The Monday (March 13) meeting of the East Lansing School Board saw no raised voices or visible divisions between board members. In fact, parents offered thanks during public comment to the superintendent and board for recent actions taken on school safety, and student successes were celebrated.
Mark Pontoni, social studies teacher and co-adviser of the high school’s Model UN group, brought students to the school board meeting to share their successes at the Mid-American Model United Nations competition in Kalamazoo earlier this month.
East Lansing won the top overall award as the best performing school at the March 1-4 conference. This is the first time ELHS has won the competition after finishing second twice.
Senior Edith Pendell won the top overall individual award, the Jonathan Perry Ambassadors Award. This is the first time an East Lansing student has won this prestigious award. Sophomore Henry Mahler, juniors Fletcher Wasnich, Joe Powers and Mackenzie Smith, and senior Uyi Idusuyi won a top delegation award representing Iran.
In her superintendent’s report, Dori Leyko announced the district is registering incoming kindergarten and young 5 students until today (March 17). She also briefly mentioned the resignation of ELHS Principal Shannon Mayfield, offering no new information than what was shared in her Monday (March 13) announcement. (Yesterday, Leyko said Mayfield resigned following discovery he had provided a fraudulent transcript for a degree; read more here.)
The bulk of Lekyo’s report highlighted security updates the district has implemented since January when safety and discipline issues came to light.
Initial safety enhancement plans, she said, were categorized as immediate, short term and long term. Leyko added another way to look at the initiatives is as infrastructure, personnel, training, student supports, and community engagement.
In the area of infrastructure, panic buttons have been installed in the main office of the high school and two security guards started Monday in the high school. The guards are providing hall, bathroom door, and camera monitoring and supervision.
“[Members of] the Board of Education and I attended a March 1 meeting of the East Lansing Parent Advocacy Team (ELPAT),” Leyko said, highlighting an initiative in the area of community engagement. “Our goal was to listen to the stories and experiences of the individuals, open up lines of communication between the group and the district, and collaborate together to determine actionable steps that will help make a difference for our students. We invited some of them to meet with district and high school administrators to discuss [plans].”
She said the group will continue to meet on a biweekly basis.
Leyko also reported district wellness leader Lindsey Young has met with representatives of Move Mindfully, a program that incorporates mindfulness and movement into the classroom. A community member had recommended the program during public comment at a previous meeting.
And finally, Leyko highlighted the United Mentoring Program for at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 19, and The Turning Point of Lansing Program for sixth and seventh grade boys at the middle school.
These actions, particularly the engagement with ELPAT, were applauded by community members during the period of public comment. Shari Brooks, a member of the new parent advocacy group, was cautiously optimistic about the progress.
“We want to acknowledge the wins,” Brooks said. “It feels good to be able to say that we as parents are feeling heard, not necessarily that things are being resolved, but we are being heard.
“We asked for data to help us identify strategies that are data driven,” she continued, “that build in accountability and that assist with fostering our ideal experience for our children within this district. Although we didn’t receive it in its entirety, we did receive enough to help us begin to move through that process with the data that was given as a source of truth.”
Brooks said parents had also been invited to join the board’s intergovernmental committee, a group that focuses on policies and laws being proposed and debated at the state level and in advocacy groups. ELPAT, she said, is still asking the board for a “full equity audit that’s inclusive of policies, procedures, guidelines, and training that are utilized within the district.” They are requesting a response from the board by its next meeting.
Later in the meeting, Board of Education Trustee Amanda Cormier also asked for an equity audit, only to be informed by President Terah Chambers that one was already in progress through the policy committee, which both Chambers and Cormier sit on. Cormier was elected to the school board in November 2022 and sworn in January 2023.
The final act of business was unanimous adoption of the ELPS Safe Gun Storage Resolution. This policy was suggested to the district by Veronica Wright, a member of Michigan’s chapter of Moms Demand Action. Similar resolutions have already been adopted by school districts in Oxford, Royal Oak, Traverse City and Ferndale, among others. The resolution will be annually shared with parents to encourage “secure gun storage to prevent minors from accessing unsecured guns.”
The board will next meet on April 10, after the district’s spring break.