed real estate development between Franklin Flats, the city, Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore and Grand Rapids.
The council also approved a contractor service agreement with Pushaw Builders for restoration services for the city’s outer lighthouse at a cost of $66,681; and budget amendments for traffic signal projects at the intersections of Ferry and Jackson streets, and Fifth Street and Washington Avenue.
Two items were added to the agenda, both of which were approved. First, the council voted to oppose Michigan House Bill 4722 and Michigan Senate Bill 446, both of which deal with zoning for short-term rental properties.
Second, the city recognized June 2021 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Month. All but Scott voted yes. He explained that he doesn’t support discrimination, but there is too much language in the resolution that he doesn’t agree with.
Monetza, however, said he was very much in favor of recognizing June as LGBTQ month, and said he has a transgender daughter who has been the subject of discrimination.