The East Lansing Board of Education reconvened for its regular meeting Monday, April 10, just days after the board had a contentious “Retreat” session.
At the meeting, Superintendent Dori Leyko provided an update on the steps the school has taken to address safety concerns, kindergarten teacher Kathryn Kluzak was recognized for receiving an excellence in education award, and the board took action on two items, one of which gives power to Lekyo to make some contractual decisions without consultation with the board. Leyko also provided an update on how the district will carry out its process of hiring a new high school principal.
Safety and student support continue to be top concerns.
As has been the case throughout the school year, the biggest topic of discussion among the board and in public comment was school safety.
Leyko said the school will begin using the RAVE app next year. The app allows personnel inside or near a school building to communicate with 911, on-site personnel and emergency responders.
RAVE can be used to respond to active assailants, fires, medical emergencies and other dangerous situations, Leyko said.
“The emergency communication platform can keep everyone informed and engaged throughout and following a crisis situation,” she said.
Additionally, Leyko said that there have been new cameras installed to cover the exterior of the high school. Evaluation for places to add cameras to other buildings is underway.
The high school has also installed lockdown buttons for its front office workers. These buttons lock the building’s doors but do not automatically contact first responders.
Additionally, Leyko said the district hired three security officers from DK security. These officers will monitor the halls and hopefully help the district cut down on fights in the common areas. Recently, the school had financially incentivized teachers to monitor halls during their prep periods.
District staff has also been going through threat assessment and other safety training, a process that will continue through the spring and summer. Leyko said the district will form a threat assessment program.
The district will also look to bolster its support for students and incentivize good behavior.
Leyko said the high school has also launched a program called Trojan TRUE (Trust, Respect, Unity and Equity). When staff members notice a student exemplifying one of the four behaviors described, they fill out a postcard. These postcards are then submitted to a raffle for prizes before they are mailed to the student’s home so their family can see they were recognized.
Leyko said the middle and high schools will also be partnering with the United Mentoring Program. The group will provide group, peer and one-on-one mentoring. Additionally, they will help students to better communicate with each other, expand their leadership skills and find career opportunities.
Still, some parents who spoke during public comment said not enough is being done to keep students safe.
Recommendations during public comment included adding a Resource Officer in addition to the security staff, having the lockdown button automatically alert the police and having staff go through ALICE training.
Parents urged leadership to move with a sense of urgency to address security concerns.
“Perfect becomes the enemy of good,” Shari Brooks said. “Instead of moving with what is good or what works for the moment, you guys strive for perfection and then that looks like no action.”
Recently appointed Trustee Chris Martin said more is happening to address safety than what the public sees, but the district cannot highlight those changes because that could expose weaknesses.
“We’ve identified some areas where we believe that there might be vulnerabilities or we could do better and we’ve addressed those immediately,” he said. “There’s not going to be an email blast to the whole world. We’re not going to put it in the news because, in effect, we’re telling people what we believe would be our weaknesses.”
Trustee Monica Fink said if the community still feels more needs to be done, the board needs to act to address those concerns.
“I think what I just heard from the community was that they want more,” she said. “Not to take away from anything that’s been done, but if this is all that we keep hearing….There’s a disconnect somewhere.”
Hiring process for the new high school principal will involve gathering stakeholders and making a decision by the June board meeting.
Leyko announced the district is rolling out its plan to find a new high school principal. Former principal Shannon Mayfield resigned in March after district personnel found his claims about having earned a Ph.D. to be false.
Leyko said the school will release a stakeholders survey to high school students, staff and families for grades 8-12. Leyko said the survey would be sent out this week.
Chief Human Resources Officer Rulesha Glover-Payne will facilitate the process and provide staff support to the interview committee. Leyko said the interview committee will include stakeholders from multiple groups.
Leyko is hopeful the interview committee will be ready to recommend a candidate to the board by its first meeting in June, which is scheduled to take place Monday, June 12.
Robert L. Green Elementary School teacher wins Excellence in Education Award from Michigan Lottery.
At the start of the meeting, the board recognized kindergarten teacher Kathryn Kluzak for being selected to receive an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery. Kluzak received $1,500, a $500 grant to use for her classroom and a plaque to commemorate her achievement.
Kluzak was also featured in a short Fox 47 news clip, which was shared at the meeting.
“I love watching kids learn,” Kluzak said in the news clip. “Every day has its challenges, but honestly the bright spots in my day are seeing students achieve something that they haven’t achieved before or getting to experience something new and just being so excited.”
Board votes to allow Leyko to enter contracts of unlimited amounts and fund a new food service truck.
The board voted to unanimously approve both action items on the agenda with little discussion.
The first approval allows Leyko to enter into contractual agreements on behalf of the board. The agenda memo said this will allow the district to operate more efficiently, as it regularly has to make agreements to operate.
Treasurer Kath Edsall said many small contracts don’t need to be handled at the board level. With regard to limits of the superintendent’s authority, Edsall clarified in an email to ELi, “Sections 1274 and 1267 of The Revised School Code require Boards to approve purchases for supplies, materials, and equipment and construction and repair projects costing $28,048 or more. Purchases that fall under the scope of section 1274 and 1267 will still be brought to the Board for approval. The $28,048 threshold is indexed annually by the State of Michigan.”
The second item authorizes the spending of $62,467 for a new food service truck that will transport food from the high school to other buildings. In January 2022, the board approved a bid for a food service truck. However, the district has not received it and has not received confirmation that they will anytime soon. So, the board canceled that contract and moved to purchase a truck from Lunghamer Ford, which is expected to be received in July of this year.
The district’s current two trucks are 2012 and 2009 models. The older truck will be repurposed for grounds and maintenance use.